* Posts by Peter Gathercole

2375 posts • joined 15 Jun 2007

Curiosity Rover's OS has backdoor bug

Peter Gathercole
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"FTP server is susceptible to ring buffer overflow when accessed at a high speed"

Well, that's one vulnerability they don't have to worry about, unless it's from the Martians .

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WIN a 6TB Western Digital Black hard drive with El Reg

Peter Gathercole
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Kaa was unused to being mesmerized himself, but this website was just ssssssooooo captivating!

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Peter Gathercole
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You've been looking for a snake oil salesman. Well, here I am!

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Peter Gathercole
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"Oh My", said Ayame Sohma, "I wish those Ashley Madison photos wouldn't trigger my transformation. It's supposed to require them to touch me!"

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Peter Gathercole
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Coily waited patiently for the next reboot of Q*bert.

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Peter Gathercole
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"I'll know I can take that meerkat. I'm sure there was a picture of it round here somewhere".

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Peter Gathercole
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"If I can just get the perspective right on this screen capture of the Register home page, it'll make a good picture for the photo caption competition".

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Don't want to upgrade to Windows 10? You'll download it WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT

Peter Gathercole
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Re: "Personal" computer no more

It does not need to be made illegal.

All it takes is for some of the more prominent on-line service providers to prevent non-approved OSs from using their service "because of IP violations and security issues". I'm thinking things like the Amazon MP3 store, which for a long time allowed you to download whole albums using whatever OS platform you wanted, but withdrew that from Linux users, and now force Linux users to 'bulk' download tracks no more than six at a time through their Cloud player, while other platforms have no restriction. Why?

Now, lose access to your banking website, your on-line shopping, your web-mail (OK you could try to mask it with the User Agent setting), Government service sites, media streaming sites (through restricted proprietary codecs), and the list goes on. How many of Joe and Josephine Public will choose Linux. Any more than now? We'll still try, but it'll remain a niche for technically capable dissidents, or 'crackpots' as we will be called.

We're actually in a slightly better place at the moment for these things on Linux than we have been for some time, what with HTML 5, open codecs and browsers on Windows being in a state of transition, but I can see this changing again, and forced Windows 10 migration is a possible starting point.

Many of us have lived through the bad times with proprietary hardware drivers, websites coded to particular browsers, locked boot loaders and reverse engineering of services being prosecuted (iTunes and WebOS being an example). There's no guarantee that these things won't rear their ugly heads again in the future.

If Microsoft can force a near Windows monoculture by killing Windows XP, 7 and 8.X, they're that much closer to being able to try a new denial of service by OS restricted feature all over again. Apple users probably won't care, because Apple will find or buy a way to integrate (hell MS may actually help them to avoid anti-trust legislation, they have form in this area).

I once said that if things got to difficult in the technology world, I would become a gardener. Sadly, I think that this blight of control will become so pervasive that the only way to avoid these issues is to become a hermit. Anybody know a good retreat that I can live out the rest of my life?

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UK.gov finally unveils new parly spook-watching panel

Peter Gathercole
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Re: @Loyal Commenter

My bad wording. What I should have said is that the AG has not said anything to in public about this. I did not presume that he had not been consulted by No. 10, just that he had not commented what his advice was to the press.

It is part of his job, and the responsibility of the government to make sure that there is sufficient legal justification for any action the government takes.

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Peter Gathercole
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@AC

I'm afraid it was a spelling mistake, although not a typo. I'm not that clever. I've always struggled with spelling (just ask my teachers, if any of them are still alive!), and I often don't notice this type of thing if a spelling checker doesn't throw it up. But the other meaning is, um, interesting.

The UK Attorney General is actually an appointment of the Crown (the post is one of providing legal advise to the Crown and their Government), although they are nominated by the incumbent government. As a result, it is theoretically possible for the Queen to object to the appointment if she sees a reason. And I'm sure she would at least question an appointment (by all accounts, she really cares and makes sure she knows relevant information) , although it will probably never be known if she's ever refused to appoint a nominee.

But generally, at least so far, they are have not been poodles, because what they say may at some point actually be examined in court and subsequent governments (past legal advice from the AG is, and must be for any continuity, available to the current Government). Of course, they're just one person, and they will have their own opinion, but one of the traits of the legal system in general is that they mostly try to retain some independence.

I would certainly trust a statement from the UK AG more than the Prime Minister or any of their cabinet ministers!

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: @Loyal Commenter

AFAIK, the Attorney General has said nothing about this. The Defence Secretary Michael Fallon gave an interview on the Today program on 8th September (it'll be on the BBC Radio Player for a few weeks more) who outlined the possible scenarios without officially confirming anything about the circumstances.

But he's a cabinet minister, and would be expected to support the action, whereas the AG (Jeremy Wright) would be expected to take a stance from a more legalistic standpoint. As he is the legal advisor to HMG for most things, what he would say would be very interesting and informative.

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: Confusion as usual

Please don't think that I am condoning what is being done, but the problem is that it is not actually possible to declare war on an organisation that has no recognition in International Law.

It is possible to declare war on a country or nation (see here for a definition), but neither the Taliban, nor ISIS (despite their self-styling) are either countries or nations. This means that there cannot be an official declaration of war against them.

If there is no war, the people fighting cannot be classed as legal combatants, nor once captured, can they be described as "prisoners of war". This is the reason why the "enemy combatant" was used. It's dodgy as hell and designed to be ambiguous, but once the US had decided they needed to hold these people, what else could they do other than define a new category of prisoner.

In addition, the establishment of the United Nations was meant to prevent declarations being made without international debate, but again, Taliban and ISIS are not nations, so the UN is hamstrung and impotent. If the Asad regime was in good stead with the international community, and invited help, things would be different, but taken respectively, they're not, and won't.

We're in a whole new and undefined area of conflict that is not adequately reflected in International Law. IMHO, the UN Charter needs serious revision to recognise extra-national organisations so that the position can be clarified.

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Peter Gathercole
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@dogged

The case being suggested is that the two men were recently, or possibly immanently associated with a threat in the UK, co-ordinated from Syria.

If it could be shown that killing these two people directly prevented the threat from being carried out, then this would probably be justified under both UK and International law. After all, the police are allowed to use lethal force in the UK if this can be shown, so why would an already agreed combat zone in Syria be any different.

Slightly less legitimate, if it could be shown that they were involved in a past threat, either one that succeeded or one that was stopped by the relevant LEO or intelligence bodies, and that these people were likely to do the same again and could not realistically be apprehended to stand trial, then there could just about be suitable justification.

The problem is that this is speculation, and the information that could show it was legitimate is being withheld as "secret intelligence information" that would harm future operations if it were disclosed (i.e. a "National Secret").

What could defuse this situation somewhat would be either the Attorney General or another trusted person (or even a committee) well versed in UK and International law coming forward and saying "I've seen the information, and while I cannot disclose it, it provides valid and legal reason to have taken this action".

Their opinion could still be questioned, but it would at least not be a politician making the assertion.

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Roll up, roll up: Microsoft, those Irish emails and angry Feds

Peter Gathercole
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Upvote for the reference to Moties.

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: The concern will be... @Alan

If the US Government decided to go Open Source, software houses would fall over themselves to port their software to Linux, and provide support. It's a cyclic dependency that prevents organisations moving. No applications, people won't install Linux. No Linux customer base, application writers will not provide applications.

It only requires one seriously large customer to commit to Linux to break this cycle.

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: The concern will be... @Velv

I seem to remember back in 2000, when the US DoJ was trying to force a split of Microsoft in two for OS and Applications, there were rumours about MS having a contingency plan to move out of the US, rather than complying with the order.

Did we not see MS laying off a number of US developers a few months back? Was this associated with additional developers being hired in other countries? Maybe MS are putting in a contingency for such a move.

Isn't starting rumours fun!

Whilst I would love to see the US Government go Open Source, it's not as simple as just installing it on the machines. A huge amount of user, desktop and server administration in large organisations absolutely relies on MS Policies and Active Directory to function. So much, that the size of most estates cannot be managed by the people employed without it.

For all that an OS like Linux is highly configurable using mechanisms like RPC, it pains me to say that this is not as slick or sophisticated as Windows. There are tools that will do something similar, but because of one of the strengths of Open Source, choice, there is no single dominant tool that can manage all Linux variants well (I know that something like Puppet will be mentioned in follow-up comments, but it's still evolving IMHO). Pretty much everything required can be done using Open Source, but not well enough to allow a like-for-like replacement in large organisations trivial. And that is even before you take into account user training.

Realistically, it would take a multi-year program, tied into the hardware replacement cycle to migrate an organisation away from Windows.

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Peter Gathercole
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The concern will be...

...that eventually, if Microsoft sticks to it's guns (which in this case I hope it does), the Justice Department will have to take action, which might include some form of raids on Microsoft's US offices to 'liberate' either the records, or the access required to try to get them.

That would trigger an almighty bun fight, possibly including an International Incident, which I'm not sure that the US Government would totally win.

Imagine, if you will, a disenfranchised Microsoft, forced to decamp outside US borders to continue operations, so pissed off with the US government that it decided to invalidate all of the Government Windows, Exchange and Office 365 licenses. Would the US Government still be able to operate? Do you think that they have an alternative? Or do people think that they would try some legal shenanigans to try to seize Microsoft assets?

Comments on a post here please. I'm interested in what other people think. Meanwhile, I'm buying a popcorn maker with enough corn to last a few years.

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Handing over emails in an Irish server to the FBI will spark a global free-for-all, warns Microsoft

Peter Gathercole
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One word

Backups.

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Well, what d'you know: Raising e-book prices doesn't raise sales

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Another plus point for ebooks for reference works

One training course I did years ago, the trainer coined the term "pgrep" to search the paper manuals by eye.

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'A word processor so simple my PA could use it': Joyce turns 30

Peter Gathercole
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@AC

But Amstrad did produce some moderately acceptable low end HiFi. As an impecunious student, I had an IC2000 amplifier and an IC3000 tuner, which although were not sophisticated, and showed wear poorly, had reasonable electronics, especially if you tweaked them a bit with larger capacitors in the power supply of the amp.

I looked at the strange, three armed TP12D turntable (it looked a bit like a Rega), but ended up with a Strathearn, because of the Ortofon cartridge that came with it.

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Peter Gathercole
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Even now, I still get..

..."Why can't you find me a word processor that works like my old Amstrad" from my Wife.

I tried her with Protext in a console session, but had to give up on that when the last simple printer gave up, and it was unable to drive any of the newer printers we had.

She really moaned when I first showed her Open Office Writer, and it was no better (in fact it was much worse because nothing stayed in the same place) when I put one of the Office 2008 home and education licenses we have on her PC (mainly because she read that self published books for the Amazon Kindle had to be written in MS Word).

She deliberately appears to adopt the memory of a goldfish whenever I try to get her to learn something on the PC. She wants everything to be presented to her on the screen, so drop-down, unchanging menus is about the only thing she can apparently cope with.

BTW. I'm not being nasty here. She agrees with my description of her.

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3l33t haxxors don't need no botnet, they just pinch passwords

Peter Gathercole
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Re: User Monitoring

All the organisations subject to Sarbanes Oxley must have full auditing for their privileged accounts, with the audit logs scrutinised by people other than the administrators themselves, preferably in a completely different management stream.

It's a little tricky to arrange, but it certainly could be done when the main admin interfaces were CLI. It could also be done for X11 sessions, by effectively inserting something like XScope in recording mode in the path.

Mind you, as someone who took a spell doing it, reading through someone else's admin session was a painful task, that you had to take frequent breaks from if you wanted to maintain your sanity.

I have no idea how it is done now with remote GUI sessions, although I'm sure that it must be being done.

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WIN a 6TB Western Digital Black hard drive with El Reg

Peter Gathercole
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I thought it was real until I got close enough to see that it was one of those damned garden ornaments from Poundland.

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Peter Gathercole
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Rocket Dog was anxious to see whether Flower would come back and reclaim leadership of the Whiskers.

(Google the names, it will become apparent what this is about)

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Peter Gathercole
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Oleg kept a close eye out in case Aleksandr or Sergei ever came back. Oh, how he'd punish them for abandoning him in the back-end of beyond, without even as much as an OLPM (One Laptop Per Meerkat!)

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Sacré bleu! Apple, Nokia, Samsung et al end their three-year sulk over 'home taping' tax

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Blank Media

My daughter told me recently that several media creation packages (she mentioned iMovie and Creative Suite/Cloud) are now removing the ability to write optical media from their most recent iterations. Many laptop/ultrabooks no longer even come with optical storage devices. It really upset her, as she has no desire to use the Cloud as a transmission path for private media she's editing for a friend.

It strikes me as if optical media is becoming a bit of a pariah. I still don't trust flash memory devices for long term storage. We need some new long-term storage media!

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Brit school claims highest paper plane launch crown

Peter Gathercole
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Re: No more Paris articles @Lester

It strikes me that it would have been quicker to set up an explosives factory and get the correct licences in Spain than chase FAA regulatory approval to allow you to import and fly a rocket powered 'drone' aircraft in US airspace, especially one that can be programmed from outside of the US.

They're probably trying to prove it's some nefarious terrorist plot.

What I'm now waiting for is for the license to be permanently declined, and the plane prevented from being exported from the US without a "dual use, foreign defence article" ITAR export license, which will be similarly denied.

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: No more Paris articles

Hmmm, LOHAN.

I'm sure I remember something about that.

Oh yes. It's on my tea cup. What was it trying to do again?

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NASA finds ancient films that extend Arctic ice record by 15 years

Peter Gathercole
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You jest @chris lively

but that is part of the iterative process of developing an accurate model!

If a model doesn't indicate what actually happened, then it's not accurate. So you try to understand why it was wrong, change it so that it does agree more closely with reality, and then wait for the next discrepancy. All the time, your running it against historical data to see how accurate it is. So a slew of new data is quite useful.

What would be wrong would be to silently correct the models (or even worse, manipulate the data or start conditions), and then claim that they were accurate all along. But I don't think that this is what would happen.

If you think that anybody with serious climate credentials believes that the current climate models are complete or accurate at the moment then you're bonkers (and so are they!). We just aren't that clever.

Unfortunately, a lot of the people taking note of the models have political agendas.

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BEELION-dollar lasso snaps, NASA mapper blind in one eye

Peter Gathercole
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I know that it's a bit of a downer ...

... but after NASA's recent string of outstanding successes, it's almost reassuring to know that they can have mishaps.

They were beginning to look almost infallible.

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OH DEAR, WHSmith: Sensitive customer data spaffed to world+dog

Peter Gathercole
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Re: WHSmith?

You know, WH Smiths actually does have a place on the High Street. In many small towns, they are often the only book seller stocking current titles there, and what a lot of people don't realise is that the other news agents in any area almost certainly get their news papers and magazines delivered through the WH Smith distribution channels.

I'm not saying that I agree with the way that they are reducing the space set aside to books in the smaller stores, as they only really now stock the big name author and celebrity books. They may still have one or two books from a couple of dozen other authors, but you can guarantee that you will not be able to buy a complete series from anything other than the major stores. "Oh", they say when asked, "We can always order them in for you". Yes. I can do that too, and Amazon may be cheaper.

But I still value a shop on my High street that has reasonable range and quality of stationary, books, magazines, maps, and many other things, when the rest of the chains have abandoned towns with populations under 15,000, so I still go out of my way to buy things from them.

The problem that many people who don't visit small towns don't appreciate is that they are being abandoned by the large shopping chains. You could say that it's my fault for living in such a town, but it's 20+ miles as the crow flies to get to the next largest town, and the roads mean that it's 45 minutes each way. Buying from the Internet is fine, but if I have to do a 40-50 mile round trip, just to buy things over the counter, it can make life more complicated.

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Manhattan-sized iceberg splits from glacier – and spotted FROM SPACE

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Just where do ... @AC re 10 Billion people

Yes. a good war with significant collateral damage, followed by famine and pestilence may be a way of keeping the population down, but it's not the one that I was aiming at.

I suspect that even though the 20th century had a number of quite serious conflicts, they did not significantly slow the rise of global population. The global flu pandemic of 1918 may have killed more people than the first and second world wars combined, although you could argue that that disaster would not have happened if large numbers of soldiers returning home after WW1 had not carried it with them.

IMHO, in these days of modern, mobile population and low-manpower warfare, wars are just going to displace more people more quickly, rather than killing them.

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: Just where do ... @AC re 10 Billion people

Ah, yes. But those 10 billion people won't live where the food is produced, so significant amounts of effort and resource would have to be expended getting the food to them (and, yes, I'm aware that the UK is a net importer of food).

If you let the population that lives in marginal areas procreate, and keep them alive beyond their locally available means with aid and medical treatment, these areas will become breeding grounds for people who will migrate, attempting to gain access to already populated less marginal areas.

I don't know where you live, but if it is in Europe, you can't help but notice the number of people trying to cross or skirt the Mediterranean. If things continue as they have been this year, we will soon see ghettos and shanty towns spring up around cities in eastern and southern Europe. These will not seem strange to the people who occupy them, after all, what is the difference between a hut with a tin roof in Athens or Lampedusa compared to one in Aleppo, but will severely degrade the lives of the native citizens.

Imagine how that is going to change if clean water becomes a conflict resource, driving ever more people into migration. Current clean water schemes in drought areas are not sustainable, because most of them are either tapping into aquifers and underground rivers, or even worse, into fossil water. The first will cause surface springs and rivers downstream to dry up, denying water to other people, and the second will not be replenished in the lifetime of current generations. This is not free water. Extracting it all has consequences (look up what's happening in California), and one of these could be future conflict.

No. Whilst I don't practice what Trevor is suggesting (I'm aiming for a stable population, with reasonable procreation levels to help pay for my state funded pension), I do agree that there are places on earth where we really should not be encouraging population growth. Trying to cap the population to something only a little above today's level is far, far preferable to driving the population to the point where it takes all of humanities efforts to just sustain the higher population.

I know I hold an NIMBY, elitist and uncomfortable view of the future, but I cannot see any alternative short of having a world government that rations out the worlds resources evenly.

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BT commences trials of copper-to-the-home G.fast broadband tech

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Silly... @Cynical

Well, who knew that the teleco's would steal power from their customers! (although I'm sure that it will be in the terms and conditions of the contract).

I certainly didn't!

I hope it will be isolated from my neighbours. I would not like to let them steal power as well.

I must admit that I hope that the power draw is quite low and suitably protected in the router, because I would not trust the wires in a 4 pair telephone cable to carry any significant amount of current. And, yes, I do know that it's currently providing the power for a POTS phones at the moment.

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: Silly... @Cynical

"Up a pole" ignores the fact that the distribution point will need power. Most telecom poles will not have any power at all. Add to that the fact that there may be several houses fed from the same pole, and no matter how small they are, you will end up with something quite sizeable sitting in the air, where it's vulnerable.

No, it's going to be on or under the ground.

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Twenty years since Windows 95, and we still love our Start buttons

Peter Gathercole
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@Roger

Filling your desktop background with icons/folders is only really useful if you can see it!

For years and years (25 or so, pre-dating Windows 95), I have run on UNIX systems with screens covering the background almost completely. Not just a single maximised windows, but lots and lots of overlapping ones (at the moment, when I log on to my main work machine, my start-up configuration fires up 11 automatically, one of which is a browser with three tabs opened on start-up, spread over 8 virtual screens. And that is just the start of the day!)

I know that modern window managers often have a 'show the desktop' button or key sequence somewhere, but I don't want to minimise the open windows. I want to be able to pull a menu up over the top of the windows that are open. This makes desktop icons useless (and very ugly) to me.

A configurable pop-up menu, triggered by a suitable mouse/keyboard event, with 'walking' sub menus suits me perfectly. The Start button, on an auto-hide window bar works, so does a key-mouse combination (as I used to use on twm and derivatives) and a swipe to screen edge also works. I don't care beyond the first day or so while the action gets committed to muscle memory.

Of course, I expect the menu order and basic layout to remain fixed (none of this automatic management and re-arrangement of items thank-you-very-much) so that the menu looks the same each time it's brought up. Once I'm used to each system, I can work with it provided it does not change.

Currently, I'm very comfortable with all of win95/XP/Vista/7, Gnome 2 and KDE 3 style systems, mixed and matched on a daily basis. The whole concept of Unity, and my limited exposure to the Windows 8 'Modern' desktop feels foreign to me, and I can only get on with the Android type interfaces on devices where I'm pretty much forced to only do one thing at once.

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Peter Gathercole
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The old ones are the good ones!

Windows 7 ate 9.

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Why do driverless car makers have this insatiable need for speed?

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Descisions @AC

Are we going to get to the state where the car's AI goes catatonic because it could not reconcile it any of it's actions with the Three Laws?

We need Susan Calvin!

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Microsoft drops rush Internet Explorer fix for remote code exec hole

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Pro Tip @Uffe Seerup

Of course, while there may still be occasions when you need to gain additional privilege to carry out some functions, for most applications it is not necessary if the application is written correctly in the first place.

Historically, this appears to have been a difficult lesson for Windows developers to learn.

Sorry for the direct attack on Windows, but security-illiterate Windows programmers have blighted application development on all platforms for years, and often pass their bad-practice on to newer generations of coders.

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: Pro Tip

As a committed UNIX and Linux proponant, I've frequently said that the security model of UNIX-like operating systems is one of it's weakest features. but the flip side of this is that the role based access control systems, where you acquire additional privilege through further authentication is complex, and very rarely used properly or correctly.

This can be seen in the slow take-up of RBAC in the proprietary UNIXes that implemented it nearly 20 years ago, and SELinux, as well as the number of times that it is not used, or not used appropriately in other OSs.

Bearing in mind how many people even working in the industry as a whole don't understand what RBAC is, or how it works, the well understood UNIX-like SUID, uid and euid mechanism, which is basically less complex, and deployed properly by a greater number of people may be preferable.

Of course, the large number of senior application developers who cut their teeth on Windows ME and earlier, who just disable all the security or insist on it running with privilege on whatever platform they're on to get their applications to work properly are a serious problem with many applications. Fortunately, the security message is finally getting through, and the influence of these people is waning, and their legacy applications are disappearing into history.

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Hey, folks. Meet the economics 'genius' behind Jeremy Corbyn

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Register, please stick with what you are good at...@Rusty 1

Well, in case you hadn't noticed, there is currently an election going on for the leadership of the Labour party in the UK, and Jeremy Corbyn is highly placed in the current polls. And he uses Richard Murphy to justify some of his economic policy.

So it's actually a very timely article, if you wish to try to influence people to not vote for Jeremy.

I personally agree with Tim, and think that the policies being proposed are stark raving bonkers, but I don't have the economics background to put a reasoned argument together. Tim, thanks for doing it in a way that is far, far clearer to people like me.

Whether the Register is a suitable place for this, however, is debatable.

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CAUGHT: Lenovo crams unremovable crapware into Windows laptops – by hiding it in the BIOS

Peter Gathercole
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Boffin

Re: Linux v Windows

Sorry, this is going to be a long, historical post, explaining why there is actually no such thing as a 'winprinter', although possibly a more accurate description of GDI printer may be more appropriate.

Back in the day, printers used to have Page Description Languages, such as ESC/P for Epson printers, and PCL for HP printers (and many others. Each manufacturer defined their own). These were often supersets of plain ol' ASCII in most cases, with some escape sequences to allow things like switching to different fonts, superscript, subscript, bold and italics etc.

In fact, many printers still do. Last time I looked, Epson still included ESC/P in their printers.

The problem with this type of support was that you were limited by what the printer could do, and how well the text formatters knew about them. Anybody remembering Epson FX80 printers used from Wordstar or any similar software would be quite familiar with this, especially loading a printer description into the word processor during the setup.

Some printers, however, were quite 'clever' and included very high level PDLs, examples being PostScript and the later versions of PCL, and these tended to the be printers that would be used on UNIX systems. This was through the very hard to configure successfully System V LP system. Most of the time, this required the formatting program to be aware of the printer type, and LP used to just shunt the bytes to the printer. Some support for slightly more intelligent printers crept in, but generally all they really handled was pagination rather than formatting.

Adobe and/or Microsoft (and possibly others) had a bright idea. Most dot matrix printers had a graphics mode, and they decided to take the responsibility for formatting the page away from the printer, do the formatting to a bitmap in memory, and then send the page out to the printer as a graphics image. What this allowed them to do was to ignore the limitations of the printers built-in capabilities, and use any font, size or any other graphics construct that they cared to code into their software.

When ink-jet printers came along, even if they did have a high level PDL built in, it tended to be ignored, and rendering the page still happened in the computer, sending it out as a graphics image. This became the standard way of handling printers in Windows and MacOS, and eventually became abstracted in the OS, so that the software would use an OS defined printer format that would be rendered by OS components before sending to the printer.

Eventually, some printer manufacturers decided that it was pointless putting significant processing power in the printer, and thus were true 'winprinters' born, especially those using the Graphics Device Interface (GDI) that is a part of Windows. Basically these printers were so dumb that they could do nothing themselves other than take a bitmap of the page, normally in an unpublished proprietary format. But that did not alter the fact that other more capable printers were effectively being treated the same!

The problem, as far as UNIX and Linux was concerned, was that for may years after rendering was being done in other OSs, they still used the old PDL model to drive printers. So printers that did not have any PDL at all could not be used. This seriously limited what could be done without some serious knowledge of the printer and the way it was attached.

Step up Ghostscript, which was originally a way of displaying Postscript on screen. Some clever bod realised that you could use PostScript as a generic PDL, and then use Ghostscript in the computer to render the page into a bitmap, and then send this out to the printer with a suitable graphics converter. Suddenly, it became possible to use very basic printers on UNIX/Linux, and get reasonable results, as almost all programs knew how to write PostScript. Eventually, this become Ghostprint, which became common in most Linuxes.

Later, a similar project started using the GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) backend print drivers for a similar print method, and this became Gutenprint, which largely replaced Ghostprint by default in most of the major distros.

When Apple decided to switch MacOS to a BSD UNIX platform (OSX), they decided that the previous print backends were clumsy, and needed improvement. In one of the most useful things that Apple have ever done, they wrote a common backend for all UNIX-like OSs, which is where the Common UNIX Printing System (CUPS) came from. Because CUPS was written as an Open Source project, it has been wildly successful, and has almost completely replaced the older print systems in Linux and UNIX.

So nowadays, even UNIX and Linux effectively drive almost all printers in the same way as Windows, and can often be configured to use so-called winprinters, including some that have required reverse-engineering the unpublished GDI-printer formats.

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: Linux v Windows @Badmouth

Even average users. Most printers just plug in, get recognised and work. Really.

In the worst case I commented on above, the HP LaserJet 1000 (which, to be fair, was marketed as a Windows only printer, with no official support for anything later than Windows XP), I followed a Google link to the HP website, clicked on download the script, and ran it in a terminal window according to the instructions on the Web page. 20 minutes later (it was an EeePC 701, not the fastest machine on the planet), after answering some very simple questions, I had a working printer.

The HP LasetJet 1000 is an abomination! To save a few cents, it does not even have a large enough bootstrap ROM to hold the operating firmware, let alone Flash memory. Every time it's powered on, it has to have downloaded it's operating firmware from the connected computer. And there's no power switch, or in fact any switches or buttons. The two indicators are a green power LED and an amber error LED.

Of course, I triggered that 20 minute job after insisting that I, as an 'experienced' Linux user of 17 years 'who could work it out by myself' spent a fruitless couple of hours hacking around in Synaptic, 'Add a printer' dialogues and the CUPS configuration!

Chances are that an average user, doing the sensible thing (if it could ever be considered sensible to actually try to use this crippled printer) documented on the HP support website, would have had it working much quicker. Ho hum. So much for 'experience'.

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: Linux v Windows @Badmouth

I think that you need to look at more hardware, and maybe more recent Linux distros. The days of having to compile everything up from source are long gone.

I run everything from GDI printers, through HP, Epson and Brother, and although there are some problems, if you're using a fairly mainstream distro, many, many printers have local page-imaging support in CUPS and Gutenprint for many so-called winprinters, and even the most obnoxious printers often have some support from the manufacturers for Linux.

The worst I've come across recently was the GDI HP LaserJet 1000 (ancient, purchased from a car-boot for a very specific job), which eventually worked when I used an installation script from the HP support site that adds a special USB driver to the kernel, and then configures CUPS to raterise the pages in the correct format.

Thankfully, the worst offender (Lexmark) have left SOHO market, and their business oriented printers understand PostScript and PCL5e and later, so work pretty much out of the box with generic drivers that ship with all Linuxes.

Other than bleeding-edge devices, most hardware things work without installing drivers (or even putting a driver disk in). There is niche hardware, of course, but I would say that more and more, hardware vendors are learning that they cannot ignore Linux, and often the support that they write for OSX can be adapted relatively easily for Linux.

For run-of-the-mill hardware that you find in most consumer computers nowadays, it is much easier to do a vanilla installation of Linux than it is to do the same with generic Windows installation media. Windows users rely very heavily on the vendor tweaked installation media. If they actually had to do it from Microsoft supplied generic media, they would discover a new world of pain, especially if the network hardware in their machine is not recognised by the standard Windows drivers (as was the case on the last two PC's I most recently built).

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Budget UHD TVs arrive – but were the 4Kasts worth listening to?

Peter Gathercole
Silver badge

Re: @Peter

The wry comment I was trying to make is that if you are relying on the manufacture of TV panels to make UHD monitors available, you would have to accept the size of the panel as well.

I cannot really see any TV manufacturer making a UHD TV smaller than 32", and looking at the story, 40" was the smallest TV referenced. That's where 40" came from.

This time, I was not making any comment about whether UHD was really going to increase your computer experience (although I have in the past).

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Peter Gathercole
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@Little Mouse

You don't have to dream. Just buy one of these TVs, and get a display adapter that will do the correct level of HDMI, and plug it in. If you don't like HDMI, the TV will probably have component video and maybe DVI as well, looking at the back of the TV under review.

Whether it would be any good as a monitor is a moot point, but it would be an interesting exercise.

I still say that sitting that close to a 40"+ monitor would be an uncomfortable experience, but I thought that back in the early 1980s the first time I saw a 20" black and white monitor on a Sun 2/50 after working on 12" VDUs, and look where we are now!

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Peter Gathercole
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Yes, but only if you want a 40"+ monitor. I cannot imagine making the desk space for such a beast!

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Exploding Power Bars: EE couldn't even get the CE safety mark right

Peter Gathercole
Silver badge

Re: Totally .... @Steve

I deliberately said alkaline for this reason, and also because potentially ruining a disposable battery is preferable to doing the same to a rechargeable.

I should have said why, maybe. Thanks for providing the extra warning for other people.

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: Totally ....

Katode? Cathode!

But if you short out a battery, any battery, the internal resistance of the battery will cause it to become a heater...

And the greater the capacity of the battery, the greater the heat effect.

Try this at home, but take suitable precautions.

Get an alkaline AA battery, and put a wire connecting both ends. Leave it for 10 seconds, disconnect, and then see how hot the battery is. But be careful, it'll be hot!

If these devices were made correctly, they should have some form of current limiter, which would prevent a short causing them to overheat (could be as simple as a fuse). But I guess at least the faulty ones don't, or it does not function correctly.

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Typewriters suck. Yet we're infinitely richer for those irritating machines

Peter Gathercole
Silver badge

Ah, spirit copiers.

I used to be one of the copier monitors (you know, turning the handle to operate the Banda machine) at school to run off copies from the carefully preserved masters that used to serve year after year from certain of my teachers. You used to be able to tell how many copies had been run off by how faint they were. And oh, the smell. I'm sure I was high some days at school!

I spent a year teaching at a UK Polytechnic in the mid '80s, and I found it easier and quicker to type up my hand-outs on my BBC micro at home, print it onto a spirit master on a Qume daisy-wheel printer, and then run 40 copies off for the class.

Using the photocopiers for more that 10 copies was banned because of the cost, and the offset-print service that was supposed to be used had a three-day turnaround time. As a new lecturer, all my material was produced new, and very rarely three days before I needed it. Possibly the most challenging year of my life!

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