* Posts by Peter Gathercole

2467 posts • joined 15 Jun 2007

High performance object storage: Not just about reskinning Amazon's S3

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Nothing new @pPPPP re MP3 players.

Yes, but all you're doing is storing an index, in the same way that the permuted index for old-style UNIX man pages from 40 years ago allows you to identify pages that mentioned particular key words.

And if you break it down, in a UNIX-like system, the objects are actually tracked by inode which links blocks to objects (files), and the file tree structure is just a way of indexing the inodes.

It could be perfectly possible, if a little unwieldy, to have an index of inodes other than a hierarchy of directory indexes, but you would have to do something about permissions, as although the inode itself includes permissions that can be checked, UNIX also requires a permissions check on the path to a file, not just the file itself.

In fact, I understand that a number of POSIX compliant filesystem implementations do allow this type of access. GPFS (sorry, IBM Spectrum Storage, or whatever it's called this week) for example, has a policy engine that allows files to be accessed outside of the traditional file tree.

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: Nothing new

I know that responding to my own comment is a bit... well, poor form but -

How global is global? If it's really global, what is the arbitration system to make sure that there are no collisions with other systems and organizations? And are objects immutable so that you have to version them as part of their globally unique identifier?. I cannot really believe that there are people who believe that a non-hierarchical unique identifier is really possible at any scale.

Is there any structure at all imposed upon the identifier and format of the metadata? If there is a structure, then it's just another type of file system with a different indexing system. Tree based filesystems are not the only type that have been used, they've just become almost standard because they mostly fit the requirements of most users.

I know that, in theory, if you can segregate the object from the path to access the actual storage of the object, you become storage agnostic, such that objects can be moved to different stores and it still be found, but under the covers, there will still be something that resembles a filesystem.

This whole concept still sounds a bit like buzz words, even though CAFS have been around for more than 30 years.

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Peter Gathercole
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Joke

Nothing new

From Wikipedia (I know, but it's a useful first description).

"Each object typically includes the data itself, a variable amount of metadata, and a globally unique identifier"

Hey, I've got an object storage system, and didn't know it! The "globally unique identifier" starts with "/home/peter/Media..." or some such, and each object has some metadata that can be seen using examination tools like "ls -l", "istat" and "file"

Wow. Whoda thuk it!

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Bibliotheca Alexandrina buys a Huawei superdupercomputer

Peter Gathercole
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Quite honestly...

... commodity hardware, attached via Infiniband with some software-defined storage solution is not particularly difficult to build nowadays. It's like Lego, and putting Linux/Lustre/Rocks/Slurm & LSF/Open-MPI on top is very formulaic.

All you need is the money. Of course, whether it actually does anything useful depends on the detailed design, and the skill of the people using it.

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This year's H-1B visa lottery jammed full in just six days

Peter Gathercole
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Re: In my experience, there's always a shortage of the highly-skilled workers ...

Has your company actually considered training and graduate level apprenticeships as a route to obtaining the right skills?

I get so fed up with there being people with qualifications but a lack of experience in a field that means that they can't apply for the available jobs, while the companies complain they can't get skilled staff. For Bog's sake, take someone with some of the skills, and train them into the rest!

This was brought home to me when my daughter was doing a degree in Graphics Design, and had been given a talk by a previous grad of the course, who achieved a solid 2.1, saying that they could not get a job in the field because they could not show relevant experience. This was in the same week that the government published a list of skill shortages that they were adding to the visa quota that included, to my surprise, graphic designers.

We need to join up businesses with collages so that not only are the right skills being taught, but so newly qualified or retrained people can get a foot in the door in their field. Having to recruit from abroad is just not the right answer.

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Apple's fruitless rootless security broken by code that fits in a tweet

Peter Gathercole
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Re: The tree that flew.

If admins need to change permissions on files to make the services work, then they've probably already done something wrong because they've not understood how it hangs together.

The UNIX permission model has it's quirks, but it is relatively simple (actually one of UNIX's weaknesses). If admins can't understand it, they haven't a hope in hell of understanding RBAC and ACLs!

And I'm not talking about what people generally use groups for nowadays, but another level entirely (if you've got a Linux system, read the gpasswd manual page for example).

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: The tree that flew.

To be fair, there is a requirement to be able to separate out different administration functions to non-root accounts on multi-user UNIX-like systems.

The thing is, this is a problem that was solved to some extent years ago via the normal permissions model and using groups and group administrators, and just fell into disuse.

The reason why most UNIX systems have groups like system, adm, daemon, uucp, lp etc, was so that you could use the group permissions on the programs to control the different aspects of a UNIX system, and then add the group to a person's group membership (or on really ancient UNIXes, use newgrp to change your current group) to allow you to run the necessary commands. You then restrict root access so only your most trusted users could use it, and have them use it very sparingly.

You didn't even need to be root to control the group membership. There is (was) the capability to set a password on a group, and the first member of the group would be a group administrator who could control other members of the group! You add and remove groups from someones group set to control what they can do. Even now, some of the things still persist. For example, on AIX, I believe that it is still the case that being a member of the system group allows you to do things like mount and unmount filesystems.

It's lazy UNIX administrators who got used to using root for administering everything that caused this facility to fall into disuse.

I'm not sure whether modern UNIX and UNIX-like systems still have the code to allow this to work, but the vestigial remains are still there, without most people understanding why.

It was not as flexible or as granular as the RBAC and ACL based systems used in OSX (and to some extent in the other remaining modern UNIX systems - although the ACL systems need to work better with RBAC), and the underlying mechanisms still relied on there being a 'superuser' UID, and suid, euid and sgid, but it was the case that you could administer a system day-to-day without needing to run commands as root.

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Hands on with the BBC's Micro:Bit computer. You know, for kids

Peter Gathercole
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Re: "Same memory as the BBC Micro Model A" @Simon

16KB OS, 16KB Basic, with other ROM based language or OS extensions paged into the same address space as Basic.

The ability to switch into and out-of a paged ROM to handle OS extension calls without disrupting the running programs was an extremely clever piece of design that overcame what should have been a serious limitation of the Beeb. Put some RAM in the same address space, and you could do some really clever things.

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: Old photo caption

The other systems on the school list was the Research Machines 380Z/480Z systems, which were, IMHO, less useful in the classroom than the Beebs, although one could argue that they may have had more potential for business type computing as they could run variants of CP/M and associated software which was the microcomputer OS of choice for business prior to the IBM PC.

They were also much more expensive!

I think that the Newbury Newbrain was also on the list, but nobody bought them!

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: Who wrote this rubbish?

Fast page 0 access on the 6502 was a major feature, well used in the Beeb for OS vectoring and frequently used counters (like buffer counters), which made extending the OS possible to even moderately competent machine code programmers.

In many ways, the 6502 was a model for RISC processors. Simple, many instructions executing in a deterministic small number of clock cycles (OK, maybe not single cycle, but better than an 8080 or Z80), very regular instruction set (as long as you ignore the missing instructions that did not work) and with enough useful addressing modes.

Mind you, it was simple because of the limited transistor budget available, rather than a desire to create a RISCy processor.

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: The Model A of when?

What is this. A Willy Waving competition?

I graduated from University in 1981, having already worked with UNIX for three years (very progressive university, Durham)!

And, although it was launched in 1981, most people who placed an order for a Beeb when they opened the process (like me, model B, issue 3 board, serial number 7000 and something, still working) waited more than 6 months to actually receive theirs.

I'm just waiting for the real gray-beards who make me look young to wade in with their PET, Apple ][ and Altair stories.

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Apple iPhone GPU designers Imagination axes 20 per cent of staff

Peter Gathercole
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@nijam

It depends how far you go back.

Silicon Graphics complete workstation line used to be MIPS based, and DECstations from Digital Equipment Corp. also were powered by MIPS processors overlapping the VAXstations, and the hot Alphastations.

Of course, this was when there were significant differences between proper technical workstations and high-end PCs. MIPS powered two of the five (POWER - IBM. PA-RISC - HP, Sparc - SUN, MIPS - DEC and SGI) major technical workstion platforms, and they also appeared in a number of high performance UNIX minicomputer designs (Pyramid and I think Sequoia spring to mind, but I believe there were others).

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I beg you, please don't back up that secret directory full of photos!

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Years ago, when the net was young @Danny

I was thinking the same thing.

Where I worked at that time, there were various floppys with GIFs formatted for 256 colour VGA floating around (I believe. Of course I never had copies). I think they were downloaded by others from dodgy dialup bulletin boards and USENET.

We had a 64Kb/s leased line to a proto-ISP in 1990, but it was all FTP, Archie and Gopher.

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Ten years on: Ronnie Barker, Pismonouncers Unanimous founder, remembered

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Ronnie Barker

Barker inherited Lt. Queeg. The character was originally performed by Scottish comedian Chic Murray, and the character was so popular that when Chic said he wouldn't do it any more, Ronnie kept the character alive with a near perfect imitation.

'Doing voices' was common on BBC radio shows, but The Navy Lark took it to the limit with audience favorite characters voiced by other stalwarts like Jon Pertwee (who can forget Commander Wetherby once you had heard him), Michael Bates (the Pardre, amongst others), and Heather Chasen, and even relatively ordinary actors (and the writer!) often voicing more than one regular character.

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SMBs? Are you big enough to have a serious backup strategy?

Peter Gathercole
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"It's an approach that wouldn't work with tapes" - Huh!

In order to make it work with tapes, you keep a database of all of the backed-up objects, so you don't need to look at the tapes all the time. In fact, what then determines the storage technology is how fast you need to restore your clients, not how you back them up.

Using a database makes it possible to have an incremental-forever method, although identifying duplicate objects is a bit difficult unless your database contains not only modification time and date info, but some unique hash of the backed up object. But it does allow expiry controlled archive as well as backup operations in the same solution.

Established traditional high volume backup solutions still work well with flash, disk, tape, and even worm devices, although they are generally not cheap.

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'I bet Russian hackers weren't expecting their target to suck so epically hard as this'

Peter Gathercole
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Re: endianness @#define

And despite being wrong-endian, Intel x86 is the dominant ISA.

Even IBM Power has been changed at Power 8 to allow it to work with the same endianess as x86. A retrograde step, IMHO.

(x86 should have been strangled at birth, not encouraged by IBM!)

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Linux Mint forums hacked: All users urged to reset passwords

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Not the only problem @Camilla

I suspect you're deliberately grossly exaggerating. 20GB of symlinks is a whole lot of symlnks, bearing in mind that they actually occupy relatively small amounts of disk space each (if the path pointed to by the symlink is relatively short, the destination address is actually stored in the inode!)

They clutter the directory structure, true, but the main advantage is that they don't use much disk space.

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Sick and tired of modern Windows? Upgrade to Windows 3.1 today – in your web browser

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Not that hard actually. @McUser

Too early for OS/2, which was intended to be the follow-on product from Windows 3.X.

Of course, windowing systems for UNIX systems (Looking Glass looked really slick), Apple Lisa, as well as Xerox Star, PERC and others existed before Windows 3.0.

And don't forget DR GEM!

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: Dosbox @Danny

Nope. Windows 3.11 ran perfectly well on an 80386, which did not have any co-processor. It even worked on the cut-down 80386SX version.

Not that I was really that interested, being a committed UNIX person even then.

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SCO's last arguments in 'Who owns Linux?' case vs. IBM knocked out

Peter Gathercole
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Surely, it's now over.

It must be getting to the point where the bankruptcy administrators realize that continuing will end up costing them more, without any prospect of generating any value.

As I understand it, it is only the possibility of winning some money from IBM that is keeping the remains of SCO only half-dead. If all that is left is the IBM counter claims, then there are serious costs and potential losses, but no potential gains in keeping the company in it's zombie state. They should just accept their losses, and finally wind SCO up.

Hopefully very shortly.

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You've seen things people wouldn't believe – so tell us your programming horrors

Peter Gathercole
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Re: GOTO in assembly

For non-structured basics, where the IF statement could only condition a single following statement, ELSEs were not available, and before procedures and when functions were so primitive they were basically useless, and the only conditional loop was FOR...NEXT, using gotos was the only way you could write code.

It took versions like GW Basic and BBC Basic (plus various versions on Mini-computers) to bring it into a relatively modern era.

People forget how simple Dartmouth and Basic-80/MBasic were!

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Little warning: Deleting the wrong files may brick your Linux PC

Peter Gathercole
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Re: This is like BIOS flashing by Unix commands

IF there is a problem, it's not with the rm command.

About the only thing I can think may be at fault is the code that allows the UEFI variable to be accessed as part of sysfs. This will be some code in sysfs itself or an associated plug-in module to sysfs.

As has been pointed out earlier, it may be possible to mitigate this slightly by changing the sysfs abstraction to UEFI so that anything that looks like a directory does not have the "w" bit set, preventing any of the UEFI variables that appear as files from being deleted (although we are talking about root here...), but that would not prevent someone with the correct privileges from overwriting the contents of one of the 'files'. It may also make it impossible to create new 'files' (variables), if this was required.

I suspect that UEFI actually does have a filesystem like storage structure for it's own use (it's an OS of sorts, anyway), so it would make sense to the developer to make it appear under sysfs as a directory tree.

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: So, exactly...

The concept is actually very simple. "Everything as a file" means that you can use any tool you like that works with files on other things. It's incredibly powerful.

An analogy to what was happening here could be like files in a remote share in Windows that appears on the windows desktop. It looks like folder containing files, but is not stored on any hard disk local to the system, and does not actually appear in the user's "Desktop" folder. It's abstracted to a different storage medium by the OS, so wiping the local disk by formatting it will not touch these files (in this case, on the share). Like psuedo filesystems in /sys, files on a share can be explicitly overwritten or deleted, but formatting the disk won't touch them.

For a share, the files are actually stored on another computer. For the /sys directory on Linux, it is 'stored' (or translated) to another medium than the disk, which can include the NVRAM in UEFI. Some entities in /sys are read-only (mainly for providing information, but also for input only devices like keyboards and mice), but anything that can change will probably be writable with the appropriate permissions. Being able to write to UEFI allows Linux utilities to make useful changes to the way the system boots the OS, amongst other things.

Like everything UNIXy, you should treat super-user (root) with more care, and you should never really do more than is actually essential with raised privileges.

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'Printer Ready'. Er… you actually want to print? What, right now?

Peter Gathercole
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Re: US Letter

I actually enjoyed the job back then.

It was a time when people in the UK could actually influence products, rather than what happens now, just complaining to support reps. in whatever-is-the-cheapest-location-this-year, and getting completely ignored because complex problems upset their call statistics.

I find it rewarding identifying and overcoming complicated problems! Does that make me odd? (No, on second thoughts, don't answer that).

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Peter Gathercole
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US Letter

Once, in the early '90s, when I was creating an APAR for a particularly obnoxious setup problem for an IBM printer on AIX, I was accused by the US support team of wanting to set an 'obscure' paper size as the default, rather than the 'standard'. The size I wanted was, of course, A4, and the US had set a hard default of US Letter.

After some fruitless to-ing and fro-ing, I suggested that they either climb down from their ivory tower, or re-christen AIX as the "American Interactive Executive".

This got me flamed for my unprofessional remarks in the problem management system, which came back down the management chain. I appealed back to my management chain in the UK explaining the scope of the problem, who thought my comments were, on the whole, rather restrained.

I actually got an apology, together with a thorough re-working of the factory defaults in the 4019 laser printer, a fix to the printer setup prepended to the print job by the driver, and a re-work of the nroff and troff device defaults, effectively fixing the problem in three different places!

Sometimes support processes work, sometimes they don't.

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Peter Gathercole
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PC LOAD LETTER

This means that you've (yes, you) f***ed up the page size settings in the page layout of whatever-app-you're-using.

Unfortunately, there is plenty of scope for this, especially if you rely on documents crafted piecemeal from many sources by cut-and-paste, because many office products will also keep individual page settings if you plagiarize other peoples documents in large chunks.

Mind you, I think that the first step in teaching office package use should be setting up default page size, dictionary and keyboard settings (huh - you got no training! Shocking).

I have to admit that whenever I use certain dominant desktop OSs, it really bugs me that it no longer seems to be the case that you can set these things up on a personal basis in your profile, and that many applications appear to want to remember what you used last time, rather than work from the defaults.

Yes, I know the last time I used A***e Reader to print some handouts I printed two-up, doublesided, tumbled and flipped on the long side. That doesn't mean I want the paper copy of my tax form printed the same way! What a waste of paper!

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'Unikernels will send us back to the DOS era' – DTrace guru Bryan Cantrill speaks out

Peter Gathercole
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Re: "Operating systems these days..." @Herbert

I quoted 80286, because it was the first Intel processor that made an attempt at privilege separation and an integrated memory management unit, even if it was only half-hearted.

I know that it was poor in relation to the later 80386 systems, but it was a major step up from the 8086/80186.

IMHO, it would have actually been better to have used the 68000 family of processors in the original IBM PC, because that family was designed with a memory management unit in the chip family right from the outset. But it was probably too expensive for IBM to consider in their original, stop-gap PC system which was never intended to spawn a whole sub-industry.

I'm not sure about the security model of OS/2. As far as I remember, there was no real multi-user concept in OS/2, although there was some memory segregation between processes and probably the kernel as well.

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: "Operating systems these days..." @roy

Why is that pedantic? I was aware that Dave Cutler did all of these, and I nearly mentioned it myself. I listed UNIX and the DEC operating systems, as these were from my own experience.

I'm pretty certain that PrimeOS, MPE, VME, AOS, VOS, MTS (just a list of other time-sharing OSs that spring to mind from this era) also had this feature.

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Peter Gathercole
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"Operating systems these days..."

Really? These days?

Real operating systems have had a user/kernel split for 40 years or more.

It was a fundamental feature of UNIX since Version/Edition 6 (my earliest experience, possibly longer), and in other OSs like DEC RSX-11 and VAX/VMS, and probably a host of other OSs from the same era.

Even in the Microsoft world, Windows/NT must be 20 years old at least.

DOS was a retrograde step that should have been strangled as soon as the 80286 became the dominant processor, and MS should really not have compromised on the initial security design of NT.

What would have been even better would have been a desktop UNIX on a suitable architecture at a cost that suited the industry! Linux just came along too late!

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Tiny tech takes Turkish tin-rattling title

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Basis for school projects

I'll defend what I said.

To hook kids at school, you need to have something that shows results with very little effort on their part. The effect of a program that could draw coloured rectangles or fill the screen with lines, or make sound easily from something that that a kid could walk up to, copy half a dozen lines from memory or a sheet of paper, and then run immediately was a critical feature of the success of early personal computers. It was the immediacy that was the hook.

It's much more difficult if you have to tell kids that they have to edit text in a file, learn a complicated syntax of a language like Python, Java or C, and then take them through the process of compiling the code and making it runnable.

The complications of even the simplest IDE for a compiled language will turn of so many kids immediately, with no hope of rescuing them.

I was working in education in the 1980's and I observed this over and over again as soon as kids were introduced to teaching languages like Pascal. The standard complaint was "why is it so difficult, when I can just type it and run on my Spectrum/VIC 20/Commodore 64/BBC Micro", and that was without the current exceptionally short attention span of kids today.

Once you've hooked them, you can move on to proper languages.

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Peter Gathercole
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Basis for school projects

This would really be a good investment for schools wanting to really allow their students to do impressive things. Probably need to work out how to attach a screen and keyboard, or maybe a serial terminal through the BlueTooth.

As long as the programming languages/IDE is up to the task. IMHO, port BBC Basic V with OSCLI interfaces to all of the hardware to give students a quick start, then provide more powerful IDEs for more serious projects!

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Watchdog says yes to BT's EE takeover deal. Shrugs. No 'significant' harm in it

Peter Gathercole
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Re: How Awful

I am an EE Fibre broadband customer. Their service is provided through BT Wholsale, as is every other ISP in my area with the possible exception of TalkTalk, who went door to door a few years ago saying that they could offer unbundled broadband free of BT Wholesale, if you can believe their poorly trained sales people

As it is, I'm going to get pretty much the same levels of availability regardless of which ISP I use. Fortunately, I've never had to use EE's broadband support. Lucky, I suppose.

Interestingly, when fibre became available in my area, I got my installation working before any of the regular BT customers, because BT insisted on an engineer visit, whereas EE just shipped the router and told me to plug it in when the ADSL stopped working. As a result, I think I was one of the first FTTC customers in my area. Was absolute bliss for the first month, with 79.99 Mb/s sync rate, until other users started coming on-stream.

Another benefit was because I was a triple play (phone, fibre broadband and mobile) customer, not only did I get discounted line rental, but I also received, out of the blue, an EETV box, so they could count me as a quad-play customer, not that I pay EE anything for any TV services. Hope they don't want it back after the merger. It's a good four tuner freeview PVR.

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Evil OpenSSH servers can steal your private login keys to other systems – patch now

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Private key on the server??? @John Robson

It's not on the server. It's cached in memory on the client to allow this roving feature, and the second vulnerability can be used by a rogue server to snaffle it from the cache.

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Peter Gathercole
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Languages other than C @Passive Smoking

At the risk of angering the anti-C lobby, it is unfortunate that trusting a language that implements things like strict bounds, type and syntax checking is not a universal panacea. You're just exporting your trust to another component that could possibly be very complex.

Consider the following potential headline:

"Devs told to patch their <vendors implementation of language of choice> development environment, recompile and re-ship all applications due to security checking bug in <vendors implementation of language of choice>'s compiler and runtime."

This becomes more complicated for users of software who may not be aware of the development environment used for the software they've purchased or otherwise procured.

Admittedly this is a bit of a contrived scenario, and there is a good chance that because of run-time linking, it may only be necessary to provide a new execution environment or run-time libraries that provide the fix, but just switching to a more strict language does not ensure that applications are guaranteed to be more secure.

At least, where the bug is in the C source code, it is sufficiently primitive that you can see the error in the source of the application, and not have to trawl your development environment.

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Death Stars are a waste of time – here's the best way to take over the galaxy

Peter Gathercole
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Re: @Feank Ly. Ships building ships - re. Ringworld

Ah. Thanks.

I keep meaning to read The Culture series. Still not got round to it.

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: Ships building ships

"ring-shaped Orbital habitat", aka a Ringworld.

Not completely sure whether Larry Niven originated it, but it was derived from the idea of a Dyson Sphere. There's a write-up of the idea in the back of the original book, and some clarifications of the maths in the later books. Read them.

Niven and Jerry Pournelle between them wrote innovative fiction about so many interesting ideas, like archologies, mono-molecular filaments, system-wide civilisations without effective intersteller travel, planetary occupation etc. I did not get the idea of integral trees, though.

Forward the Hindmost!

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What's going on with X.org? Desktop software body could lose domain

Peter Gathercole
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Re: No big deal, just add it to the long list of X.org fck ups

Wayland will replace X11, but contains a compatibility layer to allow X applications to still work. As a long term X user, I'm a bit skeptical myself, but I don't have enough time to investigate it, plus I mainly run Ubuntu (so Mir, if it ever appears) is what I would see.

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Windows 10: What's coming in 2016?

Peter Gathercole
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Re: What's next for Windows 10?

I think you'll find the lack of paragraphs is because of changes in the way that El. Reg. stores and formats articles between then and now. I suspect that many pages of that era won't format as they did.

I think that we're fortunate to still have access to news articles that old, even if they are difficult to read.

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After Death Star II blew: Dissecting the tech of Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens

Peter Gathercole
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It's not that unlikely

If you were to look at the recently dismantled USS Enterprise (CVN 65, not NCC1701), and compared that to it's replacement, the Gerald R Ford (CVN 79), almost exactly 50 years have passed, and outwardly, the carriers looked very similar (especially after the Enterprise had it's island rebuilt). And you could compare them both to the non-nuclear Kitty-Hawk class, older still, and see significant design similarities.

There are many changes to the catapults, arresting gear, propulsion, and other equipment fit, but outwardly, they're about the same size, using a similar hull form and island arrangement, although a practiced eye will see differences. This design is due to be used for new carriers for several decades more as well. Casual observation by a lay person (i.e. a film viewer) would probably see them the same (it's amazing how often in NCIS that the pennant number of a carrier that they're supposed to be on changes in a single show, and there's no outcry. Probably even more true on JAG).

Major warships are now built to last decades. There's no reason to believe that spaceships will be any different.

And you also have to realise that after the Empire was taken down, there would be a significant period of chaos, where major programmes like warship building would probably be put on hold.

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Windows XP spotted on Royal Navy's spanking new aircraft carrier

Peter Gathercole
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Re: how is this news? @GBE

The picture on the VT220 would have to have been ASCII art, as the VT220 was a mono text only terminal, although it had box draw characters and other ANSI 'Advanced' video features.

The VT240 was a ReGIS capable greyscale graphics terminal. The VT241 was colour, although it would look crude against even a VGA PC monitor now.

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Cheque, mate? Barclays Bank borked as website, apps take cheeky siesta

Peter Gathercole
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Good luck with finding a shop that will accept cheques nowadays!

Some shops may put debit or credit cards through the old paper system using a card-swipe, but probably not if it won't go through the electronic system but other cards do.

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And the reasons for buying new IT gear are as follows ...

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Three year refresh cycle

Well, if they're really 20+ years old, then they must be Micro-channel machines, and must be running AIX 5.1 or older. If this is the case, then they've also been out of software support for something like 8 years.

A bank risks it's banking license by using machines out of software support, although I believe that the wording about applying software patches is "Must have all applicable software patches installed". I've heard some people say that they've installed all patches that are available for the level of AIX they're using, so meet the requirement, although I'm not sure whether the auditors would really agree.

I also think that the kernel devs and major Power Linux distros have dropped support for Micro-channel machines.

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Remember Windows 1.0? It's been 30 years (and you're officially old)

Peter Gathercole
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Re: xfce4 theme @keithpeter

Not only a silver surfer, but reluctant to upgrade as well!

Arthur only appeared on the earliest BBC Archimedes (before they were branded Acorn). I'm pretty certain it was known as RISC OS after the first OS upgrade (What would have been Arthur 2 became RISC OS 2, possibly because of a trademark conflict with a Dudley Moore film), and on all machines after the A300 and A400 series.

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Linus Torvalds fires off angry 'compiler-masturbation' rant

Peter Gathercole
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Boffin

Re: you make ken and dmr sad

Whilst I completely agree with your sentiment, you have to realise that the last UNIX kernel worked on by those luminaries was tiny compared to the current Linux kernel. It did not even have a huge amount of networking code in it.

After UNIX Version/Edition 8, They moved on to Plan 9, which was written in a completely different way (much more like a micro kernel), and left UNIX in the hands of the UNIX Systems Division in AT&T.

It was written in a very portable way, but even the kernel itself from USD was intended to be compiled by UNIX's own Portable C Compiler. Back in the day, it caused more problems and fragmentation for vendors doing their own ports using their own compilers than anything else! It was only after the standardisation attempts of SVR4 and OSF/1 in the late '80s and '90s that the vendor kernel code bases started converging again.

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Bacon can kill: Official

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Call me Mr Thickie but....

Bacon is 'cured'. This is what makes it different from, say, thinly sliced pork belly slices.

There are several different ways of curing, including packing with salt, soaking in brine and smoking.

Originally, the idea was to preserve the meat so that it could be stored and eaten later. More recently, the food industry chemically treats pork in a way that doesn't actually preserve the meat (proper bacon should last for months without refrigeration), but makes it taste a little like traditional bacon.

It is quite possible that the modern way of making bacon counts as 'processing'. Whether the traditional methods count as well is something I would like to know.

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

Peter Gathercole
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Despite having invented wall-mounted flat screen television, and having a prototype three-colour projector on the bench and a revolutionary overhead projector discarded on the floor, Kirk though that the automatic shirt spot-cleaner was the product he wanted to develop.

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Ireland moves to scrap 1 and 2 cent coins

Peter Gathercole
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How does this work?

In theory, someone from elsewhere in Europe that still uses 1 and 2c coins will still be able to rock up in Ireland, and pay with 1 and 2c coins, even if the price is rounded. The shops will still have to honour them, and the banks will still have to handle them (and probably repatriate them to countries that still use them).

Extending from this, what happens if something is 0.95 euros, and the person purchasing only has 0.90 in 'sliver' and three 2c coins? Who will lose out on 1c?

I would not have though that a country can unilaterally invalidate part of a common currency.

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Amazon Echo: We put Jeff Bezos' always-on microphone-speaker in a Reg family home

Peter Gathercole
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Re: by definition! @Doctor_Wibble

What I would like is to have some of these services provided locally without involving the cloud.

I was shown a demonstration of voice recognition using dedicated fourier transform hardware attached to a BBC micro in about 1984. I was shown a purely software voice recognition on an IBM PS/2 model 80 with a 25MHz 386 and 4MB of memory and 80MB hard disk in 1990.

We're now 25 years later, and the computing power and storage capability in our smart phone or TV is vastly more than what I've seen work, so I believe that natural language recognition can be done locally. Give me an app that will read my local address book, calendar and other information stored on the phone, and let me choose when to get it to use remote services purely as information sources, and I might consider using it.

Before the cloud, I remember SciFi writers talking about portable devices with AI in them. This is what I want, not some cloud overlord analysing my every move. My personal AI should work for me, not against or in spite of me.

Of course it won't happen, because we are not being given what we want, but are being offered seemingly attractive carrots so that we can be treated as the product as we sign up to be profiled, advertised and sold to.

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Lies from VW: 'Our staff acted criminally but board didn't know'

Peter Gathercole
Silver badge

Re: Dieselgate

But the point is that these cars, when tested under the European testing, will not trip the US test defeat conditions - I understand they're quite specific, because they don't need to. So when they are tested, they are almost certainly not in the reduced emission mode.

If they then pass the EU tests, then you could not sue the manufacturer for non-compliance or being 'too dirty'.

If you're complaining that the EU thresholds for certain pollutants are too high, then that's not something that the manufacturer is responsible for, and you'd have to sue either the UK government or the EU, which is a completely different proposition.

What you could sue the manufacturer for is if any of the stated specifications, like the mileage figures or the amount of pollutants emitted differed from their published specifications at the time that the vehicle was purchased, at which point you could in theory sue either under the trade descriptions act or under advertising standards laws, but I think that you'd have to prove that there is a significant difference, because everybody knows that lab condition tests are nothing like driving on the open road.

Of course, if you're really taking a stand against diesel as a whole, then you could lobby to get all diesels banned, but that would have such serious knock-on effects for commercial and public transport, shipping, and even mobile and backup electricity generation that you'd be backing a losing horse. Diesel is so engrained in our way of life that you really cannot get rid of it, at least not without a decades long program.

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