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* Posts by Peter Gathercole

1859 posts • joined 15 Jun 2007

BSkyB profit knocked by BT footie struggle and O2 broadband costs

Peter Gathercole
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@chipxtreme

There are lots of TV channels that offer live streams of their broadcast programs off of their web sites. This includes the BBC.

"Live TV" means that it is possible to watch it over the Internet while it is still being broadcast. An example of "Live" would be a 30 minute sit-com that is available over the internet 20 minutes after it starts on a broadcast medium (overlapping by 10 minutes). For things like football matches, this means that it must not be available on-line before the broadcast program finishes, i.e. at least 1:45 (and maybe longer) after the match starts.

The distinction about whether you do watch live TV online or not is very blurred. Iplayer, for example, allows both archived (catch-up) and Live, so how to you prove that your use of Iplayer is only for catch-up. It all looks a bit murky to me.

I wonder if the TV licensing people are able to get a court order to request your browsing history from your ISP?

I still wonder whether an analogue TV without a digital tuner still counts as TV receiving equipment. In my view, it shouldn't.

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Tape rocks for storage - if you don't need to, um, access your data

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Tape for Longterm Storage

Are you sure about "you can generally interface a disk drive to a machine for a long long time"? Have you tried to connect a SCSI disk (anything earlier than UltraSCSI, but try a SCSI-1 SE disk for a real challenge) to a modern server? And older interfaces like ESDI, ST506, MASBUS or ESMD are long dead.

Even more modern technologies like IBM SSA are now dead. IDE and EIDE interfaces no longer appear on modern motherboards. Even when older HBAs are still available, they will be PCI adapters, and these are being eliminated in newer systems.

I believe that the SAS technologies are expected to be N+2 compatible, i.e. a first generation SAS disk will work with a SAS 3 adapter, but there is no guarantee that they will work with later adapters. Given the speed of evolution of such things, I expect disks to remain portable to current machines for 5 or so years after manufacture, and after that, you will have to rely on legacy hardware to be able to read them. Does not encourage me to use disk as a long-term archive medium.

This is partly by design, as the disk and system manufacturers want to continue selling systems, and they have built-in obsolescence.

My personal thought is that you would have more success reading a 2400' 1/2" NRZI mag. tape at 800bpi recorded using ar or tar from 30 years ago that you would an early SCSI disk, especially if it came from a Netware, VAX, PrimeOS or other proprietary OS.

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Peter Gathercole
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Longevity of SSD as a medium

Has anybody published figures about how long an SSD will hold data in a cold state? I get the impression that most rely on the wear leveling capability of the drives to re-compute damaged data from checksum information during the re-write of the data. And this requires the drive to be powered.

I'm really not too confident about putting a flash-memory (or any other static electronic) device on the shelf, and coming back to it in a few years time and expect the data to be still there. I would be confident with a tape.

Memory technologies are moving along so fast that there is no chance to time-test any of them before they are obsolete. And accelerated environment testing that vendors claim to have done is not really a good indication of the data retention capability of a medium.

But then I would probably recommend carving the data on granite tablets if you want it to last millennia.

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Leaping SpaceX GRASSHOPPER ROCKET jumps 2,500ft, lands safely

Peter Gathercole
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Re: FAB!

If you remember, the swimming pool moved under the patio when TB1 took off or landed, so he did not have that option.

The torus shaped building was called 'the roundhouse'. Quite what you use such an unusually shaped building for, I don't know.

I'm sure that the few times they show the clip of TB3 landing, they've even managed to collect the smoke again. That's really environmentally aware!

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: Awesome soundtrack

It's the flame licking back up the lower part of the rocket that makes me wonder whether Derek Meddings was prescient or had a way of looking into the future (he was a model making technological genius after all).

I always though 'it would never look like that' when I watched TB1 and TB2 land, but I was so obviously wrong!

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MS Word deserves DEATH says Brit SciFi author Charles Stross

Peter Gathercole
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Damn. You beat me to it.

Although I can say that I handed in my first year University computing project written using roff and printed on a DECprinter ( a faster DECcwriter II without a keyboard).

I once wrote a document handling system in make, troff, tbl, pic, grap, and to top it off, integrated SCCS to do the versioning, including the version history dynamically added to the document at extract time.

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Hey banks: Use Win XP after deadline? You'll PAY if card data's snaffled

Peter Gathercole
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Re: It ain't that damn hard - Ummm

From your figures, it looks like the estate you are using is 3000 seats. So. $3,700,000/3000 gives us, um, $1,233 (rounded) per seat. You really think this is not a lot?

Even if you do have a payment plan (and I'm betting that Microsoft would prefer a subscription plan rather than a deferred payment plan), that is still loading the business with costs that they may not have if they opted to stick with XP.

And the majority of those costs are in license fees, which you may not have if you can find an open-source solution that is adequate.

You've also not factored in any testing, specific business related software costs, or loss of productivity or training costs. If you are doing 3000 seats over a 6 month period, that's 500 a month, or about 25 a day (assuming that you're doing most of the estate during the working week). That's a tall order for 1-3 admins, even assuming you do across the network upgrades in place (which is disruptive to the users). Of course, if you have a homogeneous estate, you could do a replace, upgrade, replace rolling operation which is less disruptive to users, but you will need spare kit to do that, and will need the time to physically move the kit around..

Your earlier comment about a dual-core system with 4GB of memory is interesting. I'm sure that many, many business users of XP will have the majority of their estate running on P4 systems running with <2GB of memory. Places like call-centres do not regularly replace working systems, and the demands of filling in screen forms is such that you don't need much oomph.

For those users, dropping new kit in may not only be essential, but possibly cheaper as well.

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Control panel backdoor found in D-Link home routers

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Fail

These are all pretty old devices. I have a DI-524 on my network (and a DI-604 lying around somewhere spare), and they both have firmware issues that really mean that anybody still using them must have a masochistic streak, or not care (which may include the majority of users, unfortunately).

There has not been a firmware update for something like 8 or 9 years, and it is not possible to set the date on them (either manualy or by pointing it at an SNTP server) to any date after December 2008 if I remember correctly. I would expect that most people would have tossed theirs whenever they updated their broadband package.

Just in case anybody was tempted to try hacking into mine, I'm not using the WAN side at all, merely using it as a WiFi router on one of my wireless zones behind my Linux firewall.

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Listen, Google and Amazon: Soon we may not even use tape for COLD STORAGE

Peter Gathercole
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@AC 10:28

Disks have more moving parts than tape and tape has no electronics at all (with one or two exceptions), so tapes should be more durable. True you do get tape failures, with the tape sometimes breaking, but as you say, you have at least two copies, as you would know if you worked with large backup/archive/DR systems, as some of us do. Tape is also more portable, is probably more resilient to data during transport. Removable disk, whilst possible, is probably more complex to manage. There have been attempts at disk libraries in the past, and I believe that the encasing of the disks and the connectors proved problematic.

Don't get me wrong, there is a place for data replication on disk, and systems like HPSS and TSM can use both disk and tape in a hierarchy to achieve high capacity as well as good speed for recently copied data. But I just don't see any serious manager responsible for large amounts of data drinking the disk cool-aid and ditching tape any time soon.

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Peter Gathercole
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Connecting many disks

I see the biggest problem as connecting the thousands of drives you need to be able to compete with large tape libraries.

Even if you use SAS with multiple levels of expander, the limiting factor will be the number of SAS adapters in your controlling system(s).

With the tape archive and backup systems I have seen and used, it is possible to have multi-petabyte storage libraries with thousands of tapes controlled by a couple of systems (more than one for resilience). I'm currently working on a system with three systems connected to a library that backs up ~10TB of data per night.

I also use a high-density disk farm, with ~4000 disks controlled by 20 systems via SAS, and it is the most troublesome component in the environment, but they are always on and are configured for speed rather than capacity (although they do that as well). I will say that we get more trouble when the disks spin down and back up, so I would worry that you could have problems with not knowing about drive problems until it's too late, even using RAID. You would probably want to spin the disks up on a regular basis to detect which fail, so that you can replace them.

Of course there are trade-offs. The speed at which you can restore the data is dependent on the number of tape drives you can access concurrently, and for disk will be greater for multiple systems each with many disks, but would be more expensive

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Oh, shoppin’ HELL: I’m in the supermarket of the DAMNED

Peter Gathercole
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"Please insert more cash"

Even when I have put exactly the right money into the coin sorter, or posted a note for more than the requested amount.

The Morrisons fast-pay tills appear to take about 30 seconds to count the coins you've inserted, whilst asking you for more every 10 seconds. All the time, the rest of the people behind you are urging you to put more in to get out of their way.

I'll swear that they employ more people sorting these things out than they've saved in shutting down the normal tills.

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500 MEELLION PCs still run Windows XP. How did we get here?

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Is that really true? @MCG

It depends on whether you put all the necessary essential add-ons, like service packs and antivirus.

Take a 2002 XP retail install CD. Install it on anything with at least a PII processor, and look at the memory footprint. It's tiny. Now add SP1, SP2 and SP3 in sequence, and note the memory footprint each update. It goes up significantly each time. Now put an anti-virus package on.

You've now got to the point where 512MB of memory will allow the system to boot, but not actually run anything at a reasonable speed. If I was cynical, I would say that MS have been deliberately bloating XP in the later service packs to try to get users to upgrade their systems (most people don't know how easy it is to upgrade memory), which will normally equate to a new system with a new install of a recent version of Windows that they can count as a sale.

I still think carefully before putting SP3 on the few XP systems I have, because of the detrimental effect on the performance of the systems (but I have double NAT and a hardware firewall in the environment that the systems sit on, and have told everybody to not use IE to browse). But somehow MS managed to get autoupdate turned on on my father's laptop, so he's ended up with SP3 anyway! His Thinkpad T42 with 512MB of memory is now crippled because of lack of memory but he's continuing to use it, because at 84, he does not think that investing £300 for a new system is justified. (note to self - I must find him a memory upgrade, or a second-hand Win7 system sometime. 2nd note - Must replace my T30 as well).

My first XP system from 2002 had 128MB of memory, and worked well enough at the time with Office 97, Netscape and Lotus SmartSuite, as well as running Counter Strike and other contemporary games quite well.

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Britney-obsessed Ubuntu 13.10 DUMPS X Windows-killer Mir in desktop U-turn

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Oh FFS @AC 15:12

I would suspect that you have an X Windows client program that is warping the cursor back into it's window every time that that it detects that it is going outside. As for the buttons, it could either be changing the button mappings, or re-parenting the root window to trap the button events. These would not be problems with the X11 server, more like a poorly written client using the server incorrectly.

I actually wonder whether you are running an older ATI radeon card (something like a Thinkpad T30 or T43). If that is the case, it could actually be that you are suffering from a problem with the display driver not being reset correctly after suspend/resume. If that is the case, then disabling KMS may be the solution (google nomodeset or modeset=0). It's a pain, I admit, but the upstream developers regard R100/RV200 and R200 as being obsolete nowadays, so are not interested in fixing the problems. The adoption of Unity and now MIR (especially if they completely ditch X11 compatibility) will be close on a deal-breaker for me and Ubuntu. The shiny is just not worth losing X11 for. At leat Wayland has an X11 compatibility component.

I've got 12.04 running on my T30, and get strange things happening, but I am working with the pm-suspend tweaks to make the problem less intrusive.

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Sysadmins fail to fix NHS IT snafu, HUNDREDS of appointments cancelled

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Outages @Fletchulence

Sure, outages happen. But good design should make such an outage relatively short. Keeping critical systems up even when things are failing should be part of the design and change process.

One day's down time for a regional health authority equates to hundreds of thousands of pounds of wasted resource, even more if you take into account the time of the people who attended their out-patients appointments without being seen.

I sometimes remember when I used to talk to a power engineer in a regional electricity distribution company, where five nines is a way of life, not an aspiration.

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Peter Gathercole
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@Dr Who

Ah, but if the problem is in-house, with your own employees, then you can at least bang some heads together and threaten to kick people out of the door.

If the problem is either in the Cloud, or with some outsourcing outfit, all you can do is threaten to not renew your contract in 4 years, by which time everybody will have forgotten!

Of course, if the contract was negotiated properly, you may get some financial recompense, but I don't trust any of out public organisations to be that good at getting such clauses into a contract....

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EU move to standardise phone chargers is bad news for Apple

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Phones are on the verge of desktop replacement

"Does the EU think that will work over micro USB?"

Why not? My Sony Xperia SP has a single micro USB port that provides MHL output to drive a display over HDMI, the capability to charge, and also to drive a USB Keyboard and/or mouse. All at the same time.

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Actifio and the curious affair of the AIX copy reduction tech

Peter Gathercole
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AIX since 1986

Well. I doubt very strongly that there are any 6150/1 systems running in anger any more, or any PS/2's running AIX PS/2 or mainframes running AIX/ESA, so they really only need to worry about POWER boxes, and they started in 1990. That takes out anything before AIX 3.1.

And since then, the Microchannel architecture AIX boxes can't run a supported version of AIX, nor can any 32 bit POWER systems or any with RS64 processors, so they really only have to worry about 64 bit CHRP systems that run AIX6.1 and later. That means that they only have to worry about systems built since about 2000! And as the basic OS running under 6.1 and 7.1 is not really different under the covers, and basically is compile once/run anywhere, it's a much smaller target than Solaris or HP/UX.

So a bit of diversion going on here to detract from the fact that they really must be a bit thick!

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Valve aiming to take the joy(sticks) out of gaming with Steam Controller

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Hmmmmm..... @Matt

I would have thought that a SteamBox running in streaming mode from your gaming rig would be exactly what you needed to play games in your living room. Best of all worlds.

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Bill Gates: Yes, Ctrl-Alt-Del salute was a MISTAKE

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Ignore the obvious choice @Steve the Cynic

I believe that the IBM Enhanced Keyboard was available for the PC/AT as an option from launch in 1984, before the PS/2. Wikipedia states that the manufacture of the Model M keyboard started in 1984.

I'm fairly certain that the first PC/ATs (early 6MHz models) bought by the Polytechnic I worked at in the 80's all came with UK model 102 key keyboards.

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British Gas robo home remote gets itself into hot water

Peter Gathercole
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Re: What a waste of time and money@ Don Jefe

There is a trend in the UK for people to install under-floor heating now (either electric or powered by solar/ground heat carried by water), but the huge majority of UK properties use water filled radiators warmed by boilers running on natural gas, oil or solid fuel (wood or coal). Gas is commonly available as a mains service in the majority of the UK, and is cheaper per thermal unit than electricity.

I think that hot-air heating is not used is mainly to do with the fact that it really requires the house to be built around the heating system as it requires substantial air-ducts to carry the air around the house.

I did live in a house built in the '60s that used hot air as the principal heating, and I have to say there are significant drawbacks in my view. The heating was noisy at the best of times, and deafening when the fan motor bearings wore out (it was a Canadian system running on 120V, not the 230V the UK uses, and made procuring parts very difficult). Also, the kids used the air ducts as an intercom, shouting through them. You always had to be careful about noise in the bedroom, if you know what I mean, because of the way the ducts carried sound.

But the primary problem was that it didn't really heat the fabric of the house or the hot water. If you didn't have and entry lobby acting as an air-lock, it was quite normal for all of the heat to rush out whenever anyone came in or out of the house. And when you get a bird in the ducts, it's a real problem trying to get it out.

Anyway, it never really caught on in new build houses, and water filled radiators were easier to retro-fit into older houses, especially with micro-bore pipes.

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EasyJet wanted to fling me off flight for diss tweet, warns cyber-law buff

Peter Gathercole
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Re: What a tw@

Problem is that if his bag was already loaded, it might have delayed the 'plane still further in order to find and unload it.

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F-16 fighter converted to drone

Peter Gathercole
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Re: And the first step towards Skynet has been taken...

Ghost X-9 anybody?

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'Occupy' affiliate claims Intel bakes SECRET 3G radio into vPro CPUs

Peter Gathercole
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@Ashton Black

Who said anything about IP? It's not the only network layer protocol around, although I admit it is the most common.

They may have a non-IP network that gets locally picked up via some innocuous device (hacked mobile phone maybe) and gated onto an IP network, or they might just have invented a non-IP peer-to-peer supernet mesh completely separate from The Internet.

Use some imagination, please!

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: GCHQ Turing Test to Pass for UniVirtual Machine Command to Control Global Operating Devices*

Relax. It's AManfronMars 1. He/She/It is a Register regular, and very few of their comments make huge amounts of sense (although they just might!). Click on their name in the comment, and have a read.

Just don't try to understand it too much!

I really expect more from commentards who have been around here for a while!

I think the most common theory around here is that it is written in English, then translated into at least one, and possibly more than one other languages before being translated back into English.

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Microsoft no longer a top Linux kernel contributor

Peter Gathercole
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@Pascal

As far as I am aware, all change control systems work like this, and have done for decades. I used SCCS on Bell Labs. UNIX 25 years ago, and it was the case then, and Wikipedia states that SCCS dates from 1972.

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New iPhones: C certainly DOESN'T stand for 'Cheap'

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Cheap? Just underwhelming @Lusty

"If you want a better phone for actually doing phoney things..."

...then my advise is to get a £25 Nokia or Samsung dumb phone. Tried and trusted technology, long standby and talk time, robust as hell, easy to use (as a phone), and it won't get you mugged or be particularly painful when you drop it down the loo or lose it when out on a bender.

Of course, if you want to run Angry Birds, then you really want more than a phone!

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French ministers told to use only secure comms post-PRISM

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Not saying anything but...

And passwords on privileged accounts every 30 days or less.

Not sure that many companies I've worked for actually abide by their own rules, however. For most companies, it looked like this was in the policies merely to satisfy an audit requirement.

Imagine having to change all the passwords on all your routers, intelligent switches, management consoles, data appliances - well anything that has a password that protects a configuration basically! I'm sure that most companies don't really know the scope of the problem.

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Corel re-animates zombie brand for patent case

Peter Gathercole
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Re: How strange to see that name again

Micrografx Picture Publisher used to be my go-to software for image manipulation on Windows (back when getting scanners working on Linux through the parallel port pre-USB was a real pain). They used to allow personal use of their old versions of software, and it often came as part of the software bundle that came with a scanner as well.

Although I don't have a lot of Windows boxes around now, those that are in my control generally have MPP installed on them still.

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Five SECRET products Apple won't show today

Peter Gathercole
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WTF?

@AJ Styles

Well, they make white cider by passing diluted grain alcohol over the remains of the apple pulp after it's been squeezed dry of real juice. Probably imparts as much flavour as using the wood.

What the hell is going on here with the "Add an icon" tab? What was wrong with having the icons below the post! Has somebody at ElReg been drinking the Metro/Unity cool-aid?

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Smartwatch craze is all just ONE OFF THE WRIST

Peter Gathercole
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Re: I remember watches @Omgwtfbbqtime

Me? I don't take my watch off, even in the bath.

Only time it comes off is to replace the battery, and so as not to scratch the wife when, um...

Oh, you know what I mean.

Not sure which of those two events happens more frequently nowadays!

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NSA slides reveal: iPhone users are all ZOMBIES

Peter Gathercole
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Re: no wonder racing pigeons are sold for lots of money

"esethay arentay otntay hetnay igeonpays ouyay reajay ookinglay orfay"

"these are not the pigeons you are looking for"

Should you not have used/invented Pigeon Latin rather than Pig Latin?

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China's corruption crackdown killing off Unix

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Switching from big iron to x86 virtualisation

Indeed, the sentence that reads "people are not willing to spend big money on mainframes – the Unix big guns" indicates that Dennis Yip has only a limited grasp of what he is talking about.

From a cursory examination, I would suggest that in his world there is just Wintel, and a single category of "everything else".

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The Solar System's second-largest volcano found hiding on Earth

Peter Gathercole
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Re: A-ha!

Second Impact was supposed to be in Antarctica!

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Sysadmins hail Windows Server 2012 R2's killer ... clipboard?

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Security issue? @AC 09:01

"Sounds like is more a matter of having to page different regions then and iterate over them. Shades of paged memory again"

Except that the remote machine cannot manipulate the mapping registers that are used to control the window. If you can't manipulate these, then you cannot see memory outside of the region. And even the process on the local machine, which is running in non-privileged mode, cannot alter the mapping registers. This is a function of the OS, and is controlled by system call, with appropriate security.

I must admit that if you think that paged memory is a bad thing, then you must realise that you are condemning all current machine implementations that use virtual address spaces. All virtual address space machines use memory mapped pages to implement a linear virtual address within a physical address space, and also allow memory overcommitting (==using a page space on disk).

There are NO architectures currently that I know about that allow multiple processes in a strictly linear global address space that is the same as the OS. I don't know whether you work with some that I don't know about, or if you don't realise how modern systems work.

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Peter Gathercole
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Stop

Re: Security issue? @oldcoder

I think it is safe to assume that for any architecture that implements RDMA, an IO MMU is essential. Anybody designing an architecture/system without one in this day and age would have to be regarded as terminally naive.

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Peter Gathercole
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Boffin

Re: Security issue? @AC 09:04

I'm as into Microsoft bashing where it is deserved as much as anybody else, but in this case, just because it is Microsoft that does not mean there is a problem. You could say that pretty much every OS has buffer overflow exploits (it is one of the problems of writing in C after all, and that is a language that has been used extensively for OSs) thus it's not only Microsoft's problem.

In terms of the OS setting the window, It is really set up so that the hardware MMU does the guarding, not the OS. The OS sets up the window, and then the MMU enforces it. The OS may set it up wrongly, but assuming that it is correct and the MMU is bug free, it becomes impossible for the remote machine to move outside of the constraints of the window. This is not an OS issue.

If you distrust the MMU, then you must distrust all architectures that use virtual address spaces for processes as well, as they all use the capabilities of a HW MMU to enforce the issue. It's been that way for multi-tasking OS's with virtual address spaces for decades, and wintel since NT is no exception.

Obviously some people hiding behind the AC banner have forgotten their system architecture courses, or are just trolling because they don't understand in the first place.

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: Security issue?

RDMA is secure. It does not give access to the whole of the address space of a system (or at least the implementations I have used don't).

What happens is that the OS on the controlling side of the RDMA transaction sets up a limited window to a region of memory that the remote machine can see. The remote machine has no access to memory outside of this window.

This makes the access as secure as the OS on the controlling machine which set up the window.

In the implementations I have seen, there is an architectural limit on the size of the memory region in the window. This means that it is simply not possible to expose the entire address space of a machine using RDMA.

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: Even more confused @Flocke Kroes

Windows users are now expecting to cut (or copy) and paste large objects.

I recently used a product on Windows (I can't remember what it was) where drag and drop copy between folders did not work. What they expected you to do was select a group of files, right-click-copy (or ^C), move pointer, click, and then either right-click-paste or ^V.

In this way, you could be copying multi-megabyte files. This will not work with a traditional X-Windows style cut buffer. I think this is what they are talking about when they are talking about cut-and-paste between VMs.

Even though I deal with HPC machines every day which do RDMA with the fastest interconnect in the market at the moment (at least I believe it is), I cannot understand how you can have remote access to another system's memory via RDMA faster than access to local memory. What this would imply is that the RDMA device (probably attached via PCIe) had access to the memory on a system faster than the processor. As the memory controllers of all current high performance machines are integrated on the processor die, I cannot see how it is possible for PCIe adapters to have faster access. If he is talking about VMs on the same machine, and using RDMA to access memory physically in the same system but in a different VM, the best he can do is have it running the same speed as 'local' NUMA memory.

I know they are talking about NUMA machines here, and that a processor may have to go across the internal system bus to talk to memory controllers attached to a processor on another die, but that across the bus access is not likely to be any less than the RDMA device that is in a similar position on the bus. Not unless the internal bus architecture of the system is seriously screwed up.

The only thing that I can imagine that he is talking about is having the memory 'mapped' and available via RDMA between two VMs on the same system faster than it could be copied across the interconnect from a remote (i.e. separate hardware system). That seems eminently possible, but that should not be a surprise.

It would be interesting to see whether the systems he has seen in the lab are the ones using PCIe4 as an interconnect.

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Give us a break: Next Android version to be called 'KitKat'

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Hershey's chocolate

I saw in interesting documentary on Hershey that claimed the reason why American chocolate is so nasty is historical.

In the 19th century, Europe had a Chocolate fad. East coast America picked this up as Europe was trendy to Americans who lacked a long history, and looked across the Atlantic for trends and fashions. East Coast America is fairly cool and the major cities were fairly close together, so chocolate could be made and moved quite easily,

When the frontiers started getting civilised (mainly with the railroads), high quality goods from the east coast were sent around the country because those people wanted to be seen a sophisticated, and chocolate was a small luxury that could be afforded in small quantities. Unfortunately, America is a big place, and often quite hot.

This meant that chocolate arriving on the West coast or the South was often in box cars for days in hot conditions, and quite naturally went off. The milk in the chocolate became rancid. The people receiving such luxury items did not know that it was off because they did not have anything to compare it to, only knowing that it was the trendy thing to eat and just accepted that this was how it should taste, and got used to it.

When Hershey, Pa (aka Chocolatetown, USA) was built, and they commissioned refrigerated box cars on the railways to distribute the product in ideal conditions, the outcry about the change of taste from the rest of the US was so great that Hershey changed the process to re-create the taste of gone-off chocolate that Americans now favoured. And the rest is history.

Mind you, I understand that Americans now go wild about the taste of Cadbury's chocolate (and buying the company, unfortunately), so maybe they are beginning to see sense. Having said that, I guess that people from places like Belgium and France probably throw their hands up in the air at British chocolate, which substitutes vegetable fat for milk fat.

But I prefer it that way, and that's what matters to me.

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Science fiction titan Frederik Pohl dies, aged 93

Peter Gathercole
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Re: "Sci-Fi"? Tsk, tsk...

No no!

It's Scientifiction, I insist.

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Decks and plugs and rock and roll: Tascam CD-A750 cassette and CD combo

Peter Gathercole
Silver badge
Happy

@Justin re:"don't understand..."

As a student, I bought a JVC KD-720 deck to go with my budget Hi-Fi. Now, 35 years later, it is the last original component of my system, and still works pretty well.

It was at the time the "Best Buy" budget (~£100) cassette desk, and (IMHO) did a thoroughly good job of recording and replaying music. The main problem was that it did not have a 'proper' FeCr setting, and pre-dated metal tapes, so could not use them (the Cr02) setting was also not really calibrated for psudo-chrome tapes like the TDK SA). It also only had a 'normal' tape head (not a Sen-Alloy one), so I was always expecting the head to wear, but even now, it's not too bad (apparently, early generation chrome and metal tapes were very abrasive, I guess that missing these tapes out prolonged the life of my deck).

Even this budget deck had a wow and flutter of 0.2% DIN, and a frequency response of 40-14000Hz with ferric tapes, and 40-15000Hz on chrome dioxide tapes.

I nearly always used TDK AD-90 ferric tapes to record, because they were the sweat-spot of the TDK range, providing good frequency balance (although slightly bright), good frequency extension (the brightness extended the upper ranges while minimising tape hiss) at an affordable price. They also used to be about 47 minutes long (useful for both sides of a long album) and very well made with friction reducing embossed teflon sheets either side of the spools. The Audio Society used to buy them by the case-full, and sell them at near cost to the members. TDK SA tapes were better but much more expensive, although I believe that the calibrated tape brand for JVC decks was supposed to be Maxell.

Anyway, my deck always gave exemplary performance. You could tell it was a tape from the hiss if you listened hard, but otherwise it sounded very good and I had very few tape jams or mangled tape in this deck. The sound of it persuaded several of my friends who had the "cassette tape is no good" attitude to change their mind and invest in a decent deck. It also helped having a reasonable music source to record from (turntable in the day).

To prevent jams, always wind the tape from end-to-end in a single operation and leave them on the leader before storing them. This prevents 'ridges' which increase the drag, especially on the take-up spool. If the take-up spool cannot be turned by the motor (remember it has a slip clutch so that it can cope with the varying diameter of the spool as the tape is wound on), then the capstan and roller will continue to feed tape in until it loops back on itself, and gets mangled. This was a common problem on C120 cassettes, because the nearly full spool was very heavy.

If it does look like this is happening, immediately re-wind the tape as best as you can before attempting to eject the tape. If you just eject the tape, you are absolutely guaranteed to break or stretch it, and will end up fishing out short lengths of broken tape forever.

I still keep iso-propyl alcohol around as a general cleaning fluid after using it for so long to clean the tape heads with cotton buds.

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Compact Cassette supremo Lou Ottens talks to El Reg

Peter Gathercole
Silver badge
Unhappy

New Scientist

I used to read New Scientist when I was doing my O and A levels at school in the 1970s (it was an accepted use of free study time in the Library), and beside ogling the calculator adverts, I found it a good counterpoint to the taught science. It was sufficiently detailed to engage the mind of a scientifically curious teenager, with sufficient detail to be seen as useful knowledge, and would in my opinion be graded in content and detail above Horizon (which I used to watch regularly as well), and other science and philosophical programs such as The Body in Question and The Ascent of Man.

I continued to read it on-and-off through University (it was one of the popular collage periodicals in the Junior Common Room at my college).

Once I left University, I stopped reading it.

Recently I noticed that supermarkets have started putting it on their magazine racks, so I thought I would pick up an issue or two, with the intention of getting my late teen kids interested.

I was shocked! I thought that as I had not studied Science in the last 30 years, that i would struggle a bit with some of the developments and maybe some of the maths, but no.

The content was trivial, and the author(s) clearly felt that they had to explain everything from first principals. I found almost nothing taxing, and was able to get almost all of the articles by skim-reading them, missing out 70% or so of the content that I already knew. This was not the mind-expanding New Scientist that I had read thirty years ago.

I gave them to my 17 year old son, and he found nothing in them that he felt interested him enough to justify me regularly buying it (although he is a knowledge sponge, and read a lot on-line).

It's a terrible shame that one of the most approachable science publications appears to have done what I can only describe as dumbed down. But maybe that is just because the are following their audience, rather than leading it.

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Boffin snatches control of colleague's BODY with remote control BRAIN HAT

Peter Gathercole
Silver badge
Paris Hilton

"Rent a Paris for my holiday!"

Not sure about the real one, but I'm sure you could find a lookie likie who would do most things you want for cash without needing any special technology.

Probably not a legal transaction in many places you would want to go to for a holiday, though.

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Women in IT: ‘If you want to be taken seriously, dress like a man’

Peter Gathercole
Silver badge

I will support the views about inappropriate clothing, but mainly on the practical side.

If I had my way, I would ban anything approaching high heals in a machine room. This would include built-up boots, such as cowboy boots. The reason? Well suspended floors are never completely even, and if you put a heel over the edge of a raised or removed tile, accidents will follow (I believe you are more likely to maintain your balance with 'normal' shoes). Similarly, I would not want sandals or strappy shoes worn anywhere heavy equipment is being moved.

I also wonder how someone in a skirt would react to crawling under or around restricted spaces while trying to maintain their dignity, and if they did not care about their dignity, how much of a distraction that would be to their colleagues.

The comparison with suits that ShelLuser quotes is not relevant, because it is perfectly possible to take a jacket and tie off, roll up your sleeves, and be no different from a mobility basis than someone wearing cargo pants and a tee shirt. Indeed, IBM hardware engineers used to have to wear suits, it's what was expected. It's not possible to do this if you are wearing a dress.

In terms of appearance, I would say that standing out is not always a bad thing (I wear collared shirts and a tie even though those around me are much more casual). But do it for the right reasons, not the wrong ones.

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3D printed guns are for wimps. Meet NASA's 3D printed ROCKET ENGINE

Peter Gathercole
Silver badge

Re: The point isn't printing rocket engines...

"...almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea"

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Germany warns: You just CAN'T TRUST some Windows 8 PCs

Peter Gathercole
Silver badge
Unhappy

Re: Only one way to disable TPM

My experience with the IBM Security Module (TPM 1.0) on Thinkpads where it was optional was never good.

Once a Thinkpad had been booted once with the security module installed and turned on, removing it stopped the machine from working. Completely. It just sat and beeped at you 16 times when you powered it on.

The only way to revive it was to plug the removed module back in. It had to be the one that was removed. One from another machine of exactly the same type did not work. You could not even disable the security module and then remove it. The IBM maintenance manual stated that if you got a machine to repair in this state, without the original security module, the fix was to replace the motherboard.

More modern Thinkpads, like most machines, have it in the supporting chipset, so it is impossible to remove.

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Peter Gathercole
Silver badge

Re: Swings and roundabouts.... @El Andy

just don't use your disassembler in the US. There's clauses in the DMCA specifically banning reverse engineering.

I'm also interested in your disassembler. Are you that fluent in x86 machine code? Can you really gleen from the executed code what the software writer was trying to achieve without access to the meaningful variable names, structure definitions, function names (missing if the symbol table has been stripped), argument types and comments? If so, you are in a class of your own, so much better that anybody else in the world (and yes, in my time I have tried to do exactly what you suggested, and even had some limited success)

In order to get access to what Paul Crawford wants, you would need a de-compiler which was able to reconstruct the C, C++ or whatever language the various parts of Windows are now written in, including removing all the optimisations that not only change the generated machine-code, but in some cases completely eliminate sections of code. And you had better hope there is no self-modifying code in there anywhere!

If you have such a de-compiler, you should be immensely wealthy, because what you would have would be tantamount to magic.

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Google cripples Chromecast third party replay

Peter Gathercole
Silver badge

Re: This @AC 11:40

IBM never nearly went bancrupt. They had plenty of money washing around even in their darkest days in the mid '90s.

It suited them to have a few bad year's results so that they could take some large tax write-downs and not get hammered for their extensive employee shedding exercises.

If you go back to the published results from the mid-90s, and read between the lines, there was still profit being made, money and assets in the bank. It's just that their transformational restructuring costs could be counted as a loss as far as the bottom line was concerned. IBM has some very skilled financial engineers.

Anybody who thinks that IBM is anything other than a quiet giant should look at their share price. Investors are confident, and IBM has irons in more fires than any other IT company. It's just that companies like Microsoft and Apple in particular have inflated value because of various flavour-of-the-month products. I would trust IBM to still be around when Apple have run out of ideas and the PC wave is over and Microsoft are just a patent troll.

And to think I used to think that IBM were the enemy! Either they've got better, or I've just mellowed.

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EFF, Lessig battling copyright takedowns

Peter Gathercole
Silver badge

Re: This is a clear violation of copyrights @AC 17:27

Indeed it is, but it is not the EFF that is at fault.

Liberation Music is clearly trying to nullify the fair use clauses in US copyright legislation, and that is a clear violation of the rights permitted by that legislation.

People who think that all use of copyrighted media should be licensed and paid for do not understand the benefit to the copyright owners that such limited fair use, as long as it is not abused, can grant to a work.

Many tunes that would have sunk into obscurity have had life breathed into them by being included in a viral video. The fact that someone can hear something, like it, and immediatly buy it from iTunes, Amazon or such is of huge benefit. So what you want it your music included at low enough quality, incomplete, or with other noise over the top so that it cannot be ripped from the video, but recognisable enough to be identified.

Such was the use in this video. Liberation Music are harming the work and copyright owners, not helping them.

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