* Posts by Dave Bell

1885 posts • joined 14 Sep 2007

Telia engineer error to blame for massive net outage

Dave Bell

There were no obvious direct effects for me, but \i suspect a couple of services I use were hit by CDN issues over the weekend. CloudFlare is one of I don't know how many CDN networks.

It ought to be clearing by now, but I am not sure it is.

It would be nice to know just which CDN the service I am paying is using, but i can't really see this problem affecting just CloudFlare.

What would the BOFH do?

Ah, opening time, never mind.

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How's your driving, Elon? Musk tweets that Tesla Model S 'floats'

Dave Bell

Re: Patent Infringement?

The German Army had an amphibious Volkswagen during the war.

The Russians and Japanese had amphibious tanks.

What made the DUKW significant was American manufacturing capacity.

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Non-US encryption is 'theoretical,' claims CIA chief in backdoor debate

Dave Bell

Bring back the sealed envelope.

I have a copy of The Codebreakers by David Kahn, and. partly though the timing of original publication, it sets up the myth of super-competent US cryptography. They had talked about breaking the Japanese codes and ciphers. The Ultra secret had not yet been revealed. But it mostly deals with earlier generations of cryptography, stopping with the development of teleprinter-based systems that read a key from a punch-tape.

One thing is apparent. If the skilled hands could be applied (and paid for), by the 18th Century anything in the mail could be tracelessly read. But the process was so expensive that for most people a sealed envelope was all the security they needed.

And then the telegraph came along, and just ordinary commercial communications started using codes. The codes deterred casual reading by a telegrapher but also replaced long words and phrases by fairly short code groups. And they reduced language problems: London or Londres, it was the same code group.

Everything has changed in the last twenty or so years. The internet has destroyed the economic protection of the sealed envelope. As Edward Snowden has revealed, the intelligence agencies are indiscriminately reading everything, because they can, and smothering themselves with irrelevant data.

For most of us, good encryption is a tool: what we're really looking for is the security of the sealed envelope, something that costs enough to bypass that the intelligence agencies have to think about just what their targets might be.

It's very apparent that thinking is optional in the modern CIA.

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FFS, Twitter. It's not that hard

Dave Bell

I think one of the general problems of advertising on the internet is that the people who the advertisers pay are not the people to pay to transmit the adverts. So we get ad-stuffed web pages that are bigger than a copy of Doom.

Point is, adverts in newspapers used the resources of the newspaper, and the newspaper charged the advertisers for the paper and ink they used, and some of the surplus over those costs went to reducing the price the customer paid.

Now you're paying for your internet connection, and some places still have actual bandwidth limits or volume-related billing, and we struggle to see any benefit from the adverts. We're not even getting a colour supplement.

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Computerised stock management? Nah, let’s use walkie-talkies

Dave Bell

Re: 9 1/2 shoes

Shirt sleeves and trouser legs, I learned to use a sewing machine.

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Kraftwerk versus a cheesy copycat: How did the copycat win?

Dave Bell

Give me surfeit of it...

I am not sure that anyone here really knows that much about music, but the core problem lurks in one of two comments, and it's the same one lurking in written fiction.

There are only so many ways of assembling the components in a useful form. You can't copyright individual words. You can't copyright titles. Trademarks are possible, but the context matters. You can distinguish between John Steed and Nick Fury, with their own teams of Avengers. How many stories are called "Nightfall"? There are a few memorable phrases that get quoted, and get re-used, re-purposed, and revelled in. How many ways can you say "To be, or not to be"

This case has spent years winding through the courts, and it's all been about copying something on that scale.

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Dave Bell

Re: Why science fiction "novelists"?

Science fiction novelists vary a lot in their opinions of copyright, and there is a famous and apposite SF story entitled "Melancholy Elephants", but I think it likely that this is a snide comment on Cory Doctorow, suggesting that he doesn't really write novels, or something like that. This is what being a "journalist" can do to you.

But this article is by Andrew Orlowski, Who is described in Wikipedia as the "executive editor" at Vulture Central. I find myself wondering who edits the editors?

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Boring SpaceX lobs another sat into orbit without anything blowing up ... zzzzz

Dave Bell
Mushroom

We were getting bored with successful Apollo flights, 7 manned launches in a row, and then, on April 14th 1970, at 03:07:53 UTC, they had a problem.

Boring is good, but we shouldn't expect it.

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UK eyes frikkin' Laser Directed Energy Weapon

Dave Bell

Re: Nice videos and all

Phalanx might be a slightly too-small a calibre, but a warship needs a gun to put a shot across the bows of a ship that doesn't stop. It's something that still works, though the usual minimum is a 40mm Bofors, rather than 30mm. I wonder what a laser pulse hitting the sea would do.

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Dave Bell

Henchmen are getting replaced by droids. They can just plug into a USB port to recharge, and it lets them patch code, or watch a porn video. while they wait.

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US nuke arsenal runs on 1970s IBM 'puter waving 8-inch floppies

Dave Bell

Re: well...

There were some changes to the Shuttle systems, including the memory, but core storage is pretty much immune to the effects of cosmic rays. And they could load a program into memory and know it would be ready to run if they needed it.

It was a good bet in the 1970s. And changing the system without adding new risks was hardly easy.

The Shuttle was around for a long time

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Android Pay may, er, pay... providing it gets over security hurdle

Dave Bell

Re: ok, i'm a stick the mud

It's been my experience that cards in the same wallet interfere with each other, so I reckon the fears of sneak thieves scanning cards are exaggerated. Anyway, you can get a screened wallet if you're that worried. Though if somebody can scan a card and re-use the data they get to make a false payment, there must be a rather gaping flaw in the security of the system.

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Russia poised to unleash 'Son of Satan' ICBM

Dave Bell

Re: LOL!

The point about the propellants is that they can be stored in the missile, unlike the cryogenics. The last time I saw rockets on the pad, I didn't know enough to be scared, but they were on exposed launch pads and using liquid oxygen, and the RAF wouldn't have done that unless it expected to use them. They were horribly vulnerable to blast.

So was I.

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Linux Mint to go DIY for multimedia

Dave Bell

Last year, after getting horribly messed up by a failing drive and the need to re-install Windows, I switched to Linux Mint.

It does all I want.

For a few things I depend on WINE to run an old Windows program.

If Linux has a particular weakness it is that, more than Windows (but not maybe much more), programmers tend to be better at telling computers what do do than they are at telling things to people. And they don't seem to cope well with people not reading the manual. Perhaps they need to pay as much attention to debugging the manuals as they do to debugging the programs.

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Hey, YouTube: Pay your 'workers' properly and get with the times

Dave Bell

Re: "it pays out something far more valuable than money: attention"

Yes, it's one of the standard internet cons, much like the idea of Interns in the wider business world.

You don't have to look very hard to see this scam being used, and outfits such as The Huffington Post even try it on award-winning authors, people who can hardly be said to be short of exposure.

And the whole internet is built on copyright scams. A quarter century ago, companies were claiming a perpetual and unlimited grant of copyright by you, for anything you posted. In those days it was AOL. The language has changed slightly (under US Law, up until the 1970s, you couldn't license copyright, only sell it, and internet companies have now realised that), and the core problem remains, but there still want an unlimited, perpetual, grant of license.

The core problem is that the internet can only work by making copies of content, even transient copies in a router, and even as you read this, your browser has made a copy. So the internet companies need to make some sort of copyright claim. And it it practical to remove every copy of a work from a well-run back-up system? But we seem to still be getting trampled on by legal boiler-plate written by somebody who didn't understand the internet.

And so we get the offer of "exposure", and if you post a picture of a news event to the net, it can get used without permission or payment by the news media, and if we give their copyrights the same respect they send the lawyers in.

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Who you callin' stoopid? No excuses for biz intelligence's poor stats

Dave Bell

Re: Inspector Nectar

Amazon regularly lies with statistics.

They talk about "averages", and there at least three that can be used, all simple and each giving different results with their "long tail".

1: Mean

This is the one that most people use if they have to give a figure. 100 samples, add the numbers together, and divide by the number of samples. But a few high figures, such as a millionaire when everyone else is on minimum wage, will make that average useless. There are authors who sell thousands of books for the Kindle. Are you that good?

2: Median

When the samples are arranged in order, low to high, this is the one in the middle. This is closer to our idea of "average". That one-millionaire problem obviously doesn't affect the figure.

3: Mode

You split the samples into groups, like that age chart in the article, and the mode is the biggest group. You have to be careful about it, because changing the size of the group can shift it. The mode for those Kindle sales is effectively bugger all. That's what the "long tail" means.

They're teaching this in the schools now.

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SpaceX adds Mars haulage to its price list

Dave Bell

Seriously for the moment.

This flight to Mars is about at the right time to test Falcon Heavy. The timing is set by the orbits of Earth and Mars, and there might not be that many payloads that need to be that big, so it's certain to be an early Falcon heavy launch. Because they're using so much of the same hardware at the Falcon 9, it's less of a risk, but it'll show the system is good, if it works. The flight to Mars and the landing are almost a bonus.

(Yes, I have Kerbal Space Program.)

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ICANN in a strop that Intel, Netflix, Lego, Nike and others aren't using their dot-brand domains

Dave Bell

Some names make more sense

Companies have been exploiting some otherwise obscure TLDs for years, and paying for the privilege. Think what .tv must have earned from TV companies. And it makes some sense in that case.

Some of those long names don't make much sense as world-wide brands or as TLD labels.

I can see a point to a .bbc existing, less so for .itv, as the BBC really does have a world-wide identity.

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Heathrow Airbus collision 'not a drone incident'

Dave Bell

UFO sightings aren't the big thing they used to be, and maybe that sort of light plastic bag wasn't so common than they were. But it's interesting that UFOs only really got going after WW2 got people interested in spotting enemy aircraft, and before that war it was more often reported as mystery airships.

It's also interesting that here in the UK, there has been a much more nuanced UFO movement than in the USA. Maybe some of the roots of that difference can be laid at the feet of the Luftwaffe. As a nation, we needed to know some pretty specific things about what was flying overhead.

That's dropping out of living memory, whih is suggestive about the drones.

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SpaceX is go for US military GPS sat launch, smashes ULA monopoly

Dave Bell

I wonder if the successful barge landing was the final straw.

SpaceX offers a good price without succeeding in recovery. It'll take a while for them to be confident about the reusability, but I can see a point where somebody buying a launch has a chance to buy a share in the rocket, that gives them a refund if the booster is recovered and reusable, rather than a cut in the up-front price.

It is going to take a while to build up the sort of history that SpaceX would care to risk tens of millions of dollars on. Elon Musk is very unusual: he's willing to take risks. I don't think he's reckless. Red Dragon, for instance, makes a lot of sense as a test for the Falcon Heavy launcher, that part is money he would have to spend anyway.

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Remain in the EU and help me snoop on the world, says Theresa May

Dave Bell

Re: What does it say about a country that wants to leave ECHR?

There's some truth to that. We wrote the thing.

But, even if we can stay in the EU without being in the Council of Europe, the EU legal system still takes the ECHR into account.

What does it say about a Home Secretary's respect for law that she doesn't know that?

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BOFH: Thermo-electric funeral

Dave Bell
Coat

Re: as if owning IT antiquity was one of those positive character traits

The early USB floppies, at least, were an external interface between a standard 3.5 drive and the USB. And 5.25 floppies used an edge connector on the same ribbon cable as a 3.25 used. Dunno about an 8" floppy drive, and there's a power to wonder about too, but it doesn't sound impossible to get the drive connected via USB.

If the Boss got started on it, some of the critical details could easily be insurmountable. I think USB floppies are a bit different now, for instance. But would he listen? And what does he want an 8" floppy for?

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Dave Bell
Mushroom

Re: "A bigger hammer was employed" [...]

This principle isn't quite a joke though the physics is subtle.

Consider a spike being driven into a solid material. So much of the impact energy goes into elastic deformation, and sometimes into non-elastic deformation. A too-small hammer has insufficient percussive energy to actually drive the spike.

Or, in layman's terms, do it right and the nail doesn't bend.

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A perfect marriage: YOU and Ubuntu 16.04

Dave Bell

The past is un-dead

I have been using Linux for a few months, and the annoying thing is how much semi-obsolete help is floating around, and gets pointed to as the answer to the question you didn't quite ask.

Don't worry, Mr. Stallman, I'm not planning on changing my filesystem. And your Ovaltine will be here in a minute.

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UK web host 123-Reg goes TITSUP, customer servers evaporate

Dave Bell

What are we risking?

I have had a very long period of reliable operation of a domain name registration with email forwarding, over fifteen years.

This isn't part of this cock-up, for which I am very grateful. My email still works. I have been receiving email forwarded through my domain.

This is bad enough. If they mess up the Domain Name registration side, they're going to be dead.

And what happens if they do drop their Doman Name database in the shit? Who will know who has a right to use a name. Tesco, to pick an example, have trademarks registered, and lawyers. It's easy to prove they own it. What proof do I have?

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BOFH: If you liked it then you should've put the internet in it

Dave Bell

Re: Crappy power supplies! GAAH

I have found that some good server-class hardware can be miraculously restored to silent operation by replacing the fans, but the system was old enough that the original fans were way beyond their design life, and the overall system was rather sluggish by today's standards.

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Dave Bell
Mushroom

Re: Tracking HDMI cables...

This is what comes from using standard consumer cabling to carry the business's confidential data. Other people can use the cabling, and have you seen how little space a block of USB storage needs today? The system needs to use a non-standard connector, tagged with IoT to ensure security, which is the only connector available on the data source and display devices,

Of course, this means that a large number of projectors, large flat-screen displays, and executive lap-top computers must be disposed of to close the security loophole.

I know just the company to dispose of this hardware, for a very modest fee, taking care to carefully examine all data storage to ensure that no critical corporate information is passed on to unauthorised third parties.

And I would reall like a new large-screen display on which to play Kerbal Space Program.

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NASA prepares to unpack pump-up space podule

Dave Bell

There's several things I can see being done for this trial. As well as the occasional visits, I would expect they'd have a good look at the outside skin. And two years long enough that they could send up a decent air-circulation fan, a few gadgets such as a blood oximeter, and have somebody spend a few hours in the module while watched for ill effects. Most of the existing cargo modules can't be used to land cargo, and they're loaded with waste that gets burned up on re-entry, and the same could happen with this.

And while the astronauts would have to be careful, I can see it being used by them to get a quiet few hours.

Alone.

For guitar practice...

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How Remix's Android will eat the world

Dave Bell

Re: Yay!

I've never found a big problem with the difference between Windows and Linux desktops. I am not sure it would be a huge problem if you were being supported by an IT dept. which were handling the sysadmin side, maintaining hardware and updating drivers and such.

But if you need to manage the connection between your desktop and the internet, the differences start to matter.

The wittering about the desktop is, I think, a bit of a red herring.

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Dave Bell

Re: "Remix OS with...

That makes sense to me.

But I think people are forgetting Linux here, even when Android is a Linux derivative. I'm currently running Linux, and I used Wine to run Windows programs. Just having that option has an effect on the market. It shows that the desktop is not limited to either Microsoft or Apple. And that is what gives Remix a chance.

I don;t think the creators are being stupid, but I am wary of the journalists when they forget that sort of stuff.

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ISS to host space truck rally

Dave Bell

Re: One expects . . .

I have recollections of several novels and a film that used the Space Trucker meme, and Han Solo isn't so far from that. Before that it was the tramp freighter, a small ship going from port to port (Han Solo again).

There's a huge distance between fiction and reality. It's mostly down to finding ways to tell a story that people can understand. It's arguable that Space isn't really a place that humans and other organic life can cope with. and Charles Stross has managed to tell stories that go in a different direction, starting with "Saturn's Children".

There are few who go to such lengths, and get such entertaining results. Jo Walton coined the term "in-clueing" for what an SF writer has to do to get something that is more than a western with the names changed.

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Watch: SpaceX finally lands Falcon rocket on robo-barge in one piece

Dave Bell

Re: BEAM

You can experience some of the reasons in Kerbal Space Program. They have a limited number of docking ports within reach of their robot arm. and this will be using one of them. I have had to do some very extreme Kerbalism to get around the problem,

And I am able to make game saves before risking an earth-shattering kaboom.

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SpaceX's Musk: We'll reuse today's Falcon 9 rocket within 2 months

Dave Bell

Re: Pricing's gonna change...

The landings are still going to be risky. The odds are against re-using a Falcon first stage that many times, and there are a lot of costs besides the actual first-stage hardware.

It will make a cost difference, but I doubt it will be as big a difference as some expect.

What will pay off is the ability to get the rocket back, and look closely at its condition, and learn what really happens to an engine firing in the upper atmosphere. And they may find new negatives. One aviation example is metal fatigue: it was very poorly understood when those Comet airliners fell out of the sky in the 1950s. They were doing something new, and found out the hard way.

SpaceX may find an effect that sets a limit on re-use that's a low lower than they expected. They're still learning.

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Dave Bell

Re: "Merlin engines"?

True, but trademarks are limited to specified puposes. Some of the ways trademark law have been used are very questionable for that reason.

As an example. the Orange mobile phone network trademarked a specific colour of orange. And they were very specific on what use their trademark covered.

A V12 internal combustion engine from before WW2 is a bit difficult to confuse with a 21st Century rocket engine. Saying otherwise would be like using the car trademark to ban mini skirts.

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Managing infrastructure, a newbie's guide: Simple stuff you need to know

Dave Bell

I think the cloud risk/benefit balance does change if you're a large operation. If you're operating several distinct sites, maybe you can set up an internal cloud, instead of having all your eggs in one basket. Buncefield, gentlemen, shows what can go wrong.

I'm too tiny to be an example, but I have some stuff in cloud-like storage (OK, Google Drive), and I use NAS rather than everything in a single boxful of comuter, and there are times it makes things much easier. The usual domestic broadband is a bit short of upload capacity, but it would certainly be possible to let my brother have a bit of duplicate storage here. Could you call that a cloud?

Buzzwords can hide some useful thinking, and how much of the benefit of the cloud comes from it being an off-site back-up system?

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3D printers set for lift off? Yes, yes, yes... at some point in the future

Dave Bell

Re: The "dot matrix" era

There's a big difference.

People wanted to put text on paper. And it wasn't that bad as output. We're a bit spoiled for quality by the cheap modern inkjets. Getting such things as true descenders and proportional text took a while. And the computers were not that far ahead. But the pressure was there. They did something people wanted.

What sort of world would it be if as many people wanted 3D Printers as wanted a dot-matrix printer in the early Eighties?

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Space archeologist discovers new evidence of Vikings invading America

Dave Bell

Re: Greenland etc

There's substantial evidence from DNA of the movement patterns across Europe after the end of the last Ice Age. The Celts came from what is now the Basque country, the rest of us walked across the North Sea, and all long before the Romans or the Anglo-Saxons. After that, ideas often moved rather than people/genes.

Sheepdogs, the herding dogs rather than the guard dogs, seem to be a British invention. British Iron Age field boundaries don't work well without them, and they're different elsewhere in Europe.

Don't bet on sheepdogs looking as you would expect. My grandfather had a sheepdog who looked like a greyhound.

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Dave Bell

Re: Does this mean

The tractor company is, or was, Lamborghini. I have driven one. Nothing that novel for a tractor. but there are bragging rights.

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Mystery Kindle update will block readers from books after Wednesday

Dave Bell

Email? What Email?

I've just checked.

No sign of any email from Amazon on updates.

I heard about this from my brother.

It's new to me that there is a Kindle for PC update. No email yet on that.

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Telemarketers hit with £70,000 fine for cold-calling pensioners

Dave Bell

So many frauds...

OK, so he's some sort of sole director, and the company is vanishing to get out of paying fines. Are there really no ways of dropping on him like a ton of the proverbial bricks? Why is he still considered a "suitable person" to be a company director? What about contempt of court, an investigation for tax evasion, and some form of bankruptcy?

I don't want to go into full Constable Savage mode and book him for "looking at me funny", there may well be too many possible criminal charges so that all of us could be dragged into court on a whim, but is there really nothing relevant?

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Microsoft quits giving us the silent treatment on Windows 10 updates

Dave Bell

This is just to say...

I switched to Linux

There are programmers there who are as bad at communication. Abusive personalities are common. But I don't feel trapped. I can switch to another Linux version. I am not stuck with One True Desktop.

And the Linux version of Kerbal Space Program is pretty good.

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Reminder: iPhones commit suicide if you repair them on the cheap

Dave Bell

This doesn't make sense.

The reporter got his iPhone repaired outside the Apple ecosystem. It worked, and was only bricked when, several months later. he updated iOS.

First thought: where did the part come from?

Second thought: if there is a security problem with using the part, why did things appear to work normally for so long.

Third thought: While one should back up the data before an OS upgrade, do Apple ever warn the user that a non-standard part used for repair will brick the phone? It's possible that, by affecting a users access to their own data (not stuff downloaded from Apple, which might be licensed, but stuff they own and hold copyright on), Apple are in breach of the Computer Misuse Act in the UK.

As usual, these laws seem only to have the purpose of scaring people like us. Capitalism, again, looks like government by the sociopathic.

It doesn't help my feeling about this that the abusive behaviour patterns seem so commonplace in the world of computer software. I have met some of these people, and have to fight off the urge to back away slowly and carefully, without breaking eye contact. The civilisation that makes these wonders possible depends on people being able to work and live together, yet it is controlled too often by the sort of people who prefer to live in a "gated community".

I am tempted to lock the gate from the outside.

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Food, water, batteries, medical supplies, ammo … and Windows 7 PCs

Dave Bell

Re: the day when Microsft becomes irrelevant...

There are problems with Linux, but it's certainly a viable choice. Some hardware is very awkward. There's a Via chipset for USB 3.0 which needs some jumping through hoops to set up.

And there is a huge infrastructure that backs up Windows, or thinks they know about it. Think of all those businesses which still seem to depend on Internet Explorer, sometimes obsolete versions.

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Northrop wins $55bn contract for next-gen bomber – as America says bye-bye to B-52

Dave Bell

Re: Just remember...

I wouldn't want a replica, but I wonder how a Vulcan-shape would work as a design starting point.

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Time Lords set for three-week battle over leap seconds

Dave Bell

A modest timekeeping proposal

If spaceflight is the problem, let's switch to Kerbal Unified Nominal Time. (6 hours per day, 400 days per year)

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Government Gateway online hack claims 'nonsense', say multiple folk in the know

Dave Bell

Re: "it is true that the gateway, which was developed in 2001, badly needs replacing."

It maybe depends on the underlying tech, the server hardware and OS, and keeping that in a reliable state may be getting tricky. Besides, we know how much else was done with hot 2001 tech that could have problems. Anything that needs you to use Adobe Flash or Apple Quicktime, for instance.

Which Browser does your bank want you to use?

It's arguable that far too many of these projects have grossly underestimated the long-term support effort needed, It's not the data storage, it's the interface with the users.

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Mystery object re-entering atmosphere may be Apollo booster

Dave Bell

Only one possible question

What would the Kerbals do?

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Microsoft now awfully pushy with Windows 10 on Win 7, 8 PCs – Reg readers hit back

Dave Bell

Easy to fix

Linux is a much smaller download than Windows 10

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Arizona lads recover epic stratovid – two years after launch

Dave Bell

Re: Huh?

It's quite possible to cover fifty miles off-road with a 50-year-old Land Rover. It's not problem-free, and the US government, for some reason, doesn't like Land Rovers. And it's close to a hundred years since the British Army started swanning around deserts in motor cars. Ground clearance and gear ratios matter more than four-wheel drive.

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Hollywood takes a beating in Oscar cybersquatting battle

Dave Bell

Here in the UK there are several Scots butchers who have been hassled by a large fast-food brand.

It's the sort of thing that makes you wonder whether civilisation has reached the USA yet.

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