* Posts by Chris Miller

3428 posts • joined 6 Apr 2007

Dratted hipster UX designers stole my corporate app

Chris Miller

And the obligatory whale song CD.

Crash, bang, wallop: What a power-down. But what hit the kill switch?

Chris Miller

The scene is the late 70s - mainframes, fanfold paper and lengthy batch processing. Senior analyst called in to fix a problem with a run over the weekend. His wife is out so he has to bring the kids with him. It's raining hard, and the kids end up playing football in the computer room, until a perfect kick makes contact with the big red button ...

Granddaddy of the DIY repair generation John Haynes has loosened his last nut

Chris Miller

Re: First remove the engine...

I was wondering who would spot that, Wilson.

Chris Miller

Re: First remove the engine...

There are!


Modern Man

Large Hardon Collider

I can personally recommend the third.

Unless you're into classics, the car manuals are of limited use, as modern cars can no longer be fixed with an adjustable spanner, screwdriver and hammer.

The UK's Cairncross Review calls for Google, Facebook to be regulated – and life support for journalism

Chris Miller

Re: Watching the watchers

The government decides what constitutes 'news'. The Party decides what constitutes goodthink.

Hmm, where have we seen that before? 1984 was written as a warning, not a bloody instruction manual.

OK, it's early 2019. Has Leeds Hospital finally managed to 'axe the fax'? Um, yes and no

Chris Miller


I don't see that virtual faxes are much of an improvement over paper faxes.

True, but we had these annoying people called customers, and we couldn't dictate how they chose to communicate with us.

Chris Miller

I was responsible for a (very minor) project to introduce virtual fax machines that took incoming faxes and attached them as an image file to an email. This was in Windows 3.1, so would have been around 25 years ago (and I don't claim it was a pioneering implementation). [pauses to stroke long grey beard]

We did Nazi see this coming... Internet will welcome Earth's newest nation with, sigh, a brand new .SS TLD

Chris Miller

ICANN officially follows the ISO 3166 list

Except for .uk when ISO says it should be .gb

Apple hardware priced so high that no one wants to buy it? It's 1983 all over again

Chris Miller

Re: Just plain embarrassing

Here's an old price list from a couple of years later, when the IBM compatible marketplace was well-established and the AT (80286 rather than 8088-based) was the new kid on the block. For those not familiar: Tandon was a second-tier plug-compatible manufacturer, so its prices were significantly lower than IBM or Compaq (and can be converted into $ at the then traditional exchange rate for computer kit of $1=£1).

For many years (almost up to the millennium), my simple rule of thumb for business PCs was: you can buy a basic system for £1k, a usable system for £2k and a high-end beast for £3k. The hardware that actually matched those descriptions changed every year or two, of course.

Come mobile users, gather round and learn how to add up

Chris Miller

Identical access control on development and production systems? What could possibly go wrong?

What's the fate of our Solar System? Boffins peer into giant crystal ball – ah, no, wait, that's our Sun in 10bn years

Chris Miller

Re: Duh!

Twinkle, twinkle little star,

I don't wonder what you are.

You're a ball of white hot gases,

Forming into solid masses.


Chris Miller

Re: Glad they helped me understand

10 million Celsius is 10 million Kelvin. These numbers are not (and not intended to be) accurate to 6 significant figures. Those who understand what Kelvin means should not be confused by this; those that don't will be helped by reference to Celsius.

Amazon exec tells UK peers: No, we don't want to be dominant. Also, we don't fancy being taxed on revenues

Chris Miller

Re: Tax allowance for costs is a grace

Ignorant nonsense, Mr G, I'm afraid. HMRC took Starbucks to court on this very point - they lost. Any costs charged by overseas subsidiaries of a parent company must be justifiable as reasonable - if they aren't HMRC can and will challenge them.

And do you arrange your personal tax position to maximise the amount of tax you pay? If not, why not?

Florida man stumbles on biggest prime number after working plucky i5 CPU for 12 days straight

Chris Miller

I think the point is that GIMPS doesn't search strictly sequentially (it can't, with millions of instances being run independently). So it's conceivable (but highly unlikely) that some as yet unchecked number could turn out to be a smaller Mersenne prime.

Chris Miller

I can already recite this number from memory (but only in hexadecimal).

Oz cops investigating screams of 'why don't you die?' find bloke in battle with spider

Chris Miller

Everybody knows

The funnelweb spider can kill a man in eight seconds, just by lookin' at him.

Mick 'Crocodile' Dundee

Oxford startup magics up metamaterials for next-gen charging

Chris Miller

@Charles 9

Yes, it's inefficient, but that's because most of the energy emitted from the charging pad doesn't reach the device. So it won't be the battery that heats up, it'll be the pad* and anything else conductive within range.

* Only slightly - you're not going to burn yourself - but it's still a waste, particularly if you think of 50 million phones in the UK alone being recharged almost daily.

Giraffe hacks printers worldwide to promote God-awful YouTuber. Did we read that one right?

Chris Miller

Why open port 9100?

Even the cheapest routers don't expose port 9100 by default, so people must have made a decision to do so and have the technical smarts (hardly difficult, but beyond 90% of the population) to implement it. I would have thought (clearly incorrectly) that anyone capable of doing this deliberately would consider the consequences - rather like walking around with a large 'kick me' notice pinned to your back.

It goes to show that, no matter how dumb the security vulnerability, you can always find thousands of examples with a simple Internet search.

OneDrive is broken: Microsoft's cloudy storage drops from the sky for EU users

Chris Miller

Weirdly, while my OneDrive was stuck on 'Signing on' most of the morning (now back to normal), downstairs the missus (using the same public IP, obvs) was fine.

So, about that Google tax on Android makers in the EU – report pegs it at up to $40 per phone

Chris Miller

Re: why do we need app stores?

You don't - it's just more convenient (for both the purchaser and vendor) to do it that way.

Cops called after pair enter Canadian home and give it a good clean

Chris Miller

I know folks in the US who live in a rural community where no-one locks their doors - theirs isn't the sort of place where you get many 'strangers'. Not everyone lives in large cities.

Chris Miller

Re: Door locks.

We don't need to lock our doors (SE England) either, as evidenced by the rare occasions on which we forget to. But you should be aware that if you suffer a theft and haven't locked your property, your insurer will almost certainly deny any claim.

London flatmate (Julian Assange) sues landlord (government of Ecuador) in human rights spat

Chris Miller

My gaff, my rules

Which bit are you not understanding, Jules? The door's over there, BTW.

Facebook names former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg head of global affairs

Chris Miller

Mark Zuckerberg spending months “wooing” the Lib Dem has-been

Did this 'wooing' involve waving increasingly thick bundles of currency under his nose? Out here in the real world, there's quite a varied vocabulary to cover this type of 'wooing' and for the individuals involved in it.

Leaked memo: No internet until you clean your bathroom, Ecuador told Julian Assange

Chris Miller

Re: RE:It is disgusting that Assange is held, without trial

Exactly, Jimmy - Assange is entirely free to leave the embassy whenever he wishes. Of course, he will then have to account for his actions, including failure to answer to bail, something he has shown extreme reluctance to do. Some of his former friends may wish to talk to him about the bail they put up, as well.

AI's next battlefield is literally the battlefield: In 20 years, bots will fight our wars – Army boffin

Chris Miller

I can imagine that in 20 years there could be largely autonomous drones. But replacing the grunts on the ground with machines will require some currently unimagined breakthrough in energy storage (or micro-generation). A T-3000 trailing a power cord a kilometre in length ain't going to win the next war.

China's clampdown on Tor pushes its hackers into foreign backyards

Chris Miller

Sorry to hear you're leaving ElReg, John. Another sad loss. Best of luck in your future endeavours!

Where can I hide this mic? I know, shove it down my urethra

Chris Miller

Re: Castration anxiety

sitting down quickly while a smartphone's in your pocket is the new Russian Roulette

This is why God gave us shirt pockets.

A web where the user has complete control of their data? Sounds Solid, Tim Berners-Lee

Chris Miller

"People want free apps that help them do what they want and need to do – without spying on them,"


'Free' stuff comes with a price. If you're lucky it will just be the occasional advert popping up; if you're unlucky, it will involve selling information about your usage of the app to an unknown third party. Most people seem fairly happy with such arrangements, but if you think there's a massive pent-up demand for paid-for stuff without these drawbacks, emulate Sir Tim and get coding. Maybe this time next year you'll be a billionaire ... but A hae ma doots.

Rookie almost wipes customer's entire inventory – unbeknownst to sysadmin

Chris Miller


Was it IBM or ICL that "upgraded" to a faster machine by removing a resistor board?

Pretty much all the mainframe manufacturers (IBM plus the BUNCH - Burroughs, Univac, NCR, CDC and Honeywell - ICL didn't appear because this was US jargon!) did this. It actually made economic sense for both manufacturer and customer, mostly because there was just a single type of system to be built rather than half-a-dozen, giving economies of scale (and making upgrades really, really simple).

Back in the day (c.1980) we ran a Honeywell mainframe, middle of a range of 5. Part of the maintenance contract (excruciatingly expensive, this was actually where most of the money was made - you could get a good deal on hardware, but there was rarely any negotiating on maintenance) was a visit every other week by an engineer to run diagnostic tests. To save himself time, he would reach inside the machine to the 'secret' microswitch that turned it into a top-of-the-range model. Of course, the operators soon sussed this out, which meant that work scheduled for an entire weekend could be accelerated to complete in under a day, leaving extra pub time ...

London tipped to lead European data market. Yes, despite Brexit!

Chris Miller

Having glanced at the report, it's not clear what it's measuring. What happened to AMSIX, for instance?

What's Big and Blue – and makes its veteran staff sue? Yep, it's IBM

Chris Miller

Re: Not Surprised

This is the principle of Chesterton's Fence:

In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.

Get rid of all your longer-serving staff and you've lost all knowledge as to why the fence was originally built.

Boffins bash Google Translate for sexism

Chris Miller

The reverse problem exists, too

Languages with only two genders (e.g. French) may be mistranslated into English using a gendered pronoun - he or she, when a native English speaker would use 'it'. I come across this both in Google translate and in use by native French speakers. It makes it obvious that the person or machine doing the translation isn't fully fluent, but it hardly gets in the way of making sense of what is being said.

Dear America: Want secure elections? Stick to pen and paper for ballots, experts urge

Chris Miller

Even if some security guru comes up with a magic way to make internet voting 100% secure, it will still be a very bad idea, because (unlike making an X in the privacy of the voting booth) there's no way to stop someone from standing behind the voter with either a baseball bat or a big wad of cash to ensure they vote the 'right' way. For the same reason, postal votes should be permitted only for very good reasons, not just as a way of increasing turnout figures.

'World's favorite airline' favorite among hackers: British Airways site, app hacked for two weeks

Chris Miller

Re: Missing from the press release -- CVV status

Latest seems to be that the data was stolen'in transit', which would account for the presence of CVV numbers.

Chris Miller

Re: Missing from the press release -- CVV status

The spokesbeing on R4 this morning confirmed (a) 'all the data was encrypted' and (b) including CVV numbers.

Those familiar with PCI-DSS will be aware that two of its main requirements are that credit card data must be encrypted (tick), and that CVV numbers must NOT be retained on the system, even in encrypted form (whoops). The problem isn't so much with PCI-DSS in principle (though there are problems there, too), but the 'enforcement' mechanism. This is basically that the credit card provider will charge you more for transactions if you're not PCI-DSS and (more significantly) that it's the merchant who is responsible for settling any fraudulent transactions.

But this enforcement mechanism becomes almost irrelevant if you're a tier 1 customer, doing billions a year (like BA). These guys don't have the same arrangements with the credit card companies that a small corner shop would have, it's an individual deal and non-compliance with PCI-DSS isn't a deal-breaker (as long as you can say "yes we're aware of this issue an have plans in place to resolve it ...").

Gartner's Great Vanishing: Some of 2017's emerging techs just disappeared

Chris Miller

Where did all those Emergent Trends go? Have they passed through the Plateau, or just passed on?

I reckon they've just Sublimed.

Amazon meets the incredible SHRINKING UK taxman

Chris Miller

Re: How it works:-

It isn't a 'loophole'. Employees will have to pay personal tax on the value of the shares they receive. As far as HMRC is concerned, it's swings and roundabouts.

Margaret 'Enver' Hodge should know this very well, being a major shareholder in her family business, Stemcor (which paid very little tax, despite turning over many billions, due to not making a profit) - but she prefers grandstanding.

Blast from the past: Boffins find the fastest exploding non-supernova star

Chris Miller

GRBs are only threatening if they fire within a few parsecs of Earth

Not according to these guys.

Judging by the pictures of the 'dumbbell', it looks like the axis of Eta Carinae is about 40° off a direct line to us, and it's thought that GRBs spread over no more than 10°, so we're safe, as long as the axis hasn't shifted since the event that created these clouds (which is conceivable because this is a multiple system).

Chris Miller

Given Eta Carinae is 'only' 7,500 light years away, a supernova would be quite spectacular (perhaps as bright as the full moon). Particularly if it produced a gamma ray burst and if this was angled towards earth (which could be much brighter than the sun, for a few seconds). But astronomers consider either event to be improbable (though not impossible).

Heatwave shmeatwave: Brit IT departments cool their racks – explicit pics

Chris Miller

August 1990 broke all sorts of UK records for high temperatures. I was responsible for mainframe systems across two locations, both with well-specified (we thought) aircon units. We started getting over temperature alarms from the backup system, and when we checked we found that temperatures in the sun on the roof (the computer room was in the basement of a multistory office block) were pushing 50C. As a result the heat exchangers were actually heating the water coming from the machine room rather than cooling it.

Fortunately this was on a Friday afternoon, and though we had a hectic weekend sourcing additional aircon (like hens' teeth, because of the high temps across the country), but the weather had broken by Monday. (We sunsequently replaced the 'dry' heat exchangers on the roof with 'wet' ones that use water evaporation to provide additional cooling.)

'Plane Hacker' Roberts: I put a network sniffer on my truck to see what it was sharing. Holy crap!

Chris Miller

It's a Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, subject of the Pen Test Partners hack, which the security update was designed to address.

Chris Miller

I've applied security updates to my car - downloaded from the internet and then applied via the phone app (also used to control/monitor other car functions remotely). It all went perfectly smoothly, but I have to say it was squeaky bum time - I get a bit nervous applying security updates to a phone costing a few hundred quid, 'bricking' a £40k motor is a whole 'nother thing.

Science fiction legend Harlan Ellison ends his short time on Earth

Chris Miller

Also notable was Ellison’s 1969 novella A Boy and his Dog, about a mind-reading hound and his human buddy in an post-apocalyptic cannibal future after World War 4. In 1975 it was made into a film with Don Johnson playing the lead role - worth watching if you’re entertained watching an actor trying to emote.

It's an unmemorable film, but I thought the point of the novella is the emotionless 'boy', who [spoiler alert] asked to choose between his dog and his new girlfriend chooses the dog (it doesn't end well for the girlfriend).

Brit mobile phone users want the Moon on a stick but then stay on same networks for aeons

Chris Miller

"O2 customers are the slowest to upgrade their phones, despite being the first to decouple the hire purchase of the phone from the airtime."

I'm with O2, paying only for airtime because I don't need (or want to pay for) a new phone every 24 months.

What's all the C Plus Fuss? Bjarne Stroustrup warns of dangerous future plans for his C++

Chris Miller

A real Stroustrop joke*

I have always wished for my computer to be as easy to use as my telephone; my wish has come true because I can no longer figure out how to use my telephone.

* but was he joking?

Dinosaurs permitted to mate: But what does AT&T Time merger mean for antitrust – and you?

Chris Miller

Re: What does it mean to me?

This is much bigger deal in the US than (say) in the UK, because many USizens don't have an effective choice of ISP. If I don't like the deal that my UK ISP offers me, whether on straight price/performance or for other services that may be bundled with it, it's simple to change to another (albeit the actual signal will probably be carried over the same copper/fibre, probably owned by BT). For reasons partly historical and partly geographical, this isn't as straightforward in much of the US.

Tech rookie put decimal point in wrong place, cost insurer zillions

Chris Miller


We've heard of it!

watchOS 5 hints at new Apple wearables and life beyond the Watch

Chris Miller

Re: "yes, they still make Teasmades"

Tea from 'coffee machines' is almost always ghastly, because they use ghastly 'leaf' with water that isn't boiling. But the operation of a Teasmade produces steam before the boiling water, which acts to warm the pot (good), so the quality of the tea is largely determined by the quality of the leaf being used.

The glorious uncertainty: Backup world is having a GDPR moment

Chris Miller


You mean legislators have no understanding of the technology they're legislating about?


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