* Posts by Martin Gregorie

911 posts • joined 10 Apr 2007

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Here come the riled MPs (it's private, huh), Facebook's a digital 'gangster' ('disingen-u-ous'). Zuckerberg he is a failure (on sharing data)

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: We need a new name for real fake news

There already is one: its called LIES.

Fun fact: GPS uses 10 bits to store the week. That means it runs out... oh heck – April 6, 2019

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: Wasn't this handled last time?

This is OTT for the "First GPS Millenium", but...

Yes, I'm well aware of who firebombed Tokyo and why. I'm also aware that some other cities, among them Hiroshima and Nagasaki, were deliberately not bombed with conventional weapons so that the strategists could get a better assessment of the destructive abilities of atomic weapons.

There's a lot about this in Richard Rhodes book "The Making Of The Atomic Bomb".

If you want to understand the scientific and political background to the Manhattan Project as well as learning about the politicians, military and scientists involved and other country's atomic weapon projects (yes, Japan had one as well), this is the book to read. Another title for it could have been "The History of Atomic Physics: 1995-1945", possibly more accurate but a lot less likely to attract readers.

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: Wasn't this handled last time?

Yes, I remember the panic - but it turned into a non-event. Even my old Garmin GPS II+ handheld satnavs sailed through it with no problem and I fully expect them to do the same this time.

IIRC the only GPS receivers that didn't make it through last time were all in Tokyo taxis. This was certainly bad news for them, and here's what I was told about that at the last GPS roll-over:

Tokyo was heavily firebombed in WW2, and since close-packed wood and paper houses burn really well, the city planners must have started again from scratch. The rebuild had to be fast because almost all houses were destroyed and winters are cold, so in the hurry to rehouse people, the houses were numbered in the order they were built in each block. As a result the numbers along a street are in pseudo-random order, so Tokyo taxi drivers really need a working GPS with a map showing house numbers. Either that, or they'd need years to do 'The Tokyo Knowledge', assuming there is one, before getting their license.

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

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: Watching the watchers

BBC news on Radio 4 is fairly good and regularly asks hard questions.

I just wish I could say the same about the "news" on the BBC website, which seems to be 95% dross, rather nauseous dribbling over celebs and "human interest" stories.

I can't comment about their TV news - or anybody else's TV news for that matter - because I manage very nicely, thank you, without a TV set in the house. And, no, I don't watch TV on catch-up - news or otherwise.

I am just a mapper: Solar drones take to the skies above Blighty

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: What can you fit in 25kg...

As far as I know there are currently no military aircraft, apart from a few U-2s, that can operate at 67,000 ft., so for all practical purposes its above any other aircraft that is likely to be flying over the UK.

NOTE that, rocket planes and U-2s excluded, it seems likely that the highest flying aircraft today is Perlan 2, a pure glider, that is awaiting confirmation of a record for its flight on September 2, 2018 which reached 76,124 ft in Patagonian mountain wave off the Andes.

The story is here: http://www.perlanproject.org/blog/perlan-2-soars-above-76000-feet

and a longer film is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KE792Y9hyww

Senior slippery sex stimulator sales exec sacked for shafting .org-asmic cyber-space place, a tribunal hears

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: Well, still an idiot

If they switched from .org to .com but didn't retain the .org as a redirect

They did retain yesyesyes.org. Both it and yesyesyes.com reference the same IP (in the Amazon cloud) though they use different mailservers. A (cautious) check with lynx shows the same front page from both directions - as you'd expect seeing that both point at the same IP.

Bug-hunter faces jail for vulnerability reports, DuckDuckPwn (almost), family spied on via Nest gizmo, and more

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: SS7 hacked?

Reading slightly between the lines, it appears that SS7 was introduced in the early-mid 70s to prevent phone phreaking and the resulting loss of telco revenue.

SS7 doesn't map onto the OSI comms model very well and security seems not to have been a priority - as if its designers thought "its digital, so attacking it is well beyond the capability of the phreakers". Besides, originally SS7 protocols were only used for inter-exchange communication and so never reached an end-user phone.

Then time moved on, mobile phones were invented and these adopted SS7 signalling because it was there, 'just worked' and SS7 capabilities were needed to manage tasks such as handing on calls from one cell to the next. So now SS7 messages do reach end-user kit, which makes them both interesting and much more accessible to phreakers and other black hats.

The main changes since then seem to be that other data handling services, such as SMS message, 2FA authentication, etc., have been layered onto SS7, which, at a guess, is still an unencrypted channel.

So, given this history, it shouldn't be a surprise that miscreants are now targeting SS7 for nefarious purposes such as syphoning off any security data that it might be carrying. This was always bound to happen and the only surprise is that its taken so long.

Everyday doings of a metropolitan techie: Stob's software diary

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: Still useless...?

Are there, maybe, disks that dd can't clone?

...haven't seen one, and its MUCH faster than Clonezilla and easier to use, too.

Couple of years back I put a 128GB Sandisk SSD in an old Lenovo R61i when its 120GB hard drive died, installed Fedora from a CD. Booted up, pulled in my stuff from a backup. No problem. Still going like a train.

Bootnote: I'd wanted to install another hard drive, but R61i electronics can't handle a disk bigger than 250GB and it was already impossible to buy a replacement HDD that small, hence the 128GB SSD.

The most annoying British export since Piers Morgan: 'Drones' halt US airport flights

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: 500g Drone vs 100 ton airliner

how big was the bit of debris that killed the Parisian Concorde?

From Wikipedia:

"A titanium alloy strip that was part of a DC-10 engine cowl, identified as a wear strip about 435 millimetres (17.1 in) long, 29 to 34 millimetres (1.1 to 1.3 in) wide, and 1.4 millimetres (0.055 in) thick.

The Concorde ran over this piece of debris during its take-off run, cutting a tyre and sending a large chunk of tyre debris (4.5 kilograms or 9.9 pounds) into the underside of the aircraft's wing at an estimated speed of 140 metres per second (310 mph). It did not directly puncture any of the fuel tanks, but it sent out a pressure shockwave that ruptured the number 5 fuel tank at the weakest point, just above the undercarriage. Leaking fuel gushing out from the bottom of the wing was most likely ignited either by an electric arc in the landing gear bay (debris cutting the landing gear wire) or through contact with hot parts of the engine."

People say tabloid hacks are always looking for an angle. This time, they'd be right: Tilting disk of proto-planets spotted

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

That second artists impression

That second artists impression looks irresistably like a sketch of Ringworld, as described on one of Larry Niven's Known Space novels with the same name.

Here's a similar Ringworrld visualisation:

http://www.squareshadow.com/graphics/ringworld/rw5.html

Amazon Mime: We train (badly) an AI love bot using divorce bombshell Bezos' alleged sexts to his new girlfriend

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: Markov rules

Correction: I lied about the Kloc figure - should be 98 statements, 0.108 Kloc. The rest is good.

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Markov rules

Just for giggles, I fired up my Markov chain implementation, in Java, and fed it El Reg's test data set. Here's the first 250 words:

"I want to kiss your lips I love you.

Oh, if only you I am in love with you is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me, and I've never been happier in my day, I always know it will be a good one because at the end of it matters because I'll soon be in your arms.

Thank you for being my vacation from the rest of the only ways to get out of a tight box is to have succeeded."

From this and a few other runs that produced similar results, I reckon Ye Olde Markov Chayne beats the pants off AI, not only for readability, but especially in terms of cost per Kloc of code written (50 Java statements, 0.05 Kloc) not to mention run time and CPU used ( 84mS run time, 108 mS cpu for 250 words of output on a Lenovo T440).

Dozens of .gov HTTPS certs expire, webpages offline, FBI on ice, IT security slows... Yup, it's day 20 of Trump's govt shutdown

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

What redress does a US citizen have if a Presidential order harms him without a declared emergency, as has happened to all the governmental employees that got sent home without pay?

I'm genuinely puzzled as to how Trump was able to shut down government, not least because I've seen nothing in the news that said what regulation was used (but I may have missed it). I did a web search as well but found nothing that looks directly relevant, which is odd, because past experience with the FAA makes me think that everything done by and to the US Government is governed by minutely detailed regulations. From what I found the options seem to be:

- executive order. But doesn't that require an emergency to be declared?

- vetoing or refusing to sign a Congressional bill. But doesn't this mandate resolving it with Congress?

...but none of these appear to allow the sudden, unconditional and uncontested shutdown that happened.

What have I missed?

Hubble 'scope camera breaks down amid US govt shutdown, forcing boffins to fix it for free

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: How many Shuttles could have been kept operative..

Those things were dangerous and inefficient.

Read Mike Mullane's "Riding Rockets" for a detailed description of just why the Shuttle was dangerous by design and how this was compounded by NASA HQ's array of PHBs and politically appointed numpties making the decisions.

Mike Mullane was a Shuttle-era astronaut and a very brave man who flew three missions despite knowing all the ways it could kill him and that its 'escape system', i.e. sliding down a pole wearing a parachute, was only usable before it had passed 50,000 ft on launch.

Typical! You wait ages for a fast radio burst from outer space, and suddenly 13 show up

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: 'Something big'

To appear as a single event, the signal pulse can't last longer than the time it takes for light to travel from one side of it to the other. It takes light 3mS to travel 1000km, so something capable of generating a pulse a short as 3mS cannot be more than 1000km across.

Chinese rover pootles about... on the far side of the friggin' MOON

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: Chinese rover pootles about.

I agree that it would be nice to see new photos of where Neil and Buzz landed but, IMO anyway, it would be wrong to take anything away from the site or have somebody else's grubby tracks stomping over the Apollo 11 bootprints. IOW put up a barrier 50m outside the places they wandered round and add a few frikken lasers to emphasize KEEP OUT: THIS MEANS YOU.

50 years ago: NASA blasts off the first humans to experience a lunar close encounter

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: Remeber those heady days of the Apollo missions well

Yes, I remember Apollo 11.

We got up early to hear the direct radio broadcast of Apollo 11's LM landing on the moon. I think this this was around 05:00 in NZ, before going in to work as normal at ICL's Service Bureau in Wellington.

Somebody brought a TV into the office that day, so work stopped in early afternoon while we all watched Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin's first moon walk.

Slap for Slack chat app after US, Canada chaps zapped in Iranian IP address map whack

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: Ironic then that Israel and Iran are antagonistic to each other.

"Can you remember when Iran used to be liberal?"

No, I can't. That would have been a LONG time ago - back when Mohammad Mosaddegh was the Iranian Prime Minister, so before 1953. That was when Reza Pahlavi was made Shah by a Brit/US coup engineered to protect oil company revenues from paying Iranian taxes. Reza Shah was pretty damn illiberal. His family seems to have had both hands in the till while he built up the SAVAK to stomp on anybody who objected.

I travelled through Iran three times in the '70s. In '73 you had to know what was going on and look under a stone or two to see what the SAVAK were up to: I was not aware of them. But, by October '77 they were pretty much in everybody's face. However, a lot changed in the next six months. In May '78 it was obvious that the Shah was about to be shown the door. Iranians I'd never met before would tell me how much they disliked the Shah while chatting in the streets of Mashhad.

It was very unfortunate for Iranians in general that after the revolution, the Ayatollah Khomeini turned out to be just as autocratic as the Shah had been and, worse, not only took over the SAVAK lock stock and barrel (renaming it slightly in the process), but made it even more powerful.

A few reasons why cops haven't immediately shot down London Gatwick airport drone menace

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: Spent rifle round deaths

Here's a good analysis of the damage caused by spent rounds and their lethality:

https://forensicoutreach.com/library/the-falling-bullet-myths-legends-and-terminal-velocity/

Some of the comments are worth reading too. That was a straight-forward search: my first attempt used " velocity of a spent rifle round" and the link was the third item on the page.

Mark Zuckerberg did everything in his power to avoid Facebook becoming the next MySpace – but forgot one crucial detail…

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: Good article. Assuming TheRegister is clean with our data.

You really think that highlighting a few contentious issues is enough to sway people's votes to a greater degree than the daily brainwashing from the local news?

Yes.

If some people get all their 'news' from red-top papers, shock jocks or farcebook/twatter and seldom or ever use reputable national radio and TV news channels or newspapers, then all they ever see is lies and biased reporting.

How can this not leave them with a distorted view of what's happening in the real world.

The internet is going to hell and its creators want your help fixing it

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: It's fascinating to see how people are so much behind the times

The problem is that critical thinking is still not taught at any level and people are also not taught how to recognise people exploiting logical fallacies to spread total nonsense, or question why things are being presented in the way that they are.

Spot on!

There only four things that schools need to teach:

  • Critical thinking / the scientific method
  • How to learn
  • The ability to read the local language and to write it clearly and simply
  • Basic numeracy

With these taught properly, virtually all other subjects, apart from sciences and manual skills, can be self-taught as needed and individuals will have the tools to distinguish truth from lies and fantasy.

Of course this will never happen because politicians would never allow it.

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: Saving democracy

Anonymity, protecting the innocent from trolls since forever.

I disagree with you here: if there was NO anonymity on-line that would almost certainly get rid of the vast majority of trolls, stalkers, confidence tricksters etc. but it would be very hard indeed to implement securely enough to make it work.

The few legitimate uses [*] for anonymity, e.g. whistle-blowing, should be easy enough to handle via anonymising servers by ensuring that incoming messages are securely sent only to the owning watchdog organisation and responses are only sent to the originator.

* Voting NOT included as that is most (only?) secure and verifiable when paper ballots are used.

Official: Voyager 2 is now an interstellar spacecraft

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

@karlkarl

Double up your 16.6 hours: that's just one way. It will take 33 hours before the response from your keypress gets painted on your screen.

OTOH nothing stops you sending more keystrokes before you see any characters echoed from Voyager. You could type:

ssh root@voyager<CR>

without any pauses, but then you'd still have to wait 33 hours to get the password prompt - assuming you didn't make any typing mistakes and your session didn't time out in the meantime.

Boffins build blazing battery bonfire

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

And a few dozen other pumped storage power stations worldwide?

Sure they exist - where the landscape topology and underlying geology make it practical to build high and low ponds that are leak-free and unlikely to be harmed by earthquakes - but there aren't many suitable places to build them and the total energy they store is tiny by comparison with the energy flows in the electricity grid they're attached to. IOW the pumped storage capacity is too small to make much contribution to balancing energy supply against demand.

OTOH including a suitably sized storage battery (using silicon, molten salt, flow technology or whatever) as an integral part of a renewable energy farm seems like a good idea, especially if national grids are redesigned to act more like a set of interconnected regional grids. Co-location makes the losses due to high energy flows between energy sources and storage batteries easier to minimise because the links would be very short.

Thought black holes were donut-shaped? It turns out they're more like deadly fountains

Martin Gregorie Silver badge
Pint

Nice work by Atacama and Kagoshima

Sounds like an excellent bit of science. Well done to both observers and theoreticians. That deserves a few cold ones.

It's nearly 2019, and your network can get pwned through an oscilloscope

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Why is insecurity 'inevitable'?

Subject says it all. It doesn't seem so inevitable to me.

Given that many of the light-weight realtime OSes you might find running instruments such as oscilloscopes often have little security [1], an obvious, simple and cheap way to secure the instrument would be to fit, say, a RaspberryPi model B inside a spare corner of the case and use it as a built-in network front end. For very little money this would provide a firewall and a reasonably capable login mechanism in addition to acting as a GUI for the 'scope. As a bonus it could also buffer and queue output sent networked printers and plotters or support one or two USB connections to local devices.

[1] I used Microware's OS/9 for several years. Its a capable and very reliable OS both for desktop and realtime uses, but security? not so much apart from a login and file permission bits which are there as much for keeping the idly curious out and protection against fat fingering: you can easily run it in single user mode if you want. In this I don't think its all that different from any other small realtime OS.

Boeing 737 pilots battled confused safety system that plunged aircraft to their deaths – black box

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: Question

Were they

(a) able to disable MCAS?

(b) trained on how and when to disable MCAS?

Serious design and training errors were made unless both (a) and (b) can be answered 'Yes'.

Consultant misreads advice, ends up on a 200km journey to the Exchange expert

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: Spoilers in Tech Docs!

You start with a "Header" that documents what the procedure does,

Absolutely essential while writing Java, but if you go quite a bit further you'll have something that anybody can understand and, better yet, YOU will understand if you need to tweak it in a year or five.

  • The class-level description needs to say what the CLASS is intended to do, no more and no less, though it may also be a good place to describe the meanings of any public constants
  • The method level descriptions can be quite brief. They should give guidance about when to call them, unless they're a simple getter or setter, but should not paraphrase any of the @param annotations
  • This documentation must be run through javadoc and read to check that it makes sense

If you don't do all the above BEFORE you write more than than a skeleton class and methods then (a) you probably haven't thought the class design out properly and (b) for sure you'll piss off future developers.

The same goes for writing C except the the 'class' level stuff goes at the top of the source file and you need to check what's in your comments by running the code through your chosen documentation tool.

Last but not least, if the class or function package does anything thats even slightly complex write a test harness and a set of regression tests that get put into version control and/or backed up with thre code it tests. A PHB will tell you this is not necessary and/or a waste of time but IME he will be very wrong. A well-considered set of regression tests (covering simple usage, edge cases, and as much misuse as you can imagine) will save a LOT of wasted time and swearing. The test harness need merely take a line such as

methodname param1 param2 ... # comment saying what you expect

and split out the method name and parameters into an array of, say, strings and ints before executing an if.. then.. else.. totem pole which calls all the methods and displays all results interspersed with a listing of the test script. Dead simple: no conditionals needed because you can simulate that by the order of method calls in it.

If you're clever, you'll put all the script reading, parsing and printing into a driver structure that can run scripts against plugins that are specific to the class being tested and add something that compares test output with a set of expected results: a regression test pass is when the comparison produces no output.

Microsoft menaced with GDPR mega-fines in Europe for 'large scale and covert' gathering of people's info via Office

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: Zero Exhaust?

Of course MS could *add* such a configuration parameter. But it was implied that they've already done so - in which case it's a question of how to find it.

Yes and No. In two places the article says there is no way to disable slurping and then the Zero Exhaust system is mentioned with an (apparently) documented slurp control switch. The crux of the biscuit is: if that's already out then they could simply make the Zero Exhaust version the mainstream product and put it on immediate release. So, if this is the case, then why does M$ think it will take until April next year to make it generally available?

Fish? I can smell it.

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: Zero Exhaust?

How do you turn off the slurping?

Add a single configuration parameter. All right, maybe one in each application that makes up the Office package. All it needs to do is to control whether the telemetry port is written to or not. If Office programs are well-structured code this should be quite easy: the sort of thing that one competent programmer can install and test in time for the following month's Patch Tuesday. So why do they need five months to do something that should be so simple?

5.. 4.. 3.. 2.. 1... Runty-birds are go: 12,000+ internet-beaming mini-satellites OK'd by USA

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

If you want fictional education about dense space-junk problems, read Ken Macleod's "Fall Revolution", a set of four related novels The Star Fraction, The Stone Canal, The Cassini Division, The Sky Road -a major background theme is the impossibility of spaceflight for 200-250 years after a destructive space war in Earth Orbit. Quite apart from Macleod being one of the few authors to give this problem serious treatment, the books are a rattling good read.

Up to three million kids' GPS watches can be tracked by parents... and any miscreant: Flaws spill pick-and-choose catalog for perverts

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Why does the server need any details about the child?

If the watches are intended for use by parents to track their own children, why does the server need to hold ANY of the child's personal details? This seems like a violation of the principle of storing only data needed for the devices intended purpose and means that the server should only store parental contact details, IOW parental names, e-mail and phone numbers, so if the child is injured, sick, gets lost etc, the authorities can use the watch's unique identity (it does have one doesn't it?) to get contact details for the parents.

Between you, me and that dodgy-looking USB: A little bit of paranoia never hurt anyone

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: Did you accept the USB?

Acceptable answers to:

1. Did you accept a free USB stick at the entrance ?

2. Are you going to put it in your device ?

are

(a) No

(b) Yes, and I'm going to reformat it before I mount it or give it to anybody.

Anything else shows insufficient paranoia. But of course (b) requires that you know how to reformat it and that you are running an OS that gives you the option of reformatting a USB device before its filing system is accessed.

Thank $deity that week's over. Look, here's some trippy music generated from pixels of a Martian sunrise to play us out

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Some other algorithmic music

Thats an odd way to compose music, but the result turned out better than I was expecting from the description.

For a somewhat more intentional and certainly less random way of generating music, how about a slow-news day piece about Supercollider,

https://supercollider.github.io/

- "a platform for audio synthesis and algorithmic composition, used by musicians, artists, and researchers working with sound."

Something about "burglar music", a programmatic composition method would sit well with a piece about Supercollider, since it should be well suited to composing with this technique.

Todd Yvega https://www.united-mutations.com/y/todd_yvega.htm

sorted out how to do this on a Synclavier. You can hear an example of his work if you listen to: 'Calculus', the last track on "Dance Me This", Frank Zappa's last album:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dance_Me_This

Mything the point: The AI renaissance is simply expensive hardware and PR thrown at an old idea

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: Quite.

But there's a HUGE difference between the human child and today's AI systems: when the child comes to a conclusion you can ask them to explain why they think that is so. You can't do that with any current AI system.

So, my take on this is that, if/when you can ask an AI to explain how and why it did or deduced something, then it actually is an AI. If you can't ask it that question and get an understandable answer then what you're dealing with is definitely not an AI and may well be just a dangerous piece of junk.

There are real-world ramifications too: if an autonomous car crashes or kills somebody you need to know why that happened and the ability of the car to tell you (or not) is likely to have legal consequences. If it can explain itself, it and its driver and builders may be shown not to be responsible for the event: if it can't then responsibility should automatically pass to the driver and builders.

Stairway to edam: Swiss bloke blasts roquefort his cheese, thinks Led Zep might make it tastier

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Controlled experments: thats the ticket

This whole experiment seems badly thought out. Here's how to do it properly:

Run the set of experiments in one of those big, Swiss communal underground nuclear shelters so all the cheese shares the same environmental conditions.

Put each set of different cheese types in its own soundproof enclosure

Keep one set silent as a control.

Each of the others gets a different type of music during the whole maturing process, including but not limited to: Monastic plainsong, Wagnerian Operas, Mozart, Brass bands, Trad jazz, Bebop, Folksong, Reggae, Heavy Metal Rock, Prog Rock, Stones, Zappa, Top Ten pop hits, Andean mountain music,...

Then the tasters get to rate which music goes best with each type of cheese.

Which scientist should be on the new £50 note? El Reg weighs in – and you should vote, too

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: Where's Rutherford?

And add in James Chadwick, who discovered the electron.

John Dalton should be there too, as the first scientist to put atomic theory on a usable basis and make it the foundation of chemistry.

However, atomic theory was all a bit theoretical until Chadwick discovered the electron, proving that the were smaller particles than atoms, and Rutherford discovered that the atomic nucleus existed and was very much smaller than the atoms that contained them. This led directly to the Bohr atomic model and so to modern nuclear physics.

As far as I know none of the three - Chadwick, Dalton and Rutherford - have much recognition outside science: none are as well known as they deserve.

Nikola Tesla's greatest challenge: He could measure electricity but not stupidity

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: country & western singers

You omitted an obvious target: MBAs - especially those who attempt to manage anything technical.

GitHub lost a network link for 43 seconds, went TITSUP for a day

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: Wasn't Split Brain solved 30 years ago?

Yes, VMS cluster, Solaris cluster, Veritas cluster, they all do that for local HA, and it works. Disk vendors like EMC and HDS can also do it for their distributed storage.

Don't forget Tandem NonStop systems, which distributed the whole kit and caboodle (CPUs, disks, disk controllers) over geographic distances as a networked set of up to 16 nodes, each containing between 2 and 16 CPUs with all hardware duplicated and hot-pluggable. The whole distributed system was fault tolerant by design with automatic fail-over for all components. Result: 99.99% up time.

... and that was early '80s technology, so there's really no excuse for current systems supporting worldwide 24x7 services to offer less guaranteed availability than was available in 1984.

The D in Systemd stands for 'Dammmmit!' A nasty DHCPv6 packet can pwn a vulnerable Linux box

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: Old is good

A garden gate's purpose is to be opened let somebody through and closed to keep them out - full stop.

Fitting a rain gauge is a backward step: it not only adds unwanted complexity, but degrades rain measurement due to spillage when the gate bangs in the wind.

F***=off, Google tells its staff: Any mention of nookie now banned from internal files, URLs

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: US military services

I'm not American: in countries where I am a national the Coast Guard is a branch of the Navy, so it never occurred to me that it wasn't part of the USN.

AFAIK the Space Force is still pretty much a figment of the Trumpian imagination.

Put it this way, I've seen nothing about the USSF since the first announcement. In any case, to be a real Space ForceTM, it should surely control all US nuke-tipped missiles, ABMs and manned military space vehicles, but as the missiles and ABMs are currently owned by the USAF and USN I imagine these outfits are lobbying hard against giving any of them up. So far there are no manned military space vehicles and no announced plans to build any. So, with no hardware of its own and nothing being planned for any time soon, the USSF is just a Governmental boondoggle.

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: FFS

The US airforce, army, marines and navy*, all speak Army Creole. For a concise definition and examples, see the Urban Dictionary.

Tom Wolf's "The Right Stuff" contains a more graphic description of Army Creole: Chapter 6 'On the Balcony', 11 or 12 pages in - page 119 in my copy.

'The Right Stuff' is a much better book than you'd expect if you've only see the rather pathetic film. It's still a very good read that offers insights into the lives and backgrounds of the pilots who became the Mercury Seven at the beginning of the space race and of NASA.

* The US military services are listed alphabetically - no form of ranking is implied.

EU aren't kidding: Sky watchdog breathes life into mad air taxi ideas

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Chutes?

All parachutes need plenty of height to deploy: very few people have survived a bail-out under 2000 ft. That said, a whole-vehicle recovery system should work from a lower height because it is designed to lower the aircraft with the people still inside, so there's no bail-out needed and the only predeployment activities are to realise there's a serious problem and to pull the red knob.

However, even the rocket-extracted Ballistic Recovery System isn't guaranteed to give a safe recovery from less than 400 ft in straight and level flight or from less than 1000ft if the aircraft is spinning. Almost any other imaginable circumstance is likely to have a safe recovery height within that height range, though there doesn't seem to be much, if any, data on how well a BRS system would deploy after engine failure in a hovering aircraft which would still be falling relatively slowly.

But, IIRC all the above minimum survival height estimates assume deployment is over flat ground, so no allowance is made for the incident occurring over trees, tall buildings etc. or the possibility of the aircraft colliding with something while the chute is deploying and the plane still has significant forward speed.

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

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: Top. Lel.

Yep .. a quote from Philip K Dick's "Second Variety". Pretty much hits 'robot war' nail smack on its head.

You should at least have made the PKD attribution, but being an AC, I suppose its no surprise that you didn't.

Dick was good: he also wrote "Minority Report" and ought to be required reading as a vaccination against trusting the political class and their tame military any further than you can throw them.

Then watch "Dr. Strangelove" or, even better, read Peter George's book; that film was based on it.

Powerful forces, bodily fluids – it's all in a day's work

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: Leaking barium enemas

But is it true that a barium meal is difficult to flush?

Yes, absolutely.

Back in the day I remember a university flatmate with suspected stomach ulcers being prescribed a barium meal and an X-ray. The resulting 'sausage' a day later was both very heavy and strong, so flushing and the usual bathroom cleaning implements both refused to move it. All that happened was that the organic material got progressively washed out of it. So, after a few days we had what looked like a plaster of paris replica lurking at the bottom of the pan, daring us to try and move it. We finally got rid of the thing by smashing it into a coarse white sand drift with a blunt instrument, probably a poker. This was flushable, though it took several cycles to transfer it all into the sewer.

Microsoft Windows 10 October update giving HP users BSOD

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

I'd be quite happy for a default auto-update and you can change that if you know what you're doing, approach.

A better idea would be the system update process to have an option to take a backup before applying system updates. BUT, this should also have the ability to defer the update until somebody is there to attach the backup medium or to use a permanently attached backup device, which could be anything from an external USB drive to a NAS box or the cloud.

Its all perfectly feasable: this would just automate what I've been doing for years with Linux:

(1) disable the auto update system

(2) manually make a backup immediately before triggering an update.

I do this on a weekly basis. Its a three step manual process (1) Backup, (2) System update, (3) reboot.

This has remained manual for three reasons: first because its never been enough of a nuisance to try automating it, second because the backup disks are stored offline and thridly I use encrypted partitions so the encryption password has to be entered on the local keyboard at boot time.

My house server, which runs 24x7, also keeps seven generations of a compressed nightly backup of user space on a permanently attached disk, but this is for fat finger and disk crash protection rather than surviving a system update. For the latter you need a full backup rather than something that just secures locally created files and data.

Google Cloud boss promises 'security built into every layer of the system' at UK shindig

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Missing data protection terms

This piece is more noticeable for what it omits that for what it says.

The thing that most surprised me is that, although it seems that you can lock things regionally so that system management and access are restricted to a particular geographic region, it doesn't say what, exactly, this means. Is a region a continent? the EU? a country? a region within a country? a city? a building with a postal address? All or none of these? Can the same restrictions apply to the location of stored data, i.e. can I configure things so that, as an EU or UK based data controller, I can be guaranteed that my data will never be stored on UASian servers?

And last but not least, there's no reference to how this data storage and access scheme maps onto the GDPR. It would be interesting to know if this question was asked and, if it was, what the response was.

I've read the article together with the Google document it links to and the relevant document that the latter links to, but none of these mentions GDPR or covers user control over data storage location in other than the most general terms: neither of the linked documents give any more detail than El Reg's write-up.

Self-driving cars may not have steering wheels in future, dev preview for PyTorch 1.0 is here, etc

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

What about towing trailers?

Quite a number of drivers still need to tow stuff, ranging from using kiddie-size trailers to take the hedge trimmings to the Civic Amenity (as our local dump is officially named), through boat trailers, caravans and mobile chippies to balloon and glider trailers. All of these need to be taken off road and parked with some precision on grass or hardstanding, usually without any markings for guidance.

How, precisely are these going to be used if the tow vehicle has no manual controls? Are they really expecting the driver to get out and use a box on a cable like many cranes have? Or maybe to yell instructions at the tow vehicle?

Former General Electric boss explains how he got the internet wrong

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: Password managers

I have a password manager for my home PC - it's a text file.

Substitute a set of HTML pages for 'a textfile' and so do I, but my pages are on a password protected encrypted partition on a server, so inaccessible to anybody who nicks either my laptop or that server. In addition, a username and password is needed as well as the usual Linux login to access the password collection from either machine.

Brit startup plans fusion-powered missions to the stars

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: Mission energy requirements....

@AC - slight correction: solar power isn't much use beyond Mars because the energy collectable for a given area of solar collector decreases as the square of distance from the sun.

It took solar-powered Dawn, with its 36 sq.metre solar panels, dry mass of 747kg and 425kg of xenon propellant at launch, 15 months to get from Earth orbit to Mars and a further 29 months (plus a gravity slingshot from Mars) to get to Vesta. While its enormous solar array provided 10 kW in Earth orbit (1AU radius), this had dropped to 3kW at 3AU. Vesta, its first target, orbits at 2.15 AU from the sun. It then took another 30 months to get from there to Ceres,which orbits between 2.56 and 3 AU from the sun.

I think this shows that Ceres at, a bit under 3AU from the sun, is about the practical limit for solar powered spacecraft. The next planet out, Jupiter, is at 5.2AU, so if Dawn was orbiting Jupiter, its solar cells would only be providing 1kW.

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