* Posts by Paul Johnston

338 posts • joined 13 Apr 2007


Briny liquid may be more common on Mars than once thought, unlikely to support life as we know it

Paul Johnston

Life is more tenacious than you would expect

There are very few places on earth where life hasn't arrived.

Selection happens when there is pressure to survive so there is no reason why anything on earth would evolve to live in an environment which doesn't exist on earth.

Without looking into Scientific papers you can get an idea at


We will give them 212° Fahrenheit (1000° Celsius) is an unfortunate typo

Icon in homage to D. radiodurans

As coronavirus catches tech CEOs with their pants down, IBM's Ginni Rometty warns of IT's new role post-pandemic

Paul Johnston

Here is my guess

>>I'm going to modernise applications that my IT [department] perhaps weren't modern enough to change fast enough for me'.

So they will ask all the IT senior managers who will say "Oh not our fault look at our ancient staff, they are not agile enough".

Redundancies hit at the lower technical levels as we don't need them, only people who can manage a "Digital Transformation" will remain.

It all goes pear shaped. Senior IT management move on to their next positions and organisations are left with partially working systems (if they are lucky) and no one who can sort it.

As I say just a guess.

Move fast and break stuff, Windows Terminal style: Final update before release will nix your carefully crafted settings

Paul Johnston

Re: How about a poll?

Better still vote for your choice of number then multiply them all together and see who wins.

I'll start voting for 0

Python 2 bows out after epic transition. And there was much applause because you've all moved to version 3, right? Uh, right?

Paul Johnston

Re: why python ?

Critical mass is one of the main reasons I would say.

As more people use it and the library support grows you have to move with the times for better or worse.

For example if you want to use pymol you need python, end of story really.

In case you need more proof the world's gone mad: Behold, Apple's $699 Mac Pro wheels

Paul Johnston

Re Cycle Wheels

Sometimes I think cycling is the new Hi-Fi in the sense of "How Much?"

Linux fans thrown a bone in one Windows 10 build while Peppa Pig may fly if another is ready in time for this year

Paul Johnston
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WSL1 versus WSL2

Anyone seriously had a look at WSL 2 recently.

I've been looking to see if it can replace having dual boot machines with Ubuntu 18_04 LTS and Win 10.

We have to run OpenFoam and it requires the sort of grunt Virtual Box is going to have issues with.

Also supporting Linux for people who have never heard of it but who need to use it for their PhDs is to say the least not fun.

So I have it installed and some simple benchmarks for simple file operations suggest WSL 2 is noticeably slower than WSL 1.

Facebook loses control of its own Twitter account in hacker attack – and more news

Paul Johnston


Yes good, but not as good as Sir Geoffrey

Wake me up before you go Go: Devs say they'll learn Google-backed lang next. Plus: Perl pays best, Java still in demand

Paul Johnston

Package management systems

You're seriously saying that the Python system is worse than having to use CPAN?

Hey Insiders! DTrace can now run riot in Windows 10, if you really want it to

Paul Johnston

Fun time

Time to start shouting at hard disks!

Linux in 2020: 27.8 million lines of code in the kernel, 1.3 million in systemd

Paul Johnston
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Oh yes Joerg Schilling

I'd successfully blanked that from my mind, thanks for bringing it back!

Attention! Very important science: Tapping a can of fizzy beer does... absolutely nothing

Paul Johnston

Sounds like a new chapter for


Internet Society's Vint 'father of the 'net' Cerf dodges dot-org sell-off during public Q&A

Paul Johnston

But don't you realise

Morals are good but there are beelions to be made here!

Watch tiny swimming magnetic robots suck up uranium in a droplet of radioactive wastewater

Paul Johnston
Black Helicopters

Biology beats Robotics

If you need loads get them to replicate!


Tearoff of Nottingham: University to lose chunk of IT dept to outsourcing

Paul Johnston
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And this means

"the University will want to retain in-house expertise to provide strategy, leadership, governance, domain knowledge and data safeguards for IT services"

Management will keep their jobs technical staff will be shown the door.

Remember, remember, it's now called November: Windows 10 19H2 update has a name

Paul Johnston

Can anyone please explain to me ...

"normal servicing cadence"


The D in Systemd is for Directories: Poettering says his creation will phone /home in future

Paul Johnston

Re: re: Once desktop processing power became sufficient to crack the encryption

and Hull of course!

US government sues ex-IT guy for breaking his NDA (Yes, we mean Edward Snowden)

Paul Johnston

Purely hypothetically

If you wanted to give money to someone living in Russia would Facebooks version of a cryptocurrency be the way to go?

We're great, boasts Huawei in founder's Little Red Book – but isn't that a video game screenshot?

Paul Johnston
Black Helicopters

Cracking plane

If you want to see one I recommend the museum in Kirkenes


Quick question, what the Hull? City khazi is a top UK tourist destination

Paul Johnston
IT Angle

Not a patch on ...

Surely The Old King Billy toilets were the best.

Have a look at


It's Black Hat and DEF CON in Vegas this week. And yup, you know what that means. Hotel room searches for guns

Paul Johnston

Drugs okay

Assume if your a high roller a huge stash of drugs is okay then?

Lancaster Uni data breach hits at least 12,500 wannabe students

Paul Johnston


Does anyone know if they use Banner?


Guy is booted out of IT amid outsourcing, wipes databases, deletes emails... goes straight to jail for two-plus years

Paul Johnston

Fairly sure

No one at our places the the title "senior strategist handling information technology and marketing" would have the tech skills to do this!

Was this quake AI a little too artificial? Nature-published research accused of boosting accuracy by mixing training, testing data

Paul Johnston
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Rather apt!

Reminds me of

To consult the statistician after an experiment is finished is often merely to ask him to conduct a post mortem examination. He can perhaps say what the experiment died of.

R.A. Fisher

Programmers' Question Time: Tiptoe through the tuples

Paul Johnston

Re: RIP Joe Armstrong

Me too just seen this


Can I get a RHEL yeah? Version 8 arrives at last as IBM given go-ahead to wolf down Red Hat

Paul Johnston

But when is there a Centos version 8

That's when my fun starts.

QEMU 4 arrives with toys for Arm admirers, RISC-V revolutionaries, POWER patriots... you get the idea

Paul Johnston


>Those keen to bash out the odd wget, tar and make can get their hands on the update now. ®

What about ./configure that's where all the fun is!

RIP: Microsoft finally pulls plug on last XP survivor... POSReady 2009

Paul Johnston

It will never die!

Well not here.

Off the network I hasten to add running Electron Microscopes and other fun items!

The curious case of a WordPress plugin, a rival site spammed with traffic, a war of words, and legal threats

Paul Johnston

Aren't Wordpress Plugin great!

I used to look after loads of Wordpress sites and whilst the product was generally okay the whole infrastructure around it was a nightmare.

The number of times site owners found a new wonderful plugin/theme and installed it with hilarious consequences were legion!

Website programming? Pffft, so 2011. Python's main squeeze is now data science, apparently

Paul Johnston

Find this bit hard to believe

It says " it is number one in the statistical domain,"

I'm surprised R doesn't fulfill this role.

Techie basks in praise for restoring workforce email (by stopping his scripting sh!tshow)

Paul Johnston

Recursion is difficult

I once advised a Professor that rather than staying with his very old Sparc box running Solaris under x86 was a better idea.

He bought a new machine and was not very happy as he said it was far slower than his old machine.

I said I couldn't see why but he was the respected professor of computer science.

A couple of days later he admitted there was an infinite loop in his Prolog code and once this was sorted it really was very fast.

Word boffins back Rimini Street in Oracle row: 'Full' in 'full costs' is a 'delexicalised adjective'

Paul Johnston

The bit that interests me is using "corpus linguistics"

Corpus Linguists tend to work in statistics rather than absolute rules and judgements.

So although they would say x is a delexicalised adjective it would often be governed by something like "97% of the times in 2000 occurrences based on a corpus of size 5000000 tokens taken from the specific domain of texts of legal representations in the USA"

Corpus linguistics is based on actual usage rather than abstract rules.

Domain of the corpus is core to this idea, the classic case is the difference in the use of adjectives to describe legal and non-legal drugs.

GCSE computer science should be exam only, says Ofqual

Paul Johnston

GCSE Computer Science

Perhaps you might want to look at what is actually in GCSE OCR Computer Science

I've got in front of me "The Revision Guide" and "Exam Practice Workbook" for my daughter who is taking it this year and it's not just about coding.

Sections on Components, Networks, Issues, Algorithms, Programming, Design Testing and IDEs and finally Data Representation.

One questions asks about 4 conditions from the Creative Commons license. FFS!

If you think the problem is schools IT kit think about Edsger Dijkstra and his "Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes" (okay I know it may not have been his quote) but you get the idea.

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

Paul Johnston

Have another drink on me!

Finally someone pointing out the Emperors Clothes are not all they are made out to be.

Being at a University we see a lot of the Futurist stuff and not many people are willing to say "hang on!"

Imperial bringing in budget holograms to teach students

Paul Johnston

Re: Virtual lecturer and audience

Manchester is very proud of its podcasts of lectures, very popular especially the 0915 ones I guess,

This two-year-old X.org give-me-root hole is so trivial to exploit, you can fit it in a single tweet

Paul Johnston

Yes to Centos

I tried on my Centos Box and it was indeed overwritten

Replaced with my backup of /etc/shadow.

Let the fun commence :-)

Break out the jelly and ice cream! Microsoft's Small Basic turns 10

Paul Johnston

Funny this came up

Over the last couple of weeks I've been visiting schools in Tameside (by son is going to senior school next year). He is keen on computers so visited the ICT departments and most talked about Scratch and python.

All except one which said they use Small Basic. Didn't think much of it until I saw this so it is being used somewhere. Not saying it's good of bad but looking at the GCSE Computer Science syllabus the actual language they learn to program in is fairly irrelevant.

Example question Identify three benefits of using layers when working with network protocols :-)

Linguists, update your resumes because Baidu thinks it has cracked fast AI translation

Paul Johnston

Re: Missing a Bit

On page 6 of the paper I put a link to it talks about this.

If you have a series of matched translations and the Russian ones generally have fewer words than the English ones which contains "is" the model "realises" in the Russian copular is implied and so deasl with it.

The same goes for definite and indefinite articles.

Clever eh!

Paul Johnston

Insert AI for added interest

I fail to see this is any advance in Kevin Knight's paper from 1999


With enough training data you get a better idea of what word follows another or group of others.

The fun comes with languages with relatively free word order i.e. where subject and objects carry case markers rather than by their position e.g. ones with lots of morphology.

Equifax IT staff had to rerun hackers' database queries to work out what was nicked – audit

Paul Johnston

The bit I found interesting

Reading the report one of the problems was the mailing lists of Sys Admins was out of date so when they e-mailed people to warn them of the vulnerability not everyone got it. I thought if you looked after something part of the job was to keep any eye out for announcements for said systems and if necessary pass that information upwards. I understand you cannot go patching stuff as and when you feel like it but at least try and keep them safe! Oh what do I know?

Google goes bilingual, Facebook fleshes out translation and TensorFlow is dope

Paul Johnston

Re: Urdu?

Short answer the way they are written, Hindi in an "Indian" script, Urdu in a "Perso-Arabic" script.

Long contentious argument Hindi is spoken by Indians, Urdu by Pakistanis so they must be totally different. Think Kurdish v Turkish where both sides have nuclear weapons hence icon.

Interestingly all the languages mentioned are classed as Indo-European so theoretically from similar roots.

VMware 'pressured' hotel to shut down tech event close to VMworld, IGEL sues resort giant

Paul Johnston

Re: Useful info

Makes you wonder if people will ever learn

Takes you ages to build a good reputation but it can be destroyed in an instant.

Isn't hubris great!

Brit Railcard buyers face lengthy, unexplained delays. Sound familiar?

Paul Johnston

Plus Bus

Here in the North West it is called a County Card.

Train Bus and limited trams all included.

The only problem is it isn't in anyway "smart" and so whenever there is an automated barrier I have to find someone to let me through as there is no bar/QR code on it!

Anyone who goes into Manchester Piccadilly will testify this can be fun.

Ubuntu reports 67% of users opt in to on-by-default PC specs slurp

Paul Johnston


As to encrypting the disk or more specifically the home directories we only do this on laptops, being mandated by our security policy. Since a lot of the installs I do are dual boot it makes access between the windows and linux partitions a lot harder but policy is policy.

Um, excuse me. Do you have clearance to patch that MRI scanner?

Paul Johnston

Re: Computerised medical devices need TWO computers

Couldn't agree more with your solution.

Just had to scan a SCSI disk from a Scanning Electron Microscope whose controlling PC was running Windows 2000. Even better when the machine has PS2 connectors for keyboard and mouse.

As soon as the PC goes so does the microscope!

Once again we get the "oh that sounds too complicated" comment when we ask to do it and the using DVD burners has it's whole range of issues. :-)

Crappy IoT on the high seas: Holes punched in hull of maritime security

Paul Johnston

Re: Not just open sea navigation...

Or sinking the bumboats!

Paul Johnston

Re: Not just open sea navigation...

It's quite hard to do damage in a situation like this by just changing the vessels direction. The only way I could see to close the canal for more than a very short period of time would be to scuttle it in a way it was hard to refloat and that's quite hard. You would have to rip out a large section and as the Suez canal isn't hard lined, well it wasn't the last tome I went through it. You really need to look at taking out the locks on something to create long term damage. So if you see a vessel called HMS Campbeltown that's the time to worry!

HPE donates 3 mini-supercomputers to UK universities boning up on Arm

Paul Johnston

The interesting question is did they ask anyone who said no thanks!

In the increasingly commercial world of IT provision at Universities I can see people saying no thanks.

Rackspace and power costs both running and cooling have to be recouped somehow. The people who can pay for this stuff in Universities tend to be those running Engineering (CFD and structural analysis) and Life Sciences (sequencing data). They are the ones who get big grants which need big iron to do their work. This looks "blues skies" rather than "must have" stuff hence them "giving it away". I understand Edinburgh as it's a computing research centre but as part of a general HPC system for non Comp-Sci groups not sure how useful it would be. YMMV!

My PC is broken, said user typing in white on a white background

Paul Johnston

Water and Electricity (see Icon)

Got a phone call from a user saying the monitor had started developing strange colours at the edges. The cluster had CRTs and they were getting on so I said guess it is failing and if they had a problem just move to another and we would replace it. Then they volunteered that it was making a crackling noise. My response was to just move away to another and I'd pop up to the top floor where it was. Then I get that bit where the user thinks they can diagnose the cause of the problem. Could it be the water dripping from the ceiling onto the monitor causing the problem? I possibly swore, I cannot remember, something like please just get the F* out of there and touch nothing. Safe to say a flat roof in Manchester was never a good idea.

The building is quite famous see http://www.the-modernist.org/shop/renold-badge

IT 'heroes' saved Maersk from NotPetya with ten-day reinstallation blitz

Paul Johnston

Re: 'internet was not designed to support the applications that now rely on it'

Seems a reasonable figure

(10/365) * (20/100) * annual turnover

Not got an exact figure for the turnover but revenue was over $35 billion.

Add overtime and other sundries and its a big bill.

Samba 4.8 to squish scaling bug that Tridge himself coded in 2009

Paul Johnston

Re: Samba is still relevant?

"ActiveDirectory is practically dead as more and more corporate PCs are not even registered in the Active Directory."

YMMV but not here!



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