* Posts by David Given

392 posts • joined 4 Aug 2008


SpaceX sends Iridium-8 into space while Musk flaunts his retro rocket

David Given

Re: I've waited years for this and now it is all coming TRUE!!! :-)

I did find this artist's impression of it landed on the moon.


(Hmm, now I feel inspired to have another go at finding the Dan Dare TV series on t'interwebs. It's surprisingly hard.)

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

David Given

Re: Beam me up Scotty!

Yeah, but Scotty could cut in the Hofstadter compensators and make things happen on schedule.

(Hofstadter's Law: It always takes longer than you think, even when you factor in Hofstadter's Law.)

David Given

Re: I can just imagine the timeline

Yes, they're next to Lucy's house.

You were told to clean up our systems, not delete 8,000 crucial files

David Given


There's the old legend from the university Unix days of the geologist asking the admins what happened to their thesis, which they'd saved in their home directory and was now missing. What had they called it? Well, they were studying the Earth's core, so it was just 'core'... and the automated core dump deletion cron job had nuked it.

My 2019 resolution? Not to buy any of THIS rubbish

David Given

Re: Any IoT device

How long does the battery last? When that goes flat does it fail on or off? What's the behaviour like when the battery is *nearly* flat (will they detect low voltage and refuse to operate, or will they just go nuts as the RAM starts dropping out)? How often do you get firmware updates? Are there any known exploits in the Bluetooth stack? Are settings retained when the power goes out? What's the clock drift like? What's the predicted lifetime of the electronics given the whole thing will be cycling in temperature between 5° and 70°? What's the water-resistance like (I've never seen a radiator valve which wasn't damp)? What's the resistance to battery leaks like (given the intended very long lifetime)?

And, do they do anything genuinely useful compared to an old fashioned mechanical thermostat?

David Given
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Re: Late to the party. As usual...

Can I also plug Steve Jackson's Sorcery! series of games, which have absolutely kick-arse mobile phone ports? Complete with the ability to rewind time if you think you made the wrong choice, so effectively emulating sticking multiple fingers into the book as impromptu bookmarks!


There's an iThing port as well, somewhere. I believe it's also on Steam.

China's loose Chang'e: Probe lands on far side of the Moon in science first, says state media

David Given

Re: Lunar "nature" pics.

So, what you're saying is, they're mooning us?

China on its way to becoming the first nation to land on the far side of the Moon

David Given

Re: eliptical orbit satellite...

If you habitually used a piece from a second hand pool table to push the button which added the album to the playlist, you'd have a cue queue cue.

OnePlus 6T: Tasteful, powerful – and much cheaper than a flagship

David Given

Re: Dumb dumb dumb

You've obviously never had to transfer large numbers of files on and off a phone! Removable storage is mainly useful because it's *removable* --- meaning, I can take the card out and stick it in a fast PC reader.

Yes, modern phones have adequate amounts of internal storage (although you can still quickly run out if you want to, e.g., load up with completely legitimate films for a long flight), but having removable storage adds so much more flexibility.

My hoard of obsolete hardware might be useful… one day

David Given

I just *bought* a ZIP drive --- three, actually, in order to be reasonably confident that I got a working one.

The parallel port interface plus the DOS driver at http://leute.server.de/peichl/palmzipe.htm (which I actually paid money for) allows me to use a ZIP drive as a pretty slow but completely functional hard drive for a *genuinely* interesting piece of hardware I have, a 13kg IBM PC Convertible laptop from 1986. It works pretty well, although I'd completely forgotten just how annoying old-school hard drive whine is.

David Given

A while back I decided I had too much useless stuff and had a big clear out. I regret it daily. So much irreplaceable, interesting old hardware, gone like leaves in the wind... Never again.

Regarding floppy drives: I am, for my sins, the Debian maintainer for ufiformat, the magic tool which you need to format disks in external floppy drives (no, fdformat doesn't work). And just to prove me real hardcore credentials, I have just built a floppy drive controller to allow me to read exotic disk formats, such as the weird-arse 256-bytes-per-sector GCR encoding used by Brother integrated word processors. Fun stuff.

Brit boffins build 'quantum compass'... say goodbye to those old GPS gizmos, possibly

David Given

Isn't this inertial guidance?

...which has been tried for years, hasn't it? And has always fallen down due to error compounding in the integration process, where cumulative errors grow very quickly until after about forty-five seconds your guidance system thinks you're on Mars? (Disclaimer: if you are *actually* on Mars, it'll think you're on Earth.)

It sounds like the original press release used the word 'quantum' a lot. How would this help?

Techie was bigged up by boss… only to cause mass Microsoft Exchange outage

David Given

I know from bitter experience that never, ever, ever use any sound you actually like as a pager alert. You *will* learn to associate it with terror, panic, and being woken up at four in the morning. It doesn't matter how pleasant or innocuous it is; using it on a pager will ruin it for you --- even Rich Evans' laughter will lose its charm.

David Given

Re: RE: Then came the Linux crowd where there were no such applications

*No dooont... stooooppp... my sides are hurting...*

Psst! Don't tell anyone, but there's a Linux port of PowerShell! There's even a Debian repository:


30-up: You know what? Those really weren't the days

David Given

Re: 'Twas in the year of '88

Re Apple Macs and command lines: yes, that was precisely my experience. The first thing I looked for was the menu option to exit the GUI.

I'm particularly proud that after diligent searching, I *did* actually manage to find the CLI, by locating the interrupt key on the side of the machine; this dropped me into MacsBug, which was completely incomprehensible...

David Given

Re: 'Twas in the year of '88

That DTP package would be Ami Pro, by Lotus. I used it a lot as a teenager; it was pretty good. Relatively nippy even on a ghastly old 286. GEM wasn't much more than a single-tasking shell and GUI toolkit, but it was clean and got out of the way and suited Ami Pro fine. (And was a huge step above the trainwreck which was native DOS GUI applications.)

Strangely I can barely find a mention of the GEM version on the interwebs. There are plenty of mentions of the forgettable Windows version which came out later, but nothing about the GEM version. I wonder if I can find a copy? I bet it'd run really well on a modern PC...

A boss pinching pennies may have cost his firm many, many pounds

David Given

Re: Developer PC

10 minutes? Pah! I just wrote a compiler which takes *17* minutes to compile a one-line 'Hello, World!' program, and I have the video to prove it:


Admittedly, it is running on a BBC Micro. (See http://cowlark.com/cowgol/ for the main project page.)

Gits exposed, kinky app devs spanked, Feds spy on spyware buyers, etc

David Given



Imagine Python fan fiction written in C, read with a Lisp: Code lingo Nim gets cash injection

David Given

Interesting but ugly

I played with it a while back, while I was trying to evaluate compiles-to-machine-code languages which weren't Go. Nim's interesting; it's got a number of nice features, like having compile-time functions which have access to the AST, allowing really easy code generation (and hygienic macros).

But I couldn't make myself like it. I find the combination of Python-style significant whitespace _and_ C++ style bugsplatter punctuation nearly unbearable; and there are some mad, mad, mad design decisions --- the identifiers FOO_BAR and fooBar are equivalent...

Grad sends warning to manager: Be nice to our kit and it'll be nice to you

David Given

Re: Elphin safety

You weren't tempted to suggest that he reversed the polarity of the neutron flow?

David Given

Re: Need an IT equivalent of mechanical sympathy....

This has been well known for years --- go look up 'quantum bododynamics' in the Hacker's Dictionary...

Brief summary: bogons are particles which cause technology to fail. Some people emit bogons, thus causing technological failure when they're nearby. Others absorb them, damping the level of ambient bogon radiation.

This is why the printer always works fine when the sysadmin is nearby; the sysadmin has been working in tech for so long that they've become a highly effective bogon sink.

Gemini goes back to the '90s with Agenda, Data and mulls next steps

David Given

Re: Agenda?

I always wanted one of those, but was never able to find one. Eventually I got a second hand Razer gaming keyboard and wrote some chording keyboard software:


Turns out that writing the software was much, *much* easier than learning how to actually type on the bloody thing.

Relive your misspent, 8-bit youth on the BBC's reopened Micro archive

David Given

Re: Coding inspiration

Ian Bell had an officially unofficial rewrite of the trading engine in C:


...so if you feel like trying to write scripts for ultra-efficient trading routes in order to achieve galactic financial domination, this is for you.

You can also find the full text of the Elite novella, by noted fantasy author Robert Holdstock: http://www.elitehomepage.org/dkwheel.htm

And you can also find the as-yet-unpublished Elite musical: http://www.iancgbell.clara.net/elite/musical/index.htm

Atari accuses El Reg of professional trolling and making stuff up. Welp, here's the interview tape for you to decide...

David Given

Re: Oh how the might have fallen...

The BBC had Elite and Chuckie Egg. Any additional games were obviously superfluous.

OnePlus 6: Perfect porridge? One has to make a smartphone that's juuuust right

David Given
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You want a CAT S60.


It's rather long in the tooth now, but it literally ticks all your checkboxes (except the modular charging port, but it is ruggedised and lives under a cover so it should last), plus it has a two-day battery, it's waterproof, you can run it over in your car, it looks completely bonkers and it has a built-in thermal imaging camera.

I saw someone with one the other day. Holy crap it looks good (mainly due to not being just another glass fondleslab).

CAT make newer phones (some of them quite reasonably priced, I should look into replacing my dying Nexus 5X), but they're boring by comparison.

***Breaking news!***

Turns out the CAT S61 has everything the S60 does, except the cool angular corners, but it also comes with a air quality sensor and a laser. https://www.digitaltrends.com/cell-phone-reviews/cat-s61-review/


That is all.

Smut site offers VPN so you don't bare all online

David Given

I never believed I'd even say this but... got any links? Because that sounds rather interesting, although possibly with image loading turned off. (I'm hoping they're going for a OkCupid statistical breakdown with actual words rather than an, ehem, in-your-face pictorial experience.)

It's World (Terrible) Password (Advice) Day!

David Given

Re: Missing the point

I encountered a system once which would lowercase your password as you typed it in... but only in the form where you set up the password in the first place. It didn't do it when you tried to log in.

That one was _real_ fun to figure out. Death's too good, etc.

BOFH: But I did log in to the portal, Dave

David Given

Re: GAH!

Oracle support vs. Concur.


Twitter API overhaul threatens to seriously shaft apps... again

David Given

Yes --- but do they talk to Twitter?

User asked why CTRL-ALT-DEL restarted PC instead of opening apps

David Given

Re: Feeling Old...

Dune2's been ported to Android, by the way, cutscenes and all. Sadly it's not on Google Play because... the dev seems to be a jerk... but it's still available as a sideload if you dare.



BOFH: Give me a lever long enough and a fool, I mean a fulcrum and ....

David Given

I was in a meeting the other day...

...with someone who had 'asks'.

It was a sad, sad, day.

We sent a vulture to find the relaunched Atari box – and all he got was this lousy baseball cap

David Given

Re: Reliable Atari

Commodore? Atari? Pfft.

Look, people, I was an Acorn fanboy back in the day, and Acorn's marketing division could lose to *anyone*, with both hands not tied behind their back.

The phone OS that muggers wouldn't touch is back from the dead

David Given

I used to program for Symbian. I sincerely hope that it's not just dead, but buried at a crossroads with a stake through the twisted nugget of hate that passed for a heart.

In fact... hand me that shovel, will you? I think I need to go dig it up, just so I can bury it again. Just to be sure.

Magic Leap's staggering VR goggle technology just got even better!

David Given

What was that old 'hologram' beat-em-up arcade game that did pretty much that?

It wasn't true 3D, of course; it used Pepper's Ghost, with the two players standing each side of a glass table looking down, to project the screen inside so that they saw their characters apparently standing on the surface of the table. The virtual screen always faced the player, so it looked weird as you walked around the table. (Both players saw the same screen.) And the screen was 2D, so your characters were flat.

But it was supposed to be incredibly convincing, nevertheless.

**Edit:** maybe Sega's Time Traveller? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fooFhfVUEI4 It's obviously similar technology, but I'm sure it's not the one I've seen.

Remember the Yorkie pizza horror? Here's who won our exclusive Reg merch...

David Given

Post-pub neckfillers!

Man, I miss those. I found myself wanting to look one up the other day and spent ages with the Reg's, um, great search engine...

Was there / will there ever be an edited collection of them, possibly with full colour photos and scratch-n-sniff previews, on paper? Because I might actually buy one.

Epic spacewalk, epic FAIL: Cosmonauts point new antenna in the wrong direction

David Given

Re: Murphy's Law strikes again....



(that's video of the Proton-M launch failure caused by installing the inertial guidance sensors backwards)

Parity: The bug that put $169m of Ethereum on ice? Yeah, it was on the todo list for months

David Given

It won't be long before someone tries to use an Ethereum contract to enforce a business contract... which will be wrong, and will be taken to court, and the judge will say, "You can't do that, give them their money back", and won't accept, "but code!" for an answer.

I have some popcorn ready.

New coding language Fetlang's syntax designed to read like 'poorly written erotica'

David Given
Thumb Up

Re: OK, so if there are any coders

Malebolge is so evil that the first known program was discovered by doing a brute force search of the program space. It took a cryptanalysis attack before somebody found out how to write programs in it on purpose.

Fancy that! Craft which float over everything on a cushion of air

David Given
Thumb Up

Re: Dover

As a very small geek I visited Dover sometime pre 1985, and I have photographic evidence to prove it:


I can't imagine anyone would have trusted me with a camera back then so the blurriness of the photo probably isn't my fault, but it still makes it impossible to make out the name or the registration in the front. It looks like the pictures of one of the SRN4 on WIkipedia.

What particular strikes me looking at the picture today is the way it's driving along the concrete apron with people randomly wandering about taking photos. Basic safety: we've heard of it...

Science fiction great Brian Aldiss, 92, dies at his Oxford home

David Given

Re: The Greats have gone

I believe Banks was once accused (by a snobbish critic) of writing potboiler SF in order to fund his real literature.

He said, hell no. His 'real literature' sold vastly better than the SF. He said that one of the reasons he wrote in two distinct genres was that that let the 'real literature' subsidise the SF, which is what he really enjoyed doing...

Sleuths unearth 'Panic Mode' in Android, set off by mashing back button

David Given

It only catches fire if you remembered to pick up all the junk mail off the doormat in the morning.

India's Martian MOM clocks up 1,000 days circling the red planet

David Given

Re: Nice problem

It did start out with 800kg of fuel, mind, so right now the tank's at about 1.5%. They *are* running on the dregs (probably why they did the burn with the attitude thrusters rather than the main engine).

...it started out with a fully loaded mass of 1337 kg. Yes, this may be humanity's first spacecraft to rate Elite status.

Months late, unaudited: ZX Spectrum reboot firm files accounts

David Given

Don't dis the speccy! Those things were *brilliant*. The wedge shaped design made them perfect door wedges --- those rubber keys gripped the floor like nobody's business...

Google building firebombed

David Given

Do you mean Saldado Drive?

Apparently there isn't a Saldado Avenue in Mountain View. Well, according to Google Maps.

Raspberry Pi 3 to sport Wi-Fi, Bluetooth LE – first photos emerge

David Given

Re: Hardware tested in Hull

Well, actually...

The Pi's boot process is like this:

- VC4 turn on.

- VC4 boot rom finds the SD card and loads the VC4 boot image (bootcode.bin).

- The VC4 boot image loads the VC4 OS kernel (start.elf).

- The VC4 OS does all its initialisation and startup.

- The VC4 OS finds and loads the ARM kernel image (kernel.img).

- The VC4 OS turns on the ARM core.

- Your OS boots.

The ARM isn't involved in *any* of the boot process! By the time it gets power, the kernel image is already in memory! The VideoCore IV is doing all the work.

It'd be totally feasible for the Pi Foundation to extend the VideoCore OS (I think it's ThreadX?) to support network boot. But you'd still need an SD card to load it, and I suspect that it doesn't have USB or ethernet drivers, so it'd be a lot of work, and it's closed source anyway.

'A word processor so simple my PA could use it': Joyce turns 30

David Given

Re: Logo language and Mallard Basic

I should just clarify: Mallard Basic was *nothing whatsoever* like BBC Basic. Mallard Basic was a Microsoft-basic like thing, with extra support for random access files and assorted businessy things. While BBC Basic had named procedures and (some) structured programming primitives, Mallard Basic was all about the GOSUBs.

Here's the manual: http://www.worldofspectrum.org/Plus3CPMManual/index.html

You *can* get BBC Basic for CP/M, and it's damn good too, even supporting the built in assembler (converted to the Z80, naturally): http://www.bbcbasic.co.uk/bbcbasic/z80basic.html

(It's worth mentioning that the PCW's version of CP/M came with a full set of development tools out of the box. Not just Basic and Logo, but an assembler and linker. It probably even came with the CP/M porting kit.)

(I wrote my first adventure game on one of these: Escape From Planet Zorg, it was called. It was in Mallard Basic. I still remember the terrible piranha puzzle.)

Tesla X unfolds its Falcon wings, stumbles belatedly into the light

David Given

Battery capacities...

...are in kWh, not kW.

(It's a popular misconception that I'm a card-carrying member of the Pedant's Society. That couldn't be further from the truth! It's actually made out of plastic.)

Confession: I was a teenage computer virus writer

David Given

Interested parties might like to look at Leprosy's f-secure database entry:


Killer quote:

"The only thing which is remarkable about it is the fact that the virus is written in C."

The Empire Strikes Back: Disney tractor-beams StarWars.co.uk from Brit biz

David Given

Perfect missed opportunity...

...if only the Catholic Church had a St. Arwars.

The Martian: Matt Damon sciences the sh*t out of the red planet

David Given

Re: 20mtr up.

Metres: surprisingly deadly.


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