* Posts by Martin an gof

563 posts • joined 27 Jan 2010

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Elon Musk says Harry Potter and Bob the Builder will get SpaceX flying to Mars

Martin an gof
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Re: I am now sat at work humming

The original stop frame animation was. The newer CGI version is shit

You could say much the same about Thomas the Tank Engine, yes I know the first few series weren't "stop frame"...

M.

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Essex drone snapper dealt with by police for steamy train photos

Martin an gof
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Re: New Steam Engines

The "decades of public fundraising" claim is bit dodgy too

Not really - they are still raising funds to buy the tender which is currently leased from the company that made it. The boiler was made in the former East Germany because they have experience in modern boiler design. It's welded and stainless steel IIRC, which should make it last a lot longer than a traditional boiler, and best of all the Prince of Wales (the p2 in the links above) that they are building is designed to use exactly the same boiler pattern so they will be interchangeable.

My son, a big steam fan, actually put some Christmas money towards buying a few small bits for the Prince of Wales.

A couple of weekends ago we met Tornado and Flying Scotsman at the Barrowhill shed. Impressive (apart from FS's whistle, which is frankly a bit pathetic)

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: Fair cop?

I imagine a lot of that work, at greater speed and area coverage could be done via helicopter.

Have you ever seen National Grid inspecting power lines by helicopter? They come around here occasionally and it's almost like being at an aerobatics display.

M.

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FCC Commissioner blasts new TV standard as a 'household tax'

Martin an gof
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Re: OTA TV

Since the switch to the ATSC standard and digital TV in the US and in Canada, the range of the OTA signal is significantly less and also the picture is either perfect or blocky at times

That's odd, because one of the arguments for choosing 8VSB in the first place over the COFDM that everyone else uses was that it (apparently) works better in the fringe reception areas. One selling point was that you could get the same coverage as with analogue but using 25% of the transmitter power.

One problem is that the single-station nature of the US market means fewer actual transmitters. Most of the rest of the world is replete with smaller repeater or fill-in transmitters, and one of the reasons this works is because the cost is shared.

I have no idea if this will work, but (Google Streetview) this (at the back of the car park) is a tiny repeater station serving no more than a hundred houses at Van Terrace.

In the UK Freeview (terrestrial) and Freesat (satellite) are utterly subscription-free (unless you count needing a TV licence in the first place) and where Freeview doesn't cover, Freesat does for the price of a 40cm or 60cm dish and a receiver. Some TVs have both DVB-T (Freeview) and DVB-S (Freesat) receivers built-in. Subscription services are available if you're that way inclined (sport and movies, mainly).

Apart from the waste-of-space low-bitrate "+1" channels, digital TV is working pretty well here.

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: 3D

4K DOA? Haha I actually intentionally downscale 4K content. I don't want to look at people under a microscope. 4K is great for car chases

Personally, I'd rather spend the bandwidth on true 100Hz progressive scanning than on upping the resolution. High frame rate video takes a little getting used to, but it makes a much bigger difference to fast-action sequences than does a few more pixels.

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: DVB-T2

As for why, no idea

My impression - apart from the "not invented here" aspect - was that DVB (and DAB) requires that broadcasters give up their individual transmitters and operate, or buy space on, a shared data pipe, known as a multiplex. Each multiplex delivers a fixed amount of data to the receiver, and that data is split up between a number of channels, some of which might be television, some audio-only (radio), some data-only and so-on. It means that small broadcasters are able to enter markets they were previously barred from because all they have to do is buy a sufficient amount of data from the owner of the multiplex.

In contrast, ATSC is designed to be used by a single broadcaster, perhaps with a few subsidiary stations.

But the US terrestrial broadcast market has always been very different to the European market, particularly with regard to the lack of single country-wide broadcasters, and the sheer amount of thinly-populated space. US cable is different again.

If you like, if DVB (and DAB) is a socialist solution, ATSC is the capitalist answer.

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: generations

I'm tempted to call BS on this. I'm in my 70s.

To be fair, you're obviously slightly unusual as you are reading El Reg.

I don't know many of my various 70+ year-old friends and relatives who wouldn't be fazed by this. I do know one or two who would manage, but they have the eminently sensible attitude that if it doesn't "just work", it's rarely worth doing(*).

Switch TV on, select BBC1, watch Countryfile. Works every time (unless the Magpie's playing see-saw on the aerial again).

Switch TV on, find the menu option that allows you to run the YouTube app or the iPlayer app or whatever, wait an age while it connects (if it connects at all), tediously type something into the search box, hope that what you want comes up in the first page, select it to play, wait another age while the thing starts loading and buffering and then, insult to injury, two thirds of the way through the programme the blasted thing stops working and it's too much hassle to reload it and find where you were in order to catch the end.

My parents have a STB that allows them to scroll "backwards" through TV listings. Sounds fantastic, but they still have the "wait while it connects and buffers" problem and also the problem that not all broadcasters are on the system, and not all programmes are on the system.

Until the thing is as quick and reliable as Ceefax used to be (and Ceefax wasn't particularly quick), it's all sort of "meh" to them.

My mother-in-law, on the other hand, won't even have an internet connection in the house, not even if it meant she could make a video call to her BSL-using daughter, or her distant grandchildren.

:-)

M.

(*)I have to admit here that I do have many older acquaintances, whom I only know through a mailing list, who are quite thoroughly tech-savvy

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Martin an gof
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Re: 3D

Is 3D really still regarded as a selling point?

3D was a "nice to have" when it didn't add more than a few quid to the cost of a TV. Passive systems had their problems but they worked really well and in particular the glasses were cheap (and compatible with RealD cinemas).

We have such a TV at home, and a reasonable selection of films. The main problem we find is that you have to "watch" a 3D programme - it's impossible to have it on and do something else at the same time.

As far as I'm aware there isn't a single manufacturer offering a 3D TV in the UK domestic market at the moment, so I really don't know what we'll do when our TV dies. Perhaps by then it'll be back in fashion.

3D seems to be hanging on in cinemas, the problem there being that they charge too much extra. People might be willing to spend it for a big action movie, but 3D adds relatively little to a RomCom.

At work we show occasional films to the public. We have a licence which allows us to do so, so long as we don't charge. Some of these are 3D and while people don't seem to be put off by a 3D film, unless it's a special event they don't seem to go out of their way to attend our 3D screenings.

We are in the middle of a system upgrade at the moment. Our existing passive 2-projector system is being replaced by a 1-projector system. The polarising filter for this system retails at around £4,000 ex VAT.

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: Is anything ever obsolete?

Someone should have designed the ATSC standard to last a bit longer.

I think the problem here (and it's not specific to ATSC, I could also mention DAB and DVB-T) is that until the mid 1980s, analogue was all we had (or at least all that was practical) and there was very little you could do to improve analogue TV without also consuming oodles more bandwidth. Japan had Hi-Vision while Europe had PALplus and D2 MAC, none of which really took hold.

From the 1980s onward, the mandatory SCART socket on televisions began to make people realise that their ordinary TVs were capable of extremely good pictures - some home computers could send RGB to a SCART socket, as could some video games consoles, and of course, eventually, DVD players. I have a theory that one reason DVD took so long to get going was that left-pondians didn't have the advantage of an RGB connection via SCART. With US TVs mostly only having composite or s-video connections, the picture quality improvement of DVD over VHS and particularly Laserdisc wasn't as apparent as it was to us Europeans. I know some US TVs had "component" inputs, which would have done the trick, but few DVD players had component outputs I think.

Where was I?

Oh yes, the difference now is that since digital processing of video has become relatively trivial, it's also trivial to keep making it better. A few years after one standard is set (say, MPEG1 layer 2 for audio as used by DAB) another one comes along which offers either higher quality for the same bitrate or the same quality in fewer bits, or a lower decoding burden meaning it runs better on low-power devices, or all three at once. The same is true of transmission standards, as exemplified by the differences between DVB-T and DVB-T2.

Somebody pointed out the well-managed transition from analogue terrestrial broadcasting in the UK to digital, but they failed to point out that there is a digital-to-digital transition under way as we speak. In some ways this is similar to the ATSC to ATSC-3 transition, but the difference is that DVB-T forces broadcasters to work together (effectively, many producers share one transmitter and thus one method of transmission) while ATSC was set up specifically to allow individual broadcasters to maintain sole control of their own transmissions.

In the last very few years, streaming has become a practical delivery method too, and this also alters the landscape. If traditional broadcasters are not to wither, they need to adapt, and adopting new transmission methods, particularly if they enable easier integration with net-connected services, could be useful.

Alongside the improvements in technology of course has come a vast reduction in the cost of receiving equipment. Even back in the early 1980s, a normal (for the UK) size colour TV probably cost in the region of a week's wages for most middle-class people. These days, when you can buy a connected, full HD TV for under £200 - even a newly qualified teacher can earn that in a couple of days - the TV has turned from a "consumer durable" expected to last perhaps 10 years alongside the 'fridge and the oven into a commodity item and manufacturers are able to produce them at such low prices partly because they expect repeat business every 3 to 5 years.

That's my 2p anyway, sorry if I'm late into this argument!

Oh, you also said

entertainment TV got by quite well at 480p resolution for quite a while

Firstly, it was 480i - there is a big difference between interlaced and progressive scanning and secondly, those of us in 50Hz countries actually had a few more lines of resolution (for home-grown programming anyway) at 576i.

M.

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Western Dig's MAMR is so phat, it'll store 100TB on a hard drive by 2032

Martin an gof
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Headmaster

Re: Why not SSD Drives?

10 times lower

What is this fashion with the above? What's wrong with "rust is one tenth the cost" or "flash is ten times the cost"?

Grump.

(not blaming you, blahblah, particularly - it seems to be a very common thing these days)

M.

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I love disruptive computer jargon. It's so very William Burroughs

Martin an gof
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Re: Not metric

> I can spot American writing 1.6km away

They use miles in the US of A.

WHOOSH!

Instructions:

  • click on the above link
  • type "1" in the "Miles" box
  • click on "calculate"
  • learn something

M.

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Martin an gof
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I'm sure that Welsh, Cornish and Breton have similar-but-different mutation rules (so Cymru becomes Gymru etc etc) but I know even less about that branch of Celtic languages.

Welsh certainly does

The oft-quoted thing about mutations is that they are beneficial to the spoken language; they help the flow, and may well be one of the reasons non (Celtic) speakers consider these languages, particularly it seems Welsh, as more poetic or tuneful.

As a Welsh-speaker, the one thing I would say is that when spoken, people rarely bother too much about whether you have got the mutation exactly correct (other than a few cases where it grates). It's written Welsh where they get all het-up about it.

Welsh, particularly spoken Welsh, is almost obsessive about removing letters, phonemes or even whole syllables. If you were to write Welsh as she is spoken the apostrophe on your keyboard would wear out very quickly. Na, 's dim ishe mwy, 'dw i 'di ca'l llon' bol'

As regards vowels, the thing that English monoglots fail to recognise is that while we call "AEIOU" vowels, even English actually uses other letters in a very vowel-like way. Take "Y" as an example. The simple English words "by" or "cyst" or "dry" or "fly" or many, many others contain no vowels, except that "y" is used as a vowel. Welsh, of course, acknowledges that fact and adds "W" and "Y" to the list of vowels.

Some English friends of mine were startled on moving to live in Wales by an apparent lack of vowels in placenames - take Ynysybwl ("Uh-nis-uh-bull"), just north of Pontypridd as an example, and note the number of nearby places with a limited number of English vowels in their names.

M.

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Mattel's Internet-of-kiddies'-Things Aristotle canned before release

Martin an gof
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Re: Teddy Bears

There is one story where the AI does pretty well at raising a child, up to a point.

Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age".

M.

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Support team discovers 'official' vendor paper doesn't rob you blind

Martin an gof
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Re: I first heard this story back in the early 1990s.

As Martin said: avoid whenever possible.

Just to add context, a few years before my story I was working at Magna Science Adventure Centre in Rotherham. Pretty much all of the sewage has to be pumped off that site and the place was replete with Saniflos (which were always going wrong - they are not designed for use in public loos) and also had a large "industrial" macerator / pump set in the basement underneath the main public loos.

The day the place opened (fortunately I started there a couple of weeks later) this unit failed, and with thousands upon thousands of visitors thronging the place suddenly there was "stuff" coming out of the loos that should have been disappearing down the pipe.

One of my colleagues was tasked - by the company which installed the whole system - with climbing a ladder to access an elbow in the 4" that they suspected was blocked.

A couple of turns of a screwdriver later, and suddenly every radio in the building erupted with (I am told) a scream like something out of a cheap 1970s horror flick, as the whole vertical stack emptied its contents over my colleague.

Could have been predicted, I suppose, but for that and other reasons I (and my traumatised colleague - hello Matt if you're out there) have a severe mistrust of the things.

Oh, and Saniflo itself is a French company I believe. French plus electrics plus water. Enough said.

M.

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Martin an gof
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Fixed with tape

What have you fixed with sticky tape?

Not IT related, but when I worked at a radio station, one year management decided that we all deserved a night off, and so they would organise the Christmas bash by hiring in everything - in the past we'd supplied our own PA gear and often on-air talent would do DJ duties.

Everyone gathered at the local golf club, only to find that the hired-in DJ had non-working kit, so muggins 'ere, the "station engineer", was asked to investigate (so much for an evening off). The only tool at my disposal was a Victorinox (I've carried a basic one since I was about 15).

Long story short, the problem turned out to be a dodgy audio lead between the mixer and the amplifier but of course while our portable kit came complete with a selection of spare cables, the cheap DJ had nothing. And we were miles away from base so it was a bit pointless to nip back to the office for a spare cable, or even a soldering iron.

Ended up fixing it with the foil from a packet of fags(*) and some good old-fashioned Sellotape that the barman happened to have. Lasted all evening :-)

M.

(*)Said fags happened to belong to our only vaguely famous on-air talent, a bloke known as Bobby McVay

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Martin an gof
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Re: I first heard this story back in the early 1990s.

The grey plastic pipes had been glued together

In the days when I was a self-employed electrician I once did a job at a house where the tradesman before me had been a plumber, installing an en-suite into the master bedroom. Said bedroom was at the front of the house while the plumbing was at the back, so he installed a Saniflo macerator / pump. (note to readers, if there's any way at all that you can avoid a Saniflo, please, please, please do so, the things are nothing but trouble. Horrid, messy, smelly trouble).

Anyway, the twit had presumably not read the instructions and instead of using solvent-weld pipe, he used push-fit. A couple of flushes later and the elbow where the horizontal pipe turned vertical, fortunately outside the house, popped right off and the contents of the Saniflo were sprayed all over the rear yard.

M.

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Martin an gof
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Or a 20p micro-switch testing for physical presence

But a microswitch per slot isn't just n times 20p, it's also all the associated wiring and the connected logic to read each slot individually.

M.

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UK lotto players quids in: Website knocked offline by DDoS attack

Martin an gof
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Re: Oh well

Or then there's the case of my wife who was given a handful of Premium Bonds as a birthday present 50 years ago, and has never, ever had a single payout.

At least the capital is safe, all (I dunno) ten Shillings of it :-)

M.

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Vibrating walls shafted servers at a time the SUN couldn't shine

Martin an gof
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the days before the the universal 100-240V power supplies when US vendors fitted a "Eu PS" which should have been called "Eu PoS" in their gear to sell over here

I worked in radio in the 1990s, and we used cartridge machines for playing jingles, adverts etc.

Apparently, just before I started, they had auditioned some machines from a US supplier who, instead of fitting them with 240V motors and 240V transformers to power the electronics simply wired the 110V motors in series with the 110V transformer and hoped for the best.

It sort of worked, until the current spike caused when the pinch roller hit the capstan and started pulling tape past the heads, at which point all sorts of nastiness ensued.

During my time there we used much better machines by Sonifex (YT clip), which had proper transformers (with mu-metal shields, to be vaguely relevant for a moment), proper power conditioning circuitry and low voltage motors.

I have a stack in the garage - anyone want one? Big stack of carts in the attic too?

M.

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Is this cough cancer, doc? No: it's a case of Playmobil on the lung

Martin an gof
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I'm the same age as this patient, and I know I inhaled a small piece of Lego around the same year.

Maybe it was something about the year because in 1977 (I think) I accidentally swallowed a 5p (shilling) piece that I was supposed to be handing over as subs for Boys' Brigade.

For some reason I was x-rayed at one hospital, but driven across town to a different hospital to have the thing removed. The x-ray showed it was not very far down, and the surgeon confidently told my parents it would be a matter of no more than an hour to get it out.

Four hours later, my parents getting extremely agitated, it turned out that the journey had shaken the coin down. From what I gather, once they couldn't find it in the place shown on the picture, they basically had to feel for it gently, using longer and longer endoscopic type tools. It was reasonably well wedged; if it hadn't been they would probably have left it to make its exit naturally...

M.

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Bill Gates says he'd do CTRL-ALT-DEL with one key if given the chance to go back through time

Martin an gof
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Re: BREAK

Strictly speaking, BBC Master machines also had a SHIFT+BREAK combination that performed a hard reset.

Nope, all BBC micros used BREAK on its own as a soft break, leaving data in memory, and in the case of a BASIC programme you could then type (IIRC) "OLD" and get your programme back. BREAK was intended in these circumstances to be used when your programme mucked its error handling up and ESCAPE got stuck in a loop (other methods of locking up are available, and I've probably done all of them).

CTRL-BREAK was always the "hard" break, which essentially rebooted the machine ("duuuur, bip") and cleared memory. SHIFT-BREAK, by default, caused the machine to try to load a boot programme from whatever was the current filing system. This was most useful with floppy discs and was the standard way of starting software.

There was a set of jumpers near the cartridge slot in the model A & B, one of which allowed you to reverse the action of SHIFT-BREAK so that the machine would by default always try to load from the filing system.

The Master series (not sure about the B64 and B128) had some SRAM or NVRAM or EEPROM or something (I seem to remember batteries?) that did away with the need for the jumpers (*configure...) and also had a little plastic cam that could be turned with a small screwdriver and jammed the BREAK button up, so it couldn't "accidentally" be tapped.

Brings back memories...

M.

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Behold iOS 11, an entirely new computer platform from Apple

Martin an gof
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Re: Optional

Sounds like the school is broken and needs to be fixed or replaced.

Best of luck.

School attended by my offspring has signed them all up for Google Drive (etc.) without even asking. Now they are expected to use it to complete assignments from home.

What a shame their main computer is a Pi which doesn't quite manage to make Drive work...

Then there's selling (presumably) my mobile phone number (again without asking - my number is on record purely for use as an emergency contact) to a commercial company which wants me to sign up to some kind of proprietary twitter-like thing so that the school can "keep in touch", something it could do just as effectively by other methods but has a pretty poor track record of doing so.

I could go on...

M.

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BoJo, don't misuse stats then blurt disclaimers when you get rumbled

Martin an gof
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Re: Words not stats

Control is the key

Maybe, but some of us - frankly - trust Westminster to do sensible things with the money even less than we trust Brussels. The amount of "objective one" (or whatever it's called this month) funding that has flowed into parts of the UK that will simply disappear (note there have been no clear promises from Westminster about carrying on this funding) post Brexit is embarrassing.

What I haven't seen yet is a proper calculation of the real net profit / loss of stepping outside the club, even one that makes assumptions about things like tariffs that haven't yet been decided (though I think More or Less did something around the time of the referendum?). Whatever the actual figure, one thing for sure is that it will be substantially less than £350M/wk. My guess is that it'll be below £100M, but I'm basing that on nothing more than a gut feeling.

M.

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Bespoke vending machine biz Bodega AI trips cultural landmine

Martin an gof
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Re: No need to worry

In rural France they're becoming common for selling farm produce.

In rural (or not-so-rural) UK they usually have an "honesty box".

M.

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Apple's 'shoddy' Beats headphones get slammed in lawsuit

Martin an gof
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Re: LMFAO

Regarding Sennheiser, they have some really quite good (wired) headphones under £50, and given the beating I tend to give my headphones, that makes a lot of sense. I'm a Sennheiser fan in general, but they do seem a bit two-headed at times, the kit is mostly very good but some of the prices are possibly a bit much; I'm thinking here of the radio microphones we use at work.

M.

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'Don't Google Google, Googling Google is wrong', says Google

Martin an gof
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WTF?

Re: Don't Google Google, Googling Google is wrong

Anybody else got Flanders and Swann's The Reluctant Cannibal running through their head?

Errr... yes, see my post a couple of hours before yours.

How come you get more upvotes?

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: That'll confuse users

Don't Google Google

I thought the rest of the quote actually referenced Flanders & Swann: The Reluctant Cannibal

M.

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Martin an gof
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Gerund

Of course, the ultimate authority on the Gerund is Molesworth

M.

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Google to kill its Drive file locker in two confusing ways

Martin an gof
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Re: What about Chrome OS?

I'm still a bit confused from this, over whether Google Drive (as in "your drive in the 'cloud'") is staying available

The same applies to all those schools who have invested in truckloads of Chromebooks. Can't see Google dumping them. Not immediately anyway.

M.

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Apple bag-search class action sueball moves to Cali supreme court

Martin an gof
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Wasn't there something similar in the UK with Sports Direct?

There have been several Sports Direct stories, even quite recently.

I imagine that this story on the BBC may contain a reference.

Then there's this one from just a few days ago on a different, but similarly "Victorian" attitude.

M.

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Smart streetlight bods Telensa nearly double full-year revenues

Martin an gof
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Re: Why?

didnt they do a similar thing with cats eyes

Yes, and a right nightmare they were too. Flickery-flickering in my peripheral vision as I drive up an otherwise dark road. There was (is?) a set on the A446 near The Belfry (Lichfield road) that I used to suffer regularly.

I don't get on well with LED car lights either, though some are better than others with a higher refresh rate.

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: Why?

goodbye to mains leccy costs.

but hello to cleaning costs and replacement costs, if the lifespan of those solar-powered speed signs is anything to go by...

M.

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UK ministers' Broadband '2.0' report confuses superfast with 10Mbps

Martin an gof
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Re: Available but not realistic

There's a gulf between "available" and "worth paying for".

Which is exactly the point made in the last-but-one paragraph of the article, and something that I and others have mentioned here several times over the years.

Regarding 4G, I'd be wary of anything based on a shared medium. Do you really want to rely on a decent 4G connection, when the school bus is late and there are a dozen teenagers waiting at the bus stop outside your premises?

I've just found an interesting bit of kit by TP-Link that might help some people in these circumstances, if they have a friendly "someone" within a few km that can actually get decent speeds and (crucially) line-of-sight. TP-Link's CPE range of outdoor WiFi kit claims reach of up to 15km under ideal conditions, while the WBS range can apparently manage 50km with a suitable antenna. The units are not expensive (the CPE510 I've just bought for a specific project is around £50ea) - install your net connection at your friend's place and bung a device on the roof. Plonk the other one on your own roof, job done. Set your router up with a 4G modem or just old-fashioned ADSL as backup.

M.

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Ten new tech terms I learnt this summer: Do you know them all?

Martin an gof
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Re: Fibre

Calling something something that it isn't is just going to confuse people in the long runCalling something something that it isn't is just going to confuse people in the long run

"LED television" anyone? What they really mean is an LCD television with an LED backlight instead of one based on a fluorescent tube, not a display made up of millions of tiny LEDs. For that you need (new term) "OLED" (grrr)...

M.

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UK mobile number porting creaks: Arcane system shows its age

Martin an gof
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Re: SMS Black Hole

never assume a text message has been delivered until they receive a reply

Does "*0# " before your message still work these days? (remember to put a space between the # and your message) It used to send a message back to you to confirm that your message had been delivered to the recipient's phone, though of course not that they had read it.

I used it a few times in the early days of SMS when it was an important message. It was free then, IIRC, but I stopped using it when some networks started charging for the reply. I've no idea of the current situation.

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: Makes me wonder..

BTW, does this job still exist?

We still have a milkman (we're near Caerphilly). Admittedly his 'round' is geographically much larger than in the 1970s, and his number of clients is smaller and he drives a Toyota pickup rather than a battery-powered three-wheeler, but he still exists.

Wouldn't be without him.

Gets his milk from this place, would you believe it.

M.

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Linus Torvalds may have damned systemd with faint praise

Martin an gof
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Re: It's a phase young programmers go through

VNC is pretty hateful as an RDP protocol. RDP (if one can get over the microsoft connection) is much, much better

I already use 'rdesktop' at work from my Linux workstation to Windows machines so I know the "client" part is possible. Might be worth investigating RDP servers I suppose. Thanks!

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: It's a phase young programmers go through

http://ltsp.org

Interesting... but the website doesn't appear to have been updated since 2013 and the server version available for OpenSuse (5.5.7) seems to have had very little activity in the last couple of years. Does this mean the thing is stable, reliable and secure... or just deceased?

The documentation concentrates on x86 machines as clients too, not much good for my Pis, but then the Pi wasn't designed to PXE...

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: It's a phase young programmers go through

Now if we had a decent "remote desktop" protocoll that supports audio as well as video, we'd have completely new capabilities.

I'd go for that at home - I already have the children on Raspberry Pis with a NAS-stored documents folder which means they can sit down at (almost) any screen and work, but the idea of having a proper multi-user system does appeal, and might help avoid queues at the x86 machine because the latest bit of homework has half a dozen high-resolution photographs thus causing LibreOffice Draw on the Pi to struggle.

I had sort of assumed it should be possible, but just hadn't got around to finding out what was involved other than playing with VNC. Not the first time I'd have been wrong :-)

M.

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Martin an gof
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To be precise, Red Hat has made systemd a hard dependency of Gnome (another fine RH project).

Hmmm... that explains some. Another question then (why did I get a downvote simply for asking a question?) - my OpenSuse desktops run KDE but I have installed one or two applications that rely on GTK. Would those applications not work on a non-systemd installation?

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: Women Linux Lord ?

I'm not sure any single person can be "a women".

I'd say that if anyone could, it would be a Time Lord. He's definitely been "a men", if you fancy twisting the English that way :-)

M.

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Martin an gof
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systemd was a good idea.

Well, part of it.

I'm by no means qualified to comment on OS-level stuff like systemd, more of a slightly technically competent user, but the thing that has always bugged me about the systemd detractors is that if Poettering got it so obviously wrong, how come all the combined experience and wisdom of the contributors and developers of just about every major distribution out there went along with him?

I understand that once the "root" distribution (Debian, SuSE) has made the change, it's probably easier for derivatives to follow suit, but with all the hundreds or possibly thousands of highly intelligent people working on these things, why didn't one or two of them say "stuff it, it's not the right answer and until something better comes along we're sticking with the tried-and-tested way of doing things"?

Genuinely interested. From what I've read, I am not comfortable with the way systemd is going but it'd be a bit of an upheaval for me now to swap all my machines to the single distribution that's swimming against the tide; I mainly use OpenSuse on the desktop but also have a large number of RaspberryPis running Raspbian.

M.

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Radiohead hides ZX Spectrum proggie in OK Computer re-release

Martin an gof
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Re: C90 cassette, as that medium was the dominant way of storing Speccy programs and data

If I remember correctly, inflation between 1980>now is about 3.5.

Bank of England Inflation Calculator (also available as an XLS)

£1 in 1980 would be worth about £3.94 in 2016

HTH

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: C90 cassette, as that medium was the dominant way? No!

The 8 track would have been useless for home computers.

Too right. I worked in radio when "carts" were the predominant playback media for things like jingles, stings, intros and adverts. Carts were physically the same format as 8-track, but had a three tracks; one pair for stereo and a control track to cause the player to cue (i.e. fast-forward back to the beginning*), stop, or trigger another player.

The trouble we had keeping those things running to speed and without too much wow or flutter made my tribulations with Compact Cassettes for my Spectrum and later my BBC Micro look trivial, and we used Sonifex units which were probably the best in the business (anyone want a Sonifex cart machine? I have a couple in the garage).

The Spectrum's notoriously fickle circuitry would never have coped. The BBC Micro would likely have done better, especially if you just left the cart to run in a loop. The Spectrum (and most other home computers of the era) needed to load the whole program in one go, and an error near the end of 20k of code would mean starting from scratch. The BBC Micro loaded programs in (IIRC) 256 byte blocks. An error in one block would simply pause the loading so that you could re-wind and try just that block again. This saved an awful lot of time. You could have just left a cart running unattended, and the Micro would have picked up a bad block the next time it came around. Actually, didn't Sir Clive appropriate that idea with the "Microdrive"? :-)

M.

*For those who don't know, an 8-track cartridge was a tape loop. There was no "rewind", you had to fast-forward back to the beginning. The 7½ips cartridges we used at the radio station came in lengths up to about 10 minutes, IIRC, but since fast-forward was done by the same capstan and pinch roller that was used when playing the tape, and since the tape loop relied on decent lubrication for smooth running, you couldn't fast-forward all that fast in reality. In other words, you used the shortest cart suitable for the job, and for things like 5-second or 10-second jingles you might actually use a 30-second cart and record two or three copies.

Where's my 'nostalgia' icon?

15
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Biometric data stolen from corporate lunch rooms system

Martin an gof
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Thinking back I suppose there was a risk of children's fingerprints being stolen before they were old enough to even understand data security!

It's a system being pushed by the school my own children attend. Their justification is that children can't be bullied to hand over their dinner money and can't lose their "charge cards". Apparently the children don't really like the system because it "goes wrong" so often - they are convinced it actually makes the dinner queue slower.

Right from the start we weren't entirely happy with the company offering the machines, so our children (and a small handful of others) have never had their fingerprints registered. Looks like my default position of paranoia might have something going for it :-)

M.

2
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Alabama man gets electrocuted after sleeping with iPhone

Martin an gof
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Re: so much wrong here...

Zombie topic? Going to reply anyway.

2 x 2.5mm cables in a ring main significantly exceeds the tolerance for overloads of a 2.5mm or 4mm radial circuit.

Yes. No.

2x 2.5mm does "greatly exceed" 1x 2.5mm, but the former is protected at 32A while the latter is protected at 16A or 20A.

2.5mm cable is only "good for up to 27A" if installed effectively in free air, or with one side open to the air and the other clipped to a heat-conducting surface. Practical cables run in, on or through insulating material for at least some parts of their route and so must usually be rated at their lowest capacity. 2.5mm cable is good for 21A under (nearly) all circumstances, and this is why radials in 2.5mm are protected at no more than 20A.

Note that even a 20A breaker will not trip for small amounts of overload and could actually take several minutes to trip for moderate overloads.

You have two fault modes - moderate overloads (i.e. just too many things plugged in) and short circuits - but the critical information is the amount of power "let through" before the fault is cleared. Too much "let through" can damage a cable by overheating, and such damage may not be immediately obvious, and almost definitely not visible. Typically the conductors will begin to migrate through the PVC insulation.

I suggest you get hold of a copy of the regulations and look the appropriate figures up in the tables but very, very simply, 2.5mm cable is usually fine behind a 20A MCB for both moderate overloads and short circuits, but it is emphatically not fine behind a 32A MCB unless it is in an intact ring when you are essentially correct, it's similar to having two lots of cable in parallel. That's only really true if the load is evenly distributed - i.e. the fault is at the centre point of the ring - but most rings aren't large enough to cause too many problems.

There are two key points to make. Firstly, a broken conductor in a ring circuit will not be obvious at all, unless someone does a proper inspection on the circuit (every 10 years is recommended for domestic circuits I think). Other than a break in the earth, a radial circuit will stop working beyond the break and so your typical householder will probably investigate. A cheap plug-in tester will detect a broken earth in a radial circuit, but it will not detect any problems in a ring circuit.

Secondly, the earth conductor in most "Twin and Earth" cables is smaller than the live conductors. In a "2.5mm2" cable, the earth is actually 1.5mm2 and protection has to take this into account, because the most critical type of fault is a short circuit to earth through this conductor.

Lots of caveats, of course, and you might like to consider that pretty much all circuits are now required to be protected by an RCD, which has two key safety effects. Firstly, the RCD will still trip if there's a fault to earth, typically through a person, even if the cable's earth is broken, and secondly the RCD is usually much more sensitive and faster-acting than an MCB and even in the case of a fault to "normal" earth, will probably cut off the power well before an MCB would.

I'll say it again, I believe the way electricity is installed domestically in the UK is probably the safest in the world, and I certainly believe that our plugs are the best (unless you happen to stand on one in bare feet) but it is not perfect, it is not infallible, and there are many misconceptions that need correcting :-)

M.

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What? What? Which? Former broadband minister Ed Vaizey dismisses report

Martin an gof
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Re: "...able to legally request 10Mbps..." - oh whoopie

"OK, we're happy to oblige! So long as you pay us a ton of money to upgrade your exchange."

I'm not a Vaizey fan, but what he said kind of made a bit of sense. People want faster broadband, but not so much that they're willing to pay through the nose for it. The point he made about Orkney was that they now have a "nice fat pipe" to the islands, but only a third of people have upgraded, and it's not entirely to do with whether or not it's available at the exchange. A huge number of UK exchanges are now FTTC-ready, or alternatives (cable) are available, but people aren't rushing to upgrade. Yes, yes, I know there are parts of the country still running on bits of wet string.

Vaizey did say that you need a minimum of 6Mbps for iPlayer, which isn't actually true as you can get away with significantly less, but to an extent he's right; there are very few in the way of essential internet services at the moment, nor in the near future, that realistically need as much as 8 to 10 Mbps. Where you will come unstuck is a: if your connection is highly contended or b: if you have a lot of people in your house, all wanting to watch cat videos at the same time.

Our hamlet now has FTTC available. It's quite a long way to the exchange and my ADSL2 synchronises at somewhere over 6Mbps down with throughput slightly lower than that, but I find it perfectly acceptable for most purposes. Line checkers estimate I should get around 35Mbps with FTTC, but at 50% more per month than I pay at the moment. I'm not sure it's worth it, just yet.

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: "...fibre to the premise..."

I heard the interview this morning, and he definitely said "premise".

M.

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Ex-NASA bod on Gwyneth Paltrow site's 'healing' stickers: 'Wow. What a load of BS'

Martin an gof
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Re: reel to reel should be better than CD because the CD has been sampled (at 44kHz)

Reel to reel has a resolution of about 12bits,

Citation needed. Reel-to-reel is certainly not BS.

I'd contend that "bits" isn't really "resolution", it's "dynamic range" and yes, I'll grant that tape in general doesn't have a fantastic dynamic range compared with some things, but 12 bits?

As for resolution, this (for tape) depends to a huge extent on the speed of the tape and the formulation of the tape (bias frequencies etc.). A good cassette might have a usable bandwidth of 12kHz - equivalent to a digital resolution (sample rate) of 24 or 25kHz, but home reel-to-reel ran faster and had wider tracks; 3¾ips was a common speed, and twice that of cassette, but home players usually had 7½ips and maybe 15ips options, and 30ips was common in studios.

Track width has a bearing on analogue noise, as does tape speed, and in theory digital sources should be free if this kind of noise, but they can introduce noises of their own, many of which are not as pleasant to the human ear.

Given a good formulation of tape, a well set-up recorder and player and a decent source, ¼" tape could outperform CD for bandwidth, if not often for dynamic range (not having any figures to hand, I'd suggest that it came close with metal tapes).

But comparisons are difficult because the recording and playback mechanisms are fundamentally different and other factors also come into play; digital media never suffers from "wow" or "flutter", for example, or simply not being at quite the right speed. As for convenience...

M.

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Martin an gof
Silver badge

Re: digital sound input

re: resistor ladders

I was suitably amazed when Gert's VGA Adapter for the Raspberry Pi appeared, using GPIO pins and a ladder network to provide up to 1920x1200 pixels, albeit only at 18 bits...

M.

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