* Posts by Martin an gof

914 posts • joined 27 Jan 2010

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College PRIMOS prankster wreaks havoc with sysadmin manuals

Martin an gof
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Re: School computer rooms

We had a key to the school's computer room too - it was a cupboard with about a dozen stand-alone BBC Bs. One April 1st we got in early, hid all the computers and posted a note on the door on local authority headed paper saying they'd been confiscated.

Much hilarity ensued, but we did make sure to put the computers all back where they should have been before the first class was due. See, we weren't vindictive.

This was in the days when probably no more than 30% of teaching time on Computer Studies O-level was actually spent sat in front of a computer. Given this clueless report by Qualifications Wales perhaps we should look to return to those days. Even some of the HYS comments are sane - don't think that's ever happened before!

M.

Qualcomm lifts lid on 7nm Arm-based octo-core Snapdragon 855 chip for next year's expensive 5G Androids

Martin an gof
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Re: A76 L1 cache size?

I've often wondered why the L1 cache size on modern CPU's are so small.

To answer the size question, L1 cache is fast because it is effectively part of the processor, but that means it is built on the same die, and space taken up by RAM is space that cannot be used for computing functions, and L1 cache is a completelt different beast to he DDR RAM used for main memory - it takes up more die per bit, especially when you include the lookup tables. It's a trade-off and a case of diminishing returns.

At least, that's the way I have always thought of it. I can't find an image now, but I have a (possibly wrong) memory of seeing a micrograph of the ARM3, and the 4k cache took up as much die space as the whole of the rest of the processor.

M.

Martin an gof
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Re: Does it underclock/burst?

So can these chips do likewise?

Because downvotes without explanation are pointless (no,I am not one of your downvoters) - yes, of course they can. Arm has been doing this kind of stuff for years, and so has Intel.

There is a difference, though - this chip seems to be a refinement of a refinement of the idea. Not only can individual cores have their clocks ramped up and down to meet demand, and be switched into near-zero power hibernation modes at a whim, but workloads can be switched from the 'simpler', power-sipping cores to the 'complex' cores when a task is either speed-critical or the scheduler calculates it would actually use less power overall to finish a task quickly on a very fast, but hungry processor than to take longer on a more frugal one.

Arm call this idea 'big.LITTLE' and I don't think (though I'm willing to be corrected) that Intel has anything quite equivalent - it would be like putting an Atom on the same chip as an i7 and deciding which one to use according to workload.

M.

Take my advice and stop using Rubik's Cubes to prove your intelligence

Martin an gof
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Linux

Bilidowcar

Blue Peter neu Magpie? Pah!

Bilidowcar!

M.

Oh my chord! Sennheiser hits bum note with major HTTPS certificate cock-up

Martin an gof
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Sennheiser does other stuff too

The question is whether they have done this trick with other kit too - Sennheiaer not only makes consumer products, but also professional kit such as near-ubiquitous radio microphones and medical kit such as hearing aids used by large numbers of NHS and private clinjcs. These days everything is set up by computer so if they have used a similar technique on the software, there could be hundreds of vulnerable computers sitting in clinics (ane TV studios) around the country.

How would we find out?

M.

Mobile networks are killing Wi-Fi for speed around the world

Martin an gof
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Re: Just to echo so many more of the comments

four people in your house all streaming different shows, while one of them also downloads a game on Steam, and they're all looking at videos and other shit on WhatsFace while doing it

Of course, if you are going to do all that over 5G mobile, that's a heck of a lot of contracts you'll need unless you run the mobile through a capable router.

Or you could, y'know, realise that four 15Mbit streams is only 60Mbit (crumbs, who has 4x 4k TVs all on at the same time?), that it's variable bitrate anyway and that there are quite a lot of ways - in some parts of the country - to get wired access speeds of 60 - 100Mbps. Lob in a couple of WiFi APs for those devices that can't be wired directly to the router, make sure to set them up sensibly with regard to location / band / channel* and job's a good 'un.

M.

*5GHz WiFi isn't necessarily the answer to everything - as I have discovered to my cost, there are an awful lot of devices out there (APs) which cannot use the whole 5GHz band (potentially 19 channels) for WiFi due to a lack of Dynamic Frequency Selection and Transmission Power Control. This limits them to just four channels at 5GHz, exactly the same as the four non-overlapping channels available at 2.4GHz in this neck of the woods, the difference being that up until now use of 5GHz has been a tiny fraction of 2.4GHz. It won't stay that way.

Bright spark dev irons out light interference

Martin an gof
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Re: Spark plugs on old Vauxhalls

mechanical movement making electromagnetic radiation directly or electric currents in wires.

Not convinced it's a problem in the radio itself (suggested by someone else), as it only happens when the rear wheels go over the bump, not the front ones. Something being induced into the aerial lead sounds possible, and the noise really does sound to me like a "data burst", but the Kangoo (2006 vintage) is a fairly simple car. Yes it has anti-lock brakes, but that's about it, all lighting is bog standard wiring loom, and it doesn't happen when I indicate or brake or turn the lights on. What on earth could be sending the data burst?

M.

Martin an gof
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WTF?

Re: Spark plugs on old Vauxhalls

a choke to reduce radio interference from the HT wiring.

Still a common reqirement. Not quite sure what's going on in the 2006 Kangoo we own though. LW is occasionally useful for Radio 4, but this radio has some very interesting interference if you drive over (say) a speed bump. In time with the rear wheels going over the bump there's a "chirp" from the radio. Every time. Why?

M.

Martin an gof
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Pint

Re: Have you ever put something apparently useless to good use?

split infinitives

I don't point out split infinitives as a rule, but occasionally I go out of my way to avoid their use in my own language. The sentences thus formed may sound convoluted to the modern ear, but also may cause the listener or reader to pay more attention.

M.

Microsoft slips ads into Windows 10 Mail client – then U-turns so hard, it warps fabric of reality

Martin an gof
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Re: Why would anyone tolerate this?

it still does everything I want

I still do 80% (falling, but still) of my email on my RiscPC using Messenger :-)

M.

Open the pod bay doors: Voice of HAL 9000 Douglas Rain dies at 90

Martin an gof
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Re: Fun IT facts about HAL's song

someone noticed that certain code instructions in loops created RF interference at controllable frequencies,

Even the BBC Micro used to do this. It was often possible to tell roughly what the computer was doing just by listening to the noise from the speaker; fast code (e.g. a calculating loop) would make a different noise to slow code (e.g. screen drawing) and suchlike. Often I'd be able to tell a computer was about to finish a lengthy operation because the noise changed slightly :-)

M.

This just in: What? No, I can't believe it. The 2018 MacBook Air still a huge pain to have repaired

Martin an gof
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Re: Where would most of us be......

Dell knocked what was a huge nail in the coffin

What really put me off Dell was that time when they fitted what looked like a standard power connector to their power supplies, which mated just fine with the standard connectors on standard motherboards, but which had all the leads in different places meaning in the event of a PSU failure you couldn't replace a Dell PSU with a standard one and in the event of a motherboard failure (or elective upgrade) you couldn't replace a Dell motherboard with a standard one.

no easy access to those little kits

Even before Maplin had gone, that situation was changing. Maplin's own kits had long disappeared and I always got the impression that Vellemann kits were expensive for what they were. These days you don't have to look very far for a very wide choice of kits.

Only one of my four has shown much interest in this kind of thing, but she's quite keen and enjoys a bit of soldering :-)

M.

Martin an gof
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Even in the heavily standardised desktop ATX world you can run into problems if you don't pay attention to clearances for heat spreaders around CPU heatsinks, and other such tomfoolery

No kidding. At work I have been re-using an old 3U ATX case as my "development" machine for some years. There is a slight issue with the PSU in that it doesn't take standard ATX format PSUs, but that's get-roundable because we have a lot of these things so always carry spares.

The latest refresh (first in five years) involved an AMD Zen and I was pleased to find that the processor & heatsink fitted in quite nicely.

What didn't fit nicely was the distinctly middle-of-the-road graphics card. Due to some kind of plastic frame holding the fan in place, this card is about 2 - 3mm too tall to allow me to fit the lid on the box. Any other case would have had enough leeway, but not this one.

It's currently sitting under the desk with the lid off. OpenSuse runs lovely, but Windows 7 refuses to install :-/ (W10 isn't an option at the moment)

M.

UK rail lines blocked by unexpected Windows dialog box

Martin an gof
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Re: raspberry pi

But much harder to find someone you already have, who knows what to do with it.

Anyone who can click a couple of options to cause Explorer to auto-launch, go full-screen and display a fixed web page on Windows should be more than capable of doing exactly the same thing on Raspbian with Web (Epiphany) or another browser of choice, even if they've never handled a Linux machine in their lives.

If they're not, put them back into the office making colourful Powerpoint stacks to explain to middle management why the trains are late again today.

M.

Martin an gof
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Re: Windows

Why? It'd just be a dusty screen that still works.

And as if to prove a point, I have a "wall" at work with 14 Raspberry Pis. 13 of them are original, 2012-vintage, Sony-built model B units with 256MB RAM. They are being used as looping video players running 24 hours a day and apart from a few new SD cards and an occasional software update they just work.

The SD cards have been replaced because the originals were bought in a rush and weren't terribly good quality (the Sony Pis only became available about two weeks before we needed them), and because early versions of the OS would quite happily irretrievably corrupt an SD card if you removed the power unexpectedly. The OS updates to help with that but mainly because over the years I've used more and more Pis, and each new generation needed an updated OS and I really only want to keep one OS image in play. I use "Lite" images and yes, the latest version does still run on the older hardware.

In total (if I've counted correctly) I had 17 or 18 first generation model Bs and have "lost" three (I think). One failed because the SD slot cracked and now won't reliably hold a card in place, the other two just "died" for no apparent reason after many years in use. I also had three (lucky me) original China-built Pis between work and home. All three have been withdrawn from use due to "odd" errors which make them unsuitable for 24 hour use. They seem to work fine, but then stop for no apparent reason.

M.

Martin an gof
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Re: Windows

A RPi would be ideal for this sort of thing

You mean like one of these?

:-)

M.

Upgraders rejoice! The 2018 Mac Mini heralds a return to memory slots!

Martin an gof
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Re: I really don't care that much about upgradability....

There are plenty of options for external storage, from your basic USB attached drive to a 10Gb USB-C gen2 drive or a thunderbolt3 raid array.

Granted, the new Mac Mini is miles better than some of their recent machines with just a couple of ports, but this sort of attitude does remind me somewhat of the 1980s.

:-)

M.

Martin an gof
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the T2 chip encrypts everything going to and from SSD

Backups, backups, backups. Otherwise if your machine dies, your data dies with it.

So if you must keep an external backup - which is likely to be unencrypted - what is the point of encrypting the internal storage?

M.

GCSE computer science should be exam only, says Ofqual

Martin an gof
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Computer Science GCSE will typically get half the timetabled lessons as Mathematics or English (~5 hours per week)

I'll have to check

I checked.

My GCSE student currently gets 4 hours a week of English and Welsh, 3 hours a week of maths and 2 hours a week of mostly everything else. There are some complications with the Welsh Bacc (a mandatory subject that seems pretty pointless to almost everyone) and the fact that his set is squeezing in French by "stealing" hours from other subjects.

In all he's studying (if I've counted it correctly) thirteen subjects in a school week which has (again, if I've counted correctly) the same number of teaching hours as my O level week, albeit by cutting the lunch break down to 45 minutes in order to allow school to end at 3pm, yet he is studying three subjects more than I did, and in my day we thought we were being pushed because our friends in English-medium schools normally took eight O levels (or CSEs).

There's a whole other argument about the length of the school day and the way it is arranged, but as I'm not (and am never likely to be) in a position to challenge "received wisdom" I'll not rant about it just now :-)

M.

Martin an gof
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But that's *not* what's happening.

I think you may be missing a subtlety. We're talking here about GCSEs and specifically about Computer Science GCSE. Generally speaking, taking Computer Science at GCSE is a free choice. No-one is compelled to do it, and the course is specifically aimed at children with an interest in how computers work. That was why I wrote what I did, and that is why I am disappointed that my 14 year-old is having to self-teach this stuff; it's almost as if the teacher isn't confident in the subject himself...

This is separate from the teaching of "IT" as you put it - the computer as a tool - which is mandatory from the early years and can optionally be expanded upon at GCSE level through the Information Communications Technology curriculum.

M.

Martin an gof
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it might be useful to point out that a Computer Science GCSE will typically get half the timetabled lessons as Mathematics or English (~5 hours per week)

That may be the case (I'll have to check) but whatever it gets in relation to Maths and English (and Welsh in this school where Welsh and English are on an equal footing), it will be getting the same number of hours as Art and History and Physics and all the other "non-3R" subjects he's doing. These courses are supposed to be roughly equivalent in content and complexity (that's the whole point of having standardised tests at standardised ages), so if 5 hours (if that is what it is) is sufficient for Physics, it jolly well ought to be for Computer Science too.

If so, why does it seem as if he's being asked to teach himself a large part of the curriculum under his own steam and in his own time? Other subjects manage well enough.

M.

Martin an gof
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Oh dear, are we still insisting on teaching children to build a car engine because the future depends on being able to drive?

No, we are merely asking that children who choose to learn how to build a car engine (because as long as there are cars with engines we will always need people to design them and build them) are taught to do so properly.

M.

Martin an gof
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Re: In my experience

But another fraction

Maybe that's an argument for not teaching (the basics of) programming on a "normal" computer. Perhaps have some kind of "educational computer" which is specifically designed for the task and which it is more difficult simply to copy-and-paste stuff from da interwebs. These days you could quite easily make something based around a £10 Arduino, noting that some clones (e.g. from Adafruit) come with Circuit Python installed as standard, as well as being usable with the normal Arduino IDE.

Didn't we try this before?

M.

Martin an gof
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stick something in that is beyond the stuff taught in the course

Not sure about lambda functions, but simply making the thing look "pretty" is always a winner. If the question asks "print the contents of a list", it'll always be better to do (very crudely)

for item in list:

. print(item)

Than

print(list)

(sorry for the formatting!)

M.

Martin an gof
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And still the pass rate is below 70%

I'm not sure that's the main problem. Reading tables such as this PDF from WJEC (remember in Wales they still use A* - G grades) what strikes me is the huge range in pass rates which I'm not sure can be completely explained by some courses being - in effect - selective, while others are mandatory. From the above, how come English Language A* - C is 40.7% while English Literature A* - C is 77.3%? How is Geography 72.2% while Physics is 89.4%?

And if Computer Science is supposed to be much more difficult than ICT, how come the A* - C pass rates are 62.1% and 67.6% respectively?

M.

Martin an gof
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Re: Oh, please...

why not flip it on it's head and use the task to simulate the real world

Believe it or not, they tried that in my Elec Eng. degree back in the late 1980s both with Elec Eng. type stuff (designing a product to a specification) and with a programming task we were to undertake in pairs.

I think the idea was that we would work together to produce three separate "programs" as per the specification, but they paired us up at random so instead of working with someone I already knew well and could co-ordinate with, I ended up with a lazy so-and-so who didn't want to make an effort to co-ordinate his schedule around the limited slots in the programming lab. A lab which consisted, it has to be said, of a dozen BBC Micros with home-designed 6809 second processors all hanging on an Econet network that caused everything to freeze if anybody dared reboot a second processor by flipping the switch on its rudimentary power supply.

The tasks were in (IIRC) 6809 assembler, C (or BCPL?) and Modula-2 (on some '286 machines elsewhere). I ended up completing two of the tasks pretty much solo and having to submit an incomplete project as if it had come from both of us.

I like the idea of teaching collaboration (and the hardware task worked a lot better) but you do run the risk of the examiner not seeing the whole picture and one examinee being penalised due to the actions or inactions of another.

M.

Martin an gof
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I can't believe a GCSE is even covering all the basics, let along going beyond them

Define "basics".

One of my offspring has this year started GCSE Computer Science and is currently plodding through a module using Python. He appears not to have been taught the "basics" of what variables are and their scopes, how different kinds of loops work, what a "function" is nor why it's useful to put code into functions.

They did some rudimentary Scratch in Y7 or Y8, went straight into hand-coding HTML at the start of Y10 (GCSE first year) and then jumped into Python via a very, very brief excursion into number bases and binary maths. I'm not sure he's even covered simple logic, though he did draw a diagram of a computer with "input", "processing", "storage" and "output".

Instead he is working his way through exercise after exercise with some very basic guidance and seems to be expected to pick up these key ideas by osmosis or something*. In many ways it reminds me of me in the 1980s, teaching myself the basics of programming via the Sinclair and then the BBC Welcome manuals because a: there was no internet and b: I couldn't often afford to buy magazines or books and c: I needed to write the software I couldn't afford to buy.

It has to be said that at the open evening where the pupils were given the chance to talk with teachers about their optional subjects (at this school, top stream only has three options) a huge emphasis was put on "Comp Sci is hard and you'd really be better off taking ICT because it's still a GCSE and counts exactly the same", all of which had the effect of giving me the impression that it was really the teacher who was finding it difficult. As a result, only five started Comp. Sci in Y10 this year and two have already swapped for ICT.

M.

*My eldest is doing maths A-level and has three teachers. Two of them are fine, but the third seems to have a similar attitude; here's some basic info (often in the form of a self-made video), here are some exercises, now get on with it, no we won't have a feedback session next week. I struggled with my own A-level maths, and am struggling to help at home 30 years later.

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

Martin an gof
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Exchange seems to feature a lot

Many of the "who me?" and "on call" stories seem to feature Exchange servers, possibly more than any other single type of story. Never (thankfully) having had to be responsible for Exchange, is this because Exchange really is a pig to administer, or is it simply that there's a heck of a lot of them out there?

If Exchange is so bad, aren't there any alternatives?

M.

Apple to dump Intel CPUs from Macs for Arm – yup, the rumor that just won't die is back

Martin an gof
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Re: Same trick, new pony

[Apple] were early champions of ARM

You could argue that they were the first, not merely an early champion.

They were one of the three founding partners of Advanced Risc Machines alongside Acorn and VLSI, who had worked together to create the Acorn Risc Machine - ARMs 1, 2 and 3. Apple came on board (IIRC) as the ARM6 was being developed (there was no 4 or 5) though - again from memory - they were a minor partner, something like 10%.

Disclosure: I had a RiscPC with an ARM 610 :-)

M.

Virgin Media? More like Virgin Meltdown: Brit broadband ISP falls over amid power drama

Martin an gof
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Re: Backup

around 50 quid for the aerial), they said 100 or more just to get on my roof

Bearing in mind these are "Joe Public" prices, and an installer can undoubtedly find cheaper elsewhere; bog standard TV aerial about £11 or a really nice one able to pull in over quite long distances about £42. Very nice aerial cable, about 54p/m when bought on a reel.

Climbing on the roof is a dangerous task, particularly for older houses with steep roofs and maybe slates instead of concrete tiles, but unless there are real reasons to do so, it is often safer and easier to screw an aerial onto the wall of a house, rather than strapping it to a chimney. Wall bracket about £20 or a chimney mounting kit (you are not allowed to screw into a chimney), under £5 plus a mast of some description.

I've done a few DIY aerial installs in my time, but there are some roofs I will not climb on to - an aerial installer will have roof ladders; I don't. Our current house, with a low-pitch concrete-tiled roof is very easy and relatively safe :-)

And the point made earlier about monthly Sky or Virgin subscriptions is extremely relevant.

M.

Martin an gof
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Re: Backup

We didn't demand perfection and just got on with life rather than acting like the world had just ended.

Well said.

For businesses relying on a working internet connection the answer is simple - have an independent backup. For all other uses, crumbs, no internet or TV for a couple of hours is not the end of the world. Annoying perhaps, especially if it's for much longer than that and you miss your favourite serial, but you can always catch up later, and in the meantime, don't you have any books in the house? Any DIY that needs doing? Have a long relaxing bath? Walk the dog? An "old fashioned" radio to listen to? A family to play Monopoly with?

Or - and here's a thought - the TV that you are using to watch cable via a box is pretty much guaranteed to have an aerial socket on the back*. If TV is such an important part of your life, pay an aerial fitter a few pounds to have an "old fashioned" aerial installed and take advantage of normal broadcast TV forever after, for free. Many TVs will even operate as simple PVRs if you plug in a USB drive, though usually without the ability to record one thing while watching another.

And when the dust has settled there is usually some kind of compensation available, if you want to chase it down.

M.

*yeah, my old Trinitron has a socket but is analogue only, but let's face it, just about everyone will have a digital-capable TV these days

Does Google make hardware just so nobody buys it?

Martin an gof
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Re: But muh headphone jack!

I'm confused about the bitter clinging to the headphone jacks

Well, quite apart from the charging, there's the slightly inconvenient aspect of swapping about. At home, unplug the flying 3.5mm and plug it in to the next device, or spend 30 seconds to force a re-pairing with the Bluetooth-enabled amplifier.

At work, where I often have to get clients audio into PA systems, 3.5mm 'just works' and is easy to swap around, or to have two or three of. Bluetooth often doesn't, and isn't.

Many phones have excellent DACs built-in, particularly when driving a line input instead of low impedance headphones, and quite frankly for PA purposes very few people would even claim to be able to hear a difference, let alone be able to reliably prove it. Processing algorithms aside (personally I'm of the school which believes there should be as litle faffing about between the source and your ears as possible), I see no advantage to having only Bluetooth available, and no real disadvantage to fitting a 3.5mm jack as standard to everything.

M.

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave me tea... pigs-in-blankets-flavoured tea

Martin an gof
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Re: Sprouts Are little green globes of gorgeousness!

excellent substitutes for Ferraro Roche chocolates

Boss at a previous job had a particular fondness for removing the paper lid and confetti from party poppers, then jamming a sprout in and firing it across the room at work Christmas parties. Priceless.

M.

Martin an gof
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Re: Christmas is essentially Page 71 of the Brand New Monty Python Bok

Having Thanksgiving at the end of November effectively takes up everyone's party attention, so Christmas doesn't really get going until after that.

We have a family birthday in early December, so Christmas preparations are effectively banned until that is well and truly over. Does the job.

What really annoys the children though is that the shops are full of "back to school" branding in mid July, before the Summer holidays have even started!

M.

Facebook's new always-listening home appliance kit Portal doesn't do Facebook

Martin an gof
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Maybe Zuck should have a word with Lord Sugar?

Of course, Sugar's Amstrad made a similar device of its own once upon a time. I actually knew someone who had one of the first-generation devices...

Edit. Here's a better link

M.

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

Martin an gof
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Re: @Martin an gof

more likely to get things resolved to your satisfaction if it's a PSA car combined with an appropriately motivated tech

Diamond/Nissan.

I don't usually take my cars to the dealer - I have a "bloke in a backstreet" who is absolutely fantastic that I've been using for 20+ years now. I only used the dealers for those issues because the car was still relatively new and hence under warranty. On more than one occasion my bloke has had to repair something that a dealer had previously "fixed", the classic being a clutch on a second-hand car bought from a main dealer.

The original failed within a month of driving away from the forecourt so the dealer "fixed" it, and within six months it had failed again. It wasn't a problem with the clutch per-se, it was (as my "bloke" discovered) that when they screwed the thing back together they had used seventeen almost completely random screws, only a half a dozen of which were the proper length and taper (who knew?) and many of which had therefore failed. Even when I plonked the broken clutch and collection of screws on the desk of the dealer's service manager, it took a good hour of wrangling before they would agree to refund most of the repair cost.

M.

Martin an gof
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Re: @Martin an gof

he car was reloaded with the CCF stored at build for that VIN

In terms of my car, what I didn't mention was that the thing had been back to the dealer several times from new due to sudden unexplained and temporary loss of power. You know, the sort of thing where you'd put your foot down, the thing would start going, then hesitate for a few seconds, then carry on as if nothing had happened.

Mostly what the dealer did - apparently in consultation "with France" - was re-map the ECU and clock up quite a lot of driving miles while doing so.

This was until the car pretty much failed on my wife an hour from home and we had to pay to have the car recovered. Taking it to a different dealer, they spotted that the vacuum switch on the turbo was loose - had probably never been fitted properly when manufactured - and had rattled around and eventually cracked (it's part of some bigger component apparently). Fixing this solved everything, but I never worked out what they did with the ECU mappings, and I suspect that the original garage, which was the one which later also replaced the steering wheel, re-loaded something incorrectly, hence defeating cruise control.

On the bright side, the car has now done some 155,000 miles, still regularly achieves well over 60mpg (62 - 65 being my "normal" range, but then I do a lot of motorway driving) and hasn't had any other "odd" problems, just the usual wear-and-tear. And a completely rusted-through bracket under the radiator. I did mention it was French :-)

M.

Martin an gof
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Re: And then billed 3 extra hours?

doubled your memory size by connecting up a wire...

Seems to be fairly common in all sorts of areas. Three car-related ones. My mum had a Renault 5 back when we were changing from Leaded to unleaded petrol. The car as delivered used four-star and the upgrade to unleaded (which was lower octane) essentially involved connecting up a jumper wire under the bonnet somewhere.

Likewise, a friend of mine had a Passat. He discovered that replacing the (?)indicator stalk for one which included the control buttons for cruise control, then flipping a bit somewhere (via the OBD socket connected to his laptop) enabled cruise control; i.e. all the other prerequisites (presumably sensors and things) were already installed and working.

My own car had a problem with the "leather" on the steering wheel - it started peeling off like bad sunburn. It was only a few months old, so this was fixed by the dealer, but when I got it back I discovered that cruise control had been disabled. Again, turned out to be a bit-flip in the ECU rather than something simple like the garage forgetting to connect the buttons up after swapping the steering wheel.

Given a few minutes I could probably think of dozens of other examples. I'm not sure if I think it's a good thing or not...

M.

Spoiler alert: Google's would-be iPhone killer Pixel 3 – so many leaks

Martin an gof
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iamanidiot

Now I'm curious what phone you are using Cambsukguy. Most 4 year old phones I know don't get updates anymore. Let alone monthly ones.

Rainer

Which vendor still supports Android on a four year old phone?

Here's a clue. My nearly five-year-old Moto G (the original one) still gets regular updates via LineageOS. There's a new build out every Wednesday and I tend to install them monthly.

It could do with a better camera, but in all other respects it suits me well (though I still hate on-screen keyboards). Even the non-removable battery hasn't been a problem yet. With careful management it will last me six or seven days, though I could squeeze as many as ten when it was new.

M.

iFixit engineers have an L of a time pulling apart Apple's iPhone XS

Martin an gof
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Re: Slavish followers

Windows 95 did look vaguely Mac-like

I remember at the time that W95 came out with its fancy bar along the bottom of the screen, the rumour was that Microsoft UK had a room full of Acorn machines and were copying (badly) RiscOS's "taskbar". At the time Apple was still on OS 6 or something which looked a lot more like Windows 3, so the "dock" was nowhere in sight.

I'm not aware of anyone putting such a thing on a desktop GUI before Acorn, but I'm willing to be corrected. The original OS for the Archimedes had a very rudimentary bar in 1987, but the full functionality only appeared with OS2 in 1989.

M.

Open-source alt-droid wants to know if it's still leaking data to Google

Martin an gof
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Re: Lineagoes + FDroid?

my old Moto G

Also a user of LineageOS on an original MotoG, 14.1 as it happens (suspect there won't be a version 15 for the G). Installed it without Google apps and am using FDroid - how much data does Google still slurp?

Quite keen to encourage #1 son to swap once his G5 is a bit older. He's using the stock OS at the moment, albeit without signing up to Play Services. He uses FDroid but also Yalp Store and is very good about keeping data turned off unless he actually needs it.

M.

I want to buy a coffee with an app – how hard can it be?

Martin an gof
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Re: Try travelling with First Bus and their (cr)app

Cardiff Bus

And everything was going so well until some idiot planner decided to build offices and a new TV studio right on top of the extremely-well-designed-considering-it-was-the-1960s bus station right outside Cardiff Central. You used to be able to hop off a train straight (more-or-less) onto a bus that would take you anywhere within Cardiff and beyond. Now you have to hunt around a dozen sidestreets looking for the current location of the stop and queue on a crowded pavement.

Being publicly-run didn't help them there unfortunately.

That said, and I'll wait to see how it pans out, the newly-formed Transport for Wales sounds like it has someone working for it who has a sensible head on his shoulders.

M.

Martin an gof
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Re: Almost...

Banks also charge for cash transactions.

When I was working as a jobbing electrician people thought they were doing me a favour by offering to pay in cash rather than cheque, even for the big jobs. As a Good Boy who always did his accounts (or, rather, had a Good Accountant to do them for me) I wasn't in the habit of trying to avoid taxes and while the bank charged a flat rate for cheques (something like 50p - can't remember offhand) they charged a percentage for cash - 2% if I remember correctly. Thus for any amount more than about £25 (my hourly rate was £30) it was actually cheaper (for me) to be paid by cheque than in cash, unless I was going to take the cash to the wholesalers to buy the bits for the next job.

Things are different now, but I couldn't take cards either. The machines from the banks needed a deposit and a monthly rental, as well as a fee on each transaction and would have made the whole thing uneconomic.

M.

Martin an gof
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Re: designed by guys [...] who "kind of know" how to do it but in actuality, not quite

execrable user interface foisted on me after the latest ATM "upgrade"

For simple cash transactiona I have found that the ATMs around here which have an option to choose Cymraeg for the UI often have a different (sometimes radically so) interface for Welsh than Engliah. One in particular offers a much simpler, cleaner, quicker interface in Cymraeg than in English.

Not tried any other languages, can't say that I've noticed machines around here which have any. Does anyone have any experience?

M.

First Boeing 777 (aged 24) makes its last flight – to a museum

Martin an gof
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Re: 777?

Dan-Air comets anyone?

They were regulars into Cardiff well into the 1970s - I've recently scanned a few old photographs of my dad's which prove it :-)

At least, I think it's Cardiff. Mostly looks like Cardiff, but being dated 1976 I don't really remember, some of it doesn't look like Cardiff. Several Britannia and Aer Lingus 737s, a Transeuropa Caravelle, even a Hercules in the background in "camouflage" paint (odd) and a Dan Air Comet 4C, the "doesn't fall out of the sky" version.

There's a Comet 1 at Cosford. James May's "Airfix" Spitfire is there too. Well worth a (free, apart from the car park) visit with some extremely well-displayed aircraft. My favourite is probably the Lightning - hung vertically so you can stand underneath and look up the pipes.

M.

Guess who just bought Maplin? Dragons' Den celebrity biz guy Peter Jones

Martin an gof
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Re: Well, best of luck to him...

BC547's are 11p, get with the times!

Always wondered why "old fogeys" insisted on using 741 op-amps when the 5532 was so much better, or the 071 or 081. Are those things even available any more? These days I often find myself just getting a "module" instead. Is there a risk of losing old design skills?

M.

Martin an gof
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Re: More Powa!

because eating lead was bad for you, lead within ten yards was dangerous

Why do you think they banned Lead in petrol? It's breathing it in that's particularly bad in this case, though I suspect that the amount of Lead you could breathe in, even if you leaned right over the iron, is near zero, certainly when compared with the stuff chucked out by pre Lead-free petrol cars.

Not so sure about the "colophony" comment. Most solders use rosin as their cores, which I don't think is at all dangerous in normal use, though possibly the small particles released by soldering are an irritant which is likely to be a particular problem for someone susceptible to asthma. This is why extraction systems (or even a simple desk fan to draw the fumes away) are recommended when soldering.

M.

Martin an gof
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The old "Maplin catalogue" & "magazine projects" customer base of the 1980s can easily be re-imagined in the "hack tech" current era.

I suppose Maplin really came to the fore in the "analogue" days, when people tinkered around building or improving radios, amplifiers, electronic synthesizers and the like. In the "digital" present many new companies have arisen, as mentioned in other posts, but it's encouraging to realise that some of the old guard, who never really lost the ethos epitomised by Maplin's fantastic cover art, and the stories that went with it are still going. I always coveted one of Maplin's modular synthesizer kits, but what I actually bought from them was small electronics, and then I went to Greenweld or Cricklewood, or Watford Electronics before they dropped that side of their business in favour of computers, to buy "bargain bin" bits. I still have a massive array of 5x7 LED matrixes and a "Micro Professor" thermal printer in my "useful bits" drawer...

M.

Martin an gof
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I bought a couple of their basic electronic kits for my sons once and I kid you not, I couldn't get the solder to stick to the pads

Too late now, but I find this is common with Lead-free solder, which is probably what was in the box. Despite what it says on the reel, most Lead-free solder needs a much higher tip temperature than ordinary Lead-Tin solder in order to flow cleanly, and in my (limited) experience, cheap "hobby" soldering irons in the 15W - 25W range just can't hack it. Yes, they will melt the solder, but they can't keep it hot enough to stay melted while it flows into the joint.

I once ran a series of "learn to solder" courses for children at work. I insisted they bought 40W "temperature controlled" soldering irons, but they were admittedly quite cheap ones. Even they struggled, but we had remarkably few outright failures, and I only had to re-make a small number of dodgy joints to get the kits working for the children to take home.

M.

Martin an gof
Silver badge

Re: Well, best of luck to him...

big hitters like Farnell

Yes, they've actually done it quite well too with their three slightly-differently-targetted brands of Farnell (decades-long rival to RS), Element 14 (educational) and CPC (gadget tat for the rest of us). Of course, despite the different "shop fronts", the stuff behind the scenes is identical, so you effectively target three different markets for the price of one.

That's not to say that there aren't other players in the market too. Companies such as Pimoroni, The Pi Hut and ModMyPi are very big on the education side, both re-selling and creating their own kit (despite their names, not just Raspberry Pis!), and suppliers such as Kitronic have huge ranges aimed directly at schools, all of which could quite nicely benefit from a bit of high street exposure, should Maplin like to do down this route as suggested by an earlier poster.

M.

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