* Posts by Primus Secundus Tertius

1052 posts • joined 31 Oct 2010

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Grubby, tortuous, full of malware and deceit: Just call it Lionel because the internet is MESSY

Primus Secundus Tertius
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Misguided Idealism

The Internet is a monument to misguided American idealism. The real world is very different from the sheltered world of universities. It shows what happens to a comfortable club when you let just anybody join.

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UK.gov to tech industry: Hands up who can help cut teachers' admin

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@AC

The Daily Telegraph reported on 7th August 2018 that Damian Hinds, Education Secretary, declared that replacing blackboards with interactive whiteboards had made no practical difference to education results and had been a waste of money.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/2018/08/07/replacing-blackboards-interactive-whiteboards-waste-money-education/

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Re: Asks the tech industry

... the big accounting firms who see software as a way of churning out money.

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Re: Quick solution

Politicians have a legitimate interest in seeing a healthy education system as a part of a healthy nation state. Sometimes they do have to intervene: by the end of the 1970s it was clear that "progressive" schemes for teaching reading were "failing the nation" (to borrow an old slogan from the Labour Party).

One mistake has been to turn schools into social services. Another has been to ignore the statistics: only about 1/6 of children are genuinely bright, and a corresponding 1/6 will always be seriously below average. But I suspect none of the arts graduates in the Department for Education understand what a standard deviation is.

It is absurd to ask the techies to resolve the problems that are caused by bad policies.

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Click this link and you can get The Register banned in China

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Re: Who needs Zorro?

I congratulate el Reg for publishing this article. Sir Humphrey Appleby would have called it a courageous decision.

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Boffins build a NAZI AI – wait, let's check that... OK, it's a grammar nazi

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Re: Am I missing something ?

I find it worth seeking Word's opinion of my writing. I am a poor typist and it does spot a lot of typos.

You can tell it to use British spelling or even more exotic spellings, but its 'grammar' check seems to reflect what is fashionable in California.

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Re: The problem

@Spanners

There are some 300 million Americans and 60 million British. So for obvious commercial reasons the American version will be developed first.

At a seminar a questioner asked about American attitudes to British English. An answerer said there are two conflicting attitudes: first a feeling that British English is something special; and secondly that most British people use very poor English.

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Commas and clauses

My experience of reading junior engineers' English was of seeing clause after clause separated by commas, with only the occasional full stop. No other type of punctuation mark.

It was English written as it is spoken, but often with very limited vocabulary. No concept that writing is a more formal performance.

One of them told me once that I was the first person who had ever gone through their writing to point out the mistakes. This from a person in their early twenties.

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Sitting pretty in IPv4 land? Look, you're gonna have to talk to IPv6 at some stage

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DNS is the answer

I don't need IPv6. I browse www.theregister.co.uk, and I email news@theregister.co.uk.

The funny numbers behind that are someone else's problem.

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Hurrah! Boffins finally discover liquid water sloshing around on Mars

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Re: That conclusion seems a bit fast to me

@Frank Ly

"Compare this approach to that of politicians who will have some kind of idea or dream and then wake up and tell you that it's true and that anyone who disagrees with them is a fool or worse."

Scientists deal with facts. Politicians deal with people, especially those who vote. People are slippery and evasive about getting others to pay for their needs; and politicians truly represent the people.

Politics is not as easy as it looks, and we are entitled to blame the voters (other people, of course).

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Brit spending watchdog brands GP Primary Support Care a 'complete mess'

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Who else is available

Another poor performance from Capita.

But who else is there? Our arts graduate civil service? The old defence contractors, trying to diversify out of a contracting market?

The NHS would do better to just hire a few capable sandwich students.

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No big deal... Kremlin hackers 'jumped air-gapped networks' to pwn US power utilities

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Revenge measures

One would expect the US to have computers in place to retaliate against any such attack. But I hope those computers have a reliable UPS.

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UK spies broke law for 15 years, but what can you do? shrugs judge

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Re: I would hardly expect precise targetting

@tiggity

A few years ago I happened to be on the High Street when an Animal Rights demonstration march took place, under heavy police supervision.

Any cat or dog would have run a mile from any of those marchers.

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Re: So that's the big deal

@Steelpillow

Roll on ubiquitous encryption and open democracy, communist and religious conspiracies, and a closed dictatorship of communists or religious nutters.

FTFY

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Sorry, Neil Armstrong. Boffins say you may not have been first life-form to set foot on the Moon

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Why cyanobacteria

Why the mention of cyanobacteria? They are highly evolved photosynthetic creatures.

There are many more primitive types of bacteria, at home in a neutral or reducing chemical environment, that would fit the dates of 4.5 billion and 3.5 billion years ago.

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Capita strikes again: Bug in UK-wide school info management system risks huge data breach

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Re: A real example: (names changed)

@Billat29

Your example shows that some degree of abstraction is required in designing a data system to cope with it. But you don't get good abstract design by contracting out to the lowest bidder.

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Tech support chap given no training or briefing before jobs, which is why he was arrested

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Golden Disk

One of my colleagues had finished a project at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough. (Yes, it was that long ago.) The staff there presented him with a golden disk: a DEC RK05 disk the size of a large dinner plate holding some 2.5 megabytes, the outside having been painted gold.

Then he was stopped by security as he left the site. But they did let him go after phone calls and explanations.

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Re: One time I DIDN'T get stopped....

I was in a queue at Heathrow in the 1970s when a Germanic voice behind asked, "Vy do zey haff separate queue for Belfast?"

An American voice further back remarked, "Gee, you haven't been here looong".

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@Symon

But it is not so easy to search the internet when the computer is broken.

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European Parliament balks at copyright law reform vote

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@Katrinab

Your comment intrigues me. Please explain the subtle difference between lobbying and spam.

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RIP Peter Firmin: Clangers creator dies aged 89

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Basil B had a delicious wit. I enjoyed watching him far more than the earlier Muffin the Mule, or the Flowerpot Men.

I wonder how some of these comedians would have been if mixed together. BB and Tony Hancock, Popeye and Sid James, Yogi and Dick Emery, ...

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Potato, potato. Toma6to, I'm going to kill you... How a typo can turn an AI translator against us

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Re: Time to do things the easier way

@Dr Dan

Once upon a time, anyone who was anyone in Europe understood Latin. Peasant languages such as English were not rated for serious discourse.

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Re: Rubbish in, rubbish out...

@big_D

Yet the roots of the English language are Germanic. I wonder how Google manages English <=> Dutch, since Dutch is the closest related language to English. My own impression of Dutch is that it is one third English, one third German, and one third that I cannot make out.

It does seem from other comments that formal and informal versions of language need to be treated separately,

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Re: Hmmm

I once read an article that described how each word retained the original first and last letters, but the others were listed in alphabetical order. In this case:

Some maeiksts are eaeisr to cceorrt tahn oehrts. For a hamun aanwyy.

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Facebook, Google, Microsoft scolded for tricking people into spilling their private info

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Re: BlackBerry [...] don't seem to want to sell my data either.

@GIRZiM

Once the info is in government hands it is subject to Freedom of Information requests; unlike data in private hands especially US megacorp hands.

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German researchers defeat printers' doc-tracking dots

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Re: LX

There's life yet in my old (30 yrs) Epson dot matrix printer.

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Quantum seems to go through CEOs like a hot knife through butter

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Is there a BOFH

Quantum seems to burn through bosses as quickly as BOFH Holdings.

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

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Good manuals

I was an early user of the Amstrad 8256 word processor, and its CP/M plus Basic alternative disk. It came with two good manuals, one for the Locoscript word processor and one for the CP/M plus Basic.

Then that cheapskate Sugar stopped producing the Basic manual for new sales.

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UK Foreign Office offers Assange a doctor if he leaves Ecuador embassy

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The US cannot call Assange a traitor, for that is someone who betrays their own country. Assange is Australian, I believe. Unlucky country!

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Do UK.gov wonks understand sci-tech skills gap? MPs dish out Parliamentary kicking

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Re: Stream the schools not the children

I see my argument has drawn many replies about grammar schools, but none about the education of midstream and weak pupils; and none about my suggestions re the civil service.

I accept that any selection scheme such as I propose will have to have provisions for borderline cases. But children are examined so often in schools today that a flexible mechanism should be possible.

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Stream the schools not the children

This is a political comment, and my political comments tend to get downvoted. But here goes, anyway.

The education system is failing at all levels. It fails to properly develop the bright children because it stuffs them (*) into bog-standard comps. About 20% of children used to get a grammar school education. That means about 20 out of the 100 or so children admitted to a comprehensive each year at age 11. So in a class of 30 there are already 10 not really at home there.

Fast forward to age 14, when they begin to specialise into STEM, foreign languages, history, etc. and there are maybe 12 bright STEM children. What state school will provide their own classroom for those 12? Let alone the class of teaching that the top 5 deserve?

The system also fails those at the other end of the scale. There are not enough of the weak ones to justify giving them special attention, just as with the bright ones.

Finally, the system fails the average child; the two-thirds or so at average IQ (100) plus-or-minus one standard deviation (15). Their classes are distracted or disrupted by the minority groups who should be elsewhere, preferably in separate schools dedicated to their needs.

We need bright schools, midstream schools, and weak schools. With this separation, the midstream schools could do a much better job, and would meet the needs of many employers.

I suspect there are no policy-making civil servants in the Education Department who understand the terms mean and standard deviation, let alone the quantitative implications I have set out above. Instead they witter on about the number of pupils receiving free school meals.

I emphasise the requirement for STEM graduates in policy-making positions. The old civil service doctrine, "On tap, not on top", has been the ruin of modern Britain. Fix that, and a lot of other things will get fixed.

(*) So to speak.

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Amazon tweaks its word processor for easier online Office edits

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Re: Well I for one shall be ditching MS Office 2016

Libre Office is a good product in itself. The problems come when you have to repeatedly work with others who use Microsoft Office. I wondered for years how Munich managed that, until the answer came that they failed.

El Reg should consider writing an article that reviewed compatibility problems between Microsoft Office, Libre Office, Google Docs (and Sheets), and other sundry products. Not just documents but spreadsheets and databases. Even presentations, if people are really interested.

Also look at integration with OCR software, which seems to be a Microsoft lock-in.

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How a tax form kludge gifted the world 25 joyous years of PDF

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Re: What page was that on?

I once worked for the London branch of a US company. We would get long technical documents from head office in the US, and print them on A4 paper. So the page numbers got steadily out of step.

This was 1998-99, when we techies did not have the software to turn .doc to .pdf. One very useful trick of pdf is that it can print US letter size pages on A4, or vice-versa, thus preserving page numbers and layouts.

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Re: Not a great PDF user or expert....

Try the free Nitro pdf, if you can find it. Google knows, you know.

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Primus Secundus Tertius
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Re: Jobs Didn't Introduce Typography to Computers

The pdf format has replaced the dvi format used by Stone Age Latex, prior to the modern GUI interfaces that make Latex almost useable.

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Re: I find PDF highly useful

I also find pdf very useful: in many voluntary organisations. If you send a Word document, someone with an old version tells you they can't handle .docx files. If you send a membership list as an Excel file (the traditional cheap database) they ask you for some other format, pdf or csv.

Email is, of course, HTML based; but with Microsoft HTML thingies that help to reconstruct Word documents but are ignored by other software.

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PDF bloat

I am proof-reading a draft of a magazine for a small charity. Its Editor uses a DTP system that turns 40 A5 pages into a 8 MByte file. Acrobat 9 (vintage 2009) reduces that to 321Kbytes with no obvious loss of visual appearance.

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JURI's out, Euro copyright votes in: Whoa, did the EU just 'break the internet'?

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Re: Did the EU just 'break the internet'?

It is IPv6 that messed up TCP/IP, not politicians.

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Re: Hand Off My Internet

"Get all government regulations off the Internet"

Nonsense!

The internet is a public area, and therefore public laws and decency should be obeyed.

If the internet keeps flouting public laws, it deserves to be broken up, like any other criminal gang,

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Test Systems Better, IBM tells UK IT meltdown bank TSB

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Re: Kettle

In my time at a large British defence company, management wanted the design specs approved asap, and accused me of delaying the project when I refused to approve them.

I particularly objected to documents that were just a restatement of the requirements, with no discussion of how to achieve them in programming terms. It might almost have been better to just start coding than to write those documents.

Not surpisingly, the coding and module testing phases overran, leaving little time for system testing.

I blame the "gee, this is easy" attitude referred to by some as "positive thinking".

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

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Record keeping gone mad! There is an ancient ditty:

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No-one on this Earth was meant

To remember or invent

What they did wth every cent.

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Microsoft Edge bug odyssey shows why we can't have nice things

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Re: "That's not a bug, that's a feature!" M. Zuckerberg

["That's not a bug, that's a feature!" M. Zuckerberg]

I remember that corporate response from Digital Equipment Corporation in the 1970s, long before the Zuck was even thought of.

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Universal Credit has never delivered bang for buck, but now there's no turning back – watchdog

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@Peter C

There are far to many hi falutin' ideas about what democracy is, because of ivory tower universities and idle newspaper reporters.

Most of the time, democracy is a vote against. The history of Parliament is one of unruly barons and gentlefolk resisting the King's taxes or other gambits.

But look at some alternative examples:

1. At the end of WW1 and of WW2 Eastern Europe was reduced to anarchy and chaos - twice in a lifetime for many people. Even communist rule was less worse.

2. Somalia has been plagued by anarchy after a complete breakdown of government.

3. Afghanistan has been plagued by religious-inspired fighting.

Britain is not perfect. But as I said above, if you think you can make it better, give it a go.

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@Dr S

I was once a day late for the weekly sign-on. But I showed them the interview letter and they accepted that.

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@Slef

"Then there is the assumption that everybody has t'intnet and is literate!"

You have hit the nail on the head there! Half the population has IQ < 100, and about one sixth have IQ < 85. Many of these are the people we are supposed to be helping, but the help will fail abysmally if it is based on unreal expectations.

The only way to help is to have a real person there. The question remains whether we have enough such real people.

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Re: The government position:

@Phil

Well, if you think you can do better, why not give it a go? Sometimes the non-establishment candidate gets in, e.g. President Trump.

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BOFH: Got that syncing feeling, hm? I've looked at your computer and the Outlook isn't great

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Human deviousness

It is depressing for any real techie to read these tales of deviousness and realise how normal it all is.

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I see a satellite of a man ... Galileo, Galileo, Galileo, Galileo, that's now 4 sats fit to go

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Re: What's in a name?

@Mage

Patrick was neither Roman nor Greek. In Roman eyes he was therefore a barbarian.

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GCHQ bod tells privacy advocates: Most of our work is making sure we operate within the law

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Re: "If you whack governments on privacy it will only drive the vulnerability market."

"Who can complain about that ?"

We can (in silence) after we become ruled by religious nutters, commie conspirators, or other ruthless but selfish minorities. That may happen if they are not defeated by surveillance and arrest.

Some admirers of technology have no idea how the ordinary selfish human world works.

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US websites block netizens in Europe: Why are they ghosting EU? It's not you, it's GDPR

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Re: Overreach

There should be no problem deleting a person's record from current data. Soon after that, the record should disappear from backup areas.

Archives are another matter. Yes, archives are different from backups. It may be difficult in practice to delete from an archive; but it is also morally wrong.

Readers of the novel 1984 may remember Winston's day job: editing archived newspapers to harmonise old stories with modern political requirements. (Only the government was permitted to keep archived newspapers, of course.) Most of us will, I hope, feel uncomfortable with that.

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