* Posts by Primus Secundus Tertius

1023 posts • joined 31 Oct 2010

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

Primus Secundus Tertius
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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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Primus Secundus Tertius
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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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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'?

Primus Secundus Tertius
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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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UK.gov's use of black box algorithms to decide stuff needs watching

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Re: AI in government?

Let us establish the principle that if a decision cannot be explained it can be overturned by simple (without lawyers) appeal.

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Re: What planet?

Governments used to sell our names and addresses from the electoral register. Then somebody sued and won.

So now we have the real register, with all entries, for use by government and by political parties and candidates. Then there is the commercial register, containing only those who have not opted out, for sale to anybody.

We need a similar scheme for other data, with an additional requirement. Everybody is entitled to be individually paid 50p or whatever for their data, and the costs of those payments must be borne by the purchaser of that data.

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Open justice FTW! El Reg fought the law – and El Reg won

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Winning a headline

I hope El Reg don't regard it as headline news that they actually won a case.

But congrats, anyway.

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Windows Notepad fixed after 33 years: Now it finally handles Unix, Mac OS line endings

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Re: relief arrived a long time ago

Others have mentioned Notepad++. Not only for CR versus LF versus CRLF but for ASCII versus UTF-8 or UTF-16.

I also use One Note - the useful version that comes with Office rather than the free version limited to the cloud. Makes tables trivially easy, for example.

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Every major OS maker misread Intel's docs. Now their kernels can be hijacked or crashed

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Re: PC 2.0

I think it would make sense to design a computer architecture for use by modern high-level languages. Arithmetic in binary-coded-decimal is wonderful for financial applications. At a simpler level, the DEC PDP-11 was designed for a then-modern stack architecture.

"All one has to do then" is to implement Microsoft Office and javascript for the new system.

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Re: So....

After you are dead, you cannot say you did not expect that.

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Re: "is a throwback to the 16-bit segmented DOS days."

Segmented address spaces are an utter pain for software development, and programmers welcomed the unified 32-bit address space when it appeared. But the worst situation I met was a system designed by hardware people, with hardware memory test logic screwing up data on addresses at 2**13 boundaries. However, as the software was in assembler one could avoid putting code or data there.

The real problem here seems to be that code is interruptible at a weak point.

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TSB's middleware nightmare: Execs grilled on Total Sh*tshow at Bank

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Talk to the techies

If Parliament really wanted to know what went wrong, they should talk to the techies, not to management.

Except if they go looking for the techies they have either been "let go" or are a continent away.

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NASA dusts off FORTRAN manual, revives 20-year-old data on Ganymede

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Re: Jupiter's magnetic fields

"Hydrogen is a metal".

Yes, in that particular case. But for most astronomers a 'metal' is anything with atomic number greater than 2. E.g. nitrogen, chlorine, etc.

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Re: Paper tape anyone?

There were numerous formats for read/write of magnetic tapes on Vax machines, ranging from VMS Backup to some "standard" format that no other computer seemed to recognise as standard. Not many people knew their way around these.

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Re: The problem probably wasn't the software...

There would probably be data problems.

The VAX format for floating point numbers, both single and double precision, differs from the now customary IEEE standard. SUN wrote a software library with a name resembling "external data representation" or something like that, to ease data transfers from old Vax computers to new Sun ones. It also converted between big-end and little-end binary integers, 16-bit or 32-bit.

If suitable data records are defined, Vax data can be transferred over networks to Sun or Intel machines.

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Astroboffins peep at the largest orgy of galaxies banging into each other

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Number query

"Miller estimated that the total mass of the elliptical galaxy would be about 100 billion solar masses."

I thought there were some 10**11 stars in our own galaxy. Some of those are rather small, of course. The remote one may therefore be more massive than us, but not to the extent that justifies headlines.

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Brit bank TSB TITSUP* after long-planned transfer of customer records from Lloyds

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Re: Easter egg

Every Thursday night about a million Old Age Pensions are paid into the system. There is never a good time to do these things, except perhaps Christmas.

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BOFH: We know where the bodies are buried

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Re: A Likely Story

It happens to the 3-letter authorities all the time, I guess.

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Cutting custody snaps too costly for cash-strapped cops – UK.gov

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They know, you know

When the police hold someone they know a lot about that person, including e.g. national insurance number or some kind of immigration number. How hard is it to do a database delete of images with a certain NI number?

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OK, this time it's for real: The last available IPv4 address block has gone

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Re: IPv6 on the Internet and IPv4 inside

No, that is an absurdity. The few remaining big boys who run the network could easily do it with IPV4 between each other. Ordinary office users can mostly manage with a local net, e.g. 10.x.y.z, or IPV6 to make their system impenetrable to system engineers, hackers, ... Shopping, banking, access to el Reg, ... are all done by name, i.e. by DNS. It should be invisible to the user whether DNS goes via IPV4 or IPV6.

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NHS given a lashing for lack of action plan one year since WannaCry

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Valuable comments

As often happens in the pages of el Reg, the comments here are more informative about the situation than the original article. Thank you, fellow commenters. I hope the ACs are not found out and punished; the NHS is known to be vindictive.

The root problem remains. How much do YOU want to pay for the health of other people?

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Boffins pull off quantum leap in true random number generation

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Re: Just a random idea

The British Government generates random numbers on a large scale: not just with ERNIE but in everything that they say and do. That is because they are all arts graduates.

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Can't view memes on London-Southampton train? It's the worst line for mobile coverage

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Where are we going?

The picture* looks like the short rail link on the Isle of Wight, rather than London - Southampton.

Ticket to Ryde, anyone?

Or whatever. How can we know?

*As at 1515 on 10th April.

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Sorry spooks: Princeton boffins reckon they can hide DNS queries

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Re: Oh Good Grief

@AC - "I'm sure when Hitler came to power…"

During the English Civil War, there was a lot of grief for the political classes, but for most of our ancestors life just carried on more or less as usual. The King had been accused of trying to ignore parliament; but then Cromwell famously told parliament to get lost.

After Cromwell's death, the Good and the Great decided to restore the monarchy under negotiated terms. The Restoration was a time of great joy: not for the political changes but because it was the end of Puritanism, which had been a much greater offence against the Englishman's ideal of robust common sense within a Merrie England.

There is far too much Puritanism in modern life. The West needs changes akin to the Restoration, which would end the need for Big Brother to pry into our Internet usage.

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Intel admits a load of its CPUs have Spectre v2 flaw that can't be fixed

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Re: Not in use...

I have a Lenovo T60 Thinkpad. Runs everything from Windows 2000 to 10, and various Linuxes. (Not all at once!)

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Mad March Meltdown! Microsoft's patch for a patch for a patch may need another patch

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Re: Askwoody

I have met two people in volunteer groups who have switched to Mac. Ordinary people, not computer freaks, who say they are so happy to lose all the constant updates from Microsoft.

Whether they are really in a better position is another question, of course.

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Windows 10 to force you to use Edge, even if it isn't default browser

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Thin end of wedge

Microsoft's intention could be described as the win end of the thedge.

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Neural networks whip fleshbag butt at identifying craters

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One hopes...

"Hopefully it got to name one after itself."

The machine hoping? Or joking? One hopes not.

One hopes that "hopefully" will one day be banned as German-American Pseudo English, along with other dumb examples.

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Boffins find sign of water existing deep into Earth's mantle by looking at diamonds

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@scarlet...

Just what I was thinking. Small molecules as opposed to ball-and-stick molecules.

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Fun fact of the day: Voice recognition tech is naturally sexist

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Telephonists

I am surprised by this report.

Telephone companies traditionally stated that they employed women telephone operators because their voices were clearer on the line.

But perhaps the real reason was that women's wages were lower.

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It's March 2018, and your Windows PC can be pwned by a web article (well, none of OURS)

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Re: Good job MSFT!

I don't expect my car to be "updated" every month. Why should I have to put up with that for my computer?

The answer, I suppose, is that computers are orders of magnitude more complicated. I therefore have doubts about the results of human work subject to commercial necessities. Would I trust a CPU + other bits designed by AI? Hahahahahahahaha.

I do wonder whether in the secret world somebody has a validated toolchain of hardware and software.

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Russia stares admiringly at itself, flexes internet muscles

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Laws are good for us/you

"These policies seek to maintain the perception that our borderless, open Internet can be managed, bounded, and conformed to fit with local laws."

What a typical US contempt for the laws of sovereign states except for themselves. Airlines are a world-wide business but have to respect local laws, as do shipping lines and even motorists driving about the world. The same should apply to the Internet. OK, there are problems; but that is what techies are for, to solve problems, not to just give up.

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