* Posts by William Towle

269 posts • joined 8 Jun 2007


One click and you're out: UK makes it an offence to view terrorist propaganda even once

William Towle

> Best get rid those floppy disks containing the anarchists cookbook txt edition from my college days then.

Heh. I had that once, amongst a pile of other more innocuous downloads. It went AWOL at some point though.

While I don't know exactly when, I *do* know who it probably was.

*rubs hands*

Hungover this morning? Thought 'beer before wine and you'll be fine'? Boffins prove old adage just isn't true

William Towle

Re: Beer and wine don't go together


...though personally I would recommend adding a double to a pint: my Guinness drinking speed is quite slow (although not as slow as per the watch from the brewery shop with the depleting pint glass images in place of numbers; I can only assume it's not meant to be a guide) and the resulting tipsy feeling is pleasantly satisfying [YMMV obv].

In my 20s I got quite good at ordering both ("separately please") and then drinking just enough Guinness to make room in the glass.

// wrong colour, but I also usually start pale and go dark... -->

China's really cotton'd on to this whole Moon exploration thing: First seed sprouts in lunar lander biosphere

William Towle

Wait just...

...a cotton-pickin' moon unit

RIP Paul Allen: Microsoft cofounder billionaire dies at 65 after facing third bout with cancer

William Towle

Other obituaries

Bill Gates writes: https://www.gatesnotes.com/About-Bill-Gates/Remembering-Paul-Allen

I particularly enjoyed the line "[Allen] had a cool beard which I couldn't pull off"

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

William Towle

Re: Should they email you notices

We rang VM up once due to problems with the internet service.

An automated response told us the lines were busy but they would be able to accept reports through the web form.


Where can I hide this mic? I know, shove it down my urethra

William Towle
Thumb Up

> Fairly sure the first pendrive I spent real money on was either 16 or at most 32Mb. It must still be around here somewhere but hell knows.

I've got a 32MB one somewhere, in a fairly slender form factor considering its age (albeit traded off against length). With luck you might get a slim modern one alongside it in an adjacent port.

At one of my jobs I lent it to someone and it ended up being used for some test or other because being old it was slightly more power hungry than most. I had to fight slightly to get it back into my possession!

...It's plenty enough for some minimal distros still; if I knew where it was I expect I'd find Tiny Core, possibly dual booted with FreeDOS, on it.

I found it in the bottom of a pocket one day and asking myself "what's that doing there" earned the response "what's *that*? Are you some sort of spy?" :)

WLinux brings a custom Windows Subsystem for Linux experience to the Microsoft Store

William Towle

Re: Indeed you are expected to pay

> it was common for distributions to sell distribution CD:s. Some distros (like Mandrake) even provided nice shrinkwrapped carton packages like other software vendors

Aye, I won a SuSE linux box set from my local LUG. I'm not sure what happened to it though; "borrowed" probably.

...at my first job, having booted the CD on a Windows box in order to get access to whatever sensible command line tools the installer offered instead (we had other *nix machines locally, just not on personal desks so much), it informed me that only half the drive had been partitioned. So I let it install there. Fortunately my productivity rocketed; it might have been a different story otherwise...

You've got pr0n: Yes, smut by email is latest workaround for UK's looming cock block

William Towle

"Users don't need to supply any personally identifiable information to sign up"

*wonders how the content gets back to the person who requested it*

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

William Towle

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?

You might want to be careful what you wish for; Stroustrup had a similar thing to say about his telephone.

10 PRINT "ZX81 at 37" 20 GOTO 10

William Towle

Re: "Syntax error in line ..."

> I spent a good few hours creating maps on square lined paper.

I found a pad of Speccy-specific "graphics paper" for making UDG/screen designs on, which I took to working on photocopies of - mainly because I couldn't find more, but I wouldn't have wanted to as it was a bit thin and disintegrated quickly if you ended up needing to take an eraser to it.

Years of writing computer programs on regular squared paper in order to create something that resembled what would be on the screen later for easy checking has left me with handwriting that gets regular compliments on its readability, even when in my opinion it's a bit scrawled :)

Inviting nearby exoplanet revealed as radiation-baked hell

William Towle

Re: Need I finish the book?

> took a little while to get going

...but it explains every word as it goes along, and in the end it turns out the zebra did it?

Home taping revisited: A mic in each hand, pointing at speakers

William Towle

Re: LR14 !?!?

> My first cassette recorder was a Christmas present when I was 11. Within about 2 months I had l mastered my first interface protocol - how to connect the "tape out" socket on the existing hand-me-down portable radio to the "aux in" on the recroder with a 3.5mm jack cable. Much better sound quality.

I have a vague recollection of taping records with a din-din lead between a dansette style record player and a portable cassette player/recorder, which I subsequently discovered didn't turn its microphone off when the cable was connected ... which was a bit annoying to discover later.

Fortunately due to having a computer we had a "spare" unit that behaved.

MY GOD, IT'S FULL OF CARS: SpaceX parks a Tesla in orbit (just don't mention the barge)

William Towle

Re: Don't Leave The Lights On!

> It's a little too much Austin Powers for my taste

It even looks like a giant ... town hall and clock!

// http://metro.co.uk/2018/02/06/race-organisers-made-bit-balls-dewsbury-10k-run-7289958/

Archive of 1.4 billion credentials in clear text found in dark web archive

William Towle

Re: Length is Everything

When creating an(other, sheesh) account for myself recently I encountered my first system that refused my usual password scheme - mix of alphanumeric and non-alphanumeric symbols, around a dozen characters long, ... you know the drill.

"Your new password needs to be at least 14 characters in length", this one asserted. I thought again.

Looking back, there was a very literal interpretation (two, in fact) that may well have sufficed. I wonder now if they foresaw that, and the phrases were specifically disallowed...

William Towle

Re: Has an analysis of the types of accounts been done?

> Just like those irish folk are always trying to inject SQL on me with their O'this and O'that.

My colleagues and I were discussing the problem with handling that recently, and noted there didn't seem to be a catchy name for it.

I suggested that in keeping with "the Emergency" and "the Troubles" (and so on) that it should be called "the O'Bother".

Night before Xmas and all through American Airlines, not a pilot was flying, thanks to this bug

William Towle
Thumb Up

Re: Yo get the fly boys back on the job

> "American Airlines- Up with the Aircraft, Down with the cool kids"

"Up with the aircraft" remains to be seen AFAICT

(but I laughed, so have a +1)

AI taught to beat Sudoku puzzles. Now how about a time machine to 2005?

William Towle

Re: Been there done that

> If you need to hypothesize a number in a cell and then follow a chain that's 7-8 cells long, is that an acceptable logical way of solving things, or does this count as trial and error and therefore not such a logical way of getting to the solution?

Having been there and done that myself, I find it necessary to follow one *or more* such chains and seeing if the consequences a) rule out all the candidates from some cell, b) force more than one of a particular digit into row/column/other group, c) contradict the implications of another such chain, or d) force the puzzle to have multiple solutions with what the article suggests this algorithm would conclude has "equal" "probability".

After much thought, I have concluded these are reasonable steps based on the puzzle and its description and do not think they're trial and error at all (but in line with earlier commentary [Dave Cartwright article] I can see why you'd use such phrase/s for simplicity).

Pro tip: You can log into macOS High Sierra as root with no password

William Towle

"How do you create a really secure password?"

BOFH: The trouble with, er, windows installs

William Towle

> Database normalization warnings, their a killer they are.


My first thought was that if you were getting such warnings you could differentiate between incidents by putting the date in the field.

Then I remembered this was the BOFH, and realised that might still not be sufficient...

Alexa, please cause the cops to raid my home

William Towle

Re: The next stage in AI:

> The first rule of robotic fight club is that robots do not talk about fight club.

Do not talk in human language about fight club?

Might explain https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/03/21/ai_bots_can_invent_their_own_language/

Hardware has never been better, but it isn't a licence for code bloat

William Towle

Sudoku: how to?

> A fiver says you don't simply try every possible permutation of digits in each box until you get to the right answer – the number of Sudoku solution grids has been calculated as 6,670,903,752,021,072,936,960. No, you apply logic and deduction to identify which numbers go where, and it takes just a few minutes to solve the puzzle.

Strictly speaking having that many solution grids doesn't relate to the complexity of solving any given puzzle, it's the reason you don't attempt to store all the possible puzzles and do straightforward lookup.

...Perhaps pedantically (humour me, from here on in I'm addressing fellow puzzle fanatics and not the direction of the article), hoping to find it obvious "where the numbers go" throughout doesn't suffice technically either; only when you have in effect determined a search tree, pruned it until [relatively] sparse, and then walked it can you argue you have properly iterated and eliminated all impossible situations (thereby including "where the number's *don't* go") as per Occam's razor at every step from start to finish.

One solution -and only one- always results for me for solving by hand, as required. I've written some of my methods as code, but not all ... however at this point I am suspicious of the possibility that typical "brute force" solvers may be at risk of (mis)identifying a puzzle as having multiple solutions when it's not necessarily the case...

Fresh bit o' Linux to spruce up that ancient Windows Vista box? Why not, we say...

William Towle

Re: odd

> I don't think Linux repositories are 100% immune from malware. People used to pontificate about how Linux was open source and therefore inherently secure because of the 'many eyeballs on the code' principle. Well in the last few years that idea has been demonstrably blown out of the water after vulnerabilities have been found in critical open source libs.

It doesn't help that you're adding to the polemic. According to The Cathedral and the Bazaar, at the time "given many eyeballs, all bugs become shallow" was coined the principle Linus was following was "release early, release often" and "...many eyeballs..." the justification for exposing potential bugs in the code to public scrutiny. It isn't an attempt to claim people will look, it isn't an attempt to claim people who are looking will focus where you need, and it isn't a claim there won't be bugs in the first place ... yet it turns out people do want to get involved at all stages of the submission/release process, and in all areas of the code; the existence of vulnerability fixes serves as proof that the overall process serves its purpose (and it does this a lot better than it implies Linux as a project was due to have crashed and burned). That fixes arrived later rather than sooner on occasion is neither here nor there.

(...and of course the existence of vulnerability fixes for both open and closed source software of various types tells us neither has the upper hand on advice for best practice. Sadly).

Hell desk to user: 'I know you're wrong. I wrote the software. And the protocol it runs on'

William Towle

Re: Hilarious!

> Oh, what if the arguer happens to be the guy who wrote the RFC that REVISED the original RFC? IOW, the v1.0 man trying to talk to the v1.1 man.

Been there. I had a request to give help on an old-system problem at a previous job; another engineer, hovering over our shoulders, takes great pleasure in stating "your explanation is wrong".

"Not according to the specification document we wrote to get the work approved"

"It hasn't worked like that since I've been on the project"

*stifles anger at evident lack of prior communication* "in which case, this question was clearly meant for you" *exits hastily*

BOFH: Putting the commitment into committee

William Towle

> Why is it always a green door?

"Green door/What's that secret you're keeping"?

Toyota's entertaining the idea of Linux in cars

William Towle

Re: Two things that will happen ...

> I would also disable all the telemetics.

Me too. My travel sickness is bad enough without having hackers bring it on remotely.

Another ZX Spectrum modern reboot crowdfunder pops up

William Towle

Re: Why?

> The original Speccy does not output composite without soldering. I think the +2/+3 had R/G/B in some fashion on a DIN plug (which tells you its age!).

The updated ULA in Sinclair's (Plus style) ZX Spectrum 128 brought in the alternative RGB output, which had composite and TTL signals available through it. I never used it, although I did find a PC with a Cub monitor and promise myself I'd get a round tuit.

// http://www.worldofspectrum.org/ZXSpectrum128Manual/sp128p03.html

Drunk user blow-dried laptop after dog lifted its leg over the keyboard

William Towle

Re: Water damage

> I once found a pendrive wafer which had been run over, files recovered!

* recalls Gadget Show episode where they did more than that... *


* +1s video *

(Recently at work we had "SD card vs microwave", in which a whole load of standing back goes on, only for nothing at all to happen ... *grin*)

Raspberry Pi gives us all new 'Pi Zero W' for its fifth birthday

William Towle
Thumb Up

> "a wallet-flattening (not) $10."

It's wallet-flattening if you pay with coins because it's such a small amount...

Machines taught how to 'smell' by new algorithm. How will they cope with shower-dodging nerds?

William Towle

Next: Whisky?

Automated generation of tasting notes, anyone? And if you need help calibrating, I'm available.

// recalls whisky tour of Scotland in which we devised a challenge to learn the ingredients list of our favoured breakfast cereal and claim to taste those things in one of the sessions*. If any of us was sufficiently disrespectful to any of the distilleries to actually go ahead with it, they were very subtle...

* Fruit'n'Fibre in my case, easy to learn :) but would have been easy to spot too!

Just give up: 123456 is still the world's most popular password

William Towle

Re: Don't Just Blame Users

> I can't see any reason why they should be among the top 20 passwords.

That stumped me too, so I googled each. The suggestion: https://www.tripwire.com/state-of-security/featured/so-just-why-is-18atcskd2w-such-a-popular-password/

What do you give a bear that wants to fork SSL? Whatever it wants!

William Towle

Re: 20K+ 25K

T'old Speccy's screen RAM being around 6.75K is enough to rule out having enough space on its own, although maybe something is possible once you've got the bank switching of the 128K models.

*starts wondering idly about some of the Unix clones for Z80*

Good luck securing 'things' when users assume 'stuff just works'

William Towle

Re: How about what BT/VM do?

> > My router used to have the network name of 'EffOff' just to make it different.

> In the next street to mine there's an SSID of "Get your own fucking WiFi!"

Lately I've been fine-tuning the settings on our wireless devices, and noticed the appearance of the ESSID "WiFiDetectorVan".


20 years to get Amiga Workbench 3.1 update, and only a fortnight to get first patch

William Towle

Re: Atari is better because it has MIDI

> Ah, that takes me back. I got a 1200 in 1993 and started mucking around with OctaMED and 8-bit samples.

I ended up with an A500 (and A1200 eventually) for the same reason. These days I have all my "albums" on my phone as mp3s, courtesy of uade. At various stages in my career I have done audio-related work and converted/ported the original data and a simple hand-coded sample dump/playback tool for testing purposes.

// ...and just have again, coincidentally :)

Microsoft reveals career-enhancing .PNG files

William Towle

> Anyway, I think I'll look into this. I'm pretty sure I must be eligible for a badge proclaiming my expertise at Minesweeper.

s/Minesweeper/Minesweeper and Solitaire/

(Fixed that for y^Hme)

Tupperware vehemently denies any link to storage containerisation

William Towle

Re: Tsk

I recently found myself needing additional containers, and the ones I bought were branded Whitefurze.

It wasn't until later that I realised that's perhaps not the wisest of names to have used in connection with food storage...

Android Mew-ware, I choose you: Code nasty poses as Pokemon GO

William Towle

Re: Interesting proof of concept...

Apparently the game has already been sending players into interesting places to collect things - http://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/pok-mon-go-players-lured-into-sex-shop-a3294426.html

...or maybe *that* version already exists, and this is it. "Pog Mo Thoin Go", anyone?

Did Spotify hire Alan Partridge to run its Netflix-style video push?

William Towle

Re: Huey Lewis reads the News

> Domestic and international news headlines, followed by a radio-friendly, middle-of-the-road rock anthem, sports, and weather.

"Motorway sun coming up with the morning light" ... travel and weather with Tom Robinson, next.

We're calling it: World hits peak Namey McNameface

William Towle

Re: Hmm...

> "Boaty McBoatface was fun, but enough is enough. Or after this story. surely it is?"


> No. 'Nuff said.

Maybe? I was reading about the Moly PcPhone the other day and had an irritating feeling for some time that I'd hadn't taken in all the syllables in the headline properly :(

That said, I quite enjoyed the story about Warwick Farm naming a gelding Horsey McHorseface (and pictured it walking *straight* into the nearest bar...).

ZX Printer's American cousin still in use, 34 years after purchase

William Towle
Thumb Up

> Each line was 256 pixels long, the Spectrum sent the bitmap for the first row of pixels (32 bytes), then the second row of pixels, and so on down to the eighth

Indeed. And while those 32 bytes got you 32 characters per line of normal characters, if you had the Tasword editor you could edit and print at 64 characters per line. One of the enthusiast magazines had a set of pokes with a more readable version of the font with the default.

If memory serves, the buffer was 8*32 bytes - suitable for one row of normal height characters. I frequently had small code routines there (mentioned previously).

Sysadmin given Licence To Perve shows why you always get it in writing

William Towle

Re: Paid to watch smut

One of my friends worked for an ISP and was given responsibility for testing their latest smut filter implementation (with similar consequences), and one of our conversations went:

Him: *reveals being put in charge of white/black lists etc*

Friend #2: Could you send the decent URLs to me?

Friend #3: ...and the indecent ones to me?

Flaw found in Lhasa makes for compression confession depression

William Towle

> People still use it in enough numbers for this to be a problem?

I don't think end users owning archives is the problem here ... although depending on the payload I suppose it might also be. lhasa isn't on the machine I take on my commute for example, but critically its associated library *might* be on a server which deals with spam filtering/analysis of email attachments.

[Background: 'lhasa' has been the recommended extractor in Debian for some time, and while Ubuntu also offers 'lha' it's long in the tooth (on that front, there's also a sourceforge.jp version that I last chased up around 2005) and you might not need the latter unless you specifically want to create archives]

Monster crowdfunding total raised for Sinclair ZX Spectrum Vega+

William Towle

> Lemmings on the Speccy? Oh no! :)

Heh. I bought it for the Speccy and don't mind admitting I enjoyed playing it.

The level selection was very limited due to support for a maximum 20 lemmings, and having to load each level from tape was a bind ... but the monochrome nature of the visuals didn't distract that much from the gameplay and the "target and track" method of control with a joystick was odd compared to mousing but ultimately sensible for the set of levels that were ported. The same algorithm for level codes on the Amiga was used, so if you had a walkthrough with them you could cheat :)

[icon choice: tribute to Skool Daze]

// I imagine both my ascii art and my complete walkthrough for the Amiga version are still out there thanks to other fans of the game, but I haven't checked in a long time.

Bash on Windows. Repeat, Microsoft demos Bash on Windows

William Towle
Thumb Up

Re: Should work well

> I think rather than using an updated POSIX subsystem (or a new subsystem), this is trapping Linux syscalls and implementing them using equivalent Windows syscalls (and additional code as needed.) This should work pretty well actually.

I imagined a combination of both, given that enhancing the former would improve your ability to do the latter.

Next stop ... low-level container support with minimal bloat, perhaps? Minimal bloat with future everything, even?

> Interesting times indeed.


I beg you, please don't back up that secret directory full of photos!

William Towle

Re: Years ago, when the net was young

> at work on a work server [...] We would never think of doing it today, obviously

Because these days it would be hosted on the printer?

// true of one place I've previously worked at, according to former colleagues

The paperless office? Don’t talk sheet

William Towle

Re: Paperless office - about as likely as the paperless loo.

I remember hearing that paperless office quote in a Professional Development lecture, followed shortly by the revelation that the Japanese had since developed a paperless toilet (in 1980, according to http://paperlesstoilet.com/).

I turned to the chap beside me and quipped "...well, that turned out to have been a cack-handed argument".

Spanish village celebrates Playmobil nativity

William Towle

Re: Fred Dagg

> We three kings of orient are,

> Selling ladies underwear,

> So fantastic,

> No elastic,

"...falling down everywhere", in the version with which I was familiar

> Only a penny a pair.

But I quite like that :)

Emacs gets new maintainer as Richard Stallman signs off

William Towle

> "once we dot the i's and cross the t's"

> Isn't there a key combination for that...?

M-x tittle-tattle?

Daily Mail caught on hooks of Angler exploit kit

William Towle

Re: Mailicious shoe ad...

> gets mail a shoeing?

Act of sabotage?

// ...finding "the malicious creative had been disabled" a bit sinister

Bloke called Rod struck by lightning for second time

William Towle

Re: Re volt ing, I amp shocked and appalled.

> Nominal determinism is alive and well

Nominative determinism ... strikes again

Microsoft enlists web security pariah Adobe to help build Internet Explorer-killer Spartan

William Towle

Contributing “in the areas of layout, typography, graphic design and motion”.

...we're getting marquee text back?

// hopes not


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