* Posts by Dave Pickles

127 posts • joined 12 Sep 2011


Opportunity's mission is over, but InSight almost ready for a driller thriller below Martian surface

Dave Pickles

Haven't they done this the wrong way round?

First they install a super-sensitive seismometer, then they start drilling a 5-metre-deep hole one metre away...

Townsfolk left deeply unsatisfied by Bury St Edmunds' 'twig' of a Christmas tree

Dave Pickles

I come to Bury St Edmunds...

not to praise it.

Bloodbath as Broadcom slashes through CA Technologies personnel

Dave Pickles

As ye sow, so shall ye reap

CA, under their former name of Computer Associates, had (allegedly) a reputation as asset-strippers in the 1990s. Maybe now it's their turn.

GitHub lost a network link for 43 seconds, went TITSUP for a day

Dave Pickles

Wasn't Split Brain solved 30 years ago?

VMS clustering had the concept of 'quorum'; if there should be N nodes accessible then the cluster would stop if the number fell below int(N/2)+1. This made it impossible for the cluster to partition into two operating sub-clusters.

Microsoft liberates ancient MS-DOS source from the museum and sticks it in GitHub

Dave Pickles

Re: Another shot of Code

Wikipedia reckons that it was written in PL/M (a minimalist version of PL/1). From memory of poring over the disassembly of CP/M 2.2 I suspect that only the CCP was written in high-level language.

Everything DM gets direct message slap: Marketing biz cops £60k ICO fine

Dave Pickles

Re: 23.6p

23.6 is the number of emails per £1 fine. The cost per email is 4.225p.

Google shaves half a gig off Android Poundland Edition

Dave Pickles

"What was the storage capacity of the typical PC when XP was released?"

I bought a laptop in 2000 with a 20 Gig HD, so 40GB for a desktop machine sounds about right.

'Can you just pop in to the office and hit the power button?' 'Not really... the G8 is on'

Dave Pickles

Re: Long ago.

My turn to say I didn't know they existed...

After a hiccup at my ISP took down my VPN to home ("just reboot the router, sir") while I was 1000 miles away, I built something similar using an Arduino and a GSM modem. An SMS containing the correct password power-cycles the router.

Microsoft devises new way of making you feel old: Windows NT is 25

Dave Pickles

He brought just about everything else. At one time it was reckoned that the best tutorial guide to writing a device driver for NT was the VAX/VMS Device Driver manual.



You've heard that pop will eat itself. Boffins have unveiled a rocket that does the same

Dave Pickles

Like a hot melt glue gun stood on end

... with the payload on the top of the glue stick? Doesn't that mean that the rocket gets shorter as it burns, that must give some interesting aerodynamic problems.

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

Dave Pickles

Re: Article is a bit light on facts.

VAX FORTRAN may have been standard, but the VAX floating-point representation was decidedly strange. There were four different formats and all of them had the exponent in the middle of the word with the mantissa wrapped around it. I believe the aim was some level of compatibility with earlier generations of DEC hardware.

https://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/nssdc/formats/VAXFloatingPoint.htm for the gory details.

Facebook: Crisis? What crisis? Look at our revenue, it's fantastic

Dave Pickles

Re: Supertramp

Bloody Well Right...

Cosmic prang probe: Euro space boffins to smash sats, virtually

Dave Pickles

Re: Serious question.

Satellites don't all traipse round in neat circular equatorial orbits. Most are inclined to the equator and many have elliptical orbits, some very elliptical indeed. Imagine a three-dimensional motorway with traffic continally swapping lanes; sooner or later someone's going to get side-swiped.

Microsoft Lean's in: Slimmed-down Windows 10 OS option spotted

Dave Pickles

Re: The funny thing is that...

And Windows NT was around 30Mb...

India completes its GPS alternative, for the second time

Dave Pickles

Re: Why would mobile phones or TV be affected ?

"As mobile phone mast are NOT transmitting the same signal (as they are talking to different phones), why do they need the precision timing ?"

Presumably to allow triangulation of the mobile's location. Maybe also so that base stations on the same frequency which overlap in coverage area can interleave their transmissions.

European Space Agency squirts a code update at Mars Express orbiter

Dave Pickles

Rosetta are you better...

...are you well, well, well?


Brit regulator pats self on back over nuisance call reduction: It's just 4 billion now!

Dave Pickles

Re: Solution at the end user, er..., end

I use this on a Raspberry Pi:


It has blacklists and whitelists, which can include regular expressions. For blacklisted calls it can play a recording or emulate a fax machine. Best of all, in the UK it will seize the call before the first ring, so you are never interrupted by the spammers. It's a simple matter to parse the log file to create a web report.

(No connection other than as a user).

Ofcom cracks on with spectrum auction rules, despite Three's legal challenge

Dave Pickles

Re: "Whatever you want"

What You're Proposing is that BT should Roll Over Lay Down and let it's allocation go Down Down and melt away like Ice In The Sun, rather than try to Break The Rules. That may just be Dreamin'.

Intel AMT security locks bypassed on corp laptops – fresh research

Dave Pickles

Re: Why blame Intel?

Because this one password, which a corporate user likely does not know exists, and which probably doesn't have expiration or complexity requirements, potentially gives unauditable access not only to the contents of the machine but to other systems the user may use.

UK watchdog dishes out fines totaling £600k to four spam-spewers

Dave Pickles

Maybe they'll pay after all...

Goody Market UK made an application to strike the company off the register on January 2nd. On the 10th an objection was received by Companies House and the process suspended.

Barrington Claims were about to be struck-off for non-compliance but that is now suspended.

TFLI filed for strike-off on 4th Jan; ICO hasn't stopped that yet.

Net boffins brew poison for BGP hijacks

Dave Pickles

So the first thing the Bad Guys do is to blackhole RouteViews and RIS, then they can get on with their Nefarious Deeds unmolested...

Woo-yay, Meltdown CPU fixes are here. Now, Spectre flaws will haunt tech industry for years

Dave Pickles

DEC Alpha didn't do speculative execution, it had separate 'branch usually' and 'branch occasionally' instructions which the compiler selected depending on code analysis.

Nest's slick IoT burglar alarm catches crooks... while it eyes your wallet

Dave Pickles

Re: What real use are they?

Having also been 'done over' twice in 35 years I agree it is better to not make yourself a target rather than try to deal with the consequences.

It's a shame the security companies don't come up with products to make a house less attractive as a target. For example I would like some kind of motorised letter-box, so that junk mail and free newspapers don't get left hanging out for days on end if no-one is at home.

Next-gen telco protocol Diameter has last-gen security – researchers

Dave Pickles

Re: Diameter

"..with *twice* the number of security holes as RADIUS!"

So the secure version will be called Circumference?

Scotland, now is your time… to launch Brexit Britain into SPAAAACE!

Dave Pickles


That's a long way North of the equator, so a rocket won't get much assistance from the Earth's rotation. And if anything were to go wrong, Fiery Death and Destruction would rain down on Southern Scotland, Denmark, Germany and points East.

Intel finds critical holes in secret Management Engine hidden in tons of desktop, server chipsets

Dave Pickles

"Only if its SPARC, PowerPC or ARM by the looks of it."

IIRC Sun Fire servers had a similar management engine, though I think you could only talk to it via a dedicated ethernet connector.

Rocky Ross 128 b might harbour aliens – and it's headed right for us

Dave Pickles

"Maybe one day we'll go there"

If the star system is going to be 7 light-years closer to us in 70,000 years, then it is heading in our direction at around 18 miles per second. The question should be less about how to get there and more about how to get out of the way.

World Vasectomy Day: 15k men line up for live vent-blocking

Dave Pickles

Vasectomy means never having to say you're sorry...

Windows on ARM: It's nearly here (again)

Dave Pickles

Re: Alpha, MIPS, PA RISC, and PowerPC

No, but on the topic of x86 emulation, the DEC Alpha machines had an x86 emulator in their boot ROM. It was needed to execute the x86 code in the boot ROM of the graphics card.

Greenhouse gas-sniffing satellite to be built and tested in Britain

Dave Pickles

Auld Lang Syne Complex*

"The globe has cooled and warmed many times and by now man should be able to use technology to keep himself alive but unfortunately the greens do not want us to use technology, they want us back in some bohemian utopia which has never existed."

Agreed. During the last few million years while homo sapiens has been climbing to the top rung of the evolutionary ladder there have been many changes in our environment, and doubtless there are many more to come. As a species we must meet these future challenges, but turning the clock back is only one of many possible options to consider.

* Thanks to "The Peter Principle" by Peter & Hull.

Harry Potter to get the Pokémon GO treatment

Dave Pickles

Re: Working as a group

"Whats this mania for making games social?"

It allows the maker to not only collect the identities of the players but also the relationships between them.

Car insurers recoil in horror from paying auto autos' speeding fines

Dave Pickles

Re: Try a sensible design?

"Surely there's a 'grace period' of about a thirty seconds (or whatever) before any new speed limit violations will trigger a recorded offence? If not, why not?"

According to a friend* who was invited to a 'naughty step' course in lieu of a speeding ticket the cameras are armed 12 seconds after the signs are changed.

* honest...

First iPhone X fondlers struggle to admit that Face ID sort of sucks

Dave Pickles

Re: you said facial...

Maybe that's what the poo emoji is for...

Boss put chocolate cake on aircon controller, to stop people using it

Dave Pickles

From my .sig collection

Don't know where it came from:

"I lost interest in 'blade servers' when I found they didn't throw knives at people who weren't supposed to be in your machine room."

FCC gives Google's broadband balloons 'experimental license' in Puerto Rico

Dave Pickles

Yes, but making money from those after a disaster is generally frowned upon.

Set your alarms for 2.40am UTC – so you can watch Unix time hit 1,500,000,000

Dave Pickles


It seems like only yesterday that we had the 'billennium', where Unix timestamps went from 9 decimal digits to 10 and broke some locally-developed stuff.

NHS WannaCrypt postmortem: Outbreak blamed on lack of accountability

Dave Pickles

Chartered Institute For IT?

That'll be the BCS, then.

Live blog: Fired FBI boss spills the beans to US Senate committee

Dave Pickles


Having the events unfold in reverse order makes for a very confusing read.

Spend your paper £5 notes NOW: No longer legal tender after today

Dave Pickles

What the reporter meant, methinks, is that in 1957 the price of beer was one shilling per pint, or 5p in today's (decimal) money. Hence the 6,000 percent is correct in absolute terms but not when inflation and taxes are taken into account.

Mediaeval Yorkshirefolk mutilated, burned t'dead to prevent reanimation

Dave Pickles

Re: Early MacDonalds?

Did somebody call??

A router with a fear of heights? Yup. It's a thing

Dave Pickles

Breakdown voltage for a given gas, pressure and gap length is determined by a Paschen curve (ooer!). It generally decreases with reducing pressure then rises again at very low pressure.

If fast radio bursts really are revving up interstellar sailcraft, here's the maths

Dave Pickles

Re: Astrophysicists think

Niven and Pournelle describe this exact scenario in "The Mote In God's Eye" (1974). In their story a ship is accelerated to about 0.7c by lasers fired from their home planet. To decelerate the ship is aimed directly at the star in the destination system, tacking away at the very last moment using the light sail.

Hopping the flash stepping stones to DIMM future

Dave Pickles

So the NV storage gets mapped directly into the processor's address space, and DRAM becomes another layer of cache. Neat, although we'll eventually need 128-bit addressing on the CPU to keep up with the storage.

Who do you want to be Who? VOTE for the BBC's next Time Lord

Dave Pickles


I thought Time Lords were limited to 12 regenerations. Didn't The Master have to do something terrible to achieve his thirteenth? Of course I stopped watching Dr Who when I left Uni in the 1970s so maybe they've found a way round the limit.

On last day as president, Obama's CIO shrouds future .gov websites in secret code

Dave Pickles

Look up "HSTS preloading" for an explanation - basically the fact that a site will only accept SSL connections is pre-baked into the browser.

MongoDB ransom attacks soar, body count hits 27,000 in hours

Dave Pickles

If there *is* a next product...

The Register's Top 20 Most-Commented Stories in 2016

Dave Pickles

Re: Difficult to understand how the M$ Win10 clusterfuck didn't affect more people...???

All the hospitals I've visited in the last couple of years have been running XP, at least in the wards.

OpenStreetView? You are no longer hostage to Google's car-driven vision

Dave Pickles

Re: As good as if not better than Google Maps?

That's because the Post Code database is not 'free' in any sense of the word. OSM would not want to have to pay many thousands of pounds per year for the right to use it, and could not accept the restrictions on use of the data which would doubtless be required.

Dave Pickles

Re: How "open" is OpenStreetMap?

Well I'm one of the "happy amateur surveyors and mapmakers" and all my cycling around local housing estates with a GPS is entirely my own work. The project does have the right to use some other sources; Bing maps and the OS OpenData products can be used as a backdrop to get road alignment correct.

Major outage at broadband biz 186k

Dave Pickles

Re: Accounts overdue

From the wording of the announcement it sounds as though the firm haven't been paying BTOR and so their customers' lines are being ceased as the bills fall due.


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