* Posts by Peter Gathercole

2953 posts • joined 15 Jun 2007

Pass the 'Milk' to make code run four times faster, say MIT boffins

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Software? Or maybe hardware.

So instead of just fetching the data, you're going to catch the request (in software?), and defer the code waiting for the data until the data can be more efficiently fetched.

Just how many more very expensive context switches will this generate? And where are the other threads that can be dispatched once all of them are waiting for an 'efficient data fetch'. And how will that affect the latency of individual threads?

I'm sure that there are some highly threaded applications with unpredictable data flow where this could be a benefit, but on the brute-force codes that make up most HPC applications, which mostly process data in predictable ways, especially Fortran code where the standard dictate how data is stored in arrays, this is likely to be completely unneeded extra code that can only slow the total throughput.

I think I'll let the hardware cache pre-fetch hardware provide all the speedup most real 'Big Data' requires.

Using a thing made by Microsoft, Apple or Adobe? It probably needs a patch today

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: iPatch

Previous history. In the late 1970's and 1980's AT&T Exptools (and probably other tool packages - V7 Addendum tape springs to mind) had a utility to edit i-nodes on a UNIX file system that was called ipatch. I probably have a paper copy of the man page somewhere.

Delete Google Maps? Go ahead, says Google, we'll still track you

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: eh? @RAMChYLD

Unfortunately, cell phones have to advertise where they are and be tracked, so calls can be routed to the cell where the phone is. There's no way the 'phone system could probe the cell network of the whole world to locate a phone.

So it's axiomatic that a functioning mobile phone can be tracked without GPS, WiFi, NFC or Bluetooth.

The difference is that the cell location information is normally limited to the service providers running the cell network, and agencies with legal access to that information. The combination of WiFi/Mobile Data and GPS/AGPS makes this type information available to all apps with some tracking function.

I run will all comms except the phone disabled, but mainly because of battery life.

'Oi! El Reg! Stop pretending Microsoft has a BSOD monopoly!'

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Machine Operating System @davidp231

Thanks for the link to RetroClinic, and the detailed startup information.

My BEEB has an issue 3 board, ordered on the first day that they accepted orders, and was delivered with OS 0.1, and still has Basic 1 (the OS was upgraded when the disk upgrade was fitted). I never really used B+ or B+128s, but I did have access to one of the first Masters that was available, with a 3xAA battery holder for normal batteries, not a single battery, but no longer. I also ran an Econet Level 3 fileserver with a 10MB hard disk for a network of machines with many of the available peripherals.

I think the DataCentre may make it onto my Christmas list! I hope it doesn't clash with the ATPL Sideways ROM board, but I suppose I could take that out.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Machine Operating System @8271.

Yes. How memory plays tricks.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Machine Operating System

My thoughts are with Martin here, although I'm not sure that a machine running 1770 DFS had a battery (a model B+ or B+128 probably, but could be a B with a 1770 controller rather than the 8270 that was more common on model Bs. Probably not a Master or Master Compact because they came with ADFS).

The BEEB *ALWAYS* booted from ROM, but could be set to run an exec file called !BOOT from the floppy (or hard disk, but this is not ADFS) when it was started. To my mind, this looks like this is what it is trying to do. I would want to look at the access light on the drive to be sure.

Model Bs had space for a DIP switch on the keyboard rather than non-volatile memory to set the startup options, but it was possible to solder wire links rather than using a switch.

If it is that the diskette has worn out, I hope they have a supply of the soft-sectored, 5.25" double-sided, double-density diskettes, because I tried to locate some to buy a couple of years ago to re-write my collection, and totally failed to find any, even on the auction sites!

Standard 360KB or 1.2MB 5.25" IBM disks do not work.

I think I've seen some enterprising person build a SD card adapter that looks like a hard disk on the 1MHz bus for a BEEB, but that would need ADFS installed!

Maybe time to re-code for a Raspberry Pi.

Phones exploding in kids' hands, shares tanking – but it's not all good news at Samsung

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Removable battery

But it's strange. The three phones that I've taken apart that supposedly have non-removeable batteries (Sony Xperia SP, Nexus 4 and HTC Desire 626) are surprisingly easy to take the batteries out! The only thing that makes it difficult is the double-sided tape holding it in.

All this "it makes the phone slimmer" argument a bit lame.

IBM lifts lid, unleashes Linux-based x86 killer on unsuspecting world

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: HP beat em already?

Remember that IBM has produced some of the densest servers already with the 9125 F2C Power7 775, aka p7IH (the 'failed' Blue Waters machine, that still got sold to serious HPC shops).

When Power 8 came along, with the drop of the GX++ bus, there was not an p8IH, because of the redesign work necessary for the Torrent hardware (AFAIK), but the last time I spoke with people in the know, they were intending to take a shot at a p9IH server for HPC, but that is no guarantee that a product will be see the light of day.

You've also got to look at the density of the BlueGene/Q, now pretty old, but still scattered through the Top500 list, and peaking at position 4 in the June list.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Haven't checked, but...

If this is a member of the Power family, even though it won't (yet?) run AIX or IBM i, it will be LPARable like all the rest (assuming you buy the entitlement).

You've been able to LPAR Power servers, even the Linux only ones, for longer than Unisys have been using Intel processor in Clearpath servers.

IBM pretty much wrote the book on partitioning servers.

Latest Intel, AMD chips will only run Windows 10 ... and Linux, BSD, OS X

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: @fandom

OK. I was confusing 386 and 32-bit x86. Sorry.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


...will drop support... There. FIFY.

It's not happened yet, and when it does, mainstream Linux distro's will remain supported in i386 for several years to come, because they will keep the older kernels in their LTS repositories for quite a while (Ubuntu will drop support first in 18.10)

I estimate that I'll have retired all my i386 boxes way before Ubuntu 18.04 drops out of support in 2022 or 2023.

It's time for humanity to embrace SEX ROBOTS. For, uh, science, of course

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Escort - Reminds me of an old joke

Q. What's the difference between a Skoda and a sheep

A. You're less embarrassed getting out of the back of a sheep!

Of course this goes back to before VW bought Skoda. Maybe it should be a Dacia now.

Watch SpaceX's rocket dramatically detonate, destroying a $200m Facebook satellite

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: molepeople @Prst.

Nice Bromeliad Trilogy (Truckers, Diggers, Wings) reference.

Have an upvote, but hold off on the poetry, please.

Kindle Paperwhites turn Windows 10 PCs into paperweights: Plugging one in 'triggers a BSOD'

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: I remember @Charles (again)

I just read your post again.

Is the support really not there? Have you checked to see whether the chipset is not supported, or that the system just does not have an entry in the hwdata lookup-table for a particular a manufacturer and device ID.

If it is the latter, you need to add an entry in either /usr/share/hwdata/usb.ids or pci.ids from one of the repos. on the Internet. Not that difficult.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: I remember @Charles

It is quite true that there are unsupported devices. I have a PCI wireless card made by ASUS that seems to use some form of Broadcom chipset for which the drivers don't exist for Linux.

But equally, the drivers don't exist for Windows 7 or later, and they were pretty difficult to find for Windows XP!

So, not the OS provider (of whichever sort) at fault.

But Linux has another trick up it's sleeve. If you can find a usable WinXP driver, there exists a method of wrapping the Windows driver up so that it can execute on Linux. This is described as ndiswrapper, and if you really need to get a device working, this can provide a solution.

But for most people, the solution is, unfortunately, to discard the device and get another.

On the subject of wireless drivers, I've put Linux on many, many laptops and computers, and outside of the example listed above, it has just worked for pretty much all of the systems I've built in the last 10 years.

The only caveat to this is generally, I only build on older systems, not bleeding-edge ones. It is possible that a new system may require some lead time for someone to figure out what's different.

But ask yourself. Is the fact that a device manufacturer is prepared to provide Windows driver but not a Linux one a fault of Linux?

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: I remember @AC

The way that Windows device driver identification works is fundamentally broken IMHO.

It requires you to have a specific driver for the USB and PCI (and I presume PCIe) device identity. This is normally provided by the manufacturer (remember all those shiny round things that came with the device).

The result is that if you upgrade a windows system, and the existing propriety driver that used to work fails the upgrade compatibility check and is removed from the configuration, the device will be left with no driver loaded. This is even if there are perfectly good drivers for that particular device on the system (this is particularly bad for network devices that are largely built from standard chipsets).

in the case of network drivers, this may mean that you can't even get to the Internet to try to find working drivers!

The Linux model, which has generic drivers for almost all of the chipsets included with the OS, and a device ID mapping file that points to the correct generic driver for a particular device, means that as long as you can identify what driver should be used, even if it is not in the config. file already, you have a fighting chance of getting it working without having to find another machine and start mucking about with USB memory sticks to copy the driver to re-install.

And you're not beholden to a device manufacture who has no real interest in providing new drivers for old hardware.

A plumber with a blowtorch is the enemy of the data centre

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Fun with Serial lines.

Two examples, both from the same place.

First. Wired corridor in a Polytechnic for Acorn Econet (bussed RS422 serial network used for BBC Micro's). One day, the network stops. We check each of the access ports (very basic 5 pin DIN connector in a box soldered directly to the wires in the cable to reduce contact resistance in connectors). All OK. Terminator, OK. Meter across the wires shows a short. Eventually tracked it down to a staple carelessly driven through the cable to 'tidy it up'.

Secondly. Camtec X.29 PAD used as an RS-232 terminal switch. In order to get it's attention from the PDP-11, it was necessary to generate a communication break (data line connected to ground for a second or so). DZ-11 or the comms software (can't remember which) could not do this, so I created an interposer that consisted of a 25 pin male D-shell connected to a 25 pin female D-shell with soldered wires between the pins, and the two held together with long bolts with several nuts holding everything in place, and a press-to-make, release-to-to-break switch between pin 7 and pin 2 (or was it 3). One day, PDP-11 gets slower and slower, and eventually stops. Reboot, everything OK for a while, then the same thing happens. Looking in the log, it was reporting data over-runs on one of the DZ-11 ports.

Turns out some vibration had loosened the nuts, one of the D-Shells had moved, causing a short from pin 2 to pin 3 (data out and data in or vice-verca) in the wiring to the press switch. Login banner sent from PDP-11 came back as if typed from the terminal, which generated errors and a new login banner. Eventually system was so busy fielding exponential amounts of data that it ground to a halt.

Moral. Good wiring is important, good soldering equally so.

Former RN flagship HMS Illustrious to be sold for scrap – report

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

And, if you remember, they were only going to buy a single catapult, and swap it between the two ships as they entered/left refit. (Even now, it is only intended to keep one at sea at a time, which is how they intend to get away with so few planes.)

A ship of the size of these, with only a single catapult would be useless. Nimitz and Ford class carriers have four....

Whatever idiot suggested this method of working obviously thought that removing/fitting a catapult could not possibly be any more complicated than changing a car tyre!

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Electrical energy

Well, the US EMALS system is not going to be retro-fitted to the Nimitz class of carriers because the two nuclear reactors installed on these ships do not provide enough energy. So the chances of a gas-turbine/generator system providing enough juice seems unlikely.

They're being installed on the Gerald R Ford class, which have an uprated generating capacity compared to the Nimitzs.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

The biggest problem with the QEs is that they are powered by gas turbine/electric propulsion.

They could not have had steam catapults fitted, because there is no steam plant to generate steam (unlike the US nuclear carriers). And the electro-magnetic plane flingers were not available when the ships were first planned, need huge amounts of electrical power, and are bloody expensive (being current US technology).

If the design had been built around four or six Astute sub. reactors, they would have had either steam or surplus electrical power. But some bleeding hearts had decided that the UK should not have nuclear powered surface warships. So we have ships with limited range, reduced accommodation for crew, provisions, weapons and aircraft because of the need to have J-fule bunkers and fresh water tanks.

IMHO, they are seriously compromised ships, along with their built-around a-single-weapon system escorts, the Type 45 destroyers. I though the navy had learned this lesson after the County class and Type 81 large destroyers of the 1960's.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Saving ships @GrumpyKiwi

We scrapped nearly all of the WWII battleships very soon after the war. All of the surviving QE class were knackered after bearing the brunt of the Mediterranean conflict, with Warspite, Valiant and Queen Elizabeth all seriously damaged at various times by mines and consequently not suitable for preservation.

The Revenge class were already in reserve at the close of WWII, because they were very slow and had fueling issues (they were built as oil/coal fired, and did not have the oil bunkerage for operations outside of the North Sea).

Nelson and Rodney were... odd. Very atypical, and would not really have been representative.

Keeping a King George V should have been possible, but it was again, these were paid off into reserve or used for training duties very quickly after the war.

Although it was not a WWII battleship, Vanguard, as the last operational British battleship (and probably the best looking example of British big-ship design - being closest to the canceled Lion class in design) would have been an excellent choice, but preservation efforts failed because it would have been so expensive (and the government in the '60s were desperately trying to cut the cost of defence).

But Belfast is not such a bad remnant. In terms of size, being the same length as the smaller British battleships, is reasonably representative of wartime cruiser design (being a stretched, or improved Southampton class), had been active in WWII and was in the best condition of all of the remaining available large ships. As such, she gives some impression of size and conditions for a large number of British ships.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: I would actually argue..

I stand suitably corrected. I was trying to avoid calling them Hawker Siddley Buccaneers.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

I would actually argue..

..that carrier based fast jet operations actually ended with the decommissioning of the Audacious class R09 HMS Ark Royal in 1979.

Compared to that venerable old lady, the Illustrious class were relatively small.

The Illustrious class were designed with a full-load displacement of around 18,000 tons. R09 Ark Royal was designed at 35,000 tons, and evolved to over 40,000 tons full load, over twice the displacement. In addition, she embarked F-4K Phantoms, the last supersonic aircraft to fly from a British carrier, and Bristol Buccaneers.

The Mighty Ark was a hold-over from WWII armored carrier design, and by the time she was decommissioned was completely worn out through a long life and incremental modifications. In the '60s, there was a grand project to build CVA-01, a suitable replacement, but this was canned by a Labour government, who deemed that the Navy no longer needed ship based fixed-wing aircraft. As a result, the Illustrious class then on the drawing board, were re-christened Through-Deck Cruisers, and were only intended to fly helicopters for anti-submarine purposes.

It was only after trials of P1107 Kestrels and early Harriers on R09 Ark Royal and HMS Bulwark (a light fleet carrier converted to operate helicopters) proved that they could be operated from smaller ships without CATOBAR facilities that it became feasible to actually use the Illustrious class as light fleet carriers. They were completed with ski-jumps to assist takeoff, and I actually saw Ark Royal and Illustrious being fitted out on the Tyne in the '80s.

But as the Sea Harrier was subsonic, I maintain that it did not really count as a fast jet.

Google broke its own cloud by doing two updates at once

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Still planning to have these clown in your infrastructure? @Adam

... but with your own infrastructure, you can plan your own changes to avoid conflicts, and also make sure that changes don't happen during your critical business periods. You know how good the people doing the work are, you have the responsibility for hiring them!

You're also free to analyze what happened to whatever depth you want post incident, assigning the correct blame and improving future work without relying on partial, face-saving reports and promises from a service provider whose interests are not served by making the full details of their mistakes public.

I know Google have very skilled people in some places in their organization. But you think they're the people actually doing the day-to-day grind? They're probably mostly in design/third level escalation, The people doing the grunt work will be like every other company, the cheapest they can get to fill the roles.

And when it comes to suing service providers, trying to take legal action while trying to recover a business, especially against companies that employ good lawyers, is the last thing a company would need. Even if you won (after the appeal, of course) chances are the financial gain might be too late to save a business.

I would be pretty certain that for most tiers of cloud that people are using, the terms of the contracts and their resultant SLAs that the likes of Google provide will not have clauses that provide significant redress. And did I say that they employ good lawyers? And it might even be difficult to identify which legal jurisdiction any case should be brought!

More gums than Jaws: Greenland super-sharks live past 400 years old

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: New dating techniques

"...it reproduces very slowly".

Sounds like a new dating technique is required. Catch,com, maybe, or possibly eHARMony. How about EliteSinglePreditors.co.uk? GreenlandSingles.com?

'I found the intern curled up on the data centre floor moaning'

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Locked in a machine room


Neither the company I was working for at the time, nor the one in London was IBM!

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Early hours of the morning

While I was working in the support center of one of the major IT suppliers, I was awakened by the pager in the small hours of the morning.

When responding to the call center, the operative said "I hope you don't mind, but the customer has asked who was on standby before they placed the call". Obviously, the customer had different opinions about the people who were on the standby rota. Apparently, I had passed their vetting, and I called them up.

I then spent about 20 minutes listening to the details of the problem, interspersing a few appropriate noises. At the end of this, the customer said "OK, I think I know what I need to do now".

I said, "But I've not given you any help or assistance", to which she replied "No, but you let me describe the problem to someone who would understand it, which has allowed me to think it through".

I said that I would be available if she needed to call me again, and she thanked me, and hung up. I did not hear from her again that night, so her solution must have worked. Easiest call-out I ever had.

I came across her again several years later after I had started contracting. Apparently, my CV passed across her desk for a role they were trying to recruit, and she remembered me (not just form the call described above, but from other support calls). I got a rather bemused agent on the phone, who said that she's called them unprompted to say that the role was mine if I wanted it, without any interview, and at the highest rate he'd been told to recruit at.

Unfortunately, it was London based, and I was not looking a role in the Capital. Still, it's nice to be appreciated sometimes.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Locked in a machine room

I was working for a large telecomms company that had outsourced development of a call billing package to a supposedly premier UK based software company. The third party were provided with a rather obscure proprietary UNIX system (made by the telecoms company) to develop on, because that was the platform the system would run from.

They proceeded to break it, and I was told to go up to London to investigate and rebuild the system for them.

After I arrived and booked in, I was taken and left (unescorted!) in a machine room in a building just off the Tottenham Court Road in London, where I discovered that they had extended the /usr filesystem over the swap space (this was when you had sys-gen'd disk partitions - it was some time ago), and diligently sorted the disk partition table, and restored the filesystem from the backup tape.

When I finished, I looked around. The machine room had no 'phones in it, and it was before mobiles were common. The door could only be opened with an electronic tag. There was nobody in listening distance of the door, no matter how much I pounded it. The only system I could log into was the system I had fixed, and there were no other users logged on.

Something like 4 hours after I had finished, someone thought to look in on me. I was cold, thirsty, and really needed the toilet. I had toyed with the idea of the fire alarm, or turning random machines off to try and attract attention, and also considered lifting a floor tile and leaving a 'present' under the suspended floor.

I cannot remember whether I received any form of apology. All I wanted to do was get out of there.

And you can guess how I felt when just two weeks later, I got a call saying that this 'premier' software company had done exactly the same thing again (after being given an explicit report of what they'd done wrong previously), and could I go up and fix it....

Vodafone bins line rental charges as it moves onto TalkTalk's turf

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Line rental

I've never understood why there is such a huge complaint about paying line rental.

The cost of the copper/fibre infrastructure, and the ISP end equipment has to be paid for somehow, whether it be by a broken out line rental, or by having it wrapped into the monthly package.

The cost of the voice component of the phone line is minimal in this day and age, and probably most data only lines still have the hardware to do analogue calls anyway. Just think, I can buy outright a whole mobile phone, with radios, batteries, displays and everything for £10. How much does the A-D and D-A converters cost at the exchange? And the amount of digital information generated by an analogue voice call is trivial.

This means that it is extremely unlikely that a data only line with the infrastructure costs wrapped into the costs will work out any cheaper.

I'm all for making the eventual costs more transparent, however.

Internet of Car...rikey what the hell just happened to my car?

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: KITT is screwed, then.

KITT was always interfering with other car's ignition and locking systems (it was one of it's/his normal tricks), and I'm pretty sure was hacked more than once.

But of course that was fiction.

Big Red alert: Oracle's MICROS payment terminal biz hacked

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: MICROS payment terminals hacked @bazza

Unfortunately, many small-business merchant services do use the Internet as a communication path (small shops don't want the cost of a separate communication infrastructure, and dial-up is becoming history), either via *DSL lines or mobile, and this means that the central servers for the merchant systems must also be connected to the Internet.

One hopes that they establish secure VPNs for the actual transmission of the transaction details, and that the central servers are properly secured, but I'm afraid with the advent of payment services run via mobile phones, like PayPal and others are doing, it could be the security of the mobile phone and attached card devices that will become the attack target,

'Alien megastructure' Tabby's Star: Light is definitely dimming

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: If this continues ...

Surely, it must be The Mote in God's Eye.

The light sail of the Motie ship is just obscuring more of the star as it gets further out, and the rapid change was the planet-based propulsion lasers being turned off.

BBC detector vans are back to spy on your home Wi-Fi – if you can believe it

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Same old, same old from the Telegraph @Fuzzy

It needs to be funded separately, from sources not directly controlled by the Government.

This is so it can maintain some sort of independence from the Government, especially when it comes to news coverage, and not be accused of being a mouthpiece for whichever party is in power.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Once upon a time detector vans existed @AC

So called TV detector vans did really exist and used to be technically feasible in the days before digital TV, but they were largely a psychological instrument of FUD. As a previous commentor said, many of them were probably non-functional and just for show, with a deliberately obvious 'antenna' on the roof to make them visible.

My Mother-in-Law claimed to have seen one in the last couple of weeks, but I'm not sure whether she could really differentiate one from, say, a satellite installer, or another van with a transport tube on the roof.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Once upon a time detector vans existed @katrinab

Whilst I think you have the wording correct, the original intention of this type of clause was to allow caravan owners to watch TV under their home license (it would have been very difficult to buy a license for a caravan, which has no fixed address). It also used to say that you should not simultaneously use a portable device and the TV in the licensed address at the same time.

Very few portable TVs had internal batteries until the advent of Sir Clive's Micro TV and the following advent of LCD TV's i the '80s and '90s. They either relied on the battery of the towing car, or had a car-type battery in the caravan.

Nowadays, with technology moving as fast as it is, it's almost impossible to come up with some sensible definition of a device capable of receiving broadcast TV. Tying iPlayer to the license is desirable from the BBC's perspective, but makes a mockery of the fact that the license was supposed to cover the operation of receiving equipment, not access to the BBC's content.

I don't know the answer, and I don't want the BBC's independence from commercial pressure or government interference to change, but something needs to be done. Moving to a pure subscription model with encryption appears to be the best and most fair model IMHO, but would require an increase in cost, and a similar upheaval to that when DVT came in!

Your 'intimate personal massager' – cough – is spying on you

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Security research. Yeah, that's what it was

> Go forth and multiply

You said it.

: MULTIPLY ( a b -- c ) * ;

Temperature of Hell drops a few degrees – Microsoft emits SSH-for-Windows source code

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@AC re. IPSEC.

Ah, but SSH works at a user level, so you can use it to do tricks through systems that you don't have admin access to (like most organizations with silo'd platform support.)

Whether this is a good or bad thing depends on whether you're a sysadmin in a heterogeneous environment that you don't completely control, or whether you're in IT security!

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: POSIX @h4mn0ny

Octal use in UNIX comes from it's DEC roots, not anything IBM did.

DEC PDP-6, PDP-7, PDP-8, and PDP-10 (aka System10) variously had 12, 18 and 36 bit word lengths, which fitted octal (3 bits per nibble) very well, especially as they used 6-bit characters.

When the PDP11 came along, which was a 16 bit system, DEC programmers had octal so ingrained in their mindset, that they stuck with octal, rather than switching to hexadecimal, which works better for 8/16 bit words. This stuck with the original UNIX developers at Bell Labs.

You will also remember that Unics(sic) started on the PDP-7.

Fork YOU! Sure, take the code. Then what?

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Forking Debian...

Ubuntu is not a fork of Debian. It's a down-stream distro. It still relies on Debian being there, and contributes work back into Debian.

Similarly, the core Mint releases are a down-stream distro of Ubuntu.

InfiniBand-on-die MIA in Oracle's new 'Sonoma' Sparc S7 processor

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: It's SPARC @Destroy All Monsters

You missed out the space! It should be UNIX ®, at least according to the Open Group trademark usage guidelines - "The Trade Marks must always be used with white space surrounding them".

See Section 2.1.

UNIX ® is a registered trademark of The Open Group

UK gov says new Home Sec will have powers to ban end-to-end encryption

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Domestic? @Soruk

OK, point taken. But I was assuming that you were looking for workable solutions.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Domestic? @cbars

"idiots don't understand..."

But if they are in a position of power (as the CSPs are w.r.t data over their own infrastructure), what they don't understand, they can block, using the precautionary principal.

And even if the data is fetched via a GET, it can still be DPI'd, and again, precautionary principal applies if they don't understand it.

The only thing you can do is have some infrastructure that is not run by a CSP (I've never heard Communication Service Provider used as a term before, but whatever...) that runs over a UK border to a friendly neighbor, like a satellite link, direct wire, microwave link, or even a focused WiFi antenna.

But that could be made illegal as well.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: remove or disable end-to-end encryption

I seriously suspect that being in or out of the EU makes not a jot of difference to these pie-in-the sky policies.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Domestic? @Soruk

Ummm. Who provides the telephone line for the dial-up service?

One of the CSPs mentioned in the article. All the CSP needs to do is to put some traffic analysis on the line. If it looks encrypted, or even just unintelligible (like if you've created a new modulation technique), it drops the call, or just puts some phase modifying filters to corrupt the modulation.

The result is that there is no data flow. With no data flow, there is no encryption.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Wow @Danny 5

They don't have to control encryption as such.

Before I go on, this is just a thought experiment, OK. I'm not actually suggesting the following.

It would be perfectly possible for ISPs to block everything by default and whitelist allowed services, and then use DPI to see whether the allowed services were being subverted to tunnel encrypted traffic. That would mean as soon as you put traffic that was not allowed down your link, it would be quenched.

They would also have to make sure that non-IP data circuits (dark fibre etc.) services out of the country were also banned. That would just leave bi-directional satellite services and point-to-point microwave/wireless across national boundaries (like the Northern Ireland border with Eire) to worry about.

Mind you, the Internet in the UK would then bear no resemblance to what it looks like at the moment, and it would look more restrictive than China.

Unfortunately, there is something in the Home Office that seems to make seemingly ordinary cabinet ministers and MPs adopt completely stupid ideas once they become Home Secretary. And we now have an ex-Home Secretary as PM, and a new one with the same ideas.

We're doomed, I say!

Seminal adventure game The Hobbit finally ported to the Dragon 64

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Posh Gits

If you thought that only poor people bought Trash-80s, you obviously did not look at the prices. In the UK The TRS-80 model 1 was seriously expensive (in the UK, it even needed it's own special monitor), though it was a quite well engineered machine.

But it fell into the Commodore Pet and Apple ][ generation, and should have been replaced, or at least price reduced when the likes of the VIC-20, Commodore 64 and Spectrum came along. Instead, Tandy RadioShack introduced the TRS-80 Color (sic) Computer was produced, again expensive but also incompatible with the Model 1 and III.

Interestingly, the Dragon32 was moderately compatible with the TRS-80 Color (sic) Computer, but I doubt that this Dragon64 port of the Hobbit would run on a TRS-80 CoCo (too little memory).

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


This was an interesting machine, although it never received sufficient market penetration in Europe to give it critical mass for games writers (many of whom were based in the UK) to port to.

It was quite popular in the US, despite it's high price, but the differences between the US and UK specs (mainly the different screen size) meant that the US games were not able to be used. The dollar-to-pound exchange rate used for US computers sold in the UK at the time made it unaffordable in the UK.

The other problem was that although it's processor was 16 bit, the machine was terribly slow, but that could have been the TI-Basic implementation (although I seem to remember reading about the memory implementation being a major factor in the slowness). This made it one of the slowest ever machines in the Personal Computer World Basic benchmark (which was dominated by the excellent Basic implementation of the BEEB for several years).

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Platform War

The problem with the Oric was that the graphics format of the display (in-scan, or horizontal, line colour attributes, IIRC) was almost as eccentric as the Spectrum's per-character cell colour attributes.

This made it difficult to port games to the Oric, as you had to completely re-write the way that the graphics were coded.

You really needed a fully bit-mapped multiple bits-per-pixel for a full display, and that took memory, as BBC micro owners had to contend with. BEEBs should have been shipped with 6502 second processors. That made them really fun to use (64K of memory plus full graphics and even faster than a normal BBC). But they decided to go with the shadow memory of the B+ and B+128 instead.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

The Hobbit on the BEEB...

...was a bit of a joke. It did not have the graphics, and ran in Mode 7 (Teletext mode).

Mind you, I accept that this would have been difficult, given that even if you had used mode 6, which used 10K of the 32K available on a BBC model B, there would have been insufficient memory to store the game data in memory.

I has a moan to WH Smiths where I bought my original cassette copy (I don't think it was sold on disk at the time), and they pointed out the small note inside the sealed box that said something like "Because of the memory limitations of the BBC micro, some features of the game are not available". Yeah, right. All of the pictures!

They would not get away with that in this day and age, but apparently it was acceptable then.

HMRC research finds 'resistance' to proposals to shift contractor tax compliance burden

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Allowances and caps @AC re. Ltd company

It is still possible to claim travel and accommodation expenses even if you run a Ltd company, or even work through an umbrella, so long as your business contract fall outside of IR35. The wording of the legislation that came into effect this April is convoluted, but clear.

There are, however, a number of accountancy practices (including some of those that will manage the finances of your PSC for you) who seem to want to play it very safe, and recommend stopping claiming expenses now. Whether they are being over cautious or overly risk averse is debatable.

George Osborne was quite clear that he wanted this practice stopped completely for umbrellas and PSCs, by reworking/replacing what is still known as IR35. Hopefully, once Philip Hammond gets his feet under the table, we may get a more fair policy. We'll have to wait and see.

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