* Posts by Peter Gathercole

2924 posts • joined 15 Jun 2007

Patching a fragmented, Stagefrightened Android isn't easy

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


Sony aren't much better, unless it is for their permium phones.

I have an Xperia SP, which I have owned for about 2 years, and still works fine, and does pretty much everything I need it to. The only exception that the internal flash storage is getting full, mainly because the thumbnail cache for the Album app. currently sits at about 1GB of the internal flash used.

Although 4.4 was originally promised, it never happened, and Sony are saying that they are not intending to issue further patches for 4.3 on any device. And that's ignoring the ISP.

The problem is, as I see it, that consumers who do not want to update their phone every year are being left stranded with nowhere to go apart from something like Cyanogen.

I tend to pass my phones down to my kids. Until recently, I had a Samsung Galaxy Apollo running 2.3 and an Sony Xperia Neo running 2.4.3 in use by my kids (the Samsung finally give up the ghost a few weeks back) and I tend to keep phones for 2 years before moving on.

But I look at the phones that I may move on to, and very little in the midrange that I'm looking at is much better than my SP, and those that are are generally still running 4.3 or 4.4, so may already or could soon enter the unpatched category. I don't value a phone enough to either pay £200+, or enter into a £25+ per month contract that would get me a higher end phone that is likely to remain patched for any length of time.

I think that there should be regulation that forces updates for a minimum time, at least as long as the longest contract, from the point of initial sale or supply rather than introduction on all devices that could be vulnerable (something like at least four years from introduction or two years from sale, whichever is latest)

Microsoft co-founder recovers ship's bell of 'The Mighty Hood'

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: The Impact On The Public Was Terrible @Vorland

I dispute that Hood was useless, but in the state she went into the battle with Bismarck, for all the reasons already stated, she was a flawed ship.

Had the deck armour and shell handling been addressed, she would have been better, but it is clear that Bismarck was an even better ship, not just because she was more modern, but because the Germans cheated in their adherence to the Washington and London naval treaties by understating her size.

As built, Hood was nearly as well protected as the Queen Elizabeth class superdreadnought battleships, and had she been modernised in a similar way to Queen Elizabeth, Valiant and Warspite, she would have been a much more serious contender. But the work required would have taken over a year, and priority was put on speeding up building the newer King George V class.

What a lot of people here appear to be missing is the difference in tactics between offensive and defensive naval requirements. Although in it's total size, the British Home Fleet easily outnumbered the German High Seas Fleet, the British could not force an engagement at their choosing. They had to spread their capability around to get the best chance of any engagement.

The Germans, in comparison, had only to avoid the British ships in order to be a disrupting force. As can be seen in the earlier commerce cruises of Admirals Graf Spee, Sheer, and Hipper, and Lutzow, which between them tied up such a lot of ships escorting and searching for them that prevented their use for other purposes. As an illustrative point, once Tirpitz and Sharnhorst were out of the picture, the Home Fleet was significantly reduced, allowing more ships in the Mediterranean and Pacific.

Imaging if instead of a ship like Graf Spee, which could be fought off by a number of cruisers in a task force or convoy, Bismarck had been in the Atlantic, sailing from Brest. Effectively, every convoy across the Atlantic would have to have been escorted by a battleship, as a screen of even 6" or 8" armed cruisers, let alone just destroyers, sloops and corvettes would easily have been swept aside, effectively destroying the convoy and making any remaining merchant ships easy prey for the U boats. See what happened to PQ17 in the Arctic after the mere threat of an attack from Tirpitz. It would have had a dramatic effect on the war as a whole.

Once Bismarck had been sunk, Hitler became so reluctant to risk his surface naval power that they effectively became impotent, residing in ports to be picked off one at a time by air attack.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: The Impact On The Public Was Terrible @Vorland

That's not correct. It is clear that a direct 15" shell it would cause terrible damage, but battleships rather than battlecruisers were armoured to take punishment as they dealt it. Think of the punishment that both Bismarck herself and Scharnhorst suffered from gunfire from British battleships without sinking, before possibly being sunk by torpedo.

Hood was engaged in a turn to bring her aft turrets to bear, which was required to double the number of guns able to fire on Bismarck. She would not have been able to alter course that much without slowing that turn. Couple that with the fact that the Bismarck was using ripple-fire, where there were not full salvo's being fired, but instead each turret was firing as they were reloaded, there was not really a gap to manoeuvre. The Germans had independent fire control in each turret, and it was generally accepted that German fire control was second to none in the world at the time (typical German efficiency!)

It is arguable that maybe Hood and Prince of Wales should have got closer before turning, but that is debatable, and only makes sense if you realise how much weaker Hood was to plunging shells from long range fire compared to shallower trajectory fire, which would have tended to hit the more protected sides of the ship.

Hood was a ship from a previous generation. Because earlier ships did not have the elevation on their guns, their range was limited. At shorter ranges, shells are more likely to hit the side of the ship rather than the deck. In addition, whatever deck armour Hood had was arranged over several decks, rather than the all-or-nothing thick armour that came about as a result of the analysis of SMS Barden in gunfire trials after Hood's design was cast. As a result, Hood could probably have stood toe-to-toe with Bismarck for a considerable time at close range, but not at the range that the battle was fought.

The "luck" was where the fatal shell hit. It is widely regarded that it penetrated deep into the ship because of the weak deck armour before exploding, and then detonated either close to the fixed above waterline torpedo tubes, or in one of the magazines or the access ways that lead to the magazines. This was the cause of the loss of several battlecruisers at Jutland, and which had only partially been addressed in Hood. There were supposed to have been flash curtains between the magazine and the power room below the turrets, but it is theorized that these were open, because they slowed down the reloading of the guns.

As a result, munitions in the Hood were ignited, which led to her quick loss. There are many other places where had that shell hit, there would have been significant damage, but no loss of the ship.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: The Impact On The Public Was Terrible

Yes, but Scharnhorst not equal to Bismarck, and was engaged by a force consisting of several heavy and light cruisers that could match her in speed if not armament, and HMS Duke of York, that easily out-gunned her. The mistake was to allow DoY to get close enough to engage with her superior firepower. Once that happened, Scharnhorst did not really have a chance. But even then, it is not clear that the British ships actually sank her. The German hull design was outstanding, and it was proved over and over again that German capital ships were difficult to sink.

The real deciding factor was that the British radar that allowed the ships to locate and herd Scharnhorst, and then engage in dark condition that would have been impossible before the advent of ranging and fire control radar. This enabled the British to fight in the almost total darkness of an Arctic winter night. In theory, Scharnhorst should have been able to run away from the encounter, but her captain made some poor decisions, and did not know where the British ships were.

A similar encounter between a single KGV battleship and either Bismarck or Tirpitz would not have been anything like the same. I would have expected a 1-on-1 battle like this, even with supporting British ships, would have resulted in either both ships leaving damaged, with the worst damage being suffered by the British ship, or the British ship being sunk. As was the case in the Denmark Strait with Hood and Prince of Wales. If PoW had not withdrawn she would have been more seriously damaged than she was.

The KGVs, although modern ships, were smaller, slower, less heavily armoured, and although they had a bigger broadside, it was of smaller calibre guns (14" vs. 15") with a shorter range and penetrating power.

Up until the advent of the IJN Yamato and Musashi, and the US fast battleships, Bismarck and Tirpitz were regarded as the most potent battleships afloat. The British had to rely on numbers rather than the strength of their ships to counter them.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: The Impact On The Public Was Terrible @Reticulate

It was not Force 'H' that sank Bismarck, and depending on what you read, it may not have been the British warships that caused her to sink at all.

After Bismark's rudder was jammed by a similarly lucky torpedo strike from one of Ark Royal's Swordfish, HMS King George V, from Scapa Flow, and HMS Rodney, originally journeying to Canada for refit, engaged Bismarck, and fought her to a near standstill, but Bismarck was still floating and under power when KGV and Rodney had to withdraw because of lack of fuel. It was left to the cruiser and destroyers to try to sink Bismarck. It is debatable whether the numerous ship-launched torpedoes are what caused Bismarck to sink, or whether it sank due to the scuttling valves being opened.

It is clear that Bismarck was finished as a German warship, but as I said, it may not have been the British that sank her.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: The Impact On The Public Was Terrible

This is what you get when you make a ship "The Pride of the Royal Navy". The ship was almost a celebrity in it's own right, appearing in naval reviews, news reels, tea and cigarette cards, encyclopaedias, and 'Boys Own...' type books between the war. The same could be said about HMS Ark Royal, as well.

It is clear that when HMS Hood entered service in the early 1920's, she was one of the most modern ships afloat, with her sheer size, speed and beauty, for a warship, making her easily recognisable.

Unfortunately, she inherited the worst design characteristics of British battle cruisers from the first world war, and rapidly fell behind contemporary capital warship design between the wars.

In the mid 1930s, she was supposed to have had a major refit, strengthening the deck armour and changing the shell supply system, and having 'modern' fire control and aircraft detection radar and defence fitted. But the uncertainty of when hostilities with Germany would start, and the emergency capital shipbuilding program that was in progress meant that this never happened, and when the war started, she was in a very poor condition. She should not really have been sent against an adversary such as Bismark, especially not with HMS Prince of Wales, which had not actually been accepted into service, so was not ready for combat.

But such was the desperate need for capital ships, there was no alternative, and the rest is, as is said, history. There was an element of (bad) luck involved, but the outcome of that battle was almost a foregone conclusion. Hood would never have returned from the encounter in a good condition, and in hindsight, the outcome, although tragic, was actually about as good as could have been expected. This is because sufficient damage was done to Bismark to make it so that rather than continuing on to the Atlantic, she turned and headed for Breast for repairs, which gave Force 'H' the chance to find and damage her further, leading to her eventual demise.

If Bismark had turned back, and remained a potent force until Tirpitz was completed, the Royal Navy would have had to keep significantly more ships in home waters, and escorting convoys.

Imagine how difficult a force consisting of Bismark, Tirpitz, Scharnholst and Gneisenau, together with the Hipper class criusers would have been to cope with. It would have been really difficult for the Home Fleet to stand up against it, even though the Royal Navy would technically outnumber them.

The spin off from that would have changed the outcome of the war in the Mediterranean and the Far East. It is often easy to overlook the value that the British carriers gave in the Indian sea and Western Pacific while the US was so woefully short of carriers after the battles of the Coral Sea and Midway, and the Med. was critical for North Africa.

So the loss was tragic, as is most war, but it served a purpose.

Epson: Cheap printers, expensive ink? Let's turn that upside down

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: @nigel

OfficeJet G55 and OfficeJet 5610 - Integrated print heads. Both are old, but neither are two decades old. And the G55, costing >£400 was not cheap either.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


All of the Officejets I have access to use integrated print heads with the cartridge. As does a recent Photosmart that I've used. I'm only really using HP SOHO printers, and I guess mine are quite old, so it may be that the higher or more recent model printers don't use integrated print heads.

I think the answer to your question with regard to replaceable print heads revolve around the fact that the product life-cycle is pretty rapid. Once a model is no longer sold, the parts are no longer manufactured. As a result, there are only a finite number of spares around, and if the company have done their R&D correctly, they probably won't keep more parts than they will need for warranty re-manufacture.

Once the product is out of warranty, chances are the parts are in very limited supply, and the marketing model is such that most people won't go to the bother of stripping a printer down to replace the print head, but will just buy a new printer.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

There are two different methods of providing ink, typified by HP on the one hand, and the older Epson printers on the other.

HP, along with Canon and also Lexmark before they left the market provide you with a cartridge which includes the print head.Every time you change the cartridge, you also change the print head. This makes the cartridges much more complex (and expensive), but at least should maintain print quality over the lifetime of the printer.

Epson and Brother cartridges are buckets of ink, and if you go back to the late '90s, that's literally all they were. Plastic boxes filled ink, sometimes with foam to control the ink, together with the required holes to let the ink out. More recently, they've had a small amount of electronics in them, supposedly to allow the cartridge to monitor how much ink is left, but actually IMHO to try to make sure that you only use genuine cartridges.

I currently have an Epson R1800 photo printer that takes a T054X cartridges. I have cartridges from other Epson printers. I've recently found that the physical cartridge from another printer designated T06XX (i.e. the next generation of printer) will fit in the R1800, but the electronics prevent the cartridge from being recognised properly. This strikes me as being a blatant artificial control of the post sale ink market.

I kept a Stylus 1160, and before that a Stylus 880 (both models without electronics in the cartridge) going for a many years as my always-on network attached printers, because the ink was (comparatively) just so cheap. The 880 eventually had some print nozzles permanently blocked regardless of how I cleaned it, and the 1160 developed a power supply problem. That's when I picked up the R1800, hoping it to be similar. Unfortunately not.

So it sounds as if Epson are going to go back to their old method of making the printer everything, and the cartridges/ink tanks nothing other than reservoirs for the ink. Great. Just don't push the printer price up too high for artificial reasons.

Cause of Parliamentary downtime on Microsoft Office 364½ revealed

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Nice title

Maybe El Reg should keep a running downtime count for the Government use of MS Office Online, and use the running total every time they have to carry a story like this!

Techies told to GO FORTH AND MULTIPLY by Microsoft, Netflix

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Rather sad @dajames

I'll bite.

Population maintenance in developed countries is a problem, especially in the higher demographics. Many high achievers do not procreate sufficiently, possibly leading to a Darwinian decline in the aggregated capability of the population as a whole. Add to this the fact that the right to a found a family is article 16 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, whereas slobbing out in front of the telly is not listed.

And, <contentious_statement>I think that digging wells for villages in Africa, to increase health and thus reproductive viability of the people there will probably have a greater effect on world population than taking time of to have your 2.4 kids.</contentious_statement>

Be careful what examples you use!

Footnote: For the sake of my down-vote count, I completely believe that keeping people alive in a sustainable manner is better than allowing them to die, however...

Fork off! FFmpeg project leader quits, says he's had enough with these forking AV libraries

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Drivers etc... (oh, the pain)

There was a mixed bag when it came to software modems. I actually found that I could get mwave modems working relatively well in Thinkpads around the same time as you had trouble. Admittedly at the time, Redhat 7 and 8 (not RHEL) did not have the mwave driver in their repositories, but it was available, and built relatively easily on mainstream Linux distros, and worked quite well.

I did have an HP Riptide sound/modem card combination card that was more troublesome, and I completely gave up on that, both for sound and modem.

I've not tried to get integrated modems in laptops working recently. It's all a bit pointless since 3G dongles and public/guest WiFi are so common.

Intel doubles its bounty for women and ethnic minorities

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Indeed, this should be the case

But rather than bitch and whine now about something that cannot be altered, because time as we know it cannot be reversed, the people wanting to change it should bite the bullet, and actually work to ensure that the correct mix of people are entering professions, whatever they are, today for the next 5/10/20 years, depending on the type of role and level.

Like many things, to achieve a particular goal, it is always necessary to make adequate preparations.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Indeed, this should be the case

Now encourage a diverse set of people to start at the bottom, and then wait 5/10/20 years for them to gain the correct qualifications and experience, and hope they stay the course.

I really get fed up when activists of all sorts don't take the training/experience lead time into account when considering diversity. They absolutely need to look at the bottom of the stack, and be prepared to wait sufficient time for people to mature, rather than assuming it can be fixed just using quotas.

If you installed Windows 10 and like privacy, you checked the defaults, right? Oh dear

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@cornz 1

Actually, Currys were just fulfilling their legal obligations. When buying TV receiving equipment, by law they have to gather and pass on identity information to the TV Licensing authority.

If you pay by card, they will normally just pass enough information from that so that identity can be obtained from the bank. Alternatively, if you use a store loyalty card, that will suffice too.

I once bought a TV aerial amplifier from Tesco, wanting to pay cash, and having just lost my keyring clubcard. They refused to sell it to me without me providing my name and address. They did not even relent when I pointed out that it was not technically capable of receiving a TV signal, and that where it was going was not my house (I was getting it for my parents).

I know for a fact that they use Tesco clubcard information, because our card has a typo in the name on the card that we've never corrected. And after buying a TV, we got a nasty-o-gram from the license enforcers claiming that they could not identify a valid TV license under the name and address that the clubcard was registered to. I did nothing, waiting to see whether someone would actually spot that garthercole and gathercole actually only differed by one letter, and at some point they must have, because there was never any follow-up. It's a bit of a shame. I would have loved to have seen that go to court to watch it be thrown out.

What really annoyed me was when another shop asked me for the same information for exactly that purpose when I bought a simple DVD player! That really took the piss.

I believe I've heard that deliberately giving false information when buying TV receiving equipment in the UK can be deemed as fraud.

Edit: Hmm. Others beat me to this while I was typing it up. Must remember to be less verbose.

Start learning parallel programming and make these supercomputers sing, Prez Obama orders

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Hang them by their lab. coats.

If you thing that all that is required to create an HPC is to bolt many utility systems together, the you really don't understand the problem. There is a diminishing return as you spread some workloads across more and more cores, even though this is what they are forced to do nowadays because they've pushed single core performance pretty much to their economic limits.

I was following the porting of the UM weather model onto the Power 7 processor in p7 775 systems, and I can say without any hesitation that there was a turning point where adding more processors made the model run slower, and the drop in performance was very rapid.

Understanding why this is the case can be a challenge, and one that cannot be generalised or codified such that it can be addressed by current software development tools. There may become a time when this is possible, but the cost of doing this has not been justified, and may never be worth the effort. It may be that it will never be worth the man-effort to do it, so we may have to hope that initiatives such as cognitive computing are able to deliver.

There's been a problem with computing for the last five decades or so. The rate of performance increase has been such that software engineering has never needed to keep up. In fact, the creation of software has been allowed to become spectacularly lazy in the assumption that the machines will just be fast enough to cope with inefficient software. This can be seen in the stupid memory footprint and significantly poor performance of much of the desktop tools that are used today.

The only places where the efficient running of code has been important is in embedded controllers, and ... HPC. So maybe rather than producing even more software engineering, software houses should go back to more simple engineering techniques, more like HPC than vice-versa.

Your extension of the car analogy is interesting. It's very strange that it needed a serious push from regulation before much of this increase in engineering effort was justified. And with the increased engineering comes the cost of the magic monks in blue overalls is getting higher per visit, such that it won't be long before it is cheaper to scrap a vehicle than to repair it relatively early in it's life. But in spite of this increased engineering, there's still justification for Bugatti Vayrons and F1 cars, and the skilled drivers to get the absolute best out of them. Just as there will be a requirement for real HPC systems, with manually tweaked code.

BTW, there is a whole sector of commodity HPC systems, bought in fixed configurations, with canned application development tool-sets the like of which, ironically, are used by F1 teams! They're just not the headline systems that are in the news, the top 10% as you put it.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Hang them by their lab. coats.

Unfortunately, there is relatively little commonality between HPC systems from different vendors, and as with most large problems, it's the interconnect between the individual system images in the clusters that is most important, and different vendors quite jealously guard their specific implementation to maximise the value of their investment.

Unlike general purpose servers, there are a lot of tricks that go into HPC servers to make them as fast as they can be. Beside the interconnect, there's different ways of packaging multiple processors in as smaller power and space footprint as possible, and once you start putting so many processors into single system images, especially if they are heterogeneous processors (think hybrid or CPU/GPU processors), the way that the memory is laid out and accessed becomes very important. All of this can affect the way that the code has to be written. This is even though there are relatively efficient abstraction layers such as MPI, OpenMP and MPIch

This means that in order to get the absolute maximum utilisation, there is a long period of tuning when porting code from one to another, For example, the installation of the Cray XC40s that are currently replacing the IBM P7 775s at UKMO is a project that is running for over a year, from purchasing decision to final switchover, and much of that is taken up with the porting and resultant checking of the models between the systems.

I suppose that normal commercial systems vs. HPC systems is a bit like the difference between a Ford Transit and a Formula 1 car. You definitely want to invest in making the F1 car as fast as possible.

Any programme that will result in a consistent, efficient programming model that abstracts the system specifics to allow increased portability of code would be very welcome by pretty much everybody in the field.

Download Fest goers were human guinea pigs in spy tech experiment, admit police

Peter Gathercole Silver badge
Black Helicopters

I'm surprised nobody else's commented on breadth of the T's&C's.

Quotes from the T's&C's

"...to us and the Event Provider(s) ..."

"...actions inside and outside the venue..."

"...regardless of whether before, during or after play or performance..."

"...for any purpose ... any medium or context now known or hereafter developed"

"...without further authorization..."

OK. Reading this completely literally, this means that you've given the organisers and Police a blanket authorisation to record you for ever, and use that data for whatever they want, and this covers any image data that they already held before the event as well.

Anybody else a little bit worried by this? I would hope that it is so broad that it could be challenged, but unless it is deemed unfair by a court, it could have long-reaching effects on the attendees future rights.

UK.gov wants to stop teenagers looking at tits online. No, really

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Clueless

My goodness. Two pints by volume of sweets for 50p. I'm not sure sweets have been that cheep since decimalization. Is Cameron old enough to remember decimalization? Probably not, he was only 4 and a half at the time.

Oh. You meant 4 ounces. That would be a quarter, not a quart! About 113g.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Family Friendly Filters

As the bill payer in my household, I'm waiting for the invite to turn the block on, and have been for a while.

I've not seen it, and I can still get to porn if I want, so I must assume that it's not in place.

I was always sceptical about this process. I suppose it's possible that one of the other members of the household may have seen and accepted it, but it was supposed to be such that only the person whose name the account was in is able to complete the form.

Does anybody on Orange/EE as an ISP have experience of how it was supposed to work?

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

I wish politicians would learn...

...that the Internet is trans-national, and as much as he would like to, he can't penalise a company outside of the UK.

All he can do is to try to get the UK ISPs to block access to offending sites, but as we've seen from TPB, that's like playing whack-a-mole.

I can sympathise with trying to keep certain content away from vulnerable people, but that doesn't mean that I can see a way of doing it without breaking the Internet!

Strong ARM scoops up Sansa to boost IoT security

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

"ARM makes the chips..."

No. How many times do we have to point this out.

ARM design the ISA and the cores for the chips, and then licenses these out to the actual chip makers.

If ARM actually made all the processors, they would be one of the biggest companies in the semiconductor manufacturing sector.

This is TRUE science: Harvard boffins fire up sizzling BACON LASER

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

I don't know about self-cooking

After all, you have to provide light in the first place. Just make it infra-red, and it will cook the pork much more efficiently without turning it into micro lasers.

NHS England backs down over another data extraction scheme

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

"de-identified patient level data"

The lesson that they've (whoever is suggesting such things) really not learned is that "de-identified patient level data" is not de-identified enough.

They way they look at it is that once it is de-identified, that it's not usable to track individuals. Until they realise that it's still possible to tie the data to an individual by synthesis with other data sources, we will get this happening over and over again.

If I put this story together with others that have been in the news, this is someone in government trying to more accurately estimate how much missed appointments cost the NHS, in order to try to work out a policy to minimise the 'loss'. I'm not really fussed about this type of exercise, except to point out that it's a futile operation, because the results would be meaningless.

There's some naieve politicians who believe that a missed appointment is wasted time, and thus money. In reality, it's not, because of the way that pretty much all NHS appointment systems take missed appointments into account by over-booking the system. If you're unlucky enough to be in the system on a day when people don't miss their appointments, especially if you've got one late in the session, then you'll find that your appointment time is wildly optimistic, and you end up being seen hours later than your due time as the surgery or clinic overruns it's opening hours to see all of the patients that have been booked in. It's no wonder that many GPs and specialists complain about over-work.

Unfortunately, this exercise is unlikely to increase capacity, but may ultimately be used to generate revenue through 'missed appointment' fees if the bean-counters believe that the value generated from these fees would exceed the cost of administering and collecting them.

The sooner the politicians and the civil servants that advise them are given some real training in Data Protection and IT in general, the better IMHO.

Apple Watch is such a flop it's the world's top-selling wearable

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@Frank Bough

It's all relative, and electronic watches can have all of these features without becoming complex. They're commodity items now. Standard quartz movement plus one chip, a display and a battery in a case. Not complex in this day and age. Most mechanical watches are far more complex than any with a quartz movement, and designer analogue watches, while beautiful to look at, are often so stylized to be deliberately complex, for no real benefit in function.

I wonder how many of the readers here have Breitling, Tag Heuer, Rolex or other luxury or artisan watches that make my 12 year old £40 Sekonda or my £25 Zeon tech backup look positively ordinary!

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Who actually wears a watch anymore? And why? @jake

I said relatively.

It's a dual digital/analogue watch, so the 'extras' are not so special for a digital watch. It looks like an analogue watch with a simple digital display (6 characters plus a couple of indicators) set as the face.

Complex is an Apple Watch or an Android, or something with lots of dials, big obtrusive buttons, more than two timezones or multiple timers/alarms, or pulse/blood pressure monitors.

Yours is a very simple one. Only to be more simple if it doesn't even have a sweep second hand.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Who actually wears a watch anymore? And why? @jake

This question seems seriously out of character for you, Jake.

Normally, you come across as a very conservative, relatively backward-looking person, so as a result, it's quite a surprise to read it, unless you've either dropped out to the extent of living by the sun, or have a pocket watch!

Even though I carry my phone around with me, having a watch (a relatively simple one, time, date, chronograph, alarm and dual time zones) allows me to read the time with a relatively simple and consistent twist of the wrist, any time, day or night (I very rarely take my watch off except to make sure I don't scratch the wife when, oh - you know. This means that it's not been taken off for a while!)

If I had to rely on other devices around me, I would have to first of all remember where the closest clock is where I happen to be or get my phone out of it's belt holster and unlock it, and then hope that the home screen is showing, and has the correct time, as it comes on showing the time that it was locked, and then updates about a second later. I run with the status bars hidden on my computer screen (It's only 64 pixels of vertical space, but I want to use it for content), so I don't even see that unless I move the mouse.

And on top of that, I've been wearing a watch since I was about 10, so it's perfectly natural to me, and it would take some time to adapt to not wearing one.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: They need to fix the bugs

Surely, you mean 'cheaper' one.

Even that's not cheap.

Your poster guide: A fascinating glimpse into North Korea's 'internet'

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Internet Directory

I know about that, but it was very little about "web sites" (as stated in the original article), and more about gopher, archie and email, often down to individual's email addresses.

At the time, my major go-to was one of the sunsite ftp and gopher mirrors. I would say that what is now called the Internet started with Altavista, Excite, Infoseek et. al.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Internet Directory


There was only a very short period of time (18 months or so) between the launch of NCSA/Mosaic (1993 on UNIX and Amiga), and thus the web proper not the Internet, and the founding of the Altavista search engine (1995). And during this time, public use of the Internet was almost non-existent, and I very much doubt other services were popular enough to merit a generally available book. And DNS operated, so you often had a starting point for looking for something.

Windows did not get Spyglass Mosaic until 1995.

So where is the gap?

If you are talking before the use of HTML, then there were lists of Archie and Gopher sites, but they were really just paper copies of the services own indexes.

The US taxman thinks Microsoft owes billions. Prove it, says Microsoft

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Corporations are not people @AC

I'm interested in which side of the pond you are, and whether you are truly self employed.

In the UK, and you really are self employed, or a 'sole trader', then you won't have filed a company tax return, as you don't run a company. You will have filed a personal tax form which includes justifiable expenses. I don't know about the US or other countries.

If you run your own limited company, although lots of financial institutions like to treat you as if you are, you're not actually self-employed according to HMRC. You are actually employed by a company that you own. Not the same thing at all, especially when it comes to liability for tax.

For the UK, the rules are outlined here.

The taxes that companies pay are taxes on profits and certain types of transaction, and profits stay in the company, they're not paid out as salary, wages or justifiable expenses, at least not in the year that they're declared. A company may have revenue measured in millions, but may end up paying no corporation tax because all those millions are paid out in wages, materials, and other business costs.

Indeed, many small companies pay pretty much no corporation tax, as their purpose for trading is to provide the owners a living, so they're arranged that all profit that comes in over non-wage costs gets paid out with the appropriate level of tax. The purpose of running it as a limited company is to provide isolation between the business and the individual, as most people do not want to lose their house if some financial problem hits their company.

What financially savvy companies try to do is to make sure that the operating profit gets extracted from the company to the owners or shareholders with as little tax due as possible. The borderline between what's allowed and not is like a battlefield, with the front lines moving all the time. And the accountants and Revenue are the generals that get to control the battle!

Here's why Whittingdale kicked a subscription BBC into the future

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: But... how do you control the cards @Irongut

Sky control it for their satellite service by making all of the boxes require a card, and then charge you ~£11 per month on top of your basic subscripting per additional STB.

You also have the problem of long runs of pretty fussy co-ax cable to the satellite dish (you can't just split it because of the signal polarisation), and the requirement to have a quad- or octo- LNB.

So no. They've not controlled it. They've made it a revenue earning opportunity, like they always do.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

DTV was all about the cost.

It all comes down to money. During the switch to Digital Terrestrial, TV consumers were being effectively told that they had to spend money in order to continue watching TV. This was never popular, but it was convenient that it coincided with adoption of flat-panel TVs that softened the blow by giving consumers larger screens and space in their homes back as part of the 'deal'.

It would have been possible to publish requirements that mandated more functional and thus more expensive devices, but if the minimum cost STB device was £70-100 rather than the £20-30 (or even cheaper for the supermarket specials) that it was, imagine what the backlash would have been.

I remember at the time I ended up buying freeview STBs for 8 TVs in the house (it's a big house with TVs in most of the bedrooms) and ended up paying a couple of hundred quid for the privilege. I would not have been happy if it had cost me £500 instead, just for the privilege of being able to use the TVs I already owned.

Of course, I don't think that any of the first set of adapters I bought are still functional (catastrophic capacitor breakdown took most of them out - with the exception of the very oldest - about 12 years old, which was still working a few months ago)

These old adapters have mainly now been replaced, along with the TVs they used to drive with TVs that receive freeview anyway. If I had to go through the whole exercise for 7 TVs (one bedroom is no longer being used as a bedroom), I would be pretty unhappy.

I'm getting pretty fed up of everybody, from the technology companies through government and down to people I know who seem to assume that everybody will be replacing tech on a 3 year cycle. It just does not fit in to many, many peoples lifestyles to replace all their tech over such a short time span! As a result, road-maps for at least the next 10 years are required to allow the public to decide whether to spend little and often or a lot, but less frequently.

The roots go deep: Kill Adobe Flash, kill it everywhere, bod says

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Well, I can't be pwned from Word and Powerpoint....

Because Microsoft don't make them for Linux!

From other things, well, maybe.

Run Windows 10 on your existing PC you say, Microsoft? Hmmm.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Spring cleaning time

In my experience, apart from some kernel stubs for exporting a minimal API to the adapter, most of the code to drive the adapters is in the X Server modules, and thus run in user-space, not kernel space. You're mostly isolated by KMS in kernels from about 2.8.

I was assuming that the type of problem I was addressing was one where someone ran a normal 'apply some security fixes' upgrade, which as a result broke support for the adapter they had. With most distro's, this will not introduce a new kernel, and regressing to a driver in the same version will most likely work.

But you are right. I should have said "Another possible solution, assuming that the interfaces haven't changed.....".

I was mostly thinking about distro's like Ubuntu and Fedora. All bets are off if you do a dist-upgrade. I have encountered that sort of problem with a Ubuntu 10.02 to 12.02 upgrade on a machine with an embedded Nvidia 7100 display adapter (I don't need significant 3-D capability on this system), where I got absolutely no graphical display (text mode only) at all until I worked out what had happened. And then I moved the disk into a new system with an 8800, and things got quite crazy again for a short while until I realised that I had frozen the Nvidia packages to get the 7100 working! And don't mention cheap ATI 9250 cards! I really want to forget those completely.

I'm really not looking forward to Mir and Wayland, because I mostly understand how this works with X11. More to learn and more to get wrong, and probably whole generations of older graphics cards that will not work at all, no matter what you do.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Spring cleaning time

Ubuntu is sometimes it's own worst enemy.

It's actually very good at telling you that there are proprietary binary drivers available for your video card, and telling you what you need to do to enable the non-free repository and switching to the driver.

Unfortunately, it's not very good at telling you that the new binary driver you've just installed as part of the update has dropped support for your graphics card. The result, you put the update on, reboot the system, and hey presto, you're back in un-accelerated 640x480 16 colour world, or if you're very lucky 800x600 VESA mode, whichever is the lowest common denominator. But you should get some sign of the screen working, even if it's just text-mode.

The solution is to remove the nvidia or ATI fglx drivers, and install either the nv or nouveau driver for nvidia cards or the radeon driver for ATI cards. Nouveau and radion both provide some 3D function, although it's likely to not be as good as the binary driver (but still perfectly adequate for 2D work and even things like Google Earth).

Another solution is to work out which the last binary driver supported your card, and back-level the package to that, or even add the repository for the earlier release and back level, and then freeze those packages. But this later option can sometimes lead to strange booting effects, especially if the KMS support for the cards has changed.

BTW, a fresh install would probably just work.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Ha

But what are you counting as an obscure peripheral?

I've had problems with a Pinnacle PCI video capture card, but to be fair, there was no post XP drivers for that anyway.

And a slide scanner. Ditto, no XP drivers, and Linux support patchy, but I can run XP in VirtualBox to access it over USB.

I did also have some problems with a broadcom wireless chipset from around 2001, but it would not work with WPA in XP, even using the available Windows drivers.

But graphic cards? The open source nvidia and ati drivers work well (at least for 2D) with most old hardware, in fact much better than the legacy Windows ones once the proprietary windows ones have dropped all support. And the open source 3D support is getting better all the time, and for reasonably current hardware the binary non-free drivers actually work very well. There was some criticism of multi-head support, but it does work, although maybe not as easily as Windows, and again, it's getting better all the time.

Similarly sound, network, wireless, USB devices. I have far more problems with Windows drivers rebuilding older machines than I do for Linux.

Generally for older hardware, if someone wrote a Linux driver for it at some time in the past, it's still there and probably still in the repositories and the module stubs are still in the kernel, unlike Windows, where the old drivers more often than not will not work at all.

One word of caution for people with older Celeron, some Atom and some Mobile Pentium processors (like the Banias Pentium M that was put in many laptops in the early noughties) that either do not support PAE (Pentium Address Extension) or report it wrongly. Modern Linux distro's often do not come with kernels that support these systems. It is sometimes possible to work around this, but generally it's not worth the effort.

HP tops HPC charts, former Big Blue biz not so super

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

IBM has given up on HPC IMHO.

IBM, having dropped the IH systems, and having sold off the iDataplex and NextScale systems, and there being no obvious successor to BlueGene/Q appear to have lost interest in HPC.

I know that there are supposed Power 9 hybrid systems in the pipeline for Oak Ridge and Lawrence Livermore in 2017, but at this time, these both look like vapour-ware, there being only limited details of either the Power9 processor or the Volta GPU. As we found out with Blue Waters, such projects don't always deliver.

Both the Top500 and the article are incorrect about IBM's market share. It's actually less than stated, as the ECMWF P7 775s at 108 and 109 are no longer there (and were actually turned off for the last time something like a year ago), and before the November list, the UKMO systems at 140 and 169 will also be decommissioned. This will drop IBM down the list still further, with no obvious real big systems in the pipeline for the next year or more to push them up the list!

For me, it will be a sad day when the UKMO P7 775 systems are turned off, because it also means that I will be looking for a new assignment.

Any offers?

I cannae dae it, cap'n! Why I had to quit the madness of frontline IT

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Oh so true! @awhit

I don't think IT is as lucrative as IT (used to be) any more. Blame commoditisation, which incidentally also feeds security issues. Obscurity is not a substitute for security, but it does help!

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: @AC

Come on. How simple are you?

If Trevor were to write about this stuff, two things would happen.

1. He'd get sued for breach of contract (the NDA is a contract).

2. He's get excluded from this sort of information in the future.

In fact, he's probably on shaky ground even admitting that he's subject to an NDA, if they're worded like any of the ones I've been subject to in the past.

So if he did, he would be shooting himself in the feet, both of them.

Flash HOLED AGAIN TWICE below waterline in fresh Hacking Team reveals

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Oh Adobe... @Chris 155

"Flash was first..."

First, unless you count RealPlayer, or possibly xanim.

IETF doc proposes fix to stop descent into data centre 'address hell'

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Nothing new?

This does not sound too dissimilar to the layer 2 heuristic bridges that I was using 20 years ago to bridge geographically separated networks over slower WAN technologies with some degree of optimisation. Of course the scope is different, but the concepts look very much the same.

Call that a mugshot? Aussie model/fugitive asks rozzers for more flattering pic

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: I am more concerned... @Chemist

Yes, of course the picture is still important, but if it was just the picture and manual appraisal, they would probably be less strict about the expression, background, glasses etc, as the officers would probably prefer to have pictures that resembled you as you normally look, much as they used to do before biometric passports came alone.

It's true, I don't travel that much. Do the immigration officers ask you to take off hats, glasses and comb back your hair so that they can make an accurate appraisal of whether you resemble the picture? If not, then the picture is of limited use.

But conversely, if you travel to a country that does have the equipment, the biometric data will probably be read off the passport and recorded in a database that LEOs have access to, so that if you are picked up dead, or infringing the law, they can make a more positive identification of you. Biometric data is less than perfect, but the basic map of the face can give useful information, and it is much more accurate if the face is not obstructed and in the same orientation as the picture.

BTW. If your wife's passport is a non-biometric one (and I'm making a big assumption that it's a UK passport), it is probably close to needing to be renewed.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: I am more concerned... @Chemist

The reason for the strict instructions is not to generate a picture from which a person can identify you, it's so that the computer generated hash of the salient features of your face can be encoded into the biometric data stored on the passport (things like the ratio of the gap between the eyes and the length of the nose).

Glasses, the direction you're looking, tilting the head, obstructive hair, and even the change in shape of the muscles in the face if smiling and the background can all make a significant difference to the hash.

And again, it's not about people looking at the photo, it's about you being positively identified by machine. It's much more difficult to fool a machine (with the right data) than it is a person.

Behold the mighty Swiss SPACE JUNK NOSHER PODULE

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

How about calling SHADO

(Supreme Headquarters Alien Defence Organisation)

They used to have clean up missions (1.05 - Conflict)

And I think Thunderbird Three was recently seen cleaning up space junk!

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Space Wombles @Crisp

... But that was to Button Moon, in the Blanket Sky!

I suppose that the theme was composed by an ex. Dr Who, and Trillian from HHGTTG TV show (and also the voice of Grandma in 2015 Thunderbirds). Maybe that gives it some authenticity!

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Space Wombles

Surely the Clangers would be the people(?) to call.

Their music boat with Tiny or Small piloting would be just the ticket.

The Space Chicken might be useful too for the smaller items.

Smart Meter biz case still there, insists tragically optimistic UK govt

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: I had a smart meter fitted last week

You've just outlined pretty much all of the consumer benefits (you missed out remote meter readings).

You've not seen what the downsides are, of remote control of your power system, of remote hacking, which may allow other people to determine whether the house is empty, and even turn off your power if the meter is one that does this. If it's not one of those, it will need replacing again before the program is complete.

Also, from what I've read, you've also pretty much locked yourself into a single supplier, because they use different and incompatible metering technology. If you wanted to change to a supplier that used a different meter technology, then you may have to pay an additional meter installation charge.

You could have achieved much of the same benefit for electricity (sans remote meter reading) with one of any number of clamp-on external measurement systems (OK, they're less accurate, but still can demonstrate power use in real time) without any of the downsides.

I listened to the Radio 4 Today program this morning, and Roger Witcombe, chairman of the Competition and Markets Authority (a government institution), who was a guest on the discussion about energy companies and overcharging, mentioned smart meters as an aid to choosing supplier, but in such an apologetic tone of voice that it seemed to me that he was echoing an official line while not really being supportive of the devices himself!

Cloud provider goes TITSUP? Will someone think of the data!

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

And remember

If you're also using your service provider's backup solution, unless you've got your backups stored to physical media outside of your service provider, even if they have separate tape copies, the physical media probably belongs to your service provider or upstream provider, and will be a tangible asset (and thus liable to lien).

This will be true unless you've got an ironclad contract that states the media reverts to your ownership in the case of your service provider entering insolvency, If you don't, you'll probably also lose access to your physical backups as well, and possibly any archival copies kept for regulatory compliance.

NASA's New Horizon probe rudely fires its thruster at gnome planet

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Genuine question

I'm sorry. You've done it now. I can't resist.....

"... Late, as in the late Dent, Arther Dent. It's a sort of threat, you see..."

- Slartybartfast.

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