* Posts by Peter Gathercole

2924 posts • joined 15 Jun 2007

Samsung's bend blame blast: We DEMAND a Galaxy S6 Edge do-over

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Glass is not meant to be bendy

In my view, the 6510 was smaller than the 8210. It was thicker, but was slightly less wide.

I lost mine on a night out in Swansea. I think it fell down the back of a seat in one of the establishments on Wind Street, but I can't remember the evening that well.

Can you recover your data if disaster strikes? Sure?

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Ultimately, though...

...whether you know that it won't come up, even if you're arse is covered by secured unheeded warnings from you to the Management, you still have to piece it all together using whatever is available.

Unless, of course, the first thing that will happen after a disaster is your resignation hitting the temporary desk of your manager.

Which is exactly what a number of sysadmins at a major UK financial institution told me would happen a number of years ago if their primary data site was destroyed. They knew the plan would work (it had been tested pretty well, but piecemeal), but they did not fancy the long nights, location disruption, bickering about what sequence the business workloads needed to come back in, and the almost complete inability to fail back to the primary site if it was resurrected.

Of course, professional system administrators would not do this, would they?

Is this what Windows XP's death throes look like?

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Windows 365? @P. Lee

I can see that reinforcing a monoculture may be what MS are after, but I can also see the "hard times" putting pressure for MS to move to a different revenue stream, one that is on a per user basis, rather than on a per-purchase basis.

The software vendors have often looked enviously at the way that IBM managed it's mainframe software model, which leads to it being one of the most consistent and regular income items on IBM's balance sheet. MS have already done Office 365, and I cannot see why they would not consider offering the same model for all of their software, including Windows. They've already trademarked "Windows 365".

One of the interesting things that they have revealed is that in order to be considered for the Win10 free upgrade, a system has to be able to connect to the Internet, and has to have Windows Update turned on. Whilst this could be to prevent the offer being abused, it could also be trying to make sure that Win10 has a vector for license enforcement. This is me being speculative, but it's sometimes interesting to bat possibilities around.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@Cristopher Lane

OK, so you have a user who has bought MS office to install on their home machine, and have tried to install it on a Linux system?

The reason why people don't get it is because of the virtual mono-culture that Microsoft have managed to evolve by preventing vendors shipping machines with other OSs.

Let's make the playing field level, shall we. Let's make all the system vendors have to ship and charge for a full retail license for Windows, and take away the lever Microsoft can use to prevent vendors shipping systems with Linux installed.

Salesperson: Hello. I can offer you this machine with Windows at £500, or you can buy the same machine with Linux, for £450.

Customer: Can I browse the Internet, play games and watch media on the Linux machine?

Salesperson: Yes, with some restrictions, although the vendor has paid for all the licences to allow it to do all the normal things, and it's still cheaper.

Customer: And can I write letters and spreadsheets?

Salesperson: Yes, although you will have to use Libre Office, but then again, that is included, rather than costing you an additional £70.

Customer: So I can save over £100 for the same machine! Where do I sign?

Of course, it won't be quite like this, but if Microsoft had been prevented from blocking Linux 10 years ago, we would have been in a different place now.

And don't quote Netbooks at me as a Linux failure. The versions of Linux that was shipped, and Microsoft effectively giving XP away after it was withdrawn from support poisoned that market.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Windows 365?

Please, Mr AC, post details of the exact Ts & Cs that Microsoft have committed to. If you like, you can also point to other posts in these forums where you have accused me of being wrong. Or, why not come out from behind that AC veil.

Here is what Microsoft currently (I mean, like 5 minutes ago) say about the details from the Windows 10 upgrade page.

"We will be sharing more information and additional offer and support terms in coming months.".

And that is all they have to say about the Ts & Cs. I have looked, and there is nothing that I can find that Microsoft have said that would conflict with them making it an upgrade to a subscription model license. Please post a link that definitively rules this out. I will not accept any interpretation of the announcement from the technical journals without some corroborating evidence, because I think certain members of the press have been taken in by the statements as much as us mere users, and have jumped to the conclusions they want to hear.

Yes, I have no direct evidence, and you can class what I am saying as FUD. But until the final details are published, jumping to the other conclusion about how generous this is is just as bad. Remember, this is Microsoft, who have a proven track record of uncompetitive business practices and lack of concern about their customer base that we are talking about.

Oh. By the way. You might want to look at this.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: I see desktop OS's similar to TV dinners...

How many times do we need to say this!

Please try Ubuntu, Mint, Debian or maybe Fedora or SuSE. Install and run using the GUI just like any other OS, completely without using the command line. (OK, I accept that some of the restricted packages need to be added using the package manager, but hey! it tells you what you need to do, and that is only needed because of the restrictive licensing imposed by other parties on certain components).

The only difference is that you can't buy systems with it already installed from any of the normal channels, and you have to actually install something yourself, but it's pretty easy for even novices.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Timing

I would love to see a breakdown of home/SOHO vs. commercial use of XP.

I'm still of the opinion that XP will remain on a whole slew of home machines until those machines either break and are replaced, or can no longer be used because of being OS/browser blacklisted by sites on the Internet.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Windows 365?

There's enough conjecture in various forums to be credible that what Windows Vista and 7 users will be offered will be a years subscription to the currently unannounced Win10 Windows 365 pay-as-you-use offering, so tying people into a subscription model by the back door.

Microsoft just will not give users of their old OSs something for free!

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: "Microsoft will never realize another penny from this household"

I'm sorry to say that all the time Microsoft get royalties for the FAT patents, or any of the patents owned by MPEG LA or any of the other patents Microsoft defend but will only tell people about under an NDA, you cannot definitively make that statement.

SPY FRY: Smart meters EXPLODE in Californian power surge

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@Jim 59 re:"A huge gov IT project"

Are you sure? Just what are the Government doing to implement this?

All I can see is them mandating that the power companies implement it through legislation and regulation.

Get this straight.

This is being done by the power companies, paid for through the bills, by us, the customers!

This is no Government IT project.

Nuclear waste spill: How a pro-organic push sparked $240m blunder

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


And the first, as you pointed out, is Science.

There was lots of bad science in all of the Gerry Anderson works, and they were all set in the near future, so they could not really play the radical new technology card.

Dose it detract from the tremendous stories, strong characters (even though most were plastic or plasticine), or the fantastic achievements of AP Films and Century 21 Productions in the field of special effects? No it doesn't.

I am a huge fan of all of Gerry Anderson's work (well, Dick Spanner was a bit strange, and Terrahawks was below par IMHO), but that never stopped me cringing sometimes at the "Science", even when I was a child (My formative years were during the original runs of the "classics'" in the 1960's and 70's; I am of the Century 21 Productions generation, and am almost exactly the same age as Joe 90 would be).

(P.S. Answer me this. Why do Thunderbird 1 and 2 come to a dead-stop in the air, and only fire their landing jets when they want to decend?)

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Fast Integral Reactor. @otto

As a story-teller and realiser on the small screen, Gerry Anderson was pretty good. As a scientist, not so hot.

There were plenty of plot holes. Like why was the moon able to avoid being captured by the stars/planets it passed close to. And where did they get their energy, especially in a form suitable for the Eagles. And how about the seemingly unending supply of Eagles when they were destroyed. And how come they could cross interstellar space so fast, but still slow enough to allow planetary exploration missions. And why the moon was not torn apart by tidal forces when it passed within the Roche limit to planets and even the black hole it went through. And how come so many Earth spaceships found the moon. And how they managed to get enough Sinclair Pocket TVs to make their communicators 10 years after most of them had broken.

And, to cap it all, why was there so little furniture in the Control Centre that everybody had to stand around, punching buttons on the walls!

Still, the first season was a good romp, although I thought widening the plot in the second season to include metamorpths and the like was going a bit too far.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Fast Integral Reactor. @Hadvar

That's so 1999!

It's the FALKLANDS SYNDROME! Fukushima MELTDOWN to cause '10,000 Chernobyls' in South Atlantic

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Best to read it all!

I read the headline and the first paragraph or so and thought that it was a bit superficial, because if the cores descended through the crust, then gravity would hold it at or near the centre of the Earth.

I then read on, and realised that this is all covered, at least to a non-scientist's view. It's all preposterous really, but detailed enough to appear serious, and very well done.

Congratulations on making an obvious April Fool's article worth reading.

Snakes on a backplane: Server-room cabling horrors

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

If you think that is bad....

...you don't remember the bad-old days of RS232, co-ax and twin-ax terminal cables.

I wish I had taken a picture of it, but when an IBM building was decommissioned and we left it in the early '90s, I had a chance to look around as I had a access to help move the kit I was responsible for.

I found the comms room that contained the 3270 comms controllers for about half of the desks in the building. I kid you not, the 3174s, which were supposed to be floor standing devices, were on shelves stacked three high, with about 2 feet deep of co-ax cable cascading from them to the ground, and then to the patch panels and on to the risers to be distributed around the building. It was far, far worse than the pictures in the article.

Like another poster said, the reason for the cables, some of which were clearly not plugged in, was that they were so laced into the mish-mash that they could not be removed without risking breaking some of them, so they just left them there.

Good cable management is possible, and in the long run will save both time and money. It's a shame that most projects do not have ongoing supportability as one of their deliverables.

Smart meters are a ‘costly mistake’ that'll add BILLIONS to bills

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

"just there to remind you to actually replace and turn off powered stuff"

But that's exactly the point.

In my case, it gave me the impetus to actually find these things, so I would judge that it was more valuable than a placebo. It was also a useful demonstration to the other family members that what they leave on has an effect on the household consumption, and that was tremendously valuable on it's own. If it gave over inflated readings, then that made it more valuable still!

As I understand it, recent equipment with a CE mark has to have a power factor close to 1, so that this type of meter will be more relevant once older devices age out of the house.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: short term benefit @John 48

You have a very good point, but that is not what Tezfair was talking about.

What he said was that it enabled him to reduce his consumption. OK, he might have replaced some things that did not need replacing because the reactive load was not being taken into account, but he still reduced his consumption. That is what was important to him, not checking the accuracy of the billing system.

What he wrote mirrors my experience exactly. I too used one of the cheap clamp on meters to monitor instantaneous use, and I spotted a number of things that I could do that reduced the consumption, and managed to drop my base load as measured by the meter by about 45% (although peak use is still about the same because of high current devices like washing machines and tumble driers). My bills have gone down (or at least they did not go up as fast), and I now do not keep my meter running either. It achieved it's aim.

I would probably not benefit particularly from having a 'smarter' meter, apart from not having to provide meter readings.

Belgium to the rescue as UK consumers freeze after BST blunder

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Don't away with BST, don't blame farmers @Richard Jones 1

Time is not quite arbitrary. The definition currently accepted around the world is based on the rotation of the Earth on it's axis in relation to the Sun, and is intricately associated with popular angular measurement.

Putting aside the discussion on units of time, my view is that noon should be when the Sun is highest in the sky. There's no particular reason it should be so, I just think that this should be the case.

I'm not (quite) suggesting that we go to completely local time measured solely by the Sun, but quantized into hour-wide zones with some geographical adjustments for national reasons seems like a reasonable compromise to me.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@Mine's a Guinness

Funnily enough, most people I know get the switch the wrong way round.

Most people I know think that the clock change is to adjust time to suit the sun in Winter. This is the argument some people used to try to prevent children going to school in the dark, but that argument is bogus, because winter has the clocks aligned with sidereal time.

So all abolishing BST will do is to make the lit evenings an hour shorter in the summer months. At one time, when people worked in the fields, this may have made a small difference, but with the reduction in manpower required to run farms now, most farmers will be pretty indifferent to this. They get up when required, and often work the fields by floodlight to extend the working day in the evening.

I have no problem with abolishing BST, but not with aligning the clock to BST permanently, which some people suggest, or even aligning the UK to CET/CEST, which some business leaders want (blooming Gallophiles)!

TOP500 Supers make boffins more prolific

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Chemists are... @Michael Wojcik

I appreciate the information, and I put my cards on the table. I am only talking generalisations here as I am not an HPC coder myself, but I do know several people doing serious work on existing HPC environments.

They obviously have time and effort invested in the existing systems and the languages that they currently use, but many times I have seen these people working at the generated machine code levels trying to sort out bit comparison errors, and convergence errors in large HPC programs.

The fact that they don't have layers of code generation and optimisation tools between the code being executed and the source language is a real benefit. These are people who care enough about the code and the specific machine they are working on to successfully manually unroll loops and other hand-hacks in order to reduce execution time.

Reading up on one of the examples you quote for efficient code generation, I find that Julia is still pretty immature for the largest problems out there. If you look at top 100 supercomputers, it is essential that you have a message passing paradigm that scales across multiple machine images.

The standard currently being used is MPI, although OpenMP and MPICH are alternatives that the likes of Cray and IBM are supporting. These are very important because of the need to be integrated with the interconnect in these systems.

I came across a recent thread (still going on) on Google Groups that is a discussion between various people associated with Julia about how to get it working with MPI and the problems they are having. This means that although Julia may be suitable for generating efficient code, it's still very immature for everything that does not use a shared memory model visible to all threads.

I found a quote from an article on ArsTechnica from just under a year ago where the team that created and is developing Julia—namely Stefan Karpinski, Viral Shah, Jeff Bezanson, and Alan Edelman said:

"Our general goal is not to be worse than 2x slower than C or Fortran"

So while you have very valid points, the consensus at the moment is that Fortran (and to a lesser extent C++) is and will remain for some time the preferred language for the largest real problems in the HPC world.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Chemists are... @YAAC

I was writing in the present tense, so I was commenting on what I've seen, not on what should be done.

But I seriously doubt that you are correct. If you get some computer scientist on board, they will want to write in something like Python if they've just coded as part of their degree, C++, Java, or derivatives if they've been taught formal programming languages, or something obscure like Haskill or Erlang if they are working in the field of functionally correct programs.

Like it or not, writing efficient HPC code is still best done in a relatively simple language like Fortran, because you can get so close to the machine code actually being executed that if necessary you can tweak it at the assembler level to wring out the last few clock cycles in critical parts of the code. Depending on which HPC segment you're looking at, owning an HPC is normally not just about running your code fast, it's about running it as fast as you possibly can.

Don't believe any hype that for this type of programming, an IDE is ever going to generate more efficient code than something closer to the bare metal, And I don't think that you will get any Computer Scientist seriously considering Fortran as a language to work in, unless they are already involved in the HPC field.

I am involved in the field myself at the moment (as a mere system admin), and I talk to people involved in solving big problems using HPCs, and this is what I am told by people actively writing for such systems.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Chemists are...

But you will probably find that programs written by chemists to solve chemical problems are more effective than those written to solve the same problem by computer scientists, because chemists understand the problem, rather than the computer scientists who may write better code, but don't understand the problem they are trying to solve.

What is HPC actually good for? Just you wait and see

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: it's time

Is that Timothy Prickett Morgan behind that AC, touting his current, Register associated venture by any chance?

Part of CAP IT system may be scrapped after digital fail – MPs

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: The last time I was involved in paper maps for field registration...

The problem was not getting the maps, it was getting the maps at the same time as all of the other farmers in the area doing the same! You've never seen such a group of grizzled, wind-burnt old codgers outside of a farm deadstock sale.

Of course all of the large farmers just sent one of their workers to queue, or got their farm-agent to do it for them. As an IT specialist, I felt most out of place, not being able to talk of the field yield, soil heaviness, milk quota, lambing figures and the myriad of other farming jargon.

It did make me think how intelligible we must be to other people sometimes!

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

The last time I was involved in paper maps for field registration...

...what ended up happening were very long lines at the local Ordinance Survey offices trying to purchase the relevant maps to send off as the deadline approached.

You could not use any of the popular and readily available scales, you had to use the 1 to 10,000 scale (about 6 inches to the mile) which show field boundaries, and which were only available in person from an OS local office. The queues were incredible. I spent over 8 hours in one trying to get three sheets for my father-in-law's farm.

That was some time ago, but it was a real pain. I hope that what they've introduced is better now, because I understand that the OS local offices are no longer there!

BT bemoans 'misconceived' SUPERFAST broadband regs

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: This sort of crap @Colin

The National Grid is not a good comparison.

National Grid moves electricity from the electricity generating companies to the regional electricity distribution network operators, so they own and operate a large part of the pylons that you see striding across the country.

The regional electricity distribution network operators (in my region, that is Western Power Distribution) own and operate all of the local distribution network, which in the telecommunication industry is often called (inaccurately) the Last Mile, which links all of the consumers.

I agree that we could see a similar tiered structure in the UK for telecommunications, where you would have regional companies operating all the hardware and lines linking the exchanges and the consumers, and trunk companies operating the inter-exchange networks, with the overall service being provided by virtual operators who use the facilities operated by the other two, but I think that is a very different proposition to the one you propose, one that the US tried to follow and failed at.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: BT Fibre @streaky

They count FTTC as Fibre.

Drug drone not high enough: Brit lags' copter snared on prison wire

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: *shakes head* @werdsmith

And yet, although Rye Hill is a more modern prison, it was originally built as a borstal in the 1960's when there was less opposition to this type of development. Since then, it's role has been changed more than once, probably with modifications added each time to make it more suitable for it's new purpose.

It's always easier to get agreement to extend an existing facility like this than it is to build a new one from scratch.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: *shakes head* @Bob

Unlike the US, where prisons tend to be isolated outside population centres and can afford to have wide perimeters with more than one fence (at least that is what I see on US telly), in the UK, older prisons, many of them built in the Victorian era are often in towns or cities, where there is just no space to have a wide perimeter.

It is often the case that there are public roads right next to the perimeter wall. Prisons such as these mean that it is impossible to prevent the public getting close enough to catapult small amounts of contraband over the wall. Here are the co-ordinates of HMP Bedford: 52.139530, -0.469831. Look at it the satellite image in Google Maps or something to see the problem.

You might say that it is poor planning to have prisons in towns, but the UK is smaller and has a much higher population density than the US or many other countries. If prisons are built away from a population centre, first of all, there is a huge outcry about using precious green-field sites for prisons, and then if they do get built, a new population centre grows up around the prison, because people working in the prison tend to like living close to where they are working. The prison then has to expand because of the increasing prison population, so it tends to grow towards it's perimeter, using the space.

Helium-filled drive tech floats to top of HGST heap

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

"before those persistent helium molecules find a way through"

I grant that having a medium to 'fly' the heads is important, but surely the major problem is not preventing the helium getting out, but preventing other atmospheric gasses getting in.

Because nitrogen, oxygen, argon and carbon dioxide are much larger molecules, it's much easier to prevent them entering the drive.

Provided you can prevent other gasses entering, the rate of helium leakage will fall anyway, as the pressure inside the drive drops, so I can see them having a quite long life.

Standard General bids to save RadioShack from oblivion

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: " from selling a Bentley to selling a Ford to selling a used Vespa.”

It depends how far back you look.

Having found a site with archived catalogues (which I posted a link to in a previous story comment), it is quite clear that in the 1930's through to the early 1960's, they had an extensive set of products which would have appealed to anybody interested in shortwave radio or building and repairing things, especially as I suspect that they did most of their business mail-order.

If I were to pin a point where they started going down hill, I would suggest that it was when they tried to become a general electrical retailer (HiFi, TV) with a physical presence in most large towns (US cities), which saw them expand and have to compete with all the other electrical retailers who were also doing the same thing. They were briefly successful, riding the wave of early home and small business computers, but after that it was all down-hill, IMHO.

They were not able to make their brands, such as Realistic or Micronta as recognisable as the Japanese companies (like Technics, Sony etc), and a lot of the stuff they sold could be easily recognised as rebranded OEM products, often more expensive than the originals.

Aged 18-24? Don't care about voting? Got a phone? Oh dear...

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Targetting young people with specific policies is a waste

I think the example of allowing 16yo's to vote in the recent Scottish Independence referendum was a cynical ploy to try to win the vote.

It is well documented that the young tend to be naieve, idealistic, and often have a very simple view of the world. It is very common for young people to have very reactionary views which would chime with the notion of an independent Scotland.

People are often militant when they are young, and mellow over the years to become more conservative (with a small c), regardless of their politics.

The number of times I hear young people demanding that they are people too, and need representing. My answer to that is "Well, I've been young, and now I'm older. I know much more about how you feel, because I've been where you are, and so have my children. You're still young, and never have been old, and don't yet know what that's like, so you don't yet have a balanced view of the world."

I know that this could be taken to absurdity so that only the oldest people in society are allowed to vote, but I feel that there is a level of experience sufficient to allow you to look both ways, and you've not got that at 16.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Targetting young people with specific policies is a waste

The problem with young people is that they become older, and the political process takes time.

Take policies targeted at students. Most students of voting age are on 2 or 3 year courses, and have been since autumn last year. Any government elected in May this year will not be able to change policy this academic year, and probably will not manage it in the next either, meaning that it it would likely come in for the academic year starting September 2017. Any student in their second or third year will not be affected by any policies brought in by the next government so it is a waste of effort.

In addition, a government making new policies on, say student loans, will not change the conditions existing students, because that may materially change the affordability of being a student, and this is recognised as being unfair.

It's difficult getting young people to engage. My four kids (ages 19-29) are all registered to vote, but I suspect that none of them will, not because they are apathetic, but because they have not yet learned enough about life to be able to identify what will affect them in the future. And I think my kids are of at least average intelligence.

They just do not follow what is happening in the country or the wider world, and they don't trust (probably wisely) the spoon-fed election propaganda from the politicians, as they realise that this is just a sop. I keep getting asked what my views are, and being a of a liberal (note the small L), I don't what to influence them with my thinking too much.

Backing up cloud applications is never easy but Asigra gets it done

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Backup is not what I think of when I hear Data Protection

I'm not sure whether Canada uses different terminology, but to me, Data Protection means making sure that data is not revealed where it is not meant, and that the data retained is appropriate to the reasons for which it is being kept, and correct.

This is the opening paragraph of Wikipedia on "Information Management".

Information privacy, or data privacy (or data protection), is the relationship between collection and dissemination of data, technology, the public expectation of privacy, and the legal and political issues surrounding them.

And UK and EU legislation for "Data Protection" is all about this.

Still, this isn't a UK centric news site, is it.

Apple boots Windows 7 out of Boot Camp

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Well, it makes some sort of sense.

You can no longer buy Windows 7, so of course when you get your new Mac, you can't get a brand new, shiny, shrink wrapped Windows 7 license anyway, can you.

Of course, they've overlooked the fact that you may already own a transferable Windows 7 license, but nobody would put a 'used' version of Windows on their shiny shiny, would they. That's just so dirty.

BOFH: Mmm, gotta love me some fresh BYOD dog roll

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Vax? VAX!

It's definitely and acronym. Virtual Address eXtension IIRC.

If it's been in storage, I would expect that it would take a while to get running again, and you wouldn't get any support from Digial Compaq HP.

BBC gives naked computers to kids (hmm, code for something?)

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Sorry to be a killjoy, bit it's dumb.

In the early '80s I built and ran a 'computer appreciation' lab at a UK Poly, back when computers were relatively rare things, and peripherals like robot arms, speech synthesisers, light pens, plotters etc. even more so. I do understand that physical things are more meaningful, but only for capturing initial interest.

Once the novelty wore off, the young people who 'got' what it was all about, the physical nature was less important, and those that didn't, it was no longer interesting.

In fact when given the opportunity to use any or all of this great kit in their end of year project, none of them were interested, and they all settled on pure software projects. Everybody involved in setting up and running the lab. were very disappointed.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Sorry to be a killjoy, bit it's dumb. @werdsmith

I agree. I'm not making the comparison with the BBC micro, other people are. I just pointed out how stupid that comparison is.

Before this will be useful even as a wearable gadget, it will need a case, and some power. That will make it much more bulky, and mean there will be an additional outlay immediately before it can be used like this.

I can see a niche for it, but not as something given to 'every schoolchild' of a certain age, especially if all the majority do is connect it up to a PC running some cute development environment that allows it to display on the 5x5 LED grid a character moonwalking or dancing (Barclays are involved) at the click of a few on-screen buttons. Is that really going to be enough of an achievement to capture a child's long-term interest?

At best, it's going to be a novelty hook that may hold the attention of a small part of their target audience for long enough for them to learn something useful, but I fear that the number who take advantage will be tiny.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Sorry to be a killjoy, bit it's dumb.

As is comparing it the the BBC Micro of old.

What made the BBC micro attractive was that it was a fully functional computer (of it's time) in it's own right, which you could start in a simple language drawing lines around the screen, making laser zap sounds, and have it prompt for the child's name, and then move on using the same system all the way through to structured programming, assembler, industrial control, simple office applications and data gathering and display. A cheap laptop with a suitable application is going to be far better.

This microbit is a toy that cannot exist without another computer being involved. It's going to be seen by the majority of kids as 'just another thing they plug into their PC with flashing lights' in the same vein as computer controlled toy missile launchers or bluetooth controlled RC cars. It will hold their attention for a few hours (if they get it working) and then be discarded.

I'm not saying that it will not get any traction. There are bright teachers (and some self-taught kids) who will do some tremendous things with it, I'm sure. Just don't expect this to be a significant part of teaching advanced computer interaction to the generation of kids who will receive it.

They'd do better going back to Logo controlled turtles, or a Kim-1 development kit.

'Rowhammer' attack flips bits in memory to root Linux

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: ECC is not enough

I did not mention hamming codes, because I learned about it over 30 years ago (it was one of the first things taught on my CS course at uni.), and I was not certain the term was in use still, and I could not be arsed to spend any time reading up on the specific techniques used nowadays while writing the comment.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: ECC is not enough

If you could predictably determine which bits would be flipped, you may be able to do this, but most ECC memory has multiple bits for error correction per 64 or 128 bit word, and use something a bit more sophisticated than plain parity.. The ECC I've seen normally allows single or double bit corruption per word to be fixed, with multi-bit corruption detected. You would have to be able to flip the bits in a pattern where the ECC bits would not flag an error, and in order to do this, you would need to know how the ECC bits are calculated, which is probably memory vendor specific.

I don't know how Linux handles uncorrectable ECC errors, but other OSs normally take exception, and depending on what was running at the time the ECC error occurred would either kill the process, or if it were in Kernel mode, panic the kernel. I've even seen this take out an entire system running VMs in a type 1 hypervisor, if the error occurs while executing hypervisor code.

As a result, if you are using ECC memory, you would have to get a correct pattern every time or else things will happen that will be noticed.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Probably difficult to exploit in real systems

I was initially sceptical about this because I could not see how you could predict which other memory pages would be affected by a particular rowhammer, but the report adds much detail to the issue. If you are really interested, give it a read,

There is quite a lot of "Hopefully this..." type of statement, so the authors acknowledge a degree of luck in triggering the exploit.

The report also acknowledges that the exploit will work best on a system that is fairly idle, as it requires the process to essentially fill all of the available memory first with known data to identify related memory pages, and then with page table entries created using mmap().

In a machine with other workload, the likelihood of being able to control enough memory to allow this to be reliable is seriously reduced (it requires a page that is identified, then freed to be immediately used by the system for a page table page, something that could not be guaranteed on a busier system, especially as the page freed with madvise() + MADV_DONTNEED would probably generate a context switch).

All the time you are rowhammering essentially unpredictable pages (part of the exploit is to hammer memory lines until you can find one that affects a memory page you control), you could also be creating other problems on the system including unpredictably modifying running code and data structures.

The more you have to do this, the more likely it is that you will trigger another unpredictable action which would attract attention.

There is also tacit acknowledgement that this attack in it's published form relies on certain features of the Intel x86-64 architecture (specific instructions to allow rapid toggling of memory bypassing the cache like CLFLUSH), although it does suggest ways of triggering the bit flip on other architectures.

Don't get me wrong. It's a clear issue, and one that is exacerbated by the fact that Linux, being open, is less difficult to craft an exploit for because the internals are better understood, but I believe that exploits in the wild are likely to be few.

Clinton defence of personal email server fails to placate critics

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Convenience

I would imagine that she has 'satff' to do it for her. All she had to do was make sure they were paid, and that was probably being done by someone else anyway.

The convenience was only having to carry around one device, with one account on automatic login.

Quantum computers have failed. So now for the science

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: For Markets in a Pickle and Heading for a Mass Flash Crash

My deity. He's got a Blog.

I don't understand anything he says there either.

Web protection: A flu mask for the internet

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Dummed down readership? @AC

Well, someone had to say it, and unusually, I had the chance to be the first.

Cleverness is relative. I only claim to be a Register reader for some years, not that I am particularly 'clever' or 'bright', although I do value my silver badge. IMHO, this type of article is poor compared to previous articles, so I was commenting on whether the type of reader The Register is attracting is going down.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge
Thumb Up

Re: different access levels for ... departments. @Andy Non

And they let you attach USB memory devices that had been used on non-secure systems?

Goodness, how lax!

Google promises proper patch preparation after new cloud outage

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: I hope that... @Aitor

All good points... provided that the SLA with their customers reflects a realistic amount of downtime for the service. I've been involved in implementing services that are designed to be able to cope with failures, and this is what I feel the cloud providers should be aiming at.

The problem as I see it is that cloud providers sell their service as resilient ("just look at all the places we can move your services to"), giving customers an expectation, without actually investing in the infrastructure that actually allows this expectation to be achieved.

Cost is an issue, of course. Cloud providers must match a realistic expectation of total system availability with the cost, with different tiers of pricing. Otherwise, providing cloud services will become, in a currently popular phrase, a race to the bottom, with price being the ultimate factor in the choice.

Unfortunately, the people buying the service may not actually really understand what they are being sold, and if someone with real experience of service continuity tries to point out the deficiencies, they will be branded alarmist, or protectionist (of their own jobs), and be sidelined.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

I hope that...

... the outage did not affect the whole of the GCN, just parts of it.

If it did affect it all, then it would appear to be that they've got at least one too many single points of failure.

Whilst I know that certain parts of the core infrastructure are difficult to make completely redundant, multiple network fabrics that can be run in isolation for resilience is not a new idea, nor is only working on one of your fabrics at once a particularly taxing notion.

I feel that all cloud providers should effectively have the best High Availability features for their infrastructure. Don't rely on the MTBF figures provided by your equipment suppliers to be a realistic figure for the availability of the service run on the kit, because unexpected 'stuff' happens.

Broadband routers: SOHOpeless and vendors don't care

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: "having a modem and a router as separate devices" @LDS

I mentioned Raspberry Pi, because I happen to have a B+ sitting around not doing a lot at the moment. For me, it's all about not spending too much money.

My VDSL sync speed to the exchange is around 80Mb/s, and I have managed to get speed tests of ~50Mb/s when directly connected via GigE to the router, so I am a little uncertain that USB2 connected Ethernet adapters (theoretically capable of connection at the required speeds, but I' always sceptical) can hack it.

I've just scavanged a newer old laptop back from one of the kids (they weren't using it as it would not game), and am going to try a firewall distro that supports Cardbus with a 1GB Cardbus Ethernet card that I have lying about. IPFire looks like a suitable distro.

UK Supreme Court waves through indiscriminate police surveillance

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: @Steven

I know this. That's why I know that AC comments appear on "My Posts". What you don't know is how many of my comments are posted under my name, and how many are anonymous!

As there is no HTTPS offering, you or any other boss (or your network specialists running the firewall(s)) could examine any postings made from inside your company (or even on the "Dirty" wireless network that you offer to your employees) without any difficulty at all. So it's not even protecting people from their bosses!

What I was trying to say is that in terms of anonymity to the security services or the Register staff, the AC box has no meaning.

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