* Posts by Peter Gathercole

2924 posts • joined 15 Jun 2007

Americans to be guinea pigs in vast chip-and-PIN security experiment

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: to counter mr mugger, you need a panic PIN

What should be done is that they make it so the panic PIN will work in the hand-held devices, and will dispense money the first time it's used in an ATM but alert the bank and the Police. The mugger won't know that they don't have the proper PIN, and hopefully will release the victim.

The bank can then flag the card to cause any ATMs to go out-of-service (rather than declining the card) whenever the card is used again, hopefully leading the mugger to be unsure whether the card has been blocked (in case they demand that a second transaction is done by the victim), or whether the ATM is truly faulty. All the time, you pass the location on to the police whenever the card is used.

The customer and the bank may argue who pays for the first cash withdrawal (the bank will want to make sure that it really was a withdrawal under duress), but that should be a small problem.

Call off the firing squad: HP grants stay of execution to OpenVMS

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Metaphor @Stopeshop

The original question was "Can you tell me which other OS was ported twice to an other processor architecture?"

It said nothing about serial ports.

I admit I got it wrong about MacOS. Maybe I should have said NeXTstep(68000)->OSX(powerpc)->OSX(x86-64)!

I think that if you look at the myriad of Linux ports out there, you will find one that is not one port away from x86 anyway.

And I know there are a lot of UNIX ports out there, but how about AIX(ROMP)->AIX(POWER)->AIX(IA64 - although did not last long), and along the way there were s370 and x86 ports as well.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Metaphor

Ummm, off the top of my head.






BeOS (may be stretching things here)


It's more common that you might think.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: hmm POSIX

I'm constantly infuriated by my Linux colleagues who assume that Linux is a POSIX compliant operating system, and that anything written for Linux can be easily backported to UNIX or other POSIX compliant operating systems.

I currently work supporting and AIX HPC in an environment where Linux is used extensively for other data manipulation and modelling work. I keep getting questions like "Why is Linux tool X or Y or Z not available on the HPC", and I have to patiently explain that because the tool requires the complete KDE or Gnome environment, or reliance on dbus or udev or KMS, none of which are in the POSIX standard, or any number of cumulative package dependences, a back port is almost impossible.

They cannot see that Linux has done the Embrace and Extend, and is well down the Extinguish path against UNIX and POSIX in a manner that would make Microsoft proud.

And I would not mind too much if there was a new POSIX standard that was extended to specify parts of the Linux and GNU tool chain that genetic UNICIES could be extended to include, but there is no such thing! There was the LSB, but that's an unmaintained standard that everybody ignores.

There is no workable Linux standard! And to cap it all, there is almost no Linux distribution that has even got full POSIX 1003 compliance, much less the more recent UNIX V7 <rant>(FOR GOD SAKE - UNIX V7 ALREADY MEANT SOMETHING! COULD THEY NOT HAVE USED ANOTHER NAME!)</rant> standard.

UNIX is standardised. Linux is not. Linux should work like UNIX, not the other way round.

Still I think I approve of the extended lease of life for VMS.

UK.gov wants public sector to rip up data protection law

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: biggest reason NOT to vote tory this election

This is what the previous administration was attempting when they designed the databases to back up the Identity Card scheme that the Conservatives were so keen to put down. By adding a super-key associated with someone's identity to all the other databases, it would have enabled them to join together disparate information sources however they wanted.

They tried again in 2009 with Clause 152 of the Coroners and Justice Bill.

I seem to remember one "David Cameron" was particularly keen to oppose the measures.

I'm sure every Government wants to do this, but there are safeguards called Information Sharing Orders that deliberately restrict how government departments share data so as not to upset the citizen vs. state balance.. If this plan is implemented, they will be tearing up all of these, to the advantage of the state against it's own citizens.

Microsoft's Euro cloud darkens: US FEDS can dig into foreign servers

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Doom for US tech companies

This is interesting. What about US companies operating government contracts in other countries.

For example, in the UK, IBM run parts of the IT for the DVLA, the ID and Passort Service, parts of DEFRA, and probably other government or civil service entities. I think HP has a strong relationship with the Inland Revenue, and I'm absolutely certain that there is one or more US company associated with running the NHS IT systems.

And the UK Government has said that it intends to use Office 365 (although how that sits with the ODF statement recently, I don't know).

Plug and PREY: Hackers reprogram USB drives to silently infect PCs

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: USB Firewall

I ought to point out that on Linux is it perfectly possible to whitelist your udev rules so that only known devices (manufacturer, ID and function) can be configured.

Of course, this will not prevent a device masquerading as another by using the ID strings of another device, but it would make the attack surface much smaller in that the miscreant would have to know which devices are allowed.

The other thing that I'm spotting here is a suggestion that the code in the USB device could examine the system. I'm not sure whether that is possible, particularly if it is appearing as a keyboard. Flow of data is particularly one-way for a keyboard. Those that offer programmability in the hardware (gamers keyboards, for example) generally appear as more than one USB device anyway, with the non-keyboard device being used as a control point for the controller generating keyboard scan codes. You could block all but the keyboard device.

If it is configured solely as a keyboard, I don't think that the OS would send any data to it for it to be able to look at the system. At least not for a USB device. If it were fireware, then all bets would be off.

4K video on terrestrial TV? Not if the WRC shares frequencies to mobiles

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Cut or compress

In order to axe all of the repeats, it would be necessary to produce many times the current amount of new programmes. This will either mean programmes created with extremely low budgets, or the cost of watching TV, either directly by subscription or by increased advertising increasing significantly.

Face it. All the time that there is something like the current airtime available, repeats will happen.

I think that there may be scope in eliminating some of the channels. Maybe set a limit of a dozen channels, but make sure that they cover a wide spectrum of quality programmes to appeal to a broad audience.

Stick a 4K in them: Super high-res TVs are DONE

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: It doesn't matter how good the display is if there's nothing to display

I'm going senile, obviously!

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

The TV manufacturers want a repeat of the 'flat panel' effect. It won't happen.

For most people, TV's are a long-term purchase. Provided it still works, they would not normally consider replacing them.

Flat-panel TVs, once they became cheap enough, shifted the paradigm. People replaced perfectly functional CRT TVs, not particularly because the picture was better, but because flat-panel TVs occupy much less space than a CRT. Couple that with a significantly reduced power consumption for LCD TVs at a time when people were being made energy aware, and the CRTs went down to the recycling centres by the truckload. That enabled people to reclaim space in their living rooms so that the TV was no longer the major piece of furniture it had been, feel good about reducing their energy footprint and, by the way, have 'better' pictures (although I still know people who prefer high scan rate CRT TVs over flat-panels).

This was reflected in how fast CRT TV's disappeared from the shops once flat panel TV's got to within spitting distance of the price of CRTs. And often, it was not the high cost TV's that generated the profits. It was the wholesale replacement of hundreds of thousands (millions?) of TVs with low-to-midrange price tags that earned the money.

We won't see this happening again unless there is some overwhelming technology leap that provides a must-have feature. 3D and 4K are not that, and I can't really see anything on the horizon that would. Maybe a virtual floating screen so that you don't even need to dedicate wall space, but I doubt that is within current technology.

Planned obsolescence is the manufacturers best bet to keep TV sales ticking over (maybe that is why they use such damned poor Chinese capacitors - the single most common cause of TV failure), but I'm sure if it was revealed that this was a deliberate policy, the consumer groups would be up in arms!

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: It doesn't matter how good the display is if there's nothing to display

Sky in the UK delivers 1080i60 (at least that's what my telly and Wikipedia says). That's an interlaced 1920x1080 image at 60 frames a second, so two successive frames make up a full 1920x1080 image, effectively halving the frame rate (most televisions do some form of de-interlacing on such an image by combining the 'odd' and 'even' lines into a single frame, and actually displaying it at half the frame rate).

This means that in most cases, provided that the original was shot at 30 frames per second (and most made-for-TV programmes are), there should be no effective difference between 1080i and 1080p (1080p will transmit two identical frames, 1080i will construct a single frame from two adjacent frames). Of course, any material shot at the full 60 frames per second will suffer de-interlacing artefacts when transmitted at 1080i.

You can also get quantization errors if the original was shot at 24, 25 or some other number of frames a second. There will be some of this type of error whenever the original frame rate does not match the display rate.

UK.gov's Open Source switch WON'T get rid of Microsoft, y'know

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: ODF is not open source @J.G.

I'm intrigued.

You obviously don't mean that you save it from View on your BBC. As far as I'm aware, all support and updates for that stopped at least a decade before XML and ODF were defined.

I'm supposing that you are using something that understands View format (as it is from a much earlier age, it's a much simpler format, and one that probably leaked in it's entirety into the public domain), and can write ODF.

I don't appear to have any View files convenient at the moment, but the version of LibreOffice I have installed does not appear to have explicit View support, although it may be there.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Short-term vs. Long term

I was of course talking about a term of a government mandate, i.e. the time between elections, not the overall length of government.

What I was eluding to is the fact that this could be being done to go on their election propaganda manifesto. If it wins them votes, then they benefit, and can work out whether it was a good idea or not, but they're still in power. If they lose, then it's not their problem anyway.


Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Short-term vs. Long term

Remember that UK Governments last no more than 5 years. This means that a wholesale switch to SaaS will show expense removed from the balance sheet before the next election.

The ongoing costs will be the problem of the next administration. Like with PPP and PFI.

You may also find that software counts as a Capital expenditure, so reducing that is also a win (when presented to the weak-minded electorate) for them in apparently reducing the costs of Government.

It's all a bit smoke-and-mirrors.

UK Parliament rubber-stamps EMERGENCY data grab 'n' keep bill

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: @Robert Long 1

Points well made. Have an upvote.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@Sean Timarco Baggaley

Thank you for pointing this out. I had not considered whether the Canton system (which is still a representational democracy) in Switzerland was applicable in the UK, but I suspect that such a system would not work here.

The Swiss population is small at just under 8 million. It has 24 Cantons, and Switzerland itself is a federal state made up of these Cantons. The population of the Cantons range from under 1.5 million down to just over 15 thousand. If we had something similar in the UK, we would end up with something over 200 regions over the population size of 100,000. We have 650 parliamentary constituencies, which means that one Canton would equate to something like 3 parliamentary constituencies. Trying to run a federation of this number of states would be much worse than in Switzerland.

Alternatively, we could escalate the county structure to become more state-like. This would give a much smaller number of states, but would end up with huge inequities, as there is huge variation in the population and revenue of the current counties, and would lead some 'states' running a permanent deficit.

Either way, the resultant federal government would be difficult to run, and would would still end up with things like surveillance and security policy having to be centrally run in a way that would not be that dissimilar to our current parliament. It would still be necessary to arrange voting blocks to get any large decisions made.

I suspect that the reason why it apparently works in Switzerland is because of how insular they are. They do not have a prominent role in foreign politics (you particularly mention warmongering), or world trade. The result is that there are fewer issues that require a referendum. They regard themselves as being too uninteresting to be invaded, and this policy served them relatively well in the world wars last century. This may be a good thing, but if every democratic country moved to a foreign policy where they hid under a rock, it would not be very long before more aggressive and territory hungry regimes were knocking at their borders.

Switzerland does not really have to worry about this at the moment because they are surrounded by relative benign states (France, Germany, Austria, Italy and Liechtenstein), and are not very attractive to invade anyway. If they had a border with a country like Pakistan, Somalia or maybe even Russia, I suspect that they would be significantly less insular, and worry about defence and foreign policy rather more than they do at the moment.

It will be interesting to see whether when water becomes a constrained resource, Switzerland alters it's foreign policy!

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: @Robert Long 1

That's an interesting point of view, and of course I cannot argue against it because I don't like party voting and the whipping system, but I wonder how the democratic movement intended to run the country at the turn of the 20th Century, when there was no mass communication, rapid transport was still fairly basic, and the public at large were largely uneducated?

Elections or referendums took weeks to organise and count, and at the time, only selected people had the vote anyway (remember the suffragettes).

If you are arguing that the political party system is an issue, then I guess there is some mileage in that, but even if you disbanded the party system, and had each MP stand for what their constituency believed, you would still get them banding together in voting blocks, not dissimilar to a party in order to get anything done.

You could also argue that the method of electing MPs is flawed, but I don't like the idea of party lists being used in a PR system, which is what seems to be touted as an alternative. I want to vote for a person, not a list.

Nowadays, in theory, it would be possible to have technology led referendums of the entire voting population (as long as you can fix the voter identity issue - machine readable ID cards anyone?), but how long do you think your average couch potato would give to looking at today's issues and voting on them? Enough time to actually understand the issues?

My guess is that if you had an hour a day to present all issues and take a vote, only a small fraction, probably <10% of the electorate would actually take the time to sit in front of their computer/television to watch any arguments. Of that <10%, probably a significant number would not understand enough of the background to make sensible decisions.

And you also have the problem of who presents the arguments. Without sufficient background, it would be entirely possible to present a totally biased view of any issue to get a particular result.

No, for the majority of issues that are debated day-to-day, a two house system, with the two houses selected in a different manner to each other is about the best I can see at this time. The real problem is that the minutia of day-to-day decision making is just not interesting enough to the general population to make any general referendum system workable for anything except really important issues, so representative democracy is here to stay. Maybe one issue a week could be handled by a technology run referendum.

I would like some more democratic control of my elected representative, especially on certain important issues, and I think that steps toward this may slowly be happening. The powers that be have been discussing the possibility of a constituency sacking an MP. That may make them more respectful of those they represent.

When Winston Churchill said that quote, he was probably actually paraphrasing someone else. Looking into it, the statement was preceded with "It has been said...".

In his life, he was a statesman, a soldier with extensive foreign service, an historian and a writer, and was awarded the Nobel prize for Literature. This makes him more qualified than many of his generation, and most of us now, to make this type of statement with some authority.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: @Me

How did I get 13 (and counting) down votes for my response to Forget it?

Come on. I'm not defining the system, just saying how it is.

If you don't like the current system, do something like lobby your MP, or stand for parliament yourself.

Anybody fancy establishing the Vulture party? After all, we have quite deep thinking (as well as some shallow - but I'll gloss over that) on these forums.

(P.S. I don't want to be the leader. After not running a company well for a few years, I don't think I would run a country any better!)

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: @Eponymous Cowherd

The time allowed for debate has nothing to do with whether it is undemocratic or not. There is nothing enshrined in the UK political system that requires an MP to consult their constituents before voting on a bill. It's good form for them to, but if you look at when the system developed (admittedly before there was any effective distant communication or rapid travel possible), it was often the case that the MP completely ignored the people who elected them once they were in office!

Where there are serious problems are that you cannot currently sack your MP. They can be deselected by the party, but that does not force a by-election, which means that they can sit not representing you until the next election.

Couple that with the whipping system that can force an MP to toe the party line, and that's undemocratic.

We really could do with a local referendum system that allowed us the constituents to force our MPs to ignore the whip for particular issues. That might offset some of the major stumbling blocks with our system.

Please note that I agree with you that what's happened is an utter travesty, but it's not undemocratic, at least not according to the system.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@Forget It

It really is representational democracy. Your constituency selected a representative (your MP) by a majority of those who bothered to get up off the sofa to vote, and they have voted on your behalf. Just because they did not represent your view does not make it undemocratic.

So does that make you a banana?

What's not right is the fact that the MPs and Lords have not had enough time to debate the bill before having to vote on it.

"Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." - Winston Churchill

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Is their a list ?

I think it should be in Hansard tomorrow.

<pedant>You actually need to know who opposed the bill, not who did not vote for it. Unfortunately, not every MP will be in parliament today, and those not there will not vote either way. In addition, MPs in the UK do not sign legislation, and at this point, it's not even legislation. It's a draft bill on it's second reading in the House of Commons</pedant>

iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Doe not compute. @Phil

Strictly speaking it would be a 3270 emulator. A 'glass TTY' is normally regarded as an ADM3, Wyse 50 or VT100.1

I'm surprised TN3270 is not already available. There's several versions in Google's Play store for Android.

1 Other terminals used to be available!

Report: American tech firms charge Britons a thumping nationality tax

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Tax????

They and their distribution channels do act as VAT collectors for the Government, though.

They don't pay Corporation tax, as apparently they don't make any profit in the UK. As if...

UK.gov's data grab and stab law imminent as Drip drips through House of Lords

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

I believe that there is a review clause

It was added as an amendment by the opposition. So this should mean that there is an opportunity to have it reviewed by the house some time in the next parliament. But it's not a proper sunset clause, just a review.

Whether this will actually cause it to be changed is another matter entirely!

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

I finally understand

I read some of the debate from Tuesday. The existing legislation that requires Service Providers to keep call 'metadata' was passed into UK law as Secondary Legislation. This means that it had not been debated in the House of Commons at all, merely in committee.

The Home Secretary obviously decided that only being Secondary Legislation meant that although it is still UK Law, it is weaker and could possibly be neutered if it challenged in the Supreme Court by the Service Providers, particularly those in other countries.

Rushing DRIP through means that it will now be Primary Legislation, and would be harder to challenge. This is something that I only understood yesterday.

I hate the Government, regardless of their colour, using Secondary Legislation for something that is as important as this. It's what finally convinced me that the UK Identity Card scheme was a really bad idea, because the bill to authorise the ID card system was deliberately designed so that it could be extended by Secondary Legislation without it being debated in either house. Once set up, the underlying database could have been used for anything that the government wanted without proper scrutiny.

Pushdo Trojan outbreak: 11 THOUSAND systems infected in just 24 hours

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Never Mind The Vector.. @AC

I think you know the answer. But does it affect all version?

The Windows 8 dilemma: Win 8 or wait for 9?

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Windows 7 isn't easy to purchase anymore, if at all.


Read what I wrote.

Many system builders (like Dell) bought Windows 7 OEM licenses upfront (remember all those stories about MS claiming that Win 7 had a fast uptake rate because of counting these pre-purchases as shipped systems), so have a stock of licenses they can use to put on newly built machines. As I understand it, MS are no longer allowing OEM Win 7 licenses to be purchased, so they will run out at some point.

So you have one of those pre-bought licenses on your machine. The only reason you have to apologise is for not reading my post.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Not everyone works in an office

Touching the screen leaves nasty greasy marks, even if you've not been eating crisps, and not having a clean screen drives me crazy! In fact, I've been known to snatch a pen that someone points too close to my screen, and make to stab their hand with it.

Also, the keyboard is normally arranged within arm's reach. The screen is often not. I'm waiting to see how workstation position guidelines are changed to prevent RSI's when reaching your whole arm out to touch the screen.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Windows 7 isn't easy to purchase anymore, if at all.

Whether you can still purchase Windows 7 depends on your relationship to Microsoft.

If you are an ordinary customer, it is now *impossible* to buy Windows 7 in accordance with the strict Microsoft terms and conditions, unless you come across a supplier who has remaining stock of retail licenses.

If you are a Business Associate, there are a number of things that Microsoft will allow you to do to ship Windows 7.

Many system builders (like Dell) bought Windows 7 OEM licenses upfront (remember all those stories about MS claiming that Win 7 had a fast uptake rate because of counting these pre-purchases as shipped systems), so have a stock of licenses they can use to put on newly built machines. As I understand it, MS are no longer allowing OEM Win 7 licenses to be purchased, so they will run out at some point.

One of the interesting options is that Microsoft allow what is called a Refurbished Machine license. These are mainly for companies in the corporate refurbishing business, who can install Win 7 on systems originally sold with Win XP or Vista before selling them on. There are some suppliers who sell these licenses on to end-users or small businesses, possibly against MS's business guidelines. But I have seen at least one missive from MS that they tend to turn a blind eye to this practice.

So while it is still possible to get Win 7, it's becoming increasingly more difficult as time goes by!

NASA: ALIENS and NEW EARTHS will be ours inside 20 years

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: They'll all look much like the Canadian back woods

Stargate assumes that there has been migration or seeding, possibly with teraforming as a result of having FTL travel. In those circumstances, it's not surprising that there are human-like people with green vegetation.

It also makes production of the TV programme cheaper!

Japanese artist cuffed for disseminating 3D ladyparts files

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Are we going to have to have...

... the vagina/vulva discussion again?

May: UK data slurp law is fine, but I still need EMERGENCY powers

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: "wanted to put the UK's position "beyond doubt."

Please remember that EU legislation, although providing a template for national laws, is not directly enforceable in the member countries. This is because we are not the United States of Europe, at least not yet, not until Jean-Claude Juncker starts pressing for closer European ties.

A directive is passed in the EU parliament, and then that directive has to be enacted by each country's parliament in their own national legislation, which then becomes law in those countries.

The converse is true. If an EU directive is overturned, then that does not automatically mean that the national legislation is also overturned. In the UK, this requires a modification of the national legislation, which means action in the UK parliament.

Between the EU directive being deemed invalid, and the corresponding changes in a country's national laws, the government of that country can be taken to one of the European courts for not complying with EU law, but that is unlikely to happen in the short-term, because there is a reasonable amount of time allowed for national laws to reflect changes in EU directives. What is reasonable is open to debate, but can be several years.

So what this means is that the existing UK legislation was still effective, and would be until amended, something that could have waited until the next term. This latest knee-jerk reaction was not required, so there really must be something hiding in there that Mrs May did not want examined too closely!

UK's emergency data slurp: IT giants panicked over 'legal uncertainty'

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Overseas firms

There's a YouTube video of one of their senior people explaining how it should be pronounced. I don't have the URL, but it is like you say.

Say goodbye to the noughties: Yesterday’s hi-fi biz is BUSTED, bro

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: RE traditionally separates would be swapped out over time

Nowadays, charity shops in the UK normally won't accept electrical items, which means that it gets taken to the tip more often than not.

I'd love to know where to get a pair of Quad 405's in a charity shop or dumped on the street!

All my kit was bought new, with the exception of the NAD 7020 which I bought on Ebay.

Project Debut II, NAD 7020, Kesonic Kubs, JVC KD720 tape deck, and some anonymous Technics CD player that I can't remember the model number. All budget kit, but still quite acceptable. Mainly used to play vinyl.

(If I got a set of Quads, I'd definitely have to replace the amp!)

Remember the turbo button on PCs? New AWS instance has one for CPU burst

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Back in the 1980s ...

Hacking user quotas was old hat even in the '80s.

A bug in MTS (the Michigan Terminal System) running on IBM 370 mainframes had a bug where if you allocated temporary disk space for a session, and instead of allowing it to be freed when you logged out, explicitly freed it yourself, it would add the space to your permanent disk quota.

I also found you could hijack unused accounts (computing subsidiary students often left the course before logging on, and the admin's did not delete the accounts until the end of the year) relatively easily. It was by doing this that I was able to spend enough time to map all the mazes and complete the original Colossal Cavern Adventure. I think at one time I had my account, and control of three others.

I still wonder whether it was a coincidence that the day after I got 550/550 (we had the extended cavern), the game was blocked to students.

USB charger is prime suspect in death of Australian woman

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: "...was CE marked..."

Ohhhh. That's sneaky. I hadn't spotted that!

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

CE marking (at least in the UK)

As far as I am aware, for imported goods that carry the CE mark, it is the importer to confirm that the CE branding is genuine. For major companies that directly import themselves, this means that if they sell something that they've imported, they could be on the hook for damage claims resulting from selling devices that fraudulently carry the CE mark.

This being the case, if you buy your cheap tat from a major retailer like a supermarket or DIY store, or direct from Amazon (i.e. not from one of their associate sellers), you probably can have some confidence that the CE branding is genuine (it's in their interest to make sure that this is the case, because they are financially liable).

If you import direct from China through Ebay or another route, then it's YOUR responsibility to make sure that the CE marking is genuine. If you don't, then it's possible that you could invalidate any house or other insurances that may apply where it is operated, and could be liable to damages if you supply the item on to someone else!

If you buy from an individual or a small seller who has imported the item and sold it through some market or other, then things are a bit more muddy, because although they are technically liable, the chances of them actually being held to account is fairly low, so they may not confirm the validity of any of the safety marks (it costs money!).

If you have information that the CE branding on any item is not correct, you should report the supplier to the relevant trading standards organisation.

So my advice would be that if you feel you have to buy cheap tat, get it from a supplier who's reputation would suffer if they did not do due diligence and check the safety marks were real.

iFind: Critics slam Kickstarter campaign for miraculous battery-free phone finder

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Very, very fishy @Kanhef

Sounds like a super-capacitor to me.

If you like slipping your hand into Puppets, look for these certified types

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: The future of Sysadmining.

OK, I take the point that it has no GUI, but the whole point of this certification is that the devices will work out of the box without the admins having to understand how to actually configure and manage the devices.

At least in the past when admins had to write their own 'scripts', they dug in to the device to work out what is necessary. If the scripts are already written, they may never read the manuals!

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

The future of Sysadmining.

Do other people worry like me, that tools like this relegate Sysadmins to GUI drivers, with no knowledge of how it all hangs together?

I'm not criticising tools like this, because they are necessary to run large environments like we have now, but making it easier also degrades the required skill. And my constant worry is that when it goes wrong, organisations who have de-skilled their sysadmins will no longer have the skills necessary to diagnose the problems.

Looks to me like we need to re-instate the System Programmer job discipline as the next tier up.

Apple SOLDERS memory into new 'budget' iMac

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Imagined use case? @Dexter

Of course, you could have just lied about the keyboard country. The scan codes for almost all US and European keyboards are the same and based on the location of the key, not the engraving. Of course, some keys are missing (any key between the Z and left shift is a normal problem) and the different shape of the enter key means that some keys differ around there.

If you're running Linux, you should be able to do this without needing super-user access, as long as the keyboard locale definitions are installed, and even if they are not, you could probably over-ride it using xmodmap (a real blast from the past!).

I'm not familiar with Arabic or far-eastern keyboards, but I know that IBM used to support 106/108 key keyboards with a shortened space bar and extra shift keys for Japanese (and I presume Chinese as well) keyboards.

Unisys cozies closer to Intel, 'sunsets' proprietary processor

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


Your own reference disputes what you are saying. From the referenced page:

"However, newer, partially or fully configured System z machines outperform Hercules by a wide margin"

It is quite clear that Hercules on a moderately powerful Intel based system can outperform a historical 360/370 architecture machine, but that is not a modern 64 bit zSeries system. IBM continues to persuade their customers that this is the case with worked case studies, and if you believe their 50th Anniversary presentations, they are even winning new customers to their mainframe platform.

One of the differences is that a zSeries system is designed to run at 90%+ CPU utilisation all the time, and with a high degree of resilience and exceptionally low downtime. What x86 plaudits continually fail to recognise is that such a system will keep doing this while CPUs fail, memory drops out and other hardware events happen. Commodity x86 hardware does not have the Enterprise RAS features to do this, and the Enterprise grade Intel based systems with some of these features (like the remaining Unisys or HP Integrity systems) approach the zSeries in cost because these features are expensive to add.

There will be a time when x86 based systems will have the types of RAS features that zSeries has had for some time, but I don't see it being now, nor any time in the immediate future.

And anyway. I don't want to see a world where one processor type has a virtual monopoly of all systems sold. IBM with the zSeries and POWER, and Oracle with SPARC derived processors are holding out for the moment, and I hope to see 64 bit ARM processors in the market at some time. There has to be some competition against x86, because it always has been a flawed architecture.

The cute things they say

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Cute people work for tech support too

Some years ago, the company I was working for took delivery of an IBM 3575 tape library. It was a difficult delivery, because the site was on a hill, and there was no direct delivery bay (it was a site of convenience used because the company split in two, and this was the only remotely suitable building that the company owned to relocate one half to). All the kit was craned onto a flat roof next to the machine room, and in through a door in the side of the machine room. This was worked out the hard way after the previous delivery of this same order was rejected as the tilt indicators were triggered as it came in up the stairs on a powered stair-lifter.

As the pallet was carefully lifted and swung onto the roof, I saw that the packaging was damaged, so raced to grab my digital camera from my bag.

I recorded the state of the packaging, and then the unpacking process being done by a very unhappy IBM engineer. As the exterior cardboard box came off, we could see that the interior top packaging was dented, and that the top of the library (a 1.7 metre tall octagonal shaped prism) was pushed down in a 'V' shape, with the heavy gauge steel bent by several centimetres. The supposedly parallel rails that the tape gripper moved up and down on were bent a bit like (), with the middle being visibly wider than the ends.

Quite what had happened we never found out. My guess is that it was on a fork-lift that was raised too high so that it hit the top of a door or a ceiling beam during the unloading from the plane. It hadn't been tipped or fallen, because despite the damage, the tilt indicators had not been triggered. IBM asked for a copy of the pictures to use as evidence for a claim against the shipping company.

I still have those pictures somewhere, although I've never posted them anywhere.

Torvalds hits 'Go' button for Linux 3.15

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: " to suspend and resume operations rather more quickly."

You know, it's really ironic, but all my IBM Thinkpads before my T30 suspended and resumed really quickly, both using Linux and other operating systems.

But this was all done in the BIOS. It seemed that the first that the OS noticed when resuming was that the clock had jumped.

Since that time, suspend/resume appears to have been handled by the OS, and it's been getting worse. I've always had problems with Linux restoring the state of the ATI graphics adapters on later Thinkpads and kernels. KMS was an absolute disaster in post 8.04 versions of Ubuntu.

UK govt 'tearing up road laws' for Google's self-driving cars: The truth

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: The elephant in the room - EU legislation

It's not that clear-cut.

When EU legislation is enacted, it does not immediately become law in the member states. Each member state is supposed to enact local legislation that covers the EU law, but there are reasons why this is not done. A member state may, under certain pre-negotiated circumstances within EU Treaties veto a law (and thus not be bound by it), or can state a derogation, or delay local legislation almost indefinitely, or can just ignore it.

Of course, if a country just ignores an EU directive, then the country (in reality, the incumbent government) can be taken to one of the various EU courts, but that is a long and expensive process (the costs of which will normally be borne by the complainant), and even at the end of it, all that is likely to happen is a slap on the wrist and a fine (which can it self be ignored with relative impunity). The ultimate sanction of expelling a country from the EU is extremely unlikely.

This is, of course, a very simplistic view of a very complex process, but one example of where this has hit the news moderately recently is the controversy over prisoner voting rights in the UK last year.

Feds crack down harder on 'lasing'. Yep, aircraft laser zapping... Really

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

In response to the down-votes to my earlier post, what I was trying to say was that the small <5mW finger sized laser pointers that post people might have picked up as curios over the last couple of decades or so are unlikely to be the devices used here. I admit that it is perfectly possible to obtain lasers with much greater power and better collimation than these.

I personally think that the use of lasers over a certain power should be licensed (I thought it was in the UK, but it appears not). Certainly, some of the YouTube videos of people being able to melt quite significant thickness's of plastic (one video shows holes melted in CD cases) using lasers in the 100-200mW range are sobering. And the >1W hand-held lasers really ought to be regarded as seriously dangerous.

Looking at the UK Health and Safety legislation, it looks like using any laser above the MPE (Maximum Permissible Exposure) for the type of laser without the appropriate safeguards is illegal. The booklet HSE95 includes a section on "beam projection at roadways, occupied buildings and into aviation airspace" which defines what is acceptable, and what is likely to be acted upon by the authorities.

I must admit that I used to be interested in seeing how far a laser pointer could be seen from, especially when shone onto road signs (which reflect light back in the direction it came from) until I read this booklet!

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

The distance is the point.

At 3 metres, the spot from a 5mW laser is pretty much still well focused. But solid state lasers do not collimate the light very well. At 20 metres, the spot will be more like a centimetre in size. At 1,500 metres, the 'spot' would be metres across. I'm not sure, but I think that 5mW will be spread across such an area so thinly that you would have difficulty seeing that it was hitting anything, let alone it dazzling a pilot.

Also be aware that you would have to be in front of the plane and on the flight path to actually get it to shine into the pilot's eyes. From below and/or to the side, the best you would get was to illuminate the roof of the pilots cabin, and from behind you could not shine it in the cabin at all.

Of course, the hand held lasers they are talking about may well be the high power (up to 2 watt - real scary) ones, and they would be much more likely to cause problems.

Toshiba's CB30-102 13.3in Chromebook – imagine a tablet with a keyboard

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Sadly

I don't see why the specs for this system are seen as a problem.

I've recently put Ubuntu 14.04 on an old Acer Aspire One (it's replaced my EeePC 701 which is finally too small to be useful) with 1GB of memory, a 1.6GHz N270 Atom and 8GB of SSD. It runs fine, especially if you use the Gnome Flashback UI, which is a major concession to traditional users.

OK, I would not use this for photo or video manipulation, but browsing, playing media, terminal sessions to other systems, and email is all easily do-able. It fits in 8GB fine, and I use external flash for anything that doesn't fit.

The specs of this system easily beat my Acer. I can see something like this running Linux as a perfectly usable system. We've all just got so used to an excess of available performance that we've forgotten how little we actually need day-to-day.

Not sure about Chrome. I think I want more of an OS than it provides.

The hoarder's dilemma: 'Why can't I throw anything away?'

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Athlon XP 2400 PC

I spent a lot of time trying to keep a system with Thoroughbred XP2600+ system running! The thing would work fine at full speed, then start to crash but would start working again if I underclocked it. Few weeks later, it would start crashing again, so underclock it a bit more. Was not the memory or the MoBo.

Finally give up, and scoured Ebay for another Thoroughbred, and repeat the cycle. And again. Then completely give up on the machine!

If you got good results overclocking a Thoroughbred, then you had better luck than me!

Must finally get round to chucking the thing out. It's still in my not-quite-dead PC stack, kept only because it had a retail (not OEM) XP license on it.

Google: 'EVERYTHING at Google runs in a container'

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Now that Google approves..

AIX WPARs do some other very useful things. Even though they run on a certain version, they can present to the application the API of an earlier AIX verion.

So an AIX 6.1 system can containerise an application designed for AIX 5.3, which is still supported for a little while longer, but also for AIX 5.2, which is not. This provides a lifeline for companies that have software that won't run on the latest releases (although the excellent backward compatibility of AIX makes that fairly rare), and either cannot, or cannot afford to update the applications.

AIX 7.1 extends this further, allowing AIX 6.1 WPARs. A side effect of this is that customers can buy current hardware that will not run an earlier versions of AIX (although, amazingly, AIX 5.3 can still run on most Power 7 and 7+ kit - we will have to wait ot see about Power 8), and move their applications into these WPARs, and decommission their older systems.

And I believe that AIX Partition Mobility has now been extended to WPARs, allowing them to be moved to different system on the fly, providing the the storage has been appropriately configured.

IBM have used their WorkLoad Manager functionallity (WLM) to constrain WPARs to fixed amount of resource, including CPU, memory and I/O, so that a WPAR cannot swamp a host system.

This is all mature function that has been around for a number of years. Nothing new here.

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