* Posts by Peter Gathercole

2924 posts • joined 15 Jun 2007

JJ Abrams and Star Wars: I've got a bad feeling about this

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Star Wars generated plenty of imitators at the time, but few - if any - are remembered.

"Battle Beyond the Stars" was deliberately "The Magnificent Seven" in space. And that was "The Seven Samuri" in the Wild West.

Just shows there's nothing new in story telling.

Chap rebuilds BBC Micro in JavaScript

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: "zippy performance" @Jim 59

The speed at which computing was moving at that time ensured that nothing would remain the fastest for any length of time. The B+, B+128 and Master 128 and 512 were the follow on products, and it was not speed that was the primary cause for the updates, it was memory.

But some of these later systems were actually faster, due to the change in memory map, the move to faster ROM chips (early BBC micros had to actually slow down the system bus to read from the EEPROM that was shipped containing the OS and BASIC with issue 3 BBC micros), BBC BASIC 2 and 4 and later 6502 derived processors (IIRC, the Master used a 65SC12 which was a re-implemented design that altered the load/store timing shaved a few T-states off some instructions, while re-implementing the missing instructions that didn't work in the NMOS MOSTEK 6502).

We were just beginning to see the move to 16/32 bit computing. I'm not going to argue that the BBC would best a 68000 or a true 16 bit 8086 or later system, but that did not stop them being very useful machines long after the C64, Spectrum and other micros of the time were consigned to storage.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

"zippy performance, something the original BBC Micro was not famous for"

I beg your pardon!

In it's time, the BBC micro was pretty much at the top of the PC World Basic benchmarks for a couple of years.

In the following years, the original IBM PC, which was a (admittedly crippled) 16 bit system running at twice the clock speed, did not manage to better the Beeb (I have the figures in front of me, but I can't be bothered to type them in). And a comparison with the C64, Apple ][, Spectrum et. al. had the Beeb running rings around them.

I admit that benchmarking the Basic did not give a true indication of speed, but even if you look at the graphics speed and capability, the Beeb was the fastest and most capable home micro of it's time. The major drawback was it's relative lack of memory. I was even able to write a full Dec VT52 emulator in Basic that was as fast as the commercial terminals of the time.

Sure it's slow in comparison to machines that came later than it, but that is completely expected. You would not expect a favourable comparison between a Model T and a Mondeo.

Weather forecast: WiFi storms make meteorologists look mad

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: It will only get worse

What is surprising is why it has taken until now for it to be regarded as enough of a problem for them to do something about it. 5GHz Wifi has been around for quite some time.

Is it just that more people are deploying it? 802.11a was never hugely popular, but I suppose 802.11ac is a current technology that is being deployed now.

Cloud computing aka 'The future is trying to KILL YOU'

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: "It's the end of history I tell ye"

Wasn't DejaVu bought by Google when they acquired the Deja News Research Service?

Just saying...

Game of Thrones written on brutal medieval word processor and OS

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: well if you're all naming your favourites..... @AC

EDT was excellent for sitting a complete computer novice down in front of a DEC compatible terminal with the numeric keypad labelled up with the individual functions (either with one of the latex overlays, or with sticky labels), and get them to enter some text into the computer. I've not come across anything that was picked up quicker.

The only thing that the students with whom I worked had problems with was the fact that you could not move into the 'blank' parts of the screen without adding some spaces at the end of a line. The concept of the 'end of the line' was difficult for them to comprehend. But everything else, including cut and paste, was picked up very quickly.

If you think using a VT100 was difficult, it was luxury compared to using a VT52! Remember the Gold (and Blue - although not used in EDT IIRC) key.

This was when people used to come to higher education having never seen a computer before.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Word bad, raw text editor good @theodore

Ah, but if you are using a SVR3 system, you would be using vi, not vim. Vim is over complicated, and that is coming from an Emacs user! Vi IMproved! My ass.

I vote for a return to ed!

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: protestant and catholic (dos and mac) @keithpeter

"computers designed to last a decade".

No, Microsoft will ensure that the OS is obsolete, unsupported and vulnerable to malware before 10 years is up, and what they replace the OS with will be guaranteed not to work on older systems.

Joke? Maybe not!

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Ohh so thats 2 people i knw of who use DOS @Crazy

That much!

I think that you will find that DOS 6 will run on anything newer than an 8088 with ~1MB of RAM or even less. Windows 3.1 needs a 80286 as a minimum and at least 1MB IIRC.

And with Wordstar 4.0, such a machine would probably still be faster to use than Word 2013 on an i5 at 2.6GHz!

My vote is to write the text in Emacs using Troff and Memorandum Macros.

Feature-phones aren't dead, Moto – oldsters still need them

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Discovering texting at 92 @AndrueC

"What's it like on the eyes?" - It depends what is wrong with your eyes. I've been a glasses wearer since my mid teens, and for the most part, can still get my long-standing myopia, astigmatisms and my more recent presbyopia fixed well enough with glasses to use my Sony Xperia SP. Have you tried seeing your Optometrist or Optician?

Many of the problems people have is that they are trying to display too much on too small a screen, not that their eyesight is degrading. I blame the unnecessary move the recent 'retina' type resolutions.

My Father is suffering from type 2 diabetes. It's was allowed to progress before being adequately treated until it is now affecting his sight to an alarming extent. With that knowledge, I am keeping a close check on my weight and eyesight in the hope that I don't suffer similar problems. Of course, I may also find that I suffer from cataracts or other unexpected ailment, but I would expect that medical science and regular checks are better now than they were 30 years ago for the people then of my current age who are now in their '80s.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Discovering texting at 92

It's a niche market that will largely (though probably never completely) disappear. People like me, in their '50s can use smart phones. We will still be trying to use smart phones (or what comes after them) when we retire.

Current oldsters grew up in a time when telephones were big and connected to the wall with a wire. Merely having a phone that you can lose in your coat pocket is still strange to some of them.

It may be that there will be a new technology (maybe wearable phones/display systems like Glass) that my generation won't be comfortable using, and Smart phones will become the new feature phone.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Poor understanding of optics

It's not just the UI that is the problem.

My Dad tried to use my Sony Xperia, and could just not get used to virtual buttons on the screen. He wanted something that he could get tactile feedback from (the haptic feedback told him he had pressed a key, but he had no idea of whether it was the right key), both to find the key and know that he had pressed it. He also found that having to hold the thing so that he could see the whole of the top surface meant that he dropped it a lot. Until you see an older person trying to use a phone, you forget how much restricted finger movement due to any of a number of ailments, impacts their use.

He looked at one of the Doros, and the similar BlueChip phones, but decided on a Samsung flip phone for a similar price. And he actually uses it, although he doesn't get texting at all.

Europe's shock Google privacy ruling: The end of history? Don't be daft

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Yes, I found it interesting that it is not the Spanish web site that contained the original data that was being asked to delete something, but Google, which just indexed it. Of course, without Google, it would be much more difficult to find the original data if Google removed it's index.

I suppose that the data could have been removed from the Spanish web site, and Google was slow to update it's index and also cached the original data, but I suspect that this wasn't the case.

I wonder if we will see similar things from the Wayback machine, although I believe that they already have a way of asking for specific data to be removed.

Teardowns confirm $1,500 Google Glass hardware is DIRT CHEAP

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: When you buy an Intel CPU for $200 @Charles

Ah, but it's not any sand. As I understand it, it has to be very pure, and currently places like Spruce Pine, NC provide a lot of the high quality quartz for the production of chips, and the raw cost of this is very high.

As the scale of integration increases, so does the importance of the purity of the wafers.

Vinyl-fetish hipsters might just have a point

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@M Gale

You're right.

Most record decks, even manual ones, will not allow the arm to move much further in than the outside edge of the label. This is normally because of the bias counterweight, but also to prevent the stylus being damaged from 'playing the label'.

I'm also surprised about it having a 78 RPM track. Almost no record decks made in the last 30 years can even play at 78 RPM.

My Project, and most belt other decks like Linn, Rega et. al. have to have the belt manually moved to a different pulley position in order to play 45s. I think that there is a conversion kit which consists of a larger pulley and a longer belt for my Project, but I don't intend to fork out for and then mod my desk just for this record!

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: But, but... @Suricou Raven

I think you are forgetting how 'primitive' most audio systems were. If it were just a signal, then you would have had to have all tape recorders, from the lowest cost to the highest HiFi to implement such a system.

No. It was more devious and complex than that.

There is a frequency inequality in the recording mechanism for audio tape that is fixed by generating a high frequency bias signal in the recording circuit that will not actually be recorded on the tape, because it is outside of the frequency response of tape (this is a gross simplification. See the Wikipedia article on Tape bias for more information).

What they did was put a high frequency subharmonic of the bias frequency as an interference signal on the record that caused 'beat' patterns (the audio version of a moire pattern) that were low enough in frequency that they would be recorded onto the tape, spoiling the recording.

But it never worked properly for several reasons. Firstly, the frequency of the bias signal generated by the tape recorder was not very accurate and depended on the type of tape the recorder was optimised to use (cheap analogue electronics of the time being a bit variable, as was the speed of cheap record decks). Secondly, the audio range of record player cartridges varied according to the quality - generally cheap ones did not track above about 14 of 15KHz, and thus would not pick up the interference signal unless it was within the audio range, and thirdly, the very best HiFi was perfectly capable of reproducing the interference signal, and some audiophiles claimed that they could hear it (even though it was supposed to be supersonic).

It could also be defeated by a notch or high frequency roll-off filter, and a lot of LoFi (and some HiFi) had these as so-called "scratch" filters.

So it was only marginally effective, easily defeated, and detracted from the listening experience. It was soon dropped.

NHS patient data storm: Govt lords SLAP DOWN privacy protections

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Please share my medical details, far and wide. @MrsC

...and you do realise that opting-in to Care.Data won't help prevent you being given the wrong anaesthetic at all.

As you say, it may help a company develop a new one that won't trigger your problem, but Care.Data does not make your data any more readily available within the NHS than it ever was.

The loading of your data into a Summary Care Record would be something that you would not want to opt-out of, but that's completely separate from Care.Data.

This illustrates how even well informed people can misunderstand the mess that the NHS has got themselves in.

Cost-cutting Barclays bank swings axe on 5,600 IT and ops bods

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: This is all thanks to those ... @Eradicate...

It's funny that they never do factor in the number of expensive minutes lost having skilled people gathering up and throwing away their coffee cups and other rubbish compared with the cheap minutes of the cleaners.

I'm not trying to belittle cleaners, but there is a 3:1 or more ratio in cost of trained and skilled IT professional vs. (often minimum wage) cleaners.

Solaris deposed as US drone-ware, replaced by Linux administration

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Publishing the code?

It would only be any code that is covered by GPL that has been modified that would have to be included anyway.

Most of the application development tools and library runtimes are published under LGPL, so it is perfectly possible to add the controlling layer as an application that sits on top of Linux linking to LGPL code without having to provide the source to anybody, even the people who buy the binaries.

If you are extending it comment about modified code to the previous comments about stripping Linux down to stop housekeeping, the stuff that is likely to affect performance is all in user space, and can be configured out by modifying the runtime configuration. Similarly, any parts of the kernel that are not required can be stripped out at kernel build time by configuration. The configuration files for the kernel build and runtime daemon configuration are not covered by GPL, so would not have to be published.

This perception that anything that runs on Linux has to be covered by the full GPL is just crap, and the sooner more people understand this, the more likely it is we will see commercial applications appear to run on Linux, something that is definitely required for Linux to be perceived as a viable full alternative to other operating systems. The opportunity for Linux to take the desktop is past (unless it's Android!), but I'm still hoping that it can achieve sufficient traction that it does not die as a desktop OS.

Cold War spy aircraft CRASHED Los Angeles' air traffic control

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Given its a stealth designed aircraft

The U2 was never really a 'stealth' plane. When it was designed, it's main benefits were it's high operational altitude (higher than the Russians Surface-to-Air missiles or fighters), which lulled the Americans into a false idea of it's safety, and the high endurance that allowed it to overfly most of the Soviet Union. In the years before surveillance satellites, this was the main method of identifying what the Russians were doing.

That's why Gary Powers being shot down was such a shock!

The SR71 added some stealth features, along with very high speed, which enabled the Americans to continue surveillance operations.

You'll hate Google's experimental Chrome UI, but so will phishers

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


I've been saying for a long time that most users really dislike change for valid reasons.

I know that there have been layout changes, but the Windows interface introduced in Windows 95 is still recognisable in WinXP SP3, and even to a certain extent Win7. This needs to be recognised by the "change for change's sake" people. Whilst they can rationalise the changes themselves, they really should take their target audience's opinion more.

I am finding the same in the most recent re-skinning of Firefox. I'm just waiting for my Father to ask me how to find some of the things that have moved around.

On the subject of URLs and DNS names, it is perfectly normal to configure DNS to resolve a name into a number of IP addresses, in order to spread the load across multiple machines. The DNS server can be configured to rotate around the list of possible systems in a variety of different ways, and there were also ways to set up a dynamic DNS to allow the service state of the accessed systems to be reflected in the returned results.

If you think something like (one of the IP addresses that Google responds on) is a problem, try typing in http://2915189354 as a URL!

10 PRINT "Happy 50th Birthday, BASIC" : GOTO 10

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Those were the days (and acronyms)

I have a copy of the book "A Programming Language" from the 1970s (I bought it second hand in 1978), which defined both the language and it's name!

Of course there could have been an "Atlas Programming Language", but that's not the APL we know now.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: More fun with the Oric

When there were display ZX81s in the WH Smiths, I would type in a REM statement in the first line of a program, using the Sinclair special block characters, a small piece of assembler that would put a different value in the Z80's I register that was re-purposed by Sinclair to point to the page number of the first page of the character generator table in the ROM, and then call the code from the relevant address. I often added this to the program that was loaded, and then run the program.

What this resulted in was a screen of garbage, You could see that there was something there, and it would respond to all of the right commands like list, but the text was unreadable. If I remember correctly, the funniest thing was to put a value in that was the base page of the character table offset by one. This had the effect of shifting the displayed characters along by a number (32?) of characters, so the result was effectively a block-shift cypher of the program.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


Was probably and Econet network. And the login screen was in BBC Basic anyway. We told users to do a <Ctrl>-<Break> before logging on to prevent this type of thing.

I ran a Level 3 Econet network back in the 1980s. If only the security had been better enforced (the concepts were good, but it was trivial to get around), then it would have been a great low-cost network for file and print sharing. But there was no concept of privilege mode in the BBC Micro OS, so it was simplicity itself to set the bit in the Econet page in memory to give you privilege at the network level. And once you had this, you did not need a users password to be able to get at their files.

Still, I suppose that you can't have everything in a single-user 8-bit micro. But I agree, the BASIC was good, with the exception of it not having a while-wend construct.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@Fibbles re: Pascal

Pascal was created as a teaching language. It's prime goal was to be highly structured, and have a very concise syntax that encouraged students to think in the way that matched the good programming practices of the time (highly structured, functional and procedural programming). It generally succeeded in these aims.

It is quite clear that someone who learned Pascal could convert to other scientific languages (like Fortran or or Algol) relatively easily, and I know lots of people who moved to C with little difficulty.

But as a language, it was strongly disliked by students. Because of the precise syntax and strict type checking, it was a very pedantic language to write. In other languages at the time, you might get a successful compile, but have a completely broken program because of an escaped syntax error.

Now Pascal would never force you to write programs that worked, but it would protect you from some of the pitfalls that other languages might allow. But the repeated compile/fix cycles without a run caused many colourful moments in the classes I was involved in. But I'm not sure whether that was preferable to the compiler incorrectly attempting to fix simple errors like the PL/1 subset teaching compiler called PL/C, which is what I learned formal programming in.

The other drawback of strict Pascal implementations (and here I am explicitly excluding all Borland/Zortech and other 'extended' products) was that there was comparatively little support for some operations that were needed in order to cope with real-life problems. Files with multiple record types were complex (you had to use a construct like variant records to do this), and the very strong data typing did not have the equivalent of a cast operation (I'm still talking strict Pascal here), which made some of the tricks that you do in other languages difficult or impossible. There was also no variable length string construct (there were fixed length character arrays), and as a result, almost no what you would describe as string operations. This meant that you quite often had to do code some comparatively simple operations yourself. And there was no form-filling or screen handling features at all. But at least that was not unique to Pascal. Almost none of the high level languages of the time had that built into the language itself (it was normal for these to be added by library routines, the most obvious example being Curses for C).

This meant that kids who learned BASIC on 8-bit micros at home regarded Pascal as a backward language that restricted what they could do, whereas people from a formal teaching environment regarded it as very good language for precisely the same reason!

The other reason kids had difficulty with any compiled language was the fact that it was not interactive. The whole compile thing compared to just running it seemed wrong to them.

UK.gov data sell-off row: HMRC denies claims it'll flog YOUR private info

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Its my data, not yours... @bigtimehustler

The data protection act talks about personally identifiable data, and defines it as being about someone, not belonging to them.

It has always been an exception to the data protection act that information stripped of the identity of the person that it is about is no longer covered by the act.

The problem lies in what is identifiable data. Obviously, name, address, telephone number all count as identifiable data. But hair colour, height, route you travel to work, and even things like salary are not actually unique enough to be considered as identifying data. But where this breaks down is that several pieces of data which by themselves do not identify a person, might in combination be enough to provide a key to link the all data in a particular record to an individual.

This is a problem that has come about because of the increase in power of the computers, and the increased sophistication of the analytical software that processes the data. This is was the crux of the arguments against care.data. So-called anonymous data is rendered identifiable.

On the subject of ownership. My house has an address. This has personal relevance to me because I currently live there. The fact that I live there currently does not mean that the text that make up the address is in itself is owned by me. I cannot ask the Royal Mail to remove it from their post-code database. I have no control over it. I do now 'own' the text of the address.

I totally agree with what Jason Bloomberg said in a follow up comment to my original. Jason. Have a thumbs-up from me.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Its my data, not yours... @TopOnePercent

I'm not sure I agree.

Data is data. It may be information about you, but you probably cannot claim to own it. In the case of the HMRC, they could be the custodian of the data, but even then, the only reason they could claim to own it was because they have gone to the effort to collect it.

But not everything they know about you is provided by you. Your employer is under a legal obligation to provide data to HMRC (as indeed you are). They may also have data about what benefits you have received, and if you have been under any form of tax investigation, they may have been given access to other data kept by other parties about you. I'm not saying that they don't have an obligation to keep the information private, nor am I saying that other people knowing it could not put you at a disadvantage, but don't claim ownership.

The only data that you can truly claim to own is that which you create yourself. If you do something like write, then what you write (assuming that it is not done under any pre-agreed contract) is probably yours, and you can claim ownership. If it is data about you, then you did not explicitly create it, and you cannot claim to own it.

This is my opinion, and not based on any legal knowledge. I would be interested to hear what other people think.

Ubuntu 14.04 LTS: Great changes, but sssh don't mention the...

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Menus in windows @DrXym

What you call the frame area, which I believe corresponds to what I called the menu bar is rendered by whatever toolkit you are using from inside the application (and, critically, the application's process space). The application can totally control what appears on that bar, although it will normally use standardised toolkit routines to do it.

This does not make it the Window Manager that is providing that menu bar. The Window Manager controls the encapsulating frame, and all of the widgets that it used to do this are outside of the application's process space (but do note, however, they may not be in the Window Managers process space - it could defer these to other processes under the way X11 is structured).

Do not confuse the Window Manager with the widget runtime shared object/library. They are not the same thing.

I see what you are getting at, however. The toolkit routines that create the menu bar are normally in shared objects/libraries that are dynamically bound in to the executable at run time. By providing a compatible but different set of routines at runtime, I can see that compliant programs could have their behaviour changed by the system, so that it would indeed be possible for the runtime to intercept and alter some of the expected behaviour.

But note that I said compliant programs. What about those that do not use the Gtk and QT runtimes to manage their menu bar. What if they do, but have statically linked the routines available at compile time. What if they are so old that they use the Xtk or Andrew Toolkit, or Motif, or CDE. Or, heaven forbid, coded all of the menu bars themselves!

If the modification is done at the runtime-call level (and this could be the bit I was unable to see when I wrote my earlier posts), it would be necessary for Canonical to patch each and every dynamically bound widget toolkit, and they would totally fail to manage statically bound binaries.

Regarding your comments on Wayland, remember that Canonical is not implementing Wayland. Their alternative to X11 is Mir, but this is not in current releases of Ubuntu. We are not talking about Wayland.

If, however, Wayland is making it the responsibility of the application to draw all window decorations, then I can see problems ahead when applications hang or crash. Having things like the "Close" button handled by another process, to allow mis-behaving process to be closed, is such a good idea that I wonder about the sanity of the Wayland developers in throwing this away. I have often wondered whether their drive to eliminate the overheads of X11 will end up throwing the baby out with the bath water. X11 may be old, but the concepts it introduced were mostly very sound, with the possible exception of the poor security model.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@ Hans 1 re: Puppet

Puppet does indeed look interesting, but it is not like AD because it is layered on top of Linux, rather than being a part of the Linux infrastructure in the way that AD is integrated into Windows.

MS chose to use a registry for many or all of the important Windows and application settings, and then plugged AD into this to allow any program which used the registry to instead get the settings from AD. It's elegant and well thought out, something that I don't say about Microsoft very often.

Puppet relies on discrete 'modules' to perform specific functions. This means that every time you need to control a new application, it will probably be necessary to obtain or write a new module. This is very flexible, but ultimately more technically involved.

I am not currently running an environment that requires this degree of control (the problems in supercomputers with no system disks is not a problem that needs this type of solution), but I would certainly look at Puppet if I were in control of an environment that needed that level of control.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Menus in windows @DrXym

I don't actually agree that the Linux desktop normally puts any menus inside the application window frame. The menu bar (the one that often starts with "File") is part of the application window. The Title bar is not.

The title bar, which normally contains the close, minimise and maximise buttons and a title of the window, is outside of the application window, as are any resize handles (which are normally the 'border' that surrounds a window). They sit in an encapsulating window which is inserted in the window hierarchy and surrounds and is it is the 'parent' of the application window. This is normally larger than the application window itself, and is owned by the window manager. The window manager acts on any events that occur in the encapsulating window, not the application. If the action is something like a resize, minimise or maximise operation, the window manager will then instruct the application, through the X11 protocol, to perform the action. In a re-size operation, the window manager will resize the encapsulating window, and then tell the application to resize it's own window accordingly and redraw the contents.

This is the trick that allows the window manager to run on a separate system to both the X11 server and the application itself, and is a fundamental feature of X11 that too many people overlook.

Unity appears to be fiddling with the window handling behaviour, possibly by telling the application to use a non-rectangular window, and I worry that this may not work well with some older X11 applications.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: That may be a bit of a deal-breaker for me @Pookietoo

You've not followed what I've said. The default setting of a global menu bar is absolutely a deal breaker. I've tried using it both in Unity and in OSX, and I don't care how much people quote Fitt's Law to me, I find it more difficult to move to the top left of the screen every time I want to do something with a window, especially if I am using an incremental pointing device like a track point or trackpad.

Putting the window controls back on each window is what I want to do, but what Canonical have provided is a half-way house that may be enough, but may not.

I will have to try it before I can decide.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: @Peter Gathercole Menus in windows @Vic and frank ly

Hmm. I'd not even considered that the window title has gone.

That may be a bit of a deal-breaker for me when I have multiple terminal/xterms on local and remote systems. Like you, I use the title to differentiate the windows from each other.

I still think that the biggest difference between those who can work with Unity and those who can't is whether they use multiple windows visible on the screen at the same time. Multiple overlapping windows - it's a struggle to use Unity. Single window or maximised whole screen application, it really does not matter too much. Actually, thinking about it, those who use whole-screen windows probably do not notice the difference with the placement of the window control buttons. It's always at the top-left of the window whether it is attached to the window, or at the top of the screen as far as they are concerned.

I use multiple overlapping windows, so you can see my preference.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: @AC, whatever. (was: whatever.) @AceRimmer

You have a point about Ubuntu being parasitic, but I believe that there may be more people committed to maintaining the Ubuntu repositories than there are the Debian ones. I think that it is a two-way thing, and Canonical pass any changes they make back into the Debian tree, so it is not as parasitic as it first appears. I'm not sure the same can be said of Mint.

I do mention LMDE (which I called Mint Debian) in my post. Check back at it to see why I have difficulty recommending it.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Menus in windows @Vic and frank ly

There is a difference. Look at a normal Gnome or KDE system. Look where the maximise and minimise buttons are compared to the normal set of File, Edit etc.

They are on different bars.

What this release of Unity does is to put all of these on the same bar. So on the left, going from left-to-right, you've got the Unity Close, Minimise, Maximise buttons, and then on the same bar, you have File, Edit, View etc.

I'm sort of interested in how it does this. Normally, the menu bar is totally the responsibility of the application, and the window decorations are an encapsulating window or windows that enclose the whole application window, and also provides the resize bars around the window (that is one of the reason why you have a window border, to enable you to 'grab' the resize handles which are managed by the window manager). This is achieved using a parent/child relationship between all of the windows that allow a window closer to the root window to either grab and process events, or pass them into the application.

By combining the two bars, Unity appears to alter or even break the normal X11 way of doing things. I presume it is using the shape extension to try to dictate to the application a non-rectangular window. I am wondering whether there will be any unpleasant clashes between some old-style X11 applications and Unity somewhere down the line.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: @AC, whatever. (was: whatever.) @h4rm0ny

I used to feel this. When Unity appeared to be the 'way forward', I lost that feeling as Canonical appeared so dogmatic about it, but although I've tried, I cannot find another distribution that ticks all the boxes..

I though that Mint might be a possibility, but it feels too parasitic to be regarded as a distribution in it's own right. This is true of all of the Ubuntu derived distributions. They rely on Canonical being there to exist. Sure, they can fork the entire source and repository trees, but most of them are shoe-string operations that would not have the resource if they could not leech off of Canonical. I worked with Mint Debian, but the installation process and associated huge initial update (it's a rolling release, and the available installation media available is so old now that the update process downloads more than the original size of the installation) means that it is not suitable as a consumer distribution.

The same can be said about any of the Red Hat derived distributions. Indeed, I seem to remember a story about two years ago about Centos nearly winding themselves up because one of the critical maintainers dropped off of the radar.

Fedora is too fast moving, and RHEL has too many barriers put up by Red Hat for either to be considered to be consumer releases.

OpenSUSE appears to be a little media unfriendly, although does tick the box for support.

Slackware and Debian, being a long-established distributions are not going away and are totally usable, if a bit of a hair-shirt experience (especially Slackware), but are generally considered as too slow-moving and staid for a modern desktop distribution.

So I come back around to Ubuntu. Currently, rather than using Unity, I'm using a combination of Gnome Classic and Xfce (depending on the size of the system) on LTS releases for my own use, and do not have a current recommendation for people who ask me what they should use. I've listened to and welcome that Canonical have at least listened to at least some of the criticisms, and will evaluate 14.04 on my primary laptop with and without Unity sometime in the next few weeks.

Who knows, it may win me back. I'll try to keep an open mind.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: "Less so for organisations running Ubuntu on lots of PCs and moving to 14.04"

Group policy is one of the strongest advantages for Windows on the desktop. It is something that Linux distributions have not so far replicated (although I'm fairly certain that there have been attempts that have not gained enough traction to become generally accepted). Providing a configuration method like the registry that can be abstracted into a remote directory at the system level was a very clever move by Microsoft, although not their idea (LDAP, Kerberos and DNS were around before Active Directory became common).

But it always used to be that any changes you wanted to roll out system-wide on a UNIX-like system could be scripted and rolled out through some privileged remote execution method, something that UNIX-like operating systems excelled at (Kerberos came from UNIX-like systems). Coupled with the ability to completely segregate ordinary users from privileged users, this meant that you could roll out and configure UNIX-like desktop systems, and keep the configuration locked down and secure (at least from idle tampering). I have been doing this for 25 years or so, with UNIX and UNIX-like operating systems.

Nowadays, with so much of the Linux desktop and the associated infrastructure using things like XML configuration files, it is no longer an easy job to set some of these options. I've always had significant difficulty, and as a result a lot of scorn for XML configuration files. I know, it is possible to deploy parsers that can interpret and change these files from scripts, but it strikes me that this is very difficult if you do not have the schema for the options in the file.

I'm old-school, so can probably be laughed at by the younger generations, but I have tried to write my own parsers in shell and awk (still my tools of choice, because I absolutely know that they will be there on all but the most restricted UNIX-like system), and I just can't seem to do it. I know I'm not as sharp as I used to be, but it appears a non-trivial problem, even though XML is a well-defined language.

Coming across a new tool or desktop component, and not knowing or being able to find the available options, which may be missing from the XML file if the defaults apply, means that it is a hopeless task without much research. And all too often these oh-so-clever new tools, which work great, have not been documented in enough detail to enable you to script such changes. Sometimes, a tool comes with a CLI application to manipulate the settings, but you have to know what it is, and how to drive it. And the next tool along might have a completely different configuration tool. It's a nightmare.

Forgive me from ranting, but in this respect, I think that all Linux distributions have lost their way, and this is probably the flip-side of one of it's strength, choice.

Friends don't let friends use Internet Explorer – advice from US, UK, EU

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Backwards compatability @MJI

It depends on how you link it. If you resolve all external dependencies and statically link all library routines, and do not rely on any runtime services (like dbus etc), then it is perfectly possible for a binary compiled today to run on any Linux system as long as it is the correct processor type and the kernel API doesn't change.

In fact, looking at it, I would expect that many Linux programs compiled 15 years ago would still run, as many of them that old may well not have been linked against shared object files, and certainly would not have used dbus, dcop, bonobo et. al. Possibly more of them than were compiled 5 years ago.

The dependency on dynamically linked shared objects and runtime services is in my view one of the worst things that ever happened to Linux. It makes building programs that you want to work int the future without having to recompile more difficult than it needs to be.

Interestingly, but on a different note, I picked a binary of one of my tools off of one of my archives from a 32 bit AIX 4.1.4 system from about 1998, and successfully ran it without re-compiling it on an AIX 7.1 64 bit system.

Lost artworks by Andy Warhol found on 80s-era FLOPPY DISKS

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Sorry Neil McAllister.

I have several dozen 5.25" floppy disks that were created on my BBC micro ~30 years ago, and I am finding that a significant of them now have difficulty being read. The main problem is that the adhesive that is holding the oxide to the Mylar disk is breaking down, so each time I read a disk, I have to clean the drive!

The disks I have are mainly BASF, with some Verbatim and Nashua.

This is probably because they are truly 'floppy', and were not protected as well as the 3.5" hard-cased disks that the Amiga used.

I tried to embark on a process of capturing the disk images, but stopped when I had difficulty finding any new blank double sided double density floppies.

I now need to look at either reading them on a BEEB and squirting them over an RS/232 link (I think I have a PC with one of those left, and I came across the strange 5 pin DIN to 25 way D cable that I used to use, although I'll probably have to find a 9-25 way converter and a null-modem).

The alternative is finding a 5.25" DSDD floppy disk drive for a PC!

IBM rides nightmarish hardware landscape on OpenPOWER Consortium raft

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: @ Fazal Majid

You also have to factor in that IBM develops POWER and Z series processors in parallel. Much of the technology in chip design (and quite a bit more under the covers) is common between the two families of processor. So POWER does have a high revenue earning sibling to help it out.

They also have some history in the embedded processor market. POWER chips are not as common as ARM, but they did get some traction in NAS and set-top boxes, and although they lost out in the most recent generations of consoles, the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and Wii all used PowerPC processors, and the WiiU still does.

Tooled-up Ryobi girl takes nine-inch grinder to Asus beach babe

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

I call fake!

That's not the original EeePC picture.

That should be an EeePC 701. Whatever lapbook(sic) that is has been clearly photo-shopped in as she appears to have lost the ends of the fingers on her left hand.

If people have been around here long enough, they will remember that we had decided in the comments that the hands were photo-shopped in to the original picture anyway.

Record labels sue Pandora over vintage song royalties

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Sheer naked greed...

This is why they like putting additional material on the DVDs. Even though the original film may be out of copyright, the 'extras' being recently made, are not. So they feel they are justified in charging that amount.

Whereas I would like just the film. No extras, maybe some scene selections, and very little more.

R.I.P. LADEE: Probe smashes into lunar surface at 3,600mph

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

After detecting the transmission of copyright material...

...FACT and MPIAA are already preparing the legal papers to get the data feed turned off, and trying to calculate the damages of transmitting the films to a significant part of the Universe covered by the spread of the lasers. They are a little uncertain about the number of entities who may have received it, as they don't want to ask the people they are acting against, but are believed to be erring on the high side "just to be safe".

Fortunately, the sums involved, with the added punitive damages, have overflowed their 8 digit calculators.

Big Blue's GPFS: The tech's fantastic. Shame about the product

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

GPFS is an old-school product. It's been around for a long time (I first heard about it as mmfs about 20 years ago), and as such it is configured like an old-school product.

But I would say that it seriously benefits from not being set up by a point-and-click GUI. It is a very high performance filesystem, and really benefits from the correct analysis of the expected workload to size and place the vdisks and stripe the filesystems accordingly. It's just one of those systems that is traditionally deployed in high-cost, high function environments where the administrators are used to/prefer to work using a CLI. If it were to appear in more places, it may need to change, but then that is what I thought SONAS was supposed to provide.

I have been working with GNR and the GPFS disk hospital for the last two years on a P7IH system, and now that the main bugs have been worked out (which were actually mostly in the control code for the P7IH Disk Enclosure which provide 384 disks in 4U of rack space, although it is a wide and deep rack), it really works quite well, although like everything else in GPFS, it's CLI based. But to my mind, that's not a problem. But it is very different, and takes a bit of getting used to, and it could be integrated with AIX's error logging system and device configuration a bit better.

Canadian taxman says hundreds pierced by Heartbleed SSL skewer

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Was it a MITM or what?

This does seem very specific. For them to positively know that the data was leaked via Heartbleed, they would have had to log the out-bound packets, and I severely doubt that they have this level of logging enabled.

I also find the term 'removed' a bit strange, because to me, that means that they disappeared from the source. Maybe I'm being a bit too literal, but I find it strange.

Danes debut Bluetooth-connected 'made for iPhone' hearing aids

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: What's new? @Dave 126

It is only a matter of time before the 'current' landfill Android phone will have Bluetooth LE. But you could get a Samsung S3 with android 4.3 for £200-300 and still be quids in.

The article was not emphasising the self-contained hearing-aid aspect of this device, but the remote microphone aspect. I agree that as a complete device offering the combined features may be desirable, but I said 'similar' behaviour', not 'the same'. But three grand for what is a digital hearing aid with Bluetooth and an app seems quite a lot.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: My wife...

It's acquired selective deafness. You just get desensitised to her voice!

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

What's new?

I actually fail to see what is new here. OK, the specific hearing aid is different from a bluetooth headset, and probably less intrusive, but the noise cancellation is part of many phones, and adjusting the tone balance to give maximum boost is just a high precision tone control or graphic equaliser.

I would have thought that it would be possible to get similar behaviour at a fraction of the cost using an app and a normal high quality bluetooth audio device designed for listening to music, rather than phone calls.

Of course, it would not function as a normal hearing aid without the phone, but at this cost, you could also buy a landfill android phone built specifically with a small screen and a large battery to be used all the time, and still be thousands better off.

You can play Flappy Bird on a POINT OF SALE TERMINAL

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Like they care @Me

Grrrr. Pedantic Grammar NAZI against myself! Did not spot lose/loose mistake until after the edit period had expired!

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Like they care

Yes, I was rather lose in my description of the PIN being stored on the card. It's a complicated issue where the PIN is not actually stored, but a hash of the PIN and some information unique to the card is stored, so that the PIN you type in is hashed with the card-specific information, and is then compared with the stored hash to determine whether the PIN was correct. It's a one-way hashing process, so even if the information on the card could be read, the PIN cannot easily be determined.

But the point is that it is completely on the card (as is the cryptographic processor that computes the hash - I'll bet you did not know that your bank card had a processor on-board). This is how the calculator-type authentication devices can work in isolation from any data connection, as all the authentication device is doing is providing the PIN to the card, and initiating the hash/compare.

It should not be the case that the card-issuing authority should know the PIN, because that breaks the personal secret that the bank claims tie a transaction down to you, and as a result absolves them of any responsibility for card-fraud.

In the UK, all bank issued cards, whether credit, debit or charge cards use the same mechanism for chip-and-pin, although it is different from other countries. Your point about the magnetic stripe is interesting, because UK cards do actually still have mag-stripes, so that they can be used abroad.

That does suggest that the card issuer does have to know the PIN.

Why won't you DIE? IBM's S/360 and its legacy at 50

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Virtualisation @Steve Todd

I'm not sure that the 360/168 was a real model. The Wikipedia article does not think so either.

As far as I recall, the only /168 model was the 370/168, one of which was at Newcastle University in the UK, serving other Universities in the north-east of the UK, including Durham (where I was) and Edinburgh.

They also still had a 360/65, and one of the exercises we had to do was write some JCL in OS/360. The 370 ran MTS rather than an IBM OS.

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