* Posts by Peter Gathercole

2953 posts • joined 15 Jun 2007

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

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>

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!

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

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!

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.

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!

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