* Posts by Peter Gathercole

2924 posts • joined 15 Jun 2007

Torvalds rails at Linux developer: 'I'm f*cking tired of your code'

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Unix philosophy @Christian Berger

I cannot upvote you enough for this statement. I thought I was the only person left who thought along these lines.

I've been working at source level on UNIX on and off for 30+ years, and I'm finding the complexity of what is being added to Linux bewildering. I thought it was time to start thinking about retiring, but knowing that there are other people out there who think the same refreshes me.

The cloud awaits... but is your enterprise ready for the jump?

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: The dinosaurs live

OK. 2e2 were an outsourcer, but it is not the viability of the provider nor the moving of the service that I was mainly commenting on, it is the copies of the data that will be out of your control that I was trying to indicate.

2e2 were an example. It is unlikely that Amazon or Microsoft would go out of business, but could IBM choose to ditch their cloud services in five years time if it does not return the projected revenue, or some of the smaller players decide that the margins are just too slim?

It always puzzles me how you keep any dynamic application that is hosted by two separate cloud providers in sync with each other. Do you pay to have dedicated bandwidth between the suppliers with some geographical lock in? Do you have explicit cables laid between them? Virtual circuits or VPNs through established teleco infrastructure or the Internet? Or do you run it as a distributed application with both installations processing data.

All these questions can be answered, I'm sure, but how many people really think things through to this depth before deciding to go down the cloud route. I'm sure that there are customers who are already there who are considering their DR strategy for a cloud provider failure with some trepidation.

Whilst I don't mind being called a bit of a dinosaur, I have lived through the Mainframe->VAX/UNIX->Windows/Linux transitions that have happened, and what this has taught me is that the latest cool-aid that is being served up by the marketing boys is never as simple or cost effective as the projections. Let's just call it the result of experience!

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


I take on board everything you say about the security of the data centre.

But the difference is that if you host your applications in your own data centre, the security is entirely within your control. How good you make it is up to you.

If it is in a service providers, you trust that their security is as good as they say and as good as your contract with them. It's that same trust question that you sensibly query when it comes to availability.

Similarly, you trust that the barriers they construct between your service and all of the other services running in the data centre, and you trust that they will not move the data/service outside of the region you've specified. It's almost certainly good enough, but if that trust breaks down, what is the comeback you've got from the provider. Check the penalty clauses in the contract.

You've also missed out a vital question. What happens if the service provider has a state change, if they get bought, or, heaven forbid, fold (like 2e2). You need to consider where and how to move your service and all it's data, and also whether there is a residual risk in your data being left in various stages of protection on equipment that includes the backup solution that may be bought in toto, or appear on the broker market.

Encryption may seem like an obvious solution, but if your service actually processes data rather than just serves it out, there will be the means to decrypt the data present on the systems that you may no longer have any control over.

Final Windows XP Patch Tuesday will plug Word RTF vuln

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: "Windows XP is a thirteen year old operating system .." @Hans 1

I've tried to get her to use Linux (strong Linux advocate here - see my other posts). Indeed, when she uses Firefox on my laptop, she barely notices the difference.

But if I suggest that I put it on her machine (actually it's already there, I installed it as a dual boot system before I gave it to her), she's irrationally negative. She is one of those people who absolutely knows that what someone else (especially me - what does that tell you about trust) tells her is a good idea is some nefarious plot. She's the same with advise from the Doctor, Vet or Financial Advisor, but trusts that the news on local commercial radio is more accurate and informative than the BBC!

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: "Windows XP is a thirteen year old operating system .."

The worrying thing is that the issues they are patching now may have been in Windows for over a decade. We just don't know how long some of these vulnerabilities have been exploited without us having been told about them.

We remained happy in blissful ignorance of the problems, even though they could have been exploited. And how many more are there that are either currently unknown, or are known about but not published?

I am expecting Security Essentials for XP, which has had it's life extended for a while more, to start issuing dire warnings about every little thing it finds, just to increase the fear and uncertainty amongst the remaining XP users, to encourage them to change.

I am not planning to change my Wife's XP system that sits behind the house firewall, as long as she keeps using and updating Firefox and Libre Office. She does little else on the system (not even email), so I am pretty sure that she is unlikely to be affected by new vulnerabilities, and has nothing of any real value on the system even if it does get compromised. Must remind her to keep it backed up, however.

Driver drama delays deep desert XP upgrade

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Windows 7 upgrade advisor anyone?

One thing that constantly annoys me is that with windows, there does not appear to be anything like a generic driver for a particular device's chipset.

With Linux, as long as the identifier ID's are listed against the correct generic driver, there is a great chance that it will work. You end up with about a dozen drivers installed that will cope with 95% of all devices available.

With Windows, even though you may have a driver for the same chipset as that on the card you've got, you can't make it work without the specific driver from the card's manufacturer.

This was brought home to me years ago with Belkin CardBus WiFi devices, where v1, v2 and v2.1 versions of a particular numbered model of WiFi card needed different drivers, and it was very difficult identify at the time which driver was needed, because they were not well labelled (why could they not just change the model number?).

Putting any of the devices into my Linux instance on the same machine worked immediately, without further action.

Lego is the TOOL OF SATAN, thunders Polish priest

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: " toughest substance in the known universe"

Yeah, had Meccano as well, but I really did not like the square nuts that had sharp poorly formed corners that would scratch the enamel off the coloured metal panels (that probably puts a date on the sets, as more recent Meccano had hex. nuts). Never had an electric motor, but did have the clockwork motor. This was really my older brother's, not mine.

I moved on to building control-line aircraft instead of building things from Meccano!

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: " toughest substance in the known universe"

The early Lego bricks were almost exclusively just red and white, no yellow, black or grey. The bases were a cream colour, and instead of a circle pattern to lock the 'knobs' of the bricks in, used to have square holes in the bottom that the 'knobs' would fit in. Additionally, the 2x1, 6x1 and 10x1 narrow bricks would not have pins to help hold them on, but had cross-wise narrow divisions to help keep the sides in enough to grab the knobs of the lower bricks. It did not work as well, and often a complex model would be difficult to build because it just would not lock together.

The plastic of Lego from 50 years ago is different to modern bricks, and I think it was a styrene based plastic, and a bit brittle (yes, I am talking real Lego here, not the Betta Bilda and like copies, which we also had). Consequently, it would break on occasion. My older brother and I used to build models, and then use the spring powered suction dart guns (with the suckers removed - never be allowed these days) to 'blow' the models up, in scenes reminiscent of Stingray and Thunderbirds. Every now and then, we would break a brick. (Side note. In the film Thunderbirds Are Go, some of the houses that Zero-X crashes into are clearly made from Lego if you frame step the DVD!)

There used to be completely different windows and doors, with glazing in as well. I remember the garage bases with up-and-over doors, which were the right size to allow you to build a garage for a Matchbox sized car. The garage door auto-opened (it was weighted) and was held down by a flap that caught the bottom of the door. 'Drive' a car up, and over the flap to press it down, and the door would open. Push the car in, and close the door, and then trigger the door, and the car would roll out because it parked on a shallow ramp that formed the base of the garage.

Originally, the roof bricks were steep, almost 45 degrees so that a 2x4 roof brick had 1x4 knobs on the top to allow you to build the roof.

There also were wheel bricks, with wheels with rubber tyres (originally white/beige, but replaced quite quickly with black tyres) that had metal pins that would push into the wheel brick. If you stood on on one of the wheels which was pin-up, you really know about that! This was extended to train tracks and special flanged wheels (we originally used the wheels with the tyres taken off), complete with electric motors.

Things started getting different in about 1968, with different plastic, curved bricks, and specialist fence, trees, flowers and less steeply raked roof bricks, with additional colours and clear bricks, different plastic, and more brick sizes. And then they introduced models with special parts made only for a particular model, which would always go missing. People started building the models and leaving them built, rather than using their own imagination.

My youngest son, who is 18, has his complete lifetime's worth of bricks from special models (he's a real Lego fiend). We've just done a tidy and consolidation, and we have many thousands of bricks, filling all the drawers of a desk, along with storage tubs of the more common bricks, and glass coffee jars for the more specialist bricks. I don't reckon he could make any of the models up now, but he has vowed to find all the bits for the X-Wing kit he had! We may have to go to the Lego site and order a piece or two (yes, they sell single bricks from almost everything they've done in the last 20 years, but they tend to be expensive). They will even print on bricks (particularly body parts) from your own design if you are prepared to pay for it!

And I'm about to take ownership of the remains of my Lego set from the 60's from my father.

Microsoft: Let's be clear, WE won't read your email – but the cops will

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@Paul S. Gazo

I don't think you've followed the story.

I totally agree that Microsoft have the right to scan their employee's work provided mail account.

But that does not appear to be what they did. They scanned one or more of their customer's mailboxes, and used that to identify which employee was the culprit, and then provided that information to the police. So it appears Microsoft provided the private mail of one of their customers to the law enforcement agency without a warrant. Now, it's not clear whether the mail provided to the police was the mail from the customer's inbox, from the outbound mail transmission log, or the employee's outbox. You would have to look at the headers on the mail the police were given to be sure. If it was from the outbox or the transmission log, then that is within Microsoft's internal domain. If it comes from the customer's inbox, then it is not, even if it is hosted on a Microsoft mail server.

I agree that you would be stupid to expect that mail travelling through any part of the Internet is particularly safe from prying eyes unless you encrypt it, but you would not expect the mail host to use your (as a customer's) mailbox to as evidence against either you or someone else without the correct legal authorization.

Reading between the lines, the article suggests that Microsoft may have scanned many of their customers in order to identify who had received the mail. Without a warrant, that may be illegal, but difficult to prove, because an mail service provider must have the right to read their mail server's contents, at least for backup purposes. How different is that to grepping (I know, it's Microsoft, but grep means more than just saying find) a phrase from the mailboxes. Not really any different at all. It's not like anybody is reading and comprehending the mail.

So nothing that's happened is definitely illegal, but some of it is definitely questionable.

Say WHAT? ATVOD claims 44k Brit primary school kids look at smut online each month

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Does not add up! @Neil Barnes

I really like your apropos of nothing, but there could be exceptions due to in vitro fertilization, (and, dare I say it, rape).

Sticky Tahr-fy pudding: Ubuntu 14.04 slickest Linux desktop ever

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Head to head

Any post like this under an AC banner will be either treated as a troll, or ignored.

Why can't you post under a recognisable pseudonym? Your comments will be much better regarded!

Hot, young under-25s: Lonely slab strokers who shun TV

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Format important

I think that the format of the media is also a factor.

Unless you have a computer, tablet or phone with an HDMI port (or you have some expensive Smart TV or STB), you are unlikely to watch digitally delivered media on the large screen in the living room. You will watch it on another device, because it's easier. I also find this is the case for personally ripped media.

That is until you get a device that sits in the living room, receives digital media, and can play it on the big screen. When that happens, you move back to the TV (as long as you have control of it).

I can plug my phone and my tablet into the living room TV, and it is more useful than you might think, extending what you use the TV for. I also use Sky On Demand, and a number of internet capable devices like BluRay players and consoles in various places around the house, attached to different TVs. If I can use the TV, I will.

I will be interesting interesting to see whether Roku and similar devices catch on before people start replacing their current TVs.

As WinXP death looms, Microsoft releases its operating system SOURCE CODE for free

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: What was 2.0 really known for?

It was probably more like RT-11, which was a precursor to both RSTS/E or RSX-11, or whatever the OS was called for the PDP-6.

Every little helps: Dirty MOLE BANDITS clean out Tesco ATM from BELOW

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Maybe they had Johnny 5 help them!

"Hello, Lucy, I'm home!"

Deceased music locker gets final knock

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Prison time is required @AC

That's just silly. I hope it was meant as a tongue-in-cheek remark.

If you fine them (personally) mega-millions (even if the law allows this), they will just declare themselves (personally) bankrupt, It also makes the fines largely meaningless if they are in prison for 20 years. By the time they get out of prison, they will be a discharged bankrupt, with the fines written-off. Grab their assets, OK (bankruptcy laws already allow this) , but they probably won't actually have very much to grab. I don't think Michael Robertson was another Kim Schmitz.

By the time they come out of prison, they will not be worth anything much at all anyway, so there is no point in trying to recover any money from them, especially as their skill set will be so dated that they will probably not be able to set up any high revenue service.

And you think that the prison sentence should be more than that for assault or homicide? I would put the sentence for anything that resulted in a person being physically harmed as much higher than just a financial loss.

Don't believe the music industry's assessment of what they have lost. In reality, it's a fraction of what they claim, but the US court system allows them to assess the loss as a certain amount per track, and then add punitive damages. In reality, a streamed-play of a track will not equate to a lost sale, which is what they claim. Most freeloaders will not go and buy a track if they can't stream/download it, they will just move on to something that they can.

It's not you, it's EE: UK mobile network goes titsup, blames gremlins

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Text received

I've just received a text from EE (well, actually my phone shows it as an 'Unknown Sender') that apologises, and says you may need to reboot the phone to get it working.

It's good to know that anybody who has a phone that is not working will receive this text so they know to reboot.

Oh! Wait a minute......

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Network goes titsup? Really?

I lost all access to the 3G and 2G EE networks on my phone in West Somerset (there is no 4G service there), which is on a 4GEE plan. Strangely, my old Palm Treo with an Orange prepay sim in it connected to the 2G network without problems.

Repeated attempts to register the phone on any of the 4 EE networks visible there failed.

From this information, I think it must have been a problem with the access keys or identity for 4G enabled SIM cards, because my 4G phone could see the network, but could not connect to it.

It was working OK at 06:30 this morning when I checked.

If you are wondering why I have a 4G plan in an area without 4G coverage, I got this phone call from EE offering me an upgrade at a significant discount if I switched from my 3G Orange plan to a 4G EE one. Saved me about £5 per month (on a £25 contract!), and gives me more data and texts. Would be better if it worked, though (they screwed up the port between the networks as well).

I think the upgrade offer had something to do with them trying to build up their customer base to claim they are the largest 4G network.

UK.gov to train up 11-year-old cyberwarriors

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Obvious Star Wars reference

Teaching physical tactics to a kid like Ender is easy, especially if there are unpleasant physical consequences. If you read the book, it's clear that there is a natural progression from simple Battle Room scenarios to the simulator to actually fighting the Buggers, and Ender did not know then the transition between the last two happened.

Trying to teach kids what cyber security is without some natural, easily observable cause and effect is a hiding to nothing.

Maybe the politicians have watched a film like The Matrix, and think it's a case of putting on some VR kit, and performing cyber-kung-fu in a virtual world!

Spinning rust woes: NetApp bumps along bottom while EMC soars

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

What is it about these backward graphs!

Is there something I'm missing?

If I have time on the X-axis, I always make it ascend left-to-right. This is the second time I've noticed that El Reg. has published an article with a graph with the X-axis ascending right-to-left. Is this some kind of marketing chart that I'm not aware of, or is Chris just seeing whether we're on our toes?

Boffins demo FIVE MICRON internal combustion engine

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Self-powering? @SuperTim

I think it's a closed system. Apply power, and you go to hydrogen and oxygen, with a corresponding increase in volume. Remove power, and it spontaneously forms H2O, with a reduction in volume. Switch the power rapidly, and you get a vibration.

Nothing is consumed except electrical power.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Self-powering?

I think it's important because it's a new way of converting electrical energy into physical work at a nano scale.

Currently we use electric motors, voice coils (and other electro-magnetic devices), piezoelectric crystals or direct thermal expansion to convert electrical energy into movement. This seems a new way of doing the same, and if it does it more efficiently, or at a scale not previously possible, then it is important.

Snowden: You can't trust SPOOKS with your DATA

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Damned if they do, damned if they don't. @Joe 48

By contrasting identity theft with wholesale surveillance, you are confusing the argument. I, too would like a world where identity theft is prevented. But this won't happen by the government watching what everybody does.

Having concentrated data is more likely to cause identity theft if the information that is kept by GCHQ/NSA ever leaks. Imagine what damage could be done if in one information dump, miscreants get health records, bank details, loan information, social security data, work history, email trails, especially if this data contains access credentials to all of your on-line systems gathered through state-sponsored data gathering and cracking of the very cryptography systems that people believe keeps them safe on-line.

After all, we all know how good governments are at keeping such data safe!

I may come across a bit paranoid here, but it is probable unsafe to be too complacent.

BTW. Honesty is not enough to get/maintain SC clearance. If your honestly reveals the fact that there are serious concerns about you having a blackmail vector (serious debts, family members working in unstable areas of the world etc), or even if it shows that you've been out of the country for extended periods, then you will get SC clearance denied. I've seen it happen, and the first time I applied, the clearance was seriously delayed because I gave as a personal reference an upstanding professional member of the community who happened to have been born in Kenya during the Empire days (I did not think that it mattered - turns out it did).

And who knows how the rules may change in the future. It would be perfectly possible for those in control to make smoking dope in your history an automatic fail. It probably won't happen, but we cannot be sure.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Damned if they do, damned if they don't. @Joe

You may not mind now, but you might in years to come when the data, whatever it is, is used against you in ways that you cannot imagine.

Nobody is squeaky-clean. Everybody does something at some point or other that is marginally illegal (speeding, stopping in a no-parking zone, littering, jay-walking, visiting unusual web-sites etc), or anti-social, If there is a record of it, no matter how trivial it may be, it could be used against you to build a case for further investigation if you suddenly do look interesting.

I presume that you know for a fact that your Nan has never been involved in any protests or pensioner activist movements, or a member of the Communist party or UKIP, or was an unused Russian sleeper agent, or even someone who worked at Bletchley Park and is not allowed to talk about it that may warrant investigation (wild speculation, I know, but are you sure).

The only way to prevent this is to stop the data collection in the first place!

Distro diaspora: Four flavours of Ubuntu unpacked

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Minty and PAE @Bullard

Hmmm. You're right. It can be done just using grub. Install both kernels, and then set the default boot to be the one you want. Trivial really if you think about it.

Shame there's no nonPAE kernel in the repos. any more!

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Minty and PAE @Bullard

I'm not suggesting that the default installation disks ship with a default non-PAE kernel. I like your idea of making it a boot option, but the kernel would then have to have both the PAE and non-PAE code compiled in. I don't think it's written this way. It's a conditional compile time option.

But the real problem is that if the kernel that boots off the media to install the system is a PAE kernel, you cannot even start the install process on a system that does not flag PAE as an option.

It would be possible to make it an install-time option. Boot using a non-PAE kernel, and install a PAE kernel during the installation, although the kludged version of Grub or whatever it is that used by the no-PAE install process that is on one of the support threads does give an alternative, although whether this really works on a processor without PAE at all, rather than one that just lies about not having it is debatable.

Where I really do have a problem with Canonical is that post 12.04, there is no non-PAE kernel in the repositories. This seriously complicates the process of putting together a modified boot image (as was done with the alternate Xubuntu 12.04 install disk) to give you a chance to install it on older hardware.

If you really don't have a PAE capable processor (like a Banias Pentium M in a Thinkpad T40, 41 or 42), then to install any *buntu post 12.04 it will be necessary to find a PAE capable host system you can install, pick-up the kernel sources, compile them, and then insert the resultant kernel into some distribution medium to allow you to install your Thinkpad (other packaging methods are available).

This is not going to be suitable for your average Joe User. It would have been minimal work, and not a lot of maintenance, for one Canonical employee to maintain a non-PAE kernel, and package an alternate install image to put on their site, like they used to. My view is that Canonical want to leave behind their Linux legacy to a world where they ship the Unity OS, that may still be based on some form of Linux, a bit like OSX is built on some form of BSD.

Me, I'm looking at buying a cheap T43 with a Dothan processor or maybe a T60 to replace my T30 which finally died at Christmas. ThinkWiki says that this should have PAE.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Old hardware

For the reason behind this, look up the thread at my previous post. There is a reason, even though it causes problems.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Minty and PAE

I must admit that I was really annoyed about the requirement for PAE on most modern Linux distributions, because even though PAE has been a feature on a majority of Intel processors since the Pentium Pro (IIRC), there are particular more modern processors, especially the Pentium-M, Celeron and early Atom processors that either do not have PAE, or do not flag it in the way that the boot/kernel checks work.

This is very annoying for people who have laptops of the generation just before the Core processors came along, which include a whole raft of perfectly capable HP and IBM systems, and those with first and second generation netbooks. These are precisely the type of system that Linux should be able to life-extend.

So why is PAE required? Well, it's not in order to support more than 3GB of memory, because it is not necessary to have over 3GB for general work on most Linux distributions (I had Precise working fine in 1GB of memory on my Thinkpad T30 before it finally gave up the ghost, and I currently have Xubuntu 12.04 working on a 512MB eeePC 701).

The problem is that the NX bit, which allows pages to be flagged so that the processor cannot execute code in the page (a useful security protection against things like stack-smashing attacks amongst others) is bound up with PAE. If you want NX, you have to have PAE turned on, and the more recent Linux kernels default build requires NX.

It's not really a restriction by the distro maintainers, it goes all the way back to the Kernel development team. It is still possible to build a kernel without NX and PAE, but it is necessary to have such a kernel on the distribution media in order to build a system, and most distros have a PAE kernel by default, and now are even removing the non-PAE kernel packages from their repositories.

This has taken the edge off my anger about PAE being necessary, but it does effectively mean that many people with 6-8 year old laptops or netbooks will seriously struggle to get a modern Linux working, and will result in a generation of perfectly usable laptops ending up in recycling.

Mind you I am getting really tired of the distro forums containing comments like "why are you using such old kit - buy something new" when the commenters do not really understand the problem.

Barclays warns freelance techies of DOUBLE DIGIT rate cut

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: idiot bosses @horsham

There are financial reasons why large companies, particularly ones with shareholders, will have a large number of contract staff complementing their permies.

The primary one is that contract staff appear on a different cost stream, and are seen as a cost against revenue, rather than a resource/capital cost. This looks good on the end of year financial report, because the company has to make provision to write down resource costs (things like pensions payments, provision for statutory redundancy payments, sick pay and employer insurance etc.) for permanent employees, but not for contract staff. This makes the shareholders happy because it reduces the money that has to be tied up and simplifies the books.

Companies can also start and stop projects very quickly if it is staffed by contractors.

Why can’t I walk past Maplin without buying stuff I don’t need?

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: 90s ???

How can you compare '70s Maplin to Tandy?

Maplin actually sold the components you wanted, and also put together the kits of parts from the ETI projects to save you having to order them seperately yourself. And the catalogue was as good as a reference book when it came to the pin-outs for transistors and that 74LS105 and 4114 static memory that you were soldering on to the project you were making out of Vero-board.

If you went in to Tandy, all that you came out with was a realization that they were not really an electronics store. You only used Tandy when they had the week long cumulative 10% discount per day sales that they needed to have in order to clear the stuff they could not sell full price, or you were so desperate for a component that you would risk disappointment because they did not have what you needed.

And for the people who mention Radio Spares and Farnell, at that time you had to have a trade account before they would even send you a catalogue, let alone sell something to you! For the hobbiest, Watford Electronics were the only real mail-order alternative, although they did run from a shop on Watford High Street which was a real blast to visit because of all the miscellaneous useful junk they had there.

Unfortunately, Maplin today are a shadow of what they used to be. If you want specific components (last time I wanted a set of capacitors to repair the power supply in an out-of-warranty Sky HD box - yes a Thompson one) they did not have all of the values I needed, so I had to go somewhere else. All they appear to have now are the component grab-bags, a small number of kits, many dating back to the ETI days, some tools and various gadgets you can buy cheaper elsewhere.

Roll up, roll up for the Commentards' Ball

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

It's a bit short notice for me.

I would have been interested, but I won't get an overnight pass, or authorisation for travel or accommodation from the significant other!

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: @Evil Auditor

This is for the UK.

- Age of consent and marriage with parents agreement, 16.

- Age at which you are legally allowed to drink, 18 (although there are variations in venues like restaurants where you can drink wine as long as it is served with a meal from a younger age).

And another age related restriction

- Age at which you are allowed to drive, 17 (unless you are a sole carer for a family member, where you can drive at 16).

So you can get married but not be allowed to drive to the Wedding or participate in the Champagne Toast.

WHOA: Get a load of Asteroid DX110 JUST MISSING planet EARTH

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Well, if asteroid time ... @Ben

Damn. You beat me to it!

Microsoft asks pals to help KILL UK gov's Open Document Format dream

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Re "Actually, I like CSV best."

Hmm. Things CSVs don't work very well for:

Strings with spaces in

Strings with commas in

Quote characters around or within strings to allow embedded spaces and commas

Embedded quote characters inside quoted strings

Embedded new lines in quoted strings.

These are all things that MS's CSV files contain, and they make reading the file more than a little difficult, as the rules that are used do not appear to be documented.

I know! We need to write a standard for it!

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Let's hope this actually filters through @Refined

You are reasonably lucky. When agencies first started keyword-scraping from CV's in the 90s, I found myself being offered IMS and MVS roles.

And the reason? I had Amdahl listed on my CV.

Yes. Amdahl mainframes, but running UTS and AT&T R&D UNIX. Not a scrap of any IBM operating systems. Destroyed any trust I might have had in the recruitment sector at the time, although I think the best have improved a bit.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Cant we just bring back EDI? @Primus Secundus Tertius Re: EDT

You've actually inadvertently stirred a memory here.

I used to use DEC RSX/11M version 3.2. The supplied editor on that pre-dated EDT, and was called EDI, and was a line editor. If I remember, it was very difficult to use (even though I was a frequent UNIX ed user at the time so I was used to using line editors). Fortunately, due to good binary compatibility, we were able to completely ignore it, because someone sent us EDT binaries from either a RSTS/E or an IAS or RSX/11D installation that worked well enough.

Retiring greybeards force firms to retrain Java, .NET bods as mainframe sysadmins

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: @Peter Gathercote @John Smith

Fortunately, I've never had to work with RPG again. In fact, I do so little programming now other than shell and awk that I have to think hard about writing anything.

I have no problem with using condition flags like RPG and pretty much every assembler I've ever used. But at the time I was being told that RPG was a high level language superior to PL/1 or C, and that is why I made the comparison with such scorn.

I think I still have my RPG II programmers card somewhere which lays out, at the same pitch as an 80 character card, all of the different phase card layouts (Aaaaargh - suddenly remembered about the input exception phase - The Horror!)

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Spaces significant?? @Pete 2

That was imposed as much from the physical media being used to contain the program as anything else.

In the 1960's, everyone programmed on punched-card. You absolutely wanted to have card numbers on the card (not labels), and in a standard format, so that when you dropped your 500 card deck and the elastic band broke, you could stuff it through a card-sorter to put them back in sequence. The next column was, as you point out, a comment indicator. The rest of the card image was free-form, although with only 72 characters to play with, you could not really afford to be too generous with the use of spaces.

It was not only Fortran that did this. Pretty much any language from the era did the same, and COBOL and RPG were even more strict about which columns things should be in.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: PPirate Dave

Yes, I had a chuckle. My first job out of University forced me to learn RPG II, after I had been taught PL/1, APL and 6502 assembler (it was a long time ago) and taught myself C.

In my acrimonious exit interview (they did not offer me any pay rise - not even a cost-of-living one after my first year, even though I had become the most effective programmer in RPG in the department measured by speed to completed correctly functioning program, and it was not just me saying that), I likened RPG to a rather restricted assembler language. And in hindsight, I think that I was being generous!

Still, I'm grateful, as I moved on to be a long-term UNIX admin, which is what I am still doing.

BOFH: He... made... you... HE made YOU a DOMAIN ADMIN?

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

"He used my access to make you a domain admin?!"

Excuse me. What the hell is going on here. How did The Boss get BOFH's account?

Looks like the BOFH's crown is slipping. Will be see another power-grab attempt by the PFY?

Reg HPC man relives 0-day rootkit GROUNDHOG DAY

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

In concerns me that this is the case

I know that systems are complex, and getting ever more so, but when a supposed expert is not able to identify anything about a compromised system, does this not indicate that they are getting too complex? Or maybe that proclaimed experts are not.

I've stared at the list of services and processes that are running on systems, and wondered what they all are. There appears to be nothing other than Google to try to identify the ones with unique names, or what they do, and this is just what you see, without the possibility of the kernel or standard shared libraries being subverted, or hidden loadable modules.

I'm not trying to pick on Windows here, because most Linux distributions are no better, but often in the list of running processes you see multiple things of the same name (can't give an example at the moment, don't have a Windows system running close to me!) I have no inkling of where on the filesystem the process was loaded from, or what it is associated with. I'm sure there are tools, which can dig this information out about a process on all OSs, but they are not always generally known about, much less shipped with the OS.

I doubt that anything can change at this point, I just wish we hadn't got here!

Edit. Hmm. Really should do research before posting. I should use tasklist on a standard XP system. Will have to give it a go when my wife next complains about her system being slow.

STRIPPED DOWN and EXPOSED: Business kit from the good old days

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


I'd be surprised if they were Walkers. Back in 1973, the major brands in the UK were Smiths and Golden Wonder and Tudor.

If I remember correctly, Walkers crisps (which appear to actually be another brand of the same company that produced Smiths crisps) started appearing nationwide around 1978/79, and caused much confusion because prior to Walkers, everybody had Salt and Vinegar crisps in blue bags and Cheese and Onion in green.

Interestingly, Golden Wonder are back in the shops, still with the old colours for the flavours.

Google promises 10Gps fiber network to blast 4K into living rooms

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Carp @James

Whilst I don't disagree with your statement, I feel I must point out that as more people use things like Netflix et. al. this will result in more than one streamed feed into a household.

If the ultimate goal is to get TV services off of satellite and dedicated cable, then your average house may end up with three of four streamed services happening at the same time.

I somewhat hesitate to bring up my own household, because it is currently atypical (7 adults in the same house, all with their own media consumption devices), but even now, I can have a Sky download, a Netflix session, iPlayer/4oD/ITVPlayer/5 On demand sessions on connected BluRay devices or game consoles, and a NowTV session running live sport running similtaneously, together with gaming and YouTube. So you are not considering ~4Mb/s, it is multiples of this, and will become more if 4K TV over the Internet happens.

And I believe over time that other households will grow to resemble mine more.

Your point about 1Gb/s Ethernet cards is valid, but if the access box has 4 Ethernet ports, it could handle 4x1Gb/s. You are just thinking too small!

I would love to live in an area where I can get in excess of 10Mb/s. My exchange is not even on the list to be upgraded to fibre, and there is no cable TV provision either. It's just plain old ADSL 2+ annex M for me which has only ever delivered a maximum of 12Mb/s, and since a micro-filter failure is only showing a connected speed of 9782 Kb/s. As a result, when the scenario I paint above happens, I get some real arguments about who is hogging the bandwidth. Fortunately, my Smoothwall firewall tells me!

A Year of Code timeline: History of a HYPEGASM

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: The Coding Frenzy @JakePepper

You have a point, but the issue is identifying the kids who have a genuine interest. It's a chicken-and-egg scenario. unless you get them to try it, many kids won't know that they can do it, so given the choice won't select it as an area of study.

The main aim of teaching something like BASIC was to find out, using a language that is simple enough so that it can be grasped quite quickly who can de-construct a problem and work out how to get the computer to solve it. Once someone can do this, they can progress to something more complicated.

Trying to teach any sort of programming is difficult today. 30 years ago, writing Animal, Vegetable or Mineral or Mastermind was a real achievement, but could be done using something like BASIC on your average home PC after some hours of study. People doing it could be proud, and show of their skills.

Now, you need to be able to do something really flashy with fancy graphics and moving images for anybody to feel like they've achieved anything worthwhile. The step from writing loops with text output to a FPS is so vast, that most kids, who have the attention span of a goldfish, can never make it, and will give up before they've even started.

I would like to go back to using a simple language like BASIC, for all it's shortcomings, to teach. Get the kids to learn what an integer or string text variable is before trying to teach complex data objects with attached methods. How in hell are they supposed to know how a method is applied to a complex object, if they don't even know that a name in the program represents a quantity/number/string etc. And that is what you get if you try to teach using Java or Python as a first language.

I admit that it is difficult to get them to see that what they are doing is worthwhile, but the old adage of "Don't run before you can walk" appears to be appropriate here!

Google to banish mobe-makers using old Androids: report

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: "Fragmentation is a myth"

That's not the way I read it, but I see my error now that it has been pointed out by several people.

It was not helped in that I was interrupted while I was writing the comment, and did not read comments posted earlier in time but after the comment I was replying to.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: "Fragmentation is a myth"

No, it's not, but it depends entirely on the amount of flash memory and the flash controller in the device (and the version of Android). And 'memory fragmentation' is a bit of a misnomer, because it's really a result of flash controllers only being able to mark a 256K (typical) block of memory as available for re-use once all of the 4K (typical) pages have been removed. Eventually all of the blocks are in use, even though there may be a lot of free space as far as the filesystem is concerned. This leads to a lot of on-the-fly housekeeping to make space available again. Google TRIM or fstrim if you want to find out more about the problem.

For a device with small (4GB or less) of built-in flash, the time it takes to get to the point where it slows to a crawl because of this 'memory fragmentation' can be as little as a week or so (depending on what the device is being used for). Devices with more memory take much longer, and some devices may not show it until they are a year or more old.

Unfortunately, the way I read this is that all of my current android devices (including a phone that is still in warranty but unlikely to be updated because the ISP will not re-package the manufacturers more recent releases) will become unable to connect to the Play store when they bring this in. Most builders of these devices lose interest in packaging new releases of Android once they stop selling the device. This includes big names like Samsung, LG, HTC and even Google themselves, once they deem a device too old to take a new release.

This means that my perfectly usable 9.7" tablet running 4.0.4 is extremely likely to become less usable. Looks like I will have to play around with CyanogenMod after all.

Break out the scatter cushions: Google rents out NASA blimp hangar

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Wow. That thing's HUGE

It covers 8.5 acres of floor space!

One of the pictures NASA have in their gallery shows a modern airship totally dwarfed inside either Hanger 2 or 3, and these are smaller than Hanger 1.

BBC, ITV gang up on YouView with 'FreeView Connect'

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

It's ironic

When the BBC were touting Project Canvas, they wanted to fix the UI so that it would appear the same on all devices. The device manufacturers, understandably, kicked back, as it did not allow them to differentiate their offerings.

This meant that there were fewer people prepared to make YouView boxes, with the result that those you could buy were expensive. And because they were more expensive, it allowed the ISPs to offer them as part of their package as a benefit that people could not get anywhere else at a reasonable price.

What is needed is a style guide that mandates some of the UI, but allows manufacturers the ability to add some function to differentiate the product. This may encourage cheaper systems. A sub-£100 internet enabled freeview catch-up box would be very attractive to me, but I'm not paying £200 or switching my ISP. If I can buy a Blu-Ray player with internet connectivity for £70, adding a freeview tuner, replacing the Blu-Ray drive with a 120GB disk and modifying the firmware would put it somewhere close to the £100 mark.

I doubt this is that the BBC et.al. have in mind, though.

Friends don't do tech support for friends running Windows XP

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: "13 years. 13 years. 13 years is far too long to expect support." @Killraven

Mine is a retail license. I did say.

Tuesday declared 'The Day we Fight Back' against NSA et al

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Don't bother. @AC re: Hypocrites

This representative may have been a bit hypocritical. That does not mean they all are.

If you are talking about Mark Harper, then he resigned as a minister, not as an MP. And the statement from Downing Street says "there was no suggestion the 43-year-old Conservative MP for the Forest of Dean had knowingly employed an illegal immigrant". It looks like he was shown the required documents at the time (2007), but did not follow up by checking that the cleaner had an indefinite right to stay, and eventually ended up working beyond what her visa allowed. So she was a legal immigrant who overstayed her visa. Not the same thing as employing an illegal immigrant.

When he found out, he resigned on principal, not because he had to. He is exactly the type of MP I would want!


By saying that it is pointless to even try to engage, you are descending into apathy, unless you are advocating direct action, which may see you branded as a terrorist yourself, depending on the scale of your action.

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

'No, I CAN'T write code myself,' admits woman in charge of teaching our kids to code

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: @Oliver Mayes @Corinne

In my experience, change control is never applied to requirements. It would be good if it could, but generally, it's not, especially on something with a duration measured in a few weeks.

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