* Posts by Peter Gathercole

2953 posts • joined 15 Jun 2007

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.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

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

I have a machine that I purchased 12 years ago, and it's still running XP!

Let me check. It's the same machine, although I've had to replace the motherboard/processor/memory twice, the disk more than once, the graphics card and the power supply. I also replaced the DVD drive with a DVD/CD combo.

It's still the same machine because the case, floppy disk drive and CD burner are original. I think it has one of the original keyboards attached to it at the moment as well!

In case you ask, it is running a retail copy of XP home, which allows me to change the machine as much as I like!

In reality, most machines purchased in the last 8 years will probably have been skipped a long time ago, because very few people are prepared to do the hardware surgery necessary to keep older systems capable of running XP with SP3 installed.

So we're really not talking about systems as old as 13 years, we're talking about machines that could be less than 5. And some businesses with volume licenses may well have still been building XP systems more recently than this.

My last 'work' laptop was delivered to me new in 2010 with an XP build. It's just been replaced, and I opted to have Linux on it. Yaaaay. I am now officially a Microsoft free worker, having a work Linux desktop and laptop (it's complex, I work for a vendor at an end-customer site), and use Linux exclusively at home.

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.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Don't bother. @AC

That's really a low blow. For all the hassle they get, the constant travelling, the long debates that run into the evening/night, and the exposure they have to their constituents and their problems, most MPs are not in it for the money, and many of them care passionately about their constituents.

I don't know whether you follow your MP, but if you did, you would probably be surprised by how many days they don't get back home in the evening, or how readily they are prepared to talk to any of their constituents.

Rather than constantly being in hotels, they are allowed to have an expensed second residence. If their permanent residence is in their home constituency, then this second residence will be in London or the home counties. If they have been parachuted into a constituency, then it may be there (although I would like all MPs to actually live in their constituency).

Because they are often out of their constituency, they are normally allowed to run an expensed office with some staff there. Often, MPs top-up the running of their constituency office out of their own pocket, or have family members working for more hours than they are paid.

And like almost any other employed person, they are allowed to claim justifiable travel expenses and ad-hock accommodation costs when away from any of their residences.

So yes, they do claim high expenses, because they do things that need paying for. And, yes, sometimes the rules have been abused. But probably not too much now (cases in the media nowadays are mostly historical).

They do not join Parliament to make money, at least not while they are an MP. Mostly people do it because they want to make a difference, and precious few manage this against the political machine. If they get well known, they may make money afterwards by taking directorships or on the public speaking circuit, but I suspect that many MPs after they leave office either move into local government, find normal jobs or retire. Only a few make the really big bucks. Most just grow grey and disillusioned.

'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.

Android users running old OS versions? Not anymore, say latest stats

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: JB? I Dream of JB! @Barry

I can sympathise, but some of the problem is the carrier.

I had a Sony Xperia Neo on a contract from Orange in the UK. It was running 2.3.4.

Sony published a ICS upgrade for the phone, but Orange did not bother to repackage it. One thing that the carriers don't tell you is not only is your phone locked to their network unless you unlock it, but often the phone you have is actually a service provider specific model (check the last few digits of the long model name, and look it up), and cannot take the generic updates for the model.

This effectively means that the same phone may have later updates that you can't use.

I know I could have put Cyanogenmod on the phone, but why should I risk the functioning of the phone merely because the service provider chooses not to publish a usable and available update.

When I got my newer phone, I passed the Neo to my daughter who stuck her Orange pre-pay SIM in and is very happy, even though it is running Gingerbread. Her (and my previous) previous phone (a Samsung Galaxy Apollo running 2.2) was passed down to my youngest child, who uses it with an 8GB micro-SD card as a music player and FM radio.

I think that phone service providers should be forced by law to offer to revert a phone to phone vendor generic software once they decided to stop passing on updates from the phone manufacturer.

Why IBM's server sell-off is a lightbulb moment

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Avoid the commodity @Goat Jam re:coders

While I agree with what you said, I think you missed what I was suggesting. I was suggesting that industry should skill up their coders so that they were capable of writing the efficient code. This would be of benefit to many of us older people, as we came from such an environment.

Education does as industry wants. If there was a serious need to have people trained in writing assembler, within 5 years, the education system would be falling over itself with suitable courses (it takes that long to develop a syllabus and get it accepted). Vocational training could be even quicker as long as there were the trainers able to teach (although this is debatable).

The only reason that Java, C#, .Net and Python are the programming languages of choice in education is that they think this is what industry needs!

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Avoid the commodity

There is another alternative to building bigger and bigger data centres.

Rather than look at the power footprint of the hardware, why not start looking at the power footprint of the software?

Looking at what people are doing on systems nowadays, how much more productive are people with, say, office productivity suites today versus what they had 15 or 20 years ago when systems were a fraction of the computing and consumed power (you only have to look at a 15 year old PC, and spot that the power supply could only supply around 100W. Look at a modern PC, and you will find that 300-500W power supplies are the norm now.)

I know that there are new applications that people use that do need high footprint software (anything to do with high quality media is a prime example), but for many tasks, both on a commercial and a personal basis, modern software is big, bloated, and power hungry.

The power economies available from ARM and Intel Haswell show that there are considerable economies in power, but this has largely been soaked up by software with higher requirements. Reducing the memory footprint and CPU cycles required to run the systems mean that each system will be able to run more work in the same power budget.

I'm not saying that all workloads can have their power significantly reduced, (Big Data and HPC workloads will always be memory and/or processor intensive), but much of VDI and running simple data processing workloads, and running web sites are hugely inefficient because of the way they have evolved and the tools used to write them.

So my view is dump the RAD tools and languages that require 10s of megabytes to run "Hello, World.", and move back to the development of light-weight applications on stripped down OSs, coded by skilled coders who are tasked with writing efficient code, and then run more work on systems with the existing power foorprint.

The cost balance will move from quick to develop but expensive to run, to expensive to develop but cheaper to run, but that equation will shift as power gets more expensive. It will have to happen eventually once computers reach the limit of what can be achieved in the available power budget, but why not start now before the crisis hits us?

Eurocops want to build remote car-stopper, shared sensor network

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Waste of effort

That device creates a semi-focused EM pulse that would knock out all of the cars (and pretty much any sensitive electronics as well) within a certain area, probably including the police vehicle itself. It's a very blunt weapon. Would be good on a battlefield (which is where it would be effective is used by a non-technologically augmented infantry soldier, especially against smart soldiers and exoskeletons).

I would love to see the compensation claim against the police from a couple of hundred drivers for their cars, in-car entertainment systems, phones, watches, and a myriad of other devices, especially if the device was operated in a built-up area.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Integration @Robert Heffernan

Automatic transmissions are still the exception in most of Europe.

I have a compromised right arm. I'm not disabled, but the biceps take no part in moving my lower arm since I ruptured the tendons at the lower end (in case you are wondering, this is not any reflection of the NHS that it was not fixed, there were practical reasons why I did not have it done, including the risk of nerve damage to my right hand and calcification of the elbow).

As a result, I generally have cars with power assisted steering now. I can drive a car without, but driving a car designed to have power assistance without the power is completely different from driving one designed without it. I had a Rover SD1, and even with the car moving, the wheel took two hands to turn if the engine was not running (once, after a breakdown, I was towed using a solid-bar that required me to steer and to some extent brake, but there was no power assistance for either - it was not pleasant). I think I could have driven it if the engine ran but the steering pump was not working , but it would have been difficult.

Similarly, if the brake servo craps out on you while you are driving, don't expect the car to have the same stopping distance that it has with it running. The power assistance is there for a reason.

I agree with your statement about cars having to be drivable without any power assistance, but that does not make any statement about how comparatively safe they are in that condition.

Tell us we're all doomed, MPs beg climate scientists

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Computer Science.

I believe that it's a generational thing.

When I went to University in the late 1970's (when computers were still seen as rooms filled with metal cabinets and blinking lights), not only was Computer Science a rising subject, but it attracted bright people.

I will admit that at the time, it was regarded as a very niche subject, having just about broken free of being a sub-genre of Mathematics, and the people were, how can I put it, um, different, or maybe eclectic, but some of the brightest people I have known were working with computers.

It needed a new and different mind-set that required you to look at problems in unusual and in some cases completely bizarre ways (the canned solutions had not been developed yet). You needed to be a little weird to be attracted to the subject, and there was no promise of high salaries. It suited future geeks like me.

I was lucky enough to have the right skills at the right time, and I rode the wave through the '80s and '90s, being one of the people who advanced rapidly because there was a skill vacuum which led to salaries and responsibilities rising faster than my peers in other jobs. At this time, the high wages and apparent skill shortages meant that Computer Science and related disciplines looked very attractive to new students, which led to a mushrooming of the number and type of courses and students studying them.

But it also led to people to come to the subject as a way of earning a living, rather than because they were really interested in it. A true Computer Scientist will think about computers outside of work. Someone using the discipline to earn a living will normally switch off as soon as they leave work. There are too many people for whom computing only as a job, and this damages the field as a whole.

There has also been a backlash. Many people outside of IT do not understand why there is a legacy of relatively high remuneration. It is still the case that skilled computing jobs can command high salaries, and this is often resented by other people. Many organisations are attempting to align their IT staff down to clerical grades, not understanding that this will prevent them from recruiting the best and brightest. It also makes older people like me very jaded, because I see the lower levels of the profession full of grunts who do not, and in many cases, cannot fathom what it is they are doing beyond following procedures. This reinforces the belief that all jobs in IT are over-paid.

I believe that the same thing has happened in Climate Research, but instead of it having taken 40 years, it's happened in about a 15. The older people who really know what it's all about are leaving the high profile Climate Science roles, and their place is being taken by people who see the subject as en-vogue and sexy, but do not bring the required levels of in-depth knowledge. The big difference is that it is not money, but reputation and influence that is driving the desire to join the field. And instead of being over-paid, the current crop are seen as having too much influence.

El Reg BuzzFelch: 10 Electrical Connectors You CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT!

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Connector Fetish

You're one of the people who removed the wire clips from the Centronics-type SCSI-1 connectors (they weren't Centronics connectors, that was for parallel printers), aren't you?

With those buggers clipped in, it was often impossible to get the cables out, especially if there was no space on either side of the plug to unclip them!

My other supercomputer is a Lenovo: What IBM System x sale means for HPC

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Skills?

The reports state that about 7,500 people worldwide are being transferred to Lenovo. Obviously, some of these people will be involved in manufacturing and sales, but there is plenty of scope for the x86 iDataPlex and NeXtScale engineers and architects to be among them.

A BBC-by-subscription 'would be richer', MPs told

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

The Elephant in the room

"Two-thirds of homes already have a satellite or cable box through which they could pay the BBC sub."

OK, that covers 1 of the 8 televisions in my house. Do the other 7 become useless? The people who come up with this guff assume that there is only one TV in the house. I wish they'd leave the 1970's and move into the 1980's, when more than one TV per house became common.

Oh, maybe they assume that they are all modern TV's, and have CAM modules?

Well, it's possible that the ones in my house with Freeview built in may have them, I've never needed to check the LCD TV's I bought the kids. By there are at least three in the house that use external STBs that definitely don't.

If you go down to Tesco and buy one of their £17 STBs for Freeview, they definitely don't. And I suspect that a significant part of the older members of the population, plus a huge number of older TV's that have been re-purposed to entertain the kids or sit in the kitchen will have a cheap STB rather than something that can use a CAM.

So. Are we all going to get some financial support to replace all this with new kit?

And how are you going to make broadcast radio conditional? A lot of radio listening is done in the car or on mobile battery-powered radios that already exist?

Apple’s Mac turns 30: How Steve Jobs’ baby took its first steps

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

"although IBM used it for some of its RS/6000 boxes"

The CHRP platform formed the basis of all RS/6000, pSeries and Power systems from the second generation 43P (the 7043 models, not the original 7248 which was a PReP model) right up to the current day.

Although modern Power systems use PCIe rather than PCI or PCI-X, they are still under the covers CHRP platforms, although they are not categorised as such any more, because it is not important. I'm sure CHRP has evolved, but it is still CHRP.

If I look at one of the Power7 systems running AIX that I help look after, I can see "devices.chrp.base.rte" along with 25 other support packages that mention chrp.And I can tell that this is not for legacy systems, because amongst them is "devices.chrp.IBM.HFI.rte", which is the support package for the HFI interconnect that does not appear on any other IBM Power server than the 9125-F2C Power 775 HPC system.

So CHRP is alive and well, but only in IBM supplied systems.

It is possible that the Power8 systems will not be CHRP, because the fundamental GX++ Power bus is no longer used as the primary system bus, and has been replaced by the PCI Express 3.0 based Coherent Attached Processor Interface (CAPI). Whether CHRP will be extended to include CAPI or replaced, I do not know.

It was inevitable: Lenovo stumps up $2.3bn for IBM System x server biz

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

IBM have bet a lot on Cognetive Computing and Cloud

If they turn out to be a real bust, and don't get customer engagement, IBM is going to be looking very much weaker with a significantly reduced hardware portfolio.

I wonder when they are going to drop the "Machines" part of "International Business Machines" because they no longer make enough hardware.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Time to shine :) @ Chris Miller

Strange you mentioned printers. Remember that Lexmark used to be IBM's small and medium end printer business before it was spun off.

What amazed me at the time was that IBM spun off Lexmark, and then almost immediately introduced new ranges of laser printers that directly competed with the Lexmark product range!

Windows 8.1 update 'screenshots' leak: Metro apps popped into classic desktop taskbar

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: desktop on every phone

Ditto Palm devices.

WHEW! OpenBSD won't CloseBSD (for now) after $100,000 cash windfall

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Volenteers != free

You've forgotten to take into account the hosting costs, which include space, power and bandwidth costs, and may also include a rental on the hardware for their servers and rental of an office space.

They also appear to host developer events, which are unlikely to be free to arrange.

Taking this into account, I do wonder how they managed to clock up a $20,000 power bill. How many servers are they running?

Mind you, the picture at the foot of their home page makes it look like their test servers are in someone's garage!

IBM to offload System x this week: Our sources spill the beans

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Amdahl

While your history is correct, it seems a bit random except that it mentions both IBM and Fujitsu.

In reality, Amdahl ceased to exist in the 1990's when it was fully subsumed into Fujitsu, and which coincided with Fujitsu effectively exiting the Plug-Compatible Mainframe market when they did not develop a zSeries compatible system.

I keep coming across ex-Amdahl (and ICL) employees in the UK who wound up in Fujitsu's services arm working on whatever they can to stay employed until retirement.

What is more interesting is whether the Flex and NeXtScale lines will go as well, because that will impact IBM's presence in the midrange AIX IBM i, and HPC markets, leaving it in the mainframe and niche server market place. What else does STG actually sell apart from consultancy, and my presumption is that it tended to be sold as a hardware/software/consultancy package a lot of the time. My guess is that it will quietly disappear, with the remaining work split between the Software and GTS divisions.

EU eyes UHF spectrum: What do you think, biz bods... broadband?

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: It not about the Consumer. But Big Business and Regulator Income.

Yes, I was wondering where the consumer representation was on this advisory board.

The only people on it are those who are likely to financially gain, and not those who will lose.

My household has Sky on one telly, and limited IPTV on two others (through consoles and BluRay players), and the other 5 rely on terrestrial TV.

Living in the sticks, where LTE and Fibre services have not yet reached, and where broadband is currently limited to ADSL 2+ Annex M, and even 3G and DAB services are very patchy, it is unlikely that IPTV for the whole household is realistic.

Clink! Terrorist jailed for refusing to tell police his encryption password

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: and another thing ... @Frumious Bandersnatch

I believe that was just an example.

An encrypted file may not sound like white noise. The encryption method may introduce patterns, and may not generate a white noise type distribution. I'm sure I could come up with some (admittedly poor, but I only spent 10 seconds on it) method of using integer encoding of an exponential of the bytes in a data stream to generate significantly non-random files.

And how do you 'play' a data file? All audio data has to be encoded in some form or other, even it is successive 8-bit sampled voltage values from a microphone.

Have you ever played around with SoX, and got the encoding wrong. Sometimes not even music sounds like music. Try playing an MP3 as a raw WAV.

The assumption in this sub-thread is that you can recognise that some file or device is actually encrypted. In reality, a file of seemingly jumbled data without a recognisable format could be anything. There does not have to be any implicit recognisable format in a data file. Some files contain headers or some fingerprint that point to the format file the file for convenience, but that is by convention, not any fundamental property of the data.

As long as you know how to process the data (be it background noise from the LHC, some new audio or video encoding, or a valuable secret), there is no need to put hints into the file to help other people. All that is needed is that you and anybody else using the data knows how to process it. It then becomes a matter of inspired guess work with some maths and statistics for anybody else to access the data.

For some background in arbitrary pre-shared secret codes, look back at this previous story. Follow up stories suggested that the message was read only when the pre-shared secret was identified.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: and another thing ... @AC 21:14

in reality, there is no practical difference between encoding and encrypting. Encrypting just has a more complex encoding method.

If you think about it in a lexical manner, en-coding means applying a code to a data set, and at a fundamental level, a code and a crypt (as in encrypt, not that room under a church) are different names for the same thing.

Now sit back and wait for someone to offer a reason why a code and a crypt are different.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: and another thing ...

That's a very interesting question that I've wanted answering for a while.

If a file is of a format that the investigating authorities don't recognise, how do you prove to their satisfaction that it is not some new form of encryption that they don't know about?

Suspect: "Officer, I was investigating patterns in files of captured entropy data for use in random number generators"

Police: "Don't believe you, sonny. Tell us how to decrypt it, or go to jail!"

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