* Posts by Peter Gathercole

2953 posts • joined 15 Jun 2007

Industry in 'denial' as demand for pricey PCs plunges

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@AC 15:52

Must of us here do tech in our day jobs. Unlike the stereotype, many of us have families that keep us busy when we are not working, and provide higher priorities for use of money than the Shiny.

Find me a home system that is cheap and I can keep running with minimal effort for a few years, and I, along with I think many of the other people here would bite your hand off to get such a system.

I have been running old kit for a long time. I have been using my current main laptop for about 5 years, and it was second hand when I bought it. I think that the end of the road for that system is neigh, as it will struggle running Unity on Precise (but may run Mint!), but if I stuck to Lucid, it would probably remain usable for most things until that runs out of support, or the memory slots finally fail.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: The Pi's have it

You not been in a large supermarket for a few years? Even in my small town (<9K residents well off the beaten track in the UK), one of the three supermarkets will happily sell you an Acer laptop today, and a few years ago (when Vista was launched), you could buy a computer from Tesco as well. Larger branches of Tesco always have PCs on the shelves.

You don't get much choice, but how much do you need for a consumer PC?

Google, Amazon, Starbucks are 'immoral' and 'ridiculous' over UK tax

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

In the US, they are mandated

The members of the board of a US company can be personally taken to court for negligence by the shareholders if they don't do everything reasonably possible to maximise the share-holder return. It's an aspect of fiduciary duty.

'Perfect' INVISIBLE SHED stuns boffinry world

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Be careful where you leave it

If it were capable of bending light from all directions around itself, it would be a very boring place to be, because windows would not work, and you could not see out (hint, the light you NEED to enter the windows so you could see out would be diverted to the other side, and thus not available to enter your eyes.

You would need some form of photomultiplier to allow the full amount of light to appear on the other side, while providing some for you to see with inside.

One in four don't clean their stinky old browsers - especially Firefoxers

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: So can this be read as.... @ac 14:55

... and in doing so you leave yourself vulnerable to problems that have been fixed.

Turning off update notifications so that you are not bothered by the update requests appears to me like burying your head in the sand and waiting to get pwned.

And I suggest you look at my other posts. I've never been in the Microsoft garden!

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

So can this be read as....

"Browser vendors do not pay sufficient attention to code quality, and as a result need to update their browsers too frequently for their users to keep up".

I'm pretty sick of every other day being told that there is a new version or new patches of whichever browser I am using at that moment. I probably use as much of my home bandwidth updating my browser as I do on actually browsing HTML web pages. This surely cannot be right.

Slideshow: A History of Intel x86 in 20 CPUs

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Whilst compatibillity is one of the strengths of Intel centric computing

Oops. "Maximise the return on the R&D costs"

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Whilst compatibillity is one of the strengths of Intel centric computing

I really miss the diversity of different manufacturers making radically different machines.

I remember in the mid '90s when all of the articles in the PC magazines were essentially describing the same machine (IBM PC compatible) with the only differences being the clock speed, memory or disk capacity, processor generation or case-colour. It was the point that I stopped reading the magazines on a regular basis as computing was no longer exciting.

I am not looking forward to the point where Intel have driven everyone else out of the server-processor market, and just hope that ARM can continue to make inroads into the desktop and mobile market. If Intel can achieve total dominance in all segments, then expect innovation to slow-down as the accountants try to extract more revenue out of each processor generation to maximise the R&D costs.

A bitter spill to swallow, or 'how to smeg up your keyboard'

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


is far worse than Coke. So much sugar, and I really don't know what gives it the orange colour, but I would not be surprised if it glows in the dark!

One of my kids ruined one of my beloved IBM model M keyboards with it. Despite soaking the keyboard, I did not get it working. Next step was stripping it down, which needed a log reach box spanner and side cutters as well as a screwdriver. I think that the reason why these keyboards last so long is that they are never meant to be dismantled.

Inside the plastic case is a huge lump of metal to give the weight, and 100+ buckling springs with plastic rockers that provide the unique feel. Once these are stripped, you are left with a sealed plastic unit with a membrane inside just like everyone else's keyboard (bit disappointing, really). Cutting the plastic heat melted rivets on this unit, and opening it revealed the membrane, which was so thoroughly stuck with orange gunk that the conductive tracks were pulled from the membrane even though I was taking extreme care and using water to dissolve the gunk. Tried conductive paint to repair the tracks with no luck

I wish I had tried the washing machine trick. I've now only got one model M left, and the kids are not getting anywhere close to that!

Habitable HEAVY GRAVITY WORLD found just 42 light-years away

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: EE 'Doc' Smith? Larry Niven?

Having contributed in the comments sections about scientifiction, I disagree. The younger members of the readership should be reminded about the Golden Age of Science fiction, up to and including the 1970s and 80s popular writers when it was at its most popular (IMHO).

Classic game 'Elite' returns … on Kickstarter

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: "sumptuous graphics"

3D hidden line graphics on a 2MHz 8 bit micro was eye-poping back in the early '80s. I remember someone bringing in the first copy seen at the BBC micro users club I used to frequent, and it drew a huge crowd.

I had been playing around with wire-frame graphics myself at the time and I quickly realised that they were using a very quick-and-dirty algorithm to draw the lines, but I never did figure out how they managed to work out whether a line was visible or not at the speed that it ran at.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: @dz-015 - Multiplayer game based on Elite?

@Mark 65

Even though when I started playing Elite I would BUY (no cheating here, except to make a copy of the disk - not a trivial task until sector-by-sector disk copiers for the BEEB came along) a docking computer, once I found the Bitstick worked as a controller (or indeed any other high precision joystick, I could do the same with one of the BBC analogue joysticks with an extension on the shaft made of a ball-point pen body), I completely ignored the DC.

At computer club events, I would quite often wow everyone who was watching by accurately lining up with the dock at a significant distance, matching rotation, and accelerating all the way in. There did not seem to be a maximum speed for docking. I could dock much, much faster than the DC, which often looked worse than a learner driver doing a reverse turn around a corner for the first time in a car with a faulty clutch. The only thing I found the it useful for was as a break to go and make a cup of tea.

I suspect that anybody who had any pretensions of becoming Elite would probably do the same.

El Reg seeks hoardiest reader for crap-stashtic honour

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Not so simple

All of my stashed kit is, umm, stashed.

The significant other insists on me making my stuff invisible. She appears to have a pathological fear of anything that is either plugged into the mains or powered by batteries, so if it's not in use, it's in boxes in various hidey-holes around the house, and thus cannot be easily photographed as a whole. I've not seen much of it myself in the last 10 years.

Of course the same does not apply to her huge number of half-finished craft projects, her computer (only tolerated because of her genealogy work, along with it's A3 printer), her collection of pulp women's fiction (yes, I do mean Mills and Boon), and her menagerie of greater and lesser parrots (including 2 cockatoos and 2 other full sized parrots). I can provide plenty of photo's of those!

On the subject of throwing stuff away, when I picked up the Amstrad NC100 from a car boot, I found that I could have used the 4MB memory card I had thrown out earlier that month!

A history of personal computing in 20 objects part 2

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: "the then vogue for Reduced Instruction Set Computing (Risc)"

Yes. I did think that while I was writing it. Maybe I should have said "If the processor now known as ARM had been a CISC architecture...".

Regards to Fred, Jim and Sheila from the 6522, 6845 and the rest of the chips especially the Ferranti ULA.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: ZX80 [...] cased and equipped with a Qwerty keyboard

Dude. The Spectrum was not wedge shaped, unless you had an Interface 1 attached. I admit that it was lower at the front than the back, but that was because of a step in the case, bringing up the rear of the case to the same height as the top of the keys.

The ZX81 was wedge shaped, but did not have rubber keys.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

"the then vogue for Reduced Instruction Set Computing (Risc)"

It was not just a vogue. It was necessary to push computing performance forward. If there had not been RISC architectures at the time, then I believe that computing history would have been different, and would probably not be nearly so advanced as it is now. Not that this is all to do with the ARM. MIPS, SPARC, Precision Architecture and POWER all had their parts to play in frightening the CISC manufactures into pushing performance up.

The transistor budget for the ARM 1 was, I believe, 25,000 transistors. At the same time, the 80386 had a transistor budget of 275,000. In these days of billions of transistors per die, it is easy to forget the fabrication limitations of the day.

If the ARM had been a CISC architecture, it would either not have competed with other processors in the market, or would have been too complex for a small organisation like Acorn to have been able to develop and produce. It's very existence was conditioned on it being a RISC processor.

The fact that it was a 32 bit architecture, used ridiculously low amounts of power, and still beat the pants off a 80386 processor in performance were the reason why it's descendants are still around now.

Nationwide to perform IT equivalent of 'replacing jet engine mid-flight'

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

XOS was a mainframe OS

but on Xerox Sigma systems in the late '60s and early '70s. I really don't think that the article writer is likely to have used XOS.

But it is clear that there are still mainframe class systems that are not IBM compatible. Unisys have their ClearPath range using intel Xeon processors and running MCP, which is popular in US Government circles. NEC in Japan also have Itanium based mainframe classs computers running an OS called ATOS, which has evolved from GCOS (nee GECOS - which should be a familiar term to any UNIX sysadmin).

Although they are classed as mainframes, they actually have Intel processors of various types in them, and could be considered as enterprise class rack based Intel servers rather than mainframes. For anybody working on these other mainframe systems, please note I'm not quibbling, I'm just pointing out that they are different from IBM z/OS based mainframes.

Uh-oh! Kim Dotcom is back with a brand new Megaupload site

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: I had a similar idea...with a minor twist (but big data impact) -TLDR warning.

@ac 14:30 re XOR X,Y -> Z

.....except that XOR Y,Z will reconstruct X. Admittedly, whoever was wanting to retrieve X will need to know this is what you have done, and obtain both Y and Z.

XOR is just not safe unless you increase the number of keys and operation as you do in the later examples, but the more keys you have, the more chance you have that one of the storage companies go out of business, get shut down or just lose the data.

It would be better to use something like use a distributed set of symbols of Reed Solomon hashed data blocks. Doing this would enable you to reconstruct the data if one set of symbols is lost, but would make it necessary for someone to get most of the symbols in order to decode the data. The exact number of symbol sets needed, and the minimum number of sets required to decode the data would depend on the parameters in the RS encoding chosen. Each subset would not contain any usable data.

Disney buys Lucasfilm, new Star Wars trilogy planned

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Three trilogies

And the books are canon?

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: How long before

Oops. Kingdom Hearts 5.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: How long before

You'll probably only have to wait until Kindom Hearts 5 (assuming that 4 is already complete!)

Your mouse may actually be a RAT in disguise

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


Uh, yeah! That's what the Pedantic grammar nazi alert icon was for.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: @ AC 1226 target at AC 15:45

Your retarded what?

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: @AC 12:26

In fact, looking into it, it may be possible to get Pidgin to talk to a "Prescence" server, because it look like it is based around the XMMP STANDARD.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@AC 12:26

Cisco "presence" could very easily be ported to Linux or any UNIX. After all, it's available on MacOS X. All it would need is for Cisco to do the port.

The reason it is not available for Linux or UNIX is that they have decided not to do it (although I'll lay a bet on there being a skunk-works version for Linux somewhere within Cisco), rather than any technical reason.

This makes your comment rather spurious.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: The reason *nix based OSes don't have a problem...

I actually disagree. There is more scope for this type of event handler to affect UNIX and Linux systems, at least as long as they run a GUI that uses X11.

Part of X11 allows a suitably written program with the correct permissions (and this is NOT superuser in this case, but the user's own credential set) to re-parent a window, or indeed to insert itself anywhere in the window hierarchy. As a result, all graphic and input events destined for a window go through said program before actually being sent to the application running the window.

This allows such things as all key-press events to be captured by said program, and mouse events to be used to trigger specific actions. This is by design, and is how an X11 Window Manager works, by inserting itself between the root window and all applications. This is also how programs like xscope work.

The credentials required are such things as Magic Cookies, which for systems where the client and server programs run on the same system are often stored in protected files in the user's home directory (there are other more sophisticated methods of protection [using such things as Kerberos and SSH tunnels with SSH agent], but cryptographically signed cookies are still the most common).

This means that if a user can be persuaded to run such a program on the machine with these credentials available, they are at risk of leaking significant amounts of information. There is no requirement to become a privileged user. This is why it is important on UNIX and Linux to keep a firm control of the programs that users are allowed to run. But this often comes down to being a social engineering attack, like so many other ways of bypassing security. If you can make a user run an arbitrary program, then all bets are off regarding the security of that user, regardless of which OS they are using.

Please note that unless the cookies are leaked, this mechanism will not allow one user on a multi-user system to access another user's session on the same machine. Not that this happens very much in these days of single user Linux systems.

I don't think that many people using UNIX or Linux nowadays actually understand the way that X11 authentication works any more, and that is why the icon.

Apple turns off Siri’s potty mouth

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Asimov did infer sexually capable robots

Ah. Wikipedia to the rescue.

It's called "Satisfaction Guaranteed", and is in the collection "The Rest of the Robots".

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Heinlein as well

He had sentient computers. I think his first was Mike (Holmes IV) in "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress", although it appears in some of his later rather bizarre crossover books as well.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Asimov did infer sexually capable robots

I can't remember for certain, but I think that it was in one of the short stories contained in the collection "The Bicentennial Man" (in the UK, it may well be in other collections as well and in the original magazine it was written for). It is inferred that a humainform robot acting as a companion to a woman was capable of sexual acts. When I get home, I'll look it up.

Windows 8: An awful lot of change for a single release

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: @GrahamsTenPenneth

When you installed your Vista system, did it come with a driver CD? If it did, then you are comparing apples with oranges. Try using your camera or MP3 player without installing the driver. They would work about the same as on Linux, or maybe slightly worse.

I would be surprised if any modern camera or MP3 player (iPods excepted) did not configure as a storage device that would allow you to browse the media. And with an iPod (admittedly I've not tried with anything later than a 5.5G iPod Video) as long as it was first used with a Windows PC or you have the HFS+ filesystem added to your Linux system, you should still be able to browse the filesystem. Won't do you much good, however, as iPods have their own database that obfuscates the track names, making it difficult to identify the files.

If you have something like Rhythmbox or Amarok installed, there is a good chance that they will handle even the iPod database.

The fault you are blaming Linux for is actually a problem with the vendor of the media device, not Linux or the Linux community.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Of Ghosts and Bathwater @ FrankAlphaXII

In this context, there is no such thing as truth, merely observed behaviours, and these are conditioned by your perspective. I don't regard you as a heretic, more like a hardened Windows user who dabbles with Linux and believes that they know how all Linux advocates think.

Even though you state that you use Fedora and KDE, yours is a very coloured view of Linux, and IMHO is out of date. If you install Fedora yourself, you will know that it is easy, and, by contrast, Windows (from scratch) is difficult. Windows drivers are hell, especially if you don't have all those shiny round driver disks that you end up needing. Much of modern Linux distributions running on modern systems works out-of-the-box.

Please examine 'ordinary' users for a while. I think that you will find that they will be running a browser, and possibly an email client. They will launch applications that would run just as well on top of any modern OS if they are available. That's about it. There is very little that most of them do (outside of the vendor application lock in) which could not be done on any modern OS (and the adoption of iOS on iPads demonstrates this).

For a majority of users, the Gnome or KDE interface (or even Unity) is all they need to launch their browser, play their media etc. It's point, select and click, and that is all they need. I admit that to get the maximum out of Linux, it may sometimes (but very rarely) be necessary to resort to a shell, but then you need to jump into the registry in Windows once in a while as well. The only thing that Windows users benefit from in Windows is familiarity, and Win8 may break this.

I mentioned the vendor application lock in. This is the real crux of the matter. If you exchange information with someone else, then the fact that MS Office is so prevalent will mean that there will be problems. And when purchasing media, it's Apple who are not interested in making an iTunes client for Linux. Same for Sky, Netflix, LoveFilm etc. It's not a Linux fault, nor should it be the communities responsibility to make up for the fact that vendors (who often have irons in the OS fire) or strict DRM requirements that will always be difficult to handle in OpenSource software, are not prepared to work in the Linux space.

But this is not a Linux problem, it's that Microsoft and other vendors have been allowed to dominate areas of the application landscape.

In the reality that I see, there is no technical reason why users cannot be trained to use any UI. There are commercial reasons, but that is not what you claim.

Android, heal thyself

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: will be improved by users upgrading to newer versions

The whole application deployment model of Android and iOS is different from UNIX, and seriously alters the security model.

With UNIX, you have the concept of a superuser, which is responsible for the installation of applications which are then used by non-privileged users.

Android does away with the requirement to use superuser to install applications. Instead, Google have invented an application deployment framework that sits above the OS and runs as a single non-privileged user, which handles all application installation and execution, as well as making it the guardian of user data. As a result, the traditional UNIX security model is not involved.

In many cases, it is not the Android OS per-se that is compromised by the security vulnerabilities. It is the application and/or the users data. This is a fault in the execution environment (Dalvik?), not in the underlying OS.

Please don't confuse the two.

Operators turn UK bonking consortium into Google-killer

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Not So Smart Phones Anymore?

The only thing is that the service you are getting at the moment might get a lot more expensive if there was no advertising.

Whilst I agree that most of this is to try to maximise profits, at least some of the advertising will be helping to pay for the technology. Just think that if Google did not have healthy advertising revenues, we probably would not have Android at all. Maybe we would have had Meego or WebOS as alternatives still, but I would not want to guarantee it.

Ad funded services are annoying, but without them we would either have poorer choice or more expensive services. In some ways, this is a lose-lose scenario for consumers.

N00bs vs Windows 8: We lock six people in a room with new OS

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Now I hate Win 8 as much as the next man @AC 08:53

Like or dislike of Unity is subjective, I might as well downvote you because you do or don't like Marmite.

Sky staffer plundered database to benefit naughty false firms

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: I get regular calls

I get similar. My Sky HD box, which I purchased new from a well known auction site, was never under a Sky warranty, and was purchased at least five years ago. About two months ago, I got a stream of calls from more than one maintenance company wanting to sell an extended warranty because my warranty had just 'run out'. I normally verbally abuse them down the 'phone. This is not normally in my nature, but I think that someone cold-calling me with incorrect information attempting to sell me something has no right to expect not to be abused, especially as I am on the TPS. They claimed that they had obtained my information from Sky, and thus it was not a cold call. Now I understand why it was happening. I'm still unrepentant about the verbal abuse, though.

In truth, I probably could have used an extended warranty. I believe that the reason why I could by a Sky HD box at half of the then Sky HD upgrade price was because it is a first generation Thomson box that is now known to have power supply and tuner problems. I think Thomson dumped them on the open market when Sky switched manufacturer. So far, I've rebuilt the power supply twice (blown capacitors each time), and had to replace the hard disk, as well as cleaning the dust and crap out because it causes it to overheat.

According to Sky, I am now one of the last few customers using a Thomson Sky HD box, and it is causing me problems as it won't run the Anytime+ on-demand service. I think I've managed to negotiate a reasonably priced replacement direct from Sky (the free replacement period has now expired, but all they want to charge is a standard installation - even though I have a quad LNB and a Sky HD box already so installation is just plugging it in and switching the registered box on the account), but if I take it up, I'm tied to them for another year. For all it's reported problems, I wish Virgin would cable our area so we had a choice, but I suspect that will never happen now.

Sanitary towel firm's 'CEO' sets traumatised man straight

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Genius

As we appear to be in nit-picky mood at the moment, it is significantly less than half who could use the products once you take into account the pre-pubescent and post-menopausal females.

Given that a woman only menstruates for 40 years or so (Wikipedia) out of a an average life expectancy of 80 for women (stat. from the 2011 CIA yearbook again via Wikipedia), I would guess that it is no more than about 30% of the population, once you factor in the higher life expectancy of women.

He's a statistics teacher, obviously!

Virgin Media's blighted SuperHub NOW comes with extra squeal (oink)

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Hum

It's interesting. Large transformers for dropping AC voltage do hum to a greater or lesser extent, especially if they are rectangular in shape (it's the way that the core is laminated). But this can be significantly reduced by careful design, or almost completely eliminated using toroidal transformers.

But this should be irrelevant in these days of switch-mode power supplies which do not use transformers to step down the voltage. All electrical power supplies should really be switch-mode supplies nowadays, because they are significantly more efficient.

I know it would technically invalidate the guarantee, but if it was bothering me, I would probably buy a better quality stabilised switch-mode supply from any number of suppliers, and use that in place of the one provided.

'Stop-gap' way to get Linux on Windows 8 machines to be issued

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


"Microsoft key"? UEFI is not owned or controlled by Microsoft, so why should they certify it? Something's gone desperately wrong if Microsoft have control of Secure Boot certificates other than their own.

Ubuntu 12.10: More to Um Bongo Linux than Amazon ads

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@James Hughes 1

I don't always switch distros, and I did standardise on Ubuntu back at Dapper, but eventually, even LTS releases stop being patched and you have to upgrade or be left behind.

I only switched from Hardy to Lucid when the patches stopped, and it is the switch from Lucid to Precise and the likely necessity to either accept Unity, or deviate from the mainstream that I am not looking forward to.

I switched from Redhat 9.1 to Dapper to Hardy to Lucid because they fell out of support. Other versions of many different distros have been played with on test boxes just to see what is going on.

My current learning bandwidth is mainly being taken up with an IBM PERCS HPC cluster, xCAT, GPFS and all of the other things that make up such systems, both hardware and software (my job is fairly unique). I assure you that that is MUCH more bandwidth consuming than learning Unity!

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: morons @AC 16:30

Well. What can I say. If you don't care, you wouldn't have commented. If you don't want to hear other peoples views, don't read the comments.

I know that my past usage of UIs is of no real relevance, but I was using it to counter the "helpdesk monkey" label of the original AC. I know I play the "I've been around a long time" too much in these forums, it's a personality flaw I have, but I find it difficult to counter an accusation of no breadth of experience without providing some background, and boy, do I have a lot.

I know, and I have said several times, that Unity will suit some (maybe a lot of) people, but it does not me. I know that it's a personal choice, but I get as annoyed by people who say "Unity is THE way forward for everyone", when it's clearly not. I try to never push my views on other people, I just comment on the way I feel. And I feel that Canonical are doing exactly what I don't with their push to Unity. If they had installed Gnome still, and given you the option of switching (something that you can do yourself I know) I would be far less critical. After all, it's not as if modern systems are short of disk space, and much of Gnome is actually already installed. But they didn't.

Having switched distro's several times since I first used Linux (damn, there I go again), I know that I can do so again, so I have no problems there.

But Ubuntu was, and still is, a distro with a large and well maintained repository. This is one of the reasons I liked it and I have suggested in the past to anybody and everybody that they try Ubuntu as it could have been the dominant distro, something that is needed to achieve the critical mass required to get Linux accepted. But I will probably never suggest to someone looking for a different experience that they install a current Ubuntu ever again, because I will either not be using it myself, or will using a different GUI. Maybe that is a loss to the Ubuntu community, maybe not. I have no pretensions about being influential in my professional life, let alone my personal one (I work with real UNIX most of the time still - Linux is just what I use at home).

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: morons

I think it is you that needs to take a chill pill. 1995 was a long time ago, and even Windows 95 was new/still in beta. UNIX-like OS's were using CDE or Motif, neither of which resembles Gnome 2, or simple window managers like FVWM.

But you appear to be advocating change for changes sake, merely to keep a product moving. Yes, there are people who will like Unity. And there will be people who (like myself) would like to keep a patched working OS going with as little change as possible, because change costs time and money, and I have too little of either free to adjust the way I work. Is it too much to ask for a system that will still be patched (even LTS releases stop being patched) without having to alter their habits.

I have tried every Ubuntu since Unity was released, and I still find that it does not do what I need it to do without serious effort. I generally run with the desktop completely covered up with many windows, so anything put there is no good to me at all. I can use Dash from the side panel, but it appears to me to take longer to find things than static menus. I cannot customise the side panel as easily as with Gnome (may be a learning curve, but I think not), and applications opening full screen are unnecessary. Mixing mouse and keyboard actions in a single operation is in-efficient, and relying on keyboard short-cuts (even to an emacs user) leads complexity that takes time to learn.

I only have so much learning bandwidth. Much of what I have is taken up by my quite challenging work, changing phones, adopting a tablet, and learning to use whatever new consumer device has ended up with a complex UI. There will be the inevitable application changes with 12.04 (LTS release - see above), and the last thing I need to do is learn a new desktop UI as well. This will be true even if I switch to Gnome 3 after installing Precise Pangolin.

Oh, and by the way, I am a valued and well paid (comments about cost notwithstanding) IT professional working supporting complex HPC systems, not as you put it a 'helpdesk monkey'". I have been a strong Ubuntu advocate since Dapper Drake, but have nearly reached the end of what I can put up with. I cannot tell who you are because of your use of AC, but I strongly suspect that I was working with UNIX systems and GUIs (such as SunView, AT&T Blit, Layers) , early Windows, GEM, Arthur, and even Lisa a little, while you were still in nappies!

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Unity... @Chimp

I'm not arguing there.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: What if... @Nigel

If you look at your Linux history, you will find that RedHat 9.1 was made available before either Centos or Scientific Linux were available. I have been using Ubuntu since Dapper (from about when RedHat stopped patching RH9.1), and stick to LTS releases, as the normal Ubuntu releases and Fedora moves too fast for my liking. My day-to-day systems are to use, and the less time I need to spend maintaining them, the better.

I have been using Linux since RH 4.1, and UNIX a lot longer than that, so I do know my way around.

And if you read what I said, I got something out of it other than the knowledge that I was helping RedHat, in that I did not have to download the iso images over a modem....

I actually have little sympathy for the "must be completely free of cost" Linux brigade. If someone wants to create some software which has real value, and wishes to get some remuneration for the work, let them. Provided that they abide with the GPL and/or LGPL, then Linux should be a platform that they can use.

I am getting a little jaded with the Open Source model. We are now getting to the point where very useful parts of the Open Source landscape are becoming abandonware, with the original maintainer moving on to other things, and no-one else picking up the baton. Other projects go the other way, and get managed by large groups, who then argue about direction causing fragmentation. Gnome and KDE and even the XFree86/Xorg groups have been guilty of this in the past.

What it means is that there is no continuity, with new releases of distributions changing the tools used by default. For example, for ripping CDs, I've been through so many different ripping tools, all of which work in different ways, store the tracks in different directories, tag the files differently, use different profiles for the back-end decoders, and generally leave their detritus all over the . files in my home directory (I keep my home directory when I upgrade distributions). I would have been absolutely happy sticking with Grip, which was small, efficient, and suited me perfectly. I could have asked to become the maintainer, but I have too little time to do what I need to, let alone taking on a software project.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Does no one realize...

Unity is a personal thing. I've noticed that younger people often are happy with running one application at a time, full screen. These people can cope with Unity quite well.

Everybody else, especially those used to *lots* of windows, Unity is a distraction, and not only is the change unwelcome, but the way of working is foreign.

I know that you can set up multiple windows, and 'pane' them, but the way of controlling the positioning is not as easy as in Gnome.

On my eeePC 701, I found Unity unusable, mainly because it did not like the small screen, but also because of the lack of graphics power leading to severe lag in updating Dash.

Why is solid-state storage so flimsy?

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: HD failure

... and to put it into context, where I am working, we lose at least 2-3 drives a month.

But I suppose that is because the systems I look after have more than 8000 drives in them, all either RAIDed or mirrored, and half of those will be spun down for the last time in the next month or so.

Mind you, you begin to get a bit worried about data integrity when you lose a second disk in an 8+2 RAID5 set within a few days (the organisation has a policy of no disk replacements done at the weekend, and have had two disks failing in a the same set over one weekend on more than one occasion).

On the other hand, the first system for which I was a sysadmin had 32MB CDC SMD removable pack disk drives which were the size of a desk pedestal, and the first machine I had a login for had a couple of 2.5MB RK05 removable disk cartridge drives, and that served a community of about 30 people!

Boffins baffled: HUGE EYEBALL washes up on Florida beach

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Obvious really...

Of course, the graphic novel, not the film!

Sites can slurp browser history right out of Firefox 16

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Circle of Life as we know it, captain

I know that this is off topic, but the AC@13:13 made me think.

What we need now IMHO is a lightweight fast browser, without all of the historical cruft.

... wait a minute...

Wasn't that the primary reason Firefox was introduced back then as a response to Netscape Communicator?

Sony suspends slate sales

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


If they had said it is water resistant when it wasn't, and had done nothing, they would have been subject to a Trading Standards enquiry about false claims in the UK. That would have been damaging to the brand.

Happy 20th Birthday, IBM/Lenovo ThinkPad

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Been through many, a lot still work.

I started buying second hand Thinkpads about 14 years ago, starting with a 365XD, which had a 100MHz Pentium 1 and a 1.2GB disk. Since then, I've bought 360, T20, T23, A30, T30 (and T42/43s for friends and family) systems, and have used as work laptops T60 and T400 (my current work laptop).

I recently dumped 2 365s and a 360D, as I could not think of any good uses for them. Apart from a broken screen (someone jumped on one - the 365's had plastic covers), I think that they all still worked. All of the T series machines still do, and the A30 is running the firewall for the house. All of the T20 and later systems still work (although there have been some remedial fixes for T30s, it's true).

I think that the T20 to T23 systems were the nicest to use (although far too slow nowadays to be used for anything other than basic Web, and even then you have to block Flash). They were robust, compact, had optical drives (the X series Thinkpads generally don't), the keyboard was not recessed like newer ones, and just feel good to use. My T30, which is still MY (personal rather than my work) primary laptop was a real downward step, being larger, heavier, and it turns out, having a design flaw with the memory sockets. The T40 and later series use low-profile optical drives that can be difficult to source, and recessed keyboards that don't feel quite right. And the very latest T530s have 'Island' keyboards in a new layout which is just wrong. And of course, all have my pet hate, a 16x9 or 16x10 'wide' aspect ratio screen.

I have to do something about my T30 before it completely dies, but now that I discover that the Pentium M processor used in the T4X series do not support PAE, and current Ubuntu releases don't run without messing around. It looks like I will have to go for a T60, and live with the fact that I won't be able to swap my IDE drive into the new machine.

Top admen beg Microsoft to switch off 'Do Not Track' in IE 10

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Hey ANA -- define THIS!

What they are attempting to say in a clumsy way is that some ad-funded websites may disappear if they lose the higher payment for targeted click through advert referrals that such tracking may enable. This may reduce choice, or may cause some sites to become subscriber only.

I'm pretty much oblivious to adverts now, and don't even block them. As a result, whether I am tracked for adverts or not is not a big thing (although for other purposes clearly is). The only thing that really makes me cross is the adverts that suck the life out of your machine with flash and javascript animations so that browsing on older or even newer low-power systems (like tablets and phones) becomes impossible. I refuse to upgrade my systems merely so that I can be advertised to. So, I run Flashblock and Noscript, but keep the adverts in.

Even without those controls, for most purposes my 8 year old Thinkpad running Linux on a 2GHz Mobile Pentium 4is fine, until I hit a site that has such adverts.

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