* Posts by Peter Gathercole

2953 posts • joined 15 Jun 2007

The Facebook job test: Now interviewers want your logins

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Surely this is illegal

Illegal? No, certainly not under the Data Protection Act. The employers are asking their prospective employees to volunteer their facebook account details. If they agree, then it is a private agreement between the individual and a company. This is exactly the same as a loan company asking for copies of your bank statement before offering a loan.

It may be counted as discrimination if it can be proved that the individual did not get the job because they refused to hand over details, but that would be a completely different issue.

I immediately thought that the employers were going to turn an applicant down if they actually DID give their login details over, because that would indicate a lack of understanding about on-line security! Ho hum.

Windows 8 tablet freezes in Microsoft keynote demo

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@Chemist Re: So what /should/ have been done?

Reminds me of the old IBM PC error "Keyboard error - Press F1 to continue"

The old ones are the best!

SUPERCOMPUTER vs your computer in bang-for-buck battle

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Units

11/780 was the base.

When the IBM PC was launched, remember it was a 16 bit processor in an 8 bit system (8088 had an 8 bit multiplexed data bus needing two cycles to store a 16 bit word), and was only clocked at 4.77 MHz. In the Personal Computer World BASIC benchmarks, the BBC micro could whip the ass off the IBM PC in performance terms, although this should not be a suggestion that Linpack results would be the same.

I always regarded an original 6MHz PC/AT as about the same processing power as a PDP 11/34, although that was only on a subjective feeling, and a VAX 11/780 was much more powerful than my 11/34.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


A real supercomputer is a lot more than just processing power.

The current systems I am working with (still on the top 500 - just) are split (very approximately) equally cost-wise between processing, networking and storage.

The interlink is important for massively parallel jobs, and there is no point in crunching numbers if you can't store the results. Linpack can be a very misleading benchmark.

From server to end user: What's coming up for NFS?

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Re: Server-Side Copy

Yes, if you are able to make one NFS server talk directly do another, without using a client computer. But I think that if you use SCP with two remote locations, the data still travels through your local machine, in-and-out.

Trusted computing: It's BACK, and already in a pocket near you

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


That's all.

It's game over for pinball pioneer

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


I miss being able to go into an arcade and spend an hour or so bashing steel balls around a table. It's a great way of letting off steam. I used to be able to get a replay on my regular tables almost every game, which made it quite cheap! Oh, the feel of the flippers and the buffers and kickers...

Every now and then I will find a table in good enough nick to be worth playing, and I still have some of my skill. I went into a pub a few years ago with some friends, saw a table that I had never played before, and still managed to get two replays from the 50p I put in. Pissed off my mates who thought I must have been in before.

I live in a tourist oriented seaside town and I cannot find a single table worth playing here. It's sad really.

Court rejects Tesla’s latest libel spat with Top Gear

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

200 miles per day

I used to commute 96 miles each way daily for over three years. It's not that unusual. I currently have a 'short' commute of about 45 miles each way. And when was the last time that you left on a journey without any means of refuelling with less that a 25% margin or error? Who knows when you will get stuck in traffic/diverted? I certainly would not want to do more than a 150 mile journey in a car with a maximum range of 200.

Also, 200 is when it is new. How will it work after a years worth of daily recharging?

Met Office wants better supercomputer to predict extreme weather

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: make greater use of probabilistic information in their weather forecasts

The way the weather is presented in the media is controlled by the media, not the Met Office.

It's true that some, like the BBC, actually use Met Office forecasters, but the presentation style is normally controlled by the broadcaster, not the forecasters.

If you want to see isobars, look at the Met Office web site (try the link http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/weather/uk/surface_pressure.html directly), not the forecast on the telly.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Helps if you actually forecast

Try the localised detailed forecast from the Met Office's web site, rather than relying on some summary forecast where the poor forecaster has to cram some approximation of the weather for a region the size of several counties into a few 10's of seconds.

You might as well try to describe the colour of London as seen from Google Earth in 10 words or less.

IBM puts AIX 5.3 on extended life support

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Version numbering and catchup

I agree with your comments on version numbering. There is not that difference in the outward appearance of AIX 5.3 and AIX 7.1. Under the covers, there have been quite a lot of changes, including dynamic partition migration, more control of WPAR isolation, support of more logical CPUs, USB storage support and up to 4 threads per core.

A lot of the changes are targeted to the very largest systems, but this is not really a problem because what features that you need are not in AIX already? I'm not including things like Gnome and KDE, because they are not really part of the OS. DBUS maybe? Remember that AIX has never really been a desktop OS, and much of that Linux innovation has been in things that are really applicable to personal systems rather than servers.

I don't rate your comparison of AIX and Ubuntu LTS. In the same time I have been working with AIX 5.3, I've gone from Ubuntu Dapper Drake (6.06), Hardy Hedgehog (8.04), and Lucid Lynx (10.04).

IBM have always clear about the lifetime of it's OS products. End of marketing is always announced at least a year before it is actually withdrawn (and normally soon after the +2 version is announced), and there is normally at least a year of support from End-of-Marketing to End-of-Support, and then there is always extended support for customers prepared to pay. And after that, the mature AIX product (which after so long in support is likely to have had all of the serious problems fixed) will have the fixes available on fixcentral for a couple of years more.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Related to ongoing contracts that are late and run on AIX 5.3 perhaps

PTF stands for Program Temporary Fix.

AIX 5.3 was actually released in 2004, and the product lifetime cycle published on Fix Central has indicated that TL12 would go out-of-general support later this year as early as this time last year.

This means that AIX 5.3 will have had a lifetime of over seven years, and if you take into account extended support, will be more like 9 years.

TPM's article has several errors in it to do with dates and functionality of earlier versions of AIX (like LPARs being introduced in AIX 5.1). I've sent a correction, so we will have to see whether the article is fixed.

Now Proview seeks ban on ALL iPads coming out of China

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

SciFi got there first

Larry Niven based the whole of one of his literary universes around a society who 'harvest' body parts from convicted felons. His conclusion was that eventually people would end up being broken up for offences as serious as jay-walking and tax evasion.

Look up "Flatlander" or "Gil the Arm" if you are interested in reading the stories.

iPads seized from shelves by Chinese officials

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


Only those destined for the Chinese internal market. Anything sold in other countries would be subject to cases in each country in question.

Of course, in China anything could happen, given that their legal system is very different. But I think that many companies would re-consider using China as a manufacturing base if the Chinese authorities were to start confiscating goods destined for sale outside of China.

CSC confirms $1.5bn NHS IT write-off

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Money going back?

Who said anything about money going back?

This is all about money they have spent that has not resulted in payments coming from the customer. Still a quite good thing from the NHS's point of view, but I'm sure everyone really wanted a working, applicable system developed within the budget.

Still, not sure whether that was ever possible.

EFF helps MegaUpload users claw legit stuff back from Feds

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


Not sure if you are still reading, but I am a sysadmin using LTO tapes in my daily life.

Even if the tapes are still readable in 30 years time (debatable), are you still going to have a device that will read them reliably in 10 years? In my time as an admin (~30 years), I've used 1/2" mag tapes, DecTapeII, QIC cartridges, 1, 2, 5 and 20GB 8mm Exebyte, 4mm DAT, DLT, IBM 3840 and 3570 cartridges, and even Sinclair Microdrives. All of them are now obsolete, and I would expect that of all of them, you would probably have better success finding someone who could read 1/2" tapes than any of the other formats. LTO says that it will read and write current generation and last generation tapes, and read one previous generation, but that is all that is guaranteed.

Also think of floppies. Remember 8" floppies? I still have some (out of nostalgia because I can't read them). 5.25", 3", 3.5". All dead. Jazz drives and the others. Gone and mostly forgotten.

Disks are no good either. ST506 Shugart is dead. ESDI is dead. Older SCSI is dead, IDE and EIDE are dying, even the older SATA disks will not be able to be connected at some time in the near future.

My view is that CD and DVD still have some life left in them as backup. I just wish I could trust them more.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

My rule is...

...put it on a hosting site for others to see and for my convenience when I am away from home, but keep my own copies it on the most persistent media I can find. For extremely valuable information, keep copies outside of the home as well! Unfortunately, what counts as a persistent media at the moment. I'm finding writeable CDs from the late 90's are already becoming a bit dodgy.

Having said that, I must backup my laptop. Ho hum, I'm busy, so that will have to will wait for another day(!)

Revealed: Apple's plea for fairness in mobile patent war

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@AC re: "Perfectly useable"

I still power my Palm Treo 650 up and marvel at how much easier it is to do so many of the day-to-day things than any of the smartphones I have had since. Granted it is not as powerful, and is not a 3G device, but it does (with some added apps I admit) 80% of what I do on my current Android. And the battery lasts close on a working week with light use, even after 7 years.

So much so that it is still in my bag, charged, with a PAYG sim in it as my backup phone.

Shame it does not run Angry Birds, though!

Quarter of Wolfram Alpha brainteasers come from Siri

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@Marvin re:R is an emulation of S

If there are any R proponents here, I'm sure they will dispute this. R is indeed a re-implementation of S, but it has evolved hugely. AFAIK, development in S stopped sometime in the mid 1990's (I was using it in about 1987). I don't even know if S is in the AT&T Toolchest any more.

Of all of the tools listed in the OP, R/S is about the only tool that covers a significant proportion of what Mathematica can, and is the only one that can (creditably) claim to have pre-dated it. All of the others have been produced for part of what Mathematica can by those who could not afford it.

The only other thing that I came across that was used to do similar things was SPSS, but that was originally not a package in itself, but allowed you to do data manipulation more easily from inside other programs. I think that it has changed since I used it in 1980!

Has Microsoft finally killed off Windows 8 Start button?

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

There's other problems here

Many users will transition from XP directly to Windows 8 when MS finally convince people that older versions of IE are insecure, and they nagware that is Automatic Update starts shouting that there are no more fixes even to SP3.

So what some commenters here are seeing as incremental change XP->Vista->7->8 will appear like a big-bang.

I personally cannot abide any interface where I have to drill down to what I regard as the root window in order to open something new. I want and need something that gets out of my way when I am not using it, but can be called up when I do. I tend to set autohide on any/all UIs that I use, and run with several overlapping windows on multiple virtual desktops obscuring any 'tiles' or desktop icons. This is one of the main reasons I don't like Unity and probably won't like Windows 8 if this article is correct.

Looks like I am condemned to be a technical dinosaur, at least as far as mainstream UIs.

UK gov rejects call to posthumously pardon Alan Turing

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@AC re: House of Lards - A heriditary house?

Probably not, but a second chamber, quite definitely.

But most of the hereditary peers were removed from the house by the last administration. Those peers that remain are selected life peers who have been elevated for their contribution to the country, and society as a whole (or at least that is the aim). As a result, they are supposed to be respected, and as such are given some power to ask the government to reconsider prospective legislation, which is a good idea.

The real problem is that although a second house is a thoroughly good idea, it must be disconnected from the House of Commons by having a completely different selection mechanism. There is no point in making it elected in the same time-scales as the lower house, because it then becomes just a rubber stamp body, reflecting the same issues that were in vogue when the election was held.

I for one feel that a house selected by merit is a suitable system. Maybe there should be a time limit on how long members of the Lords should be allowed to remain, but if the AC actually bothered to watch Lords debates on the BBC Parliament channel, then I think that they would be surprised about how interesting and well informed some of the speeches are. I was particularly impressed by a seemingly old foagy (can't remember who it was, I really should find out) standing up in the Lords during the ID card debates and making one of the most reasoned and interesting 20 minute contributions to the debate that I have ever heard. Changed my perspective completely.

Colorfly Pocket Hi-Fi C4

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


I read the sentence about Beats and Bose, and just had to hit the upvote!

In addition to all of your thoughts, I'm pretty worried about what pocket lint will do to the volume slider after a few weeks.

Android dominates first-time smartphone buyer biz

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

The upgrade stats will be skewed

because there are more users of older iPhones who will probably want another iPhone, and rather fewer Android users from the same generation who are actually be in the position to upgrade.

It may also be that the users of Desires et. al. are still happy with their phones, and see no reason to upgrade.

Run the survey again in a year to 18 months when more of the older Android phones become obsolete (not able to run beyond FroYo), and see what it says.

IBM bit-twiddlers want point releases for big iron

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

PCIe 3.0

Interesting thoughts about PCIe, but by exposing the GX+ bus on almost all of it's models, IBM has had the ability to side-step some of the bottlenecks associated with slower I/O buses.

Of course, this does require having suitable adaptor cards, but if you look at the P6 IH (P6 575) supercomputer nodes that IBM sold three years ago, the main interconnect was provided by 2 quad Infiniband cards plugged directly into the GX+ bus to give these systems the required grunt without having to use PCI or PCIe cards.

The downside of this is that you are forced to buy whatever offering IBM has, because very few third party hardware vendors will actually be interested in the investment required to produce such cards.

The Register Comments Guidelines

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

I doubt

changing your handle will make a difference for moderation. The mods will identify the account by the login name, not the handle.

I don't know what their policy is on registering two accounts against different email addresses. I thought I read somewhere that it was either discouraged, or maybe that it was enough to get the accounts suspended.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@madra - Hope this was meant in a light-hearted manner!

So you're wanting to ban some of the non-English first language commentards, as well as those not as educated as yourself?

Whilst I find it difficult to read some of the comments written in poor English, I have known many people with very valid technical information and comments who do not have English as their first language. I think I can put up with poor grammar so long as the comment has substance.

I think that those who use bad grammar as a reason to shout down a comment they don't like is just as bad as gratuitous use of poor English.

If your comment was tongue-in-cheek , then might I suggest that you use the Joke Alert! icon, rather than the Troll icon.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

I feel the registers forums have lost something

I just wanted to point out that I had a visible (on the forums) conversation with the The Register's then most celebrated moderator about having the reason for comments being rejected made known. What has been detailed in the new rules may go some way to getting what I asked for. IIRC, Drew was also in on the exchange, which should still be visible.

I didn't have to mention The Moderatrix's name, but I wanted to express my continued feeling of loss of the witty banter that typified us the commentard's collective exchanges with her.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

At last

Does this mean that we may get some feedback about why some comments are deemed unpublishable.

I had a long exchange with Sarah on the last comments rule article about wanting to be told why some comments were rejected. I try to self moderate, but I do have comments rejected on an infrequent basis.

I know that what you have said here is not quite that, but it's a step in the right direction IMHO.

I miss Sarah. It's just not the same trying to bait the rest of you to jump into a comment trail!

Court defies Apple demand to ban Samsung tablet

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Funnily enough

I have temporary custodianship of one of these while I try to get the calibration of the screen correct for Ubuntu.

It uses the FinePoint driver (which has, unfortunately, been pulled from Xorg's source tree now), and I cannot get the scaling and offsets to make the pointer accurately follow the touchscreen. And no, the documentation about the values to put in the xorg.conf and the sample calibration utility do not work as the documentation says (at least for this system). I can get the offsets set correctly for the top left of the screen, but the scaling makes the pointer fly off the right and bottom sides with minor movements regardless of the numbers in the configuration file. It looks like there may be an overflow or a divide by zero in the offset calculations in the driver going by the errors in the xorg.log file. I've not had the chance to look through the source yet. If anybody has any ideas, I would be interested. Ubuntu 10.4 (the last release with the touch screen driver in Xorg) also cannot drive the nvidia display correctly with hardware acceleration turned on.

Unfortunately, even if I get it working, it's still unreasonably slow, with the example I have it's got a 1GHz Transmeta Crusoe processor (which is another interesting point about this machine), so even when loaded with the maximum supported memory, it's still not going to be very usable.

LG 3D TV ads misled buyers, judges watchdog

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

I understood that

Sky's HD service was 1080i.

Of course, what you see is dependent on the original quality of the material (up-scaled SD Simpsons will never look good). If you have Sky HD and at least a 1080i TV connected through HDMI, look at some of the HD documentary channels. Unfortunately, too many of these carry up-scaled material much of the time, but you will see some real HD. Some of the BBC sport coverage is also very good (I remember my first Wimbledon in HD, which really showed the difference).

As somebody else pointed out, BlueRay can be full 1080p, as can some of the games consoles.

Most EU states sign away internet rights, ratify ACTA treaty

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

What we have is a Representative Democracy

You are represented by the person who obtained the majority vote in their (your) constituency.

Not only can you not vote for your MP or MEP at the next election, you also have the ABSOLUTE RIGHT to lobby them to hear and your concerns, and if sufficient interest is expressed to convince them, act on the concerns. Obviously there are limits (don't go stalking your MP, use the surgery process and letters and email), but you should give it a go sometime. You also have the same right to lobby members of the upper house when legislation passes to the House of Lords.

What breaks this is the Party system, that imposes a whip on the way that they vote. In my view, there should be no such thing as the party whip in Parliamentary votes, and MPs should be free to vote in line with what a majority of their constituents want. This would, however, make passing legislation and running a government much more difficult.

Unfortunately, it is necessary to have a representative system for all but the most important issues (where you have a referendum), because the great unwashed masses (and in fact, many of your MPs) are really not interested in the minutia of day-to-day government. When was the last time any of my fellow UK citizens even bothered to watch the BBC Parliament channel, let alone read Hansard or attend parliamentary sessions, and this is often the most interesting bits!

E. coli turns seaweed into ethanol

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


I though nucleosynthesys during the Big-Bang went further. Wikipedia suggests that it went no further than beryllium. I was obviously wrong. OK, just supernovae.

I Am (obviously) Not An Astrophysicist either!

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@Runcible - OK, obvious contradiction.

Comes of going back after writing a post and adding to it and clicking submit without re-reading it properly. Yes, heavy elements were pre-solar, but pretty much everything else is some form of solar energy. Still not helpful for the discussion, though.

My apologies.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


I like the idea of floating farms, although the energy that falls on the surface of the deep oceans is used by free-floating plankton at the base of the food hierarchy, and also produces the warm water and water vapour that conditions the weather systems. Capture the energy, cool the oceans, and starve the animals in the deep.

As people like Robert Heinlein and others before him said, There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch!

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@Richard Ball

All energy on Earth is in some way directly or indirectly solar powered. All wind, wave, bio, hydro, ground heat, and fossil fuel comes from the Sun (some may argue that wave power may be driven by tidal forces, but the energy derived is effectively potential energy left over from when the moon was captured, as a result of gravity maintained by the gravity wells in the solar system, the largest of which is the Sun's)

Even nuclear and geothermal power relies on processes long ago that were caused by the Sun (accretion during the formation of the solar system).

You may possibly claim that the heavy fissionable elements are actually left over from the Big-Bang or supernovae, I suppose. If we ever get hydrogen fusion reactors, that would be the first energy source that has nothing to do with the Sun.

Anyway, it's all Entropy.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


If you take energy out of a system (or even an eco-system), it is no longer there for what it is currently used for.

The seaweed will currently be passing the energy it gathers up the food hierarchy in one way or another (what eats it either when it is alive or even when it is dead). Removing a large amount of energy by harvesting it is likely to affect filter feeders and sea-born bacteria and krill. Remove these, and you eventually take out things like crabs, prawns and other invertebrates, and then all of the things that prey on those, for example cod and the other large fish (remember, even large fish are very small when they first hatch, and will live on the even smaller things). Also, the seaweed will provide a habitat for animals that may not actually eat the seaweed, and harvesting will damage or destroy this.

Of course, this is no different from any other intensive agriculture (aquaculture?), but when we started cutting down the forests, planting crops and breeding sheep and cows on the land, we did not have environmentalists telling us how much the land would change!

Power7 chips going for a song in Big Blue January sale

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

We've still not seen Power7+ announced

so it may be that this is making space for upcoming higher-performance systems within existing products, and doing it early to try to maximise the amount of the existing systems sold before any announcement.

Poll: Linux's big data guzzling worries melt away

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


A 'checkstop' is a detected CPU failure (such things as an internal register parity error). A re-startable checkstop is one where the instruction being executed can be restarted from the beginning in order to retry the instruction.

This may be IBM only terminology but I'm surprised you cannot find it in search engines. If you search for 'checkstop', 'powerpc' and 'restart' you will find references, and it is used when discussing mainframe and Power processors.

From experience, some processors either crash or silently return incorrect results to the application (I've not looked after systems with very recent Intel or AMD processors, so the hardware capability may now be in these). IBM hardware will attempt to re-run the instruction, and if it still generates an error, will de-configure the CPU (if it is a multi-CPU system) while still allowing the system to run. It will probably kill the process that was running when the checkstop happened, but the system will keep running. But even re-startable checkstops are reported through to the error log to warn you that there may be a hardware problem creeping into a system.

I agree that this was not mentioned in the original article, but I was commenting on my perception that none of the Linux distributions I have seen have the same degree of RAS as the proprietary UNIX systems out there.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

I'm all for Linux in the datacentre...

...but (and you knew it was coming), I find that as a sysadmin looking after Linux and UNIX systems, I get much better feedback about the health and stability of my UNIX systems than I do from Linux.

It's fine as long as everything is running well, but when things start going wrong, the proprietary error logging extensions that are present in most UNIXes make it much easier to spot and fix problems than Linux on generic hardware.

Such things as ECC memory having to fix memory corruption errors, or disks having to re-read data multiple times or relocate sectors, or CPUs taking a re-startable check-stop. UNIX (in this case AIX) tell me this is happening, even if the system kept running. If I'm lucky on Linux, I may be able to find out disk errors by examining the S.M.A.R.T disk interface, but I would not want to have to do this for all 3000+ disks that run in the environment I currently work in. And the other errors....

Of course, if you are in a cloudy environment which is designed to be able to cope with systems falling out of the environment (e.g. Google, Amazon), then this may not really be a big problem, and that is probably where Linux is gaining acceptance.

Apple launches three-pronged education assault

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@AC 21:38

From my days as a student (very dim, I must admit), I remember the regular jamboree in the student union bookshop buying as many second-hand text books from my reading list as I could in order to save some money. I never felt the need to sell them again, but I know friends who did.

I can't see that happening with iBooks (even it it were legal!), so there may be a fault in the business model, although give students an incentive to break the DRM on the eBooks, and they probably will.

NASA shuts off Voyager 1's central heating

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@Sceptic Tank

It's amanfromMars1. You are expected to read it several times to get the meaning (if there is one). Click on the name in the comments and see some of his other 1854 (and counting) posts to get some practice reading his style.

Windows 8 hardware rules 'derail user-friendly Linux'

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

May last post was directed at AC@18/01/12 18:35

See comment.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

1 - A responsible company would patch it and re-sign it. Others could then include that in their repository.

2 - Yes I agree. Because Windows is more secure than DOS, it is completely possible that they could lock it down in a manner that would prevent chain loaders from working.

3 - Yes again, and this is what I was referring to when I said 'marketing pressure'. I am completely aware of the discount that MS could withdraw from manufacturers. I have commented on this in these forums in the past.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


I don't think that all ARM devices would be thus locked; only those that are destined to run Windows 8.

MS would have to use some marketing pressure (like providing a large discount on Windows 8 to the HW manufacturers if they promise to only include an MS key), but this probably will not matter, because there will be ARM devices that will be sold not running Windows 8. If MS attempt to stifle other OSs on generic devices, then I'm sure that Google would be quite happy to see them in court.

E_Nigma: There are many reasons Linux is only at 1% of the market, and most of them revolve around MS making it difficult for a vendor to sell a system without Windows, and the fact that most people who buy PC's don't really care about the OS provided that they can do everything they want. A huge number of them (those that do not run games mostly) could cope with Linux quite happily, but are never given the chance. With things like Silverlight gaining traction, however, this is becoming a bit more difficult (blame MS again!)

BTW. I would guess that your statement that "PC users have been expected to be smart enough to pop into BIOS and toggle a single on/off setting" is not quite as inclusive as you suggest. Finger in the air, I would suggest that less that 25% of all PC users even know what the BIOS is. Your statement may have been true 10 years ago, but I know lots and lots and lots of people who do not watch or care about what comes up on the screen before Windows presents them with either a login screen or desktop, and would not how to get in to the BIOS without someone telling them.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

I've not missed the point

although it is possible that I did not make it clear enough. MS should not be the only software company allowed to provide keys to be installed in UEFI as part of anti-monopoly legislation.

As long as there is one key in the UEFI to allow grub to be signed by a responsible company, then this is all that is needed, and this need key not be 'owned' by MS. Once you have a signed Grub, it is not necessary to sign all Linux kernels separately. So all it takes is for RedHat, Canonical, IBM or Google to apply for and hopefully be granted the right to add a key, provide the key to the HW manufacturers, and they would be able to provide a signed Grub image for the rest of the community. I'm sure that most HW vendors would consider adding a single non-MS key if it was provided by a reputable company - that is unless MS use their market power to dominate the HW manufacturers.

As a matter of interest, there used to be a mechanism of booting other code using what was called a 'chain-loader' that would run from DOS (it's that old) and overlay DOS with another OS. I know that Windows is a different beast and is much more secure, and there would still be the 'Windows Tax' to pay, but this may be another way around this type of issue.

I think that MS would be in for a serious anti-competitive lawsuit in the US if they prevented another software vendor from being able to have a key included in the UEFI. That would effectively mean that they would have a monopoly on all PCs sold, even if there was a way to add additional keys.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Signing keys

It's interesting to think how this works. To me, it looks like the first executable run off media by UEFI must me signed with something that acts like a checksum and a cryptographic key in order to be executed. It must act like a checksum to prevent a previously signed piece of code from being subverted after-the-fact. The key or certificate must also be part of the executable.

In the current Linux space, the affected component would be Grub. Once Grub was running, anything could be run as far as I can see.

So surely, it is not the Linux kernel that needs to be signed, but Grub. This is a much easier thing to achieve. Grub is rarely re-compiled by normal users, so a canned, signed installation should be possible.

A preview of SOPA: Web shut down before my eyes

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

JCB and Union Pay

It does not matter where the card payment system is run from, if the US administration decides and has legislation that would prevent that operator from processing payments from/to US banks, then the location of the card operator is irrelevant.

Say, for the sake of argument, a US person used a foreign credit card to pay for a service outside of the US, if that person was not able to pay the credit card company back (because no US bank would be allowed to transfer funds to the card operator because they were on a blacklist), then the payment vector soon becomes unusable to US customers. This would be in addition to it being unable to operate as a payment processor in the US as well.

If the person tried to use some off-shore method of paying the card, then eventually they would either be pulled up by the money laundering legislation that the US and western countries have, or that offshore financial organisation would also be black listed.

Even in these times of financial stricture, the US is still an important enough market that non-US financial organisations try to keep within the US's obnoxious rules. And sufficient numbers of foreign governments follow the US (and Japan where JCB is based is one of these) will just roll over and let the US walk all over their national legislation.

The US is too powerful, and becoming too led by business to be fought, unfortunately. I think we will all see this over the next 5 years, unless the dollar looses it's pre-eminent position of de-facto world currency (replaced by Renminbi perhaps?), there is nothing that can stop this.

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Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Orange Broadband

sent me a pre-configured router, but also included the set-up info for another device.

I had actually already deduced that the standard BT set-up (I'm not in an LLU area) worked in my already installed router, and got the thing working two days before the 'official' start of service date.

Previously, I was a Virgin ADSL (not cable) customer, and they encouraged a 'bare wires' service with no router when I first switched to ADSL 10 years ago.

I never intend to use a service that does not allow me to install my own router, and even then I have a separate firewall between the ADSL router and my internal network just so I can be sure that if the ADSL router is compromised, my internal network is still safe.

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Peter Gathercole Silver badge

This is novel

Does this article announce that you've been blessed by the Register!

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


If I look at my posts today, then I appear to be able to approve or reject my own posts. Not sure whether this is a good thing, or even if it is intended!

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