* Posts by Peter Gathercole

2924 posts • joined 15 Jun 2007

Sinclair ZX81: 30 years old

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


It was not called FPGA, although the technology was similar. The real name was a ULA, or Uncommitted Logic Array, which was a bleading edge technology in 1980/81, invented by Ferranti, a British company.

The ZX81, Spectrum and BBC Micro all had ULA's in them, to consolidate the function of dozens of 7400 TTL chips into a single large chip.

Unfortunately, the technology was still immature, and the production problems that Ferranti had were a large part of the shipping problems for all of the systems mentioned. I waited for nearly 6 months to get my BBC model B that had been ordered as soon as Acorn would take orders.

By the time later systems came along, it was possible to have your own design of chip fabricated moderately cheaply, so the ULA died an ignominious death

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@stucs201 re. MK14

Are you sure it was a MK14? Many universities used a KIM-1 (produced by Commodore, at least at the end), which was a similar product but used a MOSTEK 6502 rather than the Nat. Semi SC/MP which is what I believe was in the MK14.

I remember having to write a sine-wave generator on a KIM-1, and I managed to get a higher resolution wave than everyone else by having a lookup table with just 1/4 of the whole cycle in the lookup table, whereas everybody else had at least a half cycle (and some of them stupidly coded the whole cycle). Fitting it into 512 BYTES was a real challenge. But then I also managed to write a simple lunar lander on the Sinclair Cambridge programmable calculator in just 32 program steps!

Solution found for climate change: Nuclear war

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Nuclear fission sustainable?

I'm playing devils advocate here, because I'm pro-nuclear, but I would suggest that the amount of fissionable material on Earth is limited just like any other earthbound energy resource.

This means that in the long term, you cannot use 'sustainable' in connection to nuclear.

The way I look at it is that the Earth has many energy resources, but because of entropy, they are all limited to one extent or another. Fossil fuels are stored energy from the Sun, nuclear fission is heavy elements (from the death of older stars) acquired during the formation of the Solar system), nuclear fusion is light elements probably from the formation of the Sun, wind and ocean currents are driven mainly by solar energy from the Sun, tide is gravitational (mainly from the Moon, and tidal drag is causing the Moon to slow down and approach the Earth so even this is finite), geothermal is (probably) natural nuclear fission (see above) combined with tidal effects from the moon, biofuels are capturing energy from the Sun and direct solar is (obviously) from the Sun.

So if you discount total matter conversion (and boy would that be useful), and fusion of hydrogen electrolysed from water (finite on Earth but lots of it), all energy except direct and indirect solar energy is limited. And the Sun won't last forever!

PlayStation hacker defiantly posts 'bible' following police raid

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@AC re firmware licenses

I have not checked, but I'm fairly certain that the license is valid and legal as long as you own the device, whether it is working or not (otherwise you may not have a valid license if the device breaks and you then repair it).

One thing I am not too certain about is transfer of the license. In the Microsoft and IBM EULA's (mainly software) that I've read in the past, there are often quite stringent and restrictive rules applied to the transfer of the license. I'm not sure what happens to the license for Sony devices if you give away a device that contains licensed firmware. Does the recipient have license to use it? Do they have to accept the EULA, and if so, how do they know about it? Can they be held to something if they have no right of return of the original device? All interesting questions. Anybody any ideas?

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@Daniel Palmer

I'm taking issue with your "if you wanted to run Linux you should have bought a PC" line.

The Cell processor is interesting and different from any Intel/AMD/ARM processor that you will find in commodity PC and other hardware, and using a PS3 to run Linux was the cheapest and easiest way of getting access to it. It is not for you to say that it has no value, that is down to the person doing it. As an intellectual exercise, being able to program a Cell has serious merit to some people (I know, I have talked to some of them)

It is quite clear that Sony did something that had significant impact to a part of their customer base (even if it was only a small part), and that should be investigated. But two wrongs do not make a right, so publishing details of a hack that includes Sony IP is almost certainly against copyright legislation. But if the hack includes no Sony code or firmware, then I'm not sure whether that is illegal. If all that was published was a technique utilising an API, especially if the API was itself published, then I don't think (and IANAL) that that would actually count as copyright infringement.

What may be an issue is whether identifying the technique is against national implementations of the European Union Copyright Directive. This is actually more restrictive than DMCA when it comes to breaking a protection, but as that is not direct legislation, you need to see how any country has enacted it into their own lawbook.

I believe that of all of the European Union countries, Germany is the one that has enacted the EUCD most closely in their national legislation, so he may actually be being accused of an offence against that, rather than straight forward copyright infringement. This means that he may be on very shaky ground.

Woman sentenced for breaching former employer's PCs

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


I think this is US "pants", i.e. trousers, slacks etc, rather than UK "pants", i.e. knickers, briefs (or in the US vernacular "panties"). Unorthodox, but not quite so kinky.

If it was her undergarments, I would hope it was a 2.5" drive rather than a 3.5". Ouch.

Turn your mobile phones in to a live gig speaker

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


Silly me. If I had read the referenced article, it is actually clear that this is what is done (and actually says that simple radios would not work). But unfortunately, the Reg. article was trimmed, and the relevant information was one of the bits that was removed. Just proves that it is important not to take Reg. articles at face value, something I should have learned by now.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Obvious flaw

OK, are you are using one FM frequency per phone? I can't see this scaling well.

I would guess that if you had a number of frequencies corresponding to fixed distances from the stage, you could use a GPS app. in the phone to select the correct frequency based on what your phone thinks is the distance from the stage, but you would then have 'banding' where the person immediately in front of you is apparently in a different band, and gets the music out-of-sync to you. I'd have to do some math to see whether this is likely to be a problem, and also to see how many rings, and thus how many frequencies you would need for say Central Park or one of the big stadiums.

Another thought. If they told you the distance from the stage, and gave you the correct frequency (maybe on information posts in the venue) why use a smart phone at all. An ordinary FM radio with a digital tuner (or any phone with an FM radio) would suffice. Or maybe repeater speakers as part of the sound rig using a similar system. That way it could be encrypted, and not give the show away at all.

Thunderbolt: A new way to hack Macs

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@Steve McPolin re. IB and RDMA

I do not agree with your comparison between Firewire and Infiniband.

Let me say that I am not an Infiniband programmer, but I do support HPC systems using IB and RDMA. Having said that, I do understand, IMHO, a bit about how RDMA is implemented, at least on the UNIX systems I support.

RDMA is a way for a one-sided communication (amongst other things), that allows a system (A) to perform a memory operation in another system's (B) memory space without the involvement of the second system's OS. But that does not mean that the system B is completely divorced from the transfer process, nor does it mean that A has full, unrestricted access to B's memory.

Before an RDMA operation can be performed in IB on UNIX, system B has to set up a memory region, and also set up an access window to that region to allow system A to use it. System B is then given access to that region without B's involvement, but cannot (as long as there is no flaw in the HW/FW/SW stack) go outside that region.

This means that it is perfectly possible to have the benefits of RDMA without compromising the security of the entire OS, and if a long-term window is set up (say, for an HPC type workload that runs for some time and uses the window for many transfers), the involvement of the OS on B is limited to setting up the window at the beginning, and breaking it down at the end of it's use.

Now I do not know whether Thunderbolt has this ability, or if it has, whether it is configured and used in MacOS, but just because RDMA is available does not mean that the system is completely compromised.

From what I read about Firewire (and this is just from the Web), the default was that RDMA was turned on, and was not limited by default. This is really the flaw, and could almost certainly be addressed by careful system administration, but if you don't know what to fix, you won't do it. I have heard other stories from various Web resources that Firewire really did have this flaw, and that it could really be exploited by plugin hardware. Even if the quoted example illustrates flawed system administration, just think how much useful information can be gleaned from direct access to the memory of a system.

Unfortunately, the good ideas of the hardware engineers do not always match with the requirements of real-world environments. But you would have thought that someone in the driver design process would have gone "..Hang on a minute, don't you think that this is opens a security hole...", but then I have seen too little joined up thinking in large organizations recently. Too many people still think that a PC is personal.

I reserve my judgement on Thunderbolt until there is more information.

Council loses USB of patient records

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

I'm normally on the side of the employee

but in this case, if the published policy was to use encrypted sticks, the worker was given an encrypted stick, and was told to use the encrypted stick, but subsequently didn't merely 'because they had problems', and then did not get the problems addressed, this should be a serious disciplinary issue.

The employee should be reprimanded at the very least, and if the employment policies allow, held up in front to the rest of the work force to illustrate how important these things are. This is especially true if they are in any position of seniority.

If this is not done, the excuse will always be that 'it is an education issue', and we will see these things happening more and more.

German Foreign Office kills desktop Linux, hugs Windows XP

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@david 12 re MS Office EULA

Interesting. I went there, and was prompted to download a .EXE file that contained a PDF and and XPS file.

WTF? An EXE file!!! What's wrong with a straight-forward download of the PDF? This is MS obfuscation at it's worst.

Indeed, on the page for reading the license terms there is the following

"Supported Operating Systems:Windows 2000;Windows Server 2003;Windows Vista;Windows XP"


As I am using a Linux system at an enlightened organization at the moment, a .EXE file is of little use without some form of MS tie in. Sort of undermines your comment a bit.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@ac re:err

OK. You do that, and you get a list of every style used, including the standard styles which have been slightly modified.

I had to take an MS Word document a few years ago which had been hacked together from several different documents, and do some work on it. When looking at the styles, each time one of the source documents had been modified, or the template changed, and then parts cut out and pasted together, you got another variant of the same style. In the list of styles, I had about 60 listed, many of which, from their name, should have been the same style.

It took me the best part of a week to trawl through the document, eliminating the minor variations, and consolidating the styles together. I got the number of used styles down to about a dozen.

This is not necessarily a problem with Word, but in the fact that most people who use word processors that use styles don't actually know how to use styles properly (I admit that I didn't know before cleaning this mess up).

In my view, this reinforces my view that ALL current word processors are too complex, and all most people need (even those writing quite complex documents) is something only a little more beefy than Wordpad.

I admit that I am biased, as I was an n/troff and runoff user before I came across Word 2 on DOS 2.1. I didn't like Word then, and I have to say, I would prefer not to use it now.

Ten... over-ear headphones

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Music ain't what it used to be

When I used to read the Hi-Fi press, music was all about live and recorded and listened to in acoustically favourable surroundings. The nirvana was having an acoustically neutral room built around the sound system.

The music quality was important then, and everybody was striving to have the music sound like it did when it was played.

Nowadays, it is only classical music, and a very small amount of audiophile recordings that have this goal. Almost everything else will be autotuned, compressed, expanded, mixed, spatially processed and otherwise messed around with to death.

As a result, it's pointless paying this much for headphones if you are listening to modern recording, distributed digitally in any lossy format, in noisy environments. Pay a few 10's of pounds for something that is comfortable and produces a sound you like, and buy a few pairs.

My current set for everyday use are generic ear-canal, Omega brand (a crap stick-the-name-on-anything brand) that cost 6 quid that I found by trial and error. The sound is adequate, even with uncompressed audio, they block external noise out well, and they are so cheap that I don't worry about breaking or loosing them. And I don't look like a twat wearing them on the tube (not that I ride the tube often). I do have a couple of pairs of in-ear Sennheiser 'phones which I prefer the sound of, but I worry about knackering them every time I pull them. out of my pocket.

My home based Hi-Fi, which was always best-of-breed at purchase time low-to midrange kit (cherry picked NAD, Project, JVC, Technics and a pair of ancient Keesonic [niche brand from 25 years ago] speakers) has a pair of mid-range over-ear Sennheisers, and a paid of elderly Beyer-Dynamic headphones. I am very happy with the sound, and must people still go Wow! when they compare it to their modern systems. Especially when playing vinyl!

Bring back real music, that's what I say. Especially get rid of autotune. Anybody who can't sing in tune without this should be boo'd off stage.

Make it Intel: CSIRO needs new kit to replace supercomputer

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Does something this small

actually count as a supercomputer?

MS fesses on silent security fixes

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


So bearing in mind how many MS bugs we've known about in the past, how many more were fixed silently? Does that make a further mockery of some of the "Linux - Get the Facts" campaign that they ran a few years back?

Nvidia pledges to pass water on Core 2 Duo this summer

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Protected names

Kal-El might be a bit of a problem, but I can't imagine that the same would be true about Wayne, Logan or Stark. After all, Logan and Stark have other meanings, and if DC can prevent Wayne being used, then Mr Roonie and probably Harry Enfield would also have to look out.

IPCC chief: ANPR is 'a victim of its own success'

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

200 bytes?

Ignoring an image, why 200 bytes? Surely, Camera location, <=4 bytes (4 billion locations should be sufficient across the UK), number plate <=7 for UK plates (let's be generous and allow 10), and a timestamp, again let's be generous and allow 8 bytes (UNIX per-second timestamps can still be represented by 4 bytes until 2036).

Total, 22 bytes per record, maybe with some overhead.

Multiply by your 350 million records a day (I'm not sure if this is actually accurate, as not every vehicle is driven every day, and I want to be shown the 10 ANPR cameras a day that I pass), and you still only come up with around 10GB a day. Deem that data useless after 6 months, and you're talking about 2TB, or one current generation high end Sata disk in total.

The recorded image is only necessary if you intend to use record for enforcement (for say, driving without road tax, MOT, or insurance), but probably not for locating people by spotting their cars. If you had automatic discard of images of vehicles that were legal and not on a hit-list, then you would not need to keep all of the images anyway.

Bearing in mind that many more times that volume of data is transmitted and stored daily in any number of data applications, it does not seem too far fetched after all.

BTW. I wish to state that I do not condone this information being kept and used for tracking purposes at all. I don't mind to get illegal cars/drivers off the road, but that's it as far as I am concerned.

Police hit delete on DNA profiles

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


I agree that would be clearer, but you cannot be convicted without being charged, and it is an OR between the two, so IMHO it should be clear enough. Mind you, grammar was never my strongest subject.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: What about

Quote "The Bill orders the destruction of DNA material in most cases where a person is not charged *or convicted* of a crime."

Does that cover it?

Adobe Flash: 20m phones flip Steve Jobs the bird

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


If I read it correctly, the MPEG-LA consortium are wanting H.264 decoders in the silicon, so that to play it, you do some setup (window size and position etc.) and then just throw the encoded byte stream directly at the hardware. Almost zero CPU usage.

If this is the case, you may be able to use some of the other accelerated features for WebM, but not the direct decoding.

Again, I am happy to be corrected by someone with more knowledge.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

It means exactly what it says

using the graphic hardware for operations that you would otherwise have to use the CPU for. This includes things like, but not limited to, scaling, texture fill, pixmap copying, shading, and may go up as far as complex rendering such as hidden object removal, surface mapping, and shadow and light-source calculation. Of course, much of this is unnecessary for Flashplayer, and having a hardware H.264 decoder built into the graphics hardware is probably what MPEG-LA and it's members (including Apple) are talking about.

What Adobe may be doing is adding direct support for certain mobile graphic chipsets directly in Flash. They can do this without the graphics hardware vendors direct support if the graphics API is well enough documented. Of course, documenting such things to sufficient detail is entirely foreign to some companies.

In the PC world, much of this is not really necessary because you have abstraction layers like DirectX or OpenGL with hardware vendor support, and can have hardware accelerated graphics while only writing to one or two well-known API's. As far as I am aware, there is no such abstraction for any of the mobile platforms, but I would be happy for someone to correct me if that is not the case.

Microsoft's IE9: Don't believe the hype

Peter Gathercole Silver badge
Thumb Down

@Doug 11

Microsoft want to make IE a lever to sell Windows. As such, they need to differentiate it from Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Opera.

Unfortunately, with previous versions of IE, it appeared that their model was to make it significantly non-standards compliant but push it to become a de-facto standard so people who wanted a 'full' internet experience would be inconvenienced by the other browsers. Add a dependency between the browser and new versions of Windows (i.e. can't run IE9 on WinXP), and hey presto, you've made it so people with totally usable PC's need to upgrade to the new OS to use the 'features', adding to MS's coffers in the process.

They need to learn that this will no longer happen and indeed may backfire, so unless they embrace the standards, they will rapidly loose that lever, and will have to rely on other tactics in order to push Windows. I believe that they think that HTML5 including the H.264 codec protected by patents will be the enabler to bind people to Windows for another round of PC purchases.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: WINE ?

Yes, but they will not be running IE9 as AFAIK, there is no Vista or Win7 persona for Wine yet. What I've read appears to suggest that MS have made sufficient changes in the last two versions of Windows to require significant work from the Wine community to make it compatible.

It's official: Nokia bets on Microsoft for smartphones

Peter Gathercole Silver badge
Thumb Up

@James Hughes 1

I like to think that the moderator team enjoy us playing word games with them sometimes. I really was trying to be humorous myself, but maybe I was too subtle for some people.

If I manage to elicit a direct response from one of them once in a blue moon, then that makes all the comments I write worthwhile.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

My word. What a reaction!

Sarah. While I don't disagree with your statement, your reaction seems a bit extreme.

I know that you never claim to be without any bias, but you normally leave it to us to be quite so loud. Does this post infringe house rules 7 or 9? I would hate to see the moderator banned from the forum!

Ah. Maybe you left the screen lock off when you went for coffee or something, and it was not Sarah who wrote this!

'Race against time' to find LOST TREES from the MOON

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

How do you tell?

These are tree seeds from earth, taken out and brought back. They may have been subject to vacuum and cold, but that is probably the same as tree seeds in a seedbank.

The only way they could be identified was if they had done an FF4 and become stretchy, stone like, invisible, or could burst into flame, or had been labelled and/or otherwise recorded.

This is such a non-story.

Nokia Digital Radio Headset DAB

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

You beat me to it

I was going to say exactly the same. Sadly, my iPod died, so my Rovi is currently sitting on a shelf unloved while I listen to music and FM radio on my Android phone.

I'll take issue with the review, however. Quote - "Indeed, the more robust signal you tend to get on the move also makes up for any step down in sound quality" - Where the hell did you test this?

Whenever I try to listen on the move, the dropout rate and the bubbling mud problem from varying signal strength makes DAB impossible to listen to, especially for spoken word programmes. Try listening to a comedy show when you keep missing the punch-lines. I know I live out in the sticks, but I also have this problem travelling down the M5 within 10 miles of a major city with a correctly installed DAB radio specifically made for a car.

With FM, you get a hiss or maybe some distorted output, but you can follow a conversation. Try doing that when you completely loose the channel for seconds at a time.

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for Digital Radio, and have five in total in the house and car, but until the transmitter power levels increase, I'll be listening to FM on the move.

BTW swisstoni. The delay is caused by the time it takes to digitise the audio at source and decode in your receiver. It's never going to go away regardless of what anybody tries to do. You could try buying a more expensive receiver, but there is no guaranteeing that it will have a faster processor in it, and would only address the decoding side. I'm afraid you will just have to learn to live with it.

Subdued RM says government cuts challenge its business

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Never convinced about RM

Many, many years ago I justified and built a computer resource for teaching what was called Computer Appreciation around BBC micros, ECOnet and Acorn file servers in a UK Polytechnic. I managed to get so much for the budget, including colour monitors, robot arms, digitizer tablets, touch screens, printers, plotters, speech recognition and synthesizers, teletext decoders, video cameras, mice, lightpens, and a basic CAD systems (remember, at the time, an Apple ][ with a Bitstick was considered good). We also had representative word processor, spreadsheet and database products and a good Basic (natch) as well as Acornsoft Pascal. This was to teach people from all learning disciplines, not just computing students, what computers could do in the early 1980's before DOS/Windows PC's had achieved dominance, and also before people had Home computers.

The main Computer Unit poured scorn on our efforts, because they wanted to put in RM 480Z's backed up by a 380Z as a file server. Equipping the lab with what they suggested would have blown the whole budget on the computer hardware without being able to afford any of the peripherals, demonstrating that their systems were overpriced. And I don't believe that it could have been used for half of what we actually used it for.

I was very sad to see Acorn loose out in the education sector, especially when RM moved to MS-DOS based systems. The 80186 based Nimbus 1's were neither cheap, standard, or IBM PC compatible.

I just looked at their web site, and saw a device for mobile data capture, priced "from £3.75". I thought "Wow, that looks interesting and cheap. Maybe RM have learned". I then looked further. £3.75 apparently buys you an extension cable (basically a 3m M-F 15 pin serial cable from what I can see).

The actual device itself costs £170, plus £19 for the software (you would have thought they could have included that, bearing in mind that it is essential to use with a computer), and all of the more interesting additional sensors cost £50-80. Suddenly I'm not interested.

I'm glad I'm not working in education any more. The thought of hearding rooms-full of PC's would fill me with dread.

SCO: 'Someone wants to buy our software biz!'

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


SCO keep telling the bankruptcy court that if they are allowed to continue their claim against IBM, and win, that they will have enough money to settle the money they owe.

Unless someone convinces said court that the claims are fatuous, and will never be more than a way of paying lawyers, then the court *HAS* to listen, because they have a duty to recover as much value as possible for the creditors.

And although there have been rulings on the admissibility of the evidence and who owns the copyright, the original case is still outstanding. There may still be a small chance that there is a case against IBM because not all of the documents are in the public domain, but even if there is, it is unlikely that SCO would actually be able to collect any of the money.

I keep feeling that the case against IBM has to reach court and be finally ruled on, so that this whole mess can be consigned to the history books.

What worries me is that Novell are the ones who objected last time this UnXis tried to by the assets, but Novell is not the company it was. Microsoft had a finger in the pie when Attachmate bought Novell. If Microsoft had some way of suggesting to Attachmate that MS would pay more for the IP they bought in the deal if Attachmate/Novell would not object this time round, the whole circus could start anew (shudder).

Microsoft finally says adios to Autorun

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

It was used very often

to kick off a software installer. Even people like PCW used to use it for their cover-mounted CD and DVD's.

I've installed a recent HP printer, and it used autorun (the installation instructions did document how to run it without auto run, but it was phrased like "If the installer program doesn't automatically start, open the CD, and .....").

My significant other (worded to attempt to not to upset the Moderatorix) has some craft software that needs the CD inserted explicitly in the D: drive (and heaven forbid if your CD is not the D: drive), and the instructions for this expect autorun to work, and do not contain an alternative. I keep explaining this, and she keeps telling me that her computer is broken because the software does not start. Grrrrrrrr.

I think too many of the people commenting here are in the Windows support business, where they are in control of any software installation, and do not talk to home and SOHO businesses where simplicity and hand-holding is essential for people who just use computers as tools.

I can't be so old that this has passed out of memory, can I?

Council dives into crematorium-heated pool

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


That's exactly what I think. Contrary to belief in spontaneous human combustion, the human body does not burn well, and you need additional fuel to perform the act. That's why they build funeral pyres.

Seems perfectly sensible to me to recover the heat, and use it.

DEC founder Ken Olsen is dead

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

What I liked

was that the Program Counter was basically register 8, and that many of the jump, load immediate and return instructions were just special cases of other load and store instructions that you would use on other registers.

At one time, I used to be able to dis-assemble PDP-11 machine code without the book. It really was just such a regular instruction set that it was easy.

It used to be interesting to see just how C mapped into PDP-11 machine code. Often, like the case Keris quotes, a simple instruction like i++; would map into a single instruction.

Another innovation in reasonably priced computers that I believe was championed (although not invented) by DEC was the segmented address space that was implemented in such a way as to make it non-intrusive to the program writer, but also would allow different processes to have their own virtual address space independent from the physical memory addressing. It was this feature more than anything else that allowed multi-user computers to be created that allowed a user to screw up their own program without affecting the OS or other user's programs.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Although it was known as a PDP-10

they were labelled as DEC System 10 (and the followup, DEC system 20) running TOPS-10 and TOPS-20 as the OS. Real DEC sysprogs called them things like KI and KL systems, after their processor types.

IIRC, they were a bit quirky, having a 36 bit word length, but introduced the concept of a cluster with a fast interconnect. They had a thing called the CI bus, which was like an extended MASBUS that allowed you to connect systems together, as well as to Hierarchical Storage Controllers (HSC's) which provided shared disk between the systems.

This was adapted to become the BI bus for VAXen, which paved the way for VAXCluster.

First fondleslab found in 1970s kids TV sci-fi gem

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


I suspect that my post above will be the final, conclusive proof that I am indeed a nurdy geek, even after all these years. Almost all of the post came from memory, with me referring to Wikipedia only as a sanity check. After that feat of memory, it's a shame I can't remember what I saw on telly yesterday.

My coat is the Parka with the Boxtree Complete Gerry Anderson Episode Guide in the inside pocket.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Pedantic mode on

Sky 1 was the flying part of Skydiver 1 (there was more than one Skydiver - there are references to Skydiver 3). The Sky part was the plane, and that only had one crew member, the pilot, who was always the Captain.

The women on the -diver part did also wear string vests, but had substantial under-garments underneath. Not nearly as interesting as the Moonbase uniforms.

BTW. The televised version (at least the more recent ITV 4 screenings) of UFO Episode 1 had several scenes cut out when compared to the DVD, which included the conversion of Grabrelle Drake's duty jumpsuit to the mini-skirt recreational garb (while she was wearing it, mind).

IMHO, UFO was originally targeted as a series for adults, not children, and some of the episodes were originally never broadcast in day/early evening slots, but later in the evening. It was only the association of Gerry Anderson with puppet shows that made the ITV companies play it in the same slots as Stingray/Thunderbirds/Captain Scarlet (normally just before World of Sport on a Saturday morning, or at least that is when LWT and Southern Television played them).

This adult target explains why it was a much darker series than previous Anderson shows, and contained several episodes that I regard as not suitable for children at all. Definitely set me on the edge of my seat at the age of 9.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


Seriously, a clipboard with buttons! No. I'm sure it was meant to be electronic.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

That's uncanny, although form-follows-function makes it inevitable

I used to watch the Tomorrow People as one of my favourite shows.

They did not need 3G or any cellular technology, because they had an alien mentor from a more advanced planet (the Trig) who provided access to a limited amount of advanced technology to augment the still developing telepathic abilities of the group. They regularly used remote data gathering and communication devices, so this proto-ipad probably did not need 3G, and may have used a near-field technology, as it was only used in their lab.

In addition, they had an advanced AI called TIM who coordinated all of the technology, although it was not portrayed as techno-magic, and there were definite limits to what they could do.

On a related note, was Captain Kirk in ST-TOS not forever using a device, often given to him by Yeoman Rand (gotta love those uniforms) not an electronic device? I know it used a stylus, so was probably more like a Newton than an iPad, but still.

Super-thin materials could POWER our WORLD

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Yes, planar

Graphine is a case of a planar crystalline structure I admit (I did mention planar form), but it is a special case, being just carbon with no other elements present. Looking up molybdenum disulphide (MoS2), and bismuth telluride (Bi2Te3) appear to me to show structures that do not have all of the atoms in the molecule arranged in a plane, especially when in crystalline form.

Of course, it may be that the boffins have found another way to form the crystals so that all of the atoms line up in a plane.

α-BN form Boron nitride looks interesting, though.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


Quote: "Oxford and Dublin boffins have unlocked a doorway leading to more than 150 super-thin exotic nanosheet materials just one atom thick" and "boron nitride (BN), molybdenum disulphide (MoS2), and bismuth telluride (Bi2Te3)"

As these are not pure elements that are being talked about, surely they should be one *molecule* thick, not one *atom* thick, even if they are arranged in a totally planar fashion.

You would think that the "boffins" would know better. Or maybe they are really just "scientists"!

Superphones: A security nightmare waiting to happen

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

He's also ignored Handspring and Palm phones too.

Palm Treo's were able to surf the Internet years before either iPhone or Blackberrys were available. And although there was not an app store as such, it was possible to download free and paid applications directly to the phone.

3rd party add-ons also gave WiFi connectivity, although some of the non-phone Palm devices had it built in. And there were media and productivity apps available, and they were touch-screen devices.

I really wish there had been a Palm TX with a phone built in. That would have been an interesting device, doing much of what the iPhone became famous for.

Microsoft reinfects Chrome with closed video codec

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@Surprised, I'm not

The decoder license is only part of the picture. Look at the MPEG-LA license with regard to using the coder part for commercial content. There is a fee payment due on each item encoded for commercial use, and IIRC, it's not pennies.

I'm fairly certain that things like TV-on-demand, adverts, commercial presentations, pornography and even free videos on an ad-supported site (think Facebook and YouTube) can be considered as a commercial use, so there is much money to be extracted from content providers. In order for the providers to consider H.264 over a free codec, they have to see almost a clean sheet of browsers supporting it at no cost to the end users. Otherwise they will not see it as an expense worth paying.

It is interesting that WinXP is being avoided. Probably trying to provide more leverage to get end users to fork out for another Windows license.

I would love to see a system for recycling transferable XP Retail licenses from scrapped systems, rather than them disappearing into the smelter with the system case. Anybody any ideas about setting something like this up before they all disappear?

Sky loses pub footy case

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


It all depends on the satellite. There are several different satellite systems in geo-synchronous orbit including Astra, Eurobird, Hotbird, Eutelsat amongst many others. Not all of their transmission footprints are the same, and some are better in southern Europe, and some in north/north west. For example, most of the working Astra 1 and 2 satellites cover most of northern Europe, but not southern Italy or Greece. Chances are the pub was using one of the other satellites which cover southern Europe, some of which are nor encrypted and can be picked up using equipment with the right dish, even though it is not intended for a particular region.

It really is an issue with the content provider and the broadcasting company, as has been pointed out in other comments. Sky cannot prevent someone buying equipment to point at an out-of-region marginal satellite, even if it does overlap with their paid-for service.

Apple clips publishers' wings

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Unacceptable control

At what point will iFans finally understand that what Apple are doing is unethical. This must be close or past this tipping point, surely.

Virgin Media kills 20Mb broadband service

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Clarity required in the article

Please remember that Virgin Media offer broadband services via ADSL as well as their cable infrastructure. This report is just for cable customers.

Scotland bans smut. What smut? Won't say

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Consenting adults

Is it the consent, or the adult part that you think protects you from prosecution?

God forbid that you engage in sex with a consenting 17 year and 11 month old partner, and take some pictures, because although the act is legal, the pictures aren't!

The cost of not deduping

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

There is a trust issue in the examples in the article

"electronic copies of their HR contract and pension scheme guide"

If there were just a single copy of this type of information, then employees would have trouble making sure that what they agreed with when they started a job was the same as the current single copy. You would end up with needing an audit trail for changes to your single copy, with it's own complexity and storage issues. People keep their own copies as a point-in-time reference, to guard against change in the primary copy.

It's funny. Lotus Notes, which was originally sold as a document management system, was selling this "store a pointer, not the document" 15 or more years ago. This aspect of it's use has fallen by the wayside, but I'm sure that it is still in there somewhere. Mind you, using Notes as the glue for a mobile workforce (as IBM does) requires multiple copies to be stored in the hard disk of all of the laptops anyway, so the de-duplication benefits are negated.

Another thing is that you don't want to de-dupe your backup, at least not completely. You must have multiple copies on different media, because media fails. Enterprise backup tools such as TSM work using an incremental-forever model, meaning that by default, only one copy of each version of a file is backed up, but then has specific techniques to force more than one copy of a file to be kept on separate media.

I know I am a born sceptic, but I must admit to being unconvinced by the block-level de-duplication that is being pushed by vendors. Maybe I have just not seen the right studies, or maybe I'm already de-duplicating a lot of what I do using techniques like incremental-forever backups and single-system image deployment.

Maybe I'm just a neo-luddite. Who knows.

India's cheap-as-chips delayed by cash spat

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

£20 does seem a bit optimistic

but if you can build a basic mobile phone, with rechargeable battery screen and keyboard, and sell it (presumably with some profit) in the UK for under £30 (as seen at http://www.reghardware.com/2010/12/03/ten_essential_cheap_voice_phones/), then why should you think that it was impossible. Also look at the 7" Android epad and apad devices that are selling on ebay presumably at a profit to the supply chain for less than £80 at the moment.

I know that the phone companies probably make a bit of a loss on the phones, hoping to recoup it from the phone charges, but I cannot believe they subsidise it by a significant amount.

I doubt that the Indian government is going to insist on a device capable of running Windows 7 with 3D high performance graphics, a multi-megapixel display and a terabyte hard disk, and they will probably drive the profit element down as far as possible. If they are assembled in India, they may also be able to fudge or hide the labour costs, in the same way that they subsidise the railways.

What do you actually need for basic web surfing, email and a bit of text processing? Probably a <500MHz ARM, 256MB memory, 2GB backing store, a basic keyboard and mouse (assuming you are not going to use a touch screen) and a display of 640x480 or so. If the web surfing is intended to be government information (voting, census, tax etc) then they can control the web content and thus the requirements of the display.

So impossible at £30, maybe not.

Bot attacks Linux and Mac but can't lock down its booty

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

...and more

There are many more places than just the .bashrc (assuming you're using bash, of course, I prefer the AT&T software toolbox ksh myself). Both KDE and Gnome (and most other X11 Window mangers as well) have user startup directories and rc files to allow attacks on systems accessed with a GUI, and you would, of course, have the normal PATH and LD_LIBRARY_PATH attack vectors that could be used to subvert commands that people use all the time, and there are many more.

Linux is not immune from attack, it's just that an attack needs to do more things to really pwn it . For instance, if a user has iptables configured to control inbound and outbound traffic on a Linux system (assuming that the user does not run everything as root), you would have to engage in tricking the user to sudo a command, or otherwise obtain escalated privileges to alter the configuration or turn it off, unlike most windows systems.

There is no such thing as a totally secure OS, it's just more difficult to mess with Linux.

The OSX statistics in the article are a surprise, however.

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