* Posts by Peter Gathercole

2953 posts • joined 15 Jun 2007

UK government looks for 500MHz spectrum

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

This caught my eye,

and I immediately thought what a ZX Spectrum running at 500MHz (as opposed to 3.75 MHz) would be able to do.......

I'll get my jacket myself.

Apple patents glasses-free, multi-viewer 3D

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@stucs201 re: one step forwards.

I'm not sure what you are getting at. I was responding to the comments that stated that some people get headaches, which they do, and I was trying to explain why that was.

I don't buy into 3DTV or other 3D displays of any type at the moment or the foreseeable future, but that is my opinion, and I don't try to force my opinions on anybody. I may discuss them especially with people who I believe have not seen all the sides of a problem, but that is what dialogue and conversation is all about.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


Nothing I have said indicates that stereoscopic vision is not a major part of depth perception, and I don't think that anybody would think that I said anything different.

It's just not the only thing that matters. You can ignore that the other effects exist if you want to, but that would not alter the fact that they do exist.

I did look it up before posting. Maybe you would like to look up the monocular cues Accommodation, and Blurring, both of which are real documented features of depth perception, along with Motion Parallax. Wikipedia will appear top of the search list, but it is not the only reference for this on the 'net.

The universe is vast and complex. Anybody believing that we fully understand any part of it is either a fool, or deluding themselves.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


Stereoscopic images are only part of the whole picture (pun intended).

There are two other features of depth perception that are also important. One is the act of focusing the eye for the correct distance, and the other is that each eye moves to focus the object of interest on the center of the retina, where there are more light receptors.

If you just use separate images beamed into each eye, you can have the correct image for an object close to you. The brain says that it should be focusing close, but in actual fact you need to focus on the screen further away. Ditto the depth related parallax issue of the two eyes. These are what causes people to have headaches.

If you want a demonstration, try the following.

Hold both one hand about 6" in front of your right eye. Hold the other at arms length in front of your left eye. Try to focus on both hands at the same time. Don't do this for too long, or else you will get dizzy.

Then find someone you know quite well, hold your index finger about 2' from their face and ask them to look directly at it. Watch their eyes, and move your finger to about 6" from their face. You will see that they go slightly 'cross-eyed'.

Stereoscopic vision together with both of these other effects are required for the brain to correctly determine depth. If you only get one of them, some people can ignore the fact that the others are missing, and some can't.

Oh, and one more thing. With proper depth perception, moving your head will alter the image due to parallax (again), but the current 3D TV cannot do this. If the eyes are tracked correctly, this system *could* be able to do it, but I agree with most people that this is unlikely using any tech. we are likely to see soon.

97% of INTERNET NOW FULL UP, warn IPv4 shepherd boys

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@Anon 16

Currently, most ISP's share a pool of IP addresses between their users, assuming that they will not all be online at the same time. This allows you to have a unique IP address for all the systems behind your NAT connection for the time you are connected. If you have this, then using a dynamic DNS service will work to make your systems locatable, and port re-direction will allow multiple inbound sessions to be directed to different servers behind your NAT system.

Unfortunately, the world is moving to always-connected devices, so this model is breaking down.

When DNS was first designed, they added the possibility of having well-known-services to be hosted in a map to be queried. This was to allow you to provide information such as port numbers for particular services. Since that time, everyone has got used to fixed port numbers for things like http (80), https (443), ssh (22) and the like, so WKS has been ignored.

Using fixed port numbers makes it difficult to NAT several people's service to a single IP address on the network, as they may all want 80 for example.

If the dynamic WKS support of DNS was used to hold port numbers, or something like SUN RPC (portmap) was rolled out onto the internet for inbound services using port redirection, then it would be possible to use the 16 bit port number together with a single IP address to stave off the inevitable exhaustion of available IPV4 addresses, but it would require people to be much more knowledgeable about port usage, and some changes to certain services to not rely on fixed port numbers.

It would also make firewalls a lot more difficult to write, but you would only expose the services you needed anyway, so maybe this would not be so much of an issue.

Olympians threaten ICANN with lawsuit

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@Blofeld's Cat

Because if they get it as a reserved name, pretty much any address with Olympic or Olympiad will be protected in the TLDs run by ICANN, not just the ones they choose to register. Just think of the near infinite number of combinations they would have to register in order to protect them.

Not that I agree with the IOC. I do not think that they should have preferential treatment, especially when they do their damnedest to control all media during the games.

The Mac that saved Apple (and Steve Jobs)

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@Christian Berger re: 56k

It's all comparative.

If you had moved up from 1200/75b/s, through V.22bis, V.32 and V.32bis, then V.90 was fast.

If you were using it for commercial use, then it was almost certainly the upload speed that was your issue, as it was asymmetric and the upload channel was a fraction of the download speed. IIRC, if you did V.90 modem to V.90 modem directly, you could only get 33.6kb/s anyway. You needed something like a DS0 setup, which could directly inject digital signals into the phone system, to give you the 56k download speed to end-users.

Most home users mostly downloaded data, so this was not a big issue.

Don't compare your 20Mb/s ADSL line, or even channel-bonded ISDN with what home users had available at the time, because ISDN was far too expensive for home users to consider, even the 'reduced-cost' Home Highway that BT tried to sell.

At this time, nobody did large mail attachments or video, and you left P2P running for hours or days if you were using it. Web sites were still mainly HTML, with only fairly small GIF images. You also did not have flash video adverts or java or javascript apps at all. Most pages were fairly static, and eminently cachable, so we got what we though was a good service at the time.

I wan my whole household (several computers with thin-wire Ethernet, and then wireless as it became available - we're a techie household) on a dial-on-demand 56K modem for several years, until BT got round to upgrading our exchange to ADSL.

Attachmate gobbles up Novell for $2.2bn

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

We will just have to disagree.

I don't think I ever said that there was any AT&T code that was not properly licensed or in the public domain in Linux.

That said, the SCO vs. IBM case was never dismissed. It's not been actually ruled on and there still are claims of copyright infringement, rather it has been deferred until the Novell vs. SCO issue has been resolved. That is likely to be dismissed unresolved as SCO have filed for bankruptcy. It would be better if the IBM case came alive again and was ruled on, rather than being dismissed because SCO cannot continue to support it. If it is not resolved, it can always be re-opened by whoever ends up with that part of SCO, although I would hope it would not.

The tort, as you put it, does not have to be so blatant as I made it. Remember, this is FUD we're talking about, not firm claims. It only has to sow doubt in an uninformed procurement officer or financial director (as most of them are, in IT matters at least) for them to ask for assurances from anyone who proposes a Linux solution. If Microsoft actually had the copyrights, and they said "Of course, we own the copyrights to UNIX upon which Linux was modelled, and there is unresolved litigation about whether Linux infringes these copyrights", then that would be completely truthful, and could not be contested as long as the cases had not been resolved.

I can envisage a situation where Free software cold be excluded from playing commercial media by patent and license restrictions. Read what Ross Anderson said about TPM, which doesn't appear to be happening at the moment thank goodness, but is not dead yet. Your BSD or Linux box might be great for HTTP/XML/Flash that we have at the moment, but if H.264 were to become the dominant CODEC rather than WebM, without a benefactor like Mark Shuttleworth to pay for the license for you, you may not be able to buy a system with Linux and an H.264 codec pre-installed on it. General acceptance as a home PC OS without being able to watch video - not a hope. This may be a patent issue, as you pointed out, but they are all hurdles for Linux to overcome.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@Vic - You seriously don't believe they want to and won't try?

In case you hadn't noticed, Microsoft have been doing a really good job of keeping Linux off the desktop. It is an uphill struggle to get traction with users in the home, education and business markets. Even with the likes of Ubuntu and it's derivatives, it's just not happening.

If they can go in to any procurement with organisations by starting with "Of course, you know that we MAY still sue users of Linux for use of OUR copyrighted material", then to the uninformed procurement officers, this will equate to "Better stay clear of Linux, just in case". Financial officers have been known to be sacked for taking decisions that include known financial risks, so they tend to be cautious.

I don't see this as being illegal under current unfair trading practices legislation, but it would be seriously unethical, and unfortunately probably effective.

Without commercial organisations being able to build a business around Linux because of an unfair poisoning of it's reputation, some of the major contributors could fall by the wayside. Without the likes of SuSE (which I believe will be wound down as a Linux developer anyway), Redhat and Cannonical, Linux will revert to a hobbyists OS, with some embedded systems maintained by the likes of Oracle and IBM. Any serious chance of being an accepted desktop OS will disappear.

Also, imagine how much "Get the facts" could have been enhanced by claims of UNIX copyright ownership.

With the potential of a Linux desktop reduced, Microsoft could then capitalise on their near monopoly position (along with a like-minded Apple), and engage on leveraging maximum return from their tied-in user base who have nowhere else to go.

Let me ask you. Do you think that you would pay, say, £100 a year per PC just for the right to use it? Microsoft have often stated that they would like to move to a subscription model for their software, and have also moved in positive ways to exclude (think DRM) Linux from the equation.

Of course, if you or your company have the resources to build, maintain and market a good Linux distribution, and keep it up to date with all the DRM and media licensing issues, then this won't be a problem, will it?

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


OK, maybe it would be the defining moment for Linux. Maybe I am just being a Luddite by today's standards because I think of myself as a UNIX specialist, with a (strong) sideline in Linux.

But think about this. If MS do get access to the UNIX copyright, then many claims the Linux community have about MS including GPL code from the Linux tree evaporate in a puff of smoke (at least for stuff in the TCP/IP stack and other code that overlaps with the kernel), as MS claim that they have replaced the GPL code with the UNIX equivalent.

With regard to SCO, a lot of their case started unravelling precisely because Novell had maintained ownership of the copyright. In this light, Novell would have been in a much better position to try to sue IBM than SCO, not that it would have tried. IBM's SVR2 source license is pretty much bulletproof for AIX. Not sure about the one they got from Sequent. If Microsoft now have that copyright, they might think differently, though, and might waive the royalties for SCO and give them the copyright to kickstart the case. The fact that the case still exists causes enough FUD.

Other things MS could do:

Start increasing any repeating license code fees for UNIX licensees.

Stop granting any more UNIX source code licenses (OK, I suppose you might say how many people actually want one that have not already got one)

Don't actually start suing anybody about UNIX IP, but they make statements about potential contamination to increase FUD. After all, that is what they have been doing for years.

@AC re. flawed analysis - You seem to suggest that SUN and Microsoft were in a pact. This was not the case. SUN's UNIX source license for Solaris was always bulletproof, especially as they were a co-developer of SVR4 with AT&T. What they offered was indemnity for licensees of Java and other technologies by paying for various licenses from SCO to cover IP in new products that may not have been covered by GPL and their original UNIX license. This was not SUN financing the SCO case directly, this was standard business practice.

People tend to cast SCO as a completely evil company, but you should really see them as a company that thought they owned some IP, with a suitable business model for licensing it, but who then stepped over the line in a serious way and lost the plot and did not know when to stop. This did not alter the legitimate business that they had, which is what SUN bought into.

@jonathanb - The fact that SCO publish their own Linux has little bearing on what Microsoft might do with the UNIX copyright.

@another AC - Oracle have no bother with forking Linux and keeping it in-house (as long as they keep to the GPL and other appropriate licenses). They probably no longer case about what happens to Solaris, this was not what they bought SUN for. So they are probably not worried what MS do as long as there is no litigation.

Maybe I'm just mournful of a passing age, and that this may be one of the last nails in the coffin for Genetic UNIX. I would have preferred IBM (originally a UNIX baddie, but reformed for 15 years or so) or Redhat to have bought that part of the business.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@Bugs - I'll try this again

If you can say this with sincerity, you don't understand what the implications would be. I hope that you have a big wallet, because you are going to need one to keep paying to use your computer if MS can kill alternative operating systems. It would be like printing money to them.

Now Apple appear to be in the cashing-in-on-their-user-base game as well, you can't even regard Windows as a monopoly.

To the moderator. I think I've removed everything that you could possibly have object to, so will you accept it this time? Thanks.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


Yes, that was when Microsoft thought PCs were only good for the desktop, and commissioned a UNIX variant to act as the office hub. Microsoft didn't write it, however (what a surprise), but bought it from the Santa Cruz Operation, then a small development company.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Just what will CPTN Holdings get?

CPTN Holdings LLC, which was organized by Microsoft appears to be getting some intellectual property rights as part of this deal.

What might Novell have that would interest Microsoft?

Hmmmmmm. Maybe the copyright to the UNIX code that they did not get by backing SCO (I know it's conjecture, but Microsoft were an investor in Baystar when Baystar offered capital to SCO. Look it up, if you don't know). And, of course, they may take ownership of SuSE.

This could be verrrrrry bad news for the Open Source movement, if it means MS get a dagger to dangle over the head of small open source companies, in the same way that SCO tried.

Sounds like another round of FUD coming.

With SUN out of the way, it would leave IBM and Redhat to try to defend the shattered remnants of the UNIX legacy. I'm seriously worried.

Unarmed Royal Navy T45 destroyer breaks down mid-Atlantic

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


Of the main cast, only Leslie Philips, Heather Chasen and Judy Cornwell are still alive. Richard Caldicot, Jon Pertwee, Tenniel Evans, Dennis Price, Ronnie Barker, Chic Murray, and Michael Bates, who all played a variety of parts, are no longer with us.

Epic days of British radio comedy, that my teenage children love listening to.

Most coders have sleep problems, need 'hygiene and care'

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Wow. 91 coders in a single company.

Such a statistically relevant sample.

Meltdown ahoy!: Net king returns to save the interwebs

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

He outlines the problem

and the general solution, but not something that could work at the detail level, IMHO.

The drawback of his solution is how you actually address the content that you want? If you look at the way P2P networks (which have been mentioned several times in the comments), you need to have some form of global directory service that can index content in some way so that it can be found.

Just how on earth do you do this? Google is currently the best general way of identifying named content (for, say, torrents) and just look at how big the infrastructure for this is.

If you are trying to de-dup the index (using an in-vogue term), you are going to have to have some form of hash, together with a fuzzy index of the human readable information to allow the content to be found. I'm sure it sounds interesting, but I cannot see it happening.

Anyway, this could be added as a content rich application enhancement over IP anyway, using something like multicast, especially if IP6 is adopted.

Stoke Council avoids fine over lost childcare data on USB stick farce

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Don't suggest fining just the person who lost the stick

but also consider the IT/management team responsible for allowing unencrypted devices to be used, especially if the use is codified in a documented procedure.

It must be drummed in at all levels that this type of information stored on portable storage has to be encrypted.

Virgin demands ISPs end broadband speed 'con'

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@Alex Walsh

This has always been the case with both ADSL and Cable. The upload speed is a small fraction of the download speed, and they have never claimed otherwise. That's what the "A (Asymmetric)" in ADSL stands for, and I'm sure it is described in the T&Cs for cable customers as well.

If you really want good upload speed, might I suggest that you invest in a leased line, but I think you will be shocked by the price.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

When you get to these speeds

you have to look at all parts of the link between you and where your data is coming from. Just because you can receive 50Mb/S does not mean that the other end can or will send it at that speed, or that the shared inter-ISP links are not congested. Try selecting a service from your ISP, and measuring that.

I think it's about time that people start looking at this in a holistic manner, and expecting the Internet as a whole to have infinite bandwidth.

North Carolina to raise army of Microsofties

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@Neil Gardiner

Your computer may well be able to work in French, but did it teach French to you?

I think that not even the most masochistic person would attempt to use the Windows message catalogue to learn a foreign language!

Still, point taken.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@James Picket - I disagree

I believe that one is a superset of the other. Training IS a type of education (in the broadest sense), but education is a much broader field than training.

I presume that you are comparing Training as in what-you-need-to-do-a-particular-job, with Education as in what-schools-and-colleges-provide.

But even with these definitions, you often find colleges offering vocational training, at least in the UK. When I worked in a UK Polytechnic (sadly a type of institution that no longer exists here), we were often approached by industry to provide training courses for particular subjects and fields. It seemed more natural at that time than approaching a commercial training organisation, and provided much needed cash to the Poly to help provide a better all round service.

Maybe I am looking through rose-tinted glasses, but I don't think so.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Once upon a time

the man pages were really the documentation. I'm talking Bell Labs UNIX version 7.

If the man pages were not enough, and there was nothing in the "UNIX Papers" documents (that were shipped as n/troff source files almost complete on every V7 tape), then you could resort to the source (which was also shipped, at least to educational customers).

I get tired nowadays of typing "man something", and being given a stub man page that suggests I type "info something", which gives no more information (I actually do not understand why info is supposed to be better than man, I always trip over the key bindings, even though I am an emacs user).

Now I know that something like sendmail or perl cannot be described in a <10 page man page, and that large packages like Open/Libre Office deserve their own books, but I really miss getting comprehensive documentation of at least the usage of a command through man.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@Myself re: documentation under GPL

As I found out when I looked, what you need for documentation, and I presume training material, is the GNU Free Documentation License, or GNU FDL. Should really learn the lesson of checking before posting rhetorical questions.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


The argument about Open Source documentation and training material illustrates a circular problem, that of who actually pays to develop the documentation and training.

Training material costs money to develop, so people to do this sort of thing for a living expect to get something back to make it worth their while. Open source organisations can build a business model around this, but they have to get paid for the training and consultancy they provide. Free software does not mean free training.

Microsoft, on the other hand, can divert money paid to them by current customers into developing the training material to lock in the next generation of customers, who will then fund the next generation ad nauseam. And because they have an effective monopoly, they can browbeat the education departments with 'Of course your students need Microsoft Office skills, after all EVERYBODY uses our software'

I'm not saying that this is any different to other programs given to education by vendors, except that Microsoft can use this to reinforce their monopoly paid for by their already locked in customers, in a way that nobody else can.

Of course, in a perfect world, educational institutions would write their own material around open software, and in the spirit of the Open Source movement, contribute that material for other people to use without cost (can you publish training material under GPL, I wonder?)

Unfortunately, this is not an ideal world.

Royal Wedding: Prince Charles is a ZX81, Wills is an iPad

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

My ZX81

was a useful stop-gap until Acorn delivered my BEEB (ordered on the first day of them accepting orders).

It didn't crash, as I took a Tandy keyboard, re-wired it (or actually re-painted the tracks on the membrane with silver paint) and connected it through a long ribbon cable, adding a power switch to the keyboard. Once I did this, it became quite stable, even with a Quicksilver pass through audio board (with sound modulator to the TV) between the '81 and the RAMpack. Never needed to touch the computer itself. No problems until my homebrew power supply blew it's bridge rectifier.

It was also interesting re-mapping the 1K internal RAM to another memory location when the RAMpack was attached, and putting a second 1K of static RAM under the keyboard connected on the ULA side of the bus isolating resistors, allowing me to change the IR register, which was used as the base address of the character table! Yay, programmable character set and (if you worked hard) bit-mapped graphics.

I actually tried writing a Battlezone variant, but it was just too slow in Slow mode.

Funny, I've just been called a hacker for a completely different reason by my colleague in the next desk. I wonder why.

Man cracks open floppy disk, inserts USB Flash drive

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

It's worse than that...

What if he wants to add another micro-channel card to the system. It is necessary to have the reference disk to add the ADF file for the new adapter!

So did Windows Phone 7 'bomb in US'?

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


As do I (almost no MS software in sight on MY, rather than the rest of my family's systems), but think how different it would have been if that had happened in 1982!

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@Roger Jenkins

Some of us even remember when UNIX was new, and all microcomputers were 8 bit and minicomputers were 16 bit (and some mainframes had 24 or even 36 bit wordlengths).

Seriously, if (Intergalactic) Digital Research had persuaded everyone that MP/M (the multitasking variant of CP/M) was the OS to use, then desktop PCs would have been able to multitask from the word go. And that would have really changed history. But remember, even CP/M was not original and was superficially a rip off of RT11 on DEC PDP11s, even down to the device naming and PIP.

Still would have preferred a UNIX derivative on the desktop, even if it had to be crippled by needing to run from floppy disks (UNIX V6 on PDP11 circa 1975 - Kernel less that 56K, ran [just about] on systems with 128K memory, able to multitask, multiuser by default with recognisable permissions system). Definitely doable, although reliable multitasking without page level memory protection would have been a challenge.

Top 500 supers: China rides GPUs to world domination

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


The highest system on the list that looks like it is predominantly funded by a commercial organisation is the EDF research system at #37. You may like to suggest that this is partly funded by the French government (like #76), in which case it would probably be #78, which is just described as "IT service provider, Germany".

So yes, if you had the money, and the will to run the infrastructure, you could buy one and HP, IBM or Cray would be delighted to sell you one, but to be honest, what would you use it for! Even the Intel ones are not suited to run Crysis.

On reflection, if you go back 8 or 9 years, you can see a number of commercial organisations with systems in the top 100, including banks and telecoms providers. But this was when you could estimate the power of a system by adding the component parts, not by proving that it could run such jobs. The bank I used to work for had their SP/2 AIX server farms listed, because they were clusters. They were never actually used for any HPC type workload ever.

Robot wars break out on poker sites

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

I will put my cards on the table

and openly admit that I do not play poker, either face-to-face or on-line, but it seems to me that in order for some people to keep winning, and for the house to take it's cut, it is obvious that someone has to keep loosing, and loosing a lot.

To me, this indicates that there is a significant group of mugs, self-renewing as each wave loose all their money, and replaced by others suckered in by the advertising that is EVERYWHERE it seems.

So there are people who keep playing because they are better than the newbies, and there are people who run bots that can do the same. Sounds like either of these two groups have nothing to complain about, as they will probably break even, otherwise they would stop.

So how many here admit that they've regularly lost money? I'm sure that if they do it will have been as an 'experiment' or 'just to try it out', not admitting that they're the mugs.

I think that the whole industry is unethical, and should contain greater safeguards for the uninformed. But the late night TV interactive game shows are allowed, where the odds are so obscured that you can't tell what the payback is, so I can't see on-line poker being stopped. I just feel sorry for the victims.

Pure One Mi portable DAB/FM radio

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


If you've ever used a DAB radio on non-rechargeable batteries, you will know how expensive they are to run....

I guess using AA's would allow you to put rechargeables in, but would you be able to charge them in situe?

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Blah blah blah sound no good blah blah blah

It depends on the bitrate of the channel and the strength of the signal in your area. The lack of hiss is well worth it, and to be truthful, most people listening in kitchens, sheds cars etc. probably would not be able to tell the difference between 128Kb/S MP2 and 256Kb/S MP3. It's the dropout rate that is so bad.

ClassicFM and Radio3 (160Kb/S and 192Kb/S respectively) sound great in a good signal area, a good receiver and quiet conditions. Unfortunately, I don't live in a good signal area, and even though I have a Pure Highway specifically for cars, I can only get any DAB channels for about a third of my commute to work. But then, even FM drops out in one part of my journey.

DAB is a flawed service, I admit, but it is worth keeping unless it is replaced with something better, but even then many will whinge about having to buy new receivers (like me, I have 5 DAB radios).

The forgotten, fat generation of Mac Portables

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


If you ever see references to Dragonball processors, as used in PalmPilots, then these are low-power 68000 processors.

I'm sure I was poking about inside some consumer device (it may have been a Freeview TV box) recently, and came across a 68K based SoC being used as a micro-controller, which probably means that they are still being made.

The 68000 family should be regarded as one of the classic processor designs, alongside the IBM 370, the PDP/11, the MIPS-1 and possibly the 6502. Beats the hell out of the mire that Intel processors have become. Some people might also say that the NS32032 processor and maybe the ARM-1 should also be included in this list.

Hacker unshackles Kinect from Xbox

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

This is a first step

If someone can work out how to drive the thing, that information would be very useful to someone who might want to make a work-a-like, and deprive Microsoft of hardware sales. I'm not saying that Microsoft is correct in what it is doing, but the reason why they are doing it is not really that hard to see.

Of course, MS would be able to prevent importation to countries with valid patents, but that would not stop imports from China via Ebay or the like.

If you look now, you can see non-licensed Wiimote-a-likes, and they are cheaper than the Nintendo originals. The same would happen for Kinect.

I though that there were several precedents set for reverse engineering. Cases involving garage openers and inkjet cartridges spring to mind, and I believe that they all went against the company attempting to maintain the monopolies.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


The original Xbox really was PC components. The 360 is quite a different beast, using PowerPC derived processors. I'm sure that it is running a Windows variant under the covers, but this is more likely to be WinCE than XP.

The rest of the hardware is pretty much generic, but what do you expect? Memory is memory, disks are disks, and even the wireless and controllers will be using off-the-shelf chips. This is the same with PS3s, Wiis and even Macs.

Top Ten Retro PC Games

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Shame on you

The BBC version has to be the definitive version. Especially if played with a 6502 2nd processor and a bitstick.

Software engineer blogs own Starbucks wiretap

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

It just shows...

...that people ignore things that they don't understand.

And if he had started buying things on Amazon from their accounts, they would hold their hands in the air running around crazily, blaming Amazon, Starbucks, their ISP, the Government and everyone else but themselves.

I'm beginning to think that the Internet is too dangerous to let Joe Public loose on it! Maybe we need an Internet driving test before allowing them to connect.

Fedora 14: haven for Ubuntu's homeless GNOMEs

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

As soon as

Fedora has an equivalent of an LTS release, I'll consider switching.

I just can't rework my primary systems each time a new release comes out. I don't have the time.

Mind you, my confidence with Ubuntu has been severely dented recently. I still haven't switched to Lucid yet, because I cannot get suspend/resume or sound working well enough on my trusty Thinkpad T30, things that just worked without problem on Hardy, and my netbook, running Jaunty tells me that there are no further updates for that release. Still, I'll put the netbook remix of Meerkat on that, just to see what it is like.

Zuckerberg: the iPad 'is not mobile'

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Don't think so,

and I would be interested to know whether they run at all!

I seem to remember that they weren't the most reliable of devices when they were current! And that strange offset flip up screen and fixed keyboard.

I think that the term used for these and similar devices was 'luggable computers'.

Ubuntu demotes Gnome for Unity netbook look

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


We all know there are problems with X. We know that the abstraction between client and server does not suite all types of application and can be an apparent performance barrier.

BUT (and this is a big but)

If you know X, and work in an environment with many networked systems all of which understand X, then the benefits of the abstraction are HUGE. Don't suggest that VNC can fill the gap, because unless you have a big fat network, the performance is crap compared to properly written X apps. If you've not worked in such an environment, you may not know this, but your view risks throwing the baby out with the bath water.

One of the problems as I see it is that because the font handling in X was based on the fonts that the server know about, rather than the fonts that a client wanted to use, some applications appeared to display poorly. To get round this, both KDE and Gnome introduced models that meant that font glyphs were effectively loaded by each client when the client started, often multiple times.

This increased the X server memory footprint and client startup time no end, and almost completely broke the efficient font model that X had (and still has!). In my view, the best way of handling non-standard fonts is to have a font server somewhere (either locally or on the network) and have a mechanism for font-picky applications to add the FreeType or Type1 scalable fonts to that server, either for the duration of the run, or permanently.

Similarly, the way that some application treat pixmaps (and Java is one of the worst culprits, wanting to do it's own graphic abstraction) mean that X performance is much worse than it needs to be for such apps.

X.org is making what I think is a very sensible move to OpenGL based rendering, especially if it has network abstraction built in (I've not checked). This should allow good 3D performance, and as we can see allows the gloss to be added. What we need now is a well recognised, resource controlled window manager and application framework. Whether this is Gnome or KDE, or something completely different remains to be seen, but introducing a new default must be backed up by allowing users who want to remain with what they like to do so.

I actually cannot stand the netbook remixes, even on systems with small screens. They are just too proscriptive, and just get in the way unless all you want to do is what they provide. I use Gnome on my EeePC 701 (800x480), and I only have a small number of times when windows fall off the screen, so I don't see the need for the netbook remix.

Sony hits stop on Walkman tape players

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

"Hooked up to a Beeb"

As long as the two channels were in phase and not skewed, and you could do without the motor control.

I had no end of trouble with stereo players and the Beeb. Ended up making a cable that would only connect the left or the right channel, but never both. Always recommended a good mono tape recorder to other people.

Beebs were remarkably tolerant of the tape speed. There was a tape deck you could buy that had an adjustable speed controller on the motor. You could speed it up by nearly 10% before you had any loading issues. Really made a difference for the longer games. Some game manufacturers advertised faster loading speeds by actually recording with a slower tape drive before duplication, so they were faster on normal players.

Ahhh. Gone are the days of *OPT 1,2 followed by *LOAD and then by swapping the tapes and a *SAVE with the correct parameters to copy tape games.

Someone has actually got a BBC micro user guide on the net at "http://central.kaserver5.org/Kasoft/Typeset/BBC/Intro.html". Bizarre, but welcome. I didn't have to risk opening my decrepit and fragile copy in order to refresh my memory of the *OPT numbers for extended info for CFS.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Tranny radio listening was a very popular communal pastime

Especially at 12:45 on Tuesday lunchtimes, when the BBC chart was announced. That ages me!

And yes, radio did promote conversation in kids. See how it is portrayed in "The Boat that Rocked" to get a feel of '60 and '70s radio culture. Because of the cost of record players and radios, music listening was a communal pastime. You would take your new LP around to a mates house to listen to, rather than giving them a copy, as happens now. A household would normally have one TV, one record player and a couple of battery powered radios at most.

The revolution started with the "Compact Cassette", which allowed you to tape your mates records, and continued through the Walkman era as cassette decks in Hi-Fis got better. In some respects, this paused a bit when CDs first came alone as they were originally a read-only medium.

I still remember the stir rare-earth magnets caused when they appeared in the headphones which were the other revolution of the time. Allowed music to actually sound passable at low voltages compared to the crap piezoelectric earphones for transistor radios or bulky and current hungry cans that were used on Hi-Fi systems.

'Warpigs' VXer pleads guilty

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@AC re: "authoriser" . That's not the point

The 1990 computer misuse act defines what is illegal as defined by legislation passed by Parliament.

An EULA falls into the category of a License (End User License Agreement), so is contract law rather than criminal law.

License agreements can be (and often are) challenged in the courts, and can be deemed unreasonable. I'm sure that I could if I looked hard enough find a precedent where just what you have described has been judged unreasonable, but you have to be careful of the jurisdiction of the court system looking at the case.

Even if a bad EULA were found reasonable, the penalty for infringing it would be a financial rather than custodial, and may not even be enforceable (for example, if the EULA is judged in Texas which is often where these things are tested, and you are in the UK, then so long as you didn't visit the US, it is unlikely that any action could be taken).

BTW. If you are a Windows user, stop and really read the conditions on the Microsoft EULA that you almost certainly agreed to when you 'accepted' (whatever that means for a pre-installed system) them without checking. I think you will be surprised (and maybe a bit frightened) by what you've signed up for!

The Hardware mid-life crisis

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Anybody any data

on how long PCs with SSD storage last before requiring the SSD to be replaced?

I know that flash memory is getting better, but even with data shuffling and sparing, I expect to see SSD needing to be replaced before a spinning disk. Any chance of such devices lasting 6 years of daily use?

Vulture 1 sprouts wings and a tail

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Upward and downward. It depends

on whether the wing spars running through the fuselage are connected to each other and stiff. If they do not flex or kink, then the fuselage will be suspended from the wing when flying, but if they flex or are not connected together, then the inside ends of the spar will move in the opposite direction to the ends of the wings around the point where the wings enter the fuselage.

From what I can see, there is a join in the spars on the mid-line of the fuselage. This could potentially be a weak point, possibly allowing the spar to kink at the join. Adding bracing to prevent this happening looks like it is a very good idea. Would it not have been an idea to stagger the joins on the individual spars? Or have additional uncut straws to reinforce it so that the joins did not occur at the same point? Oh well, too late now!

I would worry about the weight distribution. I think it looks like it will be tail heavy. The design looks like the sort of thing you would use for a powered plane, which has significant weight at the front (the engine). Do you get the opportunity to see if it will glide before attaching it to the balloon?

Google ends all Street View Wi-Fi data collection

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


I have been really upset by the tricks Google are using to make sure that you have your data connection turned on all the time. I must check whether there is an outgoing firewall app in the Android Marketplace.

Q: Why pay for DNS?

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

I'm glad

that some critical comments got through. Mine, that was posted before any of these, was rejected, even though it says nothing worse than many that got through. I wonder how many from other people were rejected as well.

I'm still wanting a reason added for comment rejection. I know that this is a moderated forum, but I was not abusive or insulting, the grammar and spelling was at least fair to good, and I was commenting on the technical accuracy of the article, although I did accuse the article of being a barely disguised advert. But so did the first comment that got through.

Could we at least know for sure that the comments are not moderated by the author of the article? That would at least give us confidence that critical comments have a fair chance to get through.

Cameron: Carriers tomorrow, bombers today

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

"fitted to the operational carrier"

How is this going to work? I'm sure that removing and refitting will require both carriers to be out of service at the same time!

Does he think that it's like a child seat in a car, unstrap, move, and strap? If he does, I think he should go on board a carrier when a catapult is operating, and feel how much the ship is affected when a heavy jet is launched. It takes time to make the necessary heavy-duty attachments to keep a plane-flinger safe and no risk to the ship, aircraft and people.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019