* Posts by Peter Gathercole

2924 posts • joined 15 Jun 2007

Lords: Analogue radio must die

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Insults abound

but are you seriously saying that you either only know people who do not have cars, or ones so rich they opt for every gadget! Every car has had a radio fitted as standard for several decades.

I'm sure that even if you have the most expensive media player in the world in your car, that there is probably an analogue radio hidden in it somewhere. After all, a single chip radio adds almost nothing to the cost of a device, so why would they not throw one in!

Ditto radio alarm clocks and portable media players. Do you not know anybody with a latest gen. iPod Nano or a recent Nokia phone.

I suspect that when asked whether they have an analogue radio, most of your friends say "dunno, I've never looked".

Radio lobby 'hides' 2m analogue receiver sales

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

You don't have to care, but I do.

Sounds like your mate is also in line for paying TomTom or someone else for traffic updates which can be got for free from local radio.

There's more reason to listen to radio than to drown out the engine noise!

One wonders when they intend to count digital radio on Freeview boxes in the future. Would enable them to easily meet their targets!

BTW, if you are a not a radio listener, WTF are you doing commenting, or even reading the article. You self admit that you are not an interested party, go somewhere else to rant!

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Not only...

...do I listen to analogue radio, I even listen to it on my pocket DAB receiver. I get about 3-4 hours of DAB or 30+ hours of analogue out of a pair of AA's.

If my local commercial FM station had not just fallen foul of the receivers last week, I would even claim that not having local radio on DAB was a reason to stay analogue.

Reception is a poor comparison as DAB reception is pretty poor for people who live more than 5 miles outside of a town regardless of what you listen to it on.

Biometric harvest network can handle just 700k a year

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

And the NHS...

...is just sooooo god at identifying people allowed treatment that they can be trusted to confirm identity!

I've seen my GP once in 10 years. I'm sure that he would recognize me again. Oh yes.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

DMV equivalent

That would either be the DVLA Local Offices (all 39 of them, all in big cities, see http://www.dft.gov.uk/dvla/contactus/localoffices/findnear.aspx), or the Post Office. Just looking at the US, California on it's own has more DMV offices that the UK has DVLA Local Offices.

We do most of our driving license work by post, the Internet or in the Post Office. And unlike you, our license lasts from when we pass our test to 70. Identity is confirmed by having an influential person (doctor, MP, business owner) vouching for the identity only once when the provisional license is first issued. I believe that there is a requirement to apply for a new photo card every 10 years, but that is done just by sending a new photograph by post.

Even the old-style passport (the non-biometric ones) were done the same way. This is why it is such an outrage (to us) that the new passport or ID card requires visiting such a centre.

Having mentioned California, it's obvious why I've used the Terminator icon!

'Switch to Century Gothic to save the planet'

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Ariel on a Mac?

Me thinks you must have a Microsoft font pack, possibly for the Mac version of Office.

I cannot say for sure, but I would not expect a Microsoft specific font to be shipped with OSX.

Google booted from China's number two carrier

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

... forfeit their membership?

Why do they need to , bearing in mind how much the rest of the world now relies on them as the worlds manufacturer.

If China withdrew from the WTO, who exactly would boycott trade with them? It's a fine idea as long as you don't want computers, TV's, other electronic devices, plasticware, knives and forks, kids toys, tee shirts and jeans... and even a place to send all your plastic waste to be re-used rather than dumped in landfill.

I could go on.

Next time you buy something non-food, pretty much anything, have a look at where it was made. Just think how you would like to wait a year to get non-Chinese production scaled up, and how you would embrace paying three times as much for it. And that's not to mention the billions of dollars that China has invested from it's sovereign wealth fund propping up UK and US companies.

No, China is not afraid of the WTO. We should be afraid of them leveraging their dominant manufacturing position on us. Still, we only have ourselves to blame for letting our manufacturing sector to become so niche.

I don't like the human rights issues either, but if you examine the United Nations Charter, you will find that not even this allows any country to interfere with another sovereign nation (Article 2, Paragraph 7 apparently). Mind you, this appears to be something that the US and UK governments have forgotten over the years.

The other concern I have is why so many people think that the western democratic system is the only one worth merit? It should be quite obvious from Afghanistan and Iraq that it does not fit the whole world's moral and ethical systems. We (in the west) are just being moral snobs. I don't think that the Chinese system is currently fair, but that does not mean that we immediately have to schedule a western style election for China. The Chinese representational system, if it were implemented correctly could work, as long as the people at the top loose their desire to stay in power (hmmmm, probably not going to happen).

Anyway, enough of this Friday Afternoon politics, I need a pint!

Darling confirms telephone line tax

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Confusion unbounded

Malcolm Corbett has *nothing* to do with the announcement of the phone tax, so his comments about fibre to the home are just that. Comment on the main story by an interested party. While he makes good points about providing real competition for the 'last-mile' (or five) to BT, he is really completely detached from the real world. We really cannot afford a complete new infrastructure for the countryside.

What many people commenting here do not understand is that it is not just people living in the middle of Dartmoor who cannot get broadband, but people who live 5 miles out from a town with a local telephone exchange. Where I live in Somerset, I get ~7Mb/S, but I live about 0.75 from the exchange, as-the-crow-flies. But if you live a couple of miles out of my small town (population of around 10,000), you are lucky to get 1Mb/S, and if you are unfortunate enough to have significant runs of copper-on-a-pole (or worse, aluminium), then you are likely to get zilch, nada, nothing. We're not talking about wilderness, we're talking small towns and villages with green space between them that do not need an exchange to provide phone services.

It is too easy to complain that people should not have moved to the country, there are many, many people for whom it has been their whole life, not a lifestyle choice. Why should they make a 'lifestyle choice' just to get *ANY* internet access.

What I think that the bill aims to provide is a basic 2Mb/S service to 95% of the population. This hardly counts as a "super-fast" broadband service, and the comments about 50Mb/S for farmer Giles who just looks at sheep-porn just show how fnorking blinkered and uneducated some of you cnuts are.

Technology limitations and cost is what is preventing universal fast net access (how I hate it when 'broadband' is used inappropriately).

What should be the aim is single fibre bundle to a roadside box in the middle of a village, with copper to the house, possibly combined with the phone system to provide a DSL type connection. But even this is a major upheaval when you currently have separate metal wires from each dwelling to the nearest exchange. Whilst I abhor additional taxation, providing some financial support for rural *communities* is almost certainly a Good Thing(tm)

Reading through the BS that some people are spouting makes my blood boil. I'm off for a beer to cool down!

Commodore 64 reincarnated as quad-core Ubuntu box

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Apple ][

There was a color (sic) version of the Apple ][, but the original was black-and-white (actually black-and-green, as Apple only sold a green monitor). I never saw one actually with a coloUr monitor (damn the Yanks and their spelling), but I did use one with a monochrome monitor. It was a PAL model so it could have been that the colour was provided by a third party board, replacing the Apple PAL card.

At the time that the C64 was selling, Apple had moved on to the Apple ][e and the Apple ][c, which were enhanced and compact versions.

I preferred the Beeb myself. Just could not see the attraction of the C64's poor Basic, slower processor, minimal expansion, expensive (and slow!) floppy drives, and lack of bank-switched ROM that allowed you to switch applications on a whim. The (one) hardware sprite, and a more flexible sound hardware did make a difference, but the extensive software interrupt driven sound system on the BBC allowed similar effects to be created, albeit with a greater effort from the programmer.

The C64 was a better system than the Spectrum, though, but that should not detract from the design genius that produced the speccy at the price it sold at.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


Not on a C64, unless someone snuck in a 8-bit 6510 (6502 with the 'missing' instructions re-instated) UNIX port that I missed!!

HTC Legend

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Funny, yes

That the iPhone bears a passing resemblance to a Palm T5 or TX. If only Palm had put a Treo phone chipset in to that, rather than jumping onto the Handspring model for Palms-with-phone, then we might be saying something completely different.

My treo 650 is still soldiering on after 4 1/2 years, but it obviously isn't as sexy as an iPhone, Android or a Pre.

BTW, I know it does not have WiFi or built-in GPS (my GPS unit connects by Bluetooth), but I charge it on the way home on a Friday in the car, use it all weekend for calls, games and media, and it is still over 50% full when I get back in the car on Monday morning. And I can get LOTS of applications for free from many different sites.

US Navy plans self-building floating fortresses

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


Pods containing specific equipment that can be loaded and unloaded when needed.

A floating Thunderbird 2 then!

Mandy quango says Apple, Amazon are too obscure

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Must admit

that I find more music that I want to listen to on Amazon MP3 downloads that I do in my local (25 mile away) HMV store.

Even the majors, and I must admit that I can only think of HMV as remaining, having lost Virgin/Zavvi, MVC, Our Price (OK, I know it was a long time ago), and Woolies, and the jumped-up News Agents like WH Smiths and the Supermarkets, only stock items that they think they will sell. Hardly any back catalog at all.

I don't choose to listed to what the Music Industry think I want to listen to.

But I do miss analogue music formats. I'd probably still buy vinyl if I could!

Sky to pack pubs with 3D TVs

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

What technology - just guessing, but...

You need to send out information for each eye with a different polarization. I do not know for certain, but I can envisage two ways this could be done.

One is to install switchable polarization filters across the whole screen, and interleave left-and-right images while altering the polarization of the filter. This is quite simple to do (LCD screens rely on cross-polarized filters to work anyway, so probably means that instead of the single set of red-green-blue filters, you put two sets in, which allows you to have both-left showing the left image, both-right showing the right image and any combination of left and right showing nothing. It is not quite this simple, unfortunately, as you need degrees of filtering to allow you to show close to the whole range of colours. In addition, plasma TV's don't use polarizing filters, but could easily have a set added. You would also probably need an overall refresh rate of at least 100Hz to avoid perceivable flickering, and very fast acting plasma or LCD screens. On LCD screens, there may also be some left-right bleedthrough of the other image as well.

The second method is to double either the horizontal or vertical resolution (if you want to maintain the same resolution), and have alternate columns or rows behind fixed polarizing filters of different direction. You then feed the left image into the even columns or rows, and the right image into the odd columns or rows. This would work for both LCD and Plasma, and if done cleverly with LCD panels at little extra cost for the screen. You do not need to increase the refresh rate.

In both cases OLED screens would work like plasma screens.

If I were deciding on which system to use, I believe that I would opt for the second design, because I think it would be less complex to build (especially if you accept halved resolution as you could just modify the build process for existing panels), and probably cheaper.

'Phantom Eye' hydrogen strato-spy drone starts building

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

You're forgetting...

... the nitrogen dioxide that will also be a product if the atmosphere is used as the source of the oxygen. Of course, this is produced in petrol engines as well, but most people forget it when considering hydrogen as fuel in a conventional piston engine.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


Cost, adaptability to hydrogen (it's just a modified LPG injection unit), commodity training for the engineers, durability, ease of parts supply, fuel economy, advanced engineering leading to high power-to-weight (financed by the Motor trade not Boeing), no special secrets to be gleaned when they are shot down, ability to be maintained in your average motor garage with readily available tools when operating close to the front line.

I could probably go on...

China warns Google over uncensored search threat

Peter Gathercole Silver badge
Black Helicopters

Collaborative Distributed Proxy

I have long thought that an Open Source, Collaborative Distributed Proxy (my term, and I don't think it has been used elsewhere), whereby any packet can be sent via any member of the collective, in a pseudo-random scatter basis, with encryption, is needed to defeat the country filters imposed by a number of countries.

I've not worked out all of the details, but the basis is that you run a client that acts as a html proxy on your on system, which joins the collective, and does not route any two packets the same way, using UDP stateless connections on randomized ports via other members of the collective. You would need to be able to re-assemble the packet stream, and enforce packet re-transmission (like TCP), and you would need a fixed endpoint for each TCP session.

I know that TOR does something similar, but is mainly for anonymity, I believe that my solution differs because the set of system participating would be constantly shifting, making it difficult to block at the country level.

There are problems with local firewalls on each of the member machines which I have not yet worked out (I suspect that at some point, you would need a broker), and initially joining the collective would be a potential point of weakness which could be trapped, but I think that these are all addressable.

BOFH: The PFY Chronicles part 2

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Kiwi Foo

This years camp finished four weeks ago. Does it take that long for the post to get a card from NZ?

My thoughts are that Simon could not get the leave, or get the Boss to allow him the time to attend, so he faked his own death.

My guess is that when they get round to interviewing for his replacement, there will strangely be only one applicant, who will turn out to be Simon's 'long lost twin brother', separated at birth and sent to Australia (or possibly New Zealand).

Alternatively, Sleep No More may be referring to a Greg Iles story dealing with Transmigration of the soul. Maybe Simon is coming back in another body! Or possibly has had plastic surgery, and he will just appear to be someone else.

I can't wait!

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

But you're talking 30 year old kit!

VT52s are ANCIENT. DEC switched to selling VT100s back in the late 70's, so any VT52s would be 30+ years old. The video components alone would probably be dangerous to power up. I'm sure that all of the capacitors would have leaked by now.

Mind you, they were easy to code for compared to the other things that were out there then. I actually wrote a full VT52 emulator in BBC basic that could keep up with 9600 baud. I then recoded it in 6502 assembler in a day. Could not be arsed to write the VT100 emulator that I really needed.

Bearing in mind the dodgy photo's that Wikipedia has, if the PFY had one in good nick, he could probably find a buyer, if only to take some good pictures to immortalize this important terminal.

Virgin signals start of telegraph pole broadband test

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Broadband over power cables?

There have been trials of data-over-power grid (please note this is *NOT* the same as Homeplug). Scottish Power actually had a commercial service at one time, I believe.

It's not RF interference that killed the trials of this, it was the cost of bridging the signal from high to medium to low tension safely, the problem of combining upstream signals, and the problem of suppressing power switching noise which would cause damage of the datastream ( I was told that even medium tension switching uses sealed oil-quenched switches that arc through the oil, causing it to boil and be very dangerous - exploding substations anybody?). Not conducive to data.

My local electricity distribution company has fibre carried on its HT pylons, providing long-haul data services for trunks across the Atlantic, and has been selling bandwidth on this for over 10 years. But this is not suitable for broadband to the home, unfortunately.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Broken fibre?

I would have thought that the extra stress from fibre blowing in the wind would introduce stress fractures over time, even if there was some form of support cable with it.

It is allowable to bend fibre, but there is a minimum radius for any bend dictated by the angles of reflection and refraction for the type of fibre used and the frequency of the light (can't quite remember my O level Physics). Even on a straight piece of fibre, the light does not travel straight down, it bounces from side-to-side, zigzagging down the fibre. If a bend is too severe, instead of reflecting back into the fibre, some of it is refracted out of it, causing a loss of signal. If the bend is really severe, all the light leaves the fibre leading to total signal loss. And a crack or fracture will probably have the same effect.

Rather than single point suspension, I expect to see curved supports, so the overall shape will be a wavy line (~~~) rather than a series of connected 'U's or W's (WW)

Mutated genetic supertrout developed in lab

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Bigger, more powerful...

Hope they've not invented the samlon (from 'The Legacy of Heorot'). Don't want any Grendels escaping the fish farm!

Tories ask: Why BBC3, BBC4?

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

No win situation

There is no way the BBC can escape criticism in this argument, and this is not because of what they do, but because of their wide audience of people with different viewing needs and opinions.

The fact that there is such a spirited set of arguments just proves that the BBC is being inclusive, and is probably doing it well. There is no way that everybody can agree on a single set of programming, and even if they did, it would then be criticized for being non-imaginative middle-of-the-road crap. It is the ONLY broad-spectrum media organization in the UK, and is probably the best in the world.

I do not particularly like period costume drama, but I accept that there are people who do. I do not like sport either, but I am not calling for either of these to be taken off. Same with Soaps. I do like much of the BBC 3 output, it allows programs that would not be carried anywhere else to be made, but it does get a bit repetitive (that's why it is actually so cheap). BBC 4 is useful for its arts and historical documentaries, and especially for its Proms coverage.

If there is anything on air that needs reviewing, it is the output from the biggest critic of the BBC, that being BSkyB. Just try to spot what they actually commission, rather than buying in.

Brainiacs, sport coverage, a handful of popularist book dramatizations, some elimination entertainment shows (following the herd) and a whole raft of police or customs reality shows and out-take shows. Are they really a good yardstick to compare the BBC to?

Everything else is American big-budget shows (some of which I quite like) and Matt Groening cartoons, but nothing they have actually MADE. Even though Sky carry a huge number of channels, they actually produce almost nothing of value themselves (Hogfather and The Colour of Magic excepted - but these were very rare).

If you need to free bandwidth up on Freeview, dump Sky 3 (just a placeholder really) and half of the shopping channels (Bid, Pricedrop, Ideal, Create and Craft, QVC - do we need them all), and some of the +1 channels. (I would also vote to return YeSTERDAY back to the UKTV History format). And definitly get rid of the Bingo and Roulette pap and Babestation exploitative junk. These last two catagories do not need replacing, just removing (really, there is much better free real-porn online if you want it).

Google boss says something will happen in China 'soon'

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


I hope that was a joke. Have you seen the reported size of the Chinese military!

And they have a capacity to launch space vehicles, so they could probably do ICBM's just as easily.

And they have a modern airforce, and are building a potent navy.

Lenovo ThinkPad Edge

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

T42 + OEM disks

It was T43's that had the disk checks, and I believe that you could patch the bios to overcome it.

Forget SETI, this is how you find aliens: Hefty prof speaks

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Dyson Spheres and gravity

Gravity is not a problem. I'm fairly sure that there is a mathematical proof that there would be real gravity on the inside of the Dyson Sphere. The field strength would depend on the mass and radius of the sphere.

This is explained in the sciency bits at the end of one of Larry Niven's Ringworld books. The proof is based on an infinite sheet, and a large sphere would approximate an infinite sheet. It would be enough to hold the atmosphere close to the surface (on both sides!). Gravity would be perpendicular to the surface at all points, so the terracing would not be required, and in fact could not work if you were relying on spin for gravity (close to the poles, there would not be enough spin to generate pseudo-gravity. There would be no atmosphere at the poles unless the whole volume of the sphere was under pressure, but then the Sun would not work, nor would there be enough gasses to fill the HUGE volume of the interior of the sphere).

You would have to leak energy through the shell to maintain thermodynamic equilibrium, but the way that the energy would leak would probably mostly be in the infra-red, and would be fairly low grade and difficult to detect.

Unlike a ringworld, it would probably not be possible to steer a Dyson Sphere.

The Ringworld needed to spin because it did not approximate an infinite sheet. They also needed rim mountains to contain the atmosphere, ramjets to correct wobble, and shadow squares to approximate day and night.

I'm just wondering whether it would be worth having a Teela Brown around for company, or whether Tree of Life root would be categorized as a Class 1 drug!

UK.gov urged to slash DNA retention plan

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Nothing to do with democracy

We have a representational democracy in the UK. If Parliament vote to accept indefinite retention, there is nothing undemocratic about this.

Unethical, immoral, non-productive, stupid and possibly illegal according to European law maybe, but undemocratic - never.

This is even the case if the policy does not match the feeling of the majority of voters. The fact that you voted your MP into office (or didn't if you either did not vote, or supported one of the loosing candidates) means that you delegated to them the authority to vote on your behalf. Only problem is that they rarely do...

If this really upsets you, lobby your MP, or vote for a party that is more sensible (if there is one!), or even if you feel strongly enough, stand for Parliament yourself!

Democracy is basically agreeing to be governed by the majority. The problem is that without a referendum on every subject, you have to trust, rightly or wrongly, someone to act on your behalf.

BTW. I hate the policy as well. If you are cleared, then my view is that the data should be deleted immediately. Maybe we ought to have a 'not proven' verdict like Scotland, which would allow DNA to be kept for a fixed period, but deleted for cleared suspects.

Whatever happened to the email app?

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Pass me my slippers. It must be time for my nap

Fetchmail and the AT&T Toolbox version of mailx anyone? Folders, mime attachments and an interface that is soooo familiar. Yes, I really do use this combination, at least sometimes.

Now I REALLY know that I'm past it!

'Snowball Earth': Glaciers, ice packs once met at Equator

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@global worming (sic)

My goodness. When I read the title, the idea of some deity or other stuffing a powder or drench down the Earths throat was really alarming (livestock joke)!

Maybe the human race are being likened to tape-worm parasites on the Earth, and Climate change is the way to kill us off!

'Severe' OpenSSL vuln busts public key crypto

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Put it on Power

Because this architecture has single bit correction and double bit detection on all memory and all the internal system registers. And there are additional checks on the results of any machine operation (I'm led to believe that there are effectively tilt bits on the internal hardware instruction sub-units, and once more than one is tripped, it re-executes the instruction).

Should reduce the effect of power (not Power) glitches and even cosmic ray corruption to make this type of attach meaningless.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge
Black Helicopters

It's entropy-mental, my dear Watson

This problem is almost certainly to do with the entropy gathering in the random number generator of the system being cracked. It is normal to stir in entropy data gathered from the hardware (like minor variations in temperature, or bus noise, or maybe small power fluctuations) to the random number seed process to avoid deterministic sequences of random numbers. If you can guess what a sequence of random numbers will be during key generation (SSL uses transient session keys to encrypt parts of the rest of the key exchange and checking process), then the value of the key is severely reduced.

Exactly how this entropy data is gathered is normally specific to the OS and device, so I suspect that the same technique would have to be significantly varied for each different device you want to attack. If you have a device with good isolation from external variations, then this technique will be virtually useless (although gathering entropy data becomes more difficult). And if you have a really good hardware based random number generator that has it's own entropy gathering mechanism, then this will be impossible.

Mind you, I don't fancy being around if they start using focused beams of radiation to affect systems within Data Centers.

Tinfoil hats anyone!

Google says desktop PC is three years from 'irrelevance'

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

But how about...

... a pad that can work independently, but can be dropped into a cradle with keyboard, mouse and screens attached, which works a lot like a PC.

I think that you can already see some of this happening in netbook space. I was surprise how well my EeePC 701 worked with a normal keyboard, mouse and screen attached. Looked like a normal computer!

US 'Anubis' stealth assassin robo-missile nearly ready

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Target recognition?

If this is a loitering weapon (unlike a cruise, which hits a geographically static target with high accuracy), what the hell are they using to recognize the target?

For goodness sake, we can't get facial recognition working for passports in controlled conditions in airports, so how is it going to work in a mobile platform with limited weight and power constraints, for a moving target in a poor environment?

More likely, it will need some form of marker like a radio beacon to be planted in the car or on the clothes of the target. This will still need someone to get up-close. Either this, or someone staring into a video screen in Florida or Nevada.

Even things like the current generation of guided smart bombs that can follow targets normally need a beacon or laser illumination (ever wondered why yank infantry keep pointing gun's at a target, even though there's a C130 gunship attacking it [seen clearly in the first Transformers movie, for example]).They're pointing lasers at the target, and the gunship or smart bomb homes into the reflected coherent light.

Ubuntu Lucid Lynx changes its spots

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


For anybody who uses a separate partition for their home directory, then it is likely that whatever changes they have already made for Hardy, Intrepid, Jaunty or Karmic will persist across the new OS (along with inappropriate settings for new versions of older software as well, unfortunately!)

I include Hardy, as I am going LTS to LTS releases on my main boxes, missing the intermediate versions.

but seriously. You just can't win. Make no changes, and you are being unambitious or not keeping up with the competition. Make changes, and it is all unnecessary. Thank god it is very easily configurable!

Intel pitches Atom storage platform

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Missed the StrongARM(ed) reference

... which is/was the Digital Equipment Corp./Intel variants of the ARM chip (at least before Xscale replaced it, which was then sold to Marvell).

I did not see an XScale pun in the article.

But I believe that when ARM Holdings were set up to guide the development of the architecture, the chip design was re-branded as the "Advanced RISC Machine", removing the Acorn name (at least this is what Wikipedia says here - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ARM_architecture)

I really miss the thinking behind Acorn machines.

Global warming may be normal at this point in glacial cycle

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

re: Doing nothing

I wish that there would be a change of emphasis from "Global Warming" to "Preserving Fossil Fuels".

I'm sure that nobody would deny that the amount of fossil fuels is finite, and it is quite clear that we are depleting the available reserves. We will run out, period. There can be no real denying this. What may be argued is whether it is 50 or 500 years away.

I am generally in the skeptic camp with regard to man made global warming. I believe that man's impact, though present and undeniable, is dwarfed by what Mother Earth can do on her own. I do, however, support whole-heartedly renewable fuels, because when we've used 100 million years worth of gas, oil and coal, it's not coming back in a hurry. We are treating the Earth like a big (zinc-)carbon battery, but we can't just buy another once it is exhausted as we would an Ever-Ready(tm).

I think that we should be preserving oil at least, because it is useful as a lubricant, not just as fuel. We need to balance our energy use with what enters the Earth's domain from the Sun. This is, ultimately, where all our energy comes from in one way or another.

I'm sure that many people would agree once they consider the arguments, and I believe that Governments should switch tack to this in order to persuade the populace to change their behavior.

Most resistance to 'Aurora' hack attacks futile, says report

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


If this is really what was going on, then it raises the battle between IT security and the crackers to a new level. Sounds like all use of work mail addresses on social network sites should be banned forthwith, as should access to said sites and personal Webmail accounts from work PC's. Makes you think that the security police were right (and painfully obnoxious) along.

How long before saying who you work for on open sites becomes a workplace disciplinary offence!

Mind you, the presence of zero-day and un-patched known vulnerabilities in the OS and browsers does not help

Everything you ever wanted to know about Xbox hacking

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Not copied, sold by IBM.

Xenon and Cell are both mainly designed (and manufactured) by IBM. Just shows you how good the IBM Chip design and foundry businesses are at attracting high volume customers. And they also provide the CPU for the Wii, although this is more like a standard PowerPC.

BTW. The Xenon is not a Cell derivative. It has modified PPE processors (3). The PPE is only part of the Cell, and the Xenon has no SPE's. Not really much of a comparison.

Note to Captain Kirk: Warp speed will kill you

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


Check what a Bussard Ramscoop is. It projects a large magnetic field *ahead* of the ship to guide the hydrogen where it needs to go. Looking at the design of the ships, it would have to be a highly shaped field to avoid subjecting the saucer section to a possibly damaging strong magnetic field. And if the same basic design was used in the Intrepid class of ships (like NCC74656 Voyager), then it would have to be even more sophisticated, as the nacelles move (supposedly to make them more in line with the center of gravity of the ship).

As I said before, I don't believe that the design of the NCC1701 Enterprise in the original series was actually scrutinized by engineers or scientists. The function of various parts of the ship was assigned by fans, some of whom ended up writing books. I would be interested to see how many of these works are actually regarded as canon, and have made it into the production bible for the various series.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Bussard Ramjets!

I'm being a trekker cynic here, but I don't believe that ST-TOS (The Original Series) EVER mentioned Bussard Ramjets in the series. This is real science grafted on to the story by fans who were keen to try to fill out the specifications of ships with something approaching real science (Bussard Ramjets being theoretical at the moment).

I actually doubt that this type of propulsion fits, anyway. Hydrogen ramjets are only suitable for sub-light propulsion, and I'm sure that in Ringworld Engineers or Protector or one of Larry Niven's other novels (only a tenuous Trek link, but one of his stories was adapted for the ST-TAS (The Animated Series)), the sciency bit at the end says that hydrogen ramjets will only take you to half the speed of light, assuming that you can eject the hydrogen nuclei at close to the speed of light.

If you look at pretty any of the Enterprise schematics, (NX-01 through 1701-E), I'm fairly certain that the impulse engines (sub-light propulsion) are on the back of the saucer, not in the nacelles. The nacelles are for generating the warp field, which has no current scientific grounding, and nothing to do with Bussard Ramjets.

But there is a strong consensus that the dish at the front of the engineering hull (or on the front of the saucer on the NX-01) is to do with shields that are used when traveling at speed to deflect dust (and presumably hydrogen atoms).

The problem of dust at speed has always been recognized in SCI-FI. EE 'Doc' Smith (one of the original Masters of Space Opera) used to equip his ships with armor several metres (I'm sure he used metres, strange really as he was an American) thick, and he made them tear-drop shape to reduce the drag.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Queller drive

Now you're mixing your SCI-FI series here. The Queller drive is definitely Space 1999.

Google (finally) nabs On2 video codecs

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


In order to retrofit one of the later codec's, they would have to compromise the backward compatibility of Theora (which is one of the sacred cows for the Theora project) , or else spend quite a lot of time merging the codec's to allow the reference Theora code to use both.

If someone (like Google themselves) were to just put the later codec into an ogg container, (which would be quite simple if the later codec is available in source form), then we could get an open 'standard' created before Theora complete their work. Thus Theora would be sidelined. This is why it would be bad for them.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Two alternatives

Google may re-iterate the openness of Ogg Theora, and keep the later versions closed for their own use, or they may open up the latest version.

The problems that apparently prevents some people from accepting Ogg Theora are questions about the possibility of patent infringement, and the performance.

The first option may allow the question of patent infringement to be put to bed once and for all (unless the patents are challenged), but the performance issue would remain.

The second option may kill Theora off completely as an irrelevance.

Either way, it is likely to be bad news for the Theora project. This would be a real shame, as they have been working really hard to produce an acceptable open codec.

1.3 million phones found down back of the sofa in UK

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

You took the words..

..right out of my mouth.

OpenOffice 3.2 - now with less Microsoft envy

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Back in the fray.

I know I said I'd stop, but the latest comments about desktop managers, and the look and feel of some noticeable Open Source packages got my attention again.

It is clear that some people here just are not prepared to give any ground to Open Source. The comments about look and feel from Colin Barfoot point out the fact that if there is a different look and feel, there would be complaints about difficulty of use, lack of common interface etc. If the look and feel is made similar to other packages, there are complaints about lack of innovation. There is no common ground that would satisfy these two positions.

Yes, the font handling is not as good as it could be in several places, but the comment about using Microsoft fonts is only true because so many web sites and documents use Microsoft specific fonts (such as Arial and Calibri, for example). If you do not have access to these fonts, because of some licensing conditions, then substitute fonts must be used, which will always look odd unless the metrics exactly match. If document writers and web designers kept to the common subset (and by this, I do not mean the Microsoft CORE font set, because this is licensed), then everything would work much better. This is another example of Embrace and Extend that Microsoft is so fond of. It is interesting that CORE fonts are available for Windows and OSX, but Microsoft have not granted a free-to-use license for the rest of the industry. I wonder why this could be!

I don't know how many people here have looked at the complexities of font design, but to make a font that uses the same spacing metrics, but is sufficiently different from another licensed font to avoid copyright infringement is very difficult. And with Microsoft changing their standard fonts from one proprietary set to another proprietary set in the latest Office incarnations just reinforces the moving target argument.

The whole technology led world is currently in such an inward looking spiral, requiring change for changes sake and revenue generation, and going faster and faster so that it will eventually implode. I hope for all of your sakes, that it comes apart gracefully, rather than a nasty mess.

And for the record, I too have been working in the industry since before the IBM PC was launched, though slightly after Bill set up Microsoft. I've seen and used X10, X11, NeWS, Looking Glass, Sun's pre-X windowing environment, Motif, CDE, Aqua and virtually all versions of Windows. The difference is that I started with UNIX, and I am still earning my living in that environment, extending it to include Linux. This longevity in a single industry sector is something that few can claim.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

I see your bullshit, and raise you a reasoned argument

I do not know anybody who welcomes change for change's sake, unless they have too little to keep them occupied!

I deal with real people, not organisations, and most of them accept change as a necessary evil. But many of them don't like it. Think analog TV switch-off, the arguments about DAB, the fact that they're forced to accept Direct Debit for their utility bills or effectively be fined for it, or having to go to two-weekly refuse collections. All of these things have benefits, but still generate resentment.

Just go to the pub, and listen to what people are talking about. I'm sure that you will find people complaining about change all over the place. I do.

And is there is a limit to the change you would accept? How about switching the side of the road we drive on, forcing you to change your car as a result. How about a change in your working conditions asking you to do another three hours a week, or altering your pension provision, even if you are told it should have no net effect? How about your credit card raising the interest rate on your account?

Would you be happy to install tracking hardware in your car so that road tolls can be imposed, because the Government told you that it was going to reduce congestion and RTA's, and not just for their coffers).

I see these as a difference only in degree from Microsoft imposing change requiring users to upgrade. Anyway, beer time.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge
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@I think you're the first...

The reason why office 2007 sells so much is because the older versions are no longer available. I'm sure that many people who buy it would prefer to buy 2003, but can't.

The fact that they don't think they have an alternative to MSO is also an issue.

I bought Office Home and Student, because my youngest son's teacher would not accept a presentation created in Impress. Not because it was worse, or would not play in Powerpoint, but just because it was not created in Powerpoint. I resent having to be forced to buy a product that I do not want merely because the education system have bought the MS line, and accepted their advantageous licensing position. The same argument spans business as well.

I am moral. I could have pirated it, but I didn't want to. Neither of my son's like the fact that they have 2007, when the school only has 2003 (they could get it nearly free, but the school does not have the budget to pay for the technicians to do the upgrade). It's different. Difference generates hostility. Some people may think 2007 is the best thing since sliced bread, but many don't.

This is a fact, and if you don't believe it, I suggest that you talk to people who are not in the IT business as either producers or primary consumers (I mean IT departments of organisations). Poll your children's friends parents, or your plumber, or even your accountant. I really don't think that the everyone you talk about is as inclusive as you make out.

Of course, you could take the line that if someone does not have enough money to afford MSO, then their opinion is not worth taking, but that would be elitist, don't you think.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@Chris Thomas

I posted about alpha, beta and release candidate for laughs, and judging from the thumbs up, several people understood.

But having just read the comments again, several of your arguments just do not add up. You've used the fact that MS Office sells in large volumes to justify it's goodness, without taking into account the self-perpetuating dominance that Microsoft have on the market. Many copies are sold because of FUD or momentum, not because people make a reasoned comparison.

You've also effectively said that because you understand and were willing to learn the ribbon, that anybody should be able to, and if they do not, they are lazy or in some way intellectually challenged. That is far more insulting than anything I've said, including the alpha, beta, rc jibe.

I have said that change taxes some people, but I've experienced lots of people who just don't understand why this constant churn is necessary. They get bewildered by the huge range of options, menus and inconsistencies between packages and different versions of the same package. This is not because they are stupid, but because they use computers as tools rather than the computers being their profession. They want to learn something once, like riding a bicycle or driving a car, not have to relearn it every five years.

The term freetard is very derisive in the way you use it. Not everybody who uses Open Source software is to be scorned. There is much in Open Source that is good, and just because someone gives their work to the community in general is not a reason to sneer. Save your scorn for those people who steal other peoples work by not paying for licenses. Of course, it may be that you are one of the people who feel threatened by other people giving away their work for free, but you should only be worried if the quality of the package you write is worse that that in the Open. The answer to that is to either get better, or find another career.

I buy good software, and all of the music and other media that I consume. I use Open Source because it often does the job I need, and saves me money. I don't steal software, movies, music or books.

I find the poor grammar, and lack of correct capitalisation in people's comments notable. I equate it to people having an unreasoned rant, and not taking the time to consider their use of English, which I extrapolate to mean that they have probable not considered the content of their comment either. This was the cause of my 'foaming at the mouth' comment.

You come across as dogmatic, condescending, and often arrogant. If you came across like this during a sales pitch, I would probably quietly show you the door, regardless of whether you tried to impress me with the quality of your designers, programmers, or the result. But I respect your point of view, even if I don't agree with it.

The fact that you can't take criticism, or reasoned argument without descending to insults (and you've done this more than anyone here) probably indicates some type of insecurity.

I'm leaving this particular set of comments now, because I don't think I have anything else to say without repeating myself.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge
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@agreed vendor lock in

I think your comment about people pirating MS Office is a sad reflection on the morals of people not respecting the value of other's work rather than a comment on the MS Office vs. OOO debate.

People pirate it because they can (and because they do not understand the consequences), and they can then enjoy the benefits of both using MSO and not paying for it. If they were found out, and threatened with fines, or their computer stopping working (remember Microsoft have TPC functionality in Vista and later), I feel that we would have a quite different set or arguments going on here. We really would have a higher penetration of OOO in the market. Microsoft have known exactly what is going on ever since they forced people to install Windows Genuine Advantage. I am certain that it passes all keys for licensed software back to Microsoft. There's nothing in the T&Cs that prevent them from doing this, and lots that says they will.

But MS is not actually interested in the individual with a pirated MSO installation. They will happily ignore the possible millions of copies of MSO installed on certain low end vendor OEM and retail copies of Windows, because they know that it is reinforcing their market dominance AND ensuring that the computer is still running Windows (and also the financial return on taking these people to court would be so small). But if they find a commercial organisation using pirate copies, they will roll out the lawyers in very short order.

If you think that money is not always the driver behind what people run on their computers, then I think you have a skewed view of the market. What people use is a trade off between what they can afford and what they need. In the commercial market, companies think they need MSO, so pay for it. But in the SOHO market, money is an issue. If FUD and compatibility are removed from the equation, they would probably choose free rather than something that costs considerable amounts of money even if it does look less polished.

I refer back to my Aston Martin vs. Ford comment in one of my previous post as supporting evidence. I take it you are at the Aston, BMW or Merc. end of the market.

IBM super is Met Office's 'chief weapon against British cynicism'

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

% chance

You'd probably still complain, and many people don't really understand percentage chance.

What does a 80% chance of rain mean to you? 80% of the region getting rain, it raining for 80% of the day, or it raining on 8 days out of 10 that they forecast an 80% chance of rain?

I can tell you that it is the latter, but I suspect that you had to read it twice to understand it. If you asked the readership of the Daily Mail this question, you would get most of them saying they don't know, and many of the rest just guessing one of the three.

And on the 2 out of 10 days that the chance says that it won't rain will still be wrong according to the media, even though the chances were correct. The media is fickle that way.

And if you remember your O Level or GCSC maths, you have to allow for short term anomalies . If you remember, when you toss a coin, over a larger number of tosses, you will get close to 50% heads and 50% tails, with some freak occurrences of it landing on it's edge. But that would not mean that you could not get 5 or even 10 heads in a row. It's unlikely, but it will happen sometimes. This is why it is never safe to bet on averages on a roulette wheel or any other game of chance.

The Met Office already do the analysis of predicted vs. actual weather. This is what they do to refine the model(s) to try to make them more accurate. But as I understand it, snow is particularly difficult to forecast, because very minor changes in the boundaries between the air layers can cause either rain, hail, sleet or snow.

The UK is caught between three major weather systems. You have the Arctic, that is cold air that attempts to push south, Europe that is fairly static, and at this time of year mostly cold, and the Atlantic which is very turbulent but quite wet and warm. As a result you have a three way battle, and I believe that it is one of the most difficult weather systems to predict in the world.

Precipitation is caused when warm moist air meets cold air in some way. The warm air moves up over the cold air, and as it gets higher and cooler, has to drop it's moisture. Depending on the temperature gradient, and the speed of air movement, and the turbulence at the air boundaries, the water droplets will coalesce and maybe freeze in different ways, leading to all of the possible outcomes.

Sometimes the forecast is easy, and sometimes it is not. Sometimes the warm air is kept south, leading to cold weather with no precipitation. Sometimes it just rolls straight off the Atlantic, leading to wet but warm weather spreading from west to east, and sometimes it diverts north, and then is carried back down south by the Arctic air, leading often to snow. And sometimes cold and warm air meet over the UK, and under these circumstances it is difficult to predict.

It is generally acknowledged that none of the current models give reliable results more than 10-14 days into the future. This means that the short term forecast will be based on modelling, and the seasonal forecast will be based on longer term cycles which can be identified by trend analysis of the of the past several years of actual weather rather than the air condition models. This makes a huge difference in the way that the forecasts should be used. You would not use the seasonal forecast to try to predict the weather for Christmas day, but you might use it to give an indication of what December in general may be like.

This is my schoolboy geography view of the weather, and no doubt somebody will pick holes in it. I do not claim to be a weather forecaster, but I believe what I've said is mostly correct.

I'm waiting for a maths or geography teacher to pull me up, so I've used the pedantic grammar alert icon!

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