* Posts by Peter Gathercole

2924 posts • joined 15 Jun 2007

The 'green' car tax grabs that don't add up

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Flame fodder

I'm not a climateologist, but I have to say that I believe that the current published science of climate change is skewed towards proving that we are to blame.

The way this works is that research money has to be justified in advance by the researcher before the research starts. So researcher A asks for money to find why the Polar Bear population is reducing. Researcher B asks for money to research how man-made global warming is affecting Polar Bear populations.

Faced with the titles of these two research projects, the politicians (who ultimatly hold the purse strings in most western states) decide that the latter one is in keeping with their green agenda so has political value as well as scientific. So, the research starts off with a biased premise, skewing the perception when the results are presented out-of-context. It's like saying that all scientists who are looking for man-made climate change agree that their research concludes it is happening. What a surprise that they have found what they were looking for. Hey, they've justified their funding. This is the IPCC to a tee, and dissenting voices are shouted down.

Now, please don't get me wrong. Climate change is happening, and we are contributing to it in many different ways. But from what I have gleened, we are at the end of an ice age, the amout of geological change is reducing, affecting the long-term carbon cycle (look it up), and the Earth may be returning to a more 'normal' (in geological time frames) tempreture after about two million years of cold. This probably would happen even if we were to stop producing carbon dioxide tomorrow. I reference the BBC series Earth Story (ep. 6) to help support this claim.

I agree that we should reduce fossil fuel use, not to reduce carbon in the atmosphere, but because they are precious resources which will never be replaced naturally in any useful (to us) timeframe.

I'll just don my asbestos coat.

DAB: A very British failure

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

DAB styling

The main styling problem is actually a power thing. DAB radios are power hungry which equates to large batteries, which leads to large sets. It does not really matter how you discuise it, it will look retro. I have a Pure Elan RV40, which does not look like a '50s radio, but is large (and has two speakers!)

I also use headphone-only DAB radios (one branded KISS picked up in a catalogue clearence shop, and a Roberts Robi iPod attachment), and only get a few hours listening on either one. This is just a fact of life. I live with it. I regard it as an acceptable price for the diversity I cannot get on FM.

I would want to ask how people would like to package radios in a way that was not retro? Can anybody point to a stylish modern FM radio? I will then be able to point to a Roberts or Pure device that looks similar.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Gordon Bennett

If only half of the effort went in to defending DAB as has gone into these comments, it would be alive and well!! On some of the comments from others, here is what I think.

If you cannot advance the closk, set the alarm an hour earlier (Duh!)

DAB has DECODING delays in the receiver (listen to two different DAB radios at the same time, and hear the time signals at different times). This makes it impossible to correct by broadcasting it early. Same is true for Digital TV vs. Analog TV.

DAB is as good as the ariel. Good ariel==strong signal==no errors or dropouts

DAB radios have quite a lot of computing processing power, which is power hungry. I'm sure that if the person who complained about power consumption would really like to go back to listening to AM on crystal sets that can be made to work WITHOUT A BATTERY! If battery life worries you, get rechargable batteries.

Planet Rock plays music A LOT of people like (including me). But it won't suit everybody. And listen to something other than the rock blocks. I hear new-to-me stuff all the time.

Much of the BBC 7 content was recorded in mono (and some on acetate disks, not tape!), so stereo is not required for all of the material.

I now notice hiss on FM much more than before I listened to DAB.

FM and AM will never die as it is the official emergency information route for national emergencies, mearly because it needs less infrastructure to broadcast and recieve (can you imaging what the EMP from nuke would do to every satellite receiver)

GCAP have lost the plot, and are just chasing as much money as they can get.

There. Take that. My coat has the Roberts Robi hanging from the pocket.

Mac security site littered with malware

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

For goodness sake...

How many times to we have to have this same argument Windows vs. Mac vs. Linux.

There is no perfect solution to the problem as long as you have mechanisms to make the use of a system easier. Easier on the surface == complex under the covers. It does not matter if it is the sudo model that is in OSX or Linux, the Role based securtiy model of Vista or the "lets just do it" model of XP running as administrator. The basic problem still exists in that you need to do something out-of-the-ordinary, and you either trust it, or ask some form of question.

In every case, unless the user is really on the ball, there is always the chance that something nasty could get through. The Unix model (different from popular Linux distro's) of putting the code in your own non-privileged space is about the only robust model there is, as you are very unlikely in a properly run system to import anything that will affect anyone other than yourself. That's not to say that a 'bot or a trojan will not get through, but other users of the system are unlikely to be compromised. I am deliberately ignoring the lack of binary compatibillity, which is not what I am arguing.

Of course, this means that everyone who wants to use a particular browser extension or version of Java will have to install it themselves, and it is possible for things to be run when you are not logged in (just put it in cron), but this is quite easy to spot.

So, lets just agree that it is a knotty problem, accept that different OSs do it differently, and leave it at that.

DARPA releases 'Blackswift' hyperplane details

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@Charles Manning

I really don't think that ARPA (as it was then) was spec'ing a worldwide commercial network.

It's research was in self-healing communication networks useful for military communications where many parts of the 'net might be taken out. This would be (and is) used on closed encrypted networks with no public access.

Also, don't tar the original research into packet switching with the poor implementation that plagues many applications now on the Internet.

Of course, there were weaknesses in the original design, such as the DoS SYN attacks or man-in-the-middle data capture attacks that are possible, but the security layers that leak so badly are definitly above the one provided by the basic ARPA design.

If you look at the original suite of applications that were demonstrations of the work (telnet, tenex, ftp, mail), they were useful, and people used them, even if they were basically insecure. The world was a more simple place, and generally the networks they were used on were internal to single organisations. Even then, firewalls were mooted (the first firewall I was aware of pre-dated the Web. by several years).

The concept of the World Wide Web (which is just a service running on the Internet) was NOT part of the ARPA research.

The fact that we are still using it, warts and all, justifies the strength of its original design, and it is only likely to be replaced by a derrivitive work (IPv6).

Cassini to surf Enceladus's icy plumes

Peter Gathercole Silver badge
Paris Hilton

Just a cosmic car (or spaceprobe) wash.

They obviously decided that Cassini was dirty.

With the wax and polish, please.

Siemens kicked off UK government contract

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


Was your mainframe running DOS?

What - DOS/360 maybe? But that would imply an IBM 360/370 mainframe (although I guess that it would run under VM on newer kit), much older than 1989.

Where is the icon for an old IT fart. A crumpled suit would probably do.

Canonical fires up box Landscaping business

Peter Gathercole Silver badge
Thumb Up

Supporting Steve George

I really appreciate Steve George making it clear what Ubuntu and Canonical stance is all about. And before you read on, I am just a Ubuntu user, and have no links with Canonical at all.

All of you who think that a company like Canonical can put the resources into making Ubuntu the first real open alternative to Microsoft without being able to leaverage a return can only think that money grows on trees.

They have a service based business model, and these services will include bespoke tools. The GNU Public License does not prevent such software from being written to run on top of Linux, nor does it prevent these tools from using, say, the libraries that ship in a Linux distro. This means that these tools can remain closed, and provide a commercial advantage. Canonical does not HAVE to put EVERYTHING they work on back into Ubuntu (provided that it is their own work that they are selling and not modified GPL'd code). That's what the GPL allows.

I applaud Canonical for putting back into the open as much as they do, and for sponsoring Ubuntu development, but they do have to become an economically viable company at some point. As long as they keep to their principals, what is wrong with that.

Where Canonical can benefit is by making these tools and services good enough for people to want to use them. By making sure that Ubuntu is adopted as widly as possible means that they have a larger potential client base. But what makes them different is that they are not shoving their software or services down peoples throats. Ubuntu users have chosen it because it is good, it is free, and it does not come with strings attached (Redhat and Novel/SUSE take note). People can pay for support if they want or need it, but there is no stigma to using the software, downloading the patches, and not paying anything if that is what they choose to do.

All I can hope is that enough people want services to enable Canonical to achieve their goal.

Palm OS-based Centro arrives in UK

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Same on you Reg

... for using stock photos. I'm sure that SprintTV is not available in the UK!

Tool makes mincemeat of Windows passwords

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@Dave re pointers

If you can take a dump of the entire memory, then time is not a problem for mining data. Of course you would not be able to break in to the machine in a hurry, but that is only one possibillity.

And I believe that my point still stands. If the Kernel can find the information, then so can another tool specifically written to follow the same evidence trail. Once you know the rules, you can code a analytical tool to apply them. All you need is a device like an EeePC (but with a firewire port) with tools intelligent enough to recognise the OS in question, and apply the relevent rules. A serious hacker will have a toolkit with the rules built in ready and waiting. In in seconds.

My guess is that those people who think it is too hard have never delved under the covers in a real OS to understand how they work. And I know I am being a pedant, but I do not see the difference in this context between 'abstraction' and 'obsfrucation'.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@Kenny Millar

Useful comment, but not completly valid. The OS always has to be able to find this information, so has pointers that can themselves be found (paging tables with known base addresses etc.) All you have done is added an extra level of abstraction, which may deter some people, but not those with serious knowledge, or access to clever tools. Of course, this may make OS's with their source code visible more vulnerable.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Busmastering DMA controllers the problem?

I must admit that I am years behind the times, but when I studied DMA controllers in detail, the OS programmed the memory mapping registers on most architectures to limit the DMA controllers access to just the memory that it needed. This was before the advent of busmastering controllers, but I cannot see that not limiting the memory region, or allowing the controller to access the memory management registers can ever have been a good idea.

In the normal scheme of things, the DMA write operations needs the controller to know where it is safe to write the information, even if it is taking control of the bus in a non-solicited manner. Of course, read operations are not as critical, but again, for a DMA controller to do anything useful, it is necessary for it to be told where to look.

As a result, allowing the controller carte-blanche to the memory map of the system should never really be necessary. Surely this means that the DMA access for firewire must be a mis-feature at the very least, even if it is not a flaw in the design. Or is it really a problem with the northbridge memory controller in a PC?

Maybe someone can enlighten me about why you would want to be able to allow a DMA controller full access to the memory, except to allow a box to be owned in this manner.

BTW, this is also an old story. Apparantly the technique was presented at Ruxcon in 2006.

Asus Eee PC gives Sony the willies

Peter Gathercole Silver badge
Paris Hilton

@observant AC

It is faked!! And obviously a pre-production mock up as the shape is all wrong.

Nooo, not Ms Eee, who's shape looks just right!

IBM gives mainframe another push

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


I think you will find it is 64 larger birds (Emu's maybe?) under the covers. It says so in the article.

Judge greenlights lawsuit against Microsoft

Peter Gathercole Silver badge
Thumb Down

A certain large supermarket...

... was seen selling a 'complete' system (screen, keyboard etc.) with Vista Basic installed that, on inspection, did not actually have sound capabillities listed on the external packaging, and no speakers included.

I'll bet that this had a motherboard with sound built-in, that did not have Vista drivers available for the chipset used.

I pity the people who bought these systems. I'll bet they did not expect to not get sound!

Sky Broadband puts the fault into default Wi-Fi security

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Cracking WEP

I wondered what I was doing wrong. I was just working from the original aircrack manual pages.

Of course (having looked around a bit), it would help if my laptop did not have a Intel 2200BG chipset. I know I'm wimping out here, but for a quick investigation, I am not going to go down the route of re-compiling the ipw2200 modules. Oh well, looks like I need the backtrack2 livecd.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Have you tried to crack WEP

I is important that you cannot algorithmetrically guess a WEP password, because even 64 bit WEP is enough to deter casual bandwidth-stealers.

I made an attempt to crack a 64 bit WEP key on one of my wireless routers recently, just to see how long it would take.

I used airmon, airodump and aircrack, and read that I would need something over 200,000 packets before aircrack would be guaranteed to recover the key. I found that it was not the power of the machine running the crack, but the amount of traffic on the network which determined the amount of time to crack the key.

After running the whole weekend, I had nowhere near enough packets with just surfing running on the network (I admit it was a quiet, but not idle network), so I suspect that most war-drivers will not bother to hang around to attempt to crack your 64 bit WEP unless you are a big-time P2P user, or throw large media files around your wireless network.

Of course, the 15 year old h4x0r or script-kiddie in the next road, trying to get porn without their parents knowing might be a different matter.

Warner Bros revs up live action Akira

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Not sure whether it will work in US

There are several very Japanese concepts in Akira that will not easily translate into the US as is. There are two ways round this. Ether New Manhatten society will be made to look like post apocalipse Neo-Tokyo, or they will change the story.

Which is it likely to be. Hmmmmm.

Die for Gaia, save the planet?

Peter Gathercole Silver badge
Paris Hilton

Population control

I've always wondered why the human race (or at least the British population) has not degraded.

If you look at the demographics of which part of society is having the most kids, in Western society, you will find that the best educated, highest earning portion of the society is the one having the least number of children.

If you go down to the Chav end, they are having the most (this is by observation, not statitistics, but my gut feel is that it is true).

So in theory, assuming that abillity and education follow down the generations (educated people are more likely to make sure that their children are educated than non-educated people), why has the population of these societies not ended up at the chav end of the spectrum.

Oh. Maybe it has. Hence dumbing down everywhere. And here is another example. Paris! (OK, not so good as the Hiltons are slightly rich, but as good a reason for the icon as any!)

Heathrow 777 crash: 'No anomalies in the major aircraft systems'

Peter Gathercole Silver badge
IT Angle

...fly again

It is almost certain that the plane won't fly again.

Aircraft bodies are designed to cope with the stress of taking off, flying, and normal landing. A mushy landing resulting in undercarriage colapse and wing damage is likely to stress elemets of the plane beyond their tolerances, leading to structural defects in many of the strength elements of the airframe. Damage will have been done to the wing fabric and possibly the roots, undercarriage, engine pods, and body (where it touched the ground).

If it were to fly again, there would need to be tests performed on all of the major structural elements to prove that they were not compromised. This would probably cost more than replacing the plane. In addition, it would need new wings and engines (which is possible, but expensive). For an example, see how much it has cost to return Vulcan XH558 to flying condition, and this was a much more simple aircraft.

In addition, the investigation will be probing all of the wiring systems and control systems, so these would need to be re-worked. If you have ever seen how much wire there is in a modern plane, and at what point in the construction it is put in, you would realise that it cannot be replaced. Hell, car companies don't like replacing the wiring loom in a car!

It is likely that most of the relevent parts of the plane will be kept until some time after the investigation is closed, and if they are ever released, re-usable parts will enter the spares pool of BA or Boeing (after being bought back from the insurers). The remaining airframe will probably become a engineering, fire, or evacuation training mule.

BA will not suffer, as the planes are insured.

BitTorrent busts Comcast BitTorrent busting

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

£1387 per month...

... but how many people want/need to download 2.5TB in a month, which is approx. how much you can do with 100% of 8Mb/S line.

I pay a premium for my line at this speed, and I would like to be able to get the speed I pay for, but only in bursts, and not necessarily during the peak hours. I clearly don't get it.

Looking at my firewall traffic graphs, it looks like during busy times, I average about 40KB/S, which equates to about 320Kb/S, which is something like 24 times slower than my theoretical maximum. And the peak (averaged out over 15 minute periods) is only 125KB/S, which equates to about 1Mb/S. Still 8 times less than I pay for.

And now, it is very suspicious that my incoming SSH sessions hang within seconds of me starting them, which looks like VM is doing something antisocial with my traffic.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Extreamly annoyed

I admit that the majority of torrents are probably copyright material (even Linux distro's are copyrighted, but the license allows free distribution), and much of that will be illegal use. But those "anonymous cowards" who claim it should be completely banned need lining up and shooting. Banning torrents outright would only mean that other tools would be used. And those people who *DO* use bittorrent it for legitimate purposes (and for what it was originally used before being hijacked) would be the victims.

And with iPlayer downloads (which are P2P) legitimise use for *SOME* commercial material.

It will become a constant technological war between RIAA and MPAA through the ISPs to stop illegal distribution of copyright material. Let's seperate this from the bandwidth/contention debate, and encourage the ISPs to sell more realistic services that charges for use. Cap according to purchased allowance, encourage heavy users to take out higher tier packages, and invest the money in ensuring that we get what we pay for!

Can anybody post links to credible information about traffic use statistics at any representative point on the 'net?

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@AC - Capped at peak hours

I think that VM are one of the most communitive of the UK ISPs. If you want to find out about their AUP, then sign in to their "Customer Zone" and get details of your package. On that page will be a link to their AUP. Follow that, and you will find a link about their traffic shaping. Alternatitivly, look through their FAQ on broadband.

If you believe it verbatim, then it is only the top 5% of users during peak hours who get traffic managed. Their peak hours are defined as 16:00 to 24:00.

Having praised them on their openness, I find myself sceptical about what they say actually being what they do. My 8Mb/S line rarely goes over 25% of it's potential bandwidth for any traffic. My DSL router actually gives me a connection speed of about 7.4 Mb/S. This could be as a result of the upload speed of the site I am receiving from, but I have recently got a HSDPA modem which often downloads faster that my landline, even when only in 3G mode (my home is not in a "Turbo" enabled region). I suspect heavy contention, but can I get them to respond to mails asking what the contention ratio is?

Still, I could change, and I havn't. Must say something.

Elonex punts £99 Linux laptop

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Oops. Pounds not dollars

I'm sure I used the pound symbol. Still, I guess they are next to each other.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Looks top heavy

I have trouble with my Eee on my lap. Because you are not on a flat surface, the feet at the back do not keep it at an angle, and the screen makes it fall backwards.

This thing looks like most of the weight is in the screen, which would be even worse! Still. less than $100, would be a bargain!

Virgin Media taps Microsoft in lengthy email outage

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@Captain Jamie - Virgin Media support

Now you've hit a raw nerve. I have been a Virgin.Net customer for many years, and in general, have found the service fairly reliable (although this could be because I am not a cable customer, just ADSL), but their support STINKS.

I have a bare wire ADSL install to my own DSL router, to a Smoothwall firewall and then to a mixed wired and wireless network of Linux, MS Windows, Macs and even an AIX system (yes, this is at my home). I use a mixture of Webmail (for convienience) and fetchmail to pick up my mail from their mail server.

If I mention any one of these components in a support call, they just turn off and don't even bother to understand the questions.

I'm currently having capacity problems (I'm not getting even 10% of my paid-for 8Mb/s bandwidth), but am currently at the "have you turned off your computer and router and turned them back on" stage.

I took the rash action of sending them traceroute and ping timings to each of the hops, to show where the most likely bottleneck was, but I think I must have blown the recipients poor little mind, because I never heard anything back! They also took a very dismissive attitude when I complained that my allways-on link was being dropped several times a day, which screwed up my dynamic DNS entries. I now have to manually force my entry several times a day just so I have it working for some of the day.

One of these days, I will get so sick I will change, but I can mostly work without their help, so just get by.

My wife says that I should leave now. My coat is the one with all the network cable and micro-filters filling the pockets.

Jane Fonda c-word slip shocks US

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Not just americans

The BBC has a ban on it. I remember listening to Front Row on Radio 4 one evening at about 21:30, and there was a woman artist describing a live art work that involved a woman sitting with her legs open with little clothing, and the artist used the word (sorry, I'm not afraid of the word, I'm just posting through a content screen which may identify the word and take action) to describe aspects of the work, and Mark Lawson nearly tripped over himself with a repremand to the guest and an apology to the listeners.

Laughed, I could have crashed the car!!

I think that there were a number of audience complaints recieved by the BBC.

UK teen is world's youngest certified ethical hacker (maybe)

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Education for education's sake

We are in danger of using a very broad brush to tar the whole of the Computing education system.

Commenters have mentioned everything from boot-camps to degree level qualifications, and most of them have been negative comments.

There is a VAST difference between a tick-all-the-right-boxes test after a five day course, and a four year sandwich degree with yearly exams. And there is variation in these as well.

I was a product of the University system 25+ years ago, and still value much of what I learnt. I have since taught, both in Further education, and on get-them-through-the-test courses. Both can be valuable, but for different reasons. In many cases, it is HOW they are taught rather than what is taught that is important, and encouraging an enquiring mind is the desired result, and the certificate is a by-product.

I applaud this 16 year old, as he clearly has the right-stuff to go much further, and be a really useful person. He even acknowleges that he has much to learn, something that many people I know in the industry have not learned after 20 years.

I do believe, however, that the learn-by-wrote certification method leaves much to be desired, and value experience over certificates nearly every time. But those of us who say that experience is always better may not actually have learned enough to know their own limitations.

Viva good education, however it is delivered!

RIAA chief calls for copyright filters on PCs

Peter Gathercole Silver badge
Paris Hilton

People are uneducated and not disposed to learn.

The vast majority of them will just accept it, because they are told it is necessary by someone in a position of apparant responsibillity. We (the commentors of El. Reg.) do not represent the majority of the uninformed sheep that make up the voting public, and thus are the tail trying to wag the dog, and even we argue about such things!

Paris, because she represents the dumb masses.

Cable cutter nutters chase underwater conspiracies

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@Tim Brown

Surely it must be Godzilla, although he (she) is a long way from Tokyo (homage to original nipponese films, not Hollywood). When do we have to appeal for Mothra's help to protect our Internet?

US Army struggles with Windows to Linux overhaul

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

...are tying themselves to Intel when they go with Linux?


I don't know of any OS which is available on a wider selection of the worlds 16, 32 and 64 bit processor archetectures than Linux. It would be easier to list the archetectures that have NOT had linux ported.

A quick off-the-top-of-my-head list of supported procs:

PowerPC and derivatives, ARM and derivatives, Sparc, MIPS, Motorola 68000 and 88000, Alpha, HP Precision, Itanium, zSystem (IBM mainframe), VAX, Transmeta, Zilog z8000, and oh, Intel and non-Intel x86 and derivatives.

I would be very surprised if there were not Prime systems with Linux running on them somewhere. Wonder what is the most obscure Linux port?

Physicists go nuclear with online protest at funding cuts

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


What has physics done?

Electronics everywhere, radio, microwaves, (more) efficient cars, light bulbs (all types), electricity generation and electric motors, weapon systems... do you want me to go on?

Remember, electronic engineering, mechanics, ballistics, fluid flow, advanced materials - in fact almost all science based aspect of our lives are affected by physics based research. Science subjects also overlap, so what looks like chemistry, biology or engineering often involves physics as well.

Anyway, it is not just physics that is affected by this funding cut.

Freeview lobby cries foul on Ofcom HDTV plans

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

DTV streams and quality

One of the problems with all of the current digital encoding methods is that the decoders guess a significant number of frames in the transmission stream, and this gets worse if frames are lost as a result of poor signal.

There are only complete frames transmitted every 10 or 15 frames (or longer on low bitrate channels), with deltas (differences between one frame and the next) transmitted in between. What is even more alarming is that some deltas effectivly say 'nothing new here, just interpolate from the last delta'. This is why with certain low persistance televisions (those with fast refresh rates) showing low bit rate channels, you get strange effects like someones facial features moving around on their face. This is masked by older CRT TV's with long persistance phosphors

What happens if you get a compromised bitstream (i.e. marginal signal) is that some of these deltas get lost. The reciever does the best it can, by interpolating (guessing) from the last frame and the last delta. This can lead to some very strange effects, such as parts of the picture apparantly floating in comparison to the picture as a whole. This is especially true if one of the frames lost was one of the completly new picture. The deltas arrive, and the decoder moves part of the picture which should have been the ball, for example, and what actually happens is that part of a player from a previous frame is moved instead. But as the picture is still digitally clear, the viewer does not see it as a signal quality issue. This is why the ball sometimes submerges.

The funniest is if a frame that corrisponds to a cut between scenes gets lost, and the deltas that should show a person moving (for example) get appplied to a plain background. This gives the illusion of a nearly invisible person, as the deltas show a vaguely person shaped part of the background moving independently of the rest.

The solution to this *REALLY IS* to check the signal strength and quality. Even low bitrate muxs rarely cause this sort of effect if they are being received properly.

What you do see with low bitrates is 'pixelization', where moving pictures look blocky. This is because areas of the picture which are similar are transmitted as a large rectangular block of solid or gradated colour to use less of the bandwidth, which should get refined in the following deltas. If there is not enough bandwidth, then the refinements never arrive before the next full frame, leading to the large areas becoming noticible. How bad this is is often down to the quality of the encoding hardware or software. This is sometimes where live transmissions look worse, because the hardware to do this in realtime is quite expensive.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@Anonymous Coward

Japan, Korea and Hong Kong are all parts of the world where technology rules. They will have very little concern about throwing out their current generation of TVs etc. As I understand it, the technophiles there rarely let a phone get a year old before replacing it. I'm sure the same is true about their TVs. Of course, they have heavy investment in making many of these consumer devices!

I'm sure that there are ordinary mortals as well, but that is how the media portray these countries.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


I think they break up because you have poor signal quality, not because the bit rate is too low. It is possible to loose some multiplexes because of local conditions, and not all of the Mux's in your area will be broadcast with the same power.

On another note. I have Sky, and have also put freeview adapters on every TV in the house now, and I am horrified by this HD freeview proposal, and also by the possibility that Sky may start using their existing freeview bandwidth to carry incompatible transmission streams that you would need new equipment for (and probably have to pay Sky for).

The whole point of standards is that you can prepare for the future. I have only just got my parents to agree to have their aerial updated and DVB-T boxes procured ready for the digital switchover. If I say to them that they will have to buy another box in a few years time, especially if it is before analog switch off, they will not be amused.

The problem is that there was no forward thinking. If there was the possibillity of new kit being needed, there should have been a timetable so that people buying freeview boxes would know whether they could hold off. This would have affected early sales, but benefitted the viewers. It is really now too late to think of changing the current bandwidth.

I don't think that HD is really taking off, anyway. I bought SkyHD expecting there to be a vibrant set of channels available. We now have about 20 channels, several of which are pay-to-view film channels (SBO), and some of them are just upscaled normal channels (like Sky One HD), and some just arn't on air very long (like BBCHD). Looking at Discovery HD or the other documentry channels, there is really some stunning material around, but not very much.

Anyway, the choice of use of bandwidth on freeview is dictated by commercial pressures. Why should there not be two low-bandwidth shopping channels, rather than another retro drama channel. Let customers decide by ratings (and advertising revenue). I do agree about NutsTV, though. It must go.

Iran fires rocket 'into space', plans satellite for '09

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


Looking at the larger picture, entropy dictates that the Earth, Solar System, local galaxy et. al. will not exist forever, let alone Israel!

If you can just stop throwing the screwed up paper at me, I'll go to the coat rack.

Geeks fight the smelter with embedded processor-based box

Peter Gathercole Silver badge
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@Ole Juul

Ahhh, but text files ain't what they used to be. Gone are the days of CP437, 850 or ISO8859. We are now in the realm of Unicode and UTF.

Still, plain text (especially western languages mostly occupying 8 bits per character) in plain Unicode or UTF-8 will still be much more efficient than wrapping the stuff up in HTML or XML. I've not used Asian languages, so I can't compare these.

I still prefer my email like this. Makes the words more important if the formatting is ripped out.

Submarine cable cut torpedoes Middle East access

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@Desi Banda

As someone who has worked both sides of the IT support fence for a high technology, high skill, non PC and Windows computing product (think propriority UNIX), I find that all of the criticisms of non-UK support centres are largely real.

When I worked in the UK support centre, we prided ourselves in high first-time-fix (60%+) rates. We had people who knew the product, and could talk intelligently about problems available on the first call. Our customer satisfaction rate was high, even though it was a centre for dealing with largely unhappy people (if they were happy, they didn't need to call).

I no longer work in the support centre, which has been partially moved to India, but I still have to call. My heart sinks when one of my calls is routed to India. Not only am I dealing with a complex product, with a lot of non-english words, but I am talking to someone for whom english is not their native language, who has probably learned from either an American, or another Indian.

I now find that it is simpler to just describe the problem in an email rather than having to describe the chvirtprt (for example) command. So, no first time fix. And many of my collegues feel the same.

All of the UK jobs lost were at or above the national average salary, except for trainees, who moved up over time. Where have the jobs to replace these come from?

I know that globalisation required it to be done to remain competative, and I also know that it is me affected, not Joe Bloggs on the street so there are sour grapes involved, but I cannot think it is good for UK customers, UK employees, or HMRC. And I think the benefit of NI and Income Tax, and all secondary tax (such as VAT) probably out weigh the shareholder and Corporation Tax benefits, especially if the company reports outside of the UK.

Please note that I am quite happy working with people from anywhere in the world, and have many non-european friends gathered over the years. I am just talking about the technicalities of fixing problems.

And to all of you anon. cowards (not Desi, though), if you really feel strongly, you should rant in your own name!

Do we need computer competence tests?

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Read the article!

I have been reading Guy's articles for about 30 years, and I think he has a reasonable, balanced view of what has happened in the computing world in that time.

I think that you all ought to re-read the article (not just other peoples comments), because it is documenting a crisis of viewpoint (his), which I believe that many people who have been around long enough share.

He admits that what he is presenting is against his previously held views. When the 'net was new, it was largly (although not exclusivly) people who had an interest in the computers themselves who used it, and could thus protect themselves from the neo-vulnerabillities that were around at the time.

Time moves on, and the threats are now much more 'dangerous', the systems more complex, and the users more naieve. And the 'net is a more important part of our lives than ever before. Something needs to be done to prevent it being owned by malicious people, and he was presenting a possibe path as a talking point (and, boy, did it succeed).

But respect his experience. He knows a lot more than many of the journos out there. Don't call him names because he has raises an unpleasent option that neither he nor the rest of us really want. Try coming up with a workable solution yourselves that doesn't anger one of the parts of our community.

Power to you Guy, and I hope I will be reading what you write for a long time.

MPAA admits movie piracy study is 29% full of @$#%

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@Mark and Law - Real loss and costs

The original "Real loss and costs" post was me, and I was posting anonymously during the day, because I was at work, not because I was ashamed of what I was admitting.

I want to ask what is the difference between using a non-traceable name like Mark or Law rather than Anonymous Coward. When I post non-anonymously, I actually use my real name, unlike some.


You are so English-centric. Much of the media I download is fan-subbed anime (and no, not hentai) that has not been translated to English yet, but has had English subtitles added by kind people in the fan community. I could import the Japanese DVDs, and they would even play on UK region 2 DVD players, but I would not be able to follow the dialogue. I suppose I could learn Japanese, but this is rather more a life choice that I have time for at the moment. Much of this media is *never* translated into English.

I would actually prefer to buy the titles up front, and I do feel a little guilty about downloading it, but if the producers value it enough to follow up on my supposed theft, they ought to value it enough to produce an English dub.


You state that the proprietry encoding adds to the costs. Of course it does, but the producers decide to pick up the cost for this from their cut, as I do not see the full price of their titles being any more than other DVDs. Also, it must be compatible with the documented standards, otherwise bog-standard DVD players would not be able to play the disks. This would rather be an own-goal if it were not the case.

CSS is well known, and will not add to the costs. Many of the other tricks they use involve corrupted VOBs, which cause computer DVD drives to barf when trying to copy, but are skipped over by the point at which the menu starts the title on the disk. This is not rocket science, and again does not add much to the costs.

Now, I have to sit back and see if the MPAA and RIAA come knocking at my door with an order to sieze my computers.

Major HTML update unveiled

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@John Angelico

I would have thought that this would have been better attributed to Major Bloodnock and Bluebottle

[Bluebottle] ...pausing only to pull out his Boy Scout special all purpose handkerchief, he wipes up the Huzzahs until coming across the recumbant form of Private Eccles.

Intel walks out of OLPC project

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@Simon re 'needles'

It is quite understandable why a child who has never seen a computer before might call the on-screen pointer a 'needle'. Why would they name it the same as a furry rodent? 'Mouse' is jargon that WE use out of convention, and actually describes the device not the pointer (WIMP - Windows, Icons, Mice, Pointers)

The OLTP does not even use a detached, movable pointing device, so the term 'Mouse' might even seem stupid to them.

I wish that people could get their heads around the fact that computers should not be used to teach computing, but as general educational tools. I think that educationalists lost sight of this fact when classroom computers lost the ability to be programmed by keen but poorly-trained teachers. My Father, who was a teacher for 30 years before computers appeared in the classroom taught himself enough to be able to develop material to teach Nutritional Science, Map reading, distance and direction and more on BBC Micros to make his students (Army Apprentices, not the brightest of buttons) interested in the subjects. He was told to move to IBM PCs, which were not provided with a programming language or graphics programming system, and completely lost interest, as capable as the machines were, they were too difficult to use. They were then just used to teach wordprocessing and spreadsheets, and a very few commercial teaching packages not tailored to the teaching environment.

The OLTP is an admirable project to use computers as tools but they make poor general purpose WINTEL computers (which is why Microsoft lost interest). They can be a library (with many more books available than any physical library that could be bought for a school), a distance learning tool, a note book, an entertainment device, a social networking tool. They can even be used to teach computing, but that is NOT their strength. They are also personal to the child (One Laptop Per Child), so can be used away from school to read the downloaded book, continue their studies etc. This extends teaching outside of the classroom, something teachers here struggle to do.

Download one of the demonstration images, and run it in a virtual machine on your PC and see what it can do, and then open your eyes.

Oh, and I am not advocating replacing teachers with them, but you can build as many computers as you have money (especially if they are cheap). You often cannot recruit and train teachers prepared to work where these kids live with just money. Tools like the OLPC can make the effectiveness of the available teachers there much greater, and prepare the children for the 21st Century, even if their living conditions are still in the dark ages. But I am not stupid enough to believe that they will learn if they have not got enough food.

Unfortunately, Intel and Microsoft (even with its charitable leanings) still look at this market as a revenue-generating stream or lock-in, even if only in the long run.

'Death Star' galaxy blasts neighbour

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


How can you get two masters confused. The quoted text is definitly HG Wells 'War of the Worlds'. E.E. 'Doc' Smith was Lensman and Skylark. Of the two, these galaxies colliding sounds most like Lensman. Anybody seen an Arisian or an Eddorean around yet?

(Fetches copy of Triplanetary, turns to page 7 [why don't books start on page 1]) and quotes:

"Two thousand million or so years ago two galaxies were colliding or, rather, were passing through each other. A couple of millions of years either way do not matter, since at least that much time was required for the inter-passage."

Interestingly, the copyright date in my copy (Granada, 1976 - Chris Foss cover) is 1948 when almost all astronomy was optical. Even got the time span within the right magnatude. Amazing man, and he was not even an astronomer. His doctorate (yes, he was really a doctor) was in chemistry.

Hacker defaces temples to OS X

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


Thinking back, there was once a (pre PC) company called Peach (I think their home computers ran Forth rather than BASIC), and of course, many people consider an acorn as a fruit (why not start the Archimedes threads again, many fanbois there), and if you consider flowers as well, there was Tulip (surprisingly, a Dutch computer company).

And extending it to peripherals, there was a very popular (although I hated them, I'm an IBM Model M fan myself) soft-touch PC keyboard manufacturer called Cherry.

But Apple must be a double-whammy, because is there not there a variety of said fruit named Macintosh?

Biometrics won't fix data loss problems

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

What they *meant* and what they *said*

I think that what Darling and Brown meant was that even though the criminals may have your bank account, NI, address, and childrens details, said criminals could not use it because they would not be able to do anything without your physical biometrics.

This assumes that all future credit applications will require a biometricly verified ID before it is granted. This may also close down the 'loans over the phone' service, unless someone sets up biometric actuaries to allow you to identify yourself remotely from the loan company (at the moment, it just requires signatures). Also, how are we to set up Direct Debits

What they appeared to say was that the data could not be seen without the biometrics. Imagine that.....

"Ring Ring... Good afternoon. This is the National Audit Office. We've been sent your child benefit details by Revenue and Customs, but we can't see it unless you come down and let us scan your fingerprints"

Repeat 17 million times.

No, biometrics will not PROTECT the data (which is what they said) but it may prevent it being USED. Or not. I'm sure you could scam your local Blockbuster, and get a few DVD's with the info. They will not check biometrics.

Remembering the IBM PC

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@Paul Grey

Although the IBM RT/6150 was an early RISC computer, and built by IBM Austin, there is not really a huge amount that was carried across from the 6150 to the POWER RISC System/6000.

There was no code compatibillity (apart from re-compiling the source), no compatible media, no compatible devices. And AIX version 2 was even at the time an archaic UNIX version, being based on SVR2, when most people had moved on to SVR3 or BSD 4.3 and later based unicies with proper demand-paging.

Anybody who had used the tools to configure the VRM on a 6150 (it was essentially a hypervisor - in 1987!) would know that it really was a bodge, with the VRM presenting a larger virtual system to the OS than was physically present. Still, I guess that some of the work probably made it into the current p5 and p6 IBM systems.

Still, it was streets ahead of the IBM PC products that were around at the time, but Sun, Apollo, and numerous other small vendors (like Altos, Whitechapple, NCR et. al.) were selling much better workstations.

I had a 6150 model135 in my home until about 2001, with a megapel adapter and a 5157 (I think) at home. Unbelieveable size, weight (I still pity the poor removal man that carried it up two stories when we moved), and noise.

German amateur code breaker defeats Colossus

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

APL ...

... it's all greek to me!

The Champions heads for the silver screen

Peter Gathercole Silver badge
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Are currently on ITV4 in early evening. A bit cheesy but still worth a watch.

Phoenix hijacks Windows boot with instant-on

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Bootstrapping Unix version 7 tape from a TU10

I remember sitting at the switch console of a PDP11/40, and switching in the following:

(load tape to load point)

100000 (dduddddddddddddddd examine)

012700 (dddddududuuudddddd deposit)

172526 (dduuuudududududuud deposit)

010040 (dddddudddddddudddd deposit)

012740 (dddddududuuuuddddd deposit)

060003 (ddduuddddddddddduu deposit)

000777 (ddddddddduuuuuuuuu deposit)

100000 (dduddddddddddddddd start)

(tape moves)

000000 (dddddddddddddddddd start)

ROM boot-straps? Paper tape. Pah. Real geeks use switches!

Macs seized by porn Trojan

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

@Anonymous Coward (Own3d)

Strip this post of the "technical" icon. He obviously does not understand what cron does, and probably does not even understand what a "Multi-User" and "Multi-Tasking" operating system really is! Probably even believes that you need more than one processor in a system to do more than one thing apparantly at once, like the PC World and Intel ad. people.

Cron will run a job when specified, as the specified user, regardless of who (or even whether anybody at all) is logged on. Root's crontab is an obvious place to put such an exploit, but an equally obvious place to look to find it! It indicates that the writer was not really that clever.

Apple's security system of using sudo-like protection for sensitive commands mean that it is actually quite difficult (but not impossible, this is a ) to surf as root on a Mac. But people are now very used to just do what they are asked to do by the system, without thinking (think most personal firewalls and the Vista over-the-top UAC). But modern systems are complex, and most home computer users make poor System Administrators, and know no better.

Tell you what. Get Microsoft (or their partners) and Apple to offer outsourcing of the admin. of home systems. Introduce change control systems, requests forms, helpdesks etc. to have software loaded or system changes made. It'll make using computers at home just like work!!

Then you would be 0wn3d!

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