* Posts by Stuart Castle

725 posts • joined 19 Jun 2007

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10 minutes of silence storms iTunes charts thanks to awful Apple UI

Stuart Castle

Here's a radical idea. Why don't Apple, Google or car manufacturers change their software so that music does not automatically play on connection? Maybe have autoplay as an option, but when some people drive, they may not want music (or any audio) playing. They may want silence (or as near as you can get with the engine running), but connect the phone to the in car entertainment system in case they get a phone call.

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Hell desk to user: 'I know you're wrong. I wrote the software. And the protocol it runs on'

Stuart Castle

Nowhere near as impressive, but at work a few years ago, we needed an equipment management and booking system. None of the systems available at the time fitted all our requirements (namely that any bookings made had a risk assessment uploaded, and were only allowed to proceed *if* the risk assessment was approved). It also needed to integrate with our existing inventory system.

So, we built the system in house.

Students actually used the booking system directly (hence the need to enforce the risk assessment requirement). One day, a student complained that the booking site wasn't working properly. I asked him what he was doing, and he went through the procedure he was following. I said he wasn't using it correctly. He said he was, as he had always used the site that way, and I was wrong. I said I wasn't wrong. I designed and built the site, so knew *exactly* how it should operate.

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No, Apple. A 4G Watch is a really bad idea

Stuart Castle

! have the 38mm Apple watch, and I think it's best use is for notifications. It also makes a handy remote control for when I am listening to Music and my phone is docked at the other end of the room. Contactless payments is handy as well.

It also makes a handy second screen, for apps that support it. For instance, when travelling, I can set my destination on my phone, start some music, listen to it on my bluetooth headphones, then stick the phone in my bag or pocket and go on my way without having to stop to look at the phone. I know when I need to change direction, because the watch will tap my wrist to tell me to look at it.

As for battery life, that's unimportant to me. I have to sleep myself, as does everyone. When I go to sleep, I just take the watch off and attached it's charging cable.

Don't get me wrong. I find it useful, but it hasn't changed my life and I would get along just fine without it. I didn't even buy it thinking it would be useful. I bought it because I had a couple of hundred pounds, and I wanted one.

That said, there are a couple of apps I find useful on it. One is Bus Checker. This (and it's associated iPhone app) connects to TFL and enables you to look up bus times on the watch, or Phone.

Would I use 3 or 4G connectivity on a watch? Probably not, to be honest. I already have the ability to make and receive calls via the watch thanks to iOS's Handoff system, and beyond the initial James Bond/Dick Tracy/Micheal Knight thrill of talking to your watch and having it answer, I haven't had a use for that facility.

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Four techies flummoxed for hours by flickering 'E' on monitor

Stuart Castle

Re: "by the size of his Micro Channel Adapter"

My first install was a Western Digital FileCard (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hardcard : A HDD and interface circuitry on an ISA card) into a Amstrad 1640 (IIRC). Surprisingly, bearing in mind I knew nothing about IRQs etc at the time, it worked for the rest of the time the company kept both me and the PC.

I was made redundant a couple of years later. As far as I know, the PC could have outlasted the company.

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Stuart Castle

Re: "by the size of his Micro Channel Adapter"

The 23cm Radar has gone now.. http://nats.aero/blog/2014/12/end-era-iconic-heathrow-landmark/

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Microsoft recommends you ignore Microsoft-recommended update

Stuart Castle

Re: Flailing Helplessly

I can see many upsides for cloud based computing.

As a company, you don't have loads of servers you need to update. This will reduce costs, not only in the purchase of new hard and software, but electricity, space and staff. The cost reductions are offset somewhat by the need to install a beefy connection, and the costs of maintaining cloud servers, but still it's likely to be considerably cheaper.

There are serious downsides though.

1) You are introducing a lot of extra hardware/software between you and your servers. If the servers are in house, you will have probably a router, a few switches and several network cables. Moving the servers off site, you also introduce a lot of hardware/software run by your telecoms provider. In computing, as in life, introducing more stuff that can go wrong increases the likelihood that something will. Yes, you can introduce redundant hardware and links, but that costs money, and one of the selling points of basing everything in the cloud is that it reduces costs.

2) With the reduced staff, you may not have staff that can fix things if the system fails.

3) One person, typing the wrong commend, or pulling the wrong cable, could potentially affect hundreds, or thousands of customers rather than just one. OK, that's not much of compensation if you are affected, but it's still a downside.

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Men charged with theft of free newspapers

Stuart Castle

I would have thought so. There is nothing on the paper, or on the stands, stating there is a limit on how many you can take.

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Blinking cursor devours CPU cycles in Visual Studio Code editor

Stuart Castle

In the past, when I've done development work for work (which, admittedly, didn't go beyond utilities we needed for given tasks, so was never anything massive), I've always used two machines. I used a relatively fast one for development, as I usually code in C++ and most c++ compilers (especially Visual Studio, although I prefer not to use that) do really benefit from a fast machine with a lot of memory (although it seems to be the memory that generally provides the most benefit). For a test machine, I used the oldest, slowest machine I can find.

Why? The users that actually used the little apps and utilities I wrote were not likely to have had the latest and greatest CPUs and Graphics Cards. They would not necessarily have masses of memory in their machines. I needed to see what the users were seeing.

Reminds me of a story I heard about George Lucas. Apparently, when he had finished Return of the Jedi, he went to a local cinema to see it. When asked why, he replied that he had only seen it in Hollywood screening rooms, which always have the best projection and sound systems, and screens. He wanted to see what the man on the street would see when he watched it. Apparently, he was appaled, and that did lead to the formation of THX.

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Stuart Castle

Re: The solution -

"only for linux, for real pcs (!) try edlin or debug

edlin was wonderful and simple

debug is a bit hardwork but can do a whole lot more fun things"

Pah!

Edlin is easy.. Real programmers use switches to manipulate the memory directly..:)

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The internet may well be the root cause of today's problems… but not in the way you think

Stuart Castle

Re: The problem isn't ideologies spreading on the Internet

"Surely any responsible economic manager should have looked at the situation and realised it was a threat. But the electoral advantage of cheap goods and cheap loans was too much to resist. When the inevitable happened the banks had to be baled out to fend off an even worse disaster."

You forgot to mention various government ministers touting rising house prices as a sign of a healthy economy while neglecting to mention that due to the fact that people need to live somewhere, and that prices for other houses have also risen similarly, people haven't gained much apart from more debt. I know that people can move to cheaper areas, but that may not be an option due to work, family etc.

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Cuffed: Govt contractor 'used work PC to leak' evidence of Russia's US election hacking

Stuart Castle

Re: Any incompetent should know what todo by now.

"I read somewhere this tactic has worked before, but for the life of me I can't remember the person who did it."

Let me help you:

Bush did it (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bush_White_House_email_controversy ) and so did Hillary Clinton (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hillary_Clinton_email_controversy ) .

This is why I laughed when the Republicans were all expressing horror at Clinton using her own personal email server. Because they had done it before. In fact, it's apparently fairly widespread in US goverment.

It's apparently because the US government email system is awful, and rather than spend the money required to try and fix it, the US government is happy to tolerate various people in Washington using their own email systems (with all the security implications that involves) as long as they allow the authorities (not sure if it's CIA or NSA, the latter, I suspect) to inspect the servers at will. Even with regular inspections, it still seems to me that that is asking for problems security wise.

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Utah fights man's attempt to marry laptop

Stuart Castle

Re: OK Computer

Re: "Yes, old plastic and foam doesn't age gracefully :)"

The scary thing is that I read that immediately after reading the words "The Kardashians" and context wise, it seemed to follow on.

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BA IT systems failure: Uninterruptible Power Supply was interrupted

Stuart Castle

He may be right when he says that BA's system administration is not outsourced to another country. That does not mean it's not outsourced though, and it does not mean that it being outsourced did not contribute to the problem.

Regarding the comment someone made earlier about customers not getting compensation because BA outsourced the IT service. For the purposes of compensation (and any potential legal action), that may be irrelevant. The customer's contract (such as it is) is with BA. If an outside contractor is maintaining a system that BA relies on, and that system fails, preventing BA from providing a service, then it's up to BA to provide the compensation (and they will also get any legal action). They can launch any actions needed to reclaim the money from their contractor..

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Manchester college swaps out disk for rackful of hybrid flash

Stuart Castle

Maybe.

It's also possible that various departments had stuff cached locally, to increase performance.

Of course, it's also possible they had never properly planned their storage systems, merely letting the systems grow as needed, and as a result, never implemented a proper deduplication system, so had duplicate copies of a lot of data for that reason.

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BBC hooks up with ITV, launches long awaited US subscription VoD

Stuart Castle

Re: Please....

"You may also wish to register a complaint with ITV directly about this."

A few years ago, ITV Player on the iOS devices supported Apple's Airplay. It wasn't great, but worked 9 times out of ten. Then, when they renamed the player "ITV Hub", Airplay stopped working (it's not specifically disabled in the program, it just doesn't work). A few people complained. ITV's reposonse? To put an FAQ on their support page that cautions that Airplay may not work.

Now, it's true that the ITV hub doesn't offer Airplay as an option. It's accessible as "Airplay Mirroring" on the Control Centre in iOS. However, if they cannot support it, then the App should check if it's on, and display an error rather than just refusing to play anything. For instance, the old 4od app would stream a rather nice looking screen saying that the licences they had with the various makers didn't allow streaming over Airplay.

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Family of technician slain by factory robot sues everyone involved

Stuart Castle

Re: Trying to see both sides here...

"1) Depending on the type of maintenance being done, could it be necessary to have some power to the unit? This is complex electronics, not a Ford Fiesta that needs an oil change."

I suspect it could. However, I suspect that with most robots, it's possible to test the electronics with the mechanical parts disabled. You can test various circuits for expected outputs with a multimeter for example. I would also suspect it's possible to control the mechanical parts directly.

That said, I am not a Robot engineer. The only "experience" I have with Robots is seeing them on TV, reading about them (in publications like this) and controlling a few motors with a Raspberry Pi, so I could very well be wrong.

"2) The deceased was a repair technician, so presumably fully trained and aware of how the robot works. Were all approved procedures followed?"

You would assume that anyone who even gets near to doing something as potentially dangerous as maintaining a robot would be fully trained, and have access to any protective gear and equipment needed. Sadly, a lot of companies don't go beyond what is legally required, and some don't even go that far.

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Don't worry, slowpoke Microsoft, we patched Windows bug for you, brags security biz

Stuart Castle

wyatt, you are right.. Anti Microsoft stuff aside, any vendor needs to test patches for vulnerabilities such as this thoroughly. Microsoft, for all their faults, actually do. If they rush a patch to market it may or may not fix the problem, and may introduce others. Especially a patch to the GDI library, as it's likely that most Windows applications do use some of the functionality of this library, even if indirectly.

It may be a good idea to patch via a 3rd party patch, but you have no way of knowing how thoroughly the patch has been tested, and you are also unlikely to have any warranty if the patch fails.

It's one thing to patch if you are a home user, and have one or two machines to fix if it goes wrong. As a computer geek, you might have up to 10. A system admin for a medium or large enterprise might be managing thousands, and might be running the risk of the bad patch disabling whatever remote management tool they use.

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Munich may dump Linux for Windows

Stuart Castle

Re: its not rocket science chaps...

"That is why they have they own distro based on upstream systems (so they get the updates) but with choices and configurations limited to what is suitable for their users' needs."

Which may be what is putting a lot of Enterprises (large and small, commercial and public) off. They would need at least one person dedicated to this. Preferably more that one because if you have only one person on staff with intimate knowledge of all the customisations you have made to your OS (whichever OS it happens to be), you are leaving yourself in a very precarious position. Even if you insist they document it, you'd better make sure that documentation is checked, as it may be incomplete.

This is going to cost money, and most organisations are trying to cut IT budgets to the bone. In the long term, it may actually be cheaper to buy in a product, and the relevant expertise to use it. Microsoft have done a very good job (from their point of view) of ensuring all our schools, colleges and Universities are teaching Microsoft products, and they are also widely used in the business sector, so Microsoft system admins and technicians are far more plentiful (and therefore often cheaper) than Linux/Unix sysadmins and technicians.

There's also the fact that if you buy a product from a company (be it Microsoft or whoever) and it fails, the sale of goods act (amongst others) gives you a lot of legal protection, and also enables you to sue the manufacturer should you need to. Who do you sue if Linux (or any Open Source product) fails? You can buy support contracts, but the protection offered by the Law would only apply to the provision of that contract. The contract may require that they make reasonable efforts to fix the code if the code is the problem, but it will probably also include clauses limiting their liability in the event that the code at fault was written by someone outside the company.

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Stuart Castle

Re: Crossover works fairly well under Linux

Until you find any support contracts you have with your various suppliers are invalidated because you are only emulating an OS that they tested their product on and support.

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Stuart Castle

Re: The company I work for went through this

A lot of Linux users here are touting the old 'I put Linux on my grandparent's PC and they are having fewer problems than they did with windows.' I don't doubt them. I like Linux. If you can get used to it, I find it far more reliable than Windows.

Munich aren't looking at that. They are looking at potentially tens of thousands of PCs. Any problems caused by any OS will be magnified.

They will need staff to operate the PCs and technicians/sys admins to maintain them, and their associated infrastructure. There are a lot more Windows sys admins and technicians than Linux ones, which means that the authority may be able to get away with paying less.

Also, their fleet of devices is likely to be large enough they need some sort of system to ensure that software is up to date and that they have a consistant configuration and up to date inventory info for each device. Microsoft's System Center does a brilliant job of doing this. While it works brilliantly with Windows, and does support other OSes, its support for other OSes isn't that great.

We are using System Center to maintain 3,000 PCs. If we need to make any changes to those PCs (in groups, as a whole or individually) then subject to the relevant RFCs being approved, we can do so relatively easily. We can also track those changes, and can often determine remotely why they haven't happened, assuming they haven't.

System center is not perfect. Far from it. It doesn't have a good UI (plenty of areas where I've used it, and thought "why the fuck did they do it like that?", but it does make maintaining a fleet of devices easier.

I realise there are plenty of Linux configuration management systems, both open source and commercials. I've even played around with a few, but I've never found any are integrated as well as System Center.

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Facebook ‘Happy Birthday’ lawsuit rolls on

Stuart Castle

Your mobile company doesn't need to sell the number..

It's possible to harvest phone numbers without buying them.

You set up a computer with some sort of telecoms system (be it Modem, VOIP or whatever). This system is running software that picks from a list of known exchanges. It starts dialling numbers on that exchange. If the number comes up unobtainable, it logs the number as dead. If the number comes up as enganged, or just rings, it gets logged as an active number and may be dialled later. As soon as someone answers, the computer puts the call through to a human. It also logs the number as being active, Initially, the system dials a lot of numbers (potentially millions), but as the list is built up, they can cut the number of calls. This is actually how email spam works, but they start out sending billions of emails.

The spammer, once they have generated a list of active (or potentially active) numbers, will sell it on to other spammers.

I don't know for sure if the spammers do that, but I suspect they do. The phone companies may well have equipment in place to detect it, but there are probably ways around that, especially if you fake your caller ID..

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You're taking the p... Linux encryption app Cryptkeeper has universal password: 'p'

Stuart Castle

Re: Assuming makes an ass out of you and some guy named 'Ming'

"WTF? All documentation has out of date topics that need to be fixed, agreed. That is usually done when somebody, usually the developer who changed the code files a bug report for documentation to be adapted. You also have users noticing issues and creating bug reports ... that get fixed."

That assumes that someone is monitoring the bug reports. I've experienced a few projects (admittedly not in the Linux arena) where people have filed bug reports only to find that the team working on the project isn't anymore, so the reports have gone unanswered. This hasn't happened in the case of encfs, but it does happen.

I've worked in various development projects, and found that developers can be the worst people to document their own code. I worked on one project where several systems (ranging from locally stored applications to web sites for different users with different functionality needed) hooked in to one core SOAP based webservice (they all needed some of the same core functionality, and all accessed an SQL database, and this was deemed to be the most efficient way to do that at the time). The webservice API had a couple of hundred functions. The user documentation for this API ran to one side of A4 paper.

The problem wasn't that the developers couldn't be bothered to update the documentation. The first release of the service had a fraction of the functionality of the final version, and no one on the team had time to update the documentation.

Not saying you are wrong. While I am a fairly experienced Linux user (although I actually use a combination of macOS and Windows day to day), I don't have enough knowledge to say for certain whether you are wrong or right. Just outlining that it's not as simple as saying that the developer files a bug report and the documentation is updated, even though that may happen in 90% of cases.

This whole thing is an example of where I think open source is not necessarily the best thing if you need guarantees.

If you buy software (be it an OS, Application, device driver, firmware etc), the law gives you a *lot* of protection should the software not live up to expectations, or fail in some way. I don't know the specifics, but I do know that you would be afforded protection by several acts (including, I think, the Sale of Goods act) of Parliament. You also have someone who would be considered liable should you decide to launch legal action. The companies in question also have some incentive (assuming the product is selling) to keep updating it, at least with security fixes.

The law does not give you any automatic protection when you install Open Source products. Most open source licences I have seen specifically state that the author of the product is not to be held liable for any damage done while the product is being used. You can buy/rent support from existing companies (IBM, Redhat etc), but I suspect any legal protection you get would be regarding the supply of that support rather than what the product does/does not do.

There is also the problem of what happens when the author of some software drops the project. This does happen in closed source software as well, but the larger closed source companies tend to advertise the fact they are dropping their products well in advance, at least to their enterprise customers, and they often provide security bug fixes for years after. I am not naive enough to assume that all companies do this. They don't. If they don't, and you launch legal action, you do have someone you can sue though.

This does not happen with Open Source. I am quite a fierce advocate for open source. I think it's a good thing, and when it works well, I think it's actually better for bug finding than closed source (as everyone who wishes to can look at the source code). The problem is that projects do often just die, with no updates from the developer and no updates from other users. At least if someone is paid to update it, they may be more likely to update it than if they aren't.

This is a problem security wise because people are told Open Source is inherently secure because everyone can view the code. This is what happened with Open SSL. As I understand it, a lot of companies included it in their products because it was assumed to be secure, then the heartbleed bug was found, and it turned out that people had filed bug reports before but the developers had not updated it. Yes, they rushed out a fix when the problem went public, but who would be held legally liable in the even of action.

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LG's $1,300 5K monitor foiled by Wi-Fi: Screens go blank near hotspots

Stuart Castle

Social Media Age?

Mind you, that could apply to any product that you buy, feel tempted to brag about online, then post photos of, sitting next to your dinner on Instagram/facebook/twitter etc.

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WTF? Francis Ford Coppola crowdsources Apocalypse Now game

Stuart Castle

"The decision to crowbar films into games to create a parallel income stream has ruined many movie franchises. It is a relief that Apocalypse Now came out several decades ago. If it had been made today with an eye on the gaming market it would have been one of the worst movies ever made instead of one of the best."

Not too sure it would have been one of the worst movies ever made, but I can see them adding the Ride of the Valkyries scene into the game, possible as a sort of helicopter chase.

I can see what you mean though. In Star Wars: EP1, the pod racing scene was arguably one of the most exciting scenes. It also felt like it was bolted on so they could get at least one game out of it.

Damn, I might have just given the developers an idea.

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Nuclear power station sensors are literally shouting their readings at each other

Stuart Castle

Re: Monitoring, not Control

"This is the nuclear industry. They don't just plug any old thing into their systems and cross their fingers. They test. Then test more. And again. And again and again and again... etc. "

True, although I suspect it's because the stakes are rather high. If they get something wrong, not only is there a good chance that thousands of people in and around the plant will be killed (or at least left seriously ill), but there is a good chance that the land around the plant will be left uninhabitable for hundreds of years. That and the fact they will have lost a multi billion pound plant.

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Batman v Superman leads Razzie nominations

Stuart Castle

Re: I dunno....

I quite enjoyed Suicide Squad. Bit messy, and the direction made it difficult to follow who was doing what in the fight scenes, but it was enjoyable enough. It also had likeable, if slightly cliched characters, although it did feel a little like a pilot for a potential new franchise featuring one (or more) of the characters. It's looking like Harley Quinn is the first to get her own franchise.

BvS. Being a big fan of both Superman and Batman (although I think MoS was awful), I was really looking forward to this. As stated, I didn't like MoS, but I have enjoyed Zack Snyder's previous movies, so I thought it was just a one off bad movie. Nope. BvS had impressive fights, but no depth to any of the characters, and the storyline was (at best) slight, and seemed like it was there to provide something they hang the fights and special effects (which weren't all that good) on. Same problems as MoS

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General Electric plays down industrial control plant vulnerabilities

Stuart Castle

Hmm

"A spokeswoman for GE Digital played down the vulnerabilities, which she said can't be exploited remotely. Only a local hacker in a plant or facility would have been in a position to run an attack, she said, adding that there had been no signs of exploitation."

I realise she can only say what the company tells her, and being a spokeswoman, she isn't going to say "Sorry, our security is crap. We'll fix it ASAP", but while it's likely that their software does not expose the bug to the outside world, saying it cannot be exploited assumes that the machine running it is sufficiently airgapped (or otherwise protected). All it would need is for some custom written malware to get on to the machine (such as Stuxnet) or for someone to enable access via a remote command/desktop system (Microsoft Remote Desktop, SSH or VNC for instance), as any company looking to outsource support may well do.

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IT team sent dirt file to Police as they all bailed from abusive workplace

Stuart Castle

Re: Uhhhmmmmm

"Sometimes a big fuck you might just be easier and more satisfying."

Been there, done that.

While I was a student, I temporarily stacked shelves in Sainsburys. It was a soul destroying job, only made worse by a manager that was under the impression that no matter how many shelves we stacked (and it was a lot), we should be stacking more.

When I got another job (just as a cashier in Blockbuster), I took great pleasure in going to see the manager, inviting him to talk to me in the centre of the store where I worked, then telling him (loudly) that he could stick his job up his arse.

Childish? Yes. Rude? Undoubtably. But oh so satisfying..

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Aaarrgh, zombie! Dead Apple iOS monopoly lawsuit is reanimated

Stuart Castle

Re: No rocket science is necessary for the understanding of this story.

"They don't allow them at all. IIRC it's even in the developer T&Cs."

Wrong. Apple do place restrictions on certain kinds of apps (for instance, any browser must use the inbuilt Webkit engine, or do it's processing off device (as Opera Mini does).

In terms of apps duplicating functionality of Apple apps (even on device ones), while Apple do reserve the right to pull an app at any time, they do allow apps to duplicate functionality of both the built in apps, and any Apple provided apps.

Don't believe me? Look at the number of media player apps (duplicating functionality from the Music and Videos apps on the device). Look at the number of ebook apps (Kindle being one notable example), Almost every app provided by Apple has competitors on the App store providing similar functionality. Even Siri has competing personal assistants.

Apple do use APIs in iOS in their own apps that they don't allow other apps to use (try and write an app that makes changes to the system settings and see how far you get getting them to publish it). This *could* be considered anti competitive, but I don't think it's been tried in court yet.

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Nintendo pulls the Switch, fires Joy-con at Microsoft and Sony

Stuart Castle

"I think £279 for the console isn't too bad, considering the price of other consoles that come out at first. It's always usually £300."

You sure? Bear in mind that it may not match either the PS4 on XBoneS in terms of specs, won't be able to much them in terms of range of games and may not play other media (it certainly doesn't play any disc based media). Both the others do play other media. Online and disk based. Which certainly helps when justifying spending £300 to your partner, and would be a major selling point for parents.

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Wi-Fi for audiophiles: Alliance preps TimeSync certification program

Stuart Castle

Getting consumers to look at decent quality audio components is not a bad thing. While I don't like them, in this way, Beats have been good for the industry as they have persuaded people that spending more than £20 on headphones is often a good thing.

That said, Beats are awful. Excellent for hip hop, but too bass heavy for pretty much anything else. Last time I tried them, I tried them with a CD consisting of classical music, talking, pop, hip hop and various other styles. The beats sounded good on hip hop, but for everything else where beaten by a pair of Sennheisers that cost about half the price.

That said, there are plenty of snake oil salesmen in the Audio and Video industries.

In my local Dixons, for instance, they had a special demonstration area set up apparently to demonstrate the difference between Monster (£80+) HDMI cables and standard HDMI cables. It consisted of two blu ray players connected to two HD Tvs, playing the same Blu Ray. I have to admit, on first viewing, the difference was striking. The picture on the TV they said was hooked up with a Monster HDMI cable was noticably better.

Then, I looked behind the TVs. The "Monster" HDMI cable was a standard HDMI cable. The "standard" HDMI cable used to hook up the other TV wasn't. It was a phono composite cable.

Don't get me wrong. In my experience, for long distance (i.e. >10m) cable runs, good quality HDMI cable *does* make a difference. How many people are likely to have greater than 10m cable runs in their home cinema setups though? For shorter runs, there is, IMO, no difference.

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Google caps punch-yourself-in-the-face malicious charger hack

Stuart Castle

Re: Infected chargers?

Most chargers aren't just a collection of resistors, capacitors and transformers anymore. They need some "intelligence" at least to negotiate how much power to transfer, as most devices can take a higher current than the 500mA sent by default over USB. Some may also use this intelligence to monitor how the phone battery is charging, and adjust their current accordingly (say reducing the current when the phone is nearly charged).

That said, even if they weren't intelligent, given a full USB data cable (as is likely, it's cheaper to provide USB data cables than go and manufacture USB power cables, as well as a lot of people just use the first USB cable they see for charging), if the phone trusts the device on the other end by default, all it actually knows is a device is on the other end sending it data. It doesn't know that device is not actually the user's computer. You can argue that Plug and Play standards will enable it to detect what device is plugged in, and you'd be wrong. Plug and Play enable the phone to detect what the device reports it is. Anyone with the ability to write a virus that installs itself in this way has the ability to program the device to respond with a fake code for ID purposes.

Be interesting to see if iOS is still vulnerable to this sort of thing, as Apple did introduce code that generates a signature for devices plugged in via USB, then prompts the user if it detects a device with an unknown signature being plugged in.

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Amazon files patent for 'Death Star' flying warehouse

Stuart Castle

Re: Nothing new here...

"FAA will not allow airships to fly low enough or drones high enough to meet."

Congestion will also be a problem around airports. A stray drone that malfunctions and flies into the path of an airliner that is landing or taking off could have some, shall we say, interesting results.

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Amateur radio fans drop the ham-mer on HRD's license key 'blacklist'

Stuart Castle

The company support agents need to actively engage with the customer, and hopefully resolve the problem, logging what they do. If a company is logging things properly, then a quick review of the logs should show if there is a problem with a particular package, and if necessary, the logs can be bought to the attention of the developer. I've had this happen to me. When I logged a problem with Apple Remote Desktop on Apple's support forums, the bot noticed a pattern and notified the development team, who actually got in touch to discuss the problem. Result: One fixed problem and one very happy customer.

A lot of companies don't do this. A lot of companies, at best, fob you off by directing you to a support person reading off a script.

That said, I think some consumers need to do more to help themselves. I've done support for years (not usually phone based, but I do sometimes). Some consumers don't describe the problem beyond saying "it doesn't work", then moaning they just want it fixed when the poor support person actually tries to take them through a diagnostic process. Some consumers don't even get that far. They just download an app, find it doesn't work, then post a review on line saying "it doesn't work. It's shit".

7
0

OpenStreetView? You are no longer hostage to Google's car-driven vision

Stuart Castle

Re: Privacy?

"Anyone walking past can get a better view of your house than on streetview(s) of any description, and if they are actually in your street, they can see if you're in or not before attempting to nick your stuff."

Anyone looking at a house long enough to case the joint runs the risk of being noticed. OK, so they can go to a house, photograph it without anyone noticing, then look at the photo(s) as much as they want, but that requires a level of planning that apparently most burglars don't do.

Any Streetview service enables a potential burglar to look at a house for as long as they want, and sometimes from multiple angles and is, according to at least one ex-burglar I've seen on TV an ideal tool for any opportunist burglar to case the joint looking for potential weaknesses that could be exploited to gain entry to a building (such as a bin that could be turned upside down to allow entry to an upper window (for instance).

Personally, I've never really understood the point of streetview services. Beyond a bit of virtual sightseeing (although seeing a photo of a landmark is nowhere near as interesting as actually seeing the landmark), I don't actually see any legitimate use for them. Yes, you can go up and down a street, looking at images of houses, shops, flats and other buildings, but how often do you actually need to do that? Most streets are largely residential anyway, and in a lot of areas, one house looks much like most of the rest.

1
0

Christmas cheer for KCL staffers with gift of extra holiday after IT disaster

Stuart Castle

Teachers tend not to work in Unis..

While it may seem petty, Lecturers, while they do a similar job, tend to have higher qualifications.

That said, the academic staff of a Uni tend to be a fraction of the full staff. There are researchers, support staff and admin staff, all of whom work with the same holiday restrictions that people work to in the private sector. I.e getting so many days off per year, with the number going up for each year of service. Speaking as a Uni tech support bod, the holidays are often our busiest times, because we tend to schedule any mass upgrades to happen during the holidays, to minimise disruption to students and lectures.

Yes, the academic staff do tend to sod off during holidays (and object vociferously when asked to come in). However, even they are expected to work during the holidays, where ever they happen to be. The researchers tend to work in subjects they are interested in, so it's not uncommon for some researchers to work 10-12 hours a day, 5 days a week, and carry on that pattern throughout the holidays.

2
0

User needed 40-minute lesson in turning it off and turning it on again

Stuart Castle

Re: Can you hold down the power button

Re "Rule number one ( and not just in IT) Sorry for shouting this, but, YOU DO NOT USE JARGON TERMS UNLESS YOU KNOW THE USER."

I supposed the phrase "Power button" is jargon, but most electrical devices have some way of turning the power on or off, be it a button, sensor or switch. I really would have thought that any user would know what a power button is.

Having said that, if she was panicking (and she may well have been if, say, she had a deadline and just saw the computer not working), she may well have "forgotten" what a power button is. I put forgotten in quotes as it's entirely possible she was not thinking straight. I've been involved in tech support, and I've dealt with intelligent people (up to Professor level) that have been panicking so much that they've forgotten even the most basic details. Usually, calming them down helps them to think more clearly.

5
0

The IRS spaffed $12m on Office 365 subscription IT NEVER USED

Stuart Castle

"The purchase was made without first determining project infrastructure needs, integration requirements, business requirements, security and portal bandwidth, and whether the subscriptions were technologically feasible on the IRS enterprise,"

Sounds familiar.

Back in the early 2000s, my current employer spent (apparently) a small fortune on a Lotus Notes system with the idea that it would help us integrate various systems, and manage the staff calendars more effectively than they could.

A couple of years later, we introduced Exchange to do the same, so I asked our Lotus Notes admin what happened to the state of the art server we'd bought to run the Lotus Notes server components. He said, "Oh, that. It's under my desk keeping my feet warm". I will say, even in the dead of winter, it did a good job of keeping the office warm with no other heating sources.

0
0

Heathrow airport and stock exchange throw mystery BSODs

Stuart Castle

Re: Re. dinosaurs

"Can't be too judgemental because maintain an XP SP3 system as the lady it belongs to can't understand anything else and it also runs Office 97 nicely (P4 2.2G 2GB RAM 80+160GB IDE HDD)"

The problem is that there is a lot of old infrastructure like that in place. When the business relies on it, it can be difficult to justify replacing critical infrastructure when the old stuff is working.

I've never worked for a bank, but in the 90s, I had an interview for a systems maintenance job at the Bank of America headquarters in the UK. The job? Designing and maintaining a windows based UI for their existing applications and systems that were apparently mostly written in COBOL, and written decades earlier.

I can actually see the logic. When your business relies on a system for it's survival (as banks do), if that system works it is extremely tempting to leave it be.

0
0

Microsoft's BITS file transfer tool fooled into malware distribution

Stuart Castle

Re: Just get into the habit of setting up PXE-based WDS or SCCM

"It means you're now expected to buy and manage another M$ computer - to babysit your existing M$ computer.

Can't think why M$ would conspire to necessitate that."

Because it's efficient, if set up properly. I realise there are open source systems that do the same as SCCM (in fact, I installed and use one at work), but one advantage that any paid for solution has over open source is that not only do you have a contract with your supplier that offers some protection should things go wrong, but you also get all sorts of other legal protection should things go wrong.

Don't get me wrong. If you have only a few computers to deploy and manage (say less than 20), it's probably not worth investing the time and and manpower into setting up a deployment and management system.

If you manage over 100, it is worth investing the time and manpower in setting up a deployment and management system, as just managing them becomes a full time job in it's own right, without the deployment and maintenance.

0
0

French programmers haul Apple into court over developer rules

Stuart Castle

They publish an app, but that costs extra money as they need extra programmers and designers to write the app. If they wish to sell the app, they would also need to pay Apple's fee (which is 30% of the app's price). They would also need to buy at least some Macs for the development team. By using HTML 5, they can maintain one set of code that will run on multiple devices, and if they want to sell access, they can sell it by whatever means they want, which may cost less than selling via Apple, and they can use existing hardware.

1
0

London cops charge ATM malware hacker

Stuart Castle

Re: Can't quite follow this one

I'm not really that aufait with ATM security, in fact I don't know anything beyond what I've read on various tech news sites (including El Reg), but I would have thought that the hardware would be designed to destroy or mark the money in some way if triggered incorrectly or tampered with.

0
0

ZX Spectrum Vega+ will ship on time, developer claims amid doubts

Stuart Castle

Re: You can't go back

"I rarely play video games, but when I do it is always those old 80s coin operated games on an emulator. Because the new stuff seems to be all about visual effects instead of fun."

I think in a lot of ways you are right, although modern games do actually tend to have a story, which old games didn't.

Even if you ignore the story (which is actually fairly good IMO), GTA5 can be great fun. Particularly if you've had a bad day otherwise. You can just fire up GTA, turn on a weapons cheat and blow random shit up. It's surprisingly therapeutic.

0
0

Microsoft warns Windows security fix may break network shares

Stuart Castle

Re: Nothing to see it will be sorted

"Unlike Apple who regularly screw with Nas products"

Erm, how?

I am genuinely interested, speaking as an experienced Apple user who owns a home network consisting of Macs and PC running various OSes, and also works in a department where I help manage a network of nearly 200 Macs and thousands of PCs, all running various OSes, and who has never had a problem with a NAS on a Mac that was caused by something Apple did.

9
0

‘Penultimate’ BlackBerry seen on 'do not publish' page as fire sale begins

Stuart Castle

The riots..

It seemed to me that the turning point for Blackberry (in the UK at least) was the riots in 2011. Until then, they were not only the tool of choice for a lot of business people, but they were the the phone that the trendy people had. They were also the phone of choice for a lot of my friends who wanted a secure email and messaging system with push email.

Then, the riots happened. Thousands of chavs rioted through the streets of (mainly) London, and were often seen on TV sending messages through BBM. Can't have done their professional image much good.

Hell, I know someone who works for TFL and used to almost live on his blackberry as a result. Now, TFL are pushing their thousands of staff onto other phone OSes (such as Android and iOS).

3
0

'Oi! El Reg! Stop pretending Microsoft has a BSOD monopoly!'

Stuart Castle

Re: Linux BSOD on Aircraft?

As long as the BSOD appears on the in flight entertainment screen(s) and not the flight instrument screens, I think we can live with it.

0
0
Stuart Castle

Re: Genuine BSODs?

I'm fairly certain that back in the late 80s/early 90s (when they rebuilt East Croydon Station) I saw several of the platform monitors displaying the C64 startup screen. If they eventually went for BBC micros, they may have been testing the system.

Actually, it makes sense to use consumer micros. They would have been cheaper than any custom made system, and the likes of Acorn and Commodore would be more than capable of manufacturing enough devices for BR's needs. They would probably be cheaper to maintain as well, as there would have been a lot of technicians with experience maintaining Commodore 64s and BBCs.

1
0

Flash: Still exploits kits’ MVP

Stuart Castle

Could the browser manufacturers not do more to sandbox plugins? While I am perfectly happy that Flash seems to be on the way out (even Adobe have deprecated Flash Pro in favour of the predominantly HTML5 animation package Adobe Animate). we seem to be having quite a few problems with insecure plugins (Flash, Reader and Java being 3).

0
0

FBI Clinton email dossier

Stuart Castle

Re: That won't stop the calls for her

It's actually quite scary how easily some have been duped by Trump's campaign..

I have an old school friend who moved the US a few years back. He lives in Alabama. He is quite intelligent and one thing we both learned at school is to question everything we are told. He was also extremely liberal, apparently believing that we are all created equal regardless of colour, gender or sexuality.

He is now regularly posting things from right wing blogs saying that Black Lives Matter is a terrorist group, and that Hillary is evil, and possibly in league with ISIS and/or the devil. He is also posting stuff that tries to persuade the reader that Hillary will win the election because the Clintons are in charge of a secret organisation that makes the Kennedys look like small fry..

Most of the stuff he posts takes me about 5 to 10 minutes to disprove, but I have given up because it's not worth the effort, as I could produce the most compelling evidence ever, but because it probably wouldn't agree with his position, he would never agree.

We did agree on one thing though. Neither candidate is particularly good.

1
3

BBC detector vans are back to spy on your home Wi-Fi – if you can believe it

Stuart Castle

Re: This is all FUD

"This packet sniffing is complete rubbish. Just hide your SSID if you're paranoid/careful."

Won't make a blind bit of difference. The packets are still available to sniff, and still contain your IP address (which your ISP will be able to tie to your physical address should they be required to).

Remember, a few years back, Google managed to do exactly the same thing with their Street View cars, even if it was apparently a mistake on their part.

0
0

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