* Posts by martinusher

638 posts • joined 24 Feb 2015


Ooh, my machine is SO much faster than yours... Oh, wait, that might be a bit of a problem...

martinusher Silver badge

Maybe that 386 would have been better used as the file server

You don't mention what sort of network software you were running at that time; I'd guess from the way one file copy brought the server to its knees that it probably wasn't Netware.

You don't tell us much about the actual network. Since its 1990 the network is likely to be at best 10BaseT running half duplex through hubs using Cat3 phone wire. (It could even be something earlier than 10BaseT such as Starlan). This might generate problems if you've got a lot of people trying to share it, because of collisions -- an individual user (the person setting this thing up) would see decent performance but a sales floor's worth might collapse the thing. Even so, if you could monitor the traffic you'd be surprised at just how little you were loading the network.

French data watchdog dishes out largest GDPR fine yet: Google ordered to hand over €50m

martinusher Silver badge

A State Level Protection Racket?

I tend to think of this sort of fine as just a form of extortion. The general mindset is that "XXXX has lots of money, let's grab a chunk".

Personally, I'd like to see these businesses abandoning these countries, leaving them with minimal to no service. They'll probably figure something out, especially as their own security services rely on the same information for their spying (when they're not actively hacking our computers).

Apple hardware priced so high that no one wants to buy it? It's 1983 all over again

martinusher Silver badge

It was a nice machine for the year

I got given one, it was the booby prize for recognizing what it was after I spotted it on the boss's desk at a place I was working at in the early 90s. It was a complete system -- complete with a 3.5" floppy (using the typical "incompatible with everything else" Apple format -- single sided as well) and a (miniscule) hard disk. It had cost the company $11K and was essentially useless. I played with it when I got home -- interesting but rather slow -- and I got a couple of ROMs for it to turn it into a "MacXL". Which was also pretty useless. My wife eventually made me get rid of it, as wives are prone to do, so I gave it away to a friend who, for all I know, scrapped it.

It was a nice piece of history, a museum piece, but let's not get too romantic about these old things. They're like old anything else -- for example, with few exceptions, old 'collectible' motorcycles or cars suck compared to their modern equivalent and there's nothing like trying to use a 30-40 year old PC to bring home just what an exercise in masochism this was (but then the alternative was even worse).

Are you sure your disc drive has stopped rotating, or are you just ignoring the messages?

martinusher Silver badge

Re: Find the "A" key

One company I worked for had a Koi pond in one of the cubes. Apparently it was installed while the incumbent was on vacation. It lasted for years, only being dismantled after Big Bad Corp bought the place and their management noticed. Needless to say after a relatively short while B.B.C (not *the* BBC, note) decided their acquisition was surplus to requirements and shuttered the place.

FCC: Oh no, deary me. What a shame. Too bad, so sad we can't do net neutrality appeal during the US govt shutdown

martinusher Silver badge

>The thing is, there's nothing to negotiate in terms of The Wall. It's yes or no.

Its been a bit more complex than that. The original funding bill was passed by both House and Senate back when they were under Republican control and Trump was all set to sign them until a media campaign by some high profile right wingers caught his attention. He's been moving the goalposts since then, pointing the finger at Pelosi and Schumer in the process (McConnell is missing in action). There is actually a significant amount of funding for border security in the funding bill, its not specifically for The Wall but there's enough to build, upgrade and repair significant sections of it. Trump has increased his demands and dug his heels in, "Proud to shut down the government" is the quote on TV. As for getting the Mexicans to pay for it, that's not going to happen unless you're a believer in contorted reasoning (however, as things stand it would need Mexican cement and Chinese steel -- problematical?)

The problem that Pelosi has is that if you cave into these unconstitutional demands its only a matter of time before you get the same tantrum -- its the kind of behavior you expect from toddlers, not adults.

Its also very similar to the problem that the UK has with Brexit. There's a very vocal group of politicians who want the UK to crash out of the EU on March 29th., something that will be good for Disaster Capitalists but probably not very good for ordinary people.

martinusher Silver badge

FCC arguing that its broke?

The current incarnation of the FCC is a wholly owned subsidiary of the big telecom corporations so it should not have any problem with financing.

martinusher Silver badge

Re: Please explain: why do we NEED this so-called "net neutrality" again?

It prevents ISPs from slicing and dicing your network traffic so that you have to pay extra for the stuff you want to access. It also prevents them from degrading things they don't like (such as sites that are critical of the FCC). Net neutrality also cements the role of the ISP as a common carrier -- they're supposed to provide the plumbing, not look at what its carrying.

Its a "Through the Looking Glass" mindset that can position absence of regulation as government intrusion but its actually quite the fashion these days.

I used to be a dull John Doe. Thanks to Huawei, I'm now James Bond!

martinusher Silver badge

Is it spying or is it problems with competition

I thought the whole Huiwei thing was just generic Cold War BS until I read that this company is ready to deploy 5G equipment -- not just phones but the infrastructure. If this is true then the penny has indeed dropped -- this isn't about spying, its about manipulating politicians to slow down or eliminate a formidable competitor. There's huge amounts of money to be made from net generation wireless, the sort of money that we normally associate with oil, so given that quite a few wars, coups and what have you have been started over oil that something as lucrative -- and important -- could trigger a similar reaction. (Wars don't need to be fought over actual resources; just the threat of trading outside the dollar hegemony was enough to get Iraq clobbered.)

As for spying itself, some wag has pointed out that its really a choice between potential spying by China versus actual spying by the US and its followers. Most spying is traffic analysis anyway and that's carried out wholesale by our friends in the Internet biz -- Facebook, Google, mobile providers, ISPs, just about anyone who can see your traffic. I'm resigned to that but then I don't have anything of interest to anyone, in fact I delight in finding obscure things to search for that prompts popup adverts for bizarre things such as processor families and development systems. It oils the wheels.....

Microsoft sends a raft of Windows 10 patches out into the Windows Update ocean

martinusher Silver badge

The Ultimate Upgrade

I finally gave up and upgraded my Windows 10 machine. To Linux.

If you're a non-Microsoft developer then you'd be amazed at the amount of stuff that doesn't work properly under Win10. If all you do is Office and Web then Win10 will work OK but the rest of the time its just pure frustration, made worse by the inevitable 'antivirus' solutions. I've been struggling with MSFT's offerings on and off since 1985 and they're still making the same basic mistakes that they made back then with MS-DOS. Now I'm more or less retired I can just decline to have anything further to do with this shambolic heap of code.

martinusher Silver badge

Re: Father, forgive me ...

Visual Basic was a half decent third party applications language when it first appeared (it was certainly better than traditional BASIC). Then it got bought by Microsoft.

Peak Apple: This time it's SERIOUS, Tim

martinusher Silver badge

They're collateral damage in Trump's trade war

Apple's appeal in China is to the 'bling' market -- if you've got disposable income and want to show it then one way is to own Apple products. Unfortunately the US has decided to start a trade war with China, a war that also includes a wholesale assault on a local company, Huawei, that has done nothing wrong except be a formidable competitor. Its not surprising that Chinese consumers are turning away from Apple products and especially dangerous for Apple because the competition not only makes products that are as good as Apple's but are at least half the price -- once the Apple habit is broken there's no need for their products or their ecosystem. A large part of Apple's market just evaporates.

This is just a small example of the problems we're unleashing on ourselves as a country by the crass behavior of our government. Sanctions are a useful tool but if they're applied too liberally and too often then they lose their effectiveness because countries develop mechanisms to counter them. We have enjoyed a global stranglehold on the world's economy for years now, a position that gave us a huge amount of leverage over other countries and allowed us the luxury of running huge trade and current account deficits. A sort of global financial Apple, as it were -- lucrative, habit forming, difficult to get rid of but if the world ever finds a reason and a way to go outside our hegemony we are going to be so screwed. (We'll have to start WW3 to bring everyone into line -- oh, you think I'lm joking?)

Two out of five Silicon Valley techies complain Trump's H-1B crackdown has hit 'em hard

martinusher Silver badge

Re: Great news

I first came to the US on an H-1 visa, that's back when to get one you needed postgraduate qualifications and work experience -- "persons of outstanding merit in the arts or sciences". This category seems to be now taken over by the 'O' visa leaving the H1B as something that's used to bring plane loads of low wage IT workers in on to replace higher cost local talent. So I'm not overly impressed by the crocodile tears shed by these companies; tech work is portable except for serious specialists and, anyway, given the rather hostile attitude to immigrants in the present climate you'd be crazy (or desperate) to want to try your hand at immigrating using an H1B, especially as the renewal uses the lottery (and if you lose, you're out). I wouldn't have bothered coming here if I was just starting out, there are plenty of other places that offer opportunities for talent and most welcome your contribution.

Thought Macbooks were expensive? Dell UK unveils the 7 meeeellion pound laptop

martinusher Silver badge

...maybe a mistake..but....

Since Hungarian Notation is widely adopted in programming I supposed Dell has taken things a step further and started pricing their products in Hungarian florints. Last time I looked one florint was worth 0.0036 of a US dollar which brings down the price of their laptop to a more credible -- but still seriously overpriced -- $25K or so.

Seriously, though, it appears that Quality Control is 'so yesterday', its more important to get stuff out there than test it since the users can always be relied upon to test stuff for you so maybe that's just the way things are (those systems will be running Windows 10 anyway so who knows what the punter's going to end up with?).

My 2019 resolution? Not to buy any of THIS rubbish

martinusher Silver badge

Re: Mostly true...

An interesting reference, that. Unfortunately for many of us dementia isn't a matter of 'if', its more 'when', so we really need to be aware of it and how we can cope with it.

I have been interested in whether I could use a voice assistant ("Echo") as an interface. My model for this interface would be that of one of those CPR units that are designed for use by non-EMS personnel. ("HeartSmart" or similar). These devices talk you through the steps, cross checking that what it asks you to do has been done. The genius in their design is that they are designed to be used by people who are inexpert and -- obviously -- stressed. They're not going to read the manual and even if they did they'd skip or repeat important steps with potentially disastrous results. The machine won't let them. Now imagine a washing machine that talked you through the steps, cross checking each one. It is better than pure automation -- or a laundry service -- because it would give the person something to do, a purpose, which is at least as important as clean laundry.

martinusher Silver badge

Assuming a lossless format -- FLAC -- then you won't hear any difference between the vinyl and the digital copy.

Compressed audio doesn't work at all well on a decent high quality system. Some compression systems work better than others but they're all based on psychoacoustic techniques that make assumptions about how the listener hears the music. Its the 'AM Radio' of the digital age.

As for 'Vinyl sounding better' it mostly does because the mastering on many CDs, especially popular music ones, is designed to exaggerate the presence of the music. A decently mastered CD or digital file is about as good as its possible to get.

martinusher Silver badge

Re: Vinyl

You don't have to. Back in the day -- the early 2000s -- I ripped my vinyl onto CDs. Years later, the early 2010s probably, I then converted the CDs to FLACs. It sounds just like the vinyl.

Its a tedious process if you do it all at once but if you rip an album every time you play it then you rapidly convert those recordings you're actually going to listen to (the others obviously don't matter).

(The CD format is worth keeping because the indexing system beloved of digital music is oriented around individual songs -- 'singles'. Anything else it makes a pigs' ear of.)

Silent night, social fight: Is Instagram the new Facebook for pro-Trump Russian propagandists?

martinusher Silver badge


While I don't doubt that the Russian government has an interest in these tools its quite clear from the whole SCL/Cambridge Analytica story that this is primarily the turf of consultancies selling their services to whoever wants to pay for them. Its only commonsense to figure that if I wanted to employ a bunch of technology savvy people in an organized activity that was of a dubious ethical nature (and dubious legality) I'd go to somewhere like Russia to get it done.

Don't forget the Daily Record (Scotland) story about the UK's very own "Internet Research Agency". This was pushing its own brand of propaganda, apparently to counter Russian PR but also to dish out dirt on the Labour party in general and Jeremy Corbyn in particular. Financed by HM Government, no less. It appears that the only party in the dark around here were "the people" (but then if we're stupid enough to fall for a bunch of Internet trolls we probably deserve the government we get....).

Who's watching you from an unmarked van while you shop in London? Cops with facial recog tech

martinusher Silver badge

Let's face it, the problem is that this stuff will work....

...if not now, eventually. Everyone in the tech community knows that it is only a matter of time before it becomes like ANPR.

And talking of ANPR, here's a cautionary tale. Back in the old days the UK registration plates -- the yellow and black ones -- were designed to be machine readable by the technology of that era. ANPR became reliable and then ubiqutous. Meanwhile we in the US carried on our lives smug in the knowledge that the varied formats of our plates and certain legal technicalities about automatic law enforcement would insulate us from this rather intrusive Big Brother-ism. Unfortunately, technology has a habit of improving over time so having a custom license plate doesn't insulate you from ANPR any more (and for the legal stuff -- well, "we have lawyers for that"). Its no coincidence that law enforcement has, after many years, shown a sudden interest in making sure everyone's front plate is readable (many people never bothered with the things since they never fit and had a tendency to fall off). Anyway, since the technology is also quite adept at seeing into cars, even at night, its not too much of a stretch to think they facial recognition is in use as well.

Incidentally, if anyone's seen video from a 'near infrared' camera then they'll understand what true surveillance is like. Traditional IR gives you blobby pictures like an old-fashioned radar image. Near IR gives you high resolution video even under starlight conditions; the wavelengths are unaffected by moisture so clouds and fog have no effect on the image. Its probably not too well known because I'd guess its primarily used by the military at the moment but these things have a habit of permeating to the civilian/law enforcement sector.

martinusher Silver badge

Re: Don't they informed consent

No. In the US -- which is way ahead of the UK thanks to its Bill of Rights -- its recognized that fingerprints and physical features such as our faces are public domain. (Which is why you need to use a passcode for your phone -- the cops can't force you to divulge a passcode but they can forcibly put a finger against a fingerprint reader or show your face to a facial recognition system).

Taylor's gonna spy, spy, spy, spy, spy... fans can't shake cam off, shake cam off

martinusher Silver badge

I'm not so sure about that "doesn't work that well"

The point about facial recognition software is that it really doesn't need to work that well, just as well or better than a human. Even so, I think it works a whole lot better than people think but its effectiveness is downplayed to avoid spooking the public. My evidence for this is where I'm likely to come across it. For example, when I go through Los Angeles International Airport as a US citizen I won't normally interact with a human except to take the printed entry ticked I got from the automated entry booth. When I travel across the US near the Mexican border I go through checkpoints that don't require you to stop but will have cameras to check who's in the car (you see the same technology at the land border crossing in lanes used by regular travelers). Then there are the developments in Russia and China -- Russia, matching generic CCTV images with images on social media, China there's systems to identify wanted people that can pick them out of a crowd.

The only part of this story that doesn't add up is checking for so-called stalkers. I wonder what they're really looking for?

Forget your deepest, darkest secrets, smart speakers will soon listen for sniffles and farts too

martinusher Silver badge

Its already a realty

Amazon's smart speakers offer home security capabilities where they can be used either as standalone security devices or integrated into a security system.

Godmother of word processing Evelyn Berezin dies at 93

martinusher Silver badge

Love at first sight

All you youngsters have no idea what life was like in the days before word processors. You had to write out documentation by hand, give it to someone to type, check it, revise it and so on. It was a tedious process, a major undertaking for someone with crap handwriting that didn't type that well.

Then I met a word processor. It was definitely Love At First Sight. It was a typewriter that tolerated crap typists (although the early standalone machines were sufficiently few and far between that they had their own dedicated operators). Eventually the software became standalone and it was a powerful incentive to buy a personal computer. (The first system I owned was an Osborne 1, it ran CP./M, used Wordstar as the word processing program and I had a Brother daisy wheel printer for output. It was really expensive but for the time worth every penny.)

This lady had the smarts to recognize a product niche -- she didn't just "do computers" but understood office workflow and how it could be improved by automation. She's definitely one for the history books.

For fax sake: NHS to be banned from buying archaic copy-flingers

martinusher Silver badge

>There was a time when fax was accepted and email not, but when I moved house last year, I signed a lease agreement electronically, no problems. I pull my suppliers up on their failures via email records, no problems.

Its a bit late when you've just been scammed for a few hundred thousand. Currently email is just not reliable for transactions that involve funds transfer. You can add all the legal retention, electronic signatures and whatever else you come up with but the system is fundamentally flawed and these technological fixes are just Band-Aids. I will only use electronic transactions for low value funds transfer in a controlled environment (that is, if the transaction gets hacked the loss will be minimal to zero).

Huawei CFO poutine cuffs by Canadian cops after allegedly busting sanctions on Iran

martinusher Silver badge

Re: Should we be worried?

>Trump's been aggressively pushing for trade re-balancing between the USA and China.

He's made a lot of noise, issued various executive orders but on the whole done absolutely nothing to rebalance trade between the US and China. The reason is simple -- the imbalance stems from a couple of decades of systematic offshoring of manufacturing to China. US corporations bought into the notion of the Smiley Face Curve, the idea that all the value in a product was either in marketing and sales with the actual business of manufacturing (and increasingly, development) left to subcontractors. This helped to boost profits by eliminating a lot of jobs in the US but as you can guess was a rather short-sighted policy because it not only helped China develop its manufacturing ecology but also led to the permanent loss of the appropriate skill base in the US. The result is predictable -- a huge trade imbalance and a severe skills shortage in the US. Rectifying it with tariffs isn't going to work, it just acts like a Federal sales tax.

Tariffs are having an impact but according to a recent Federal Reserve report its overwhelmingly a negative impact. This is probably what's behind the 'truce' -- ratcheting them up will cause a lot of visible damage to the economy. There's also an issue of Constitutional authority; Trump could get away with the tariffs (agruably) because he's action on "National Security Grounds". But in real life he doesn't have the authority to unilaterally impose tariffs, its Congress's job.

Now, as to exercising extra-territorial authority over people who haven't committed a crime in the US (and even going so far to not reveal what the offenses are) this poses all sorts of Constitutional issues. Mike Pompero has gone on record recently saying that the only law that should matter in the world today is US law but many countries may disagree with him. The Iran sanctions were reimposed unilaterally after the US abrogated a treaty drawn up between them and other parties so its questionable as to whether their legal (although a lot of effort has gone into twisting arms -- and logic -- to justify these sanctions the majority of the world isn't biting). So anyone who has the time and resources could have a lot of fun with the courts over this one but I suspect they'd rather not, they've got business to attend to (unlike the US where the only growth business seems to be in sanctions enforcement -- "Your Tax Dollars At Work"). The best thing the Canadians could do is to find some grounds for releasing Ms Meng on bail.

(The US is a mess. I'd even considerabandoning it for my native England except.....)

FCC slammed for 'arbitrary and reckless' plan to change how text messages are regulated

martinusher Silver badge

..and they know how to deal with objections

The FCC received a lot of feedback about net neutrality. That part of it that wasn't from bots was overwhelmingly in favor of it. That didn't faze the FCC, they went ahead and ditched it anyway (and since then they've been fighting against state laws that mandate it). Since its difficult to defend the indefensible they came up with another line to justify their actions recently -- apparently the Russians are in favor of net neutrality and have been spreading their evil 'fluence using their nefarious hacking skills (and so Net Neutrality is, by definition, Bad).

The same will happen with text messaging. If they can't cook the books openly then they'll just claim that the Russians want such and such and have been hacking right and left to influence things.

UK spies: You know how we said bulk device hacking would be used sparingly? Well, things have 'evolved'...

martinusher Silver badge

Now we know why the Guvmint doesn't like Chinese kit

Official View: We're concerned about the Chinese spying on us so don't buy it

Reality: We can't figure out a way to screw with this kit to get us the information we want**

(** Because we've had to live with the "Chinese Spying" and "Backdoor" miasma for so long Chinese companies have had to demonstrate to all interested parties that their kit is clean in order to sell it. Its the same with Kaspersky's anti-virus -- we don't like it because we can't compromise it (and it keeps catching us out).)

Incoming! Microsoft unleashes more fixes for Windows 10 October 2018 Update

martinusher Silver badge

Maybe its time for Microsofties to study programming?

We've all been there, hopefully not personally for many years, but the general signs of a programmer in trouble is when they go into 'gopher bashing' mode where fixing one bug invariably breaks something else. They'll tell us "Its all very complicated" but that's unfortunately the job -- we have to design to reduce complexity to manageable levels so if the code is truly incomprehensible then its effectively unusable and needs a redesign.

I know how this can come about, though. I have occasionally to work on a piece of embedded code that's insanely complex, it was written by someone who embraced object oriented programming without first learning about what objects are, how they're used and how to design with them. The result is an astonishing pile of spaghetti, random interactions and variables all over the place, which has driven many a competent programmer to seek employment elsewhere. (You can't critique it because you're obviously old-fashioned and don't understand proper programming techniques so you just leave it to the genius that designed it and have as little to do with it as possible.) Now I'm not saying that this is the cause of MSFT's woes but I'd guess that there's a failure of software design methodology somewhere because they're struggling with what should be trivial bugs, they've not managed to compartment their system but at the same time they're trumpeting quite trivial changes as major improvements. This is a very large red flag for anyone who's had to manage software projects.

Former headteacher fined £700 after dumping old pupil data on server at new school

martinusher Silver badge

Re: Professional Reasons?

>"Professional Reasons"???? Like what, finding them again and stalking them?

You'd be surprised how many people out there are really not interested in children as sex toys. Some individuals are actually interested in nurturing them by helping to educate them and guide them towards adulthood. They might even make a career of it.

Teaching is increasingly a crap job that only a naive idiot would attempt. I've been married to a (thankfully now retired) teacher for my whole working life so in addition to seeing first hand how they get abused I've had to subsidize their vocation (they need to be married to a decent earner). This fellow did what many teachers do, they keep records of their charges to track how effective their teaching is over time. His mistake was to transfer 'computer' records instead of just keeping his old grade books.

Honestly, do parents feel their offspring are so unique that the world is lying in wait just to use them for their evil perversions? How weird.

OM5G... Qualcomm teases next Snapdragon chip for phones: The 855 with a fingerprint Sonic Screwdriver, er, Sensor

martinusher Silver badge

Re: 5G skeptics

>I heard that 400-700nm is the worst radiation wavelength...

Trying to explain how electromagnetic radiation interacts with people is virtually impossible because its statistical -- the probability of damage goes up with frequency from effectively zero through quite likely to certain. Unfortunately most people don't do statistics, so they will take 'effectively zero' as an attempt by the lizard people to hoodwink them.

Where I live its common to find small cell towers on top of streetlights. The irony of people protesting the dangers of radiation from those towers is impossible to explain.

Consumer group attempts to lob Safari workaround sueball at Google... again

martinusher Silver badge

Re: Who had the loss?

>So just ignore the wrong things that Google are doing...

The unfortunate fact of life is that the mere fact you're using a phone pretty much nails where you are. Its unfortunate but that's the price of 'progress'. It seems that the models for things like radios and phones that we grew up with are very persistent, many people just don't seem to understand how modern wireless communications work so their expectations of how those devices should behave are unrealistic.

In the US all phones have to track their location because it facilitates the handling of emergency calls (that's why they all have GPS in them these days). The same principles that drive GPS can be used to determine accurately where a phone is even if the software doing the questioning is prohibited from just asking the phone directly. There is only one remedy for this -- turn the thing off (and I mean "power it down", don't just blank the screen).

....and nobody's forcing you to use Google's products. There are alternatives. They might not be as good or as convenient but then we managed to live quite well in an era of phone books, pay phones and card indexes. You can as well; you just can't have it both ways.

Oz opposition folds, agrees to give Australians coal in their stockings this Christmas

martinusher Silver badge

Its diffiuclt to explain what should be obvious so why bother?

Encryption is just an algorithm and its an openly published one because as we all know secrecy will not guarantee security, in fact its likely to compromise it. So the only way to attack encryption is through key distribution. What the Aussies are demanding is effectively a scheme where they hold the keys -- or the keys are made accessible to them -- which sort of works until someone figures it out (experience with Blu-Ray's uncrackable key scheme wasn't very encouraging -- it becomes a race to see who can crack it the fastest.)

I suppose ultimately what's going to happen is that the Aussies are going to get their keys, unlock the bad guy's communications -- only to discover that's its already been encrypted by something they don't have the keys to. There's no real point trying to explain this to politicians so I'd just shrug and walk away, let them find out at their own pace.

Tesla autopilot saves driver after he fell asleep at wheel on the freeway

martinusher Silver badge

Time for a firmware update?

If you've ever had the pleasure of being pulled over by the CHP then you'll know that they make it pretty obvious that's what they want you to do -- the bright red light, the siren and so on. I'd guess that sometime soon there will be an update to Telsa software that identifies a cop car on your tail that wants you to stop and if you don't react within a short window it will bring the car to a halt.

As for it only being a few miles from where a Tesla came to grief on a gore point (that's what they call 'em around here) I'd guess that the firmware has been tweaked by now to try to unambiguously identify this situation. For those of us who are used to California freeways, especially in urban areas, its easy enough to get confused by the layout of junctions -- older ones can be incredibly confusing if you don't already know the road layout -- so I'd guess that Tesla has taken this problem in hand. (For readers who aren't used to freeways, they just drive on the M6 or something like that, then there's nothing close to the level of confusion and general intellectual mayhem that passes for US road signage in the UK -- motorway signs are clear and easy to read, the roads are comparatively well lit and people don't space junctions so you have to swerve over umpteen lanes of traffic for a ramp that's a mere half mile or less from the previous one.)

martinusher Silver badge

Re: Arrested for being drunk

The English offense used to be known as "Drunk in Charge", its what you'd get busted with if you were drunk, in the vehicle but not actually driving it. Someone has to be responsible for the vehicle regardless of the level of automation involved.

The dingo... er, Google stole my patent! Biz boss tells how Choc Factory staff tried to rip off idea from interview

martinusher Silver badge

Its Russia all over again

I've been in a situation where an invention of mine -- one that I'd developed into a product -- was successfully patented by others who had absolutely no involvement in its development. I didn't patent the original idea, though, because it wasn't just software but it was also unlikely to be original and probably obvious. The people involved in this weren't the company that benefited from this, though -- its unlikely that the company had a clue about the origins of the work. This is what happened here, I'd guess -- it wasn't "Google" that stole the idea but "Google Employees". Once the nature of the theft was made known at the appropriate level the company did the right thing (and they should have had a chat with the employees involved in this).

What's the "Russia" angle? Its currently fashionable to confuse "Russia" with "Russians" in our contemporary Cold War climate which really stops us from seeing what's really going on. In our world the primary string pullers are driven by money, pure and simple, and where that money comes from and how its distributed has more of an influence on our lives than a single state actor. Just as Google isn't a monolith, nations aren't -- there are obvious unifying policies in any organization but overall every organization is composed of individuals who are free to make their own decisions at some level or another.

Angry Googlers demand bosses pull the wings off 'Dragonfly' censored Chinese search engine

martinusher Silver badge

Its a corporation, not a cooperative

I get the feeling we've been neglecting to tell our children about the facts of life with regard to the nature of work and how it relates to society. Since this isn't the first time I've read this sort of thing maybe we should fill them in with a bit of a history lesson.

First, a primer in the economics of work. Companies make money by making profits and those profits are typically from buying something at one price and selling it at a higher price. People are used to this with stuff in shops but don't realize that their labor is also a commodity that gets bought and sold. A typical employee doesn't have a whole lot of negotiating leverage with a company; some of us are sufficiently highly skilled to have more leverage than others but on the whole regardless of the HR BS you're just a work widget, and a replaceable one at that.

As anyone who's worked for a tech company who's been through layoffs will tell you the Kumbaya "We're all part of the XXXXXX family" comes to a shattering halt when reductions in force happen. That's when you discover that you really are a work widget. Corporations are not democracies, at least not below the executive level, and you don't really get a say in corporate policy. The corporation is also very interested in getting the maximum return on investment out of their work widgets; the only question is how they'll go about it. In the bad old days down the mine it would be a 5 and a half day work week, back breaking toil, dangerous working conditions and a bit of silicosis on the side. These days it might be worked to near death while being closely monitored for signs of slacking at an Amazon fulfillment center. Or it could be a collegiate environment that's made so comfortable that you don't really want to go home. Ever. Do not misunderstand your place, though -- at the first sign of a slowdown it will be back to cheap filter coffee (if you're lucky) and cube farms.

Last, but by no means least, back in the Good Old Days the way work widgets tried to redress the balance of power between them and the company was by forming a union. Companies hate them which is why there's been such a sustained campaign against them in both the US and the UK spanning a generation or more (when they first appeared in the UK the reaction was to pass the Combination Acts which promised free relocation to Australia for anyone participating in a non-religious meeting). They have their place, though, and you never know, the company might be smart enough to co-opt a union representative or two onto the board.

China doesn't need to nick western tech when Google is giving it away

martinusher Silver badge

Re: Welcome to capitalism

> If China wasn't such a repressive and aggressive imperial power...

Oh please! That's such a time worn cliche. China isn't a single entity, its 1.3billion people indulging their version of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" aided by a government that understands the value of investments in both people and infrastructure. Their commercial success isn't anything new, they were running a huge surplus with 'the West' (in this case the British Empire) by the mid-19th century which we tried to fix using military might (the Opium Wars and various incursions by western powers into Chinese territory). We're making the same mistake now -- instead of treating this like a huge sports league where the only way to get -- and stay -- on top is to continually up your game we're still at the 'send in the gunboats' stage.

The constant barrage of propaganda in the media is getting tedious. People wonder why governments have historically low credibility with populations easy prey for populists, the answer is that governments aren't delivering for the people and they're trying to force "2 + 2 = 5" type thought onto the unwilling and skeptical. If we keep this up we will lose (but we'll probably take the world down with us in the process -- nothing like Total War for being good for business).

1,700 lucky Brit kids to visit Apple Stores for 'Year of Engineering'

martinusher Silver badge

Re: Huh?

> During the Field Trips, students will create their own digital projects and explore how they can think like an engineer


I think we all read the blurb but tend to tune out most of it because Engineers -- and I am one ("Bow Ye Before Me, O Mortals") -- tend to tune out marketing BS. Quite frankly if they wanted to "think like an engineer" (presumably not a train driver, BTW) you'd be better off encouraging them to fix their push bike or (for the more motivated ones) figuring out how to attach a motor to it. Or something like that.

But I rather suspect that people aren't really interested in being engineers so much as they want to possess what they think are engineers' salaries. As we all know, the best way to do this -- the one that doesn't involve tedious work or even getting ones' hands dirty -- is to use some nice, clean, shiny, computer to run spreadsheets and stuff so you can tell mere engineers what to do.

Well that's just spliffing: UK Amazon merchants peddling Mary Jane

martinusher Silver badge

Re: What a waste of time

>But must leave the peodo gangs alone because of their ethnicity.

That's old school, like the 12 foot lizards and stuff. I'm sure there are pedophiles around -- active ones, that is -- but I've never gone for active rings, especially political. (Most people are or have been parents at some stage in their lives which throws a wholly different light on sexuality.)

I reckon the cops are short on resources because they're too busy watching the Ecuadorian embassy around the clock at the behest of the Americans. Its all about priorities....

martinusher Silver badge

Even where its legal its not legal

I live in the part of the universe that has legal weed. This doesn't mean "unlimited sales to anyone by anyone", though. Much as I'd like to order by one-click (or Alexa) present law doesn't allow it.

I'd guess these adverts were spoof, not spliff.

Black Friday? Yes, tech vendors might be feeling a bit glum looking at numbers for the UK

martinusher Silver badge

Re: Stop trying to make "Black Friday" happen. It's not going to happen.

My daughter spent a couple of years working in Romania and there she found 'Black Friday' deals on and off from about September.

Importing US national holidays into the UK seems to be the fault of the Chinese. They make all this holiday crap anyway and the US being a much bigger market than the UK it makes sense to try and push Halloween (US version) onto the UK rather than Guy Fawkes Night (or the proper version of Halloween). It doesn't make any sense for the British especially as holidays like Thanksgiving are essentially anti-British (it celebrates the arrival of some people fleeing religious oppression and stuff....which is actually total BS but the US isn't that good at teaching history and every nation needs its creation myths). So turn your back on this sort of thing; anyway, its pointless doing 'Christmas shopping' these days because those that can afford it either don't need it, already have it or can buy it using one-click from Amazon and everyone else can't so they're better off not spending what they don't have.

martinusher Silver badge

Re: Yet to be convinced black Friday makes sense...

>You don't do boxing day???!!!

Its a Canadian thing. (They also have their Thanksgiving in October. On a Monday.)

China examines antitrust probe thrust into Samsung, SK Hynix and Micron: Claims to see 'massive evidence'

martinusher Silver badge

War or Commerce?

Leaving aside the noise and bluster for a minute what you have is a situation where a huge commodity market is essentially split up between three players. Now there's a fourth contender, one that's likely to seriously disrupt the market (as Chinese companies tend to these days). The response is going to be political and legal as everyone jockeys for position in the new order. Complicating things is the belligerent stance by the US government, one that finds it easier to initiate wars than deal with problems (even if the wars cause more problems than they solve because ultimately "wars are good for business").

I'd love to see a US administration that realizes that the way to deal with the Chinese isn't by bluster and bombast but by spending money on education rather than overseas bases to "contain Chinese power". There's obviously got to be a balance between the states but the present administration's approach is crass, to put it mildly, and its destined for failure.

Influential Valley gadfly and Intel 8051 architect John Wharton has died

martinusher Silver badge

Re: History

CP/M -- "Control Program / Monitor" -- was a very simple piece of code that was easy to reverse engineer. Its essentially no different from the monitor you'd use to set up and run programs on your PDP minicomputer. Since everything has a common root its not surprising that it gets copied; I'm pretty sure that if QDOS wasn't available to Microsoft they'd have written their own.

As it happens the CP/M knockoff only lasted for MS-DOS 1.4. The CP/M system calls were rapidly replaced by those knocked off from UNIX for MS-DOS 2.0 and up although Microsoft kept the call mechanism (software interrupt and that A20 wraparound) for years afterwards.

Knocking off code was commonplace at that time. The early IBM-PC clone makers were helped in their efforts by IBM supplying a manual with their PC that included the source code of their BIOS. This code turned up in every clone until IBM noticed and their lawyers put a stop to it (in a rather gentlemanly way by modern standards -- they gave these companies a several month deadline to develop their own BIOS).

martinusher Silver badge

iRMX -- RiP

That little OS was years ahead of its time. Intel had a sort of CP/M it used it its MDS (development) systems but neither the system nor their emulators were up to the challenge of using the architecture of the 286 and beyond. iRMX filled the gap. Too bad that Intel did what they always seem to do with useful products -- they just dropped it.

I also had some contact with Microsoft's code in the early days thanks to their networking support in MS-DOS. The less said about MS-NET the better; my impression of Microsoft's programming capabilities was similar to that in the quote and I've not got more comfortable with their technologies in the intervening 30+ years. Still, software's like pop music -- there's no apparent correlation between ability to play and ability to make money, the key skill is 'showman' with talent being a useful, if secondary, capability.

Microsoft menaced with GDPR mega-fines in Europe for 'large scale and covert' gathering of people's info via Office

martinusher Silver badge

Isn't that what "The Cloud" is all about?

If you work with Office365 then you are effectively working with a web application that's based in the cloud. There might be local storage at a company but its effectively just cached data.

I'm quite sure that the people who designed these products never intended for customer's data to be visible to the company, they just want to provide users with a useful product while incidentally locking them into their subscription business model. The fact that the traffic to their servers, even if encrypted, could give Microsoft an insight into a customer's business isn't central to Office but it could very well become so if there was a business case (or a government warrant) to do so. I'm just surprised that the EU's GDPR wasn't written with cloud applications in mind, it seems to be stuck in the era of floppies and PCs.

Personally, I regard cloud based applications with a lot of suspicion. Its not privacy that's uppermost but rather the idea that they assume a reliable, high speed, low latency network infrastructure -- there's just too many points where the system can fail leading you in the lurch, unable to do anything.

(I also don't get this penchant for shaking down - fining -- large corporations huge sums of money. If you allow your government to get into extortion on a large scale don't complain when they realize that it can be used effectively on a smaller scale. OK. Microsoft is big and bad, I'm no fan of that company and its products, but just turning a blind eye to this because 'they deserve it' or 'they can afford it' really isn't a good idea.)

We asked the US military for its 'do not buy' list of Russian, Chinese gear. Surprise: It doesn't exist

martinusher Silver badge

There is politics and then there is reality

Like with other countries the government is something that we have to put up with rather than something that's useful or helpful. Its been clear for many years -- decades, even -- that they're pretty clueless about what constitutes threats but then with populist politicians driving the agenda, lots of money at stake and not very competitive local companies wanting a piece of the action you'd not expect anything other than confusion.

You can see how this goes down with the recent story about Chinese military hackers stealing billions of dollars worth of secrets from Micron technology. Sounds real scary but you find that what happened is that the Chinese wanted to build a DRAM fab, the company running it didn't have the knowhow so it partnered with a Taiwanese company that does. There's a need to staff up with skilled staff so out come the headhunters who go recruiting in all the obvious places like existing DRAM companies like Micron. This is all normal commercial give and take, its how business is done (and it wasn't too long ago that nobody took any notice of trade secrets and the like). However, once word gets to the Cold Warriors i DC the story starts to sound like a Le Carre novel. Its embarrassing because you know that the real reason why a company like Micron is a bit worried is the same reason we all get a bit worried when we discover that the Chinese are about to enter our line of business --- things are about to get a whole lot harder for us.

This doesn't mean that trade secrets aren't stolen and so on, but then its a naive company that doesn't have people looking at competitors' products, analyzing them, reverse engineering them even (because sure as hell, if your stuff is any good, someone will be picking it apart....)

US China-watcher warns against Middle Kingdom tech dominance

martinusher Silver badge

Re: The Chinese Century

This particular horse has long bolted the stable. The Chinese now know how to make their own stuff.

What's going on in China is not much different from what happened with Japan years ago. Japanese products were considered to be cheap, inferior, knockoffs to British products, which they were for the most part. The Japanese copied, they learned, they made mistakes but eventually they found their stride. Nobody could accuse them of building inferior products these days.

The only solution is to think in terms of sports leagues rather than geopolitics. If you've won the Cup this year then there's only two choices for next year -- redouble your efforts to stay on top or lose out to a competitor. There is no law of Nature that dictates that you stay on top 'just because' -- England found this out over the last century and the US is in the process of learning the same lesson.

BTW -- Its also not helpful to think of Chinese people as intellectually inferior to us Western super-beings. Not only is this a colonial era hangover but if you've had to work with them you'll realize that Chinese people are every bit as smart as we are -- and there are a whole lot more of them than us.

martinusher Silver badge

Re: Oh really ?

>I'm pretty sure that we had (ultrasonic?) TV remotes in the 1960s...

Maybe in the US but infra-red remotes became pretty much standard in the UK by the early 80s, you had to go to America to see TVs with bona-fide channel change dials. The change was brought about in the UK because digital tuners were cheaper to make and you needed something to operate Teletext with.

>But analog signals had poor resolution? Yes, they did.

Actually, not really. Certainly in the US and the old 405 line system in the UK but the 625 analog system had a 6.5MHz luminance bandwidth which actually comparable to a modern high definition set (its difficult to map digital to analog resolution but I reckon you'd need at least 10000 pixels line resolution to get the same kind of analog resolution you could theoretically get from a UK TV set). (Naturally the on-air transmission and color encoding/decoding would knock that back a bit, as would be the limited resolution of the cameras and contemporary recording equipment.)

Between you, me and that dodgy-looking USB: A little bit of paranoia never hurt anyone

martinusher Silver badge

USB memory sticks should be harmless.....

....but for a certain software firm deciding that you just had to automatically run applications based on a file extension "to improve the user experience". Obviously because they had this 'feature' everyone else had to copy it to remain competitive.

This could be a useful illustration of just how screwed up what passes for computing has become these days. Simple, straightforward, solutions to problems get lost, users buy into complexity and suddenly its all voodoo, smoke and mirrors because we can't collectively turn around and say "This crap just isn't working properly, it needs fixing".

Windows XP? Pfff! Parts of the Royal Navy are running Win ME

martinusher Silver badge

Re: Keeping it that way

Funnily enough I've been having an interesting conversation with a chip vendor's marketing person over the last few days about 'the wave of the future' -- the "Industrial Internet of Things". This looks like a nice prize for marketing people but as an engineer I'm a bit more skeptical about putting the equivalent of a web server on everything and anything. It is, as we say in the trade, "asking for trouble".

Anyway, I'm a bit disillusioned with whizzo technology even if I do feed at this particular trough. We've had some wildfires in the area recently which has not only caused inconvenience and (significant) damage but also took out the Internet over a wide area. Also the phone system (because we're all using VoIP....). This is more than a nuisance -- unprepared retailers had to close, unable to process payments, we had only an unreliable cellphone service ("its a mountainous area") to rely on. Rather ironically both the mail and the (print) newspaper were delivered as usual (and I daresay if I still had POTS service it would still work). Instead, nothing worked (Alexa just sat in the corner and sulked all day). That's progress for you. So don't knock the RN for not upgrading all their boxes to Windows10 and putting them all on the one backbone; they've got enough problems as it is without inviting further trouble.


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