* Posts by molletts

32 posts • joined 20 Jan 2016

Swiss electronic voting system like... wait for it, wait for it... Swiss cheese: Hole found amid public source code audit


Silent Merc, holy e-car... Mflllwhmmmp! What is that terrible sound?


Re: Whatever they do, it will make sod all difference

When I was at college, I sometimes used to see a guy doing that on a unicycle at the lights on Exhibition Road. The first time I saw it, I was so busy staring at him in amazement that I nearly walked into the lights myself :o)

Cycling in London looks hairy enough on a normal bike; doing it on a unicycle takes balls of steel.

UK's beloved RNGesus machine ERNIE goes quantum in 5th iteration


Re: Did anyone else notice?

I would think it's mainly a result of the slow (relative to the machine's operation) shutter speed causing several "counts" to be displayed during the time the "shutter" is "open" (i.e. the sensor is gathering photons prior to being read out and reset - its integration time) but there could also be a (small) element of afterglow from the ionised gas in the tubes - they don't quite extinguish instantaneously when the current stops (nor, indeed, is the switching speed of the circuits driving them infinitely fast).

Long phone is loooong: Sony swipes at flagship fatigue with 21:9 tall boy


Re: Ratio for video masochists

If you are the type who has to watch landscape videos in portrait, or portrait videos in landscape, one would have to ask why?

I know I should probably upgrade to the latest all-singing, all-dancing gear but my TV dates from that primitive, dimly-remembered era before TVs came with automatic motorised swivel-stands that rotate the screen into the right orientation whenever they show mobile-phone footage on the news.

Windows 10 Insiders sent on quest deep into Registry to fetch goblet of Reserved Storage


One possible improvement

"we have thus far been unable to persuade Windows 10 that it should shove temporary update files anywhere else" [other than the system drive]

That's a complete reversal of the behaviour on some previous versions of Windows which would randomly throw update-related folders at any writable drive whenever they felt like it. Cue non-safely-removable backup disk cartridges, USB drives, etc.

Amazon Mime: We train (badly) an AI love bot using divorce bombshell Bezos' alleged sexts to his new girlfriend


Damn clever, those Chinese

"I want to be shiny ways to be can want to get a brand in

You work to be worst girl"

Sounds like an extract from the manual for a cheap Chinese sex toy.

Maybe they have had top-secret "advanced AI" for decades, using it to generate English documents, perhaps blissfully unaware of how impenetrable its output can be (or maybe they just don't care as long as we keep throwing money at them), and we're only just rediscovering the technology for ourselves.

Fake 'U's! Phishing creeps use homebrew fonts as message ciphers to evade filters


"I think that even the most gullible phishee would spot that."

Hm, I fear you overestimate our species.

¡¡¡soopıɹɐןןop uoıןןıɯ uǝʌǝs ʎʇɟıɟ puɐ pǝɹpunɥ ǝǝɹɥʇ¡¡¡ ɟo sƃuıuuıʍ ʇodʞɔɐɾ pǝǝʇuɐɹɐnƃ ɹnoʎ ɯıɐןɔ oʇ pɹɐɔ ɥsɐɔ ɹnoʎ ɹoɟ ǝpoɔ uıd ǝɥʇ puɐ ǝpoɔ ʇɹos puɐ ɹǝqɯnu ʇunoɔɔɐ ʞuɐq ɹnoʎ 'ʇɹodssɐd ɹnoʎ ɟo uɐɔs ɐ ɥʇıʍ ןıɐɯǝ sıɥʇ oʇ ʎןdǝɹ ʇsnɾ ¡ʎɹǝʇʇoן ɐƃǝɯ uɐıןɐɹʇsnɐ ǝɥʇ uoʍ sɐɥ ssǝɹppɐ ןıɐɯǝ ɹnoʎ ¡suoıʇɐןnʇɐɹƃuoɔ

Techie was bigged up by boss… only to cause mass Microsoft Exchange outage


Re: RE: Then came the Linux crowd where there were no such applications

"...try the Gentoo installation process. ... the number of dependencies required to get a *lightweight* functioning desktop with a suite of useful applications which use your hardware properly is scary."

At least Portage deals with all those dependencies for you automagically, even if you do need to type a few package.use incantations to keep it all clean & tidy and free of unnecessary cruft and avoid filling the OCD-pleasing 4GB partition. (I'm afraid I had to cave in and resort to allocating 8GB on my desktop systems some years ago.)

Getting a fully-tricked-out Windows system requires downloading Mammon knows what from Baal knows where (they'll give you hints if you bribe them with shares in your soul), then trying to install it all in the right order without accidentally letting any of those packages install the bundled spyware, take over a bunch of file associations that you would rather stayed with some other package or replace your preferred media player with SuperVideoMediaDoober Plus Max (Cloud Edition). Then you find that one of the things you need only works properly if you install .Net Framework 1.1 _after_ you've installed .Net 4 but before you install .Net 2, unless you install .Net 3.5 first, in which case you have to install the Visual C++ 10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17 and 18 runtimes in an order determined by consulting a medium, after slaughtering a goat at New Moon.

(Oh wait, I'm getting confused. The bit with the goat is from the NetBSD install procedure.)

Julia 0.7 arrives but let's call it 1.0: Data science code language hits milestone on birthday


You missed one there. Rsters? Why not R-souls?

Blast from the past: Boffins find the fastest exploding non-supernova star


Re: Holy cow that's an awesome photo!

That's the real thing.

I remember the first time I saw a picture of Eta Carinae (or, rather, the Homunculus Nebula around it). I was about 8 or 9 and the picture was in a book I'd been given for Christmas (I think it was probably "The Natural History of the Universe" but I don't have it to hand right now to check). It completely blew my mind, being used to seeing colourful but otherwise rather flat-looking clouds of ionised gas.

I still think "holy cow" every time I see it.

Grad sends warning to manager: Be nice to our kit and it'll be nice to you


Re: what the fuck does PC LOAD LETTER mean?

I remember scaring the wits out of a kid who was thumping the old LaserJet 4 in the IT suite, impatiently waiting for her document to print (it was the usual "The bell's about to go, everybody print your work before you go home!" situation, inevitably leading to 30 kids all hitting print simultaneously). I was logged into the Linux print server from one of the PCs and used a little utility I had for generating PJL commands to make the printer display "OW THAT HURTS"..."PLEASE STOP".


Re: what the fuck does PC LOAD LETTER mean?

I once persuaded a particularly dipsy teacher who had brought her class up to the IT suite that it meant the printer had run out of letters to put on the page. I took the print cartridge out, took it into my office next door, quickly logged into the printer's admin interface to set the A4/Letter equivalence option (which kept clearing itself for some reason), cleared the print queue then returned with the cartridge ("refilled with a fresh supply of letters") and reinstalled it, magically fixing the problem.

A few weeks later, I heard her explaining it to someone else in the staff room, sounding very authoritative, after they had encountered the same problem.

Trainee techie ran away and hid after screwing up a job, literally



I was once turned down for a job, despite apparently being the preferred candidate of everyone on the panel except the "technical consultant" who had been brought in to advise them on IT-related stuff, and therefore had a veto over the appointment, because I'd listed Linux as well as Windows experience and knowledge on my CV. He said that I was therefore not a "Windows specialist" which was what he said they needed (their previous IT manager had been a Windows-only guy so their network was all-Windows, including the firewall and web servers - not an ideal situation in the mid-2000s).

Sysadmin wiped two servers, left the country to escape the shame


It replicated. What more do you want? :)

I once had a similar thing happen when I added a new server to an existing DFS Replication group on Windows Server (two words that I've always said don't sit comfortably together). DFS-R very quickly and efficiently replicated the nice, capacious new storage volume to the other servers. (Hey, I could save some money on disks! No need to buy several new ones when we run out of space: just buy one and replicate it! Why didn't I think of that before? :-P )

Thankfully, the data on that particular replication set was not mission-critical (it was mostly multimedia content) so it was merely inconvenient for the day or so it took to restore from the previous night's backup and re-replicate to the group.

Since then, I've always pre-seeded new servers using Robocopy. DFS-R still insists on replicating the whole lot in one direction or the other (exactly which way seems to be totally random) when the server joins the group, causing massive fragmentation (this is NTFS, after all, where writing a 1MB file to a freshly-formatted 1TB disk will probably result in at least 60 fragments), but at least the losses are, at worst, limited to any changes saved to an existing server since the files were copied over to the new machine.

I should have done this anyway the first time, just as I would have with NTFRS, but DFS-R was shiny and new and supposedly much more reliable (my a**e - there's a reason I held off migrating SYSVOL from NTFRS to DFS-R until Server 2012R2 migration forced my hand) and I thought it would be kind of cool to be able to just "set it and forget it" and watch it sort itself out without me having to lift a finger. Why did we bother upgrading to Server 2003R2 if not for the greater ease of administration? (Of course I'd also forgotten that, even if replication had gone the right way, the new server would immediately start advertising itself as a good place for the clients to find their content, despite most of it not yet having been copied over.)

Software update turned my display and mouse upside-down, says user


Re: Every day's a school day

Ah yes, the Intel hotkeys. I had a setting in group policy to disable the entire hotkeys/tray icon thing on classroom PCs, of course, but didn't think it was necessary to do it on staff laptops... Until one senior teacher came in one Monday morning during the school holidays with his laptop screen turned through 90° by one of his tween/early-teen sons (who, to be fair, had probably done it by accident while playing a game or something - they were nice boys and would have fixed it for him had they known what to do) and had been struggling with using it that way since Friday evening!

On a similar note, I used to leave A3000 computers at school with negative mouse-speed settings... That, of course, simply inverted it and couldn't be saved to NVRAM (although you could save a ridiculously-fast setting).

The award for worst ISP goes to... it starts with Talk and ends with Talk


Given that they're the same company as far as I'm aware, I've never been able to figure out how TalkTalk can be so consistently rubbish while Utility Warehouse, equally consistently, manage to fare pretty well.

Behold iOS 11, an entirely new computer platform from Apple


Re: Aww

> For comparison, how does Android Marshmallow run on a 4-year-old tablet (if at all)?

Can't answer for a tablet but it ran OK on my 2011 Galaxy Nexus (came between the Galaxy S and S2 for those unfamiliar with it), until I upgraded to Nougat (which also runs OK).

It's happening! Official retro Thinkpad lappy spotted in the wild


I shall reserve judgement...

... until I can get my hands on one, as to whether it is truly a worthy bearer of the ThinkPad name.

My first ThinkPad (a 240 with a PII Celeron [Mendocino] CPU and 192MB RAM) still works although I struggle to find a use for it these days. (I don't recall it being anywhere near as slow back in 2000 and yet I was doing basically the same things on it back then as I need to do today.)

I still use my X40 (Pentium M 1200, 1.5GB) from time to time, though. It's quick enough for doing network diagnostics and other not-too-demanding tasks - or playing UT Classic when I'm bored! It's survived being pulled off of desks by wayward children several times over the last 13 years.

Both have run Linux from day 1.

Science fiction great Brian Aldiss, 92, dies at his Oxford home


Re: The AI ending

>> Aldiss ... wasn't keen on the happyish ending...

> I've only seen the film once ... I said much the same thing at the time

Yes, I felt that too - it should have simply faded to black with the solemn narrator voiceover. The tacked-on ending feels like gratuitous added sugar.

That said, when I saw the film again some years later, the epilogue seemed less "jarring", but maybe that's just because I was expecting it. Watching it "without prejudice", it didn't feel quite as "empty" either, although I still don't think anything would really be lost by simply truncating the film (and arguably the whole might be improved as a result).

I suppose we should just be grateful Disney didn't get their hands on it. I don't even want to think what the result might have been like after they'd finished dumping truckloads of sugar into it.

Photon scattering puts a shine on CERN ATLAS boffins' day


Re: Heavy Metal?

> "Photon Scattering" sounds more like an Indie band

They would probably play an interesting mix of heavy metal and light music.

Programmer's < fumble jeopardizes thousands of medical reports


Sadly, nothing new here

I've encountered similar lack-of-escaping bugs on a pretty regular basis for years, in part because of my persistent habit of working in schools with apostrophes and/or ampersands in their names.

Some websites totally crap out when you try to submit the name to register a product or download companion software. One even had a hyper-sensitive "hacking detector" that admonished me then locked out the county's outbound IP address for a minute each time I submitted the offending text. (They probably thought they were being really clever by detecting attempts at SQL/script injection or something. Maybe I should have set up a script to submit it automatically every minute to see if they noticed the sudden lack of business coming their way from an entire county.)

One major technology retailer's site accepted the address but munged it on the shipping label, which isn't disastrous but is rather ugly - "St. Brutus&apos;s School &amp; Deranged Orang-Utan Containment Facility".

Another completely omitted the address line containing the name of the school which is a little more troublesome - it took several failed (i.e. not attempted) deliveries before someone at the courier's depot thought to phone the contact number on the label (apparently, the drivers aren't allowed to carry phones) to find out exactly where in Snafu Road the parcel should be sent.

Some would say I should just omit the non-alpha characters as a matter of course but I like to break systems then see how (if) the companies' tech support folks handle the bug report.

LHC finds a new and very charming particle: the Xicc++ baryon


Re: XICC - how do you pronounce that?

I must admit that I read it as "Xi (as in the Greek character Ξ/ξ)-double-charm-two-plus" but I'm no expert on this kind of stuff.

That said, "chic-plus-plus" has a certain ring to it (and is a darn sight easier to say). Doesn't sound sufficiently particley to me, though. New programming language with a focus on style, perhaps?

Fighter pilot shot down laptops with a flick of his copper-plated wrist


He'd started up a retirement job selling magnetic "health" bracelets. But also a magnetic doodah... He was a mechanical engineer.

There's a difference between making a profit selling such things to people who believe in them and believing in them oneself ;-)

I remember a discussion in class at school just after the (UK) National Lottery started up in which someone asserted the old Gambler's Fallacy that because all the numbers have equal probability of coming up over a long interval, ones that haven't come up for a while are more likely to do so in the next draw. After much, increasingly mathematical, discussion which resulted in the teacher proving conclusively that, on average, it is impossible to do anything other than lose money on the Lottery, I shocked everyone by asserting that I knew a guaranteed way to profit from it. My method? Write some software that took as input a log of all draw results then spat out random numbers after much on-screen number-whirling à la computers in Hollywood movies (hell, I could even have gone to town and used the draw history as a seed for the RNG) then sell the software to people wanting to make a quick buck by actually playing the Lottery.

Meteor swarm spawns new and dangerous branch


Re: I welcome our new meteor overlords

"... if they can flash cook a pizza for me!"

I'll have heaps of pepperoni, spicy beef, ham, salami, chicken, basically all the ones for carnivores.

The meteor the better.

IT firms guilty of blasting customers with soul-numbing canned music


For a truly soul-numbing experience, try being put on hold by Volvo Insurance for several minutes. Last time I called them (some years back, admittedly), their hold muzak was a loop about 10 seconds long...

London City airport swaps control tower for digital cameras


Re: Flying between skyscrapers?

> Citation needed!

Nah, you can do it in an Airbus, easy! :-P

Windows 10 S forces Bing, Edge on your kids. If you don't like it, get Win10 Pro – Microsoft


Re: Bing?

"ask Bing anything uncommon" - I don't even have much luck asking it "common" things. I wanted to grab a copy of the Win7 Convenience Update Rollup (or whatever it's called) a few months back for a PC rebuild I was doing for a friend and all I had to hand at the time (i.e. not requiring me to expend unreasonable amounts of energy moving across the room) was a newly-installed Win10 machine. So I fired up Edge and typed something like "windows 7 convenience rollup" into the search bar (what could possibly go wrong, after all?) and got... bloody double glazing! *facepalm*, www.google.com, "windows 7 convenience rollup", ah, the Win7 Convenience Rollup.

FFS Microsoft, at least get your search engine to find stuff on your own site! There's a reason people use Google: It Just Works(tm). (That's also why I use Linux these days.)

PC survived lightning strike thanks to a good kicking


Re: I so dislike those switching power supplies.

I had a bunch of Compaqs like that in a school too (evo d530s, I think). Usually, they would trip out the breaker for about a third of the classroom when they went bang, which was inconvenient but not disastrous. Sometimes, though, they would trip the next breaker up, which was the whole IT department including the server room. The servers were on a woefully-undersized HP UPS which ran for about 90 seconds on batteries - nowhere near long enough for the sluggish ProLiant servers to shut down cleanly. (Seriously, HP, why were your RAID cards so slow?) Being a Private Finance (PFI) school, I had no access to the electrical cabinet so I couldn't simply sprint down and turn the power back on before the batteries ran out.

The annoying thing was that, having glued the voltage selector switches on "230", HP then quibbled when I tried to return a genuinely-failed power supply under warranty, saying that the one I had sent back was "damaged or modified".

Sysadmin's sole client was his wife – and she queried his bill


Re: I sometimes wonder how we can justify your salary

"I'm more than happy to pay my wife do to a job even if I can get someone cheaper and faster to do it."

Sage advice there... Cheap, fast ladies can be really risky - make sure you install good anti-virus before employing one ;-)

X-ray scanners, CCTV cams, hefty machinery ... let's play: VNC Roulette!


Not just VNC

This reminds me of a time a few years ago when I was looking for something to do with one of our laser printers at work. Having typed a phrase from the web interface into Google, I was shocked (but not that surprised) when the search results included links to dozens of similar printers with internet-facing web interfaces. I tried half a dozen random ones and found that they all used the default username & password.

I could have printed documents to incriminate the owners, changed settings to make them do 100 copies of everything or even uploaded PostScript code or modified firmware to siphon off (possibly sensitive) documents that were being printed to them.

I did toy with the idea of printing a warning message to them, alerting the owners that their printers were insecure and giving them step-by-step instructions on how to change the password and a suggestion that getting a firewall would be a good idea but didn't bother in the end.

Toaster cooks network and burns 'expert' user's credibility to a crisp


That cybercafe incident reminds me of a neighbour I once moved in next to who claimed to have a severe WiFi allergy, along with her children. She had obviously spotted my SSID on her laptop and guessed it was the new guy, so she came around, looking as haggard as possible and, having ascertained that it was indeed my network, explained the family malady and asked if I would kindly refrain from using WiFi.

Of course, I made a show of graciously turning off the AP while she was there. Later on, when I knew she was out, I turned it back on and set it to "hidden". She was perfectly fine with that - her allergy must have been to beacons containing non-null SSIDs rather than to WiFi itself :)

Eighteen year old server trumped by functional 486 fleet!


Nostalgia alert

[Totally off-topic - it doesn't relate to a still-running system; it's just an excuse for me to reminisce about the good old days!]

> I can't remember what the server was but it had a 32 port serial card in it and a QIC drive.

> On looking up the specs it appeared to be run from a 68020 and was connected to clone

> VT-100s. It ran a database similar to view store.

There were probably dozens of systems like that but it reminds me of an old ADDS Mentor I used to have. (I think it was an M4000.)

I inherited it, along with a terminal and all the manuals and tapes, from a company for whom I worked on my year out between school and uni in 1997/8. They were having a clear-out before converting some storage space into offices and I just couldn't resist damn-near busting an artery carting the thing down a fire-escape and loading it into the back of my elderly car. I remember nearly going off the road when driving home that night - I took a sharp bend at my usual speed and found that the car didn't handle quite the same with all that weight in the back. (There were a few other boxes of stuff too - left-over electronic components from discontinued products, "reject" PCBs laden with gorgeous chunky 200A MOSFETs, other old computer bits, etc.)

It had similar hardware to the one you describe. I think the main CPU was a 68020 but it also had two 68010s powering the serial I/O card. There were two huge boards stuffed with DRAM chips, which gave it (I think) 1MB of RAM. One was bigger and plugged directly into the planar (I guess it must have had some refresh controller circuitry on it or something but I can't remember now) while the other was perhaps ⅘ [I love the Compose key :)] the size and plugged into a small riser off the first. Then there was the CPU card, the SCSI controller and the serial card. I remember being somewhat amused to find that the memory retention battery was a large sealed lead-acid brick!

I have fond memories of the time I spent formatting the Maxtor 160MB 5¼" full-height SCSI-2 hard drive and reinstalling the PICK OS from a QIC-150 cartridge, then teaching myself how to use PICK and program in DataBASIC. (I have a vague recollection of directories being called dictionaries, but little else.)

I was sad to have to dispose of it (and numerous other old computers and peripherals) when my parents wanted the room that had been my "lab" for other things. I may still have the tape drive and tapes somewhere, though. I seem to remember using them to back up my PC at college - I'd leave a tape in the drive in the morning when I went to lectures, then pop back and change it at lunchtime, then again at the end of the day. I've probably got all the bootleg MP3s I collected from CDs borrowed from the library stashed away in NT Backup format on those cartridges. I actually installed an NT4 system a few months back (just to see if I could get an old Smart Array 2 card from my collection working) so I could dig them out and try recovering them! (Man, NT4 went like s**t off a shovel on an Athlon XP 3200+ in 2GB RAM!)

Ahh, those were the days...

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