* Posts by Dave Bell

2062 posts • joined 14 Sep 2007

NASA's TESS mission in distress, Mars Express restart is a success

Dave Bell
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Re: TESS GNC issue

That doesn't even work in Kerbal Space Program.

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Dave Bell
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You're being a bit negative about the TESS launch.

spaceX spot a problem, three hours before launch. And they stop the process long before any loading of fuel or liquid oxygen. It's about the time the humans leave the area of the launch pad. How is this a bad thing? Why should the satellite be "nervous"?

Anyone can check the countdown sequence, find out these things. You don't have to watch launches for half a century to have a clue.

Meanwhile the engineers check the details, and decide whether or not you will go to space today. This is thing going right.

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Router ravaging, crippling code, and why not to p*ss off IT staff

Dave Bell
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Re: Akamai report flawed.

The Akamai report mentions "Open WRT" with a note that they couldn't tell the version.

Well, it's open source software for any number of different boxen, so maybe the model number is pointless, but it looks a bit odd how they handled it.

On the version I have on my router, UPnP is not enabled by default. It's a bit reckless not to check the Firewall settings.

I suspect that finding whether UPnP is enabled is easier to check than some think, but many users will need some hand-holding while they do the check. And that can start getting expensive.

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Whois is dead as Europe hands DNS overlord ICANN its arse

Dave Bell
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As mentioned above, there are various clues, even in just the domain name. And if the corporate entity chooses to be anonymised, you have to wonder why.

I started out in this lark via a Fidonet BBS with a usenet gateway, and we reckoned it would be trivial for a phone number anywhere in the UK to connect to a dial-up modem in Cheltenham. I remember one day when most of the sysops in the UK claimed to be running on a UPS because of a thunderstorm, all at the same time.

If you can't trust your sysop, who can you trust?

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Modern life is rubbish – so why not take a trip down memory lane with Windows File Manager?

Dave Bell
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This is one of a small group of programs that set the common ground for so much software. Apple were earlier, of course, but so many people have used this that it would be folly to be too different. English has its Great Vowel Shift. For computers, this was part of a similar big change.

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El Reg deep dive: Everything you need to know about UK.gov's pr0n block

Dave Bell
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Here we go again...

It's happened before.

1999 in the US, a company called Landslide, providing adult verification services, involving credit-card payments as authentication.

Trouble was, some of the site using the service were making child porn available, and there was a lot of credit card fraud mixed in.

The operators of the site ended up in jail, with one of those crazy multi-lifetime sentences.

The names of credit-card holders in the UK were passed to the UK Police, who appeared to assume that every credit-card use was genuine and was linked to accessing child porn.

I remember, in my early years on Demon, the struggles there were against the misconceptions of people in power, the tendency to assume everything on the internet was illegal and dangerous. It's hard to avoid wondering how much of this has the same roots, particularly people who have to deal with the genuine bad stuff: the dangerous idiots were, in those days, a part of the Metropolitan Police called "Clubs & Vice".

That outfit, and later the NSPCC with "Satanic Child Abuse", had a reaction I can understand, but they came across as gullible, suffering from some sort of institutional PTSD that had them starting at shadows.

I don't think their solutions are any better.

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Whois? More like WHOWAS: Domain database on verge of collapse over EU privacy

Dave Bell
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Re: What about proxies?

I have had a domain name since the last century, as a private individual, from a UK-based registrar. My name and address is protected by the current Data Protection Acts, which implement current EU law, and this GDPR doesn't seem to implement anything new for me.

The basic privacy rules are so old that they applied when I was using a 2400 baud modem to access FidoNet. And, every so often, the USA has signed up to some agreement to protect personal info, so they can trade with the EU, and gone on, after a couple of years, to ignore it.

The USA has form on the abuse of personal data, going far beyond the allowed Law Enforcement access that Europe already has. Facebook and elections have made headlines over the weekend, and if they are rich (and white) Americans will ignore all these laws.

ICANN may be stupid, but it's a part of a pattern of American criminality about our personal data.

Since we're leaving the EU, we're going to be outside their protection, and I am not sure we can trust the UK government to to even maintain the existing protections.

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Brit semiconductor tech ended up in Chinese naval railgun – report

Dave Bell
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Re: Return of the Battleships?

A huge element of that was bad ammunition-handling procedures in the Squadron of battlecruisers that Beatty commanded. He wanted a high rate of fire, and cared less about accuracy. One of those rather dangerous officers who talked a good line. Essentially, there were bagged cordite charges exposed to the flash from explosions, all the way between the turret and magazine. When there was a penetration, and battlecruisers were relatively lightly armoured, there was the inevitable earth-shattering kaboom.

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Opportunity knocked? Rover survives Martian winter, may not survive budget cuts

Dave Bell
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I saw the mention of failing memory, and nobody has followed that up, here.

Another year of operations, with careful attention to that angle, could pay off well for future spacecraft, both in designing and operating them for maximum life.

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Ubuntu wants to slurp PCs' vital statistics – even location – with new desktop installs

Dave Bell
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Re: How it should have been handled

It can be read that way.

It doesn't really make it explicit. It should.

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It knows where the gravel pits and power lines are. So, Ordnance Survey, where should UK's driverless cars go?

Dave Bell
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Maps are useful, but things change

I hope this involves up-to-date mapping data, because I know that some published OS maps are at least a couple of years out of date, still missing new roundabouts on major roads, and it took time for both roundabouts to get onto other on-line maps and sat-nav databases.

And GPS or map data just isn't going to be good enough to stop vehicles hitting anything.

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Have three WINEs this weekend, because WINE 3.0 has landed

Dave Bell
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Re: End of the Road

I know of a couple of programs that don't have Linux versions, and explicitly test with Wine. I use one of them, and maybe the biggest problem is that different Windows programs work best with different Wine versions. There are fixes for that. I use PlayOnLinux.

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PC lab in remote leper colony had wrong cables, no licences, and not much hope

Dave Bell
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Obvious.

If you're going to hand out Ubuntu CDs, make sure it's a current LTS version.

It doesn't need recent hardware to run, though I have doubts about physically old hard drives. If the machine can be fitted with a current-production SATA drive there's not likely to be anything dreadfully out of date. Fans also wear out, but can be replaced.

If you're making a donation. a new 500GB hard drive makes it not-junk, and also covers you against data security issues. Pop Linux on it, and you're also covered on licensing issues.

That bunch of machines in New Ireland, I wonder if they have on-board graphics hardware because I'd expect it to be VGA. Performance would be OK. Change the BIOS setting (some boards can autodetect) before you remove a graphics card.

Some people can likely think of ways to do these things better, but I reckon these are the things you need to get right for a worthwhile donation of old hardware.

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Good lord, Kodak's stock is up 120 per cent. How? New film? Oh. It launched a crypto-coin

Dave Bell
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Re: Zombie brand

I don't care what Kodak still makes film for. All I know is that they took MY Kodachrome away

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It gets worse: Microsoft’s Spectre-fixer wrecks some AMD PCs

Dave Bell
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Something isn't right about this.

Unless I am confusing Meltdown and Spectre there's something very wrong here.

1: Meltdown only affects Intel CPUs but it can be patched.

2: Spectre affects all CPUs but can't (yet) be patched.

3: There is a third AMD bug, which apparently needs physical access to the machine to exploit

So just what is the update supposed to be doing, because i am not sure it should even be trying to install on an AMD machine?

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Dave Bell
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Re: athlon

I have AMD hardware, and it's a Phenom rather than an Athlon, and I am very glad I don't run Windows

Because, when I looked this up, the particular core design was sold as both a Phenom and an Athlon

I am not sure if the afflicted users know or care about such nitty-gritty details, but just saying "Athlon" is perpetuating the confusion, and mistaking AMD branding for a chip ID is putting systems at risk

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Whizzes' lithium-iron-oxide battery 'octuples' capacity on the cheap

Dave Bell
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Re: Where are they now

This may be why Elon Musk can sell fake roof tiles that generate solar power.

American housing is, compared to Europe, a bit fragile, and roofing can need replacing more often. A solar panel system that can be fitted instead of roof tiles, instead of on top of them, could drop the labour costs a lot. I am not sure about the electrical connections, but total labour cost, compared to roof and solar panels, could be even less.

A quick google show remarkably short roof life in the USA. But can people find the extra money today for a more durable roof?

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Dave Bell
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Re: Great News

It's a structural problem.

Three cases in a folding stack are not going to have a third of the thickness of casing for each subunit, though a smaller unit might have a thinner case for the same stiffness. Can you make a reliable PCB at a third of the total thickness (and I doubt you can reduce the thickness of the metal conductors)? Can you expect a thinner touch-screen?

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Dave Bell
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Re: Nevertheless...

A better battery, more charge for the volume and weight, could mean smaller and lighter devices. Extra processing power often comes with more efficiency. A bit longer life as part of the deal is something that could be easy to sell.

It may be that phones have become too thin, and that is forcing compromises on details such as the durability of the connector. Compare your mobile with the typical low-cost cordless phones on your landline. They're too bulky, but they don't feel fragile. A bit extra thickness might make a better data/power connector possible.

Stepping back from the thinness race might make all the difference, without new battery tech.

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UK.gov admits porn age checks could harm small ISPs and encourage risky online behaviour

Dave Bell
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Which IP version

We might have a list of domain names, but will that stop people using an IP address?

And could an IP-level block ever work with IPv4? An IPv6 address doesn't really feel human-usable, I am not sure I would want to read it out over a telephone, or listen to it and get it into a computer.

Proving age could be a problem too. I am old enough to have been spammed by the Green Card Lawyers, and old enough to remember the frauds that have surrounded proof-of-age systems, but how do I prove it this time?

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Jocks in shock as Irn-Bru set to slash sugar and girder content

Dave Bell
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Re: Lateral Thinking

Total energy content matters, and there is evidence accumulating on the bad effects of a high-carb, low-fat, diet. There's a clear correlation, and there has been some pretty smart testing done to tease out the direction of causality. There are a lot of diet fads which go to extremes, based on slight evidence, and they go bad. The big change I have seen is the rise of "energy" drinks, and Irn-Bru might just be exotic enough to sell for some of the same reasons. A sugar cut isn't a bad thing, but whenever somebody goes for something obvious and simple, I suspect they are wrong.

I don't know why people have this idea that Irn-Bru is unknown in England. Maybe they live so far south that they get their info from the French.

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Linux Mint 18.3: A breath of fresh air? Well, it's a step into the unGNOME

Dave Bell
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Re: What's all the fuss about?

I use the Xfce version, and it's working fine.

I run some Windows-only software using the PlayOnLinux version of the Wine system. This lets you use multiple Wine versions, and find the best one for the program you want to use. It's an annoyance that so many people will say Wine works, and not mention version numbers. I am using the current Windows version of Scrivener with Wine 2.10, without problems.

I do use the command line for some things. What I find most comfortable is that I am in control. I hear too often of people getting hassled by the Windows update system. And Linux just keeps working.

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Ubuntu 17.10 pulled: Linux OS knackers laptop BIOSes, Intel kernel driver fingered

Dave Bell
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Re: Debian SID

This is why I use Linux Mint. They base it on an LTS kernel/distro from Canonical. And, if you change kernel version, their upgrade won't change the kernel version you're using. And you have a good program to control updates for anything on your system.

Any OS, you can treat it like Windows and blindly accept all updates, and you would probably get results of this sort from time to time.

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Russia could chop vital undersea web cables, warns Brit military chief

Dave Bell
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Re: Not a new threat

My guess is that there's a bit of a question mark about how we can defend ourselves against submarines. We haven't had any maritime patrol aircraft since 2010 (and that was a Labour government decision). We depend on our NATO aliies, most of them in the EU. Dodgy project management is a part of the issue.

Never mind the cables, what happens if ships start getting sunk in a war? But I might just be remembering the stories of my parents, of times when we were struggling to feed ourselves and there was food rationing. But it's the internet that is sexy today.

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Berners-Lee, Woz, Cerf: Cancel flawed net neutrality vote

Dave Bell
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The USA is different

One thing I have heard from American sources is that much of the country has little choice of internet providers. I can, here in the UK, fairly easily switch from one ISP to another. We have the BT Openreach monopoly on the physical connection, and a free choice over who provides the service. Most of the country doesn't have any practical alternative to that, no cable TV network, though mobile phone tech give a back-up in most places. There are still gaps.

Most of the USA is served by vertically integrated phone/ISP operations, with no competition unless you can get Cable TV, or can pay mobile phone charges (again, with coverage problems).

Setting up an ISP business in the UK isn't trivial, but it is still possible. In my time on broadband I've dealt with four companies, partly down to take-overs and re-branding, partly my choice.

We have the net neutrality that the USA is trying to cling to. We have choice and competition for our custom by the suppliers. It's not that close to right, but it works.

How would feel if you only had one practical choice of internet supplier, and no guarantee that you could use the bandwidth you pay for for what you want to do (assuming it's lawful)? It's a question of balance, and the USA is getting extreme.

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Someone tell Thorpe Lane in Suffolk their internet sucks – they're still loading the page

Dave Bell
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People do miss one big factor in the usefulness of Internet connection speeds. My connection would be classed as horribly slow, but I am the only one using it so it's OK. Yes, I'd like more, but shouldn't we at least have some idea of the number of people we assume are in a household when we're looking at these figures?

Let's say three people. It's enough to need 10Mbs for adequate performance.

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Bitcoin price soars amid technical troubles for exchanges

Dave Bell
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Re: Can I buy Tulips with Bitcoin?

Charles Mackay: Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

Tulips, the South Sea Bubble, and a lot more. But the accounts are poor-quality history.

When the legend becomes fact... print the legend.

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Google prepares 47 Android bug fixes, ten of them rated Critical

Dave Bell
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I'm confused.

Google say they have bugfixes for the OS on my Nexus phone. The OS version gets repeatedly listed.

But nobody is saying anything about whether there will be an update distributed.

Every OS manufacturer stops support for older versions. I can live with that. But I wish there was a bit more clarity about which OS version will get updates on which Nexus phones. Just a clear link to a "supported versions" page would be enough. It looks like the info is on Wikipedia, but I'd rather trust a page provided by Google.

Frankly, this story on The Register has too much of the feel of a press release by somebody who has no stake in the game.

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Once again, UK doesn't rule out buying F-35A fighter jets

Dave Bell
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If the possible F-35A purchase is extra, for land-based use, it's at least worth a serious look for eventual Typhoon replacement.

Whatever will be available when that comes due is going to be hellishly expensive, and the F-35A will be be effectively new aircraft to an established design. It could be a good deal. I'd be wary of a totally new design, that's part of the problem with the F-35B. We can have a pretty good idea of when Typhoon spares run out, and a replacement has to be ready on-time. But a delayed carrier force isn't as critical as an inability to defend the UK. Maybe NATO allies could deploy some squadrons, if they have the capacity, but will they want to?

But it's going to be a choice between Europe, the USA, China, and Russia as a source, and I have some doubts about all of them. Will any of them want to do a good deal with us, or will we end up paying through the nose for a second-rate export version?

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Brit MP Dorries: I gave my staff the, um, green light to use my login

Dave Bell
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Re: The baby white elephant in the room

That's Nic Dakin, who shows himself to be at least adequate in computer matters.

The Workington constituency includes Cockermouth, while ther's also the Penistone and Stocksbridge constituency.

All of these places have had problems with poorly-designed internet filters. Surely Parliament can cope with English placenames?

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Dave Bell
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In the old days

It used to be, in the days of paper, that somebody had a secretary, and maybe other staff, who handled correspondence. And if you got a reply to the letter, it might be signed "per procurationem", an identified person sending a reply on behalf of the boss. Nothing was being hidden.

It was so standard a practise that it is incredible to me that this situation has developed. Though some of what I have seen on Twitter involves some Olympic-level jumping to conclusions.

The rest of today's news is inclining me toward interpreting some MP's Tweet as stupidity, rather than merely being ambiguously laconic. Why are we trusting this shower of incompetents?

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What's that fresh, zesty fragrance? Oh, Linux Mint 18.3 has landed

Dave Bell
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I think there are some reasons for Mint dropping KDE, and there are other Ubuntu-based KDE distros. I'll be waiting for the xfce release.

There are a couple of programs I use which don't have Linux versions, but I have found WINE to be a good answer. I use the "PlayonLinux" system, which can handle different WINE versions for different software. Some programs are a bit picky about the WINE version they need, and some people who shout "Use WINE!" are not very helpful about what works with the particular program that is the topic of discussion.

For instance. I run Scrivener on Wine 2.10, and we shall see what happens when Scrivener 3 appears for Windows.

(You see how it's easy to say something more useful than "Use WINE!")

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Tesla launches electric truck it guarantees won't break for a million miles

Dave Bell
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Re: Sport truck! 0-60 in 5 seconds SA to WA

There's a similar infrastructure problem in the UK. The old-style transport caffs maybe don't have room for solar panels, and electricity supply could need a big upgrade, but they were all over the place. Many have closed. Most of the time, all you see are places similar to a caravan in a lay-by. There were operations of the "Little Chef" sort that have mostly gone. Part of it is the motorway network, and in the years when I was doing long-distance driving, that sometimes felt like the only practical choice to be sure of a break.

It's not as if you can pack sandwiches to recharge a truck. And I know of many petrol stations that have gone.

General use of electric vehicles is going to depend on changes to the infrastructure. When "Top Gear" did a challenge on electric vehicles, it was hard finding places to recharge, and they maybe made a bit too much of a joke out of it. That's something to think about, something that maybe needs a new report. But I hope it has become too boring for "Top Gear"

A lot of what I am seeing suggests this Tesla truck will struggle to cope with the long-distance trucking in America, but it might work a lot better in Europe, and in parts of the USA with high population-density. And there is an American Myth of the open road trucker which feeds into the criticisms.

And have a look at the delivery trucks in cities, not the long-range semi-trailer rigs.

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Dave Bell
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Re: Tesla semi?

And that's a big assumption there.

Tesco does deliveries to supermarkets with its own trucks. OK, might be some leasing and other ownership elements, but they're in Tesco markings, They could run a fleet with solar-boost on the trailers. I don't know what they use in urban areas, these could be too big to be practical, and you might not get enough sunlight in England, but there are relatively short-range urban delivery runs.

And that sort of haulage operation could even swap from a long-range diesel to a Tesla for the urban leg. That does point to something Tesla may have missed. Low-speed urban maybe doesn't care so much about streamlining, but how well will this handle a standard trailer?

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Amazon to make multiple Lord of the Rings prequel TV series

Dave Bell
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The Tolkien Rights are a bit complicated. I don't recall how The Hobbit is fitted in, but Tolkien sold the non-literaray rights for The Lord of The Rings to a Hollywood company, which trades as "Tolkien Enterprises". There are a few bits from the Peter Jackson movie that are lifted from other books, and the family did get some payment from them. The same happened in the BBC radio adaption.

If Amazon hasn't done a deal with the family, a lot of these ideas aren't going to happen. All they have as a source is the various passing references, and the Appendices. The family opinions on the movies are mixed, and I wouldn't like to try to guess whether they are included in this Amazon deal.

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IBM's next turnaround tool is ... a new open-source font?

Dave Bell
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The zipfile includes both serif and sans serif versions. It's worth grabbing

I am not sure that I want to be mistaken for IBM, and I am not sure I like it all that much, but it's an alternative to the Microsoft fonts, and that's always something to think about.

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Brit moron tried buying a car bomb on dark web, posted it to his address. Now he's screwed

Dave Bell
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Re: No mention of any action against the sender

The explosives should be pretty safe, but the detonators would be the risk. I have seen videos and 2kg of any "commercial" explosive will do a lot of damage.

I learned a lot from Blaster Bates. Don't use explosives to clean your septic tank.

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How we fooled Google's AI into thinking a 3D-printed turtle was a gun: MIT bods talk to El Reg

Dave Bell
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There's two distinct problems here. A false positive can be handled by using human staff, though the system design and training need to be better. Today it often seems that the human staff at airport security are the big problem, and some people see the AI tech as a solution to that. It isn't a simple answer to the people working on it, but at the more political levels of decision-making, it comes close to Mencken's "simple, plausible, and wrong."

The false negatives are where it gets dangerous. I can't see any way of avoiding those without maintaining the existing human-based monitoring. So the AI-based system is something that maybe can be added in parallel, but it's not something that will save money. It likely will also need continuing professional development, just like a human-based system.

It's abour a hundred years since Mencken wrote his line. And maybe that is an example of a deeper trend. In any field, the simple answers that work get identified soon in its history. Is the marker of a mature field that new, working, simple answers are rare?

I tried looking for a quote on that, It isn't simple.

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Landlubber northern council shores up against boat-tipping

Dave Bell
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Re: Doncaster?

Distance to the sea needs to take into account the Ouse and Trent. The canal to Goole can take 700 ton vessels. Doncaster is a lot nearer the sea than you might think

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Fresh bit o' Linux to spruce up that ancient Windows Vista box? Why not, we say...

Dave Bell
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Re: Um....

Do you have the sigma for that measurement?

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Dave Bell
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This is something MS Windows does too, so I am not sure it is bad. But is it documented? That seems to be the common problem.

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BOFH: Do I smell burning toes, I mean burning toast?

Dave Bell
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Re: Cats=Evil

I would venture that problem cats are the product of problem people.

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Whois? No, Whowas: Incoming Euro privacy rules torpedo domain registration system

Dave Bell
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We had that very sweeping permission request several times when my mother was still alive, standard for-any-purpose wording with nothing about the reason. Once it was simply to arrange a hospital appointment.

I have a feeling that such official abuse of older laws was why the GDPR has its emphasis on informed consent.

I don't know how the rest of the EU compares, but I am left with a feeling, looking at current politics, that the abusive manipulation will continue, whether we stay in the EU or not. It is government in Britain that is the big problem, in all sorts of ways.

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Ubuntu 17.10: We're coming GNOME! Plenty that's Artful in Aardvark, with a few Wayland wails

Dave Bell
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Tension, apprehension, And dissension have begun.

I use Linux Mint, one of the non-gnome versions, and things look as though they could become altogether too interesting. As you have pointed out, Canonical seems able to back away from stuff that doesn't work, and Mint looks pretty good, while some projects are worrying: systemd, and now Gnome? I had to look up Wayland, and it has been around a long time. I don't understand the Jargon, and I can't tell if they have devised a whole new set of jargon or not, but I've not found that a good sign

I just want something that works.

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Release the KRACKen patches: The good, the bad, and the ugly on this WPA2 Wi-Fi drama

Dave Bell
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This is getting confusing

So vendors have had about six months notice to produce patched code

Netgear have a new firmware version for my modem/router, and that might mean it is patched against this attack. but they don't even give a date for the new code, and the release notes just mention unspecified security fixes.

There is this, but the list of devices doesn't include my stuff, so I think I am OK, but they are so vague about the new firmware version that I still worry

Note that they caution against using the bridge mode, but I am nore sure how much stuff like video has the wired connection to use that. I just checked and the NOW TV box has wired ethernet, while Amazon Fire sticks are WiFi only. Setting up more ethernet is looking to be a good idea. How about one of those data over powerline things?

When I thought the news was fresh, not with a private warning six months ago, I expected confusion. What I am seeing isn't good enough.

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Twitter: Why we silenced Rose McGowan after she slammed alleged sex pest Harvey Weinstein

Dave Bell
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Re: Sense of proportion

I have used Twitter, and I don't understand how the quoted warning could lead to the offending tweet being deleted. I can see why Twitter doesn't want to make a public reference to that tweet. What seems to be missing is something like "We have sent you a DM with full details".

They are beta-testing long tweets, and I suppose there might be a length problem in this, but Twitter is getting a reputation for inept handling of offensive material.

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Mozilla extends, and ends, Firefox support for Windows XP and Vista

Dave Bell
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Re: Will 52 ESR continue working?

This looks pretty sensible. I've been having fun with Mint, getting a Windows program working through Wine, and when I looked at the (fixed) colour scheme the program had, I began to wonder if I really needed it.

But it worked, on pretty old hardware. The two big takeaway lessons? Use Wine and an add-on called PlayOnLinux. And, it sometime needs too much trial and error, this tool combo allows the use of multiple Wine versions on virtual disks, and the latest Wine version in often not the one to use. PlayOnLinux also can cope with 32-bit and 64-bit Windows.

This isn't the answer for embedded systems, and I can quite understand a preference for long-term-support versions, because all the browsers suffer from mysterious changes that break stuff. These every month moving targets are a damned nuisance.

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Hey, IoT vendors. When a paediatric nurse tells you to fix security, you definitely screwed up

Dave Bell
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I wonder a little if the generic IoT label is a good idea here.

Some sort of IP connection should be reliable tech, and save a lot of trouble. Being able to connect to a remote device for making reports is an advantage. But an Internet of Medical Devices is not the same as an Internet of Lightbulbs.

And that is why I think it matters that the lady has had a long nursing career. Useful security depends on knowing the business you're securing, and too often the whole internet is plagued by the bright ideas of geeks who don't know the business they're having ideas about.

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Thomas the Tank Engine lobotomised by fat (remote) controller

Dave Bell
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Re: 236 carriages?

I think they use a different term in the USA, but it really depends which audience The Register hacks are writing for. The jargon can soon get complicated.

Even in Britain, with the rather tight loading gauge, 100 tonnes gross per hopper wagon is possible. That is going to be a huge train, with multiple locomotive units linked by a control circuit to get enough track-adhesion to move it. Even with a human driver, reliable control operation is going to be tricky. Having the driver in a control centre in Perth might not be so dramatic a jump.

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Musk: Come ride my Big F**king Rocket to Mars

Dave Bell
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This could change a lot.

If this is going to end up as the only SpaceX booster, it changes a huge amount. The sub-orbital hops depend on very high reliability. The price per person suggests an astonishingly low price to LEO. Is it too big a system for the LEO market? At the price, you don't need to use the full payload to undercut everything else in the launch business.

Airliner-class reliability is maybe the biggest change. I don't have solid figures for Concorde, but 4 flights a day for 27 years and 3 major incidents suggests better than 1 in 10,000 as a working figure. For spaceflight that is an incredible target. I have probably under-guessed the total number of Concorde flights.

Can the new Raptor Methane-LOX engine work out as part of a Falcon replacement without the BFR-scale system? A Falcon-level booster using the Raptor might be an option, but it would look like a failure. It might turn out to be a neccessary intermediate. Remember, the Falcon has had several step improvements, such as engine details and super-cooled LOX to increase density.

I think there's a lot of advertising hype here, but the lead times in the whole industry are so long that Elon Musk has to get the basic ideas out in the open well in advance. It's "we're going to do this, start thinking about how you can use this." It might be getting satellite designers to think how they could put multiple big satellites on a booster. Do you have to trade-off between diameter and length to put three Falcon 9 payloads on the BFR? Falcon 9 fairings are already a bigger diameter than the booster: it might not be a good idea to keep doing that.

But will it work? That is the key.

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