back to article Low on passengers, low on memory: A bad day on the London Underground

London transport is notable for the occasional twee messages on its whiteboards. However, it is also rather good at the odd whoopsie, as today's entry in the 12 Borks of Christmas shows. Spotted by Register reader Carly Stone at Ealing Broadway station (currently being redeveloped ahead of the long-awaited arrival of Crossrail …

  1. spireite Silver badge

    Just how much memory do you need to display a line status? That's got to be p-poor programming right there....

    I guess if the sign is struggling, you could say it just met its Waterloo (and City Line)

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      It's leaking

      My guess would be that it usually gets rebooted often enough to not matter.

      1. Arty Effem

        Re: It's leaking

        I'm more inclined to suspect that 'it hasn't needed rebooting' for three years.

    2. Blackjack Silver badge

      A common problem is a program taking more and more memory the longer is running and with lockdown there may not be anyone to give the poor thing a reboot.

      1. JassMan Silver badge
        Trollface

        A common problem is a program taking more and more memory the longer is running

        A common problem is a windows program taking more and more memory the longer it is running

        FTFY

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It runs windows

      So leaks memory like a drunk uncle leaks in the corner of the wedding venue.

  2. gypsythief
    FAIL

    Shocking Service!

    Only 6 services running normally (and one of those is a tram) out of 15 listed services. Even for the famously crap train services of Britain, that's pretty bad.

    Here's a thought for you, TfL: if you want to increase passenger numbers, try providing a reliable service that people will want to use. Heck, the entirety of Europe can manage it, so it can't be to hard!

    1. ravenviz Silver badge

      Re: Shocking Service!

      I suspect they may be using lower passenger numbers to achieve engineering objectives.

      Either that or many drivers are isolating.

      1. Wally Dug
        Joke

        Re: Shocking Service!

        "Either that or many drivers are isolating."

        I thought it was a memory issue, not a driver issue?

        1. spireite Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: Shocking Service!

          Related? I'm sure we've all seen the drivers leaking at the start of their shift

          1. HildyJ Silver badge
            Coat

            Re: Shocking Service!

            It's Standard Operating Procedure throughout Amazon driver shifts.

      2. Richard 12 Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Shocking Service!

        There's a huge amount of maintenance and repair work that desperately needs doing but has been consistently postponed for twenty years or more.

        Firstly to meet quarterly profit targets back when that part was privatised, and since then because it only closes for about four hours a day, five days a week.

        Can't get very much done in 20 hours per week.

        So I really hope they are using Covid times to get stuff done.

        Sadly I suspect they are not.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Shocking Service!

          Network Rail managed to schedule major works around Bristol Temple Meads (including complete closure of station for several days) right at the start of the time the Government wanted people to start to return to offices last year!

          1. Richard 12 Silver badge

            Re: Shocking Service!

            To be fair, this Government is almost completely unpredictable.

      3. TwistedPsycho

        Re: Shocking Service!

        Looks like during a recent weekend. A recent change to overnight RAM-ming up and down the wires has led to a lack of handshakes and leading to more unsigned drivers across the .NETwork

        TLDR: strike action.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Shocking Service!

      Ever thought that people might not be travelling as much because of that thing called COVID?

      Passenger numbers on pretty well all forms of public transport are way down on what it was in late 2019.

      I know that I'm travelling a lot less even by car. I have not used my travelcard for over two months and it is five months since I took the train. Most of us have adapted our lives since March 23, 2020. It is going to take a long time to get back to anything approaching normal wrt travel.

      FWIW, I don't miss the twice-daily crush on the Northern 'Misery' Line. My job is not going back to the office any time soon. They tried and 20% of staff resigned on the spot.

      1. vtcodger Silver badge

        Re: Shocking Service!

        "It is going to take a long time to get back to anything approaching normal wrt travel."

        Why would one want to return to the pre-Covid normal? At various times in my life, I've commuted by foot, bike, motor scooter, car, public transit in US (lousy), public transit in Japan (better). I've also worked from home. IMO, home is by far the best with walking second and traveling by car a distant third.

        I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one. The small company my daughter works for is giving up their New York City office space -- permanently. She's moving back to Vermont. Their latest hire is in Texas and may not meet her coworkers face to face for years ... if ever. I wouldn't be surprised that's the future for a lot of companies.

        Of course, not every job can be done remotely. And there are huge problems with remote working. But I think overall, that cities as we knew them in the 20th century may be headed for long term decline.

        Overall -- not all that great a loss I think.

        1. juice Silver badge

          Re: Shocking Service!

          > Why would one want to return to the pre-Covid normal? At various times in my life, I've commuted by foot, bike, motor scooter, car, public transit in US (lousy), public transit in Japan (better). I've also worked from home. IMO, home is by far the best with walking second and traveling by car a distant third.

          I think "work from home" is definitely going to play a much larger part in many people's plans going forward. In the company I work for, the lack of enthusiasm for coming back into the office has led to us closing down some of our office space, and implementing a hot-desk system. Albeit the latter hasn't really been tested yet, thanks to Omicron.

          Sad to say, the benefits of working from home very much depend on your personal circumstances.

          Living in a shared house? Got kids or pets? Not got anywhere to use as a dedicated office? Do you not get any support from your company to cover heating bills, etc?

          If the answer to any of the above is Yes, then working from home may not be preferable.

          E.g. I know someone who recently started a call-centre job, and is literally sitting on the couch in their living room.

          And if I didn't have the room for a dedicated "home office" with a triple-monitor setup (one to type, one to view the results of said typing, and a third for our internal messaging system), my performance and mental health would definitely suffer.

          > But I think overall, that cities as we knew them in the 20th century may be headed for long term decline.

          Dunno. I think there's potentially going to be changes, certainly when it comes to city centres. After all, above and beyond the people fleeing to the country in search of larger properties with gardens, we're almost certainly going to end up with far more office space than is needed.

          And I have my doubts as to how many "luxury student apartments" are actually needed, especially at the rate they're springing up round my way. And then there's all the recently vacated shop spaces. And so on.

          On the other hand, there's a distinctly finite number of large houses in the countryside with nice gardens, and cities offer a lot of things which you can't get in the countryside. E.g. easy access to schools, supermarkets, gyms, etc - and social evening activities above and beyond playing the weekly pub quiz at the village pub.

          As such, once things die down I'm actually hoping that we might actually see something of people actually living in city centres, rather than them being hollowed out commercial/office husks.

          Time will tell :)

        2. jake Silver badge

          Re: Shocking Service!

          "But I think overall, that cities as we knew them in the 20th century may be headed for long term decline."

          Overall, I think that most cities have been in decline since the end of the post-war building boom, call it roughly the late 1950s or early 1960s.

          No, not a great loss. Awful things, cities.

          1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

            Re: Shocking Service!

            @jake, @vtcodger

            '"But I think overall, that cities as we knew them in the 20th century may be headed for long term decline."

            Overall, I think that most cities have been in decline since the end of the post-war building boom, call it roughly the late 1950s or early 1960s.'

            Declining since the early 1960's? No, there's plenty of cities worldwide that only started developing fast more recently. Shenzhen, for example, was a large building site 30 years ago. Evergrande's troubles might be the beginning of the end of China's property boom, but I wouldn't bet on it. Hong Kong had some of the highest property prices in 1999, now the prices, adjusted for inflation, are 3 times higher and new developments (generally old 10-story blocks being replaced by 20 to 50 story blocks) consistently sell-out before completion.

            I guess cities will evolve but still have a recognisable relationship to 20th century cities, just as 20th century cities have a recognisable relationship to medieval and Roman cities.

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: Shocking Service!

              I clearly said most ... and I hardly think that a single poster-child (Shenzhen) is representative of an entire country, regardless of how much propaganda the idiots in charge throw at it.

              Hong Kong is, and has been, a shit-hole. Same for are New York, London, Rome and Tokyo. And all of them are in far worse condition overall than they were in the '60s. Yes, that's from personal experience.

              Perhaps your definition of "decline" is different than mine?

              1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

                Re: Shocking Service!

                @jake -

                "I clearly said most" - And I think you may be looking too much at USA and Europe, which did have major development immediate post-WWII and less so since. Across the rest of the world, I think the development has accelerated since then. The 1MDB scandal in Malaysia was a major set-back, but it was only possible because of the massive amounts of money flowing into building in the region. Similar things are happening in SE Asia, S America and Africa.

                "I hardly think that a single poster-child (Shenzhen) is representative of an entire country" - I first visited Shenzhen in 1993, so it was a convenient example for me. However, I've seen massive construction in Beijing, Tianjin, Dalian and Shanghai too, and on later visits some had been completed and were in use. Maybe some haven't been completed because of Evergrande's problems, I haven't visited for a year. Still, I think Shenzhen is fairly representative of many cities in the country.

                "Hong Kong is, and has been, a shit-hole" So you were just passing through? (sorry, old joke)

                "Same for are New York, London, Rome and Tokyo. And all of them are in far worse condition overall than they were in the '60s. Yes, that's from personal experience." OK, so you're not a fan of city life. But HK was better in the '60s?, really? The Cross Harbour Tunnel wasn't opened until 1972, so crossing the harbour was a slow ferry journey, with the new MTR lines as well, the city is a lot easier to get around. The population in 1960 was about 3M, now 7.5M. Compulsory education for ages of 6 and 11 was introduced in 1971, now enrolment in tertiary education is 67%. A lot of things have changed in HK since 1960, and many of those have been improvements.

                "Perhaps your definition of "decline" is different than mine?" Yes, I think so. "Cities" have grown over the period, in terms of population and infrastructure. If you're talking about quality of life for the inhabitants, then that is a lot more complicated and subjective, and different for different cities, or even districts of cities.

    3. Dave 15 Silver badge

      Re: Shocking Service!

      No, the Finland service is pretty good.

      The Germans are very poor, the ICE is famously late even in Germany, when I was going back and forth to Sweden I would often catch the ICE that was supposed to have left Frankfurt airport station BEFORE I boarded the plane in Stockholm, sometimes the delay was posted as more than 4 hours.

      Not sure about France, only used a train there once and it was ok. Sweden was a mixed bag especially in the winter, many times the train would be late or missing totally.

      Our train service in general is poor, but no worse than the others.

      What it IS that is totally inexcusable is far more expensive than the others.

      In Germany you can get bahncards, 25, 50 or 100. 100 gives you 100% off all train fares in Germany, it costs €4000 a year, gives you all you can eat train travel AND buses and trams at the same time! Your partner also gets cheaper cards.

      Not only that but most areas in Germany offer a 'job card' this gives you free travel on the local trains, trams and buses for about 50euro a month (depending on region). The area is often very generous (usually around 40 miles by 20 or so). It includes free travel for your family and several friends at off peak times.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Shocking Service!

        Not sure about France, only used a train there once and it was ok.

        TGVs are OK (they should be, they're very heavily subsidised). Commuter trains are much like the UK, some are OK, some overcrowded and late, others empty & a drain on the taxpayer.

        The Paris metro is a bit like the London Underground, but on strike more often.

      2. Claverhouse Silver badge

        Re: Shocking Service!

        Towards the Finland Station !

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Shocking Service!

      We have taken back control.

  3. Flightmode
    Headmaster

    The real bork here is that the Central line is listed as "Special Service, Part Suspended", whereas the Piccadilly line is "Part Suspended, Special Service". Makes my brain hurt.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Who's on first?

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
  4. Dave 15 Silver badge

    The tube is a sorry story

    Hacking away removing lines and stations is a really bad idea when we are supposed to be dealing with congestion issues and pollution. I think those closed lines and stations, all of them, should be reopened right now and sod these gimmicks with screens and good or broken service.

    1. TheMeerkat Bronze badge

      Re: The tube is a sorry story

      Should we reconsider our approach of encouraging people to use public transport in the view of us realising that public transport is an infectious disease spreader?

      Should we learn the Covid lesson?

      1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

        Re: The tube is a sorry story

        Wear a mask on public transport, and increase the frequency and capacity of the services. Make it so that people aren't touching elbows, even at peak times.

      2. BinkyTheHorse
        Facepalm

        Re: The tube is a sorry story

        IIRC from all the "people gathering spreaders" public transport scores consistently lower in danger than e.g. offices, school classes and even group gatherings (such as family meetings).

        Should we learn the Covid lesson and throw them all in the bin then?

  5. Clausewitz 4.0 Bronze badge
    Devil

    A Leaking Memory

    A Leaking Memory is extremely valuable.

    If one can sell the secrets making the leak to happen, the buyer will gladly pay to stop the leaks in their own country or sphere of influence.

    Instead of focusing on the leaky memory, focus on the technology behind the leaks.

  6. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Crazy

    The entire Windows mess just to run a simple text messager. I remember a more sophisticated system running on a BBC Model B, connected via RS232 to a modem.

    I seem to remember it used Mode 7 - the teletext mode.

    1. JassMan Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Crazy

      What's the betting it also has a full blown PC motherboard, instead of Raspberry Pi. After all if you use a Pi, why would you want to put Windows on it even though it is available

      1. dajames Silver badge

        Re: Crazy

        What's the betting it also has a full blown PC motherboard, instead of Raspberry Pi.

        Even a Raspberry Pi is rather over-spec'd for a display sign. Build it around a micro-controller running a single dedicated program that does what's needed. No need for Windows or any other OS.

        You could use a Pi Pico ... but you do need some sort of network capability to update the data that's displayed.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: Crazy

          It has higher specifications than some parts of the system need, but a board like the Pi is likely much better than a microcontroller anyway. If you run the system off a microcontroller, you'll need to add a networking system as you've said and also some display system--it's easy to connect most microcontrollers to a small screen, but not so easily to a big one with lots of pixels to work with. That's likely three different processors you have to write code for and then connect them up. Most single board computers have at least one display interface (the Raspberry Pi has two dedicated ones and the GPIOs to use others) so they need no assistance outputting to them. They also have networking support with all the libraries already written for the platform. That means you don't have to do your own TLS library which speeds up development.

          Additionally, being a standard environment that most programmers are familiar with, you don't lock yourself into one supplier. Even if you have the source code for a microcontroller-based affair, you might find it hard either to repair the system or to use the same code on an updated one with different components. With SBCs, you can probably just drop your application on a completely different board and, as long as it finds the right screen to print on, it will work fine.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Familiarity

    “ While the sharp edges of the dialog on display indicate a more modern Windows, that message is horribly familiar”

    In nigh-on 3 decades of various Windows use, I can honestly say I’ve never seen that message, and I’ve run uptimes long enough that I’ve seen the glorious 49.7 day crashes.

    1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Familiarity

      49.7 day uptime crashes???

      <<laughs in Linux

      1. Lopez

        Re: Familiarity

        Had Netware 3.12 servers that fell over when the uptime display got to 999 days 23 hours 59 minutes.

    2. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

      Re: Familiarity

      I've seen that "out of memory" message. It could mean anything, from the network is slow to the MS Access database has achieved the 2 GB limit.

    3. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: Familiarity

      It means an application has been allocating memory and not releasing it. After a "while", the page file fills up and boom.

      Linux and BSD have the same thing - and the OS fixes it the same way, by forcibly killing processes and recovering all their memory.

      The latest version of macOS leaks the pointer memory somewhere inside the OS. Which is interesting, as the problem is within Swift...

  8. ShadowSystems Silver badge
    WTF?

    What's the "Undergound"?

    Is it anything like the underground, or am I missing something?

    1. Red Ted
      Go

      Re: What's the "Undergound"?

      It’s the name of the system, so it gets a capital letter at the start.

      Also there’s the odd capitalisation thing of the UndergrounD, where the station signs have a capital U at the start and a capital D at the end.

      1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: What's the "Undergound"?

        @Red Ted - No, gound is a dialect variant of gown, so undergound is some sort of inner clothes. Simple.

        Or, possibly, it's a test to see who can find the "Corrections" link to report the missing "r".

        1. ShadowSystems Silver badge

          Re: What's the "Undergound"?

          I had already reported it, but it had been over an hour since I sent the email off & the correction hadn't been made.

          I guess only the AI DL ML auto scripts are still here to fart out stories while all the live Humans have scampered off to their local publicans for yet another round of cheer. =-)p

          1. jake Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: What's the "Undergound"?

            Over an hour? During the year-end break?

            HOW DARE THEY! Sluggards, the lot of 'em.

            Beers all around. It's been a long year, we could all use one ...

      2. chas49

        Re: What's the "Undergound"?

        Like you, I didn't spot the missing second 'r'. .....

  9. arachnoid2
    Joke

    simple init.........

    Its obviously down to the lack of foreign drivers

  10. Fursty Ferret

    What I want to know is who approved the new text-to-speech system used on the Tube that made Stephen Hawking sound natural.

  11. 2Fat2Bald

    I'm not even sure why you'd use Windows for that - It's a desktop operating system. Windows IoT may be a little different, I don't know. But I'd prefer to build this on some flavour of Linux personally. Which would probably mean a Pi or something generally cheaper than a PC. Often less than a Windows licence.

    I've built digital signage in the past and actually incorporated a nightly reboot into it to counter this kind of thing.

  12. Ashto5

    Still going on

    Why are we still seeing this sort of thing

    The IT dept should be ashamed

    It’s basic stuff, maybe it’s outsourced ?

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Still going on

      "Why are we still seeing this sort of thing"

      One word: Windows.

  13. doug_bostrom

    It's an astoundingly good outcome for Microsoft that the company has habituated us to turn to such an enormous, sprawling OS simply to display a handful of messages.

    Also kind of offensive in terms of the waste of physical resources needed to feed and maintain the habit.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Leaking? Bakerloo?

    That would explain the smell

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