* Posts by Ian Johnston

922 posts • joined 28 Sep 2007

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NASA delays James Webb Space Telescope launch date by at least seven months

Ian Johnston Silver badge

Re: RE: but none looking at the mirror

Famously they did a huge amount of verification of PE's testing procedue but no verification of the test

Sounds suspiciously ISO9001-like.

From 'Queen of the Skies' to Queen of the Scrapheap: British Airways chops 747 fleet as folk stay at home

Ian Johnston Silver badge

Cracks?

Are you sure it was a Boeing 747 and not a Rutland Reindeer?

What's the Arm? First Apple laptop to ditch Intel will be 13.3" MacBook Pro, proclaims reliable soothsayer

Ian Johnston Silver badge

So basically they are going to change architecture, drop support for the old one after two years at most and bingo! every Apple fan in the world has to buy a new computer. It's changing the leads on a grand scale.

CERN puts two new atom-smashers on its shopping list. One to make Higgs Bosons, then a next-gen model six times more energetic than the LHC

Ian Johnston Silver badge

I hope the base particle of dark matter is called the "epicyclon" although "littleboystickinghisfingerinthedyklon" has a certain ring to it. In most science an abject failure by theory to match experimental results would be seen as a problem with the theory - it's only in physics that reality is found to be at fault.

Developers renew push to get rid of objectionable code terms to make 'the world a tiny bit more welcoming'

Ian Johnston Silver badge

Why does "master" trigger so many people, even when its use has nothing whatsoever to do with slavery, while "owner" gets a free pass?

Smart fridges are cool, but after a few short years you could be stuck with a big frosty brick in the kitchen

Ian Johnston Silver badge

Re: Never understood this

California bans everyone, not just consumers, from repairing consumer-grade refrigeration.

Ian Johnston Silver badge

Re: Never understood this

The state of California is about as competent to evaluate poisons as the town of Glastonbury is to evaluate 5G, and for similar reasons.

Ian Johnston Silver badge

Re: Never understood this

Seems very unlikely if the comparison were with a condenser dryer.

Unlike condenser boilers, condenser dryers don't make use of the heat recovered from the condensing steam. It's just dumped into the outgoing airflow and the effort required to put it there adds about 20% to the running costs.

'Direct from the software vendor': UK.gov goes window-shopping for standard ERP in £400m spree

Ian Johnston Silver badge

Prediction: It will go over budget by a factor of at least two and be cancelled when it still hasn't worked, five years late.

Moore's Law is deader than corduroy bell bottoms. But with a bit of smart coding it's not the end of the road

Ian Johnston Silver badge

Anyone who multiplies two matrices like that is an idiot. Doing it properly was Exercise 1 in the IBM "How to use a supercomputer" course I took at the Rutherford Lab's place in Abingdon in 1989.

Ian Johnston Silver badge

Re: Quantum

It relies on fusion power and Linux on the Desktop. As soon as those have been cracked, quantum computing will be along. Well, in ten years.

Brit MP demands answers from Fujitsu about Horizon IT system after Post Office staff jailed over accounting errors

Ian Johnston Silver badge

Amongst other things, this affair shows an appalling lack of ethics in the programming and IT world. Dozens if not hundreds of people must have known what was going on, and yet not a single one had the guts to blow a whistle at the time or has had the guts to do so since. Maybe it's too much to expect in an occupation (the word "profession" is not appropriate) which uses and defends tax evasion so stridently.

Contact-tracer spoofing is already happening – and it's dangerously simple to do

Ian Johnston Silver badge

I had a fascinating series of spam SIP calls to my VOIP box yesterday. As far as I can see, they came from a Russian space website (I was researching Soyuz capsules for work) which included SIPVicious as a malware payload. How imaginative.

Ian Johnston Silver badge

Re: Unhearing government

The Co-Op bank used to call me regularly and ask me for two of four digits from my online banking PIN to identify myself. They seemed utterly clueless about how quickly and easily that could be used to get the whole PIN, and used to get quite aggrieved when I refused.

So I started reporting every single call from them to their own fraud department. I don't know if they still do it to anyone, but they don't do it to me.

Laughing UK health secretary launches COVID-19 Test and Trace programme with glitchy website and no phone app

Ian Johnston Silver badge

Re: Self support

Hop over to Mumsnet - a whole thread devoted to contact tracers who are basically forming a self-supporting user community to try and get on with the task they are given, in the absence of meaningful training or support from their employer.

Dear God, they've given the job of contact tracing to Mumsnet users? We're all doomed. They'll spend all their time diagnosing each other with PTSD and anxiety and accusing everyone they have to contact of being a narcissist.

Ian Johnston Silver badge

Re: Good and bad

But you don't call those contacts and ask then to self isolate for 14 days. You slap them with a mandatory mask wearing "a mask is on its way, wear it":, and mandatory test order "GO GET TESTED HERE AT X TIME T", and orders with clear cut rules they *have* to follow. They're not the experts in disease control, you are, *you* dictate to *them* the quarantine rules they are *required* to follow so its crystal clear the gravity of the situation. If they test positive quarantine their ass too.

Great. So I can get anyone I don't like locked up for two weeks simply by giving their name. That could be fun.

SpaceX Falcon 9 and Dragon cleared to hoist real live American astronauts into space

Ian Johnston Silver badge

Have you seen the spacesuits they are wearing? Pure 1970s sci-fi.

Campaign groups warn GCHQ can re-identify UK's phones from COVID-19 contact-tracing app data

Ian Johnston Silver badge

Re: Thank you

Since COVID-19 stays infectious for two weeks and the R0 is hovering around 1, that suggests that an average two weeks' worth of contact is needed to pass the disease on just once. Assuming, wildly, that people spend two hours per week shopping and during their time at Tescos are usually within 2m or so of four other people, two weeks' worth of contact is 16 person-hours or 960 person minutes.

The chance that you catch COVID-19 from them during your 2-minute proximity is therefore around 1 in 500. Furthermore, since swab testing is reported to suggest that around 1 in 400 of us have the disease, your chance of catch it from one random 2-minute encounter is about 1 in 200,000.

Mind your language: Microsoft set to swing the axe on 27 languages in iOS Outlook

Ian Johnston Silver badge

Re: You vill parle Amrecianish Da!

The last known monoglot (Irish) Gaelic speaker, Seán Ó hEinirí, died in 1998. Only around 20,000 people in the Gaeltacht use it on a daily basis. An interesting ethnofolkloric curiosity, but as a useful language it is effectively dead.

Apple, Google begin to spread pro-privacy, batt-friendly coronavirus contact-tracing API for phone apps

Ian Johnston Silver badge

If I turn GPS and Bluetooth on on my phone I lose half my battery life. I have mobile data on either, because turning it off quadruples time between charges. Any system which requires voluntary action at both ends of a link which many people don't have and many don't use is doomed to failure.

Ian Johnston Silver badge

It's hard to think of a worse idea. It just won't work. The way out of these is not to trust people to advertise their status (how would they even know) and to go go into hiding instantly if they get a notification (what happens of it comes when they are 200 miles away from home) while simultaneously handing governments the biggest surveillance opportunity in history.

Anyway, it uses bluetooth, so it has by definition failed already. Let's entrust the lives of thousands to a technology which after twenty years can't transfer a file reliably, shall we?

Railway cables overpowered errant drone's compass and flung it back to terra firma

Ian Johnston Silver badge

Re: Unpopular engineering pedant

Accurate engineering pedant says that the insulation makes no difference to the magnetic field.

Ian Johnston Silver badge

Re: Order of magnitude error

Metro trains are just over 500kW per unit and therefore top out at just over 300A. The substation will have been feeding many of them through multiple feeders.

Ian Johnston Silver badge

Re: Order of magnitude error

Of course, but the article specified a 25kV overhead system, and that's a couple of hundred amps tops, unless on HS1 which I checked and this wasn't.

Ian Johnston Silver badge

Order of magnitude error

Overhead wires for trains carry AC current at 25kV. Current draw runs into the thousands of amps when a train is passing by.

A really powerful UK electric locomotive is 5MW, which is only 200A at 25kV. The current draw never gets near a thousand amps, let alone "thousands". The conact wire is only about 120 square millimetres.

Microsoft announces official Windows package manager. 'Not a package manager' users snap back

Ian Johnston Silver badge

Among the best features of Linux is the availability of package managers, such as Debian's Apt, that can install, remove and manage dependencies for applications from the command line. It is not perfect – dependency version issues or broken configuration files can be a problem – but most of the time it makes it easy to get what you want, and is scriptable. Many users would like Windows to be equally convenient to use.

Meanwhile Linux is going in the other direction with abominations like snap (which was using 1.5GB on my system to support one small program) and .appimage files which make updating a nightmare.

You can't have it both ways: Anti-coronavirus masks may thwart our creepy face-recog cameras, London cops admit

Ian Johnston Silver badge

Why the obsession with masks? The WHO recommends that we don't wear them unless we are coughing, sneezing or looking after a sick person. The Yanks have gone wild for them, but they always look for simple solutions to pan their hopes to, and most of them probably think COVID-19 will be defeated by a superhero.

Openreach tells El Reg it'll kill off copper sales in 118 UK locations next year

Ian Johnston Silver badge

Re: 330Mbps though?

I have the basic 80Mbps offering from A&A and it seems entirely adequate. The main problem I have is in getting wifi around a 200 year old cottage with thick stone walls. Mind you, the A&A-supplied Zyxel router is so crap that laptops only get 2 out of 5 bars standing 4' away from it. I really need to get a better router.

Ian Johnston Silver badge

Re: The reality of FTTP

I get my FTTP through A&A and, like you, ported my landline number to them. ISPs in general are very reluctant to mention the possibility of dropping the copper, but since there is no separate line rental for fibre, but IP+phone costs have dropped significantly since I went VOIP, even though I pay 2p per minute for calls.

It's also much better for working at home, since the same number can have up to eight calls simultaneously.

Ampere, Nvidia's latest GPU architecture is finally here – spanking-new acceleration for AI across the board

Ian Johnston Silver badge

Does anyone use these for graphics?

Go on, hit Reply All. We dare you. We double dare you. Because Office 365 will defeat your server-slamming ways

Ian Johnston Silver badge

Does it know that all-staff-list is ten thousand people but that my-group-list is three?

What do you call megabucks Microsoft? No really, it's not a joke. El Reg needs you

Ian Johnston Silver badge

Re: I'm so angry I can't think

On the other hand, I can download and install a 300MB Ubuntu upgrade in ten minutes but the MS upgrade process can grind on for hours.

As Brit cyber-spies drop 'whitelist' and 'blacklist', tech boss says: If you’re thinking about getting in touch saying this is political correctness gone mad, don’t bother

Ian Johnston Silver badge

Though railway signals are red, yellow and green.

You can get a mechanical keyboard for £45. But should you? We pulled an Aukey KM-G6 out of the bargain bin

Ian Johnston Silver badge

What's he opposite of a "mechanical" keyboard? On-screen? Telepathic?

That said, the best keyboard I ever used was the Atari ST. Not because of the keys, particularly, but because a small application used the ST's sound chip to replace the synthesised keyclick with the .wav files of your choice, and as a result my ST sounded like a 1933 Remington Imperial typewriter, including the whizz-bang-cling of a carriage return.

For the past twenty years I have been using IBM trackpoint keyboards, of which I have a stock, since they only last about eight to ten years.

Assange should be furloughed from Belmarsh prison, says human rights org. Here's a thought: He could stay with friends!

Ian Johnston Silver badge

Have the warders at Belmarsh told him they are wearing masks while in fact they aren't?

SpaceX's Elon Musk high on success after counting '420' Starlinks in orbit and Frosty the Starship survives cryo test

Ian Johnston Silver badge

Re: This may be a really obvious question.

I'm three miles from the cabinet, so BT gave me fibre to the house. And very nice it is too.

Academics: We hate to ask, but could governments kindly refrain from building giant data-slurping, contact-tracing coronavirus monsters?

Ian Johnston Silver badge

Bluetooth has been around for over twenty years and is still a steaming pile of unreliable shite. The chances of anything bluetooth based either saving or destroying the world seem pretty minimal.

Europe publishes draft rules for coronavirus contact-tracing app development, on a relaxed schedule

Ian Johnston Silver badge

If the future of the human race depends on Bluetooth, we're fucked. It's been around over twenty years and is still the least reliable form of communication ever devised.

From Amanda Holden to petrol-filled water guns: It has been a weird week for 5G

Ian Johnston Silver badge

Re: No smoke without a burning mast

Thanks very much. Let the scouring commence/

Ian Johnston Silver badge

Re: No smoke without a burning mast

I'd love to be able to do that - I had two rotary phones in use until I went FTTP/VOIP/DECT last year. Can you give any pointers?

Remember that clinical trial, promoted by President Trump, of a possible COVID-19 cure? So, so, so many questions...

Ian Johnston Silver badge

Re: I know a couple things about clinical trials.

You were doing so well up to "chloroquine phosphate". Now read the last sentences of the article.

Are you aware the chloroquine phosphate is the normal anti-malarial drug (it's the active ingredient in Boots' own-brand anti-malarial) although the hydrochloride and sulfate are also used? You didn't fall into the trap of thinking that chloroquine phosphate is a different drug, did you?

Ian Johnston Silver badge

Re: Donald Jenius Trump

The fact is no useful statistical inference can be drawn from a sample size that small.

It is at best dangerous to report otherwise as we see with that couple from Arizona.

You're happy to draw a statistical inference from a sample size of two?

That awful moment when what you thought was a number 1 turned out to be a number 2

Ian Johnston Silver badge

Re: 125 million Indians speak English

"My daughter is convent-educated" is a polite way of saying "My daughter is an alcoholic nymphomaniac". All those years of repressed nuns telling them that boys and booze are bad have a thoroughly predictable effect.

Internet samurai says he'll sell 14,700,000 IPv4 addresses worth $300m-plus, plow it all into Asia-Pacific connectivity

Ian Johnston Silver badge

The IPv4 addresses in question are the vast majority of 43/8, aka 43.*.*.*. Some are already allocated; the WIDE Project owns the other 87.5 per cent, which it will transfer to the aforementioned trust, which is joint owned by WIDE and Asia-Pacific internet overseer APNIC.

So "the vast majority" is 12.5%?

Asterix co-creator Albert Uderzo dies aged 92

Ian Johnston Silver badge

I taught myself A-level German at school by reading Asterix (I still expect the wizard to be Miraculix, the bard to be Troubadix and the chieftain to be Majestix.The humour in the German versions is far less subtle and allusive than the divine Bell/Hockridge translation, but they are still very funny.

PC owners borg into the most powerful computer the world has ever known – all in the search for coronavirus cure

Ian Johnston Silver badge

I signed up yesterday. According to the log files the client completed 99% of its first assigned task, then gave up. It seems to be hung now, so I have killed it off.Sorry, guys, but if I am going to give you access to my computer it will have to be with something I can trust not to fuck up.

British Army adopts WhatsApp for formal orders as coronavirus isolation kicks in

Ian Johnston Silver badge

Re: "the Army's top Sergeant Major"

I believe that Sergeant Majors are employed to shout at people, so it makes sense that there would be a Head of Shouting at People somewhere in the army. You 'orrible little man, you.

If you're wondering how Brit cops' live suspect-hunting facial-recog is going, it's cruising at 88% false positives

Ian Johnston Silver badge

You'd think that if anyone was going to be wary of false positives in crime fighting it would be Cressida Dick, the woman who ordered the execution of an entirely innocent Brazilian electrician based on faulty identification.

'Unfixable' boot ROM security flaw in millions of Intel chips could spell 'utter chaos' for DRM, file encryption, etc

Ian Johnston Silver badge

So, basically, an attacker needs to run some software on your computer in a tiny period before the processor has been switched on, let alone started running even the OS? That sounds like a risk I'm happy to take.

RIP Freeman Dyson: The super-boffin who applied his mathematical brain to nuclear magic, quantum physics, space travel, and more

Ian Johnston Silver badge

Re: Ringworld

Both are reminders of how over-optimistic scientists and engineers got post-Bomb, when it seemed endless energy was readily available, but computer modelling hadn't caught up with just how difficult it was going to be to do complex things.

And a direct precursor of today's belief that algorithms can solve all human problems.

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