* Posts by MrT

1359 publicly visible posts • joined 9 Oct 2007


Pants-purveyor in plea for popularity: It's not just any pork push... it's an M&S 'love sausage'


I asked an ice cream man if he had a Nobbly Bobbly once. He paused, with a look as if he had just unexpectedly chewed an earwax-flavoured jelly bean, then said "Sorry, mate, I only stock Walls stuff"

Pixaaaarrrrrrghh! Mars-snapping CubeSats Wall-E and Eve declared dead (for now) by NASA bods


Six wasps...

The space between stuff in space is mind-boggling, but instead of just quoting Douglas Adams, or imagining it to be as littered to the point of obscuration as shown in other near-Earth orbit scenes from WALL.E, here's another mind-bending image...

Sir James Hopwood Jeans, in his 1933 Christmas Lecture at the Royal Institute said this:

"If we take six wasps and set them flying blindly about in a cage 1,000 miles long, 1,000 miles broad and 1,000 miles high, we shall ... have a model of the distances between the stars." If the wasps are stars, imagine firing a grain of sand through that 1000 mile cube - would one hit a wasp? On that scale, the grain of sand represents a small planet. Scale is, as they say, entirely relative.

There are bigger bits of debris from over 4 billions years ago floating about, an none of them got hit by deep-spce probes. It would take an incredible amount of bad luck (or accurate targetting) for a future spacecraft to collide with these two cubesats, and any planetary body they encounter wouldn't notice the impact - they'd burn up in the atmosphere of any planet or moon with one.

Get ready for the Internet of Battle Things, warns US Army AI boffin



... "able to follow conversations and have general common sense and reasoning skills" - it's not just AI that has this need. Too often, the protagonists / politicians / populace come across like a maniacal troop of howler monkeys, substituting civility with volume.

Birds can feel Earth's magnetic fields? Yeah, that might fly. Bioboffins find vital sense proteins


Re: re. "... and even mole rats."

CERN's circle in the ground - Alpinekat's LHC Rap


Re: How would it feel?

"BTW, somebody else finds it cute that someone called "Finch-Rodriguez" studied finches? Birds of a feather and all that?..."

Atticus' parents perhaps dreamed he would have a legal career...? Here's hoping they didn't have to kill any mockingbirds as part of the study.

My Tibetan digital detox lasted one morning, how about yours?


Re: How to tell an epic masterpiece is at hand.

It did take the next couple of lines for me to twig that this was a genuine single-entendre, and not the prelude to a story about changing a blown tyre in a blizzard...

Wanna work for El Reg? Developers needed for headline-writing AI bots


Addendum : Note to applicants...

Experience working at the William Morris Institute for Automation Research will be considered advantageous...

Autonomous vehicle claims are just a load of hot air… and here's why


"Allow me to show my moon to the balloon"...

... ah, the working title that David Niven rejected for his memoirs...


Re: it's only tepid when the emissions test cheat device is enabled.

And in Cali, have a bumper sticker next to the tail-pipe that reads "Warning - exhaust gas may cause cancer when added to coffee."...

Politicos whining about folks' data rights ought to start closer to home


"When it suits them, they don't give a rat's arse about your privacy."

I'd say that statement is eight letters and one space character too long...

Parents blame brats' slipping school grades on crap internet speeds


Re: Wiki

300 baud? Ha! We could never wave t'flags that fast. One o' me pals tried to reach 10 baud but kept liftin' off t'floor - 'is solution wer to use smaller flags, but that limited range somewhat, except in t'lah-de-dah areas were they 'ad early roll-out of 'igh-powered optics from t'local Jessops store...

Yo Google, I'mma let you finish, but China, I mean, Huawei's P20 is the best


Re: Andrew, why two back-to-back articles on the same phone?

That lacks slightly in ambition - I'd say he's aiming at the Porsche Design Mate RS one ;-)

Huawei joins Android elite with pricey, nocturnal 40MP flagship


For PLAID pricing...

... see Huawei's Porsche Design Mate RS, at somewhere between £1500 & £1850, depending on spec...

Zucker for history: What I learnt about Facebook 600 years ago


Re: Mail/Express Axis of Evil

Definitely - although the Gambols were pushing it trying to make the Austin Allegro look cool, or to oddly claim a hand in the front-end styling. Still, there was always Rupert the Bear...

The Express did syndicate Calvin and Hobbes in the 80's, so something for the 70's/80's kids as well.


Re: Mail/Express Axis of Evil

My dad used to get the Express because it had good sports reporting (he'd read it from the back first).

Then it got bought by a self-interested pornographer, merged with the Daily Star (a paper that used to give me a headache just from the look of the font), developed the aforementioned headline style, became a parody of a proper newspaper, before being recently sold to the Mirror Group after 17yrs of drudge.

Headlines in the Desmond years tended to run on a repeated loop that included weather-related calamity, and how one simple tablet, probably a vitamin, could prevent memory loss and dementia. The irony of repeating that story every 4-6 weeks was almost certainly lost on the readership.

Here is how Google handles Right To Be Forgotten requests



... Ruck. Carter... Ruck. Yes, that's it - I've been reading Private Eye for so long it takes a few goes to reset my mind's eye back to their actual name.

I couldn't give a Greek clock about your IoT fertility tracker


Re: Antikythera Mechanism

I don't *work* in IT. I'm employed in IT but that's something entirely different.

AC because I know other people here read El Reg.

"Hey <insert name of everyone with whom we've ever shared an IT office>, is that you?"

No-one ever lists their own name. It's mysterious - an Enigma, even...


Re: Tent vs hungry polar bear isn't a fair contest.

It must be the Zips - unnatural barriers to anything in a hurry... ;-)

Boeing ships its 10,000th 737


Selling engines at loss...

... definitely (for example, see this post). Given the service life of an engine is measured in decades, selling for nominal fee, or even 'free', then charging for hours flown is very good business (see also: inkjet printers). It's better to keep the service business than charge $5million or so per engine and give the upkeep away to third-parties.

My step-dad worked for Royce's in Derby, including aero engine testing, and says that the use of data to make sure the right part is in place to meet the aircraft as it lands must look psychic to anyone outside the business.

It's Pi day: Care to stuff a brand new Raspberry one in your wallet?


#1 son...

... has a Pi Zero W running a 5" touchscreen and RetroPi as a sort of homebrew Nintendo Switch, but with ZX Spectrum games, etc. The whole setup runs happily from a power/charge controller and 1200mAh LiPo battery (or mains charger).

His Pi2B used to throttle due to heat, and occasionally would crash, but he just added some inexpensive alloy heat sinks to the top ICs and a copper heat spreader plate to the bottom one and it's steady away now.

He added heatsinks to the Pi Zero as well, based on his experience with the 2B (and the charge controller, since it runs hot when on mains power) - I guess the same thing would work with the new 3B+?

Stephen Hawking dies, aged 76


"If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." Isaac Newton.

"And this is not at all because of the acuteness of our sight or the stature of our body, but because we are carried aloft and elevated by the magnitude of the giants." Bernard of Chartres, whom Newton paraphrased in his famous quote from a letter to Robert Hooke - seems more appropriate here.

RIP, Stephen. A giant for future generations...

Doctor finds physical changes to astronaut's eyes after ISS stint


No, but we all saw Scott Kelly morph into a very passable Phil Collins double...


Observation of the effects is one thing...

... but this isn't as trivial as it first seems. Stretching and shrinking the retina layers can lead to bigger problems than blurred vision - you don't want someone potentially months away from a surgical team suffering detachment, or worse, internal haemorrhaging due to tearing of the retina.

Look! Fitbit's made a watch that doesn't suck!


Yeah, it looks good - the transflective screen helps keep the battery life strong. It's just that the price has bumped up by about £50 since Christmas, and for some the touchscreen doesn't work as reliably (e.g. in the wet) as the buttons on a Fenix or 735. Still, a good choice.



.. hopefully the new Fitbit OS will not throw a hissy when trying to sync with Android 6 like the Ionic I borrowed. Tried it with several handsets that just happened to be stuck on 6.0.1, with no v7 or higher on the horizon. Both also had Bluetooth v4.0, which Fitbit is supposed to be fine with, but trips up sync to TomTom Runner 3...

Russian boffins blow up teeny asteroids with tiny laser... to work out how to nuke the real thing


One more thing...

... they've got to wait until Morgan Freeman is POTUS.

Microsoft's Teams lights solitary candle, hipsters don't notice



... I like browsing the Microsoft apps, erm, app for things that I find useful. The regular stuff like Word, etc, does a decent job (with my current job's Office 365 account behind it) and they've added bought-in stuff like SwiftKey that I like. But it's now got to a point where the online Office 365 sidebar includes 25+apps, some of which look too much like an idea searching for a use.

I just don't feel the need to rewrite my life in some sort of manic burst of enthusiasm to accommodate things that won't add much productivity, if any at all. The list of reasons for installing, learning and using something new has to be longer than "because XYZ is a fan of it".

Still, it could just be me entering the back third of my life and hence developing an increased tendency to be a grumpy old fart.

A smartphone recession is coming and animated poo emojis can't stop it


I ended up picking a Citizen WR100 EcoDrive because it had damage due to shocks from playing golf covered in the warranty. At about 12yrs old now, in the dark months the tiny reserve power cell sometimes needs a shove of energy to wake the clock hands up (it still keeps time, but goes 'low power' and starts parking the movement). I just sit it under a bright light for a day as it's solar powered. It only happens a couple of times a year these days, but a downside is that Citizen no longer service it...


Re: Well...

Yup, there are definitely phones with features that will find uses out there - I liked the CAT S60's extra FLIR camera, for example, but currently have no need for it (although water and shock-proofing was better than the majority).


Re: Need help from the Russians

There might be a slight spike in the SAR tables for that one...

Auto manufacturers are asleep at the wheel when it comes to security


Re: "A direct causal link is difficult..."

Yup: BMW Group (inc MINI), VW Group (Audi, etc.), Mercedes. The usual tech feature route is whatever first appears on the S-class will eventually find it's way to all cars - only that's not just limited to the good features.

I think Renault learned that trick from Nissan in their all-but merge - the 1-2m 'plip' range was a 'feature' on a friend's Primera about 15 years ago (even with a new fob battery), and it wasn't even a new car at that time.


What depresses me...

... all these 'convenience' features are basically unnecessary smoke and mirrors covering the relative lack of progress needed to coax punters into buying (or, more likely, renting through PCPs) a new car every 3 years or so.

Even basic security is being sidelined by the rush for new digital features. A friend had his Audi Q5 stolen in Coventry. The police said it was common there, with the electric windows pulled down by using glass clamp handles and then using a £20 key reprogrammer in the OBD port. Deadlocking the window mechanism and that old problem of not keeping the OBD port live all the time could be a solution there, but lets just chuck in Apple Carplay and a colour screen instead. It's like a couple of years ago when VW tried to cover up a weakness in their key security, rather than spend a microscopic amount of cash per car (IIRC a dollar or two) to fit an enhanced version.

Current advice for the keyless-signal grab theft is to fit a full cover steering wheel lock. Very 80's.

The Ataribox lives, as a prototype, supposedly


Re: As long as I can play Enduro, no problem.

I'll be waiting for the announcement that they'll be releasing 'ET' in slightly concrete-covered cartridge format...

Good news: Apple designs a notebook keyboard that doesn't suck


I agree - very easy to use. Although at the time I had one of the old all-white Mac laptops my son was about 2 and loved the electric tingle that he got putting the power lead in his mouth. Turns out the MagSafe connector was not rust-proof, which might not have been something high on the spec sheet when it was designed...!

Wearables are now a two-horse race and Google lost very badly


Re: Why is Garmin

Yeah, I did a trawl for a smartwatch-type device, having had one of the generic Chinese fitness band devices fail on sync after about 2 years use, and came away thinking that Garmin was a decent option. I was umming and ahhing about Forerunner735XT or Fenix 3, which are about the same price, (choice basically metal or plastic case) or VivoActive, which looks neat, costs less even if it seems to have jumped up about £50 since Christmas, but has touch screen niggles if used in the wet that don't affect the other two with their physical buttons. Garmin might have iffy customer service according to some reviewers, but their watches work for sports/fitness uses, plus don't have the sync issues with Android 6 that seem to plague some FitBit and TomTom users.

I had considered the TomTom Runner 3 (it has multi-sports modes despite its name), which is good on the GPS/breadcrumb trail side of things, although IIRC didn't do so well on gym-based cycling/running, but it seems they've just bailed from the wearables market. Another brand a triathlete friend of mine uses and has gone back to after trying the TomTom Runner range is Suunto - seems to be a split between them and Garmin for the folk who do du-/tri-athlons, Iron Man, etc., but don't do Apple. HR on the wrist is useful, though most of the 'serious' folk would need the ability to link in HR chest bands, plus bike metrics sensors for speed/cadence.

National Museum of Computing rattles the bucket: Help shift war-winning proto-puter


Re: Tourist Trap

It's a shame, then, as I've wanted to go but never been in the right place at the right time...

Still, if it's the technicalities that need explaining, try this book:-

Colossus: The secrets of Bletchley Park's code-breaking computers edited by Jack Copeland - pulling together essays and other details written by the people who actually did the work back in the war. Get the print version, though, as some reviewers have pointed out the Kindle version omits the pictures...

Face, face, face! Apple, TrueDepth and a nose-driven iPhone X game


Re: Nose driven...

Bewitched: Brilliant!

7 minutes in - was like downloading on dial-up... :-)


Re: Nose driven...

It could be using the device's photostream to help spot faces in all the noise - a spot of machine learning prior to it working smoothly. Now, if that's the case, it does depend on what's in the photostream...

Let's hope it can tell if the owner is using it, as opposed to, say, the owner's dog sniffing at a picture-ad of dog biscuits that just popped up. There could be another Burger King or doll's house story involving Amazon orders for huge quantities of Bonio treats arriving at iPhone X owners' homes...

Ever wondered why tech products fail so frequently? No, me neither


Re: Daley Thompson's Decathlon

Wasn't the best trick on DTD to hit the 'Z' & 'X' keys (or whatever was mapped to left and right steps) simultaneously? Max speed every time - just have a supplier of replacement ZX Spectrum keyboard membranes on friendly terms...

I had a joystick for my QL that used microswitches - at least they could be repaired. Problem was, they were so loud that it was never used enough to break - self-preservation through induced tinnitus...

Worcestershire's airborne electronics warfare wonderland


Really interesting write-up...

... thanks. It nicely fills some additional information into the stories of the work and those who did it.

UK exam chiefs: About the compsci coursework you've been working on. It means diddly-squat


Re: @MrT:Numpties

If he's already happy with Scratch, give MIT's AppInventor a try - especially if there's a spare Android phone available to try things out on. All it needs is a Google account to log in, as it saves work on the Drive. There are loads of tutorials for different aspects, and it includes an Android emulator too.


Re: A teacher's viewpoint

Up to a couple of years ago, I was able to add extra practical skills units to the old BTEC I&CT course. Then the government and DfE under Gove got all down about such courses, so my ICT Techs course bit the dust. The additional units were removed from the course, leaving it as if they'd never existed.

I'd a room set up with old PCs to strip and rebuild, Linux, Windows, printers, scanners, networking kit and so on. Each student had to put in a lot of hours plus an extra exam that included a lot of the extra knowledge I've just seen being covered on a CompSci revision class.

As a bonus for doing all that extra, I used to buy them each a toolkit (total less than £30) which they could customise using our laser cutter, set to low power 'etch' strength. It was given 2 hours a week and an additional GCSE equivalency. It wasn't an easy option by any means.


Re: Numpties

Tell the kids to start putting their skills to good use, maybe write a few hobby programs of their own (original ideas in Unity or Unreal Engine, maybe?), then set up a website on a free service like Wix, and point hyperlinks to download their programs from Dropbox, OneDrive, or similar so they don't have to pay for bandwidth on the website host. Then get on Instagram and YouTube, set up a channel to post about what they're doing, gather likes and feedback, respond to it all with updates, etc.

Then tell them to reference their website in any job application to give employers a chance to see what they can do. It might not be fully relevant to the position they are going for, but any that put in the effort to do that with a reasonable level of success are surely already a step further up the ladder in several ways.

All of the above is not a quick thing, but maybe that's the point... Learning the discipline to do that is one reason why still doing the practical section is necessary.


Re: CompSci without coursework

... "better answers should be awarded higher grades." exactly - and the marking criteria for the controlled assessment activity did just that - the guidance to assessors gives bands for complexity of answers within the total mark awarded. If a student uses simpler solutions they are limited to a lower mark band - one example I've seen in the past is to have an 8-point question split into three bands based on quality of answer (1-3, 4-6, 7-8) and marks didn't reach the higher bands unless specific features were seen in the answer.

Meltdown, Spectre bug patch slowdown gets real – and what you can do about it


Are the effects cumulative...?

Just curious about the current impact being specific to individual issues here (the 2 for Spectre and 1 for Meltdown).

At the moment, people are talking about it as if it's always going to be one fix for all. Is it possible to eventually just patch one aspect and not be hit as hard?

In a brief moment of insanity, I wondered if that's what the Intel "mitigated over time" might mean. Instead of just thinking it means "customers will just buy replacement kit", which is probably a lot nearer the actual meaning.

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


Re: I had some luck with this

Exactly my experience - Turion64 X2 CPU - although it was easy enough to just roll back to a recent restore point. I'll note that command, though, since it's good to have alternatives - cheers!


Re: Exactly which AMD processors are getting hosed?

That's the Windows 7 version of the patch. It broke one of my laptops running an AMD Turion64 X2 CPU, but went fine on another running an Intel Core2Duo T7200. Be careful. The good news was that running the system repair sorted it out (from the F8 startup menu before the Windows logo pops up) - if you've not got a recent one, make a restore point yourself before trying the patch.

Microsoft patches Windows to cool off Intel's Meltdown – wait, antivirus? Slow your roll


Re: Meanwhile, on Windows 7...

KB4056892 now applied to the Win10 laptop, and has slowed disk br down to between half and fifth of what it used to be...

Intel 1000M CPU (approx 4 years old), Win10-64bit, Crucial MX200 0.5TB, 8GB RAM.

On the CrystalDiskMark v6 benchmark the results are between 15% and 60% of what they used to be, probably due to the way the drive caches R/W access through a chunk of system RAM. Subjectively, overall the PC feels more in the 70-95% estimated range from the article, but the workaround has definitely hit this PC's file I/O speed.

The healing hands of customer support get an acronym: Do YOU have 'tallah-toe-big'?


Opposite effect...

... usually the office phone stops ringing just as I reach it. Not before I've gone and put in the physical effort of getting up and moving across the room - that's also part of the Rules of Engagement With Any Ringing Device.

Unfortunately, because of poor definition of the term "ringing" by the person who drafted the rules, it has unusual side-effects: I'd be a bad choice for working on some sort of RSPB rare breed protection scheme, for example...


True, though my favourite photo of the walking slap magnet is the one Private Eye keep reprinting every time he gets out of his depth. Which is often.