* Posts by Phil the Geek

99 publicly visible posts • joined 16 Oct 2007


HP exec says quiet part out loud when it comes to locking in print customers

Phil the Geek


Please consider the environment before buying an HP product to print this message.

Brother laser printer, fine except for the whining about the aftermarket cartridge.

Long-term Linux Mint: 19.3 release unchains the Gimp, adds HiDPI, is kind to your older, less-beefy kit

Phil the Geek

Pensioner friendly

I set up Mint on an old Vista laptop for my Mum, who's 88 years old. She's a smart cookie but not at all experienced with computers. She gets along just fine with it and uses it for her Tesco online shopping and general web use.

She told me she'd had a phone call from "the Windows Technical Support Centre". What did you say to them, I asked, nervously. "Go away, I run Linux", she said.

AES-256 keys sniffed in seconds using €200 of kit a few inches away

Phil the Geek

Déjà viewer

In other news, the BBC has a rusty Transit van with a bent coat hanger on the roof that can tell what TV channel you're watching.

What should the Red Arrows' new aircraft be?

Phil the Geek

Thrust SSC

No aerobatics (hopefully) but a very impressive Mach 1 formation drive-by. I once saw a Dutch Air Force F-104 Starfighter display team that used a marginally slower and only slightly higher version of the same routine.

Catch cack-handed baggage handlers in the act with Ericsson's SPY SUITCASE

Phil the Geek

Prior art

That suitcase has rounded corners. Ericsson's lawyer, meet Apple's lawyer.

Boss at 'Microsoft' scam support biz told to cough £000s in comp

Phil the Geek

Time wasting

I kept one on the phone for 18 minutes before revealing that my PC was running Linux Mint. Prize please.

Mosquitoes, Comets and Vampires: The de Havilland Museum

Phil the Geek

Night Flyer by Lewis Brandon

A good little book this...

Before the war the author was an actor, but he ended up as a radar operator in night fighter Mosquitoes. They initially defended Britain from German bombers but later flew over Germany, preying on the German night fighters that were trying to attack British bombers. It's well-written and once I had started I couldn't put it down.

ANOTHER Huawei partner accused of slipping US tech to Iran

Phil the Geek

Re: Joke ?

Are you thinking of Inmos, the Transputer people? HQ in Bristol, fab near Newport. Not sure about an ARM connection though.

The amazing magical LED: Has it really been fifty years already?

Phil the Geek

Re: Reverse biased diodes don't pass (significant) current.

Yep, forward-biased makes them glow, in simple applications you use a series resistor to set the current/brightness to the desired level. The resistor often consumes more energy than the LED, hence the use of more sophisticated controllers in lighting applications.

I'm surprised no-one has mentioned the Q-word - Quantum. LEDs are one of the most visible (ha!) demonstrations of quantum physics. The real magic is when the recombination takes place; electrons drop to a lower energy level, emitting the excess energy as a photon (a particle of light). The frequency or colour of light is determined by the energy of its photons, and the exotic materials in LEDs are chosen to get the right "energy gap" to get the required colour.

The macro world we sense has continuously-variable energy levels (e.g. the orbit of a planet, the speed of a car, etc) but at the atomic level only certain discrete energy levels are possible, hence the emission of a very defined quanta of light energy from recombination, and therefore the tight spectral purity of LEDs.

Slideshow: A History of Intel x86 in 20 CPUs

Phil the Geek


Having played with a 6502 (Ohio SuperBoard anyone?) I designed 8085 (enhanced 8080) and 8086 boards for my first employer. 8086 wasn't just a PC chip - BT's System X digital telephone exchanges used it in some subsystems. After the 286 I designed 386 hardware (and met Gordon Moore at the 386's UK launch!!!) and stayed involved with all the subsequent generations up to Pentium 4. Now I just tinker (for a living) with other people's boards...

When Intel first launched Pentium, the MS Word spell checker insisted on correcting it to "Penis".

Tech support blog removes Toshiba manuals after legal letter

Phil the Geek

I like to RTFM

I repaired a dead Toshiba Tecra M9 recently using a downloaded service manual - which I found invaluable, even though I'm very experienced with PC hardware.

Preventing access to the manuals is just plain anti-social. I hope it costs them a small reduction in residual values and hence a few or more new product sales.

Amazon UK to offer collection service at corner shops

Phil the Geek
Thumb Up

eBay better catch up quickly

I needed to send a camera back to Argos for repair, and they use a local petrol station on my way to work. Brilliant, as personal deliveries are frowned on at my company. Now it's Amazon too - excellent.

Bad news for eBay though! They could offer a service for sellers to drop off and buyers to pick up. But will they?

Apple faces Italian shutdown over warranty skulduggery

Phil the Geek

Apple repair costs

Where I used to work one of our directors had a total LCD failure on his MacBook Air. It was just over a year old and Apple quoted £480 for the repair. I thought it was going to be expensive, but not THAT expensive.

He didn't particularly like the Apple so he bought a nice new Dell instead and kept the change:-)

Twelve... classic 1980s 8-bit micros

Phil the Geek

Re: UK101

I wrote a 6502 dis-assembler in 6502 assembler on a borrowed Ohio Superboard. It seemed like a good idea at the time:-)

The Superboard itself was a nice piece of kit, with a decent keyboard, very robust metal case and built-in PSU. I still have some of the user group stuff somewhere.

Wang charged in inappropriate electricity socket use

Phil the Geek

One Swallow does not a bummer make

The Swallow Hotel in Dundee used to have signs in the bar area saying if you plugged your phone charger into a wall socket you had to pay £1 for the privilege. Apart from that flash of lunatic tight-fistedness it was a pretty reasonable hotel.

Virgin Media broadband goes titsup for 3 hours

Phil the Geek

Going downhill fast

I've been a Virgin (previously Telewest) customer for about 15 years and it seems Mr Cockup is visiting more and more often. I was affected by yesterday's outage and it's already happened once again tonight. Maybe Virgin should say it's a SOPa/PIPA protest.

Ubuntu savaged by rivals infected with fondleslab fever

Phil the Geek

I just went over to the green side

I've been using Ubuntu on my laptop and desktop since Hardy Heron, and I've been very happy with it. I use Win7 at work and I definitely prefer Maverick. I've tried Unity and I hate it - I can see it could be good on a tablet but that's not what I'm using.

I stayed with 10.10 to avoid Unity but I was aware I would have to transition sooner or later. Yesterday I upgraded to Mint and so far I'm delighted.

Ubuntu republic riven by damaging civil wars

Phil the Geek

"Linux has to differentiate itself"

Why? It doesn't have to be different to be good. Book publishers don't "have" to differentiate the way the pages turn to sell paperbacks. I worked for a big computer company that just "had" to differentiate its products, even if the differentiators utterly sucked. That company doesn't exist any more, because in their differentiation ego trip they forgot that the users/customers were king.

PS I think Unity's childish icons look like Microsoft Money circa 1995. Separated at birth?

Ubuntu's Oneiric Ocelot: Nice, but necessary?

Phil the Geek


The OP's command will brick your system unless you have the necessary repositories enabled.

The joy of Ubuntu was it worked superbly straight out of the box. Now you have to dick about endlessly to get to a productive desktop - which is an unproductive activity.

And why do Unity's icons remind me of Microsoft Money circa 1995?

I'll stick with my trusty Meerkat until it's no longer supported (please Canonical, change 10.10 to LTS). Maybe Ubuntu will have re-connected with reality by then, if not I'll select the strongest alternative - Mint, Squeeze or Arch I suppose.

Water like that of Earth's oceans found in comet

Phil the Geek

Pastafarian explanation

The water is left over from the Flying Spaghetti Monster's celestial pasta boiler. That's why it's got salt in it. Obvious really.

iPhones secretly track 'scary amount' of your movements

Phil the Geek

Your favourite phone hackers

The gutter press will LOVE this - allegedly... Imagine if you somehow obtained the location databases of a bunch of celebs, sports people and politicians. Then you do a bit of SQLing to find the location/time correlations. If they have a regular schedule, your photographers are there waiting the next time they meet. Conclusion: don't carry an iThingy if you're in the public eye!

Samsung threatens Apple in response to patent lawsuit

Phil the Geek

Buying time

Apple know they only have a limited time in the sun with phones and pads. The Androids are racing to the bottom and destroying the high margin Apple craves. So this is Apple playing delaying tactics. They will probable get a chunk of their patent portfolio destroyed by prior art if it goes to court, but Apple won't mind too much if it buys them time until they can apply their brand and attention to detail to the Next Big Thing.

Tesla Motors sues BBC for defamation

Phil the Geek

What are Tesla smoking?

Did Tesla actually watch Top Gear before submitting their product for review? They would have seen the Ford GT caned for its 75-mile range in Top Gear test track mode, and would have known TG wouldn't get 211 sedate-mode miles out of the Tesla. The Ford GT ran out of fuel on the test track - sound familiar?

Ford is litigious enough to attack Ferrari for accidentally creating a branding link between beautiful Italian supercars and Ford's F-series on-road tractors - but didn't sue Top Gear over the GT's 75 miles. So why is Tesla suing? Do they need the publicity? Or did Darl McBride join Tesla and I didn't notice?

The Beeb say they will vigorously defend, so Tesla is in for a massive overdose of Streisand Effect. Chumps.

IT job seekers can't smell spell

Phil the Geek

Dear sir

I once received a CV with a cover letter starting with "Dear Sir or Madman". Oh the dangers of spell-checkers.

Someone who made it as far as an interview only asked questions about the contacts he might make in the job and then when his mobile rang mid-interview he answered it and had a conversation with the caller. He didn't get the job either.

Italian white van man nudges sound barrier

Phil the Geek

Feel the force

If you ever have an hour to kill in Coventry, go to the Transport Museum - Thrust SSC is there along with the control caravan. They also have a simulator where you get a mild impression of what Andy Green felt. It was a brutally fast car - I guarantee you will grin when you see the speedo numbers flash by as it gets into its stride.

4G networks can screw up cable TV

Phil the Geek

Rocket surgery?

I reckon it's more like brain science.

On a serious note I'm curious to know whether the problem constitutes an EM susceptibility fail under CE-marking approvals, or if the field strength is above CE test levels. If the former, blame the STB/cable modem vendors, if the latter blame everyone else.

ICO waves stick at climate boffins over FoI compliance

Phil the Geek

Weather is not climate...

...unless it's some weather that can be blamed on global warming. So if we have a hot summer next year, brace yourselves for the torrent of uninformed punditry from the dumbed-down media.

PARIS in 89,000 ft climax

Phil the Geek

Seriously fast?

If Vulture-1 was released at 89,000 feet and didn't encounter any significant air drag until it got down to (say) 70,000 feet, it would have reached 337m/s - which is comfortably supersonic at that altitude!

There are a lot of variables, and of course there is a little atmosphere up there, so it would have been slower in reality. It'd be nice to see a z-axis analysis of the GPS data though.

Is maybe, just maybe, our heroic Playmonaut's first name Chuck?

PS Awesome project, awesome pics and video. Truly fab job folks.

Las Vegas death ray roasts hotel guests

Phil the Geek

Water wall

Run a big pipe along the top of the hotel and flow water down the front of the building. It'll look absolutely fabulous, a major attraction, and the ripples and turbulence will break up the reflection.

Please send my fee to...

Facebook Places checks in to UK

Phil the Geek

The gnomes again

1. Collect locations

2. ?

3. Profit

Runner and riders for HP's top job

Phil the Geek

@ Smokescreen

I used to spend GBP10K-20K a year on expenses (I travelled a lot) and I never fiddled a penny. Yes, really. Integrity is like pregnancy - there's no middle ground.

AOL sales drop by a quarter, reports billion dollar loss

Phil the Geek


I know a CEO like that. He can find an "encouraging trend" in sinking by the stern.

Apple denies iPhone 4 antenna glitch, blames inaccurate signal bars

Phil the Geek

This one goes to eleven

So the iPhone will soon have a Spinal Tap signal strength display

Intel: Killer cables may leapfrog USB 3.0

Phil the Geek

@ Slackness

Well remembered sir!

The Apricot F1 and also the Apricot Portable (a big black Toblerone with an LCD) had IR keyboards and trackballs. The protocol was very simple and there was a risk that adjacent systems in an office might cross-couple, so fibre optic cables were provided to ensure they didn't.

Climategate hits Westminster: MPs spring a surprise

Phil the Geek

Crossing the great divide

Phil Jones and his collaborators have crossed the line between Science and Marketing. They have abdicated their position of impartiality and objectivity and instead have been evangelising a meme.

They might be right, but as with anyone selling something very costly, they must expect to be asked a lot of tough questions.

Vomit cannon to protect vessels from pirates, paparazzi

Phil the Geek


I read the headline, got the wrong end of the stick, and hoped the cannon would discharge a vomit projectile at the assorted downrange scumbags. Oh well. I'm still living in hope for technicolour munitions.

Microsoft tosses Windows, Office discounts at XP holdouts

Phil the Geek

OS-free laptops

I recently bought one of those ebuyer.com no-OS laptops. It's great - very well made, 4GB RAM, Core Duo T6600, 1680x1050 display and only 350 quid delivered - prices are so low when there's no MS tax to pay. It works superbly with Ubuntu and OO, and the most satisfying thing is MS didn't get a penny:-)

2009's Top Solid-State Drives

Phil the Geek

Old timer

I remember the original SSD; magnetic core memory. It was made by hand, they threaded the bits one at a time. I also remember when all this was fields.

US Navy electromagnetic mass-driver commences tests

Phil the Geek

Lancashire tech

Eric Laithwaite will be looking down from the big carrier in the sky with a huge grin on his face!

Ubuntu's Karmic Koala bares fangs at Windows 7

Phil the Geek

@ Have they fixed/replace the attrocious network manager?

Notwork Manager is shite isn't it? Whoever writes it seems to be on a crusade against automatic logon - if you do that, NM then pesters you for the default keyring password, somewhat defeating the object (I've seen Evolution do this too).

Ubuntu now have the simpler and superior wicd in the repositories, just type wicd into Add/Remove Applications and Bob will soon be your uncle.

Virgin Media 'overwhelmed' by broadband customers fleeing BT

Phil the Geek

@ gribbler

"anyone who has ever had internet provided by them (whether on cable or not) will tell you that it is shite"

I've had Virgin cable internet for 7 years and the only problem I've had was a garden spade through the cable - fixed the next day. I'm on the basic package yet this afternoon I've downloaded something large (and legal!) at an average speed > 1Mbyte/sec. Not bad, and definitely not shite.

Virgin mail struggles to its feet

Phil the Geek

Virgin cable in Birmingham OK for me...

...didn't even realise there was a problem.

However Fasthosts POP was intermittent Tuesday afternoon and most of Wednesday, causing significant disruption at work.

Nokia 'seeking partners' for ARM-based netbook

Phil the Geek

Progress, eh?

Bah! My Psion 3a ran for eons on a couple of alkaline AA batteries.

YouTube injects cash into US F1 team

Phil the Geek

Could US F1 be worse than Team Haas Lola?

I have a feeling that US F1 will unintentionally end up being very very funny. Which is good, because F1 needs comedy moments to lighten the long gaps between the interesting bits.

Vulture Central plans Brit-Yank dictionary

Phil the Geek

Horizontal dancing

You had better explain "shagging" to our cousins. The poor deluded fools in South Carolina have a dance called The Shag and they display signs outside venues to advertise Public Shagging Contests. You can imagine the depth of my disappointment...

T-Mobile lays ground for embedded SIMs

Phil the Geek

Potted SIM

I've seen an old 3 mobile with the SIM comprehensively epoxied in - it looked like it was potted, rather than just a "drop of glue". The phone was dusty and languishing on a shelf, the user having migrated to a proper network long ago.

Ubuntu gets pre-Koala cloud love

Phil the Geek


8.04 with wireless is working just fine here on my 5 year old Dell laptop, complete with the dreaded Broadcom BCM43xx wireless chipset. Like NB, my experience improved when I switched to wicd - NetworkManager has a blind spot with automatic login and the keyring.

Discovery docks with ISS

Phil the Geek

Bat house

If you're ever near Chester Zoo with a couple of hours to kill, go to the bat house. It's night time inside and the bats fly freely around you. It's an amazing experience, though you may come out guano-positive.

Polish Spitfire shoots down BNP

Phil the Geek

Anorak time

The Spitfire in the photo is still flying and is operated by the Battle Of Britain Memorial Flight. It flew in the front line operations in the war and destroyed a German bomber. Later in its life it was involved in a famous incident when it accidentally took off with a ground crew member sitting on the tail - she hung on and was unharmed.

I'm very pleased that the plane has been preserved in Polish colours.



Sat scope discovers Earthlike 'sauna world'

Phil the Geek

Meanwhile on CoRoT-Exo-7b...

...the silicon-based denizens are reading an article about a newly-discovered exo-planet provisionally named 3arth. They're very excited about it because it's a small and rocky planet a bit like their own.

Unfortunately 3arth is bitterly cold - around 300 degrees K! It's so damn cold that water exists mainly in its liquid and solid states and all silicates freeze solid! So obviously there won't be any life there then...

Flames, 'cos it's pleasantly warm on CoRoT-Exo-7b.