* Posts by Mage

8470 posts • joined 23 Nov 2007

Geneticists throw hands in the air, change gene naming rules to finally stop Microsoft Excel eating their data

Mage Silver badge


I heard about this years ago:

First thing on a new install of LibreOffice: Disable Autocorrect except for smart quotes.Doesn't fix THIS problem.

I'm actually considering turning off that too as “” those are AltGr V and AltGr B on Linux. Shift for singles.

Though the auto format recognition is due to not setting cells to text, but having the default General. No idea how to change that default on Excel, Gnumeric or LO Calc.

General is an evil default as Indicative numbers may be in a text column and never ever should be treated as numbers, except maybe on some of them to check checksums (ISBN, IBAN, credit cards).

Co-inventor of the computer mouse, William English, dies

Mage Silver badge

Re: basic design hasn't changed since its initial invention?

There are four basic design stages of actual mouse, excluding non-mouse pointing such as touch pads or wobble sticks/nubs.

1) Two wheels at right angles.

2) make them shafts on the top of a ball.

3) optical using a special two colour grid on a mat

4) optical on any arbitrary surface unless it's totally featureless and smooth.

Also at some stage the middle button is a third axis roller to scroll or move on Z-axis.

Mage Silver badge

Re: Trackerball?

Of course the ball based mouse was somewhat later than the early version with just the wheels, and even without a tracker ball, it's an obvious next step. I remember turning different models of mouse upside down to see which worked best a tracker ball.

The history of why Logitech, originally distributing a compiler did mice is interesting and possibly the Microsoft mouse was one of MS's best products. I'm using an MS Basic Optical Mouse v2.0

I used to give 3 button mice to Apple users (OS 8 and OS9 days) and enjoy their joy at disposing of the single button unergonomic hockey puck.

I still prefer one with a tail. No pesky RF to get messed up or battery to go flat. In a fictional world I've written they call the computer mouse a pointing pebble, or pebble as it has no tail and they have no mice or rats.

Mage Silver badge


I'd heard from someone that worked at Xerox Parc that the ball based mouse was derived from the tracker ball and that they really wanted a pen sized one to work on a desk. However a mouse is actually less tiring to hold than say a Wacom stylus, though the stylus allows easier writing and sketching. The mouse is indeed a selection device easier to control accurately than a finger on a touch screen. Writing with a mouse is like trying to write with a potato.

The mouse is still the best GUI selection device, though I don't miss the ball. Or cleaning the rollers for people mysteriously unable to do it. The first optical mouse I had used a special grid on a mat in the mid 1980s.

A pint for the dear departed.

Chinese tat bazaar Xiaomi to light a fire under Amazon's Kindle with new e-book reader

Mage Silver badge

Re: I have a kobo

Android's point is the GUI for OLED/LCD and the App Engine.

There is no point on using Android on a dedicated ereader, especially eink; that suggests lazy inept developers.

Also most apps won't work well with eink. A phone or tablet is cheaper and complementary to a decent ereader. I rarely use the Browser search on the Kindle or Kobo, it's nearly as fast to wake the tablet, connect it to Wifi and browse than just for the Wikipedia or Google to start loading on eink. Then actual browsing on eink is rubbish, though the older Kindle FW that paginated the web pages worked better than scrolling.

Mage Silver badge

Re: Barnes & Noble

Or you could look at a Kobo Libra. The Xaiomi needs to be cheaper than a Paperwhite 4 / 2018 without adverts, a Kobo Libra and have a decent GUI to succeed.

Mage Silver badge

Re: Can Xiaomi make a go where Sony gave up?

The big Sony Digital paper models are for paperless offices. You Print PDFs to them. I think most or maybe all don't actually support ebook formats. Also they can only be loaded/managed via the computer application. Doesn't appear as mass storage like Kindle / Kobo / Nook etc.

Sony relied on their own bookstore. There are only a few niche brands today that don't, sadly. Sony customers were transferred to Kobo. Canadian Kobo's parent is Japanese Rakuten that also owns Viber, a decent alternative to Skype, Tencent's QQ and Whats App.

Mage Silver badge

Kindle eBooks

Apprentice Alf plugin on Calibre. Some people read Amazon ebooks on Kobo ereaders.

Also Amazon's KFX is evil. Download for "transfer via USB", never direct on the Kindle so you have a backup and don't get KFX. Amazon add DRM to KFX even when the Publisher selects "no DRM". The AZW format (KF8) is better. Also Amazon sells "Kindle" ebooks that are really like a PDF that only work on phones, tablets and PC/Mac; they don't work on a real Kindle ereader.

€13bn wings its way back to Apple after Euro court rules Irish tax deal wasn't 'state aid'

Mage Silver badge

The Elephant in the Room

So called Intellectual Property. The USPTO is a big part of the problem. Many of the big multinationals have massive teams of patent lawyers creating both regular patents and "Design Patents" (what the UK calls Registered Designs, like the shape of the fluted coke bottle or a kettle). Companies like Starbucks and Apple assign these to an HQ at some Offshore tax friendly place (Like any British Overseas, or now even IOM or Jersey). Quite a few companies in Ireland (like Eircom aka Eir) have their HQ in Jersey.

Companies even "patent" or Register their Franchise, Trade marks etc and then pay "royalties" to the offshore HQ.

So it's possible that neither Apple or Ireland broke aid or tax rules. There needs to be a better definition of Intellectual Property and reform of Patents, Registered Designs etc and the possible "royalties" or this sort of legal tax evasion will continue. Apple should have been paying 10% tax, not 0.5 down to 0.005%

I can't see how the EU can win this if it's just Apple was "clever". The rules on IP creation and so called "royalties" on it need changed on a Global basis.

Dutch national broadcaster saw ad revenue rise when it stopped tracking users. It's meant to work like that, right?

Mage Silver badge

But can we trust Google and Facebook?

"The success of Facebook is based on the ability of advertisers to define an audience by location, age, sex, personal interests and more."

You mean their success is based on the fact that advertisers believe this.

1) Is it legal.

2) Is is ethical.

3) How accurate is the information?

4) Has anyone unbiased actually done meaningful measurements to prove Facebook and Google claims?

My understanding is that Facebook makes these claims because magazines, newspapers, billboards, radio and TV can't make them. They have been caught lying about video impressions.

Also fraudulent activity makes money for website owners with Google adverts.

Twitter and Facebook are full of fake accounts and bots.

If you wanna make your own open-source chip, just Google it. Literally. Web giant says it'll fab them for free

Mage Silver badge

Re: VHDL's still a verbose horror, then.

Certainly for digital / logic, the HDL is the only way.

Analogue, which this seems partially aimed at, does usually need schematics and spice models that also add parasitic inductances and capacitances.

Mage Silver badge

Re: I would like to see a flat architecture 32 or 64 bit design.

Test it with a FPGA evaluation board. No need for this chip program.

Mage Silver badge

Re: VHDL's still a verbose horror, then.

VHDL and Verilog are NOT programming languages. They are Hardware Description Languages. It's unfortunate that Verilog looks like C.

There is no "run time". The text describes the parts (components) and how they connected. It's a textual exact alternate to a circuit diagram. It's the easiest way to do FPGAs. If you are doing a logic ASIC, it makes sense to do it as an FPGA first. The FPGA tools can later produce the files for a custom chip rather than the FPGA configuration, usually loaded at power on from Flash (not executed).

Even with a free chip, I'd want to use an FPGA on a ready made evaluation board first. Then it might actually work when I've debugged the FPGA. The actual ASIC (custom chip) will not usually need as many pins and will usually use a tiny fraction of the power.

Analogue is harder. RF Analogue is much harder. Unsurprisingly while you can get an FPGA with an actual CPU (rather than defining one) as well as the usual multipliers, PLL, RAM Blocks (to implement gates) and RAM to define the interconnections, there is little in the way of analogue and less RF.

A Math AI seems a waste. One, AI is mostly marketing hype and two, better to develop such a thing as an FPGA.

The interesting application of this is designs that can't be done purely as an FPGA. You'd still make a prototype using suitable ICs, transistors and maybe a CPU and FPGA on a PCB first to debug and test.

Euro police forces infiltrated encrypted phone biz – and now 'criminal' EncroChat users are being rounded up

Mage Silver badge

Re: Coercion is often called rubber-hose cryptanalysis

Obligatory XKCD

This is the link, but might not be a rubber hose

Happy privacy action day in California: If you don't have 'Do not sell my information' in your website footer, you need to read this story right now

Mage Silver badge

someone can opt-out of having their personal data repackaged and sold



The only ethical way is that you have to OPT IN.

MIT apologizes, permanently pulls offline huge dataset that taught AI systems to use racist, misogynistic slurs

Mage Silver badge

Re: why are we deleting it?

Because it's too much work to fix it and we know why it's poor,

Mage Silver badge

Garbage in Garbage out

The problem is that humans, often biased or lazy or making mistakes, in reality have to check all images. There is no AI, just human "trained" and curated pattern matching.

It's stupid and unethical to scrape websites and social media. That will decrease the quality. Apart from misuse of data.

Then another issue the lighting, angles etc. Photos taken for personal reasons are likely to have better lighting, viewing angles and framing than images from surveillance systems. We need to totally abandon automatic people identification and truly autonomous vehicles on ordinary public roads till it can be done properly. Do ships, aircraft, trains and last, trams before ordinary vehicles. Use humans to review surveillance video. Most of it shouldn't exist anyway.

Linux Mint 20 isn't exactly bursting with freshness but, hey, there's kernel 5.4 and it's a long-term support release

Mage Silver badge

Re: QT support?

I use Mint 18.3 with Mate Desktop. Lenovo E460 i5 with gpu.

I don't remember Mint ever not supporting QT based applications. Maybe it didn't once.

I'm sure Viber and Calibre both use QT.

Mage Silver badge

Upgrading can be painful?

"Upgrading can be painful in Linux thanks to potential dependency and configuration issues so waiting for the official guidance is a good plan."

Hugely less pain than Windows, where going NT 3.5x, NT4, Win2K, XP, Vista, Win7, Win8, Win10 is best with a fresh install.

I've tested 18.3 -> 19.3 which needs 18.3 to 19 first. Much slower than a fresh install and needs command line. But works. The 18.3 LTS maybe runs out this October, so no rush, though for existing 18.3 rather than a fresh install, likely it's 18.3 -> 19 ->19.3 -> 20.0

And then there are Mac OS upgrades. They've called all the versions since 2002 or 2003 change from Mac OS 9 version 10.<something> even though some are a greater change than Win2K to Win10 (like no 32 bit).

So rather unfair.

One does not simply repurpose an entire internet constellation for sat-nav, but UK might have a go anyway

Mage Silver badge

Re: GEO satellite yes. LEO is a different kettle of fish.

Only reduces the latency and makes the capacity per area worse. The capacity is rubbish compared to more masts. There is also no excuse for no fibre if a location has mains electricity or mains water.

Mage Silver badge
Black Helicopters

Re: Supposedly we have control of Trident

The UK did have their own nuke tech and close to delivery with the rockets being tested at Woomera, but USA persuaded the UK to ditch both. The UK is the only nation in the world to give up Nuke Tech and Sat / ICBM tech. The Trident is really sort of rented. It and F35 involve a subscription service.

Mage Silver badge

Re: general communications, and rural broadband,

Except when you spread the capacity over an entire county it's tiny compared to a fibre fed cabinet. But the capacity may indeed be the total capacity for the fleet / world and only a fraction of that even available in one place at one time.

There is a good reason why OneWeb has gone bust.

Satellite Internet is for users off the grid, in the wilderness, out at sea, in an aircraft. Not for British Rural. Not even these days for Africa (Mobile in rural areas, fibre in the cities).

NASA mulls going all steam-punk with a fleet of jumping robots to explore Saturn and Jupiter's mysterious moons

Mage Silver badge

Re: "Victory Unintentional" by Isaac Asmiov.

I wondered, because hardly any of his stories have actual "aliens". I read an explanation once by him as to why this is the case. It's suggested that the people in Nightfall (the original short rather than later expanded novel) are "aliens", not humans.

Aliens of course claim we are Tellurians or Terrans (from the Classical Terra and Tellus) as all sentient, tool using creatures with a proper extendible language are humans. Don't confuse an extendible vocabulary with a language. Rooks are sentient, self aware, can use tools and have a big vocabulary, but are not humans because they don't have Language,

Mage Silver badge


Remember the old story with Earth & the "Aliens" (Jovians?) negotiating. Earth sends a representative to negotiate but neglect to mention it's a robot. The Aliens are shocked by the robustness of the "human" and surrender.

Short story. I forget the title and author, likely 1940s to 1960s.

Beware the fresh Windows XP install: Failure awaits you all with nasty, big, pointy teeth

Mage Silver badge


Also chilli powder. Allegedly birds can't taste it. No furry animal will eat it.

The only way to rat proof cables as they can gnaw through a steel door to get meat from a freezer.

After 84 years, Japan's Olympus shutters its camera biz, flogs it to private equity – smartphones are just too good

Mage Silver badge


Certainly the phone has completely killed the market for snapshot cameras and now dedicated digital cameras are an expensive niche, but secure because a phone isn't going to have larger sensors, larger lenses (much larger anyway), a good range of interchangeable lenses, decent ergonomics (wrong shape) and a secure tripod mount for time-lapse or tracking exposures. I used to be fairly serious about photography and had a wide range of cameras (still have some), the last being an OM10 and big selection of lenses. I can't afford/justify film and processing for it, though in 1990s we had Photo CDs (not to be confused with seriously poor Picture CDs.) done at the lab from film, no prints, for our business. Yet I can't justify a decent digital camera and lenses. If the light is poor or the object needs a telephoto lens the phone camera is useless. Lack of a viewfinder on a phone also means accurate pointing in bright sunshine is impossible.

Here's a headline we never thought we'd write 20 years ago: Microsoft readies antivirus for Linux, Android

Mage Silver badge

Re: cool

Though MS Defender on Windows might be better than almost all the 3rd party AV software sold for windows. I think in most cases, and for zero-day, blocking scripts on the Browser is more effective.

Apple to keep Intel at Arm's length: macOS shifts from x86 to homegrown common CPU arch, will run iOS apps

Mage Silver badge

Re: ARM?

It will sell better than the first ARM based PC, the Archimedes. Was it 1987?

Still, my ARM based Android tablet outperforms the Atom based Windows XP Netbook (now with Linux) and Atom Win10 tablet.

Mage Silver badge

Re: Then you "should" be okay with just a recompile

OK for devs, but not much good for Users. But the likes of Adobe etc only want to rent software anyway.

Mage Silver badge

Yes and No.

I said years ago that Apple would migrate the Mac to ARM. When it suited them. People laughed at me.

Perhaps big companies over use branding, like MS calling things "Windows" that are very different and may or may not be compatible for existing applications.

Apple "Mac" 68000, Power PC, x86 and recently x86-64 with 32 bit forbidden. Now ARM. Maybe all these families should have used different branding after the Mac 68K.

Also the Mac OSX is based on BSD via NextStep. A totally different (and better) thing to Mac OS9 and earlier. At least they didn't make the mistake with iPhone that MS made with PDAs and Phones and called the OS, iOS rather than pocket Mac OS.

Looking for a home off-world? Take your pick: Astroboffins estimate there are nearly 6bn Earth-likes in the Milky Way

Mage Silver badge

re: radio waves will reach them!

If you do the sums, you'll see that the likelihood of our radio waves being detectable even at the nearest star is slim to zero. They might detect our oxygen, water, CO2, nitrogen and industrial pollution via spectroscopic analysis. SETI using radio is pointless unless Aliens arrive at the edge of the Solar system.

Mage Silver badge

Re: Venus and Mars

Venus certainly isn't. Antarctica, Sahara and our oceans are far more habitable than Mars, which realistically is no more habitable than the Moon. Basically a space station with gravity.

Mage Silver badge

In theory

Let's not repeat the European exploitation of Americas, or Arabs in Africa moving south. Ethically would it be right to settle without an invite?

It's likely anywhere able to really support life would be teaming with life of its own. Likely the existing plants and animals would only be good for fats, sugars/carbohydrates and maybe protein. They'd likely lack suitable vitamins and amino acids. Even here not all plants or animals can sustain humans, you'd likely die just living on rabbit. Animals here also have differing needs of vitamins, amino acids and things that are toxic.

However, as C.S. Lewis remarked, perhaps the interstellar distances are a quarantine system. We have no evidence that any sort of interstellar travel other than a mostly coasting Generation ship is possible. We need to sort out our own problems here instead of exporting people and their associated shortcomings.

Interesting science.

Gulp! Irish Water outsources contact centres to Capita for up to €27m over 7 years

Mage Silver badge

Re: four issues to deal with, leaks, quality, pressure and billing

Really very few people are actually billed. Their main issues is the slow progress on leaks and upgrading sewerage. I think still over 400,000 septic tanks and many treatment plants don't meet standards. They are supposed to be inspected. Maybe Captia could do it?

Mage Silver badge

Re: This sentence


The new Government should scrap this and Irish Water. They are incompetent at fixing the leaks and what are they thinking of giving work to Captia. A non-EU company with a terrible reputation. No doubt Capita put the cheapest bid.

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

Mage Silver badge

No, don't check how long it will be supported!

Just buy a dumb fridge.

Which? missing the point.

Publishers sue to shut down books-for-all Internet Archive for 'willful digital piracy on an industrial scale'

Mage Silver badge

Re: But what about...

Many Libraries with real ebooks are still operating online.

Mage Silver badge

Re: Unusually

IA pay nothing.

Mage Silver badge

Re: Digital Era

DRM is evil and doesn't stop real pirates. It just "controls" the consumer, copyright and piracy are just thin excuses to impose DRM.

If you chose "download and transfer via PC" on Amazon, then the publisher decides if DRM is to be used. Amazon is illegally adding DRM when they deliver KFX, when the Publisher has decided to have no DRM.

Mage Silver badge

Ebooks are similar.

In most countries certainly you can resell, give away or destroy the book. The physical copy is yours. But for lending there is the concept of rewarding the Author. Authors get a small royalty.

For digital the library buys a licence to loan a certain number of copies simultaneously and royalty has to be paid. There is no physical copy.

You'll find you can't run a library for video or audio by buying a retail copy in most countries.

Mage Silver badge

IA is dishonest

"The Internet Archive is registered as a library but has asserted an untested (the publishers say “invented”) theory called “Controlled Digital Lending” (CDL), that argues libraries are not infringing copyright when they make digital copies of books they possess. "

Because REAL libraries do two things the IA has refused to do:

1) They buy a real ebook at a Library price. Can be more or less than retail.

2) They pay royalties based on how many times the book has been lent. Paper versions and audio also. The Author or whoever is the copyright holder, not the company with publishing rights, gets that.

The IA has been scanning for years and importing MS and Google scanned books. These are PDF images with OCR for search. The ebook formats are poor. Anyway, if you or I did it, we'd be in court. The stuff that's really public domain is in the regular IA archives, no "lending" even before. The claimed Education excuse is bogus as Unis have been making stuff available and most of the IA OL is fiction.

Boffins step into the Li-ion's den with sodium-ion battery that's potentially as good as a lithium cousin

Mage Silver badge

Re: How resistant is it to fire?

Sodium metal is stored under oil. It burns well and explosively underwater.

Lenovo certifies all desktop and mobile workstations for Linux – and will even upstream driver updates

Mage Silver badge

Re: Dell has offered Linux laptops for a very long time.

They started supplying Linux maybe as early as 1998 or 1999.

Western Digital shingled out in lawsuit for sneaking RAID-unfriendly tech into drives for RAID arrays

Mage Silver badge

Re: Forcing us to the Cloud 'Solution' and Subscription Hell?

Written rather than pressed CDs and DVDs fade. In weeks if left on a windowsill. The dye reverts or something. Did bureau PhotoCDs use a different dye and reflective layer?

Mage Silver badge

up to 2TB, it makes no sense to go mechanical

Depends on your usage and how important random read access of small blocks is vs large file sequential r/w. Also the quality of SSD. Some are basically the same chip tech as cheap USB sticks but with a different bus interface. How much warning of failure vs mechanical HDD and what backup strategy does the user really have? What is powered down archive life?

That's really too sweeping of a statement.

Mage Silver badge

Re: Another good reason to be an El Reg reader

Yes, It's basically fraud to not clearly label shingled drives or helium drives as such.

Visual Studio Code finally arrives on ARM64 Windows. No, you haven't woken up in 2017, sadly. It's still 2020

Mage Silver badge
Paris Hilton

Oh, why do most people want Windows?

ARM is great. But it's irrelevant to Windows as the main reason to have windows is existing business x86 programs (mostly for business) or x86 games.

Man responsible for least popular iteration of Windows UI uses iPad Pro as a desktop*

Mage Silver badge

Ha Ha

Laughs and points.

He didn't save windows, he crippled it. The Win7 was only a Vista SP and should have been free to Vista Victims, it happened despite Sinofsky. At least even on Vista you could turn off the eye candy and stupid services and make it like Win9x/NT4.0/Win2K/XP to use.

Microsoft brings WinUI to desktop apps: It's a landmark for Windows development, but it has taken far too long

Mage Silver badge

W7 level?

Win7 is really a service pack for Vista. Many might be happy with a secure ReactOS (32 bit and 64bit) with proper win32& Win16 support on 64 bits that runs anything Server 2003, XP and Win9x runs.

Mage Silver badge

developers to adopt the look and feel of UWP

Gross. The UI designed for phones and poor there. The Worst Desktop Windows GUI since maybe Windows 2.x


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