* Posts by Peter Christy

75 posts • joined 27 Nov 2007


Hey, Boeing. Don't celebrate your first post-grounding 737 Max test flight too hard. You just lost another big contract

Peter Christy

Re: Learn from the smaller world...

I note the above comments about the aircraft being stable without the MCAS (computer) assistance, but also that the stick forces do not comply with accepted convention in these extreme attitudes.

This latter is surely a *design* flaw - ie: mechanical - that has to be "fixed" by computer.

So I stand by my original argument: Get the design and/or setup right first, and fine tune it by computer. Do not use the computer to "fix" an inherent flaw.

As has been pointed out above, this is not a fighter that *needs* to be unstable to meet its performance requirements.

This was an attempt to fix by computer an inherent design / mechanical flaw, and was always going to end badly.

Boeing built its reputation in the days when it was led by its engineering expertise. That reputation is now being destroyed by its accounting expertise!

Peter Christy

Learn from the smaller world...

My hobby is building radio controlled models, and in particular helicopters. My son has flown at World Championship events for helicopter aerobatics, and made it into the fly-offs. Modern RC gear is heavily computerised, but this is not the same as having any form of auto-pilot system. It is intended to make the setting up and trimming of the aircraft simpler.

Some years ago, at a World Champs event, I attended a lecture by one of the top Japanese Pilots (The Japanese and Americans dominated this sport for many years). He was adamant that the computerised radio should ONLY be used for "fine tuning" the aircraft, and that it was vitally important to get everything *mechanically* right first. This was a philosophy with which I wholeheartedly agreed - as well as being one which I had indoctrinated into my son!

If only Boeing had followed this basic principle, they would not be in their current predicament!

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

Peter Christy

I wonder what they'll call the new iMac?

Archimedes, perhaps?

Watch out, everyone, here come the Coronavirus Cops, enjoying their little slice of power way too much

Peter Christy

Travellers seem to be immune, however...

(For those not native to the UK, "Travellers" is the title given to a band of roaming people who live outside the rules and laws of normal society.)

South-West England is currently enjoying warm, balmy spring weather, a time when the area would normally be flooded with holidaymakers. The economy of the area largely relies on these holidaymakers. However, the police have warned people not to travel during the present crisis, and have been stopping those on the motorways to the South-West who they believe do not have a valid reason for travelling, and sending them back whence they came.

Except for the "Travellers"! On Wednesday a convoy of "travellers" on the M5 caused a major accident, blocking the motorway for some hours. As a result, two vehicles were seized (one no tax or insurance, the other stolen), another stolen vehicle found, but no trace of the driver, one arrested for drunk driving and another arrested for driving whilst disqualified!

The police gave the rest of the convoy "strong words of advice/education around travelling in the current pandemic, advised against this and asked to return to the location from where they had travelled." - which they immediately ignored and carried on to Exeter, setting up several camps on public land. The last time they did this, the clearing up cost came to £20,000!

Despite criminal damage being caused to access the site, the police are not interested in moving them back whence they came, and the council seem powerless.

In short, the police only seem interested in policing the people who pay their salary, and the scroungers of society remain at liberty to do as they please.


Ah, night shift in the 1970s. Ciggies, hipflasks, ADVENT... and fault-prone disk drives the size of washing machines

Peter Christy

The Russians certainly gained access to a lot of Concorde's design details, but they missed some very important ones. And remember that the Brits had been working on delta winged supersonic aircraft during the 50s (The Fairey Delta 2 was the first aircraft to break 1000mph, in the mid 50s!)

IIRC (and its been a long time since I studied aerodynamics!), one of the problems of supersonic flight is slowing the air to sub-sonic speeds before it enters the engines. If you don't do this, the engines either stall, or become horrendously inefficient! Concorde had a very subtle design of its air intakes, that provided a passive method of slowing the air in supersonic flight. This mean that whilst Concorde needed afterburners (noisy and thirsty) to break the sound barrier, once it was through, the afterburners could be turned off.

The Russians missed this, and Concordski needed the afterburners running all the time it was supersonic. This had a severely detrimental effect on both its fuel consumption and its noise emissions!

The Russian 'plane was only ever used on a trans-Siberian route as a result, flying over a largely unpopulated region. Even government subsidies were unable to compensate for the horrendous fuel consumption, and it was withdrawn from service after a short period.

Peter Christy

Yes, that's absolutely correct. And that was the clever bit about Ampex' solution - they just bolted the electronics from a quad VTR to a spinning disk, and voila!

The FM signal recovered from disk was never quite as clean as it was from tape. On a tape machine, the heads were in physical contact with the tape, whereas on disk there was a gap, and this was why the quality never quite matched up! The tape machines were very sensitive to tape damage. The four heads were mounted on a 2" diameter drum, spinning at around 3000 rpm (in Europe). It was a bit like a circular saw, and the slightest damage to the edge of the tape would see it shredded! This occasionally happened when the machine was on the air, and was the cause of much frantic cleaning up and re-lacing to get it back to transmission!

Mercifully, it never happened to me, but I did witness it, and occasionally had to repair the tapes afterwards!

And around this time, I remember the research department (a load of boffins at an old country manor house) being delighted at having achieved the feat of successfully recording and playing back *half* of the test card from a digital tape deck!

How times have moved on!

As an aside, the quad videotape machines had a switch on the input marked "video" and "data". The word on the grapevine was that they were used by the CIA in their larger spyplanes (converted airliners) as they were the only things capable of handling the vast throughput of data at the time. It also explained why our cousins across the pond were paranoid about anyone behind the Iron Curtain getting their hands on one and copying it!

Of course, the Russians did eventually manage to copy them, but just as with Concordski, they missed some of the vital design details, and recordings made on Russian machines were incredibly difficult to get to playback properly, despite them using the SECAM colour system, which was much more robust in these situations!

Peter Christy

Back in the early 70s, I was working as a videotape engineer at a big broadcasting company. The VT machines in those days were monstrous beasts that cost 3 times the price of a modest house, so only those with a degree or equivalent were allowed near them! These machines were incapable of playing slow motion, due to the way the information was recorded on tape, but the very clever engineers at Ampex (the major supplier of VT machines back then) had made a wonderful hybrid system. This basically took the signal system from a quadruplex VTR and married it to a computer hard disk system - not unlike the "washing machines" mentioned above! There were two disks (hence four surfaces) spinning at around 3000 rpm. The heads were controlled by stepper motors, and each recorded one field of TV information (two fields = 1 frame, due to interlacing). The heads would move inwards in sequence creating circular tracks of video as they went, and writing even numbered "circles" in one direction, and when they reached the edge of the disk, reverse direction and write the "odd" circles.

The disks were capable of storing around 30-something seconds of analogue video, and recorded continuously, until (say) a goal was scored! The studio director would then order the recording to stop and replay the goal, which the operator could do at any speed, forwards or backwards!

Very clever, and all built using "off the shelf" components!

The picture quality wasn't brilliant (analogue, remember) due to the heads "flying" a tiny fraction of an inch of the surface of the disk, but at the time it was the best that could be achieved, and it continued in use for many years.

There was, however, a minor design flaw that occasionally led to catastrophic failures!

The spinning disks were at the very top of a cabinet of electronics around 4 feet tall. They were heavy, and spinning very fast! This led to some interesting gyroscopic effects, especially as the whole thing was sitting on a not-very-rigid computer floor, with all the cabling underneath!

If any heavy-footed individual entered the room while the disks were spinning, this was likely to lead to the whole thing wobbling slightly, and crashing the heads into the disks! This was a not completely uncommon occurrence!

The disks themselves were quite striking in appearance, and the damage was often invisible to the naked eye. This made them highly prized as trophies, when no longer fit for original purpose. Every Christmas, engineers throughout the TV networks would compete for the "Christmas Tape" trophy, a sort of Eurovision Song contest for who could create the best out-take / humorous (and often obscene) tape! The trophy was a suitably engraved disk from a slo-mo machine!

Have a look here for more information on this rather unusual use of computer disk drives: http://www.vtoldboys.com/editingmuseum/hs100.htm

What was Boeing through their heads? Emails show staff wouldn't put their families on a 737 Max over safety fears

Peter Christy

Re: I guess

To be fair, I don't think anyone anticipated the failures that brought down the early Comets. The failure that destroyed the Challenger was not only anticipated, but flagged up and ignored.

Linux in 2020: 27.8 million lines of code in the kernel, 1.3 million in systemd

Peter Christy

Re: Oh, bullshit. Greg.

Couldn't have put it better myself! I'm not a programmer, but the occasions when I've had to do battle with systemd (and pulseaudio, come to that) have driven me to distraction!

All my personal machines run Slackware, which is systemd-free. Even someone like me, whose programming knowledge is over 30 years out-of-date, can understand it, and it rarely causes me any issues. However, I also maintain computers for my wife and sister-in-law - both technophobes - so for them I install Mageia which has the dreaded systemd. I do this because Magiea has a semi-automated update system, that flags up an icon when updates are available. Click on it, agree to the update, and it all happens automagically, without having to get me involved. Most of the time.

When it doesn't work, I find myself having to do battle with systemd. Frankly, anyone who can design a system where essential log files are only readable if the system is running (ie NOT plain text!) - well, boiling in oil is too good for them!

I note that within this thread, virtually no-one has a good word for this ghastly abomination. Even those who can see some justification for it also seem to conclude that it doesn't justify the issues that surround it. When I find that my opinion of this pile of steaming excrement is shared by many who are far more proficient with operating systems than I am (or will ever be!), it makes me feel slightly better about my own inadequacies!

I'm still not that Gary, says US email mixup bloke who hasn't even seen Dartford Crossing

Peter Christy

I can sympathise....

Back when I got my first ISP to join t'internet, I was running OS/2 (yes, really! Even then, I was spectacularly unimpressed by Micro$oft products.). As part of the Warp 3 promotion, IBM offered to be your ISP for a very reasonable amount, along with an ibm.net email address. Thinking this was pretty cool - and there only being a few users back then - I ended up with christyATibm.net as my email address (long defunct, so spammers, don't bother!)

For a year or two, all was well, but then I started getting regular, large newsletters from some Republican senator, telling me what a great job he was doing for his local community and state. This was all very well, but I've lived in England all my life, and while I have travelled the world a bit, I've never been to America! He was certainly wasting his time (and my bandwidth) trying to elicit my vote!

Repeated polite requests to have my name removed from the mailing list fell on deaf ears, until eventually I snapped. I sent a rather curt and very impolite email.

I was never bothered by him again, but I do wonder if my name is now on a blacklist somewhere, and what would happen if I ever DID try to visit the USA....!

Hyphens of mass destruction: When a clumsy finger meant the end for hundreds of jobs

Peter Christy

Not quite so spectacular, but it certainly produced unseen results: Back in the early 70s I was still at college (same place now calls itself a University!), and our "hands-on" computer was a PDP-8 - with a whole 4K RAM expansion - running FOCAL. FOCAL was in some ways similar to BASIC, which itself was almost unknown back then. FOCAL enabled up to four teletypes to share the processor, with each having access to 1K of memory. Programs were stored on punch-tape.

Programs were started by running the "GO" command, and as we were all struggling with the basic concepts, frequently resulted in the program either hanging or getting stuck in a loop.

One of our lecturers introduced us to the "GO?" command, which produced a step-by-step trace of the program as it ran, accompanied by much clattering from the teletype. Note the use of the phrase "THE teletype". This was because running "GO?" caused all the other teletypes to come to a grinding halt until the trace was complete!

The first few times we ran the trace command, this led to the other users cursing and swearing, slapping the teletypes, and inspecting their own programs to try and see what they had done wrong. It wasn't long before the more intelligent users realised that ONE teletype was not only still working, but doing so at a frantic pace! This led to a full and frank exchange of views between them and the offending user, and the use of "GO?" was restricted to times when there was only one user on the system!

Happy days.....!

Not LibreOffice too? Beloved open-source suite latest to fall victim to the curse of Catalina

Peter Christy

And its not just Catalina...

I'm not a Mac person, though I have the misfortune to own one - a late 2013 model with NVidia graphics. The monitor is superb, the rest of it offers middling performance for a top dollar price.

I use it mainly for video editing, which relies heavily on NVidia's CUDA package to prop up the under-powered CPU. Unfortunately, with the introduction of 10.14.X (whatever it was called), NVidia support seems to have pretty well vanished - at least as far as CUDA is concerned.

The tech forums were awash with complaints from customers who relied on CUDA for their livelihoods, but the only solution appears to be to stick with 10.13.X, and then jump through hoops to get CUDA working again. It isn't easy!

And people accuse Linux of being "user hostile".....!

A History of (Computer) Violence: Wait. Before you whack it again, try caressing the mouse

Peter Christy

Not specifically computer,

But many years ago, I worked as an engineer for a big broadcasting company. On one of the studio floors was a large monitor, with a bulls-eye marked on the side along with a note saying: "Flashing. Hit here."!

This was a very big and bulky monitor, and no-one wanted to carry it up to the maintenance department two floors up. Since thumping it at the marked point fixed it, it never got the TLC that perhaps it deserved!

Which reminds me of the difference between a Technician and an Engineer: A Technician knows where to thump it. An Engineer knows WHY you have to thump it just there!

Sod 3G, that can go, but don't rush to turn off 2G, UK still needs it – report

Peter Christy

Meanswhile, outside the metropolis...

... we're lucky to get *ANY* kind of a signal at all! I live in a big-ish seaside town, near one of our only remaining fishing ports, and at home, the ONLY signal I can receive is EE! So much for consumer choice!

If I stand on the top of a nearby hill, I can get 4G. Anywhere else, and not a G in sight!

Welcome to the 21st century!

Criminalise British drone fliers, snarl MPs amid crackdown demands

Peter Christy

Re: What's the difference

Most (but not all) model aircraft flyers already belong to one of the model flying associations, and as a result, carry third party insurance to the tune of £25Million (yes, that's right, £25 MILLION). This is necessary as many events are held on MOD property, and even the remotest chance accident could cause very expensive damage!

Very few people who casually buy recreational drones carry 3rd party insurance, or are even aware of it.

The model flying associations already hold a members register, and issue membership numbers, so for them, the proposed legislation is a massive duplication of effort. They also encourage members to take part in achievement schemes that go some way to assuring a degree of competence. These schemes also include questions on the legal requirements for model flying.

Again, few casual drone purchasers will have received any instruction in the legal or operational requirements for flying their drone.

The achievement scheme run by the British Model Flying Association (BMFA - the largest of the 4 UK associations) is far more demanding than that proposed by the DfT.

So whilst there may no legal (or much physical) distinction between model aircraft and drones, the pilots who operate model aircraft are generally far more aware of their legal obligations and responsibilities than casual drone operators.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson moves to shut Parliament

Peter Christy

Fire the lot of them!

Personally, I'd like to see a General Election called, with every current Member of Parliament, along with anyone else who has held a seat in the last ten years, barred from standing.

They've all proven to be totally incompetent, and only a clean sweep will sort things out!

*Spits out coffee* £4m for a database of drone fliers, UK.gov? Defra did game shooters for £300k

Peter Christy

The estimate of £16.50 to register is based on the assumption that some 170,000 pilots will sign up! The British Model Flying Association - the largest of the four main model flying associations - has around 36,000 members. There is a large amount of overlap between the various associations, so I doubt there are many more than 40,000 model aircraft pilots in the UK. Presumably the remaining 130,000 registrations are expected to come from commercial operators and drone pilots who prefer to go it alone. In any event, that figure of around 170,000 seems hopelessly optimistic!

But then this is coming from the department whose minister, one Chris Grayling, managed to cock-up the probation service and the railway timetables, not to mention the Brexit Ferry fiasco! The small change from the latter would have paid for the drone registration database several times over!

How he manages to keep his job is a mystery to all! Still, with a change of PM a matter of weeks away (and maybe a general election not long after), maybe he will be booted out before all this comes to fruition.

Well, we can dream, can't we?



I am just a mapper: Solar drones take to the skies above Blighty

Peter Christy


Didn't take off from anywhere near Gatwick, did it?

Army had 'naive' approach to Capita's £1.3bn recruiting IT contract, MPs told

Peter Christy

In days of yore, you walked into an Army recruitment office and they asked you your name. If you managed to score more than 50% on that, you were in! My grand-son has been trying to join the army for nearly a year, and getting absolutely nowhere!

In any normal business, heads would roll for this.....



Oregon can't stop people from calling themselves engineers, judge rules in Traffic-Light-Math-Gate

Peter Christy

Technician Vs Engineer

A Technician is someone who knows where to slap something to make it work.

An Engineer knows WHY you have to slap it there.

In a similar vein:

To a Pessimist, the glass is half empty.

To an Optimist, the glass is half full.

To an Engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.



London's Gatwick airport suspends all flights after 'multiple' reports of drones

Peter Christy

As a responsible model aircraft flyer, I'm seriously p***ed off by all the idiots flying drones without any idea of what they are doing. As many of us pointed out at the time new legislation was being proposed, new laws are pointless unless they can be enforced. The Civil Aviation Authority are responsible for draughting the rules, but enforcement is down to the already over-stretched police.

However, as others have pointed out, there are aspects of this story that simply don't add up. First there is the length of time of the sightings. This would indicate either very many drones, or very many re-charges close to the airport. Secondly, the weather last night was foul, with heavy rain, strong winds and even stronger gusts. I doubt if any "consumer" drone could operate in such conditions, and its highly unlikely that any "commercial" grade drones could either. Has someone nicked some military drones? How reliable are eye-witness accounts under such conditions? Perhaps most importantly, were these drones spotted on radar - either air or ground - which should surely have been able to detect them?

Lots of unanswered questions here. I shall be following this with interest!

College PRIMOS prankster wreaks havoc with sysadmin manuals

Peter Christy

My first "hands on" experience with computers was at college. It was a DEC PDP-8, running FOCAL, and had the capacity of sharing <gasp!> FOUR teletypes! We only had three connected - budget restraints, even then! But we did have the optional 4K RAM expansion - a box the same size as the PDP-8 itself, full of ferrite cores!

FOCAL had a debug command. To run a program normally, you just entered GO at the "prompt", but if you entered "GO?", it would go into full debug mode, printing out everything it was doing, while it did it!

This not only resulted in reams of paper spewing out of the teletype (there goes the ole rain forest!), but also reduced the other teletypes to a 1-character per minute crawl!

Unfortunately, the reams of paper were something of a giveaway as to the identity of the culprit, so it wasn't really a very practical joke! But it did encourage you to write bug-free code - or at least, not use the debug option to, er, debug it, for fear of swift and violent retribution!

Happy days!



Bloke fined £460 after his drone screwed up police chopper search for missing woman

Peter Christy

Whilst it may be arguable whether the pilot believed the flight could be made safely or not, what is not in dispute is that he flew it beyond Line-Of-Sight - a clear breach of the Air Navigation Order.

I fly RC models - which cannot maintain stable flight beyond LOS - and unfortunately I and my fellow RC pilots have been caught up in the drone legislation through no fault of our own. This leaves me very unsympathetic to idiots who fly these things in inappropriate areas.

I live in a semi-rural area, near the coast and with a steam railway running nearby. Twice in one week, I had idiots taking off from the pavement outside my house, flying at low level over the (busy-ish) road and my neighbours' houses to get photos of the train! One at least had the decency to look sheepish and disappear when challenged. The other claimed to be a licensed professional at first, but then scarpered pretty quickly when I quoted the relevant sections of the Air Navigation Order to him.

From my perspective, this guy got off lightly.



Uncle Sam gives itself the right to shoot down any drone, anywhere, any time, any how

Peter Christy

A bigger problem is that the term "drone" encompasses legally and safely operated model aircraft - not just autonomous or semi autonomous quad-copters.

I can foresee some very angry US citizens when a cop shoots down an expensive (in terms of both money and time building it) model, just because he's taken a dislike to it!

Here in the UK, the CAA (our equivalent of the FAA) has taken a more enlightened approach, and members of the major modelling associations have been exempted from the more draconian regulations, subject to some not unreasonable conditions.

The other problem here in the UK is enforcement! The clowns that have caused the present problems by operating "drones" in unsafe ways are not going to be deterred by any new regulations, and the CAA don't have the manpower to police them. According to the documentation, that is going to be left in the hands of our already over-stretched police!

In any case, the aforesaid clowns were already in breach of any number of regulations by operating "drones" in an unsafe manner.

If the existing laws could not be enforced, what is going to change with the new ones?



Attempt to clean up tech area has shocking effect on kit

Peter Christy

It happened to colour TVs, too....

Back in the late 60s, between leaving college and starting a "proper" job, I worked as a salesman / delivery driver for a local shop that supplied TVs, washing machines, Hi-Fis, etc. One of our customers had just bought one of these new-fangled colour TVs - a dual standard 405/625 model, if memory serves correctly. These early sets were very sensitive to stray magnetic fields - even the Earth's - and had to be carefully aligned by a service engineer in situ.

Our resident alignment expert went out with it on delivery, carefully de-gaussed the screen and carried out all the usual purity and convergence adjustments, leaving the customer with a crystal clear picture.

A week later, the customer called to complain his TV had gone screwy. The service engineer went out again, and sure enough, the purity and convergence had all gone to pot. He carefully re-aligned it all, and left the customer with a perfect picture again.

Exactly a week later, the same problem ensued! By now the customer was getting a little irate (these sets were very expensive!), and the service engineer very puzzled!

Since the problem always seemed to happen on a Thursday, the service engineer convinced the boss to let him go and sit in the room on Thursday - all day if necessary - to see what was going on.

He arrived at 9 o'clock sharp, and the TV was fine. It stayed that way until around 1130, when the cleaning lady arrived and proceeded to hoover the room containing the TV, pushing the hoover with its heavy and powerful electric motor under the TV! Needless to say, the picture immediately went bananas, and required a careful de-gauss and re-alignment to restore proper operation!

The cleaning lady was very apologetic, but in truth it wasn't her fault! No-one had anticipated the effect a powerful vacuum cleaner might have on a CRT!

Later TVs had much better screening and better built in de-gaussing systems, and of course, modern displays aren't affected by stray magnetic fields. But back then, it was all one big learning curve......!



Greybeard greebos do runner from care home to attend world's largest heavy metal fest Wacken

Peter Christy

There's nothing like growing old disgracefully! ;-)

Oldest swinger in town, Slackware, notches up a quarter of a century

Peter Christy

I've been using Slackware for more years than I can recall, and its always been absolutely stable and a joy to work with.

As Jake mentions above, although the last stable release was in 2016, continual updates have kept it reasonably up-to-date. However, I've always found the "bleeding edge" (-current) development version to be extremely stable too. Indeed its a lot more stable than the "release" versions of many of its rivals (Stand up whoever called out "Micro$oft!).

May Slackware continue for many years!



Universal Credit has never delivered bang for buck, but now there's no turning back – watchdog

Peter Christy

Perhaps its just me getting old, but looking at the front benches (and many of the back benches!) of ALL the political parties, I can't see a single member that I'd trust to run a corner sweet shop, let alone a government!

Party dogma must be followed at all cost, and to hell with the consequences!

Its all very well saying we voted for them, but look at the choices on offer! I'm sure many of us end up voting for the "least worst" candidate, simply because there isn't a "best".

People talk about the "ship of state". Fine. But to be captain of a ship, you need qualifications. What qualifications to run a country do this collection of failures have? And NO! I DON'T count being a barrister as a qualification to be an effective administrator.....!



2001 set the standard for the next 50 years of hard (and some soft) sci-fi

Peter Christy

One of the sad things about 2001 is that it is now impossible to see it as originally intended. Cinerama was the Imax of its day, tricking the viewer into seeing a two-dimensional image as in three dimensions. I originally saw it at the Cinerama in London, and that scene where the stewardess walks in, up the wall and out - upside down - had the whole cinema audience retching as one! It really did feel as if the whole cinema had suddenly inverted itself!

It just doesn't come across on TV - or indeed ordinary wide-screen cinema - the same.

Someone needs to get the original Cinerama prints and re-print them for Imax. The you would really know the meaning of "stomach-churning"!

Software gremlin robs Formula 1 world champ of season's first win

Peter Christy

Frankly, that the Australian GP was boring, even by current F1 standards! Whatever happened to *racing*? It all seems to be about strategy, software and knowing every tiny nuance of the rule book these days. When someone actually manages to overtake (and it doesn't happen very often!), it is the highlight of the event! (I hesitate to call what I watched on Sunday a "race").

For heaven's sake - do away with all the telemetry and computers. Give the driver the car and let him get on with it. Team radio should *ONLY* be used to warn of safety hazards, not coaching the driver.

I sincerely hope the rest of the season isn't as dreary as Australia proved to be.....

Poop to save planet as boffins devise bullsh*t way of extracting gas

Peter Christy

This article dates from 1971 - and Harold Bate had been running his car for some time then!


A few years back, when petrol prices were getting close to £1.50 a litre, I deliberately bought an old carburetor car with building one of these in mind! The price of fuel collapsed before I got round to it, but I still have (and use) the car - just in case!



Boffins trapped antiprotons for days, still can't say why they survived the Big Bang

Peter Christy

It is all about TIME.........

It is actually very simple. Cosmologists tell us that time and space are essentially part of the same thing - one can't exist without the other. Newton tells us that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. As far as we've been able to measure, all the mass in the known universe is traveling forward through time at the rate of, er, 1 second per second. That's a whole lot of temporal inertia. So where's the reaction?

If the Big Bang created equal amounts of matter and anti-matter, perhaps in kicking us "forward" in time, the "bang" pushed the anti-matter "backwards"!

This neatly explains our motion through time, where all the anti-matter went, and what happened before the Big Bang!

Of course "forward" and "backward" are relative, as Einstein pointed out. If we could see the anti-matter universe it would appear to be traveling backward in time to us. But from *their* perspective, we would be the ones traveling backwards in time.





Essex drone snapper dealt with by police for steamy train photos

Peter Christy

Re: A Part Time Drone Pilot's Perspective

Quite right! And there are lots of responsible drone pilots out there. But as usual, its a stupid minority getting all the publicity, and messing things up for others.

I fly "conventional" R/C models, both fixed wing and helicopter. I carry substantial 3rd party insurance, just in the unlikely case that one of my models does go astray. I fly responsibly and in remote locations. But like all other enthusiasts, I am now being threatened with legislation which will require me to register all my models (no doubt at great expense!) and to notify the authorities of all the sites where I intend to fly them, just because of a few idiot drone pilots.

The "powers that be" accept that ordinary r/c model enthusiasts are not the issue, but seem incapable of drafting a definition that distinguishes between "drones" and ordinary models.

The idiots flying these things in public places and around prominent landmarks deserve all they get, and it is refreshing to see at least one police force waking up to the problem.

Peter Christy

Re: Fair cop?

He was charged for a breach of the Air Navigation Order - basically the law that covers all man-made flying objects in the UK. Model aircraft operate under specific exemptions from the ANO, the main ones being not flying over people or property which are not under your control, within certain distances of buildings or other property, or above certain heights (depending on location).

Above all, the main rule is not allowing your aircraft to endanger people or property.

Far too many idiots are getting hold of drones - which unlike model aircraft, require little skill to operate - and using them in totally inappropriate locations. I've had one flying very low over my house - close enough to hear it over the TV - before it zoomed off to track the nearby steam railway.

Some of these drones are big and heavy, and could cause serious injury or major damage. A little bit of action by the powers that be is to be applauded in this instance.

I was, however, amused to note that NR had a "Head of Air Operations"!




Er, Ofcom, please tell us more about Murdoch's £11.7bn Sky bid

Peter Christy

Re: Laser Law

Previous to that, he took out UK citizenship in order to get control of The Times. I refuse to have Sky or any Murdoch papers in the house. If others did the same, he'd soon clear off - and good riddance!



Brits must now register virtually all new drones and undergo safety tests

Peter Christy

But what is a drone.....?

Part of the problem is that in all the documents coming out government, EASA, etc, no-one has actually defined exactly what constitutes a "drone"!

They all acknowledge that conventional model aircraft are not a problem, and put out proposals that will sweep up all the RC model enthusiasts, but be completely ignored by the criminals and idiots!

You couldn't make it up........!

Fresh cotton underpants fix series of mysterious mainframe crashes

Peter Christy


"In a far galaxy, a long time ago"... I was helping out a friend who manufactured radio control gear. The American designs he was using were well past their sell-by date, and I offered to design something a bit more up-to-date for him. My design entailed the use of new-fangled CMOS chips in the decoder, so I duly gave him the traditional warnings about static, etc, when assembling them. A week or two after my system had entered production, I went round to his factory, and found him sitting at his workbench soldering in the chips, wearing nothing but his cotton shorts!

Not a pretty sight, but at least he'd listened to what I told him!

Around the same time, I worked in the videotape department of a major broadcaster. The old quadruplex VTRs were monsters that cost around 3 times as much as a small semi-detached house. The video heads only lasted about 200 hours before requiring a re-work at £1000 a throw. The company had replaced the worn out "computer" floor tiles, and the new ones were causing enormous static build ups. You only had to walk across the booth to get an almighty belt when you touched the machine.

The solution was an aerosol can of anti-static spray, which you sprayed over the floor and your trouser legs to reduce the static build up. This worked a treat! Unfortunately, the anti--static spray was in orange cans, almost identical in appearance to the cleaning agent used to clean the video heads on the VTRs! The anti-static stuff had the unfortunate property of completely stripping the insulation off the delicate heads.

I'm not sure how many heads got destroyed before all the anti-static sprays were removed, but even if it were only a few, the expense must have been enormous.......



Fighter pilot shot down laptops with a flick of his copper-plated wrist

Peter Christy

Between leaving school and getting a proper job, I worked for a while as a salesman and van-driver for a local TV and radio retailer. Colour TV had just come out, and a wealthy customer bought a very expensive, top of the range set. For the first week, he was delighted. Then the set went really weird, and a service engineer had to be called. He carefully de-gaussed the tube (remember when we had to do that?) and spent a few happy hours re-doing all the purity and convergence from scratch!

A week later the same thing happened. And the following week! Eventually the service man went to the house early on the morning the fault was due to manifest itself. The set was fine. He watched it for a couple of hours, and was just about to leave when the housekeeper came in with an ancient Hoover. She pushed it under the TV, and the picture went all psychedelic again! The motor had such a powerful magnetic field, that it completely screwed up the tube, beyond the repair of the internal de-gaussing coils!

Another couple of hours re-aligning the set, followed by some friendly advice to the housekeeper, and the problem was solved.....!



Drones over London caused aviation chaos, pilots' reports reveal

Peter Christy

EU Rules

The "EU Rules" (actually EASA) being considered appear to have little to do with safety around airports. They are more concerned with clearing the airspace below 400ft so that the military / police / Amazon / etc can fill it with their own drones.

The model aircraft community appear to be collateral damage in all of this, as EASA seem unable to distinguish between an autonomous or semi-autonomous drone, and a model aircraft which can require as much skill to fly as a full-sized aircraft.

systemd-free Devuan Linux hits version 1.0.0

Peter Christy

But, of course, Slackware, one of the oldest and most stable distros out there, has never adopted systemd - nor does it show any inclination to.

Sysvinit may not be the most elegant system, but it works, and is easy to understand.

"If it ain't broke, don't "fix" it!!"

Manufacturers reject ‘no deal’ Brexit approach

Peter Christy

Re: It'll be fine

Yes, but the EU is very good at breaking its own rules! Under EU rules, Greece and Portugal - and possibly Italy and Spain - should never have been admitted to the Euro, as their economies did not meet the required criteria. They were allowed in anyway, because they were "trending in the right direction"! That worked well, didn't it?

My home town is close to a major fishing port. When we joined the EU at first, Britain was the only country enforcing EU fishing quotas, with fishery inspection vessels checking every trawler they came across in British waters - much to the detriment of local fishermen. How the Spanish and French fishermen screamed about the unfairness of it, when they got caught up in the net - because their governments were just ignoring the rules.

Don't get me wrong! I understand the importance of fishing quotas. What I cannot stomach is other countries just ignoring their obligations under the supposedly universal rules.....

Super-cool sysadmin fixes PCs with gravity, or his fists

Peter Christy

A technician is someone who knows where to slap a device to get it working.

An engineer is someone who knows why you have to slap it there.

A GOOD engineer is someone who knows precisely how hard to slap it!



Biz claims it's reverse-engineered encrypted drone commands

Peter Christy

I suspect that the "poor quality" of the "encryption" used in drones - or indeed any radio controlled aircraft - is more to do with the need to avoid latency at all costs rather than anything else.

You don't want the control system lagging half-a-second behind the pilot. That way lies disaster.....!

IT team sent dirt file to Police as they all bailed from abusive workplace

Peter Christy

Some years ago, I was working for a small company as a video editor - in fact the only video editor! It was a great company, and the bosses became personal friends, but this was at a time of financial crisis, when interest rates were going through the roof. It became clear that the financial assumptions made when the company was set up were no longer true, and the business was in trouble.

Sure enough, one day a load of suits turned up, and we were informed that we were now working for the administrators. I was duly summoned in to meet them to "discuss my future".

The order books for editing were full, at the time, so I was pretty busy, something that the accountant interviewing me was quick to point out. "We need you to stay on," he said, "but we're only going to pay you the legal minimum wage!"

I pointed out that I'd already taken a substantial pay drop from my time working with a major broadcaster, and that I certainly wasn't going to take any further cuts to my pay.

I also pointed out that if I walked, he'd have to employ a freelance to complete the work, and that it would cost him at least double what I was being paid.

He decided to call my bluff, and said "Well we're not prepared to pay you any more."

"Good-bye!" I said, as I headed for the door.

"What do you mean, good-bye?" he screamed!

"Just what I said! I'm off home now, and I won't be coming back!"

"But what about all this work we have lined up?"

"That's your problem now!", I said, and left!

It was the most satisfying expression I've ever seen on an accountants face!

I walked out of there on a Thursday, and the following Monday I was back working for a major broadcaster on a proper salary again.

Speaking to my former colleagues a while later, I discovered that the administrators had made a total cock-up of their handling of the sale of assets. They hadn't realised that the property was owned not by the company, but personally by one of the directors, which meant they had to pay compensation when a wall had to be demolished to remove equipment! They sold priceless equipment for peanuts, and tried to sell junk for well over its market value. Totally clueless!

But at the end of the day, it was one of the most satisfying exits I ever made!

Poor software design led to second £1m Army spy drone crash

Peter Christy

Re: So someone in Britain......

Well, we've bought two very expensive aircraft carriers, for which we have no aircraft! And the aircraft that we've ordered to (eventually) fly from them are not only exceedingly expensive, but according to reports, less capable than the aircraft they were supposed to replace!

I wouldn't be surprised if we never see the F-35s. Just like the F-111, the contract will end up being cancelled, but we'll still end up paying for them.

Who writes these contracts, and why have they still got jobs?

Power cut interrupts UK.gov cloud service supplier

Peter Christy

In complex systems, its often difficult to spot "single point of failures". Many years ago, I used to work for a major broadcaster. The videotape machines back then required compressed air for the bearings in the video heads. We had three compressors, and the whole area could run on any two. Half the area could run on one. I walked in one morning to find the whole area shutdown due to a compressed air failure! Why? Because the compressors were water-cooled, and workmen digging up the road outside had breached the water main!

I worked for a while at remote transmitters. One of the main transmitters covering the north of England had three 27-litre V6 marine diesels as standby generators. The oil and water was kept up to temperature by electric heaters, so that if the mains failed, we could start the generators almost instantly. Even so, we ran one up for an hour each week in rotation, so that we KNEW they would work when needed.

Boffins eschew silicon to build tiniest-ever transistor, just 1nm long

Peter Christy

Re: Shirley

Not only grease, but an excellent additive to engine and gearbox oil too! Back in the day when I used to race karts (2-stroke engines), our team used to use moly based oil, when our rivals all used castor based. We were the only team that regularly got through a whole season without having an engine seize at some point....

Still use it in my 45 year old classic car, which is running as well as it did when new.

I wonder if the chips made with it will last as well.......

Ordinary punters will get squat from smart meters, reckons report

Peter Christy

How much space do these things need?

The man came to try and install smart meters at our home some months ago. They have to do the electric first, because it apparently feeds info back via the mains. Our mains units are in their own little closet, about 8 ft high (I need steps to reach the breakers, should one trip), 2 ft wide and 18" deep. The breakers and existing meter occupy about the top two feet of the closet, the rest being empty space.

"Won't fit in there, mate!", says the installer, "we'll have to send a special team around!"

"Don't bother!", says I, "I don't want the d**n thing anyway!".

Not heard anything since, but just how big are these things???

High rear end winds cause F-35A ground engine fire

Peter Christy

Oops! Forgot that one! - But wasn't that given to us as a sop because of the political furore over the F-111?

BTW, the F-111 did finally become an almost respectable aircraft, bit it reached that goal far too late, and was pretty much obsolete by the time it entered service. The swing-wing mechanism also made it far too heavy - a trait it shares to some extent with the Tornado.

The problem with trying to make something that is both a fighter and a bomber is that it ends up as a jack-of-all-trades and master-of-none.

Far cheaper and easier to build the right tool for the job! Follow the good old Unix philosophy: "Do one job, and do it well"!

Peter Christy

Without wishing to appear disrespectful to our American cousins, have we in the UK learned nothing from experience? The only other occasion (post WW2) when we bought operational war-planes from the USA was when we bought F-111s. In case you are wondering why the RAF and Navy never actually got them, it is because the contract was cancelled before we took delivery. Why? Because the thing was way over budget, way behind schedule and didn't meet its performance targets! Does this sound familiar?

We ended up paying for them anyway - even though we never got them - because the idiots at the MOD had apparently signed the contracts without reading the small print!

At least on that occasion, we still had other aircraft of our own manufacture on which we could fall back.

This time, the idiots in charge scrapped our Harriers and their carriers before the replacement had even flown in prototype form! As a result, we will be without a useful carrier borne aircraft for over a decade, and reliant on the charity of the US - or France (!) - should we need one!

Even when we do get them, they will be far too few and far too expensive to risk in actual operations. And all being paid for with money that we really can't afford to spend.

It makes you want to weep!



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