* Posts by John Riddoch

497 posts • joined 12 Jan 2009


BOFH: It's Friday, it's time to RTFM

John Riddoch

Oh, dear...

I found that far too readable... Obviously been at this game far too long!

In a time before calculators, going the extra mile at work sometimes didn't add up

John Riddoch

Upvote for the nostalgia of the term "timesing" - haven't heard that used in many a year...

John Riddoch

From Mssrs Pratchett & Gaimain

Footnote from Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman:

"NOTE FOR YOUNG PEOPLE AND AMERICANS: One shilling = Five Pee. It helps to understand the antique finances of the Witchfinder Army if you know the original British monetary system:

Two farthings = One Ha'penny. Two ha'pennies = One Penny. Three pennies = A Thrupenny Bit. Two Thrupences = A Sixpence. Two Sixpences = One Shilling, or Bob. Two Bob = A Florin. One Florin and one Sixpence = Half a Crown. Four Half Crowns = Ten Bob Note. Two Ten Bob Notes = One Pound (or 240 pennies). One Pound and One Shilling = One Guinea.

The British resisted decimalized currency for a long time because they thought it was too complicated."

Battle of the retro Unix desktops: NsCDE versus CDE

John Riddoch

Re: RAM usage

We had CDE running on Sparcstation 4s & 5s back in the day - I think they only had 16MB or 32MB of RAM. Some of the SS5s only had a 500MB hard drive (that was fun shoe-horning Solaris onto...), let alone memory.

One part might also be a move to 64-bit which has a tendency to inflate binary sizes, but that should only be a doubling at most and probably much less.

This is the military – you can't just delete your history like you're 15

John Riddoch

Re: Nasty goings on

Late 90s/early noughties you could pretty much guarantee that ANY web search no matter how innocent would consist of about 50% porn links. It was fairly common to search for "search term -sex" to at least try and filter out some of it.

EV battery can reach full charge in 'less than 10 minutes'

John Riddoch

Re: Full charge in 10 minutes?

Pte Frazer time... "We're Dooooooomed!!!"

Tough news for Apple as EU makes USB-C common charging port for most electronic devices

John Riddoch

Re: Repair

I hope not. I've managed to extend the life of a few of the kids' phones by virtue of replacing the small part with the charging port. While USB-C is certainly harder wearing than micro USB in my experience, kids have a special knack of breaking stuff....

Dear Europe, here again are the reasons why scanning devices for unlawful files is not going to fly

John Riddoch

Re: It will happen . . .

That's fairly easy. "This is an EU initiative, but Brexit allows us to avoid this onerous red tape".

Keeping your head as an entire database goes pear-shaped

John Riddoch

Oh, that old chestnut - many, many people have had useless backups because of a missing "n" in the device file....

Seriously, you do not want to make that cable your earth

John Riddoch

Ah, earth problems...

Had a much less hair raising experience with that - bought a 2nd hand guitar and got a chunk off because it was buzzing loudly when plugged into the amp. Took it to bits and discovered they'd wired the jack socket wrongly when it was replaced... 5 minute solder job to switch round the wires and no more buzzing :)

Now onto fixing the other issues like the frets needing polished, rusty screws replaced and updating the pots (one doesn't work, so might as well switch out the cheap ones for better models). I'm beginning to think I didn't so much buy the guitar as rescue it from neglect...

When the expert speaker at an NFT tech panel goes rogue

John Riddoch

How NFTs work

I still think this is the most accurate explanation of NFTs:

"You sell an idiot nothing and give them bad art as their receipt"

At last, Atlassian sees an end to its outage ... in two weeks

John Riddoch

Re: Cheers to that guy who hit the ENTER key!

We eagerly await the "Who, Me?" Column....

Alphabet still can't kill off Google+ insecurity lawsuit

John Riddoch

Just like the Activision/Blizzard lawsuits....

not being sued because of doing anything wrong, being sued because they didn't tell the people with money (the investors) to warn them they might lose some money.

Co-inventor of Ethernet David Boggs dies aged 71

John Riddoch

Re: Ethernet turned out to become the network winner

Back in the 90s, our uni lecturer was convinced that Ethernet was doomed and ATM was where it was all going. What changed was the move from coax, with all its myriad problems and relatively dumb hubs to fully switched networks. These helped reduce/remove the collisions which plagued early Ethernet networks and allowed it to scale up and out.

What is ironic is that Ethernet followed ALOHAnet which was a wireless protocol, making it wired. We've now taken Ethernet back to wireless with our wifi links. Everything turns full circle...

UK internet pioneer Cliff Stanford has died

John Riddoch

Re: Sad news.

Aberdeen had Wintermute, I think I was with them before Demon. The Wayback machine shows my site on Demon from 97 to 2001 before I moved to ADSL, so I suspect I must been on Wintermute in 95 (when I left uni and lost the free access there) until moving to Demon in 97. IIRC, Wintermute folded or something, so that probably precipitated my move...

Apple seeks patent for 'innovation' resembling the ZX Spectrum, C64 and rPi 400

John Riddoch

Re: Single input/output port

Laptops have had docking stations for years which use one connection, so arguably (and profitably for lawyers...) claim 1 is invalid.

Speccies were fanless, I'm pretty sure. I don't recall fan noise from one and I had mine open periodically (I was that kind of kid....).

As for the heatsink, surely someone has used the enclosure as part of heat dissipation before?

IBM cannot kill this age-discrimination lawsuit linked to CEO

John Riddoch

Re: This has been going on long enough

Pretty much... "Sign here and get a guaranteed payout and go away. Or take it to trial, where our lawyers are better paid and you might get nothing and have to pay our legal fees. Your call...."

Not hard to see why they might just take the settlement and sign the NDA. There might come a time that someone is willing to take it to court on principal, but it'll take strong principles and dedication to go through it all.

IBM would, of course, argue that they're just minimising risk and seeking closure to the whole thing and just trying to save their ex-employee from a gruelling court case.

China details relocation plan for up to five million datacenter racks

John Riddoch

Surely a typo?

65% availability would mean it was unavailable 1 day out of 3, or over 2 days a week. If that's what is delivered, it's going to be a tough sell to get anyone to use the new data centres.

Beware the techie who takes things literally

John Riddoch

"it mysteriously disappeared from the disk and its backup did not work either." - so they had a backup, presumably on a second floppy; these are the days when code could fit on a single floppy after all. My guess is the first copy nuked itself, so they loaded the 2nd copy into the PC and ran it with the same result.

WeChat, AliExpress added to US Notorious Markets list

John Riddoch

Re: 78% of counterfeits from china


Various links from there show about 18-20% of imports come from China.

File suffixes: Who needs them? Well, this guy did

John Riddoch

file.txt.exe or file.pdf.exe being favoured filenames amongst those attempting to hack into computers, of course. If you're paying close enough attention, you might spot the duplicity, but it's easy to miss. Dumb UI choice, presumably in the name of "simplicity".

Ransomware crew dumps stolen Optionis files online

John Riddoch

Re: I bet it all comes down to services!

In house IT teams will generally put in a bit more effort to keep things ticking over; it's in their interest, after all, since it's job stability, performance bonuses and share options in many cases. Outsourced IT workers will generally do the minimum required to meet the SLA and service improvements won't happen unless it's billable (at an appropriate markup, obviously).

Cringe: Salesforce latest megacorp to jump on non-fungible tokens bandwagon

John Riddoch

Re: NFTs explained

I came here to say this... There's a lot of people making a lot of money out of this craze and a whole bunch of people who are likely to lose a lot on it.

Toshiba reveals 30TB disk drive to arrive by 2024

John Riddoch

RAID is fine, up to the point it takes so long to rebuild the replaced disk that another disk fails in the meantime. I think we got to the point that RAID 5 was no longer "good enough" because the chance of hitting a 2nd disk failure during a rebuild of the parity was pretty near 1 on large storage arrays some time ago...

Amazon stretches working life of its servers an extra year, for AWS and its own ops

John Riddoch

Re: "servers have a useful life of five years"

There are a bunch of reasons to replace servers:

Harder to get hold of replacements. No-one's making 5 year old CPUs as a rule (although I daresay AWS may have contracts with Intel/AMD etc to supply CPUs for a longer period) so maintaining a big enough fleet of server type A becomes too hard and you have to retire them and replace with server type B.

Technical debt - keeping your stack running on old kit means one more piece of tin to support so you have to retire it as new kit comes in and replaces it.

Marketing - if your cloud is using 5 year old CPUs and competitor is using 1 year old CPUs, which cloud are you going to use?

Power/cooling. New CPUs are often more efficient than older ones, so there are cases it's worth replacing old CPU models with newer CPUs. They probably don't have a much higher clock speed (if at all), but probably have higher core count so you can gain significant savings in footprint, power and cooling with newer CPUs.

As for impact on life of running in the cloud, I'd imagine they're mostly running hotter all day than on-premises kit; I don't know if that impacts their running life more than the warmup/cooldown cycles of on-premises.

America's EARN IT Act attacking Section 230 is back – and once again threatening the internet, critics say

John Riddoch

Re: Its an alternative to doing anything useful

I have said it often - some people in America would vote for a dead goldfish, provided it was standing under the correct party. Sometimes it's because they've always voted Republican/Democrat, sometimes it's just because the goldfish wouldn't be the "other person".

Google Cloud started running its servers for an extra year, still loses billions

John Riddoch

Re: Old kit

There's a cut-off point at which you're better replacing older servers because the hardware cost is made up pretty quickly in reduced footprint/power costs. If you're running 6 year old servers with 6 cores/socket, you can probably half your running costs with a newer 12 core CPU because you'll get twice as many cores in each rack.

For a standard company, you often have to reckon in the project costs of doing such a replacement and getting budget approvals etc, and that's before you potentially get into licensing issues with replacements. If you're used to simply swapping out boxes on a daily basis and your software stack is free/internal, it becomes a much cheaper option to replace old kit, so that breakpoint of saving money happens sooner.

When forgetting to set a password for root is the least of your woes

John Riddoch


While at university in the mid 90s, my mate and I were doing some work and needed to FTP a file to/from one of the servers, so we opened up the supplied FTP client (stored on a Novell fileshare IIRC), typed in the server name and found an auto-completed config set for that server. With the root account. And a password saved in the config. We looked at each other and hit "connect"... and promptly had an FTP session on the server as root.

After confirming we were definitely in as root (by downloading, deleting and re-uploading /etc/passwd - yes, a bad choice in retrospect, we could have FUBAR'd the machine), we decided we'd better tell the lecturer who looked after that box about the issue. The config in the FTP client was removed that day.

Linux distros haunted by Polkit-geist for 12+ years: Bug grants root access to any user

John Riddoch

Re: Eyes

Why do we care about this bug that allows a user to run unprivileged code? It couldn't possibly be used to do anything nasty...

The point is that once you have an unprivileged shell on a target machine, having a method to escalate to root is the next step. The best crackers don't rely on one vulnerability, they chain together multiple vulnerabilities to get where they want to be.

Former Oracle execs warn that Big Red's auditing process is also a 'sales enablement tool'

John Riddoch

Handful of reasons:

1. Legacy. 10 years ago, if you wanted a robust, vendor supported DB solution, Oracle was one of the few shows in town. This makes for a lot of systems deployed on Oracle

2. Inertia. Once you have 100s of DBs on Oracle, it's harder to introduce another one. Many companies will have a policy like "all databases to be Oracle" because they've standardised on it.

3. Features. Oracle does have some features that are rare in other products. Probably >95% of DB use cases will never use any of those features, but if you need feature X, you really need it.

4. Application vendor support. "We support our application with Oracle DB" means you pretty much have to deploy Oracle if you want it to work. For some of these applications, there may not be a replacement which supports PG/Maria and is "good enough".

I strongly suspect that 90% of Oracle databases could well be managed with PostgreSQL, MariaDB or whatever quite happily with negligible development work, but the legacy and inertia issues mean they're stuck on Oracle.

Saved by the Bill: What if... Microsoft had killed Windows 95?

John Riddoch

Oh, yeah, the 6 monthly reinstalls were painful, but better than the instability & slow downs you got after a few months. XP was the first version which I managed to leave for over a year between reinstalls I think.

As for shenanigans with autoexec - my first PC (DOS/Win 3.11) had to have the boot interrupted to run Doom, otherwise it didn't have enough memory (a measly 4MB). I have vague recollections of tweaking both files at different times, but generally just left them well alone as far as possible...

LG promises to make home appliance software upgradeable to take on new tasks

John Riddoch

No more obsolescence?

That would be nice. Most of the "Smart" features in my LG TV stopped working after about 5 years after Youtube et al changed the protocol version and LG didn't update the firmware.

Microsoft seems intent on buying the gaming industry with $68.7bn purchase of troubled Activision Blizzard

John Riddoch

I suspect Office on Mac is only to hold the monopoly on office suites. If they didn't do a Mac version, offices which use Macs would have found something else to use.

Lawmakers propose TLDR Act because no one reads Terms of Service agreements

John Riddoch

The biggest lie...

The biggest lie on the internet is the checkbox titled "I have read and understood the terms and conditions"

'Admin error': AWS in dead company data centre planning application snafu in Oxfordshire

John Riddoch

Re: Rather close together

Latency and the speed of light. Basically, AWS runs "Regions" (e.g. eu-west-2 is somewhere around London) in which are multiple "Availability Zones" (i.e. data centres). If your data centres are too far apart, you'll start hitting latency issues with certain services which replicate data within a region, so you need to keep them relatively close together to remain performant.

As you've rightly pointed out, this does entail keeping them in the same "blast radius" of certain events which is why you should be looking to have a DR solution in another region to cover for the rare cases of an entire region going out. That said, the more common event is a networking/maintenance SNAFU which takes out a region rather than natural disaster.

JavaScript dev deliberately screws up own popular npm packages to make a point of some sort

John Riddoch


Shocked no-one got here first with this one:


There are a LOT of open source libraries incorporated in software round the globe where people don't understand how poorly funded they are.

Worst of CES Awards: The least private, least secure, least repairable, and least sustainable

John Riddoch

Re: Authorised dealers only...

It hasn't got to that yet - turned out it wasn't a fuse issue anyway, so lost interest in tracking it down. Google searches weren't much help either, tbh, as there are so many different models of Passat. If I need to figure it out later, I'll dig a bit more.

John Riddoch

Authorised dealers only...

Not quite as bad as the Merc, but my VW Passat manual doesn't even tell me which fuse is which. Literally, if a fuse goes, I'm expected to take it to a garage so they can charge me to change a part that costs less than 10p.

Heart attack victim 'saved' by defibrillator delivery drone*

John Riddoch

Re: Doctors...

I've done some training on AEDs as part of First Aid at Work training and I was shocked (pun intended) at how simple they are to use. I've not seen one with videos, but the diagrams on the pads make it easy to know where to put them and the device will tell you what to do.

Also, as far as CPR goes, if someone isn't breathing, you CANNOT make them worse by attempting CPR. At worst, their corpse might have a few broken ribs (common rule of thumb is "if you don't break a rib, you're not doing it hard enough), but they'd be dead anyway. At best, you'll keep their organs oxygenated long enough for medical attention. Bad CPR is better than no CPR.

Hauliers report problems with post-Brexit customs system but HMRC insists it is 'online and working as planned'

John Riddoch

Re: Hmm

Brexit, Boris Johnson and the Tories have done so much for the cause of Scottish Independence over the last few years, that's for sure. The SNP should be thanking them for their help...

Microsoft rang in the new year with a cutesy tweet in C#. Just one problem: The code sucked

John Riddoch

Re: Coding, Sigh

Ah, I must have been thinking of return codes in Unix shell scripts... Like I said, it's been a while. The last real C programming I did was when I munged the XMMS Solaris plugin but that was about 20 years ago.

John Riddoch

Re: Coding, Sigh

One = mean assign, two means comparison. As to why that was done way back when, I don't know for sure. It does mean that both of these are valid in C although they behave differently (in most cases):

if ( x = y ) // assigns value of y to x, checks if that is true or false (true=0, false anything else IIRC - it's been a while)

if ( x == y ) // compares x to y, doesn't change value of either

The fact that the top option works and will compile must have been the source of millions of bugs in C programs over the years. I will note that, for my sins, I have used the method of assigning a variable in an "if" statement intentionally (in Java, FWIW, although the methods are the same) and the code worked as expected.

Ooh, an update. Let's install it. What could possibly go wro-

John Riddoch

Re: Windows NT 4 SP2

Oooh, even numbered service packs... I was in a Windows training course in the late 90s and the instructor pretty much said that even numbered service packs were of low quality. SP1 fixed the problems in initial release, SP2 was broken, SP3 fixed those problems before SP4 would break again. IIRC the same applied to Windows 2000.

Bloke breaking his back on 'commute' from bed to desk deemed a workplace accident

John Riddoch

Re: Falling out of bed

Normally, if two insurance policies cover an incident, both pay out a portion of the payout. I guess if one policy says "no payout if another policy covers the incident", it wouldn't apply and the other insurance pays out. What happens if both say the same thing would be interesting as you could argue neither apply...

Google advises Android users to be careful of Microsoft Teams if they want to call 911

John Riddoch

Re: Good old Microsoft!

It's probably down to how you can register other apps for core services - like FB messenger keeps nagging and trying to take control of SMS messages ("Unified interface for all your messages", totally unrelated to slurping up as much data as we can for advertising...). It's potentially really useful to have an alternative app for making phone calls (possibly with accessibility features for some users), but that application must NEVER interfere with making emergency calls. It should also be crystal clear that it's taking on that role so the user understands what's going on.

Best guess is that the issue is Teams app trying to register as a way to make/receive calls (since you can make calls with Teams) and screwing it up.

When civilisation ends, a Xenix box will be running a long-forgotten job somewhere

John Riddoch

Re: Talking of things long forgotten, chugging away in a corner...

Seems to be a theme of Netware boxes running happily in odd places without any issues: https://www.theregister.com/2001/04/12/missing_novell_server_discovered_after/

Activision shareholders demand Kotick's head after CEO 'failed' to take claims of staff sex assault seriously

John Riddoch

Re: What is wrong with this picture?

Yup, the SEC were also investigating "whether the games giant disclosed the sexual and employment misconduct claims to investors in time before the scandals were exposed publicly" (https://www.theregister.com/2021/09/21/activision_blizzard_sec_subpoenaed/).

Amazon tells folks it will stop accepting UK Visa credit cards via weird empty email

John Riddoch

Re: My email wasn't blank...

Use of Amex is still flaky; a lot of stores don't accept mine so I have to use another card. Annoying (particularly as mine gives me cashback on purchases), but I just shrug and pull out another card.

Visa/Mastercard pretty much have a duopoly on card transactions, so it would be interesting to see if Mastercard start ramping up their fees too where shops would go after that.

BOFH: You drive me crazy... and I can't help myself

John Riddoch
Thumb Up


"reciprocating saw with some sort of organic staining"

"Does this carpet pull up?"

Classic BOFH :)

Reg reader returns Samsung TV after finding giant ads splattered everywhere

John Riddoch

Re: Can you opt out of the data collection on smart TVs?

Yeah, our LG smart TV effectively became a dumb TV a few years back when the the apps (Youtube etc) didn't get updated to work with new protocols. The Sky Q box does all the "smart" functionality now and rendered the Fire TV stick and Chromecast somewhat redundant.



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