* Posts by John Riddoch

546 publicly visible posts • joined 12 Jan 2009


The iPhone 15 has a Goldilocks issue: Too big or too small. Maybe a case will make it just right

John Riddoch

Re: Recovering fanboy here.

If Apple hadn't made them an O2 exclusive when they came out in the UK, I'd probably have climbed aboard the iPhone hype train. (Un)fortunately, my experience of O2 was poor signal at my parents' house, but my work Vodafone was fine. As such, being tethered to O2 meant I didn't get one and wound up on the Android path. Which has probably saved me 100s of pounds over the years...

How TCP's congestion control saved the internet

John Riddoch


We were being told in 1997 by our lecturer that ATM was the way forward and Ethernet would die out. In those days, thin-net was still used in our computer labs and anything RJ-45 related would probably connect to a dumb hub rather than a switch. Ethernet survived by adapting into being switched by default (it had already started in those days and accelerated as costs came down) and avoiding the worst issues with congestion that it suffered on coax/hub deployments and getting faster, so the advantages of ATM weren't as clear as they had been.

Arm's lawyers want to check assembly expert's book for trademark missteps

John Riddoch

That misrepresents what happened. Arm didn't go after Markstedter directly, they went for the hosting company (see previous article). Said web hosting company folded under the legal letters and took down ALL her sites including ones not affected by the trademarks so she had to cede control of the ones Arm deemed to be violating their trademarks to get anything back at all.

The lack of any meaningful response from Arm is pretty appalling to be honest and very poor PR for them.

Sure, give the new kid and his MCSE power over the AS/400. What could possibly go wrong?

John Riddoch


a.k.a. Must Consult Someone Experienced, such was the high regard the qualification held. It was a pretty common qualification for someone fresh out of uni/college without any real world experience. Much as in Fred's case...

The world seems so loopy. But at least someone's written a memory-safe sudo in Rust

John Riddoch

Re: Perhaps /etc/sudoers more of a problem than perhaps C memory safety

Usually the issue arises with wildcards or command line options which do more than you expect as well as the better known shell escapes (like from vi). I know we had to put in a bunch of exceptions so that "/bin/cat /var/log/*" didn't blindly give access to any file on the system. However, it's possible to write safe sudoers rules, but you can't mitigate software bugs as easily.

Pokémon Go was a 'success disaster' and Niantic is still chasing another hit

John Riddoch

Re: The buzz has worn off

Pokemon Go had a ready market with all the people who had played games on Nintendo, played the card games, watched the Anime etc so it was an easy grab. Adding in some of the cooperative features like raids has helped foster communities of players together as well.

Wizards Unite should have managed the same with the Potter franchise but it flopped (my understanding is that the gameplay wasn't great) and has since been dropped.

We all scream for ice cream – so why are McDonald's machines always broken?

John Riddoch

The old Spectrum 48K manuals were amazing too, including all sorts of really cool information about the hardware and the Z80 assembly opcodes.


John Riddoch

No win game

"total possible points of 0". Gotta love the implications of that! :D

Soft-reboot in systemd 254 sounds a lot like Windows' Fast Startup

John Riddoch

I don't recall AIX installations ever giving you an option to not have those default filesystems, it just creates them regardless. I know we collapsed everything into /, /var and /home years ago on Solaris when I used to work with it. There didn't seem to be much need for the separation of usr & opt and it added overhead to systems management and meant we could run slices 5 & 6 for Live Upgrade targets. ZFS root then removed the option of a separate usr or opt filesystem and it was sometimes a pain to even get /var split off.

When I started working with Solaris in the late 90s, we were told / & /usr were separate to help system recovery as we should be able to recover a system from just the root filesystem. As /usr/bin & /usr/sbin migrated into symlinks from their equivalents in /, that became less of a fact of life, but "we've always done it that way" creates a whole legacy of its own. This was also back in the day I suspect some larger systems had to split them into different disks because of size limitations.

AMD Zenbleed chip bug leaks secrets fast and easy

John Riddoch

Re: Parsing the data

I'd assume the miscreants simply harvest as much data as they can and then sift through looking for obvious security items, maybe anything with "BEGIN OPENSSH PRIVATE KEY" or "password=Passw0rd" in an HTTP POST. Gather enough data over enough time, apply some sensible search terms and you've got a chance of getting something useful. It doesn't sound like you can direct it to gather specific data, but hoover up enough and you'll find something. I guess the difficulty in getting "good" data is why it's only rated as a "medium" risk.

Oracle's revised Java licensing terms 2-5x more expensive for most orgs

John Riddoch

Re: with 49,500 employees, all of whom are applicable

You could probably justify it in that those cleaners could be using some kind of HR system (holiday planner, timesheets, shift scheduling etc) which uses Java, but overall, the inclusion of all staff & contractors feels like gouging. Because it is.

Many companies will have a few Java apps used by a small portion of their workforce and licensing all employees doesn't make any sense. The licensing forces you to go all in or try to find a way out of it. I assume Oracle are hoping people will go "all in" at which point they may well decide to deploy Java in more places because they're already paying for it. That makes it harder to get out of using it longer term providing some convenient (for Oracle) lock in. The right thing to do is to run, not walk, away from Oracle Java as quickly as possible.

You're too dumb to use click-to-cancel, Big Biz says with straight face

John Riddoch

Re: ever mindful of the limits of netizens' mental capacity

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."

The last line is brilliant :)

Ofcom proposes Wi-Fi and cellphones share upper 6GHz band

John Riddoch


"Wi-Fi access points tend to be deployed indoors, whereas mobile base stations are located outdoors" because literally no-one uses mobile phone signals indoors or wifi access outdoors...

Alton Towers has onsite wifi round the site (with patchy support, to be honest) and that's mostly outdoors, I'm sure other places do the same, so I can't see the demarcation of indoors/outdoors working at all well.

Oracle pours fuel all over Red Hat source code drama

John Riddoch

Re: Opensolaris anyone?

I'd always found Solaris to be better to work with - it had >20 years of development making it an enterprise capable operating system, Linux had >20 years of people pulling it in different directions (desktop, server, embedded controller, etc). Live Upgrade was a great tool, allowing low risk patching/upgrades (we even upgraded Solaris 8 to 10 with it) with an easy backout, especially when integrated with ZFS. SMF sped up system boot times in the same way as systemd does, but it's also fallen victim to the same rabbit hole of integrating features it really shouldn't be, like moving resolv.conf into some complex svccfg commands.

That said, Solaris was dying before Oracle took it over. The flip flopping of support of x86 hardware meant no-one wanted to rely on a roadmap on cheap hardware and SPARC was expensive. OpenSolaris was an attempt to win back customers but it was too late to stop the exodus to Linux/x86. I still believe Sun should have aggressively pushed on x86 and worked with Intel/AMD to develop some of the SPARC features like hot-swap CPUs and hardware resilience, but they didn't want to lose the cash cow of SPARC servers.

Quirky QWERTY killed a password in Paris

John Riddoch

Back in an old job in the late 90s, I did a lot of my work on a Sun workstation. At the time, Sun keyboard were all in US layout, so I got used to that layout for most of my work. Somehow, I could still switch to my Windows machine (some stuff had to be done on Windows, especially the Novell Netware admin) and map back to where " and @ were without any issues.

38 percent of tech job interviews offered exclusively to men: report

John Riddoch

It's an issue which will take years to balance the representation. Industry is mostly male, so women don't even start it and the few who do are often driven out for various reasons. Net result? Probably 90%+ of candidates for IT/tech jobs are men. If you take random samples out of those interview candidates, you'll have a lot of men-only interview sets. I'm not convinced it's entirely an employee screening issue.

There's a lot of work trying to get women involved in STEM work which will hopefully start addressing the imbalance in gender representation.

False negative stretched routine software installation into four days of frustration

John Riddoch

It could easily be that the company's systems had a configuration option which changed the reported message at one stage and the installer's logfile parser couldn't hack it. Or possibly some combination of install options broke the logfile parser's logic. Either way, the software vendor's QA department didn't catch it during testing.

Amazon confirms it locked Microsoft engineer out of his Echo gear over false claim

John Riddoch

"go through many eyes" - most likely, it doesn't. An AI system (more likely an automated set of if/else statements) will determine the outcome of whether you broke the vaguely worded rules or not, then your appeal will be reviewed by the same system with the same result. Getting a real human to look at any kind of complaint is pretty difficult in the big tech companies because people are expensive and there's profits to be made.

First ever 64-bit version of Windows rediscovered … and a C compiler for it too

John Riddoch

Re: Windows ME

About that time, Sun sold Solaris 2.6. At the last minute, before the release of Solaris 2.7, the next release was rebranded to "Solaris 7"; at the time it was assumed this was so it would have a higher version number than Windows NT 5 as was due to come out soon, then MS rebranded to "Windows 2000" leapfrogging Sun's version numbers by a margin. This was back in the days the two companies had a fairly solid rivalry going on, so it didn't seem that implausible they were fighting over version numbers...

So, not only was Sun's rebranding not worth the effort, it cause a bunch of problems in early releases of Solaris 7 because not all the developers had got the memo in time and some parts still mentioned "2.7" and generated issues in odd ways.

Apple, Google propose anti-stalking spec for Bluetooth tracker tags

John Riddoch

I've heard of someone's stolen bike being abandoned after a short drive, presumably their phone alerted them with the "someone's air tag is following you" warning. In that regard, they're a great idea, it's a shame horrible people have abused them for some awful purpose. My worry is that if Apple, Google et al come out with a "safe" implementation which prevents the stalking, other less scrupulous companies will still sell the stalker's version. In any event, there will still be thousands (millions?) of the old versions which will presumably not be made immediately obsolete.

BOFH takes a visit to retro computing land

John Riddoch

Probably for some old games which don't play on newer Windows. I know Hogs of War is one which plain refuses to start on XP or newer; never managed to figure out a way to get it working, sadly. AWE32 and Voodoo3 were pretty much the gold standard in gaming specs back in the day, I think almost everyone used them.

Microsoft may stop bundling Teams with Office amid antitrust probe threat

John Riddoch

Re: Edge

Technically it's Bing which shows the "There's no need to download a new web browser" bit, although as that's the default search engine on Edge, most people will get it pushed into their faces.

Trust Edge. Edge is your friend.

Wrong time to weaken encryption, UK IT chartered institute tells government

John Riddoch

That's part of my argument. Let's assume we trust the Government of the UK to not abuse this (bear with me, I know it's a stretch...). So UK Govt, police, MI5 can read our messages but that's OK, because they're the "good guys". America sees this and enacts similar legislation, so they now have access to the back door. Hrm, Ok, but we're at least allies, so that's not too bad... Then China. Then Russia. Then a corrupt regime which is repressing its populace and arresting/killing dissidents. If you aim to allow the "good guys" access but not the "bad guys", you have to make moral judgements which companies are notoriously bad at.

Once you've hit that breadth of access, the backdoor isn't secure and the entire system is being snooped by, well, just about everyone.

As you say, anyone who is vaguely tech savvy will have a better, secure solution immune to these back doors.

Amazon CEO says AWS staff now spending ‘much of their time’ optimizing customers’ clouds

John Riddoch

Re: This surprised me


On-prem networking and internet uplinks.

Software licenses.

These are all on-prem costs and almost every company has them, so there's a baseline which can never go into the cloud unless everyone works from home and does BYOD.

There's also significant legacy on prem infrastructure which needs maintained, supported and occasionally upgraded; most large companies will still be running those for a few years, despite any cloud aspirations.

That said, I'd have thought the ratio would have been closer to 70 or 80% on prem.

LiquidStack CEO on why you shouldn't ignore immersion cooling

John Riddoch

Probably not, but 2 tons in a relatively small footprint will likely break many raised floors. You can't just wheel one of those cabinets into a standard data centre without extra planning and likely building works. Hence why these solutions work best on a "new build" DC where you can plan for the extra weight on your flooring.

IBM shrinks z16 and LinuxONE systems into standard rack configs

John Riddoch

Would like to see their comparisons...

Last time I saw a comparison between X86 servers and IBM tin (albeit I think it was for Power rather than z), it specifically excluded any form of virtualisation on the X86 side for some spurious reasoning. At that point, any comparison of 32 physical servers vs 1 virtualised host was going to be a win for the virtualised host.

Also, unless they've reduced their costs significantly, Linux IFLs don't come cheap. You could buy a 4 socket (not core) server for about the same cost as a single Linux IFL last time I saw a price sheet.

So yeah, be wary of marketing fluff from IBM comparing their kit to x86.

GitHub publishes RSA SSH host keys by mistake, issues update

John Riddoch

Re: Sex, Drugs, Money and ...

Because there's an XKCD for everything: https://xkcd.com/538/

Turing Award goes to Robert Metcalfe, co-inventor of the Ethernet

John Riddoch

At uni in 96/97, our lecturer was adamant that Ethernet was going to die off and be replaced by ATM networking. What I think changed was that Ethernet moved from the thin-net coax with all its myriad of problems with packet collisions, lost terminators etc and moved to a fully switched and duplex configuration, making it reliable and far less prone to collisions.

I also find it amusing that it was based on Aloha net which was wireless into a wired protocol and now it's come full circle into a wireless protocol again with Wifi.

Well done to Robert Metcalfe and all those who have had a part in developing and maintaining something we all rely on day to day!

UK.gov bans TikTok from its devices as a 'precaution' over spying fears

John Riddoch

Wrong decision

They should be banning any non-work apps from work phones, not singling out the latest alleged threat. Similarly, no non-work related accounts, so Google Drive (or Dropbox, OneDrive, whatever) doesn't accidently upload a secret briefing doc to someone's personal drive.

Fedora 38 will still support framebuffer X11 and NIS+

John Riddoch

Re: NIS+

In the 90s they were pushing everyone onto it, at least officially. In reality, no-one used it or recommended it because it wasn't unknown for it to break horrifically and irrecoverably so most folk stuck with NIS (with its extensive security issues - the product of a more civilised age when you could get away with that kind of thing).

I'm also surprised it's being kept, I can only assume someone is still using NIS+ somewhere they need to integrate into Fedora (or possibly Redhat, since removal from Fedora would lead to removal from RHEL eventually). That someone presumably has a loud enough voice to guide Fedora into retaining it.

PC tech turns doctor to diagnose PC's constant crashes as a case of arthritis

John Riddoch

Tablet case

Had a similar problem with a tablet constantly going off when the case was opened. Turned out the magnet sensor was a bit too sensitive and triggered when the case tab was on the back of the tablet. Wound up rotating the table 180 degrees in the case so the sensor was the other side and the problem stopped.

Titanic mass grave site to be pillaged for NFTs

John Riddoch

"The best way to put 'historical' legacy in the hands of the global public"

... and the best way to put as much of the foolish investors' money into their coffers as possible.

Just when you think NFTs can't get any worse, this comes along.

Tributes flow as Creative CEO Sim Wong Hoo - the mind behind Sound Blaster - passes aged 68

John Riddoch

Re: The Sound Blaster was also the first means to connect a CD drive.

Yeah, I remember spending nearly £100 for a sound card/CD-ROM bundle and hooking it all together. Those were also the days when each CD ROM had its own drivers (PC makers hadn't standardised that either) so there was a fair bit of working getting them all working nicely together. Was still worth it, though :)

LockBit: Sorry about the SickKids ransomware, not sorry about the rest

John Riddoch

Here in Edinburgh UK, the Childrens' hospital is basically just known as "Sick Kids", e.g. "had to take the youngest to sick kids on fathers' day because they broke their arm" (true story...). Officially it's known as "Royal Hospital for Children & Young People" but I've never heard anyone call it that.

British Airways flights grounded due to glitch in flight planning app

John Riddoch

Re: Strange time to do an upgrade

I've mainly worked in banking and yeah, December changes tended to be verboten for obvious reasons - no-one wants the headlines "Xmas shoppers with $BANK unable to make purchases". That said, provided someone could shout loud enough and make a good enough case, changes did occasionally get through although it generally needed an extra sign off from a relevant manager. Wouldn't surprise me if the same happens at BA, especially if someone's bonus depended on project completion by a certain date, or the project team was due to disband at the end of the year and no-one was willing to sign off the extension.

Server installer fails to spot STOP button – because he wasn't an archaeologist

John Riddoch

Re: "restore it to a bright red hue"

Ah, of course - "high-security facility" and the 1960s vintage screams something related to government/defence, so we're talking civil service in all likelihood.

Tech contractor who uses an umbrella company? UK tax is coming after them

John Riddoch

Not all VAT can be reclaimed by the company paying the fees; banks in particular can only claim a small portion as their income is VAT exempt (distinct from zero-rated). Banks in particular are generally hit with this as most of their products are rated exempt.

If a company isn't VAT registered, they can't claim back the VAT paid either.

In either case, not charging VAT is a loss to the treasury.

Killing trees with lasers isn’t cool, says Epson. So why are inkjets any better?

John Riddoch

HP Laserjet 1300 here - 18 years old, 3rd toner cartridge, still printing good quality prints now.

Conversely, my mum has to keep replacing inkjet printers because they keep stopping working.

Hard to see how the planned/enforced obsolescence of inkjets is more climate friendly than laser. I can only assume they make more money off inkjet than laser because of their shady business practices.

Block Fi seeks bankruptcy protection as 'shocking' FTX contagion spreads

John Riddoch

Re: Hard Currency

The only "value" they have is some perceived rarity caused by the amount of compute power required to generate them. I think there's also an enforced rarity in that some parts of the blockchain can only get created after a certain date? That value then has a real world value associated with it because that rarity is worth something.

It always felt like a con, although I do wish I'd gotten in on the scheme 10 years and cashed out last year... Hindsight is wonderful, isn't it?

Boss broke servers with a careless bit of keyboarding, leaving techies to sort it out late on a Sunday

John Riddoch

Re: Belt up

My old Dell laptop has a sensor for that too, it's about 10 years old.

Evernote's fall from grace is complete, with sale to Italian app maker

John Riddoch

Zawinki's Law...

“Every program attempts to expand until it can read mail. Those programs which cannot so expand are replaced by ones which can.”

Twitter, Musk, and a week of bad decisions

John Riddoch

Re: Close it Down and Get Out Quick

I'm wondering if you meant Rowan Atkinson the actor, or actually just Mister Bean...

Musk tells of risk of Twitter bankruptcy as tweeters trash brands

John Riddoch

I used to do 80 hour weeks on occasion, but that was with overtime/on-call allowances and I did pretty well financially off the back of it. Sounds like Musk is expecting his minions to do it without overtime payments. Sod that.

Between that kind of pronouncement and the command to come into the office, I'm assuming all the competent staff are polishing their CVs and applying for their exit strategy now. Give it a month or two (assuming it hasn't completely failed by then) and all Twitter will have left will be those who can't find work elsewhere.

I didn't really expect Musk to make quite such a mess of things or as quickly...

BOFH: Don't be nervous, Mr Consultant. Come right this way …

John Riddoch

Consultants from the Dogbert school: https://dilbert.com/strip/2002-02-15

Go ahead, be rude. You don't know it now, but it will cost you $350,000

John Riddoch

Re: You get what you order

Yup, it is often worth it - thing is, using "law of diminishing marginal returns", the loss of say £20 for insurance is way less than the potential cost of £1000 if you don't have the insurance. Depends if you can absorb the cost of an insured loss by simply keeping the cash. Normally, house insurance is worth it, because losing £200k+ is more than most people can absorb, but £200/year is manageable. Travel insurance is the same, it's enough to bankrupt you in many places (not just USA) and often included in your current account.

On the other hand, I ditched the pet insurance because once you have enough of the furry critturs for long enough, you're likely to end up spending more on the insurance than you'd save in vet bills. YMMV, one friend had £6k vet bills on a kitten which got run over which thankfully her insurance covered.

NFT vending machine appears in London

John Riddoch

"Yes, it really is that stupid"

Obligatory cartoon (not XKCD, unfortunately): https://www.toonhoundstudios.com/comic/20220131/?sid=372 "You sell an idiot nothing and give them bad art as a receipt"

Government by Gmail catches up with UK minister... who is reappointed anyway

John Riddoch

Pretty sure if I sent a document marked "confidential" to my home gmail account from work it would count as misconduct with an attendant likelihood of being sacked. 6 times? I'd definitely be out with a black mark on my name for a job. Why is this deemed tolerable for someone who is allegedly in charge of national security and policing? To wave it away with "I've had IT training so everything is fine" is crap, this should be basic confidentiality training for any incoming politician so I'd be surprised if she hadn't had the exact same training at various points in the past, she just chose to ignore it. If there isn't training given to politicians on IT security and document handling, someone needs a massive boot up the arse to get it sorted.

IBM India tells employees they can moonlight – but only for good causes, with permission

John Riddoch

To be honest, I think my last 3 employment contracts (UK based, FWIW) have had something in them to the effect of "work outside of $company has to be approved by your line manager" so it's not entirely unusual to have something like that. I've never been in a position to need to get permission for a 2nd job, so I don't know how much they'd push back on it.

That said, the heavy handed rhetoric from managers seems a bit over the top; I don't know if it's a cultural thing in India, demanding that sort of loyalty?

Data loss prevention emergency tactic: keep your finger on the power button for the foreseeable future

John Riddoch


Older kit would have been over-specced to ensure it ran OK. With experience and cost saving measures, the capacitors were trimmed down to the bare minimum to make them work, so I doubt a similar "click-clack" recovery would work on a modern system. I know I've done the double click to save powering off at the wrong time (only on my desktop, not a server) so know it was possible.

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!