* Posts by James Marten

47 publicly visible posts • joined 4 Dec 2007

RISC OS: 35-year-old original Arm operating system is alive and well

James Marten

> Dick Pountain's review describes the Master as a soaped up Beeb and it certainly wasn't that.

Well, it was really - enhanced processor but still 6502 family, more RAM using the sideways technology that had previously been available with third party addons, floppy disc interface as standard, bigger OS and extended BASIC. IIRC the price on release for the Master 128 was £500, compared to £400 for the BBC B.

Nice hardware, but it was only a stopgap.

James Marten

My grand plan for Acorn world domination

...was to keep the excellent bits of RiscOS that everybody liked - the GUI and desktop - and reimplement them on top of a Linux or BSD kernel and userland. Put all of their development effort into compatibility libraries, ARM emulation, runtime support, etc to make reuse or porting of applications as easy as possible. So getting SMP, networking, hardware drivers and all the rest for free, as well as being able to run on commodity hardware. Sadly nobody took up the challenge.

James Marten

Re: Some features i would like today

> The metadata on RiscOS was IIRC a 32bit ID. 16bit assigned to the software vendor and a 16but field for them to use internally. Rather like MAC addresses

Not exactly for file metadata - maybe you're thinking of SWI (system call) numbers, which were allocated by Acorn in blocks with a vendor prefix.

File metadata was the same as on the BBC, two 32 bit fields for load and execute addresses. Then in RiscOS they were repurposed to contain a 12-bit file type and the rest used for the file modification time (there was only one timestamp). The file type was again allocated centrally by Acorn. Applications which needed MIME or had to interpret file extensions from other systems needed to manage them themselves, there was no OS-level file type database.

Yes, there were a lot of numbers allocated by Acorn. No, that would never work today.

Microsoft tests ‘Suggested Actions’ in Windows 11. Insiders: Can we turn it off?

James Marten

Nothing new

Sounds very much like Klipper, the clipboard utility that KDE had in 2002. It can be configured to pop up a list of actions whenever a selection is made, which could be annoying - but it can be made less obtrusive by turning the automatic popup off and summoning it with a hotkey instead. And it will only give you the actions that you have configured - no "suggestions" from "selected partners", no network access at all.

LibreOffice 7.1 beta boasts impressive range of features let down by a lack of polish and poor mobile efforts

James Marten

UI coding isn't that bad

Well, I like doing it anyway. Because it's satisfying to see the results - a GUI which looks good, works consistently and is responsive. Obviously a good GUI toolkit helps (and, at the risk of starting a flamewar, I'm going to mention Qt).

The GIMP turns 25 and promises to carry on being the FOSS not-Photoshop

James Marten

Re: GIMP.. the poster child for terrible UI..

Well, there's nothing fundamentally wrong with the UI, in the sense that it eventually lets you do what you want to do. But there are so many little irritations, inconsistencies that should be eliminated by having project-wide UI standards, and errors that should have been caught by even the most basic QA. Such as:

In the Layer menu - Stack - RReverse Layer Order. Assuming that this is not intentional, even if the developer had not spotted the obvious typo then somebody else should have.

Why are there two options for printing? Using the first is a toss up as to whether CUPS takes note of the settings and prints the image as intended. And don't get me started on the inability of Gutenprint to even remember basic settings (such as paper size) and insisting on switching back to the meaningless PPI scaling every time something else in the dialogue is changed.

Every other action that leads to a dialogue has "..." following its menu entry. So why don't Preferences and similar options in the Edit menu have them?

Speaking of dialogues, try opening a random one. See whether the OK button is highlighted as the default - in many cases it isn't (e.g. Filters - Blur - Gaussian Blur). Even if it is highlighted, then see whether pressing Return actions the dialogue - again in many cases it doesn't (e.g. Image - Scale Image). Come on, this is basic UI consistency which, even if the programnmer forgets, should be handled by the UI toolkit.

To demonstrate something that the user should never see, try Filters - Combine - Filmstrip. Click on "Font" and see the error message: Plug-in "gimp-org-film" (/usr/lib64/gimp/2.0/plug-ins/gimp-org-film/gimp-org-film) attempted to install procedure "temp-procedure-number-4" with invalid parameter name "dialog status".

I could go on all day, but these are just a few annoyances that a ten minute exploration turned up. And surely, in 25 years of development, I can't be the first one to have spotted them.

Windows Server to require TPM2.0 and Secure boot by default in future release

James Marten

This year, Windows Server

Within five years, Windows 10.

Remember, you read it here first.

Ardour goes harder: v6.0 brings 'huge engineering changes' to open-source digital audio workstation

James Marten

Re: He's right

Trying to build a Qt 2 (last release in 2001) or even a Qt 3 (last release in 2004) project on any current system? I'd be surprised if even the Qt library would compile, let alone the project. Having said that, Qt 1 has indeed been ported and will build today.

But, assuming that you could get Qt built, MOC and the other tools were included by default so there should be no need to find them separately.

Microsoft sets the date for Fall Creators Update

James Marten

Most. Tedious. Upgrade. Ever.

Let's hope they can make the installation happen either faster, or at least not need so much disc space.

Tried upgrading an Asus netbook with only a 32G SSD, but otherwise adequate performance, with the previous Creators Update. Wait for Windows Update to download and then run the installer - sorry, needs 8Gb space on C: (there was about 4G available), with no way to use space on another drive.

Download the media creation tool and the appropriate update image, prepare a USB stick, plug this in and run the setup program. No, still needs 8Gb spare space, but at least with the option of using another drive. Plug in a second USB stick and tell it to use that. So the upgrade process starts.

Four days later... the progress has reached 9%. With the disc and USB drive lights flashing away, so obviously not hung.

Another day later... reboots back to the original installation, "Sorry, the upgrade failed".

Try again. Uninstall antivirus, Chrome, Office 365... now enough space. Run the USB upgrader again, which thankfully only takes overnight and succeeds. Then reinstall everything.

Now looking forward to having to do the same in a few months' time...

HP Inc wireless mouse can be spoofed

James Marten

Everything has to be wireless

Even headphones, even charging. Soon, even displays.

And this is the inevitable outcome of it - if it's not a security problem, then there are the occasions where the connection simply doesn't work, or drops out if you move into the wrong position, or is too slow to use. There are indeed situations where there is no alternative, but for a mouse (which by its very nature has to be used in close proximity to the computer) or a fixed network link, what exactly is the problem with a traditional piece of copper wire?

'At least I can walk away with my dignity' – Streetmap founder after Google lawsuit loss

James Marten

Re: I'm in two minds

There's no vindictiveness in the screenshot - just an example of someone not knowing even the basics of web searching (which applies not just to Google, but any other). Just sticking "streetmap" on the end of a search term is too generic a word to get to Streetmap - you can't blame Google for suggesting the correction, and what should Google do with that search coming from outside the UK?

Do the search the right way: either go to to or bookmark streetmap.co.uk and search from there, which will get results from Streetmap and only that. Or, if you really must use Google as a proxy searcher for another site, then search for "aspley guise site:streetmap.co.uk" and Streetmap's result will come up first.

Look back a few years in these forums for the "facebook login" thread for another example of the folly of this.

James Marten

I'm in two minds

It's not good that it is difficult for anyone else to compete against Google, even if they are not actively doing anything evil - and Google has done nothing in this case, it's just that Streetmap wasn't as good.

But Google is a company just like any other, albeit a big one with lots of products and services, and can't be blamed for promoting their own products. To anyone who says "but that isn't fair" - if you go to the M&S website and search for a pair of trousers, would you expect them to also show search results from Burtons and Top Man in the interest of fairness? And give them equal weighting in the results? Thought not.

Soon only Ticketmaster will rip you off: Concert scalper bots face US ban

James Marten

The artists could fix the problem

If they really wanted to, of course. Refuse to play at any venue that sells tickets exclusively through any company that also owns or controls a ticket reselling website, or allows its tickets to be sold secondhand - unless they can only be sold at face value. They may lose out on some lucrative shows in the short term, but so do the venues - and as soon as one complies, they will all have to...

Retiring IETF veteran warns: Stop adding so many damn protocols

James Marten

We're already there

Take a look at either /etc/services or /etc/protocols on a typical Unix system. How many of the ports/protocols listed there (a) have you ever heard of, or (b) will ever be seen on a typical LAN or over the Internet?

Phishing fraudsters pose as UK bank social media types

James Marten

InstaWhatsTwitFace != Support

Yes, you or I would never go to social media for banking help. But when the banks themseves (and everyone else besides, even the government and police) are pushing social media as a primary means of communication, then who can blame them?

Everything bad in the world can be traced to crap Wi-Fi

James Marten

Icon says it all

Wifi. The single most unreliable technology that has ever been successfully marketed to consumers.

Oracle kicks Amazon after Glacier download bill shock

James Marten
Black Helicopters

Sometimes physical storage is the best after all

The downside of "the cloud".

64Gb SD cards (big enough to take his entire CD collection) are about £20 today - granted that cards were smaller and prices higher in 2012, but it's still a one time purchase. Get 3 or 4 of those, which will allow for multiple offsite copies in different locations including a bank safe deposit box (probably the safest physical storage available). Keep one at home for retrievals (storage cost = zero, data volume = unlimited).

Pakistan URINE STORM: Google Maps chokes off user editing

James Marten

This isn't good

Just hoping that those silly people will not now turn their attention to OpenStreetMap.

Skype worm chats up victims - then holds PCs to ransom

James Marten

The one thing that makes scams like this work is...

@ Amazing Stace:

> Still your picture might be in the archive so you open it and it contains an executable... so you run the executable and... sorry WHO is falling for this?

The same people who have been falling for it ever since some demented Microsoft person thought that hiding file extensions by default in XP was a good idea. It took the malware world about 2 nanoseconds from then to start using double extensions to disguise executables... and it is still the default, and the trick is still working, today.

UK.gov squatting on £1bn IPv4 motherlode

James Marten

Already answered

I was curious about this some time ago (and also which the MoD owns). Responses at



GM snatchback of $10m Facebook ad cash = amateur move

James Marten
Paris Hilton

This is my personal campaign to make FB advertising pointless. For every ad that appears:

- Click on the X to hide it

- If the option is there, click "Hide all from <company>"

- If asked "What didn't you like about this ad?", click "Sexually explicit"

I reckon that, if enough people do this, all of the ads will eventually disappear...

After all, Paris doesn't need to advertise.

Carriers, prepare to bleed: EU pops a cap on data roaming

James Marten

Text prices

7p per text... that's a lot less than most PAYG plans' charge for sending a domestic text. Will they have to come down also?

GiffGaff goes titsup again in 'leccy cable gaffe

James Marten

My blood is boiling

Absolutely disgusted with the outage - how can anyone possibly expect to carry on living without a mobile phone service for A WHOLE EIGHT HOURS!!!!! If they don't promptly and gladly pay me and every other customer back the 10p compensation that we are due, I'm going to find another provider that has the same nationwide coverage, minutes, free 0800 calls and unlimited texts/data for only £10 per month.

Oh, hang on a minute - there's a problem with that...

Encyclopaedia Britannica - Ah, the memories

James Marten

Your idea is too late

> My plan? I’m going to print off parts of Wikipedia, put them in binders, and sell them at state fairs and school events.

Already being done on a grand scale - just search for "Betascript" (publisher) on Amazon. First hit is for a £66 reprint of a few Wikipedia articles, and there are thousands of such titles available.

A serious ripoff, but unfortunately not illegal and neither against Wikipedia's T&Cs.

Fragged, fragged and thrice fragged! 20 years of id Software’s Doom

James Marten

Still fragging

Totally agree with your enthusiasm for this classic game. The graphics and movement may be primitive compared with today's technology, but the gameplay is still as good as anything that has appeared since. I still play it regularly and have not tired of it yet - how many gamers will still be playing COD:MW3 twenty years from now?

By the way, there appears to be an Android version available too.

Microsoft pounces as Mozilla shuns enterprise

James Marten


Even if there really are 2m downloads per day from individual users (and I'm sure that does not equate to 2m new Firefox users per day), 500k users in a large enterprise is not to be sneezed at and surely ought to be a good marketing point for Mozilla. Sadly it seems that one of them, at least, don't want that.

I'd like to propose Marten's Law: "Any open source or community project, whatever its organizational structure, always has at least one person designated as official foot-shooter".

Congratulations to Asa Dotzler, you're it.

Oracle kills Sun.com after starvation diet

James Marten

@Duncan Macdonald

Probably Oracle's desire to totally eliminate any traces of the-company-formerly-known-as-Sun from everything that is under their control. This is what usually happens when a company gets taken over, the management would probably say "to build loyalty". The small outfit that I joined just before it was taken over by Sun had to quickly eliminate all traces of its former name, by order from the top. But their former domain name is now registered to myself - it's not valuable, but just good to keep for sentimental reasons.

UK biz prejudiced against public sector staff

James Marten

Even if one is just as bad as the other...

...the public should be entitled to expect a *far higher* standard of service from the public sector as from a private company. Why? - because in most cases the public sector enjoys the advantage of a legal compulsion to use their services, or to pay money for them even if you don't use them at all.

If you don't like the way that a particular bank or its management works, for example, there is no compulsion to have an account at that bank - or at any bank at all. Same for a supermarket, oil company or airline. But if you think that your local council or HMRC are worthless and inefficient, or its chief is paid too much, that's tough - there is no option but to continue to stump up your tax, under penalties up to and including prison. Backed up with infinite legal powers which will be used against you with no hestitation.

The public sector needs to realise who, and by what means, pays its wages.

James Marten

Just one example...

I don't need to do any more than point to the story adjacent to this one on your front page:

"Passport office loses applications"

European child abuse image law a step closer

James Marten
Big Brother


"...such blocks must use transparent procedures, inform users of the reason for the block and allow an appeals process"

Does that mean that the IWF block list will be visible (i.e. not secret as at present) then?

IANA address space running on empty

James Marten


Take a look at http://xkcd.com/195 - a few years old, admittedly. Even if the unallocated space shown there has now all gone, much of the top left quarter is taken up by big organisations who are probably behind NAT by now, using a handful of addresses within their space. That accounts for nearly a billion addresses.

This point has been brought up before, with someone pointing out that these were allocated in the early days of the Internet, with no formal agreement, and there is no legal means for the allocations to be taken away or revisited. But something has to be done - and if it's a choice between a bit of work for their IT departments, or every ISP customer worldwide (home and business) having to upgrade to an IPv6 router, then I know which option I'd like to see happen.

MP urges Parliament to reform FOI laws

James Marten

"Media companies"

Obviously intended to cover Murdoch and his empire, but by what justification? He may well be a powerful and immoral oligarch, but none of that has any "formal status" in law and, as far as I´m aware, receives no money from the taxpayer.

Even if there were grounds for including his media organisations under FOI, most of the information they handle would fall under the "journalism" exemption anyway. So what would be the point?

Nipper's naked arse provokes Street View outrage

James Marten

"they should be checking every image before it goes up"

Right... now, just how many millions of images have been taken for StreetView? And you think Google should human-check each one?

World of Google zombies mistake news story for Facebook

James Marten

Sorry, the problem *is* with the users

OK, so there are two text boxes in the browser, one that contains constantly changing gibberish and one into which you can type things and relevant links will appear. But that's still not an excuse for not knowing the difference between them, or when it is appropriate to use each one.

Non-IT analogy: the simplest sort of car to drive has two pedals, one to go faster and one to slow down. You wouldn't let somebody out on the road who didn't know the difference between these two pedals, or always used one and not the other because it was the one they were most familiar with and didn't know what the other one was for.

James Marten

ROFL... the best bit of all is

The "Facebook Admin" who wrote "Please post your username and password here in the comments, and we will activate the normal Facebook for you". And plenty did. Some even posted (parts of) credit card numbers.

(No, I haven't tried any of them to see if they really work)

(Back) into The Valley

James Marten

Obscure language alert

There wasn't anything running a decent enough BASIC at Uni when this came out. So me and a friend converted the whole thing to BCPL, running on a PDP-11 with a VT100 terminal. I still have the listing - it just needs scanning and OCRing before starting to search for something that will run BCPL today.

Orange UK exiles Firefox from call centres

James Marten


It's not just corporations that can't move on from IE6. My SO won't even consider moving on because of the IE7 user interface; unfortunately my efforts to point out that the browser is more than just the UI and IE6 has more security holes that the proverbial Swiss cheese are pointless. Paradoxically, Firefox's UI is more similar to IE6 than IE7, but she still won't consider FF because "I can't get used to it".

IE6 + Internet = computer suicide (even with antivirus, antispyware, antiadware, linkscanner, firewall and all the rest).

Fortunately my own computer doesn't have this problem, as the icon shows.

Brown to Sugar: 'You're hired'

James Marten

Er, hasn't Alan Sugar already been knighted

in 2000?

Plod hopes Bluetooth messages will stem drinking

James Marten


Or about as pointful as health warnings on cigarette packets, or "Please drive carefully" signs at the entrance to a village. Those sensible enough to heed the messages will drink reasonably, not smoke or drive carefully without having to be told, while the others will carry on regardless.

IWF pulls Wikipedia from child porn blacklist

James Marten
Thumb Up

@ "End of Part One..."

> The real question we should be asking is if Mary Whitehouse has a broadband connection

Since she (thankfully, IMHO) died in 2001, it's most likely that the answer is "no".

Swiss strap-on jetplane ace flies Channel

James Marten


> If I tried it, I would only get so far until I generated enough Poo ballast

> to make me too heavy to fly

Er, no you wouldn't... because your overall weight wouldn't change, no matter what comes out. The aerodynamics might, though.

James Marten
Thumb Up

Oh, who cares exactly how he took off or landed?

Not me... I want one.

Emirates airline website plummets offline in A380 excitement

James Marten

Direct Debit

"Quite how an organisation with the clout and financial backing of Emirates can't manage to set up a $10 direct debit we don't know."

Easy to understand for anyone who has ever worked for a "big" company. Their purchasing systems are typically so inflexible that any payment which a mere mortal would make by DD or credit card, by just a few clicks over the interweb, has to be authorised against a quote or proforma invoice, and then an order placed by the purchasing department. Ostensibly this is "company policy" in order to manage spending and save the company money - even when it results in paying more. Or when the paperwork doesn't come though in time, leading to embarrassing situations like this.

This is the 21st century... somebody please tell the accountants.

Malware not man blamed in child abuse download case

James Marten

A nightmare scenario...

...which I'm surprised hasn't been extensively used by the kiddy porn and malware industry yet. Release a trojan, virus or whatever that plants illegal images on victims' computers, or connects to a KP site, then phones home. Anonymously report the victims to law enforcement, then watch as they are hauled in.

The KPers win whatever happens. Investigators are tied up with huge numbers of reports, making it more likely that the real cases will slip through the net or fail for lack of resources. If a case gets to court and successfully uses the defence "malware planted the files on my computer", then that will make a precedent and anyone from then on will be able to claim that in their defence. The "evidence" in such cases is never made public, so the virus and anti-malware scanners will have no idea what to look for.

If I used a vulnerable system (i.e Windows), then I'd be very afraid.

Fake subpoenas harpoon 2,100 corporate fat cats

James Marten

@ Fish in a barrel

> but responding to an out-of-the-blue subpoena or legal doc,

> using a company workstation and company/personal details,

> without consulting the legal eagles?

Especially as any big organisation, especially US based, will have a policy saying something like "Do not acknowledge or respond to any legal communication that you receive, just forward it to the legal department"

Always follow the company policy... or if it has to be broken call the BOFH, he's the expert.

IT industry plugs into UK.gov green scheme

James Marten

15 per cent of domestic electricity consumption...

...sounds impressive, but it's not so much in reality. Domestic energy consumption is about 30% of total UK energy use (alongside transport = 34% and industry = 22%). Lighting, appliances and electronics together come to only 9% of that domestic usage, or 2.7% of UK total. So even if standby power and light bulbs get "significantly reduced", the effect on total energy consumption will be insignificant.

But Something Must Be Done, so why bother whether there is any point to it?

Canadian loses $20K in phony eBay sale

James Marten

@Henry Keultjes

I'm sure there are lots of horror stories to be told about Paypal, but I'm not sure that www.aboutpaypal.org is the place for any authoritative information. Every anonymous "story" there seems to be advertising for their own merchant account service, with seven links on their home page alone.

Read with a critical eye, if at all.