* Posts by Ben

30 posts • joined 28 Mar 2007

Taking a first bite out of Wolfram Alpha


Speed of Swallow

It may not know the speed of a general unladen swallow (try "what's the speed of an unladen swallow") but it does at least give a reason why. Get more specific and click on the link for a European swallow, and it will give you the answer - even noting Monty Python as the question source.

For most people, Wolfram Alpha is going to be of limited use. Sure it can tell you the weather with pretty graphs and a few other stats, but really it's best for a set of technical questions that combine interpretation, calculation and display of data. Hopefully though it will keep improving as I find it better than Google for certain queries.

Inside Dell's containerized data centers


Re: Space in front of the racks ?

Have to agree, it will be a tight squeeze. Looking around, I believe a shipping container is 8' wide, so 96". Out of that comes 39" for the depth of the rack, and then 36" for the depth of a full-size server at the front. That leaves 21" at the back, which isn't a huge amount but I guess is just about enough to get into if you need to swap a cable or something. I sure wouldn't want to go right to the far end if I was claustophobic though.

Dabs.com courier goes titsup

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I've used Dabs for business many times, and their 1-3 day delivery service normally turns up the next day - even for orders made late in the day. This is to London though, so the delivery network around here is probably better than average. They even managed to get the right address, unlike some other firms I might mention who confuse us with the offices down the road.

Perhaps business accounts get better service than residential orders.

BBC fixes BT Home Hub auto-vomit bug



The BeBox may not be the most stable piece of hardware in the world (quite an understatement really), but we've never had a problem with iPlayer on it. That's with our, albeit small, office of people all watching the Olympics at the same time - no resets at all during the last couple of weeks.

Singapore forum 'scammer' faces caning and prison



The OED has...

"2g. Computing. A rotatable disc used to store data in digitally coded form, e.g. in a magnetic coating or optically. Cf. compact disc s.v. COMPACT ppl. a.1 II.1c, floppy disc s.v. FLOPPY a. 2, hard disc s.v. HARD a. 22c, optical disc s.v. OPTICAL a. 6.

See the note to the etymology for the spelling of disc in this sense."

...and in the etymology notes...

"The earlier and better spelling is disk, but disc is now the more usual form in British English, except in sense 2g, where disk is commoner as a result of US influence."

...so there.

Get 'em while they're hot: critical security fixes from Microsoft, Apple


IE bug, not Safari bug

"By default, Safari downloads files, without any user prompting, to the Windows desktop."

I don't believe anyone would classify that as a bug. It may not be the behaviour some users desire (in which case change it), but in itself it isn't a security risk.

"IE in some cases then executes those files."

WTF? Why would IE suddenly decide to execute a file downloaded by another piece of software. That *does* look like a bug MS need to fix - fast.

Virgin Media and BPI join forces to attack illegal filesharing


How many printers will receive these letters?

Coincidentally, a recent study shows how easy it is to frame someone for downloading copyright files using Bittorrent. In fact, they managed to have warning letters sent to their own networked printers, access points etc.

It would be interesting if someone did this in the Virgin network and got them sending letters to themselves :-) Anyone interested should read:


Microsoft slams OEMs over XP SP3 install cock-up


Even worse!

If this was an issue that was previously unknown about, then I could sympathise with MS.

However, by their own admission, they knew about this issue beforehand. So they released an update, with an issue that they already knew about, and then are surprised when it causes problems?


(Knowing that something like this would happen, I've held off updating anything until the issues are all resolved)

Freesat launches in UK



I'm confused now. We have had a service called Freesat from Sky at work for a while now - it was the simplest and cheapest way to get TV. This offering looks to be identical - same service, same one-off install cost, etc., even including the name - but it's not being offered through Sky. Is it the same thing - just now offered by companies other than Sky?

UK net registry battles coup d'etat


Nothing new here

A number of years ago, Nominet had exactly the same 'problem' of building up a surplus. It has already reduced the pricing of domain names to resolve this problem. If it reduced pricing much more, I suspect it would either start to make a loss or would be at risk of doing so were their running costs to change.

Nominet should always have some surplus for unexpected cost increases and so that it can invest back into the system. Their current policy of managing the surplus would seem to be sound - put it into projects that benefit the domain community as a whole. One third of the surplus has already been allocated for these purposes.

These three people just want to gain a windfall from Nominet - however, whilst they are 'members' through paying subscriptions, they are not shareholders and therefore should not entitled to any of the surplus.

IBM smacks rivals with 5.0GHz Power6 beast



I'm surprised nobody has mentioned Fluorinert - I once worked with some Cray machines that used the stuff. Conducts heat away better than air, and is electrically insulating so less of a problem if it leaks. I don't know of any modern machines that use it though? The trend seems to have been to use large quantities of standard processors rather than specialist chips, and so I imagine there is less need to use specialist cooling techniques.

Red Green Ken v Porsche in battle of the polls


A survey backing Ken?

If Ken does have a survey backing him, then it will pretty much be the first one he's ever commissioned that does. Normally he has a consultation for some plan, the majority reject the idea, but he goes ahead anyway. That's how we got the congestion charge in the first place, and the extension to the west.

I'm more inclined to believe Porsche to be honest. Certainly everyone I have asked (car driver or not) is against the £25 tax.

Virgin Media taps Microsoft in lengthy email outage

Gates Horns


Microsoft Exchange always seems to have given problems to Blueyonder, now Virgin, which is why I never use their email service. Personally I think Sky went down the right route by outsourcing it all to a company like Google - although the way the migration was handled obviously was pants.

Virgin should do a deal with Google / Hotmail / Yahoo or someone to run their email and concentrate on running the core network.

Web startups crumble under Amazon S3 outage


Details from Amazon

Details of what caused the outage were also posted to the blog:


QVC debuts Venturer HD DVD player


Only 1080i

According to the QVC website, it will only output at 1080i, not 1080p. I also wonder if there are any compatibility problems - remember the problems with ordinary DVD when that came out.

Amazon claims amazing Christmas


Re: They take the money OK...

I ordered a gift certificate by email earlier this year, but found out that the recipients email had changed. Contrary to your experience I found it easy to get it re-issued. All I did was fill out the contact form explaining the situation, and they cancelled the code and refunded the money immediately. I then just re-ordered it with the new details.

To be honest, the problem with the email not getting through is most likely going to be at the recipients end. Amazon have sent the order out and therefore debited your account. Of course their customer services should really respond within a day, so can appreciate the frustration. Personally I trust Amazon enough that I'd just order a new one to go to myself and deal with the old one later. It's just a code, so they can see if you have used it before issuing a refund, and you can then just send the code to your intended recipient.

Western Digital drive is DRM-crippled for your safety


Class Action?

I wonder how long before someone starts a class action against WD? The advertising clearly states that it can hold MP3, video, HD video etc. but makes no mention that you can't share those file types.

Guess I won't be buying any WD products in the future. Still, there is plenty of competition in this market already.

90mph police chief cops 42-day ban


@Dazed and Confused - Fines

> > Perhaps we should have a system like Finland

> > where the level of the fine is proportional to the

> > offender's income.

> This idea comes up every few years.

> Would you support the idea that the unemployed were given longer jail

> sentences, coz they've got got more time on their hands?

I support a system where the punishment relates to the individual. Pretending that a particular punishment (such as a standard fine) means the same to everyone is nonsense. For someone on a low income, a £1,000 fine would be a massive deterrent, but to a high income person it would be pocket change.

Unfortunately this government seems to believe in fines for everything - especially those traffic offences that have been decriminalised and put into the hands of councils. There is a benefit though - I can now drive down bus lanes and ignore a number of traffic rules, and all I have to do is settle the bill at the end of the month :-)


Effectively let off

This police chief will obviously have an car and driver for official duties, so this ban is going to make no difference to him at all. The fine is also negligible for someone on his salary.

Perhaps we should have a system like Finland where the level of the fine is proportional to the offender's income. This would give a fine of at least a few thousand pounds.

Inventor offers London Congestion Charge GPS gizmo

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Limited Lifespan

When IBM takes over running the system, they will have an option to be automatically charged when you enter the zone. So this system will only have a limited lifespan.

FAST cracks down on pirates near Penzance


"The Federation"

Sounds a lot like "The Empire"...I wonder if they have a cool army of stormtroopers.

Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard - Finder

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@James Bassett

Actually, I agree with James to an extent. I used Macs at school a lot, so I have always known that the menu bar changes according to the application in focus. This used to be fine when we had the early Macs (Mac, Mac Plus, SE, etc.) with their tiny screens. Back then you always ran an application full screen, and so the menu bar appeared next to the application.

Since LCD technology became cost effective, screen sizes seem to keep going up. We now buy screens with 1680x1050 resolution, but I expect the next set of screens we purchase to be 24" at 1920x1200. With so much screen space, there is no longer any need for people to always run their applications maximised. As a result the menu bar for the application no longer appears near the application itself.

I don't think anyone could deny this is counter-intuitive. It is only natural that different parts of the same application should be put together in the window. I believe Apple are regretting having this layout and would not be surprised if the transparent menu bar is the first step to it disappearing altogether :-)

Is storage becoming IT's Hummer?

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Two different technologies

Virtualisation and centralised storage can both help to reduce power in different ways.

With virtualisation, you can reduce your processor count by making one piece of hardware work harder. The processor will of course use a few more watts, but overall by eliminating one or more machines you reduce the energy use.

With a SAN/NAS, you avoid having to purchase many servers with more storage than is initially required, or with the possibility to upgrade in the future (and hence beefier power supplies). Instead you concentrate all your storage and can reduce your drive count overall. Avoid having lots of little RAID arrays, and instead have one or more larger SANs or NAS. It's also much easier to manage capacity since upgrading the storage on a server (real or virtual) can be done in software.

Who cares if storage arrays start using proportionally more power when the number of servers and overall power consumption is going down?

Of course the downside of both approaches is that if something breaks, a good proportion of your services disappear suddenly :-)

IBM grabs London congestion charge deal


At last...

I travel into London once or twice a week, so have to pay for single days rather than a week or month at a time. The current website is appalling. For a start it is always having problems - I had to spend all of Monday trying to pay online, and it's half-term so it shouldn't exactly be overloaded! In the end I gave in and phoned them up. Even when you do manage to use it, it has obviously been cobbled together from all sorts of bits and pieces.

I hope IBM will produce a much better website. Having it automatically debit your card is something I have long wanted. It would be very simple to add, but Crapita won't do it because otherwise they wouldn't be able to fine so many people who forget!

Unfortunately the congestion tax is just another example of a system where there is no onus on the provider to give good customer service. The public have no choice but to pay it so why bother making it easy?

TV makers go ape for 100Hz LCDs


Great...more delays

I can just imagine watching live sports on one of these. With the delay at the transmitter encoding the image, the delay decoding and now further delay whilst it analyses the picture, the match will be over just as you are seeing the kick-off.

Google, Yahoo! and Amazon sued over email patent


Vanilla SMTP?

Surely this covers plain vanilla SMTP? If I send a message to a remote mail server, that mail server interprets and routes the message deciding on whether the user exists, is on vacation or doesn't exist etc.

In fact there are probably email systems pre-dating SMTP that do this - so plenty of prior art.

Lawyer questions Tories' plan to reform Data Protection Act


Don't make things worse

I have to process data under the DPA and the act is fine as it is. It covers good data management, and is not burdensome at all - on the whole the DPA is a pretty good piece of legislation.

I doubt you will find many people who do not think that data should be processed securely, inaccurate data should be corrected and out-of-date data removed. It's all good data management practice - and I suspect if the act was repealed a lot of companies would still follow the same principles anyway.

Court rules 3G licences weren't VAT inclusive


All explained...



The operators wanted to claim VAT back to offset the lack of revenue from the licences. With normal 2G/2.5G phones offering nearly everything most people wanted, the uptake of 3G was never going to be enough for the operators to make a profit on the amount spent for the licences.

Since the court has decided that the licences didn't include VAT, the operators can't claim VAT back as they might on any other product or service that they buy. They won't have to pay any extra though, as no VAT was payable in the first place.

Goodbye ICSTIS, hello PhonePayPlus


Won't change the staff though...

Re-branding won't change the staff that actually run ICSTIS, who don't seem to know what they are doing. I complained once about a premium rate scam and a while later got an email back from them asking to call with more details. The email had been openly copied to a number of other people who had apparently also complained about the same scam! A minor breach of the data protection act perhaps, but it simply should not happen with such an agency.

Games firm pursues 500 pinball 'pirates' through UK courts


Email Addresses

"The partner, and another who spoke about the campaign, said they were also worried about being threatened or spammed, and were worried about the welfare of their female employees."

Shame that the email addresses for their entire staff are readily available on their website then:



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