* Posts by Steve McKinty

21 posts • joined 3 Apr 2007

UK payment service outage leaves users fuming

Steve McKinty


@21:28: "Several years ago, HP pushed out the concept of five nines and "the industry" embraced it. "

It predates HP by a long way, the telecomms business has been using the term for many years. It is just recently that manufacturers of general-pupose COTS computer equipment (HP, Sun, IBM, etc.) have reached levels of reliability (software and hardware) such that they can start to offer mainstream equipment for use in 5-nines systems.

The computer industry in general always thinks that it's on the bleeding edge, but when it comes to reliability engineering it has a long way to go to catch up with the phone carriers, as will become increasingly evident as more people change from conventional phone service to VoIP. There's a reason that VoIP is cheaper than POTS, and you get what you pay for...

Power outage knocks out major websites

Steve McKinty

Disaster Recovery != Business Continuity

@4:27: "one thing that is absolutely certain is that no matter what disaster recovery plans you have, they will not work when a real disaster occurs."

That's because too many people do their Business Continuity planning by starting with the Disaster Recovery, instead of the other way around. DR is only a part of BC, and unless you start by looking at the whole picture you'll never have adequate protection.

I have personal experience of an office shattered by a car bomb on a Friday afternoon. Everyone was back at a desk in a different building, with working phone and IT, by Monday afternoon. BC works, if you do it right.

Vodafone sinks to new low

Steve McKinty

Truth in advertising?

I read this story to my wife, who used to live near Newbury.

She wants to know if this is why the theme music for the current Vodafone TV ads is "Drip, drip, drip, little April showers" ?

German hurls computer from apartment block

Steve McKinty

Dilbert did it first...

I have an old Dilbert cartoon on my wall where such an incident is referred to by the investigating officer as '"code rage"...

Alltunes.com claims win in Russian copyright case

Steve McKinty

The future?

We already see boring bland "manufactured" groups coming out of things like the stock/aitken/waterman machine, and "groups" whose frontmen can't even play their own instruments have been around for a long time, so it can't be that long before even the music itself is automatically generated. Despite its variety, music composition still follows some basic rules, an entirely virtual computer-generated dance-band seems very possible (PhD topic, anyone?!).

At that point the music production costs will drop practically to zero. The tunes can be composed automatically, and downloaded for free directly from the same system hooked up to a website. All the money will then come from merchandising, selling T-shirts, ringtones, etc. which can't be so easily duplicated.

Are we going to end up with a model where "real" music only exists live?

Belkin unveils Wireless USB hub

Steve McKinty

Spec change too?

Going "sale late August, Belkin said, for $200" is a bit different from the "$130 in June" quoted in the previous article. Does the fact that this comes with an external adaptor mean that it is no longer just necessary to install some software that runs on the laptop in order to use this, but now you need a dongle on the laptop as well? Seems a bit pointless if so...

BBC Trust to hear open sourcers' iPlayer gripes

Steve McKinty

Public services

The BBC is a public service broadcaster, funded by a levy on the ownership of TV receiving equipment. It has a duty to ensure that its services are available to all members of the public it serves. It should, of course, be free to use any of the *public* standards for multimedia broadcasting, whichever it feels is technically superior. This is no different to its choice of PAL (versus SECAM or NTSC) for analogue TV transmissions, or AM/FM/DAB for analogue/digital radio.

It should *not* be allowed to choose a closed, proprietary digital system which works only on equipment from one commercial manufacturer. To do so is a violation of the fundamental principles of its charter.

Chinese unleash Caspian Sea Monster

Steve McKinty


Barrage balloons? Offshore wind farms?

PaddyPower pays out for Gore's Prius joyride

Steve McKinty

dust to dust costs

To Robert Grant "I'm a bloke, and so have had all my life to learn to recognise bollocks."

See http://cnwmr.com/nss-folder/automotiveenergy/

"CNW Marketing Research Inc. spent two years collecting data on the energy necessary to plan, build, sell, drive and dispose of a vehicle from initial concept to scrappage. This includes such minutia as plant to dealer fuel costs, employee driving distances, electricity usage per pound of material used in each vehicle and literally hundreds of other variables. " 458 pages, and a spreadsheet.

The Prius is way up there with the Premium SUVs and sports cars in terms of whole-life costs. Toyota are said to have "gone ballistic" on seeing this report, but were apparently unable to challenge it factually...

Hope you have plenty of learning life left :)

Bretons turn on Britons

Steve McKinty

Two sides to every story...

@11:04: " near the Lake District and you'll hear the same complaints - principally that "people with money" move in and drive up the prices"

Or to put it another way, "Locals who saw a chance for a big profit increased the asking prices of their houses to sucker the incomers".

There's nothing to stop a local houseowner selling his or her house at a reasonable price to a young local couple, instead of at an inflated price to an incomer. Of course they wouldn't get rich that way, so it's easier to take the money, then whinge until someone firebombs the new guy. Nice.

HMRC could seize late taxpayers' cash from bank accounts

Steve McKinty

Guilty until proven innocent?

British law used to have a presumption of innocence until guit was proven. Looks like the Revenue want to reverse that, they can punish you first, until you go to court to prove yourself innocent. And of course by then you may not have any money left to bring the case...

Whiteboards could damage kids and teachers' eyesight

Steve McKinty

Easier on the eyes?

Daren Nestor writes "Why aren't backgrounds dark and foregrounds (like text) light? It's much easier on the eyes!"

Having spent many years working on VT100s (yes, I'm that old) I can say that moving to a real workstation with paper-white background was an absolute joy. Far less eyestrain. The trick is not to turn the brightness up too high, and to have the background off-white, not pure white.

America wastes gazillions with always-on PCs

Steve McKinty

Energy efficiency

Anon wrote "The by-product heat generated by a running PC is a magnitude more expensive than that of a building's heating system."

I don't believe that. The electricty to run the PC comes from a power station which is almost certainly more efficient at getting energy out of its fuel than any office gas/oil heating unit. Some of that power may well come from a renewable sources as well.

I suppose that any extra *you* pay in terms of your electricty bill will depend on how electricity is charged compared to gas/oil, including taxes, but in global economic terms heating the building with a PC should be cheaper than burning gas/oil in a local system (perhaps unless it's a CHP device).

NASA schedules fourth spacewalk for Atlantis crew

Steve McKinty

under pressure

"hard vacuum" does seem to be El Reg's phrase of the day today. Unfortunately the NPL doesn't think much of it, at http://www.npl.co.uk/pressure/faqs/vacuum.html : "A hard vacuum is not well defined..."

That unreliable source of argument trivia, Wikipedia, says "In low earth orbit (about 300 km altitude) the atmospheric density is about 100 nPa" which the NPL prefers to call "ultra-high vacuum", although I suppose excusions into UHV just don't sound quite so much fun...

Twitchers in a flap over 'cock' gagging

Steve McKinty

Kids need to learn

It doesn't seem to occur to these prats that children need to learn that words can mean different things, and that by censoring *all* occurrences of a word like cock they are merely emphasising the vulgar meaning over all the rest.

What next, censoring "bottom" because one of its meanings makes young kids giggle?

DHS calls in sci-fi writers as consultants

Steve McKinty

Space elevators

"Still, Heinlein also predicted ... , "Beanstalk" orbital elevators etc etc."

Heinlein didn't predict the orbital elevator, it showed up earlier in Arthur C Clarke's "Fountains of Paradise" in 1979 and NASA list a first reference in a Russian story of 1895, see http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2000/ast07sep_1.htm

Virgin throttles national cable network

Steve McKinty

France isn't perfect (and at least Virgin's grammar is OK!)

In contradiction to comments by "daniel", those of us unlucky enough to have the unbundled service from Free in France did indeed have service limitations. Unlike Virgin, though, Free's reaction to an overloaded network was to block (totally!) all traffic that wasn't plain email or HTTP. That, of course, blocked all VPN traffic and prevented me and my colleagues from remote working for almost two months until pressure from customers and consumer organisations saw the position changed. Virgin's throttling seems to be a much more reasonable and viable alternative.

And at least they said "a lot fewer" (not "a lot less") traffic jams... :)

Researchers, spooks favour satnav-based road pricing

Steve McKinty

technology blindness?

The purpose of road-pricing, we're told, is to persuade people to travel less, or pay for the consequences. Therefore vehicles will be charged by the mile for their journeys. Large/heavy vehicles do more damage to roads and the environment, and should pay more. The resultant cash will be used by the government to maintain infrastructure and improve public transport (ok, so no-one really believes that bit).

Understandably the companies and organisations who sell and promote technology want to see high-tech solutions like GPS and satnav used (i.e. bought). Government ministeres want to be seen to be modern an in-touch with the latest hi-tech equipment.

Leaving aside all this self-serving and political cr*p, can anyone tell me why simply increasing the tax on fuel won't provide exactly the same end result, inherently weighted to favour small economical and 'cleaner' vehicles, at a much lower cost to everyone except the satnav suppliers? It also has the advantage that there's no way to cheat. No jamming, disconnecting of black boxes, faking registration numbers etc. You want to drive, buy the fuel.

Am I missing something here?

'Traffic Taliban' moots speed cameras in cats' eyes

Steve McKinty

short sighted?

We already know that roads with a lot of HGV traffic have their catseyes pounded out of existence fairly quickly just from regular traffic, and hi-tech ones are likely to be somewhat less robust.

Once the first few tickets start arriving, and word gets out about where these bionic eyeballs are, aren't we then likely to see motorists deliberately targeting them?

HGV's thundering along at 60MPH with their wheels right on the centre line. That's *really* going to do a lot for road safety...

Rookie plumber torches £5m mansion

Steve McKinty

Not the first time

Back in 1987 a similar thing happened at a shopping centre in Bangor, NI. A plumber working in a storeroom set his blowtorch down for a moment, and set fire to a crate of tea. By the time he got back with an extinguisher the whole storeroom was alight.

The manager of the supermarket there said it was one of the most frightening things he'd ever seen. Even as he was helping people to evacuate, the fire was spreading down the aisles at walking speed.

18 fire engines couldn't save £10m (at 1987 prices) worth of shopping centre. The plumbing company apparently only had £1m liability insurance (probably seemed enough at the time), and the centre was never rebuilt. The site was finally redevoped as a retail park many years later.

French claim fastest train title

Steve McKinty

574km/h !

Just watching this live on French TV. It's impressive to see the live images from a camera on the train roof aimed at the pantograph contact with the overhead wire at 550km/h! They're using a jet aircraft as a chase plane to relay the TV images.

Stunning to see it _cornering_ at 570km/h, and it has just peaked at 574.7km/h, before starting to decelerate.


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