* Posts by mittfh

403 posts • joined 7 Feb 2008


Facebook to surround all of Africa in optical fibre and tinfoil


Re: Nigerian Princes

They now seem to have diversified into the "spellcasting" business (Ooh ee ooh ah ah ting tang walla walla bang bang, anyone?), reachable via Gmail or WhatsApp (look out for the +234 international dialing code) and chiefly marketing themselves via "testimonials" in comments on random news articles on Facebook...

Huawei launches UK charm offensive: We've provided 2G, 3G and 4G for 20 years, and you're worried about 5G?


An interesting concern with Huawei (which they themselves admit to) is sloppy coding and an abysmal approach to security. I half wonder if at least part of the reason the UK initially liked them was that sloppy coding would make it very easy for GCHQ to snoop on communications passing over Huawei's kit, while the US would be disappointed they didn't have exclusive access to snoop...


Re: Enough of these rational arguments!

"Pro EFTA" - except we ruled out returning to the EFTA (which we were members of from 1960 to 1972) last year, so only have the options of a FTA (probably minimal, chances are decreasing) or WTO (chances are increasing).

Chinese carmaker behind Volvo and Lotus ships first two satellites for planned IoT ‘OmniCloud’

Big Brother

Only two?

A certain American businessman already has several dozen whizzing around the earth...

... but then I suppose the PRC must develop a rival so they can ensure devices distributed in their country can only connect to their satellites (which, of course, will have a free backdoor to the CCP, who'll no doubt relish the prospect of introducing even more Orwellian surveillance of their population)...

Iowa has already won the worst IT rollout award of 2020: Rap for crap caucus app chaps in vote zap flap


This reminds me...

... of Tom Scott's excellent Computerphile video "Why electronic voting is a bad idea."

Sure,a caucus isn't a traditional vote, and the app was designed to work very differently from conventional voting software (it sounds like a variation-on-a-theme of a database form), but the same basic issues (especially transparency) remain.

Of course, the US is the one country where almost all conventional voting is carried out using closed source electronic voting machines rather than the antiquated but far more secure pencil and paper with single sealed black box per polling station (pencil to mitigate against the possibility of pens being filled with disappearing ink)...

Trivial backdoor found in firmware for Chinese-built net-connected video recorders

Big Brother

Never mind China...

GCHQ once snooped on a Belgian telecoms company, and since they're often asking the government for permission to snoop on UK nationals, they'd no doubt welcome gaping security holes in 5G equipment (especially zero day holes)...

Artful prankster creates Google Maps traffic jams by walking a cartful of old phones around Berlin

Big Brother

Re: Works for Waze too

Guess who's owned Waze since mid 2013?

Vulture discovers talons are rubbish for building Lego's International Space Station


"Roller-coaster for getting back to earth quicker"

If only the ISS was in a geosynchronous orbit...

Although even then, assuming you could build several hundred miles of track and bolt them together, you've still got hundreds of other physics / engineering challenges to overcome (including protecting the track from space debris).

Cool idea for a Sci-fi flick though...


"Abandoned creativity"

A strategy which is rather ironic when you consider the message of a certain film endorsed by the brand...

Boris celebrates taking back control of Brexit Britain's immigration – with unlimited immigration program


Major Review

"promising to tackle “unnecessary paperwork, arduous funding applications and research selection processes” by consulting with “world-leading scientists, researchers, academics and industry figures on what more can be done.”

Given this is government we're speaking about, they'll then promptly ignore the results of the consultation and add even more paperwork...

In the red corner, Big Red, and in the blue corner... the rest of the tech industry


Re: Very different times...

So if Oracle win, will Amazon's lawyers be knocking on their door?

It's update time – yes, again – for Insiders as the Windows 10 Slow Ring meanders towards release


Re: Just playing around

Then adjusting the number of rows the mouse wheel scrolls by - that's been a standard feature of proprietary drivers for decades!

Of course, until they were persuaded to bump up the internal version number to match the public version number, early builds of Win 10 were 6.4 under the hood, so an evolution of Vista (6.0), Seven (6.1), Eight (6.3) and Eight Point One (6.3)...


Back in the days of NT4, it was often quipped that at least half the point of each Service Pack was fixing the bugs introduced by the previous Service Pack...

US hands UK 'dossier' on Huawei: Really! Still using their kit? That's just... one... step... beyond


Underlying processors

Probably not even those - ARM (now owned by Japan's Softbank) just design CPU cores, and license the designs to manufacturers who build them into their own chip designs.

Is it a make-up mirror? Is it a tiny frisbee? No, it's the bonkers Cyrcle Phone, with its TWO headphone jacks


No release date...

... so presumably it will arrive when they get a round tuit...

Bad news: KeyWe Smart Lock is easily bypassed and can't be fixed


Re: Lots of bog-standard locks are easy to bypass.

Not to mention safes with electronic locks, but also equipped with the cheapest manual cylinder lock bypass the manufacturers could get their hands on (so it takes longer to remove the keyway cover than it does to pick the lock!)

That's Microsoft price: Now you can enjoy a BSOD from the comfort of your driving seat



I haven't seen many BSODs on my travels, but I have seen various boxes which fell over at the BIOS screen, failing to find either a disc or a network. Typically, the error will be displayed for several consecutive days running, which is probably indicative of the branch staff having to call out for an external engineer site visit.

UK ads watchdog slaps Amazon for UX dark arts after folk bought Prime subs they didn't want


Re: Paypal are the ones that p!ss me off at the moment

When I first signed up to PayPal, it was owned by eBay so accounts were one and the same. However, I've noticed recently on the payment page, they've started advertising PayPal Credit (effectively a virtual credit card) - so I wouldn't be in the last bit surprised if, over the coming years, that starts to become more prominent than the registered bank card and registered bank account options...

'YOUTUBE is EVIL': Somebody had a tape running, Google...


Re: The new man

Warner Music Group once blocked anything on YouTube containing its music (or music published by its publishing arm Warner/Chappell Music) in a dispute over copyright / royalty payments, and even threatened to not license its work to any free streaming site or to any video game as they were getting peanuts.

However, because no credible alternative streaming site exists (at least partially because in order to get up and running they'd need to implement something akin to Content ID to avoid annoying major record labels), they eventually brokered a deal with YouTube.

It wouldn't surprise me if this new Google Music thingy is designed to keep the major record labels sweet and negotiated on their terms and conditions, which favour them and disfavour independent / unsigned artists.

SCRAP the TELLY TAX? Ancient BBC Time Lords mull Beeb's future


An alternative approach...

Turn the BBC into a non-profit. It would therefore be freed of the requirement to bow to the Establishment (i.e. whichever party is in power at the time) for fear of being dealt a rough hand in the next Charter Renewal (so for example on the news front could move towards more balance with an aim of impartiality); while it would also be freed from the commercial pressure to produce "safe" programming that would attract oodles of people to watch adverts. By being non-profit, it would be responsible only to its viewers, and if the revenue department was a completely separate division from the programming department with minimal links between the two, it could produce programming for everyone, rather than the top donors. Alongside the change, severely cut back on management roles and replace the crust with fresh meat.

I think part of the problem with the current output of the BBC is that it tries to be everything to everyone, so understandably fails because different demographics have different preferences. Having said that, perhaps they could donate the formats for many BBC3 shows to Channel 4 and Channel 5, and have quality programming aimed at teenagers / young adults instead.

Heck, quality programming and high viewings aren't necessarily mutually exclusive, and needn't be lavish dramas that soak up bucketloads of cash. Even with game and quiz shows, there must be a middle ground between the mindless tat seen across many channels (including the BBC) and those perceived as 'highbrow' e.g. University Challenge, Mastermind. Perhaps take a leaf out of the concepts of Countdown and Millionaire - a challenge that sounds simple, but is deceptively complex. The more highbrow shows also don't need large pots of prize money to motivate the contestants - the experience alone, with possibly something relatively low value such as a mug, dictionary or small trophy as the ultimate prize.

GIMP flees SourceForge over dodgy ads and installer



...one day, someone could design a browser with a more sneaky form of ad blocking. Since most people are on fairly high bandwidth connections nowadays, how about a browser that doesn't display the ads, but invisibly loads the scripts in a sandbox, follows the link to the target site, then closes that connection: the result being for a small performance hit and a bit of extra bandwidth, you don't see the ads, but the ad provider still thinks you've seen and clicked on them so the host site still gets paid...

Of course, that doesn't solve the problem of bundled software (I wonder what proportion of Windows machines running Java also have the Ask toolbar installed?) and it does nothing to persuade ad networks to vet the ad images used. Ideally, the download sites would be aware of the fake download buttons and users' annoyance with them, so would be more careful about the positioning of ads (i.e. making sure they're nowhere near genuine download buttons).

BOFH: Don't be afraid - we won't hurt your delicate, flimsy inkjet printer


The joys of inkjets

I used to be a school IT technician. The main experiences I remember are:

a) a South-facing IT room, where the venetian blinds were (predictably) broken. Come in after a hot weekend to find the cartridges had spilled their contents all over the base of the printer and the table they were sitting on.

b) A3 business inkjets (used for D&T projects). Supposedly capable of 2ppm A3, in reality they were closer to 0.75ppm, so inevitably students sent multiple copies of their work to the printer. Eventually I persuaded the HoD to buy some printer management software, so [i] the printers could be fed off a single queue, and [ii] I could delete duplicates.

c) A3 business injects again. As the cartridges were quite expensive, the department decided to buy in clone cartridges. Half of which couldn't be used because the cartridges were chipped, so if the printer thought it hadn't got HP originals, it would refuse to use them. Admittedly we could return them for replacement, but it was a pain! The queue manager came in useful again here, so I could tell it to only point at a single printer if the other one had run out of ink (and there were no usable replacements in stock).

Oh, and mum had an inkjet she rarely used - almost inevitably when she did she'd have to buy a new cartridge as the old one had dried out, and no amount of priming could unblock the nozzles.


Re: Dot Matrix Printers

I think one of the best uses for dot matrix printers (apart from a really bulky paperweight or a "Let's see how much carnage is created if I drop this from the top of a high rise" test) is to feed them a specially prepared file which takes advantage of their stepper motors and pin pushers to create something resembling music (of course, you can dispense with the ink - they usually don't care if there's any ink in the ribbon or not). Unlike scanners or floppy drives, it may be possible to get them to be relatively tuneful via software alone, rather than a MIDI interface...

SimCity to teach SimMaths and SimScience at school


Re: The important question is...

Sometime this year. But frankly, if you're a fan of SimCity 4, don't bother. No terrain editing (other than automatic levelling when plopping a building). No local saving (everything's saved in the cloud). No offline mode (many of the economic aspects are calculated in the cloud). Although not allowing mods on release is fairly standard, the fact that so much is done in the cloud probably means no mods will be allowed full stop (unless they're purely eye candy, replacing an existing structure).

SimCity 4 Deluxe is, however, very much alive, courtesy of the user communities, with plenty of additional content, mods and even unofficial expansion packs available (and being continuously developed). There's even a total conversion project under way: SimMars.


Re: Wonder if...

Easy: Just use SimCity 4 Deluxe. Despite being nearly a decade old, the user communities are still very much active and user generated content is still being created. There are at least two unofficial expansion packs (NAM - Network Add-on Mod - is the most popular, while if you design big cities, you may like CAM - Colossus Add-on Mod - which adds a whole bunch more growth stages). It's not unheard of to have multi gigabyte plugin folders, so if you chuck enough UGC at it, it will crawl even on modern PCs (oh, and don't forget to save regularly - the more UGC you have, the more likely it is you'll encounter a CTD - crash to desktop - typically after spending three or four hours developing a city while forgetting to save en-route...)

Apple's poisonous Touch silently kills the GNOMEs of Linux Forest


As for me...

I jumped to Xfce when rumours of Mandriva migrating to GNOME 3 came out and stuck with it when migrating to Mageia. However, while I really love the Xfce panel (particularly the Deskbar mode - a practical use for the extra horizontal pixels offered by the wide screens of today) I found Thunar and Xfdesktop a pain in the butt - give me Nautilus any day!

I've now migrated to Arch (Mageia 2 had too many issues / niggles for my liking), currently with MATE but I'll probably install Xfce as well, and try to get some form of hybrid working.

N00bs vs Windows 8: We lock six people in a room with new OS


I imagine...

Win 8 will quickly gain traction in the casual user market, particularly among those using a touch screen device. It sounds as though your sample quickly got used to its quirks on a mouse-driven computer, but I'd imagine that over time they'd notice more hangups (especially as someone earlier in this thread noted, if they'd been using a 'real' installation and told to shut down the computer - hiding the relevant option is likely to lead to people using the hardware shutdown - i.e. pressing the physical power button...)

Given the 'traditional' desktop is relegated to an application rather than the default shell (which is apparently now called either "Windows 8 UI" or "Modern UI"), it seems as though Microsoft want to wean people off using it over time and increase the prominence of the new UI (which of course can only run applications pre-selected by Microsoft). The new UI version of IE is presumably intended to try and recoup some market share, even though they haven't improved it in line with rival browsers and it apparently won't support plug-ins or extensions (I wonder how well it will cope with HTML 5?).

So while they may gain some traction against iOS and Android, they seem to have ignored that both those OS' have different "big brothers" with different UIs for running on desktop machines: OS X in the case of the fruity company, Linux (in one of several dozen different flavours) in the case of more open environments.

I can't imagine many companies rushing out to buy Win 8 for their desktop machines - besides which, any company worth its salt would be waiting for SP1 anyway. So it's unlikely to be as big a disaster as ME, but may possibly be another Vista.

Oh, and incidentally, apparently the internal version number is Windows 6.2, indicating that there's still a lot of Vista (6.0) and Win 7 (6.1) code left....

'Leaked' doc shock: BT denies inflating prices for rural broadband rollout


Ho hum...

So a private sector company in receipt of public funds regards the Treasury as a blank cheque book and will do whatever it thinks it can get away with to scam the Treasury into giving them as much money as possible.

Isn't that business as usual for almost any private sector contractor? Just look at the fees charged by the late Building Schools for the Future scheme and numerous Public Private Partnerships / Private Finance Initiative schemes...

iPhone 5 sleuth work points to $199 component costs


UK costs

It's worth bearing in mind that the costs in the US are subsidised by the carriers (mobile phone networks) - the price for an unlocked phone is apparently $649 (£400). However, the mobile phone networks soon recoup the costs - for the locked phone there's a choice of three carriers for a two year fixed contract - one's minimum price is $59 pcm (~£36.38), the other two offer a minimum price of $89 pcm (£54.72). Ouch.

Who's afraid of Windows 8? Trio leads Microsoft migration pack


Re: It's the same for every Windows version.

Windows 4.0 (aka Win 95) - OKish, but had some serious limitations, partially addressed by service packs.

Windows 4.1 (aka Win 98) - much better.

Windows 4.9 (aka Win ME) - the less said about that, the better.

Windows NT 5.0 (aka 2000) - installed in several businesses, not really targeted at users.

Windows NT 5.1 (aka XP) - almost universally liked (although the "Fischer Price" Luna UI had criticism).

Windows NT 6.0 (aka Vista) - had some serious limitations, partially addressed by service packs.

Windows NT 6.1 (aka 7) - much better.

Anyone spot a pattern there? The first release of a new UI (usually denoted by a X.0 version number) is widely panned (it wouldn't surprise me if insufficient user testing and marketing department deadlines are at least partially to blame).

So what of 8? Internally, that's Windows NT 6.2. So what happened the last time three releases shared the same major version number? Those were 4.0 (95), 4.1 (98) and 4.9 (ME) - the latter of the trio widely panned.

So, what of the future? Will Windows NT 7.0 (Win 9) escape the curse, or will it do a 2000 and have modest success? Lay your bets now...


I expect...

...that many companies will do the usual and wait until SP1 before thinking of migrating. Especially in the case of Win 8, it will allow them to analyse the impact on the conventional desktop environment and whether users are put off by things such as the start button being converted into a start corner, and the ever-expanding Start Menu now occupying the entire screen in whatever Metro mode's now called.

But in-house applications dependent on old IE code are likely to be a huge stumbling block - not just internal applications but external ones as well. My workplace runs a (third party) case management system designed for IE 7, that will run on 8 and 9 in "Compatibility mode" - needless to say, it won't run in FF or Chrome. The developers probably don't have the resources to completely re-write the entire system to make it compatible with newer versions / cross-browser, especially as a large part of their time is spent working on implementing features to support new government requirements and getting around limitations of the database back-end.

Everything Everywhere swept away by its own 4G hype tsunami


"ee by gum"?

How about just calling it "eek!" ? :)



IIRC, what's being rolled out is LTE, which could be considered first release 4G, or even 3.9G, since while the LTE spec allows peak download rates up to 299.6 Mbit/s and upload rates up to 75.4 Mbit/s depending on the user equipment category, the full 4G spec actually requires 100 Mb/s from high mobility communication (e.g. trains and cars) and 1 Gb/s from low mobility communications (e.g. pedestrians and stationary).

However, before going overboard with 4G, let's not forget that many areas of the UK struggle to get any 3G reception, EDGE (2.75G) is still patchy, and some areas struggle to get basic GPRS (2.5G).

For those that do get the super-duper connection speeds, will the operators increase the usage cap or will they keep it restricted to current rates? Even if they increase the usage cap, will they allow full speed access or will they implement a whole range of bandwidth throttling and prioritisation so they can get away with a reduced bandwidth backbone between cells.?

'Nutjob' serves half-baked Raspberry PI scam

Thumb Up

Re: He's taking his time...

Simple - it's The Daily Steve, with a circulation of precisely one.

Copyright bot boots NASA rover vid off YouTube


Another thing that doesn't help...

Short of DMCA takedowns, when their content ID identifies content that the bots claim is owned by an anonymous collecting house, without giving any idea whatsoever of what that particular content may happen to be.

Ideally, the database would have a description field next to each content ID field, so that when something you upload is flagged, it tells you the details of the track it's found (perhaps your playing of a public domain song is too close to a copyrighted arrangement, or perhaps a copyrighted song borrows heavily from the melody of a public domain song, or perhaps it's the keyboard's auto-accompaniment...)

The silly lifetime of copyright doesn't help - nor does having companies putting their full legal weight behind songs that should in reality be in the public domain - although the melody was first published in 1893 and the birthday lyrics in 1924, the song was copyrighted by a publisher in 1935. In Europe, the copyright expires in 2016 (as Patty Hill died in 1946 - so life + 70 years), however in the US the copyright expires in 2030 (erm, copyright date + 95 years?)


Re: #include <stdio.h>

In that case, I'll impose a patent claim on the consonants...

...I'll be generous though and allow someone else to claim for digits and special characters...

We can then all have lots of fun paying each other millions of [insert currency unit here] for allowing us to use stuff covered by each others' patents.

Black helicopters circle Street View car crash


Anyone noticed...

...that according to Flickr's extract of the EXIF data, the photos were actually taken in July 2011 (unless they set up the wrong date / time on their camera). Pit's photostream is rather sparse - four other non-crash photos, neither of which feature the TBS guy...

Firefox 14 encrypts Google search, but admen can still strip-search you


Hang on a tick...

Yes, it's all very well sharing tips on how to prevent your web searches being able to be tracked by the search engine provider and their advertisers...

...but all those web servers and databases don't run on fresh air. Companies can either follow the Microsoft approach (selling bloatware to you at inflated prices) or the Google approach (provide advertising space).

While ads could theoretically be context-free, the click through rate would be very low (possibly even insignificant), making companies wonder why they were going to the bother of paying to advertise. However, if the search engine looks at what you're searching for, and finds adverts with keywords attached that match what you've searched for, the click through rate will be much higher, companies will be satisfied they're getting more visits / purchases as a result of their advertising, and will consider paying for more advertising with the search engine.

Google has an advantage over other search engines (other than its sheer market size!) in that as it also owns its own advertising network, all the juicy data you give it remains completely in house. They don't sell your data to third parties because they have no need to. It would, however, be interesting to know how much of your search history is passed to the advertiser - just the search which resulted in you clicking on their ad, or everything (probably unrelated) you searched for beforehand? Also bear in mind that although they can track your machine, unless you're stupid enough to be browsing on a mobile phone with location information turned on, particularly if you're using a dynamic IP address, your Geo IP information could be anywhere within a couple of hundred miles of yourself. As others have said, given most browsers have ad blocking extensions, any information the companies do collect on you will go to waste (other than saying someone that matches your profile isn't interested in them) because they'll have a zero click through rate from you!

Microsoft sets October date for Windows 8 release



If your favourite distro supports it, try Xfce. You can still install and use Gedit and Nautilus if you want to (although it'll look better if you choose a Gtk3 theme, otherwise Gtk3 apps such as Gedit and Nautilus will look naff). Some distros even make it relatively painless to disable Pulse and go back to plain old ALSA.


Re: @mittfh

/me runs Help -> About from Control Panel on his work computer (Win 7 Enterprise)... ooh, so it is 6.1 internally!

Sorry, mea culpa.

I run Linux at home and thought (from evidently badly remembered reviews of Win 7 when it first came out) that MS Marketing gurus had persuaded their engineers to change the internal version number to 7.


Re: is it shit or is it good? is it shit or is it good?

Interestingly, if you look at the internal version numbers:


3.1 / 3.11

NT 3.51

4 (aka Windows 95)

NT 4

4.1 (aka Windows 98)

4.9 (aka Windows ME)

NT 5 (aka Win 2k)

5.1 (aka XP - as MS had merged the consumer and business ends, they ditched the NT prefix)

6 (aka Vista)

6.1 (until the marketing department told them to up it to 7 to match the box number)


I guess 9 will be called 9 internally, although it wouldn't surprise me if early versions are 8.1.

I expect what happens is that deadlines are set by the marketing department, who also like as many new features (and bloat!) as possible; consequently MS don't allocate enough time for testing / ironing out bugs (IIRC they once released a statement saying that 2k on release had 36,000 "unresolved issues" - a mixture of bugs and unimplemented feature requests).

It'll be interesting to see how many businesses snap up 8 on release, or whether they'll adopt the usual strategy of waiting for SP 1. Although having said that, there was a joke (based on truth?) in NT 4 days that a significant portion of each service pack was fixing bugs introduced in the previous service pack.

Brit global warming skeptics now outnumber believers


More options, please!

From an earlier response:

43% think "Global warming is a fact and is mostly caused by emissions from vehicles and industrial facilities"

27% think "Global warming is a fact and is mostly caused by natural changes"

21% think "Global warming is a theory that has not yet been proven"

It seems to me they're conflating several things with their responses. Ideally, a survey would have more options:

Global warming is a fact and:

a) Caused entirely by human emissions (none from natural changes)

b) Caused mainly by human emissions (with some from natural changes)

c) Caused by both human emissions and natural changes in roughly equal amounts

d) Caused mainly by natural changes (with some from human emissions)

e) Caused entirely by natural changes (with none from human emissions)

f) Global warming is a myth - the earth isn't warming up at all.

And possibly even for good measure:

g) Global warming is a myth - it's global cooling we should all be worried about!

Steely Neelie: EU is crippled by its clueless tech-ignorant workforce


I'd assume that 50% figure would better translate as number of broadband subscribers who have access to 30Mbps or higher (after all, just because there's FTTC in your street, it doesn't necessarily mean you're automatically going to pay the huge price premium for the faster service).

Even when those speeds are generally available (including the laughable one about people having access to 100Mbps - not even the current generation of FTTC can achieve half that speed...), chances are you probably won't be able to achieve them due to a myriad of factors such as contention ratios, caps, thresholds, limits, traffic shaping...

They're what really irk me - ISPs who deliberately throttle your connection and only allow you to exploit anywhere near the capacity of your line if you pay them an extra £10+ a month: PlusNet gives you a mere 10GB/month allowance, you have to pay extra to upgrade it to 60GB/month, then extra again if you want to achieve upload speeds greater than 0.5Mbps (which mean uploading a 2 minute YouTube video takes the best part of 2 hours - and viewers wonder why some people still upload stuff at 240p...)

Twitter bird reborn to the sound of whalesong


Overlapping circles?

Surely that's what Google+ is all about?!

I wonder how much they paid the design agency... "Oh, and we'll have another $10m for the research involved in selecting the precise shade of blue" (i.e. we played around with colours to find one that wasn't too light, wasn't too dark, and wasn't too similar to The Zuck's network)

ARM creators Sophie Wilson and Steve Furber


Re: Get Real

Erm... first names are only used in the first paragraph (and then, only once for each). After that, it's "Wilson" all the way, with no pronouns. But as far as the introductory blurb goes, even for genetic women it's standard practice to use their current name, even if they weren't married at the time and had a different surname.

Besides which, it's linking her current reputation with the work she did back then; so it makes more sense to use her current name than use different names in each context.

GCSE, A-level science exams ARE dumbed down - watchdog


Re: On a brighter note

It's been dressed up as all kinds of imaginatively titled qualifications over the years, including CLAIT (Computer Literacy and Information Technology) and the ECDL (European Computer Driving Licence).

Erm, since when were computers classified as roadworthy vehicles? CLAIT in particular evolved from secretarial / office courses, and like them the next level up was IBT (Integrated Business Technology), which was all about creating databases, querying them, plugging the query results into spreadsheets, creating pretty graphs, then inserting the graphs into a written report.

To be slightly fairer, many contemporary courses include use of other software e.g. graphics / animation packages, but the first unit (which is likely to take up a fair amount of Year 10) will be the office skills. A tiny part of what we'd regard as Computer Science is lumped into the Design & Technology curriculum as "Control Systems" (e.g. writing a simple greenhouse monitoring system that opens the vents above a certain temperature, turns on heaters below a certain temperature, waters the plants when they get dry... essentially a whole bunch of pseudo-code "if...then...else" )

Whatever happened to the days when pupils were taught programming (of sorts) from lower primary in the form of LOGO?

TO CIRCLE (well, a Trictohexacontagon, to be precise)

REPEAT 360 [FD 1 LT 1]


Zuckerberg: Now share your organs with Facebook friends


Can we have your liver, then?

Whenever life gets you down, Mrs. Brown,

And things seem hard or tough,

And people are stupid, obnoxious, or daft,

And you feel that you've had quite enough...

(You know the rest!)

(Come on - you can't mention organ donation and livers without Eric's Guide to Astrophysics!)

Google I/O snafu greenlights crap code, angers devs


Easy solution

Declare the current results null and void, then re-run the competition after double and triple checking their in-house solutions are correct!

Compulsory coding in schools: The new Nerd Tourism


Coding in schools

When I went through the school system in the 1980s, PCs were relatively unheard of, as were ICT suites. Instead, most classrooms had a BBC micro in the corner, and pupils would take it in turns to use it, doing simple word processing in English lessons or LOGO!

I only remember the computerised version (without attached floor turtle), although there were computer-controlled turtles available that could be programmed from the computer, or standalone turtles such as the "Roamer" which didn't require an attached computer, but had keys to enter LOGO-style commands mounted on top of the shell (just below the hole for a pen).

That can get pupils thinking in terms of logic and pre-planning sequences of actions beforehand.

However, the skills seem to have migrated upwards in age - a few years ago, writing a set of instructions for "making a cup of tea" were part of the KS3 curriculum. It's also typically KS3 where they first encounter the likes of Access and Excel, and whatever resources are used to teach them seem to turn a lot off - I had a brief spell as a secondary ICT teacher a few years back and discovered most pupils had a preconception before the first lesson that spreadsheets and databases were hard. Never mind simple control systems (which was a shared topic between ICT and D&T).

Ideally, introduce them to the concepts as early as possible, build on them in a variety of different contexts (i.e. not just as part of dedicated ICT "Now we're going to learn to program a computer"), build on them in computer clubs etc. so that by the time they reach secondary school, most aren't afraid of computers and a significant minority will be sufficiently interested in them to do computer science (as opposed to half a dozen different varieties of "Useless Qualification In Using Microsoft Office")

Find contexts that genuinely interest pupils, rather than an exam board's idea (e.g. the infamous DiDA "Five a Day" SPB), but perhaps more importantly encourage them to think for themselves across the board - DiDA was a nightmare to teach because pupils were too used to being "spoon fed" in other subjects, so expected everything they needed to be done handed to them on a plate. They couldn't understand the concept of spending even half a term doing preparatory work which would not contribute directly to their exam grade (the actual syllabus calls for 2/3 of the year to be spent building the skills, so the remaining 1/3 can be spent on the project itself. Needless to say, the school I was at's preferred approach was a 1/2 term overview, followed by the project, which was effectively spoon-fed them. Marking down previous assessments of the pupils' work (because it didn't meet the exam board's criteria) was frowned upon, and I'm pretty sure the other teachers completely ignored the guidance that stated that the more help you give pupils in their project, the lower the mark they get. That's before the unhealthy concentration on those targeted C+ but currently achieving less, and catch-up sessions at lunchtimes, after school, during holidays...

Of course, the main problem with implementing a decent approach to ICT is that the vast majority of teachers don't have much experience with it themselves. After all, you have to find someone who not only understands IT and is qualified in it, but has the desire to teach and the right personality - not only to inspire and motivate the pupils but to grab their attention within five seconds of entering a classroom (especially the disaffected) and holding that attention until the end of the lesson.

Oracle v Google could clear way for copyright on languages, APIs


Anyone got a time machine?

If so, I'll borrow it to head back in time and take out copyright protection on any programming language that encases parameters in curved brackets, methods in curly brackets, uses the word "print" to display stuff on the screen, the acronym "int" for integers...

Oh, and for good measure, I'll take out a patent on the ability for any programming language to compile instructions into an intermediate bytecode format...

Perhaps also, given a certain fruity company's attacks on a rival, maybe I could also take out a patent on electronic devices housed in a black case, or the PCB, or the use of thin bands of copper for electrical connectors...



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