* Posts by John Hawkins

173 posts • joined 7 Feb 2008


Brain-computer interface researchers warn of a 'bleak' cyberpunk future – unless we tread carefully

John Hawkins

Easy for able bodied to criticise

But I imagine someone who is paraplegic or otherwise physically handicapped might beg to differ. In spite of the general iffiness of BCI.

No joy for Julian Assange as Uncle Sam confirms it will keep pushing for WikiLeaker's extradition to America

John Hawkins

Re: IANAL...

There'd likely have been a lot of more posturing here in Sweden from all sides (there was plenty of it as it was), but I never saw anything that made me think he'd have been handed over to the US. Except in the minds of various paranoid individuals, but that's nothing new.

Personally I think that doing a runner like that was an admission of guilt by him, but it did save the Swedish government quite a bit of money and by extension me as a local taxpayer.

Leaked draft EU law reveals tech giants could face huge 6% turnover fines if they don't play by Europe's rules

John Hawkins
Big Brother

Design by committee

Nothing ever designed by a committee of any sort is going to be 100% fit for purpose so it doesn't matter if the committee consists of scientists, bureaucrats, politicians, tribal witch doctors or marketing managers. The important thing is that something needs to be done about the tech giants so that the next generation of them can grow up and take over.

If Microsoft had manged to buy Google and IBM Facebook, the online world would have been a different place today.

Don't know if regulating content is the right way to do it though.

It may date back to 1994 but there's no end in sight for the UK's Chief customs system as Brexit rules beckon

John Hawkins

Re: Still. The Farage Garage will be open for business on time.

Regardless of which side of the discussion you are on, the pommie negotiators have been a bit useless; they seem to have seen themselves as a combination of James Bond and Hercules Hurricane, but in reality they been more like Derek Trotter and George Mainwaring.

And I don't mean that in a bad way either - both Del Boy and Captain Mainwaring are sympathetic characters, just a bit out of their depth.

What the hell is going on with .uk? Dozens of domain names sold in error, then reversed, but we'll say no more about it, says oversight org

John Hawkins

Re: And next year?

I think '.fuk' ("formerly united kingdom") would be better as it only has three characters instead of six. It could even be considered appropriate for today's situation.

Something to look forward to: Being told your child or parent was radicalized by an AI bot into believing a bonkers antisemitic conspiracy theory

John Hawkins


Every time I see something like this I think these people lack imagination; instead of using data that creates a monster like this, why not use data that results in something a little more entertaining. Feed it the transcripts from the all Python TV series for example. I guess there must be some reason (copyright?) for this not being done, but there must be something in the public domain that could be used.

What I'd really like to see would be what happens if Roger Irrelevant is used as the example.

TCL's latest e-ink tech looks good on paper, but Chinese giant will have to back up extraordinary claims

John Hawkins

Re: Can you fold it or cut it?

Putting the scroll back into scrolling maybe?

Beware the fresh Windows XP install: Failure awaits you all with nasty, big, pointy teeth

John Hawkins

Cats and cables

One of my old cats liked to chew on network cables as well as the occasional USB charging cable. Her teeth were OK as she happily ate kibbles, so I guess she just liked the taste of them. Never any marks on power cables though so maybe she'd learnt to leave them alone with her previous owner.

Mentioned this to the chap behind the counter when I was stocking up on unchewed cables one day and he said 'yeah, you're not the first customer to say that'.

Germany to fund development of edge CPUs as part of 'tech you can trust' plan to home-brew more kit

John Hawkins

Re: US pulling troops out of Germany

I remember one of my history teachers pointing out that another major reason for the US dominating the sharp end of NATO was that they didn't want Europe and Germany in particular to be able to rival the US in military capabilities. Interesting therefore that MAGA seems to include encouraging the EU to become a military power.

Yet another beefy BSOD spotted lurking within the walls of US patty pusher

John Hawkins

Bork sausages?

Mine's the one with the greasy Happy Meal toys in the pockets...

What do you call megabucks Microsoft? No really, it's not a joke. El Reg needs you

John Hawkins


A nice short name with a history.

Britain has no idea how close it came to ATMs flooding the streets with free money thanks to some crap code, 1970s style

John Hawkins

Re: Experienced tester.

Yeah back in the day when I moonlighted as a tester when work had nothing else for me to do, the fun part was going outside the prescribed the test cases and getting things to fail.

The biggest uptick in demand for software devs by bosses is for... *rubs eyes* blockchain engineers?!?

John Hawkins

Re: "A 2017 Stack Overflow survey singled out Perl as the most hated coding language"

But isn't madness the whole point of Perl?

Wonderful language - since nobody except me was ever going to read my code I used to try to use as few characters as possible. Great fun.

If you saw a Google ad recently, know that it helped pay off one of its 'sex pest' execs $90m

John Hawkins

Google obviously has a lot of 'tools' at least, in multiple senses of the word (though the specifics of those senses might depend on where and when you learnt English).

It liiives! Sorta. Gentle azure glow of Windows XP clocked in Tesco's self-checkouts, no less

John Hawkins

Re: its tesco, are you surprised?

Hmm, would be interesting to know how they got that past the PCIDSS auditors. A few years ago you could wave a bit of paper at them with a list of possible mitigations on it, but in recent projects I've been involved in the correct answer to the auditors saying 'jump' has been 'how high?'.

Prof claims Lyft did a hit-and-run on his ride-sharing tech patent

John Hawkins

Re: The stupidity of "business method" patents

The company I worked for mucked around with GPS in the forest in '92. The units were expensive (>100k USD) and not accurate in the pre DGPS days, but there was clearly potential for mapping our forestry roads etc. once the accuracy was improved.

UK taxman warned it's running out of time to deliver working customs IT system by Brexit

John Hawkins

Actually I think she is a closet remainer and has a cunning plan - dither, procrastinate and faff around until everybody gives up out of sheer boredom, then say that as the UK doesn't have the infrastructure to leave, cancel the whole thing.

Seems that way at least.

'Moore's Revenge' is upon us and will make the world weird

John Hawkins

Like old fashioned server troubleshooting

Sounds very much like my sysadmin work on Solaris of twenty-odd years ago. Servers were relatively expensive, so we had multiple applications + support scripts on each server.

Add a few patches and middle-of-the-night quick fixes and you ended up with weird behaviour caused by things interacting in unexpected ways.

Gut-feeling got you through at least as often as linear thinking.

Google listens to New Zealand just long enough to ignore it

John Hawkins

Re: Why not go the whole hog NZ?

Not as far fetched as it sounds; I've a vague memory of the idea being discussed back in the '80s, using various French overseas territories in the Pacific as an example. Though as the Poms are now leaving the the EU, NZ might need to become part of French Polynesia to join.

IBM bans all removable storage, for all staff, everywhere

John Hawkins

Does the ban cover smartphones also?

There was talk of banning USB drives at my work so I tested using my Nexus 6P as an alternative solution. Mucking around with a cable + 'phone wasn't as simple as a USB drive, but worked well enough that I've started using the setup to back some essential files up.

Would be interesting if IBM banned all smartphones - business and private - as well.

UK Parliament roars: Oi! Zuck! Get in here for a grilling – or you'll get a Tower of London tour

John Hawkins

Which amendment?

Yes. For some reason the Red Queen comes to mind here.

How machine-learning code turns a mirror on its sexist, racist masters

John Hawkins

Compiles and runs OK

The code compiles and runs OK on my Ubuntu laptop once I'd installed the Python package NumPy. Could be interesting to download some text from Project Gutenberg to run through it - many of those old books are a bit iffy by current standards even if they were mainstream back then.

Former Google X bloke's startup unveils 'self flying' electric air taxi

John Hawkins

Re: Richard Pearse

Maybe they did - not everybody is OK with the thought that the Wright boys weren't first with powered flight.

Old cockies in the area in the 1980s (mate of mine worked on a farm there back then) remembered Pearse as a cranky old bloke, so my guess is he had Asperger's or something similar.

John Hawkins

Richard Pearse

"Kitty Hawk"? In NZ? FFS!!

Hope there's a bloke sitting an a maimai with his 12 gauge ready for when it flies past..

Blade Runner 2049: Back to the Future – the movies that showed us what's to come

John Hawkins

Mad Max

The vehicles! The clothes!

Germany puts halt on European unitary patent

John Hawkins

No-one expects the...

Spanish Inquisition Bundesverfassungsgericht

BT considers scrapping 'gold-plated' pensions in bid to plug £14bn deficit

John Hawkins

Re: Never bothered with a pension...

Maybe we can sell our children for scientific experimentation and live on that in our old age? Though I've only got two, not the required sixty-three, and they'll soon be bigger than me anyway, so it might not be easy.

Britain's on the brink of a small-scale nuclear reactor revolution

John Hawkins

Somewhere along the line I read that the reason why Uranium 235 fission reactors got the nod in the 1950s was because the military of the time considered plutonium (handy if you've got bombs to build) production high priority. Which seems reasonable enough given the recent history of the time.

So, yes, in context plutonium was very useful indeed.

Roses are red, violets are blue, fake-news-detecting AI is fake news, too

John Hawkins

FFS - fake news is nothing new

To quote H G Wells' newspaper editor in 'The Sea Lady' from 1902:

"Stuff that the public won't believe aren't facts. Being true only makes 'em worse. They buy our paper to swallow it and it's got to go down easy."

You couldn't click on it back then, but bait it was.

El Reg drills into chatbot hype: The AIs that want to be your web butlers

John Hawkins

Two Ronnies

I'd like to see a chatbot that could follow an episode of the Two Ronnies without getting confused. A 'Turing Test' for chatbots maybe?

Red squirrels! Adorable, right? Wrong – they're riddled with leprosy

John Hawkins

I've got an old recipe for red squirrel that suggests first skinning, gutting (guess they could get a bit gamey otherwise, but YMMV), then rubbing them in salt and pepper, basting with olive oil and grilling.

Sounds intriguing, though I would avoid the ones with warts just to be on the safe side. Unfortunately they (squirrels, not warts) are protected where I live :(

Whoosh! China shows off J-20 'stealth' fighters and jet drones

John Hawkins

Outer Manchuria?

Gearing up to take back Outer Manchuria perhaps? The Chinese certainly have a better claim to that than for example Argentina has to the Falklands, as well as a need for more space.

I think Russia has a great deal more to fear from China than the West. Pity Lewis Page isn't still with El Reg; would have been interesting to hear his views on the subject.

Job ad asks for 'detrimental' sysadmin

John Hawkins

I believe 'Freudian slip' is the correct term (though what Freud was doing while wearing a slip I don't really want to know).

EU ends anonymity and rules open Wi-Fi hotspots need passwords

John Hawkins

Re: The EU

Pretty sure it won't be German; having worked there for a couple of years I know just how paranoid they are about such things. With their history (GESTAPO, STASI) I don't blame them.

My pick would be the voice of Mr MacKay in Porridge for those words.

Delete Google Maps? Go ahead, says Google, we'll still track you

John Hawkins

Re: Does the app...

Isn't that hole normally above the fan? Or is that just in bars?

Crashed and alone in a remote location: When paid help is no help

John Hawkins

Wilds of Yorkshire

"The Third World" sketch in the Python film "Meaning of Life" springs to mind here for some reason...

If you know what's good for you, your health data belongs in the cloud

John Hawkins

Re: Guess you need to be there yourself to understand

Reading the replies I might add that the prospect of imminent death to yourself or someone in your family focuses you. Many things that people get excited about become nothing more than white noise.

John Hawkins

Guess you need to be there yourself to understand

I worried a lot about my brother until he got a new pacemaker installed, so I get this.

I have the same heart defect myself (though not as serious as my brother; his heart stops, mine just slows until I faint) and I now use a Fitbit HR so that I can log my pulse. I'd have no problem sharing that information with concerned family members. Or at to least alert them when I'm having problems again.

Going on a date, and it's just the two of you? How ... quaint. OkCupid's setting up threesomes

John Hawkins

Re: Lifelong loving

Perhaps sir would find this short video amusing?


(There really ought be a sheep icon available - one feels let down by The Register)

Spanish village celebrates Playmobil nativity

John Hawkins

Fred Dagg

Brings to mind the Fred Dagg Christmas carol of my distant youth...

We three kings of Orient are

One on a tractor, two in a car

One on a scooter

Tooting his hooter

Following yonder star

What the world needs now is Pi, sweet $5 Raspberry Pi Zero

John Hawkins

Re: Pi vs Pie

"*headless hobbyist? His past-times included lion taming."

His name is Roland and he has a Thompson gun...

We can't all live by taking in each others' washing

John Hawkins

The Tim Worstall Blog

Actually none of need to go without our Worstall fix - he's got a blog site.

You'll have to find it the way I did though.

[edit] Hah - beaten to it!

So just what is the third Great Invention of all time?

John Hawkins

Re: Surely money itself is the great invention?

But isn't money just another form of information? And for that matter, aren't all things connected with money (bookkeeping, limited liability companies and so on) just a subset of information flow? Money being information on the value on what I (or my ancestors etc) have contributed to the system and, if rules are followed, what I can expect to receive in exchange for that money.

In a sense, the Enlightenment is also part of that information flow - things happen because there are various rules that are followed and what happened yesterday will happen today and tomorrow. Gravity being a good example - we know it happens and can measure it within the limits of quantum mechanics, but we know less about the how of gravity than we know about the how of evolution.

Getting back to money, instead of me claiming the grain you grew because one of my foremothers was shagged by a local god, you can tell me to eff off because you grew it on your own land and you then exchange the grain for filthy lucre.

Self-driving vehicles might be autonomous but insurance pay-outs probably won't be

John Hawkins

Re: Urban buses replaced first?

Drivers, or lack of requirement for drivers, is the big improvement I see for public transport for lots of reasons. More engineers probably, but not as many.

Sabotage stops buses today; don't think that would make a difference. Punctures and other breakdowns are dealt with by a couple of mechanics in a van already; would be the same with an urban autonomous bus.

Biggest risk I see is buses getting hacked, but the way things are going all new vehicles - drivered or not - are likely to be at risk by then anyway.

John Hawkins

Urban buses replaced first?

I can see urban buses getting replaced by autonomous vehicles first - fairly predictable conditions and in many cases right-of-way lanes. Autonomous minibuses every 5 minutes instead of articulated monsters every half-hour.

Pedestrians could be dealt with using small water cannons - would provide entertainment for the bus passengers also.

Tractors might be first in rural areas - $action = "plough"; $depth = "b"; $field = "nw_wood"; $gps = true; $start_date = "2020-09-10"; run(); - would save cropping farmers a lot of time.

Dry those eyes, ad blockers are unlikely to kill the internet

John Hawkins

If adverts weren't so irritating I'd not block them

While I realise that adverts are often designed to attract attention, I find any movement on a page unsettling and sometimes a little nauseating. A bit like with the infamous <blink> tag of yore.

So I block ads even if, as Tim notes, some are probably interesting to me as a potential customer.

Post-pub nosh neckfiller: Itty-bitty pyttipanna

John Hawkins

Re: I have a whole shelf in my fridge dedicated to surströmming tins"

Haha. No, I open the tins in the traditional manner - submerged in a bucket of water.

Though I don't know why a people (the English) who regard pheasants as being fit to eat only after they fall off their feet that they have been hung up by should feel threatened by surströmming. I've gutted quite a few pheasants that have just been hung a few days and they stink enough for me.

John Hawkins

Fermented herring

Pyttipanna is a bit on the stodgy side for me, but I can see that Poms might like it for that reason.

Personally I'd prefer the fermented herring after a night out; it's fairly salty and just the thing for post-pub electrolyte replacement. Thin flatbread, onions, mature cheese and boiled spuds - preferably the local almond spuds 'mandelpotatis' - completes the culinary requirements specification.

(Disclosure: I have a whole shelf in my fridge dedicated to surströmming tins; like good wine it gets better as it ages.)

OH GROSS! The real problem with GDP

John Hawkins

Re: So is it actually a good idea to measure it at all?

"Good enough" is how I'd put it. Does the trick and without taking so long that it has become irrelevant by the time the value is available.

Like the market economy itself (or democracy for that matter), a compromise. Neither of which are good enough if you want to get anally retentive about it, but changing either system to make it more controllable/predictable ends in tears sooner or later.

DevOps tools: The beginner's guide to Chef

John Hawkins
Thumb Up

Fun to muck around with on Linux

I've been messing with Chef on both Linux (RHEL) and Windows boxes since April this year at work. It's been quite a lot of fun to get my fingers into some coding again and once I got the certificates set up properly it has been friendly to work with. I set up my own Chef lab at home (pure Ubuntu) with a couple of Raspberry Pi units among the clients just to see if it could be done.

I spent a couple of years programming C before I got into Unix sysadmin in the mid 90s and later specialised in scripting for a while, so it didn't take long to get up to speed with Chef. Rock solid on Linux and a doddle to use.

I'd hesitate to use it on Windows though; the Chef agent for that platform has a few performance issues because of the way it has been ported and I had to add a registry hack just to get the agent to restart properly as a service after a reboot.



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