* Posts by Chris Miller

3484 posts • joined 6 Apr 2007

The Battle of Britain couldn't have been won without UK's homegrown tech innovations

Chris Miller

Polish Air Force War Memorial

If you look left from the A40, travelling into London, just after passing Northolt, you can glimpse the eagle on top of the Polish Air Force War Memorial. At the end of the war, many settled in England, there's been a thriving Polish Club in Amersham since the 50s.

US military takes aim at 2024 for human-versus-AI aircraft dogfights. Have we lost that loving feeling for Top Gun?

Chris Miller

Re: computers will be used for low-priority work

That example was stitched together (by a human editor) from half-a dozen attempts by the AI.

Happy birthday to the Nokia 3310: 20 years ago, it seemed like almost everyone owned this legendary mobile

Chris Miller

And a battery that would genuinely last for a week on a single charge. Try telling that to th' youth o' today ...

Um, almost the entire Scots Wikipedia was written by someone with no idea of the language – 10,000s of articles

Chris Miller

Re: "Ach ay tha noo"

"If ye can say it's a braw bricht moonlicht nicht, ye're a' richt, ye ken!"

A wee deoch-an-doris - Harry Lauder

Toshiba formally and finally exits laptop business

Chris Miller

Re: Toshiba commercial

In the UK they were advertised with "Ullo Tosh! Gotta Toshiba?", an adaptation of Alexei Sayle's greatest hit: "Ullo Joihn! Gotta new motor?".

Aviation regulator outlines fixes that will get the 737 MAX flying again

Chris Miller

Re: It's a Boeing

Whereas Airbus would never allow fully certified pilots to fly a completely airworthy aircraft into the sea, killing all on board. Air travel is (thanks to a lot of hard work by many able people) an incredibly safe mode of transport, but to claim that one manufacturer is far 'safer' than another is total moonshine.

Chris Miller

Re: So now the FAA is basically mandating multiple data controls

I think you'll find it's always been an option to have more than one AoA sensor. Two wasn't a requirement for certification, which allowed beancounters to select a cheaper variant with only one. I bet nobody asked the pilots.

Chris Miller

Re: AoA sensors

True, but the other main change is that, once overridden, the automatic protection system won't reactivate.

Chris Miller

Re: the plane may find eager customers

99% of pax have not the foggiest idea of what type of aircraft they're flying in and no interest in finding out. My brother (another techie of the type to be found commenting here, with an engineering degree, so quite interested in mechanical things) once told me he'd flown back on a 747. I didn't think they used them on that route, and checking on FlightRadar found it was a 777 - the only possible clue to the difference being the number of decks and the number of engines :).

Dutch Gateway store was kept udder wraps for centuries until refit dug up computing history

Chris Miller

Re: Cow boxes

I, too, have fond memories of Gateway. Their USP in the UK was that they converted their (competitive) US prices from $ to £ at a reasonable rate, rather than the $1=£1 which was then universal (and still applies in some areas, though the real exchange rate has approached much closer to that mark).

But if we want to compare historic prices, take a look at this 1986 price list from Tandon (a tier 3 PC supplier, so they had to be cheaper than Compaq, who had to be cheaper than IBM).

Tony Blair tells Russian infosec conference that cross-border infosec policies need more gov intervention

Chris Miller

After leaving elected office, Blair set up a foundation bearing his name which aims to influence governments and political leaders around the world into following his brand of "third way" politics funnelling vast sums of money into a 'charity', which can then be used to fund the Blair family lifestyle without the inconvenience of paying very much tax.


UK.gov splashes out on 40,000 new devices amid COVID-19-fuelled homeworking boom

Chris Miller

the MoD had also purchased a whopping 9,476 Office 365 licences. Mr Nadella and the crew in Redmond will be rubbing their hands together with glee.

A single copy of Microsoft 365 for Business is £45 pa. I sincerely hope that even the bozos in MoD purchasing could get some sort of discount for 10,000 off. But even on such a silly basis, that's under $500k pa (or 1/250,000 of Microsoft revenue). A lot of money to me, but I doubt any Microsoft salesdroids will be bathing in champagne as a result.

Easyjet hacked: 9 million people's data accessed plus 2,200 folks' credit card details grabbed

Chris Miller

CVV should never be held

The PCI DSS security standard for handling credit cards mandates this. If easyJet (subs note sp) were doing so (about as unlikely as storing their site password in clear text), they'll be in a world of trouble. The standard also requires all CC data to be strongly encrypted.

So you've set up MFA and solved the Elvish riddle, but some still think passwords alone are secure enough

Chris Miller

Secure enough for what?

Security is always a trade-off between the value of what you're trying to protect (and the threats against it) and the cost of protection (in terms of user time, added complexity etc.) There are surely situations (for many users, it will be the majority of situations) where a password is sufficient security. How much would I be prepared to pay to protect someone else posting on here in my name? (Not much.)

We beg, implore and beseech thee. Stop reusing the same damn password everywhere

Chris Miller

I use the same password for many sites that I consider low-risk. I can't really get too exercised over whether someone can post as me on this site.

I don't use the same password for home banking!

Control is only an illusion, no matter what you shove on the Netware share

Chris Miller

Windows wasn't happy with a read-only folder

We ran a couple of thousand Windows 3.1 PCs from Netware 4 servers, all with read-only Windows directories. It wasn't completely simple or straightforward to configure, but it could certainly be done. Since the only local data was the swap file, it meant any failed PC could simply be swapped out and as soon as the user logged onto the server, everything was back to normal. No malware either, though once you could embed a virus in a document with the wonderful Visual Basic, that changed.

We regret to inform you there are severe delays on the token ring due to IT nerds blasting each other to bloody chunks

Chris Miller

Early 90s was very late to be putting in a new 4Mb Token Ring network. The 16Mb (yes, children, this was once considered high-speed) version was launched in 1988, and by then most new networks outside IBM shops were Ethernet.

I remember the shock on moving from a large company with Ethernet LANs to one using Token Ring. Patch panels that would easily fit in a standard rack needed an entire room - IBM Type 1 cabling and connectors were solid and reliable, but perhaps a tad over-engineered for those used to RJ45 and UTP.

Is there alien life on Earth? Maybe, says Brit 'naut. Well, where did they come from? How about this far-away cluster. Or this 'Godzilla' galaxy...

Chris Miller

UGC 2885

is 'only' 463,000 ly across - the figure for distance has been repeated.

Wham, bam, thank you scram button: Now we have to go all MacGyver on the server room

Chris Miller

Many computer rooms suffered similar accidents. Before the days of online systems, often the ops were the only ones who were aware of them. The simple solution was a cover for the big red power button. But the bigger danger was the fire alarm that dumped halon into the room - which took more time to recover from.

Silicon Valley Scrooges sidestep debt to society through tax avoidance to the tune of $100bn

Chris Miller

Tim Worstall (formerly of this parish) destroys this argument here.

Halfords invents radio signals that don't travel at the speed of light

Chris Miller

thanks to the super-fast wavelength of around 220MHz

Apart from all the other idiocies, if you don't understand the difference between frequency and wavelength, you won't get far with the more technical stuff. I realise the press release was written my a marketing droid, but don't Halfords employ anyone with a GCSE in a STEM subject who could point out these flaws?

Astroboffins rethink black hole theory after spotting tiny example with its own star buddy

Chris Miller

If this object is a neutron star, we would need a new physical theory to explain how it can prevent collapse against the force of its own gravity. If it's a black hole formed as the stellar remnant of a supernova explosion, we need a new theory about how supernova explosions proceed; but a simpler explanation would be its formation by accretion onto a smaller neutron star.

We're late and we're unreliable but we won't invalidate your warranty: We're engineers!

Chris Miller

Lord Finchley

Lord Finchley tried to mend the Electric Light

Himself. It struck him dead: And serve him right!

It is the business of the wealthy man

To give employment to the artisan.

Hilaire Belloc

Don't look too closely at what is seeping out of the big Dutch pipe

Chris Miller

PC security wasn't all that great back in those days, so our approach was to warn users to "Please change your password, because someone else may have access to your PC, as we've seen a lot of activity on xxxx.com". The realisation (even though we'd told them this more than once) that we could see exactly which sites they were visiting was usually enough to put a stop to it.

Astroboffins baffled after spotting solar system with great gas giant that shouldn't exist

Chris Miller

You're right. A planet more massive (certainly 100s of times more massive) than a star would be ... a star.

Has outsourcing public-sector IT worked? The Institute for Government seems to think so, kinda

Chris Miller

Re: Summary != Summary on website

There are two ways in which minimum wages can work. If you set it at a level of around 60% of median earnings (as in the UK), then it has very little effect on either wages (because employers would need to pay that much to recruit anyone) or unemployment. Or you can set it a significantly higher level, in which case it increase wages for some low earners, but also increases unemployment as people are replaced by automation or jobs move to cheaper locales. Because if you increase the cost of something, people will buy less of it. Who knew?

COBOL: Five little letters that if put on a CV would ensure stable income for many a greybeard coder

Chris Miller

Re: IF Year > 50

In the 90s I was working for a life assurance company, so most systems could handle dates of birth in the 19th century and policies had had maturity dates in the 21st century for decades. But as database administrator, I enforced dates with a century code (0=18xx, 1=19xx, 2=20xx) because saving a single byte meant an reduction in total data size of hundreds of megabytes, which was worth having given the cost of mainframe storage.

China remains in pole position for electric vehicle uptake despite cuts to subsidies

Chris Miller

"New electric" includes battery-only and plug-in hybrid, but not 'plain vanilla' hybrid. Otherwise the numbers would be substantially inflated, since almost every Toyota/Lexus is some type of hybrid, these days.

Electric vehicles won't help UK meet emissions targets: Time to get out and walk, warn MPs

Chris Miller

Re: 50 miles???

Most 'charging locations' have one or two chargers which need to be occupied for 30-60 minutes to achieve a charge. In reality, most of them are in car parks and are occupied by one car per day.

My village petrol station has 12 pumps and services ~1,000 vehicles a day. There are several supermarkets within 10 miles that do an order of magnitude more business.

One person's harmless japery can be another's night of LaserJet Lego

Chris Miller

HP printers can also be programmed to print a header page before each document, which is intended for user identification (handy on a shared printer) but can contain any message you like (preferably something short in bold 72 pt).

We have the best trade wars: US investigating French tech tax plan over fears it unfairly targets American biz

Chris Miller

What makes the UK attractive to multinationals is the rule of law. Set up in France, and the government can take it away from you on a whim - as we now see. Flexible employment rules help as well, but that's secondary.

Chris Miller

Re: Taking a cut?

VAT is paid by the customer, this new tax is supposed to be paid by the company

Companies, being a very convenient legal fiction, cannot pay a tax, only people pay tax. If you increase company taxation, the only thing that can happen is that they charge their customers more, pay their suppliers (which includes staff) less, or reduce profits (which affects their owners, mainly pensions funds and other investment vehicles). To state this is not to make a political point - it follows directly from the definitions of these terms and the associativity of arithmetic.

Sorry to break it to you, but there is no magic money tree.

Amazon's primary 'accounting trick' to reduce their profits is to reinvest them into their business. This is usually considered a good thing, which is one reason why corporate taxes are levied on profit.

Got an 'old' Tesla? Musk promises 'self-driving' upgrade chip ship by end of 2019

Chris Miller

Will it be before or after Virgin Galactic take their first paying passengers into space?

I don't know but it's been said, Amphenol plugs are made with lead

Chris Miller

Re: So why did it have a dead power supply?

I thought this was going to be similar to some of my war stories. For redundant systems, the biggest cause of dual failure is an engineer arriving with a replacement unit and then trying to swap out the good one instead of the failure.

But in one machine room I was responsible for, we had the usual three-phase power supply and the critical kit had dual power supplies. At one point we lost a phase and no-one noticed, except for a group of servers (not my responsibility, thankfully) whose dual power supplies were both powered from the same phase.

What would Jesus tweet? Church of England hands down commandments for Anglicans on social media

Chris Miller

Bonkers British MPs rant: 5G signals cause cancer

Chris Miller

The Precautionary Principle

Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone - BANANAs

Stiff penalty: Prenda Law copyright troll gets 14 years of hard time for blue view 'n sue scam

Chris Miller


A Florida dialect word for 'rascal', according to Wiktionary. That's increased my vocab by one :)

IBM accused of pumping staff retirement funds into a tanking stock... IBM's to be exact

Chris Miller

Bouncing Czechs

Investing a company pension fund in that company's own shares is considered a very dubious practice in the UK (after Maxwell), but it used to be relatively common in the US. I'm not sure of the current position on the left side of the pond.

Let's make laptops from radium. How's that for planned obsolescence?

Chris Miller

You say aluminium, I say aluminium

We're all supposed to say aluminium (as decreed by the final arbiter of such things IUPAC. In return, I have to remember to spell sulfur with an 'f'. (The original spelling, I think, until some Jacobean scholar decided sulphur looked Greeker - many differences in US English are based on British English c.1600, e.g. 'gotten'.)

Wanted: Big iron geeks to help restore IBM 360 mainframe rescued from defunct German factory by other big iron geeks

Chris Miller

Re: correction

Curse you, autocorrect!

Chris Miller

1401 was before the 360:

"God sent us this 360 and lo, our 1401 payroll programs run no slower than before."

Stan Kelly-Bottle "The Devil's DP Dictionary" (1981)

California court sentences ex-Autonomy CFO Sushovan Hussain to five years in clink for fraud

Chris Miller

Guilty. Next case.

"You're not from round these parts, are you, stranger?"

Mods I have known, Mods I have loved, Mods I have hated: Motorola's failed experiment is now a savvy techie's dream

Chris Miller

Re: Phones for the 0.1%

I've been using Nikon 'super-zoom' compacts for many years (and the missus has a 15x Canon pocket model for when even that's too much of a faff). The current models go up to 60x which is just about usable in good light with a steadyish hand. Very good for bird identification.

The best camera in the world is the one you have with you - right now.

Veteran vulture Andrew Orlowski is offski after 19 years at The Register

Chris Miller

Leyden, Page, Worstall, Haines (sadly, nothing ElReg or anyone could do about that tragic loss) and now Orlowski. Those were days when giants walked the earth. I'm sure there are good people and fine reporters working at today's Register - but they have some very oversized boots to fill.

Gather round, friends. Listen close. It's time to list the five biggest lies about 5G

Chris Miller

Agreed. But is that capacity for phones or the (expected) vast cloud of IoThingies? (The answer is almost certainly "both", of course.)

Chris Miller

Engineers I know working on this have told me that 5G is not about phones - there's very little benefit in being able to get 2Gb rather than 20Mb to a phone - but improving connectivity for (buzzword alert!) IoT.

A copy-paste of Europe and a '5G' hotel: El Reg's Adventures in Huawei Land were fairly wacky

Chris Miller

It is also notable for a socking great galleon stuck on its roof.

Literally every Spanish hotel I've stayed in has had one of those.

Huawei savaged by Brit code review board over pisspoor dev practices

Chris Miller

So Huawei are a threat because they're really crappy at security (though not noticeably crappier than many other manufacturers), not because they're fiendish orientals controlled by China's Ministry of State Security. As you were, then.

That's Numberwang! Google Cloud staffer breaks record for most accurate Pi calculation

Chris Miller

I wonder how much that would have cost commercially. Would it have been cheaper to buy a supercomputer?

Iwao has been interested in the famous irrational number from an early age.

Not merely irrational (like root 2), but transcendental, as proved by von Lindemann in 1882.


Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020