* Posts by Paul McConkey

41 posts • joined 11 Mar 2008

Apollo 11 - The Owners' Workshop Manual

Paul McConkey

Standing on the shoulders of giants...

When it was all fields around here I watched the Apollo 11 mission on a black and white telly at my primary school in Kampala. I know we've got the interwebs and mobiles phones and what not now, but back then I really thought that we'd be zooming around in hover cars and going on our hols to Mars by now.

What happened?

I still reckon that those guys from the Apollo missions and even the new guys and gals fixing the Hubble have balls of steel. I know nobody in IT who isn't in awe of the planning and execution of their remote IT support.

US team create carbon nanotube ultra-memory

Paul McConkey

@Bazza - don't trust your discs

Here's a link to a CERN paper that describes research that they have done of the stability of their (disc) storage systems. They reckon that their system has silent bit errors in the 10^-7 range. This seems small, but a terabyte of disc may have 3 corrupted files at this rate. What is worse is that you won't know that the files are corrupt - all the error detection has been defeated by the scale of the storage.


Less scientific review of the paper:


Taking a first bite out of Wolfram Alpha

Paul McConkey

Wait until it has a critical mass...

So, I remember switching to Google from Yahoo back in the day when nobody knew what the hell a google was. At the time google was small and had only indexed a few hundred million pages (OK so maybe the Internet was smaller). Google worked ok some of the time. Now it's so useful that it's a verb.

Same for Wikipedia (even with the fiddlers).

Wait until WA has thousands (tens of thousands...) of data sources and then decide how crap it really is.

iPhone users to walk and read at same time

Paul McConkey

@ Bad Beaver



Oh, sorry; I expect you're posting from the colonies. In Blighty I'm sure the correct term would be simply be "OI".

Vodafone gives up on roaming charges

Paul McConkey

O2 unlimited texts bundle work when roaming

I have put my kids onto O2 SIM only contracts for £20/month that include unlimited texts.

A little known fact is that O2 let you use 4 texts from your bundle for each text sent whilst roaming. As long as we stick within the fair use limit (~2000 texts a month), texts in France are free. Woo hoo!

This is a big change from Vodafone, who used to charge my kids around £50 to £100 a week when in France even though I severely curtailed their texting.

(Mine's the one with the Voda/T-mob/3/O2 service agreements in the pocket)

Facebook wins Zimbabwe election on T&Cs

Paul McConkey


Why do people on MyFace etc complain about privacy issues?

It's the Internet for goodness sake, it's not meant to be private.

Google accused of UK tax dodge

Paul McConkey

live - work - do business here? - pay tax here

Or sod off somewhere else and stop whining.

Don't like the tax regime - use your vote. Offshored yourself so you can't vote? Tough shit.

If you take advantage of the UK in any way you need to pay your taxes here to have a clear conscience - or just consider yourself to be a leech.

Google to fund 'video Street View' for Central London

Paul McConkey

Ha ha ha ha ha!

You had me right up to the last paragraph!

Arsene Ghia - who thought that one up!

iPhone 3.0 gossip lassos MMS, tethering, cut-and-paste...

Paul McConkey

More @ Stuart Van Onselen

I am a recent convert to an iPhone, trying desperately not to become a fanboi, my two pence worth:

The iPhone has some well documented problems (battery life, c&p, etc.), I'd add that the sound on my w950i was better, but maybe it's just the earphones.

What it does do, it does remarkably well - the only reason why I switched from SE after 10 years. fantastic browser, easy to set up a sync with Exchange (45 seconds setup c.f. about a day with my SE w950i). Superbly easy to use email - I'd now rather check my emails on the iPhone than Outlook on my laptop that is 6" away.

One app at a time works for me - far quicker than multitasking with Symbian. But then I'm an old school programmer that hates bloat.

The other thing about the iPhone is that you can walk in to an Apple store and play with one for hours (I did). Now try and find an HTC Touch HD to play with (I couldn't).

Superfast-charging batteries? Whoa there, MIT

Paul McConkey

@ AC 14:55

"you can have a device installed in your garage that trickle charges overnight"

A spare battery maybe? Just like my laptop, then.

Paul McConkey

@ AC 14:08 & Martin Gorner

I'm with Sarah here - speaking as a scientist and with a scientist wife I can't say I find the term boffin at all derogatory. My 13 year old daughter doesn't even mind being identified as a boff in her top set maths class.

Stop worrying so much.

Mine's the lab coat.

Brits and Yanks struck with embarasment embarrassment

Paul McConkey

Spelling Bee infiltrated?

I just tried it, the only word I got wrong was 'frank', which according to the site is spelled 'franc'.

Eh, alors?

Mine's the one with the OED in the pocket.

Pentax K-m entry-level digital SLR

Paul McConkey

Get a Nikon D40

Probably the best bargain DSLR at the moment is the Nikon D40 (about £250 for a body and 18-55mm lens). See this for chapter and verse: http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/d40.htm.

Although this is 6MP compared to 10MP for the Pentax, don't make the mistake of thinking that you will notice the difference. Why? - because sensors are rectangular, pixel counts are measurements of AREA but increases in resolution are LINEAR. The D4 gives you images that are 3000x2000 pixels, the Pentax will give you images that are 3872x2592. This is about 30% better resolution, not 66% like the pixel count is meant to make you believe.

@Martin - a) this is an SLR so you look though the taking lens to see what you are about to make an image of - if you are happy looking at a TFT screen or through a little hole, then a compact is fine. b) this is a system camera - you can change lenses. If you got the D40, you would be able to use almost any SLR lens made by Nikon in the last 50 years on it. This means you can choose the right lens for the type of images you are making.

@ Alistair - you're right, movie mode on an SLR is pointless - you can't look through the viewfinder as the mirror will be locked up so really, what's the point?

Mine's the one with a Leica M7 (film) camera in the pocket - still better resolution on 35mm film that digital, even after 18 years since the first one (Kodak DCS100 in 1991) ha ha ha!

Pioneer calls a halt to LaserDisc hardware production

Paul McConkey

@ Matt & Steve

The Domesday project used a modified Philips player and stored digital data as well as AV data. Search Google to easily find more info on the BBC Domesday Project's history and what has happened to it.

@ Terry "ho hum": Meh.

Web 2.0rhea hack mistaken for end of universe

Paul McConkey

@ Sarah Bee "nixing"


In hope of more middle finger action - it really should be 'offence' (unless we have our US English spell checker swithed on, of course).

Keep smiling!

Paul McConkey
Thumb Down

Wot no subs?

Clearly taking her own advice (from comments some time ago) not to read FaY articles so as to avoid offence, El Reg's erstwhile sub-editor Sarah Bee seems to have missed out on correcting Ted's use of Down Syndrome to Down's Syndrome.


Mozilla hastily shoves Firefox updates out door

Paul McConkey

All your browser are belong to us!!!

But I was told that Firefox was perfect. (See comments on the MS zero-day patch article).

Maybe I misunderstood?

'Facebook for Kids' slammed by security researchers

Paul McConkey

Wonders never cease

I just created myself an account on here (as a small child from Aberdeen affiliated to a school I had never heard of via the useful school search facility).

The only good thing here is that the site is so unbelievably crap that no child in their right mind would spend more than 1 minute here before going to Bebo.

Where is the godamn FOTW icon when you need it?

Why port your Firefox add-on to Internet Explorer?

Paul McConkey

@ zenkaon

"Why would I ever ever use IE???"

To visit www.mozilla.com/firefox/ so that you could download firefox onto your new Windows box?

Paul McConkey
Gates Horns

Still on C here...

'That's horrible. No one programs in C++ anymore,'

Eh? No wonder there's so much bloat then, it'll be all those script kiddies using string variables in Chas (thanks Finnbar) to do floating point arithmetic.

Telegraph.co.uk succumbs to typo irony

Paul McConkey

People in glass houses

shouldn't throw stones!

Let's hope the subs at el reg are on the ball for the next few days!

World's first 'thought images' seen on screen

Paul McConkey
Paris Hilton

I for one

welcome our Computational Neuroscience mind reading overlords.

Paris - because she'd be able to read my mind!

Mac supremacists annexe Maidstone

Paul McConkey

that other stormfront...

If it wasn't so serious you would automatically assume that stormfront.org was a very well put together joke - the forums include:

Science, Technology and Race (29 Viewing)

Privacy, Network Security & Encryption (9 Viewing) (Maybe the BNP should look here)

For Stormfront Ladies Only (12 Viewing)

Poetry (8 Viewing) ??????

Completely bizarre! Has an El reg hack been on to the Mactard Stormfront to let them know yet?

Exam board to hear appeal over format cockup

Paul McConkey
Paris Hilton

Who else has a kid doing GCSE ICT?

I have one and the course is pretty pathetic in that it seems to be more of a training exercise in Word, Excel, Powerpoint and MS Moviemaker (or whatever it's called) and web searching. Why don't they teach them something useful like assembler?

No wonder the country is going to the dogs.

Paris because with her movie making skills she ought to be able to walk through a GCSE ICT exam.

Paul McConkey

@ Daniel Bennett

"The exam board say PDF so that it lowers the risk of it being edited after the submission date."

You know this or you are bullshitting?

Why are other editable formats allowed (ppt, excel, etc.)?

Entire class fails IT exam by submitting in Word format

Paul McConkey

@ John Fielder

If you follow the link in the article you'll see the list of viewers that EdExcel supply to their moderators - plenty of MS proprietary viewers there but why no FREE MS word viewer??

Available FREE here: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/891090.

Vintage IBM tape drive in Apollo moon dust rescue

Paul McConkey


To all the Doomsday comments - it's actually Domesday.


The main reason you haven't seen an online version of it is licensing issues. Because no one thought of asking the metadata creators - schools and pupils - if they minded if their work was published on the Internet. Not surprising really as we weren't even at Web 0.1 never mind 1.0 in those dark days.

However, the BBC Domesday project was preserved, see this: http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue36/tna/

Mine's the one with the Philips LV-ROM player remote in the pocket...

Coppers nab more mobe-yapping drivers

Paul McConkey
Paris Hilton

@ AC Neo Nazi


Is this the collective noun for people who upload their music to their MySpace page? Or did you mean misogynists?

Paris - well even a misogynist couldn't _really_ hate the little darling?

The True Confessions of an Election Official

Paul McConkey
Thumb Up

Write more next week

Great article, write a follow-up next week and let us know how it went today.

Police poison speed debate with fuzzy figures

Paul McConkey

@ Yeah, Right

"Or, alternatively you could opt to teach your kids common sense when it comes to road traffic."

Sanctimonious claptrap.

And you probably need to read a few more comments - the discussion has included all classes of roads.

Kids, along with other pedestrians, cyclists, animals, horses and riders, and even other motor vehicles do unpredictable things. The higher your speed, the less time you have to respond to an unforeseen event. Speed limits are set to find a balance between convenience for the vehicle user and level of injury for the victim.

If you speed you are a knob. If yo speed and complain about speed cameras you are a completely feckless cumshedder.

(I can take no credit for the excellent term of abuse I read in a different comment)

Paul McConkey

@ Lee Griffin

From experience I'm pretty sure that spikes in the steering wheels, no air bags, etc. will do nothing to make drivers more careful.

Every day I drive on a 4 mile stretch of bendy, narrow fen road with BIG ditches on either side, slow moving tractors, fast moving speedfreak knobhead bikertards and poor visibility. All those dangerous things haven't stopped me seeing two cars in the ditch and one on its roof shortly after it passed me.

You can take a driver to a dangerous bend but you can't make him (most likely) slow down.

Paul McConkey

@ bikertards (simon, nigel wright)

As the only self proclaimed bikers in these comments also appear to believe in speeding, it is clear that 100% of bikers are speed freak knobheads and that the simplest way to reduce speeding incidents in the UK will be to ban, with immediate effect, every motorbike. I challenge anyone to dispute my statistics.

Fancy nipping for a quick two-thirds of a pint?

Paul McConkey
IT Angle

+1 feckless cumshedder!!

Please can El Reg create a section for the curse or abusive term of the week?

iSCSI: Game over

Paul McConkey


I know nothing about iSCSI, but if it uses TCP/IP anywhere then that's where the high latency and packet loss come from.

The article has it slightly wrong, the latency from Ethernet is mainly to do with Ethernet being a broadcast protocol that has to deal with collisions on shared links. As anyone in their right mind is going to be using _switches_ for this with a duplex link, then there are no collisions.

FCoE simply abandons the TCP/IP layer and just uses Ethernet frames and the FCoE protocol deals with packet loss.

Should software developers do it for themselves?

Paul McConkey

Who pays your salary?

In my experience (20+ years) of small companies, management has never been at nirvana levels of bliss. Poor communication, muddled specifications and moving goal posts abound.

So management is generally rubbish, except that you do occasionally have to remind yourself that a company that only employs developers is unlikely to ever sell anything and then where would you be?

The best developers always have a very clear understanding of where the money for their salaries comes from (customers) and the best managers should be helping the developers to produce the goods that those customers want.

Speaking as a developer - if you don't like your management, then why don't you move on?

Speaking as a manager - if you don't ... oh, I said that already.

Fish snapped snacking at 4,200 fathoms

Paul McConkey

@ Units of measurement

Well, sea water at about 1 kg/l means that the pressure rises about 100 gf/cm2 for each metre of depth, so 10 m is about 1 kgf/cm2 which is about 1 bar.

Therefore 1600 elephants/mini roof = 770 bar.

Hadoop: When grownups do open source

Paul McConkey
Paris Hilton


Nearly lost another laptop to a mouthful of coffee, funniest el Reg comment I've read to date!

Paris - obviously.

Babbage's Difference Engine hits Silicon Valley

Paul McConkey

@ Bothered

Of course it's a computer. Go and watch the video:


Apart from the configuration settings for print out, etc. you can actually see the program working - those levers all clicking round in sequence looks just like a recursive loop to me, just because it is programmed in brass, not C doesn't mean it ain't programmable!

Sweet, sweet smell of comments in code?

Paul McConkey

// Arghh!!

Never comment out code - delete it. If you are afraid to delete code you shouldn't be writing it. What on earth is source control for except to keep old versions? Don't keep junk in the source it's worse than anything.

Apart from crude/offensive/juvenile comments of course.

Paul McConkey

Of course you need comments - only an imbecile would disagree

It's all very well using a high level language in a way that allows for the code to self-comment, but try doing that with assembler. Of course you have to comment your code in detail, otherwise how the hell are you ever going to remember why you did it the way you did it? Junior programmers working on simple projects in C# or Java can maybe get away without comments, but old pros can't.

And while we're on the subject, forget about commenting for others - the comments are there for you (especially as the grey hair goes count goes up and the grey cell count goes down).

And what about the comments that refer you back to the original specification or even international standard/RFC so that you you can remember why you wrote the code in the first place?

Brit apiarists demand £8m to save honeybees

Paul McConkey

How much did you last pay for a jar of honey?

In a really good year, a commercial beekeeper may be able to harvest 50 to 100 lbs of honey from a single colony. If you look at the price of honey in your local supermarket you'll see that it's around the £1.50 to £2.00 a lb mark.

You may be able to see that there is very little financial incentive for keeping bees commercially and a £30 per colony research tax would probably kill off most of the industry.

One of the best things to happen to beekeeping in recent times was the Chinese using unacceptably high levels of drugs in their honey production, which led to the import of Chinese honey being banned by the EU. This Chinese honey was being sold at below the production cost of British honey.

I suppose that I could afford £30 for each of my two colonies, but should it really be up to hobbyists to try and prevent the complete loss of the of the honeybee in Britain?


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