* Posts by Martin Gregorie

1189 posts • joined 10 Apr 2007


I would drive 100 miles and I would drive 100 more just to be the man that drove 200 miles to... hit the enter key

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: We've all done it

Back in the early 70s I had a one day round trip from Wellington to Auckland just to convince a George 3 sysadmin that his system config was wrong, explain why, and fix said config. Annoying, because I'd already sent them what was substantially the same fix and had it ignored. Total working time onsite: under an hour, plus a discussion about why it was really silly (and slow) to run tape sorts using simulated mag tapes in the filestore when a perfectly good disk-based sort was a one of the standard utility programs.

On the other hand, it did get me a a couple of rides in one of the, then shiny new, B737s which had replaced Viscounts on that route. so it wasn't all bad.

AI caramba, those neural networks are power-hungry: Counting the environmental cost of artificial intelligence

Martin Gregorie Silver badge


If the device can't explain how it arrived at the answer it just gave you, then it obviously isn't intelligent.

Fujitsu wins £5m contract to support the UK's troubled Border Crossing system

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Failure is a mandatory chargeable feature

... or so it would appear given the stellar design, implementation and system testing process that Fujitsu used when they built that monument to excellence known as the Post Office's Horizons financial system.

Does anybody know the court dates for the next round in that never-ending black comedy?

Italian stuntman flies aeroplane through two motorway tunnels

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: speaking of Ekronoplanes lately

so how did ground effect alter characteristics of plane.

Mostly by reduced drag if you're down in ground effect, which is when you're less that half your wingspan above the ground.

A lot of glider pilots used to use ground effect as a form of competition finish if the fields next to the airfield were flat.

I've done it in an SZD Junior (single seat training glider) at the end of a day's flying. We'd been launching from the far end of our airfield from the hangar and clubhouse, so at the end of the day i offered to fly the Junior home. I took a winch launch, and flew a normal circuit as if I was going to land where I'd taken off, but instead left the airbrakes shut and flew the approach at 70 rather than 55 kts, flattening out at 15-20 feet. I stayed at that height for 680m along the main runway. At that point I'd only lost 10 kts of airspeed, popped the airbrakes and touched down 200m further on, rolling to a stop near the hangar.

A Junior has a claimed glide ratio of 36:1 at 45 kts, so at typical flying height it would have lost just over 60 feet in flying the same distance at 45 kts, or 150ft at 70kts: Juniors are draggy little beasts and airframe drag increases as the square of the flying speed.

Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa test cross-border crypto-payments

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Asleep at the switch?

I wonder why SWIFT doesn't seem to be looking into this stuff, given that its often the only way to make international bank transfers outside Europe.

But, judging by the type and amount of information needed to complete the last such payment I needed to make and the time it took to complete, the basics of the SWIFT operation haven't changed in the last 25 years or so: in other words its still sending messages about money rather than the message being the money, as is the case for EuroPay or UK's FastPay systems.

Maybe they're developing a new faster system in stealth mode even as I write this: who knows.

Think you can solve the UK's electric vehicle charging point puzzle? The Ordnance Survey wants to hear about it

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: H2

.... and don't forget that reforming natural gas, i.e. producing so-called 'Blue Hydrogen', produces a shedload of CO2, virtually all of which is dumped into the atmosphere because that's the cheapest way of disposing of it - never mind what all that waste CO2 is doing to global warming.

The bottom line is that, unless all the carbon that has to be removed from natural gas (methane, CH4) to produce 'Blue Hydrogen' is permanently buried, running a vehicle on 'Blue Hydrogen' emits MORE CO2 into the atmosphere than using petrol or methane would, because of both the energy inputs to the reforming process and the fact that the waste carbon emerges as carbon dioxide, CO2, which needs still more energy to be converted into a solid that can be buried or to compress it sufficiently to be re-injected into the oil well it originally came out of.

But, don't just take my word for it, read this:


Robots don't smoke, says Alibaba, and that's why they deliver parcels so fast

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: Awaiting the day

And you LIKE the sound of delivery drones flying past your window every day?

IIRC the first Amazon drone delivery trial in a low rise development got cancelled because noise complaints from neighbours.

Infosys CEO hauled in to tell minister why India's tax portal is still a glitchy mess

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: Infosys has over 750 staffers working on the project

With 750 staffers yanked in to fix it, something tells me that the project is irretrievably stuffed and is unlikely to be fixed any time soon, if ever, simply because the team is far too large.

Back in the mid 70s I was one of the 80 freelancers pulled in the fix the Naval Dockyard Project, which was a several million over budget and 3 years late at the time, mainly because its development methodology was straight out of "Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines". You know it: "There is nothing a German Officer cannot do" except in this case the 'German Officers' were a group of civil servants who had mostly never seen a computer before they were sent on systems design and COBOL programming courses.

We turned the Naval Dockyard Project round and had it working in 18 months thanks largely to the first class group of project managers from Dataskill who wholly replaced the MOD management team, but, including the best of the MOD programmers, who were retained, I doubt there were ever more than 120 analysts and programmers in the team. Any more and the project would have collapsed from sheer unwieldiness.

The only other project I've been on that approached the MOD job in staff size ran for a similar time before having its plug pulled without producing anything useful.

Rust 2021 edition to arrive in October with 'more consistent panic' and other new features

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: Wrong nail?

If you're writing a lot of Java windows that are essentially rows and columns of labels,data values and a few Buttons, i.e. similar to the type of screen layout that used to be common on greenscreen mainframe terminals or using 4GL packages to program PCs, try using the se.datadosen.RiverLayout layout manager.

If RiverLayout is a good fit with what you're trying to do, you'll find it makes laying out a Panel much easier than it would be with a standard Swing layout manager.

NASA blames the wrong kind of Martian rock for Perseverance sample failure

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: It's most likely dry mud from silt settling out.

Yes indeed, and mud at the bottom of a lake on a low gravity planet that dried out in an atmosphere thats already getting a bit too thin to blow dust about isn't likely to get compacted into something very strong.

Consequently, when some robothing tries to cut cores from the lake-bed using a hollow drill fitted with teeth big and sharp enough to cut through hard rock, it follows that the core is likely to disintegrate into something rather like fine sand rather than just standing there.

I do wonder if they tried using a Perseverance test vehicle to drill holes in dried-out lake-beds in the Mojave or some other, even drier, part of the south-west USA or central Australia. But surely they must have tried that. . . mustn't they?

A Code War has replaced The Cold War. And right now we’re losing it

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

You've all missed half the problem

Its all very well, as well as true, to say that crap code means everything is insecure as hell, but that's only addressig half the problem pointed out in the article .

The other half, which every commentard so far has ignored, is the amount of deliberate misinformation put on the intertubes by malicious actors and then repeated blindly by people too ignorant or lazy to think about the garbage they're amplifying. For keeping this sort of stuff from contaminating the interwebs, software mistakes and omissions are totally irrelevant.

The only way to keep lies and other malicious garbage off the 'information highway' is to take a leaf out of traditional journalism and prevent publication of anything that is not directly and unambiguously attributable to its author: think about it: in a traditional newspaper or broadcast channel, every article or story carries its authors name just as no 'letter to the editor' is published without being checked first. This, done properly, makes everybody directly responsible for what they say, write or publish. THIS is the true meaning of Free Speech, which has nothing to do with lies, abuse, etc written by some anonymous toe-rag.

Requiring anything published on the internet to carry the author's unique, unfalsifiable identity, thereby making the author liable for their output would certainly kill off much of the unattributable nastiness pouring out of the social media, but of course that will never happen because the owners of the social media sites are making too much money from monetising it.

Whistle blowing? This has nothing to do with Free Speech because, for starters, whistle-blowers messages should never be published: they are, or should be, messages sent to some person or authority who can and will take action to fix the thing being complained about.

Hijacked, rampaging infrastructure will kill humans by 2025 – Gartner

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Another SF prophecy clanks into life

In 1944 Theodore Sturgeon wrote 'Killdozer' - a memorably nasty story about a bulldozer that got taken over by a murderous alien intelligence.

Maybe some Gartner geek stumbled on, and read, this story.

Open-source dev and critic of Beijing claims Audacity owner Muse threatened him with deportation to China in row over copyright

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: I think Audacity has had it, then.

It certainly looks as if Audacity maintenance has ground to a halt - Fedora, and so other RH distros as well, are already at least one release behind Audacity's current state, IOW Nobody at Muse can be arsed to do a proper job of distributing binary updates.

AFAICT work on fixing open bugs has stopped too.

In conversation with Gene Hoffman, co-creator of the internet's first ad blocker

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: Gopher

Sure, when Gopher was a thing and "The Whole Internet Guide" was a must-have in your technical book collection, but I stopped using it when the first web browsers appeared.

I long ago lost or binned my copy of "The Whole Internet Guide", but my copy of "UNIX Systems Programming for SVR4", which is a similar age, is still useful and contains stuff that's relevant for writing C on a Linux box.

Kepler spots four rogue Earth-mass exoplanets floating in space, unbound to any star

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Any planet can migrate when fitted with enough spindizzys: their use isn't limited to small objects such as cities.

Taikonauts complete seven-hour spacewalk, the first for China since 2008

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Spot on!

Slightly off-topic for this thread, but if you want to know who did what and when between 1895 and 1909 when the basics of controlled flight were being worked out, read "Kill Devil Hill" by Harry Combs - he was the Learjet chief test pilot and, so by far the best qualified author to have written about the early days of flight. This book shows that, while its not hard to make a machine fly under its own power, making it fly stably is quite a bit harder and making it both easily controllable and stable is at least an order of magnitude harder still. It describes the thought and experimentation that went into achieving all this. Finally, not getting killed while doing all that takes exceptional engineering and problem analysis skills.

That Harry Combs manages to cover all that in a pretty readable book shows that he is a pretty good author too. While his book is primarily about the Wrights, it also covers all all the work done by other pioneers in Europe, UK and North America


Amazon: Our carbon footprint went up 19% last year but we grew even more than that, so 'carbon intensity' is down

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: Next logo design

Never mind the logo - that's just window dressing.

What about doing something positive, such as only using:

- recyclable or compostable packaging materials

- couriers with electric delivery vehicles.

Openreach to UK businesses: Switch is about to hit the fan. Prepare for withdrawal of the copper-based phone network now or risk disruption

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: The future is coming

Exactly so. Including a low wattage conductor pair within a fibre cable is currently known and available technology. There are no extra development costs since the capacity to provide power to a subscriber phone is already a standard part of every exchange.

Indeed, having a copper pair in the cable should even save on trouble-shooting costs by keeping cable-break testing and location as simple as it is today: just use a bridge megger to locate the fault. IANAE but it seems that fault location in fibre optic cable isn't so easy, as it depends on the break reflecting a strong signal.

What knocked out Brit cloud slinger Memset for the night? A busted fibre cable upstream of its data centre, apparently

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: Clapham?

Don't ever think that comms lines follow anything that even faintly resembles the shortest route from A to B. They don't.

Back in 1980, when I was on contract at the BBC, our development team was in an office in Cavendish Square and the main BBC computer Centre was about 800m west of Shepherds Bush. We lost all contact with our mainframe for a couple of days when some berk with a digger took out the cable - at Acton!

For those who don't know London, Acton and Shepherds Bush are both west of Cavendish Square - but Acton is about twice as far away from Cavendish Square as Shepherds Bush and almost directly in line with it, so that cable not only appeared to double back on itself, but was at least three times as long as it needed to be.

Amazon says it's all social media's fault for letting fake review schemes thrive

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Its spreading too

Just today I noticed eBay sellers are giving themselves names that Duck-Duck Go includes as mis-spelt versions of reputable bricks and mortar sellers.

Pay attention, eBay: this WILL rebound on you.

And there was a report on Radio 4 today about similar misdeeds: this time the scammers are using FalseBook and Google accounts to impersonate a genuine merchant, heavily impacting his business as well as committing fraud on the misled punters.

This is something that the Trading Standards people, both here in the UK and elsewhere, should be paying more attention to than they have done so far, because this sort of brand name and logo spoofing is illegal almost everywhere: even in China, if their regulators can be bothered to get off their arses and do their jobs properly.

I can see no reason why Amazon, FarceBurk and eBay shouldn't be hit with the fines if they can't or won't identify the perps: after all they issued logins to the scammers, so should know who they are: if they don't know that then fining them seems only fair.

Indian government reverts to manual tax filings as new e-tax portal remains badly borked a week after launch

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: Why?

Pretty much any non-trivial project will be over budget, late and buggy if the project manager and the technical people who design it, manage development and run unit, integration and acceptance testing are not part of the bid team and their inputs are ignored rather then used to determine pricing, staffing and timescales.

If the project is an in-house one, then a senior user should be part of the design and management team..

Unfortunately, civil servants and other people running governments and the like never staff projects this way and have no clue why it would be a good idea to do so.

An anti-drone system that sneezes targets to death? Would that be a DARPA project? You betcha

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: spraying pink spunk doesn't solve the problem

I think you're assuming the "snot cloud" is closer in consistency to superglue than it needs to be.

Not at all: what I was thinking of was something more like the epoxy-based gunk that's used to seal chimney-stack flashings etc and make sure they stay stuck down. That looks like thick, grey gravy and contains a lot of chopped glass fibre.

To do what the video shows, you need two components: something fibrous to get wound round the drone and its rotors and some form of contact glue to instantly make everything into a single mass. Superglue doesn't actually stick that fast, but contact cements do.

So, keep the glass fibre strands but replace the epoxy gravy with some variety of contact cement in a fast-evaporating carrier and there's your anti-drone system: as the gloop-cloud expands, the carrier evaporates and the fibres become sticky rather than slippery, so they stick to the rotors and each other until the initially spread-out mess gets thoroughly tangled together around the rotors and drone body, at which point the rotors can no longer spin and the drone drops out of the sky as the video showed.

I think this explains why the almost-invisible cloud didn't do much at first, but then quite rapidly congealed into a dark mass stuck to the falling drone at about the time that the rotors stopped.

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: spraying pink spunk doesn't solve the problem

In fact it adds another problem: bystanders getting pink gooey snot dumped on them.

Its all very well pooting out clouds of that stuff on a test range, but cities tend to contain crowds of uninvolved civilians, so if you happened to be one of them I wonder easy it would be to get the pink snot fallout out of your hair and off your clothes and disentangled with those nearby who also got hit by the same snot cloud.

Bear in mind that the snot cloud looked to be quite a bit bigger than the target drone, so quite capable of gluing several people together.

Wasps force two passenger jets into emergency landings

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: Nutters

Boeing's software typically includes some NASA-like 'Paranoid Programming Practices'.

Yeah, like running the flight-critical 737MAX MCAS system off a single computer connected to a single Angle Of Attack sensor. I know that the MAX carried two MCAS computers, each with its own AOA sensor BUT:

- only one MCAS computer and AOA sensor was active during a flight.

- each MCAS computer could only access its own AOA sensor

So, no cross-checking ability provided and the small red MCAS malfunction indicator was an optional paid-for extra, so not generally fitted because bean-counters.

IOW, Boeing was applying almost exactly the opposite of 'NASA Paranoid Programming Practices' as well as ignoring generally accepted aviation principles of multiple redundancy for known unreliable but vital sensors.

FWIW the aircraft I fly have no redundant flight instruments. However, part of the pre-solo training curriculum is to fly a circuit and land without either ASI or altimeter. I have subsequently done just that, but this time for real, when the ASI failed.

Seagate finds sets of two heads are cheaper than one in its new and very fast MACH.2 dual-actuator hard disks

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: Not new

ICL were doing something similar back in 1973 when a 60MB removable disk was a big deal, but it was a software, rather than a hardware, solution.

Their improvement was to maintain two ordered request queues per drive plus a vector showing where the heads were and which direction they were moving. Requests that could be satisfied by keeping the heads moving in the same direction went on one queue and the rest went on the other. The queue pointers were swapped when the 'ahead' queue was emptied.

This made the heads float gently in and out rather than banging madly back and forth across it. The result was roughly doubled throughput and reduced wear and tear on the drive mechanics. It was a standard feature of the George 3 operating system from, IIRC, Mk 6.4 onward.

I can't see any reason why something like this couldn't be implemented within the disk drive: the extra queue storage would be relatively minimal and modern disks already contain a microcontroller.

First Forth, C and Python, now comp.lang.tcl latest Usenet programming forum nuked by Google Groups

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: Recall what Deja Vu was...

I'll take your word for that, sir.

However, my ongoing experience with the Fedora version (0.146) shows a tendency to crash when shutting down and from time to time it looses contact with the current posting profile: a 'do nothing' profile update restores its ability to post - until the next time it happens.

The only reason I'm still using it is that IMO its still the best of the bunch for those of us running Linux and it doesn't trip over these bugs very often.

That said, if Forte Agent was ported to Linux, my hand would be in my wallet like a flash but maybe it will run under Wine: I haven't tried that.

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Recall what Deja Vu was...

Deja Vu was originally just an NNTP archive and search tool, and a well designed, easy to use one too. Until Google took it over. Personally, I thought it wasn't nearly as good a search tool as it had been after Google hacked it about and made it post as well: IMO they'd have done better to have left it alone and written their own newsreader to go with it since, at the time, the only really good newsreader was the excellent Forte Agent. Unfortunately, its Windows only. Like Mozilla Thunderbird, it handles both mail and newsgroups.

Meanwhile, if you want a decent newsreader with easy-to-use tools for blocking obnoxious posters and threads and that isn't windows-only, try installing Mozilla Thunderbird, which handles both mail and newsgroups. Pan used to be the top of the pack until its developers lost interest: it now seems to be abandonware.

Agent, Thunderbird (and Pan) all have good tools for blocking individual trolls and/or complete threads, and you can make a block permanent or just set it for a specified period.

All that Lego has a purpose: Researchers find that spatial memory improves kids' mathematical powers

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: Lego and origami

In my case, Meccano, rather than Lego was my starting point, rapidly followed by balsa, glue, model aircraft kits and then building from plans.

Ever since I began to design my own flying models and (briefly *) flew RC models I've been able to visualise new models in 3D before I designed and built them. That's both complete models and partial assemblies. This ability has vastly helped in designing lots of stuff, not just new model aircraft.

* I quickly realised that, for me anyway, flying my own free flight designs in competitions was much more fun than driving RC models round the sky. Better exercise too, since you get to chase and retrieve your model after every flight.

Blue Origin sets its price: $1.4m minimum for trip into space

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: "One wonders what good that money could do"

despite planes being substantially less efficient than most cars

An excellent point. Its also a factor that most people never realize the importance of whenever you're transporting people and their luggage. Then seat-miles per gallon is the only important number and the mpg value of the vehicle itself is pretty much irrelevant. I worked this out in the late 70s when planning an overland London-Kathmandu return trip and deciding what type of vehicle to use.

For two people, the best answer was a Citroen 2CV van (30 mpg, so 60 seat/mpg), but there were four of us, so that was out. Next up was a VW Combi (21 mpg, 63 seat/mpg with three on board), which was OK with two or possibly three people, but add a 4th person plus gear and it was well known that its mpg fell off a cliff and it got slow, especially on hills. This was important too, because some parts of the London-Kathmandu run are quite high: 5,500ft in eastern Turkey, 7500ft on the southern rim of the Kathmandu valley.

We ended up using a long wheelbase 4 cylinder petrol Series 2 Landrover, which never in its life exceeded 16 mpg (OK, 19 mpg after I fitted electronic ignition) but four up, it hit 64 seat/mpg almost regardless of the weight of camping gear we carried. That was better than any other vehicle we could afford.

But put more people on a different vehicle and the numbers get even better: Encounter Overland ran essentially the same route driving big old RL Bedford trucks with 18 people on board and towing a steel ex-army trailer containing everybody's luggage. The truck normally did around 10 mpg, so call that 8 mpg with a trailer-full of luggage, but this still gives 144 seat/mpg - far beyond the economy anything smaller could manage despite its apparently dire mpg figure.

Parliament demands to know the score with Fujitsu as Post Office Horizon scandal gets inquiry with legal teeth

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

The thing I'd like to know a LOT more about is ...

.. the ability, mentioned in the excellent BBC Radio 4 series detailing the history of the Horizon Scandal, for people on the Horizon operations staff to view and/or make changes to the database content of the live system. IOW I'd like to know:

  • why was it part of the live system?
  • who was intended to use it and for what purpose?
  • was its use logged and if not, why not?
  • did the auditors know it was there?

As soon as the radio program mentioned that a terminal was available to the operations team that could give that level of access, regardless of whether, as the program implied, it supported designed-in auditing and account manipulation functions or was merely a login with access to a DBA's SQL command utility, the fact that it was accessible to an apparently ordinary member of the operations team was an obvious warning that all was not well with Horizon, e.g.:

  • if something like that is normally connected to the live system, just how much system and acceptance testing, if any, had ever been done?
  • had anybody made unauthorized use of it?

Linux laptop biz System76 makes its first foray into the mechanical keyboard world with dinky, hackable Launch

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Altering CapsLock operation

If you're running Linux, then the command set:

xmodmap -e "clear lock"

xmodmap -e "keycode 66 = NoSymbol Caps_Lock"

xmodmap -e "add lock = Caps_Lock"

should change key assignments so that SHIFT+CAPSLOCK is needed to toggle between the capslock state and the unlocked state. Put them in a file called /etc/profile.d/capslock.sh and make it globally readable: most local versions of ~/.bashrc should find it there and and execute it as part of the login process.

Hopefully, Windows and Apple OSen will have a similar user configuration process that can reassign keys on a per-user basis.

Nasdaq's 32-bit code can't handle Berkshire Hathaway's monster share price

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: Bah!

I agree that the finance industry would never consider using floating point for storing values in any currency. Been there, done that: the rule is to hold integral values of the smallest unit used in that currency, so GBP amounts are held in pence, dollar values in cents and Indian Rupees still seem to be stored as paise (100 paise to the rupee even though the physical currency no longer has any currency smaller than a rupee.

However, COBOL's numeric COMPUTATIONAL qualifier (COMP is also valid) isn't special for currency.

All it means is that the value in a variable may contain only a sign and a string of digits, and COMP may be omitted if the variable's PICTURE contains only the characters S and 9. (unless its an edited value when +-9Z. are all usable) and it will always be handled as an integer value with the decimal point being treated as implied and/or used to align values with differing numbers of digits beyond the decimal point.

This causes issues for newbie programmers because if you have two values stored as PIC "999.99" COMP and you try to divide 7.00 by 2.00 you will get 3.00 and a remainder of 1.0 because integer division.

You can also add the 'SYNC' qualifier, which causes the computer's 'natural' storage to be used for that variable. That would be a 24 bit signed integer on an ICL 1900 mainframe, a 16 or 32 bit signed integer on a 32 or 64 bit Intel-based machine. OTOH if you were running on a low end IBM S/360 such as a model 30 you'd be using Packed BCD (Packed Binary Coded Decimal) which stored digits as 4 bits, packed two per byte, and had special instructions for dealing with larger packed BCD values stored as strings of bytes.

COBOL can also handle floating point values (COMP-1 or COMP-2 type variables, but that's outside scope for this discussion, since only a numpty or an inexperienced BASIC programmer would ever consider using floating point values to store monetary values.

NHS Digital booking website had unexpected side effect: It leaked people's jab status

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: people should not be fraudulently using the service

Unfortunately, waving their hands in the air while feebly whining that "people should not be fraudulently using the service" seems to be typical of almost everybody who has been put in charge of NHS medical data for the last two decades. Just how big a clue stick do we need to clobber them with before they realise that a British citizen's medical data is PRIVATE and not theirs to do what they like with.

The people charged with protecting medical data are subject to GDPR penalties if they sell it, give it to PeterTheil because he's a mate or to the spawn of Google because that seems like a good idea after a few pints, so why have none of these people been charged under GDPR, which has now been incorporated into UK law, and sacked?

Bastards, all of them.

21 nails in Exim mail server: Vulnerabilities enable 'full remote unauthenticated code execution', millions of boxes at risk

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Sheer, blind luck...

Phew, dodged all those nasty Sendmail bullets!

And all because I run Postfix on all my computers including my Raspberry Pi.

Years back, when I was running Fedora 1, if it wasn't still RedHat 7.2, I tried to customise Sendmail by working from the O'Reilly Sendmail book. That most be the worst book they ever published, because an entire section was missing. That meant I couldn't get my head round Sendmail and, being too tight to buy another massive book, I ripped out Sendmail, dropped in Postfix and have never looked back.

So, when I bought my first RPi, naturally I slapped Postfix onto it, added the standard configuration I use on every machine except my house server. One reboot later and it 'just ran' and has continued to do so without any configuration changes despite successive upgrades from Wheezy to Buster.

American schools' phone apps send children's info to ad networks, analytics firms

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: Really ?

I fail to see any connection between the reading ability of a country's citizens and whether their government sucks up to the rich, powerful and greedy.

In fact, the opposite should be true: the government of any country with a sub-literate majority of citizens has two immediate and obvious duties: first, to provide an education system that is capable of, and in fact does, turn out literate, numerate citizens capable of critical thought at a price that everybody can afford and, secondly, to prevent their citizens from being ripped off by unscrupulous bastards masquerading as honest businessmen.

Brit MPs and campaigners come together to oppose COVID status certificates as 'divisive and discriminatory'

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: Vaccine certificate?

When you get vaccinated, you are given a small piece of card that carries the date and the type of vaccine that was used. together with what looks like a reference number.

This seems like a reasonable thing to wave at barmen, bus drivers and others who may want to know you've been vaccinated - and it doesn't carry any personal identifiers or provide any simple way of connecting the Vaccination Record to a person unless the NHS keeps a record of the reference numbers against NHI numbers as the cards are issued.

Using it as proof of vaccination would be simple, cheap, and at least as secure as using a rail or bus travel card is. And everybody who has been vaccinated already has one, so there is no additional admin overhead or cost for using it this way.

But, of course, Our Lords And Masters won't ever consider using it as proof of having been vaccinated: if they did, how could their assorted relatives, spouses and other hangers-on get their grubby little hands into the governmental till?

We admire your MOXIE, Earthlings: Perseverance rover gizmo produces oxygen for first time on Mars

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Perseverance 2020 power system

Plutonium dioxide and batteries - the same system that Curiosity uses.

The lump of plutonium dioxide generated 110 watts at launch, so slightly less by now. The batteries are needed to store enough energy for processes that need more than 110 watts, e.g. driving the rover or running MOXIE and PIXL.

(Slightly) more detail here: https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/spacecraft/rover/electrical-power/

Won't somebody please think of the children!!! UK to mount fresh assault on end-to-end encryption in Facebook

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

The 2nd last paragraph reminded me....

Just how much progress has been made in recovering those 400,000 mugshots and fingerprints that got fat-fingered off the Police Database?

Its about time we had a progress report on that. I know the answer is probably "no comment", but all the same an official progress report to confirm or deny what we all expect would be nice.

Google proposes Logica data language for building more manageable SQL code

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Thats what ODBC helps with and JDBC fixes almost entirely, because both generally return columns in the programming language's nearest match to a particular column's data type.

Of course, if the database was "designed" by the sort of numpty who thinks integer values should be stored as character strings, then all you can do is light the blue touch paper and run.

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: All depends on the author coding

Experience as a sometime DBA stongly suggests that a major source of poor RDBMS performance is that the system designers have no idea of which queries will be the most frequently used and that this information is seldom available to the DBA. This isn't really their fault since very often the system's sponsors and future users don't know this either. The result is that all too often a well-designed RDBMS schema generates a database that runs like a lobotomised snail.

Very often its performance can be hugely improved by merely adding indexes that actually support the queries that the application's logic needs to do its designed task and.or reorder the columns within indexes so the queries return rows in the required sequence without needing to sort then as they are extracted from the database.

Its quite remarkable how much a star schema can be sped up by merely reordering columns in the prime indexes and, of course, this sort of fix doesn't require any of the SQL queries or the code calling them to be rewritten.

Whats needed to improve the average RDBMS performance or maintainability is not a sexy new way of writing queries: instead all that's needed is an SQL interface with an EXPLAIN capability to analyse how any given query will interact with the RDBMS content, structure and query mix plus a DBA who is well enough trained to use the EXPLAIN output to better match the database's physical structure to the queries executed against it.

Beijing steps on Alibaba's Ant Group by forcing it to submit to same regulation as banks

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: Time to apply the duck test

I agree with the general view that all elements of the financial sector must play by a common set of rules, but disagree that payment services should be treated like banks, because they aren't banks: they don't hold monetary amounts except for the short time they are in transit through the payment system, don't pay interest or service debt.

The better model to follow is that of existing funds transfer services, e.g S.W.I.F.T. and SEPA internationally, or CHAPS, FASTPAY and BACS in the UK, which are all designed to securely handle financial transfers between accounts at any pair of member banks.

New systemd 248 feature 'extension images' updates immutable file systems without really updating them

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: Errr but...

Yep, I got pissed off by the monkeying with /etc/resolve.conf too, mainly because for years I've just slapped a local customised copy over the top of it whenever a system upgrade caused name resolution to fail. This time, after a couple of reboots I finally read the version that got pasted back in place at each boot, did what it said and have decided that I actually quite like putting all resolver customisation in /etc/systemd/resolved.conf because it does at least collect a number of related settings in one file.

Still somewhat annoyed that somebody thought it would be a good idea to put these hints in the replacement /etc/resolve.conf rather than an easily found manpage, though.

And the Turing Award for best compilation goes to... Jeffrey Ullman and Alfred Aho

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: Awkward

ymmv, but in my experience awk kicks the crap out of other programs designed to do the same job. The only one I think comes near it is NCC Filetab, which was around on ICL kit around 1970 and is still available for Linux and Windows.

Where awk is regex based, filetab uses a decision table to specify the data selection and manipulation you want.

I've used and dislike one or two other pretenders for this task space (RPG3 and sed): neither can match awk for ease of use and readability.

Shedding the 'bleeding edge' label: If Fedora is only going to be for personal use, that doesn't work for Red Hat

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Same here. I've been using Redhat Linux since version 6.2 and Fedora since it first appeared.

I wasn't happy with Gnome 2's half-finished release and then, still unfinished, its abandonment in favour of Gnome 3, which I hated on sight. At that point I switched to XFCE and have been there ever since. Why not? It does what I want and doesn't annoy me with excessive decoration and fiddly bits.

Bell Labs transfers copyright of influential ‘Plan 9’ OS to new foundation

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Good to hear that Plan-9 is resurfacing again. I've not userd it, but I like the ideas behind it.

Could be interesting to run it up on a small cluster of RaspberryPis: IIRC its structure would make it relatively easy to put major OS components on separate host machines.

Open Source Initiative board election results scrapped after security hole found, exploited to rig outcome

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: loggers who claim to speak for the trees.

It didn't look at all like that when I was driving round the Olympic Peninsula in the early '90s. Just vast areas with 2-3 metre high stumps where big trees had been lopped off and carted away with little concern for making use of as much of the wood as possible. What regrowth was visible was obviously natural regrowth and owed nothing to any sort of planned replanting.

Holes patched in Russian segment of the ISS though pesky pressure loss continues

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Haven't they used that once already? On the drill hole?

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: Happy to help

No need for a big water bath - just send space walkers out to spray the outside of ZVEZDA module with a latex-based coating then do another spacewalk a few days later to spot the bubble(s). Just be careful to mask off the viewports before spraying the module if you'd like a nice, clear outside view after the leaks have been found.

This approach should suit the Russians just fine - they like simple, robust solutions to problems. For confirmation of this, check out the story of the Salyut 7 revival after it lost attitude control and all solar power. The full story is here:


GitLab latest to ditch 'master' as default initial branch name: It's now simply called 'main'

Martin Gregorie Silver badge

Re: RE: Master / slave

In the companies and on the projects I've been involved with, talk about master/slave relationships have been very few and far between.

In describing an unequal relationship, its been far more common, in the placed I've worked, to describe it as a client/server relationship, which in fact describes the situation a lot better since the end with multiple links, the server, is much more likely to be responding to requests from its many clients than the other way round.



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