* Posts by Kobus Botes

194 posts • joined 12 May 2008


The crime against humanity that is the modern OS desktop, and how to kill it

Kobus Botes

Re: grouping programs by company and not application type


"Should the same app be listed under mulitple categories?"

Mageia/KDE (Plasma5) does it that way.

LibreOffice Draw, for instance, appears under Office and Graphics, whilst LO Maths appear under Office and Sciences.

Tellico (a little collection manager I use to manage my library/book collection, lives under Development and Office. LO Base, weirdly, is only found under Development.

Kobus Botes

Re: Not the only game in town

@Def again.

"...finding the time, backing everything up, and spending a day reinstalling everything..."

A couple of tips:

When you do a new install, set your home folder on separate partition, or, better still, another drive. That way you need not worry about your data when reinstalling or installing a different OS. That said, backing up data is always a good practice, but in eighteen years of using Mandrake/Mandriva/Mageia I have never lost any data because of an OS install or reinstall. Just make sure you manually configure your drives/partitions: i.e. do not choose the Automatic option.

I am sure most (if not all) Linux flavours allow you to do a custom install, at which time you can select at least a large proportion of software you want during install. And having your home folder separate means that tweaks/customisation will still be there. But even installing everything from repositories post-install will only take an hour or so (if that).

Kobus Botes

Re: Not the only game in town


"I would actually love to be able to use KDE."

The best KDE implementation (at least for me) is by Mageia. I tried Fedora some years back, which was not bad either. Else try OpenSuSe - their KDE flavour was also very good (although it is more than six years ago I played with it - time flies),

Ubuntu Linux 18.04 systemd security patch breaks DNS in Microsoft Azure

Kobus Botes

Wait a minute, something's wrong here...

How does an Ubuntu DNS problem knock out Azure?

I can understand that updated Ubuntu instances running on Azure can cause problems for those instances, but surely Azure should do its own DNS look-ups and resolution.

Or does Microsoft's DNS servers run on Ubuntu, which they had updated en masse and now it has become an unholy mess with no easy way back?

Windows 10 update breaks audio for some systems

Kobus Botes

@ Paul Crawford

Naughty, naughty. Thankfully LP has left Red Hat and joined Microsoft, so hopefully the won't fix problems in SystemD will now be fixed/removed.

Kobus Botes

Re: Printers

Mmmm. My wife's laptop has had some issues with printing to a Canon Maxify printer for some time (I have previously written about it), but in the last two weeks it seems to have become worse (she does not regularly print to it, so I cannot say for sure, but she used it fairly often the last couple of weeks).

Error messages vary, but is mostly either "The printer is offline" or "The printer is off". Other errors are "The printer is not responding", "The printer did not interpret the command correctly" (or something in that vein), "The printer is busy" or "Cannot print to the printer". In all cases the printer is healthy and can be pinged from the laptop, even though it is supposedly off.

Note: the printer is connected via wi-fi, to my frustration. It does not have (an old-fashioned) RJ-45 port, only a USB port, but then the laptop must be on and connected if you want to print.

The fixes are similarly varied: Restarting the printer (sometimes more than once), rebooting the Laptop, connecting the laptop with a cable to the network (thereby cutting out one wi-fi link), restarting the print spooler, stopping and starting the spooler (waiting a while between stopping and starting (ot seems to make a difference).

Uninstalling the printer driver and reinstalling a freshly downloaded driver has not really made a difference.

I will try and see if any detritus remains in the registry - hopefully that will solve her problem.

Post-quantum crypto cracked in an hour with one core of an ancient Xeon

Kobus Botes

Re: Supersingular Isogeny Key Encapsulation

Two downvoates?

Are you users of the term?

Just curious and would appreciate an answer - I have not met any users - only heard it on the radio or seen it on TV or in print.

Some other people I would like to speak to are the ones who, whilst well below the speed limit (say, doing 100 km/h in a 120 zone), slam on their brakes when approaching a speed camera, crawl past it at another 20 km/h lower than their previous speed, and then speed up again once safely past the hazard.

Do they expect leniency should they be caught with a traffic violation later on ("Officer, please forget about this one - I always slow down at speed cameras, so you owe me something")?

Some other ones are the people who slow down about 200m before a green traffic light, in some instances down to 20 km/h, only to accellerate and charge through the red light which they would have avoided entirely had they just continued at normal speed.

Why slow down if you do not intend to stop in any case?

Kobus Botes

Re: Supersingular Isogeny Key Encapsulation


... It's not just singular, it's _super_ singular.

A non-sensical term that trips me up EVERY time I hear it, is "one of the only".

Example: Company X is one of the only companies in the world that can produce XXX widgets".

Another use I have encountered more that once is "(this person) is one of the only people who have ..."

I keep vacillating between "Is it the only" or "Is it a member of a small collection?

It's a gordian knot that drives me into despair and can turn me almost catatonic if I am not careful.

I suppose what the utterrer(s) of this phrase means is "one of a select few", or maybe "one of the very few". who can do whatever difficult task is under discussion.

Icon: imbibing copious amounts of this beverage causes a headache that only approximates a slight throbbing in comparison to the headaches I get when being confronted with this evil phrase.

Perhaps the nuclear explosion icon would have been more appropriate, come to think of it.

BOFH: Selling the boss on a crypto startup

Kobus Botes

It's twelve years...

of my working life described in the first half (up to where the Hell desk makes its appearance)!

I probably fixed half the issues that people had with their IT equipment just by turning up to see what the problem is. My standard answer was "I am glad it was a simple fix, as I am rather busy" or something in similar vein.

And yes, a substantial percentage of problems were self-inflicted (like a person kicking the power plug switch under the desk, or against the wall, causing a temporary loss of power (many of which I only solved by spending some time with the user, observing what they did in order to see if it was a real intermittent problem or something else)).

Other weird behaviours were caused by files depressing one of the Esc, Ctrl or Enter keys, where people had lots of files and books strewn all over their desks.

I also had a number of people who did disturb the fabric of space and time (no chesterfield sofas appeared, though, thankfully).

Psst … Want to buy a used IBM Selectric? No questions asked

Kobus Botes

Re: Hot stuff

@Strahd Ivarius

"...easy to remove the admin password with a boot CD..."

Hiren's Boot CD could reset both the admin and user passwords on Windows, at least up to Windows 10. It was a life saver to me when users would forget their passwords and no-one remembered tha admin password (in the days of yore when PC's were mostly not connected to anything except a printer). But tbh, management was fairly relaxed about PC passwords (what was there to protect? It was actually suspicious behaviour).

Passwords only really came into fashion once domains were created and users could connect to other domains as and when needed.

Microsoft's latest security patch troubles Windows 11 users

Kobus Botes

Re: Erg


"...my other half..."

My better half is (and will probably always will be) stuck on Windows, which means I am still stuck with supporting her machine.

Don't know if it is related, but she had a problem last week with printing (Windows insisting the printer is off-line, even though it was not). Rebooting both devices had no effect, so I decided to run the troubleshooter (which has never in all the years managed to resolve any issue, usually just giving up in despair and statiing it could not solve the problem). Its first attempt ended in a "no solution" resolution, but the second time round (this was after the reboots) it told me that issues were found and would I like it to implement its solution? So I clicked on yes and, after several minutes it happily announced that the problem was fixed, the solution being that it had turned the printer on. Since the printer actually printed, I left it at that.

Yesterday afternoon, after returning from work, her machine (a laptop) announced that no bootable media was found.

It refused to boot from a Hirens Boot CD usb stick, so I took it in to a local PC shop (as she was anxious to get it working again and I really did not have time to spend on it), which fixed the problem by reinstalling WIndows, as none of the repairs were able to fix the problem. The disk is fine, though.

Ditto ---------------------->

After 40 years in tech, I see every innovation contains its dark opposite

Kobus Botes

Re: a planetary-scale "ignorance amplifier"


"I discovered many of my favourite authors this way".

A thousand times this! Many of my favourite authors were either accidentally found (Like AC Clarke and Theodore Sturgeon, where I read a book by each, that a boarding school roommate's father had taken along on a short holiday with them when I was fifteen), or were introduced to me by a friend or colleague (like Le Carré, Douglas Adams and Douglas Hofstadter). But the most interesting books (about fifty per cent of my private library) were found while browsing for books by any of the above authors (and more). Books and authors that I would never have found had I not been browsing.

The same goes for music: most of my LP's and CD's were found whilst browsing for something by well-known musicians or bands.

Much pleasure was accidentally found, not whilst searching for it.

The modern version of browsing ("People who bought this also looked at...") does not work for me. Most of the time the suggestions turn out to be something that I will absolutely not read or listen to (not because I have a closed mind, but because experience has taught me that I do not enjoy or like what most people do), which has made me very wary of suggestions (I do not do popular; if I like something that turns out to be a hit or popular, it is accidental. I go my own way; if I happen to go along with the crowd, it is purely because in that instance our ways happened to coincide briefly).

It has "cost" me to some extent: I avoided Radiohead for years, purely because it was suggested that people who like Pink Floyd may also like Radiohead (Now I own most of their CD's, after accidentally hearinig OK Computer on the radio). My brain just does not work that way: I like Rick Wakeman's solo stuff, but Yes leaves me cold. I like ELP, but King Crimson likewise passes me by.

For the same reason I do not like e-books and downloaded music: I love the smell of books and love examing LP covers and looking at the whole thing. The amount of care taken by a band in designing an album already tells me a lot about what can be expected. That is completely lost in downloaded books and music, sadly.

Tavis Ormandy ports WordPerfect for UNIX to Linux

Kobus Botes

Re: Tavis Ormandy ports WordPerfect for UNIX to Linux


"I remember WordPerfect 5 was critical..."

I remember (almost) open revolt among the typists when our company introduced Word for Windows (on Windows 3.11) (Office, actually, meaning that Lotus-123 was also destined for the scrap-heap, to my frustration), ditching WordPerfect 5.

And the most vocal opponent acted upon her word, resigning a month or three later.

I most liked the yellow on blue screen; made for less eye fatigue. The proficient typists (those who did not need the templates anymore) had the hardest time converting to Word and complained bitterly for months afterwards.

WordPerfect 5 on DOS, even on an IBM XT, ran rings around Word, which meant some of the die-hards were able to cling to WordPerfect for some years, until the old XT's were finally phased out (networking being the pressure point, specially after DHCP was implemented around 1997).

Once PC's came into general use, the typing pools were disbanded and typists were re-deployed and the battle was over.

Fun days!

Sick of Windows but can't afford a Mac? Consult our cynic's guide to desktop Linux

Kobus Botes

Re: Control Your Own Upgrades


..."what he/she/it needs is a simply a reliable OS to run programs on..."

I have been very happy with Mageia since, well, almost forever, as I started with Mandrake 9 (I think) in 2004/5.

The biggest problem I had with it was with updates - sometimes it will give you a warning that it needs to be rebooted for a kernel update, BUT THERE WOULD BE FURTHER UPDATES WAITING IN THE WINGS; should you reboot without waiting for URPMI to fetch the later updates, you can end up with an OS that does not boot into the desktop. Luckily it is easy enough to just hit Alt-F2 for a console, log on as root (or su to root) and complete the update.

Other than that it is a joy to use (for me, at least).

You can buy a company. You can buy a product. Common sense? Trickier

Kobus Botes

Re: 'twas ever thus

@David 123

"Interesting difference between..."

Here in South Africa fixtures (i.e. anything bolted or screwed onto or into the structure of the house) has to remain, unless stipulated in the sales contract that it will be removed. You also have to leave a stove behind - usually the one that was there, but not necessarily.

Removing lamp shades or fixed lights therefore is not allowed - if there were such items there have to be similar or the same after the house has been vacated. Removing bulbs is just mean.

How experimental was Microsoft's 'experimental banner' in File Explorer?

Kobus Botes

Re: Usual answer


...Ended up with a number of computers that won't start...

I started my switch to Linux with Mandrake in 2002/3 -ish and went with it through all its transitions (acrually, it was Caldera, but to my horror I discovered after three months that the GUI was proprietary and you had to buy a licence in order to keep using it). I am currently on Mageia 8 (eagerly waiting for 9) and have had minimal problems with getting a bootable machine. Problems I did have were either due to faulty hardware or because I wanted to push the envelope too far (or in my stupidity broke it when trying to install bleeding edge software not in the repository).

NVidia drivers (both proprietary and OS) has given me problems, but it seems to have stabilised now (although changing my graphics card may also have played a role - I could never catch it as being the culprit, though).

All my installs have been from USB (I do not upgrade to new versions). On Windows Rufus created bootable USB's, if memory serves, but otherwise I use ISODumper.

The neat thing about Linux is that, if you get your display wrong and the GUI refuses to run, you can always switch to a console (ctrl-alt-F2 or F3 or F4, etc) and fix it there - using Drakconf in the case of Mageia. I am sure other distro's will also have cli tools that can do the same thing. YAST on OpenSUSE is very good.

Once your have gotten round the differences between Linux and Windows, you won't look back. In fact, I am nowadays lost if I have to fix something on my better half's Win 10 laptop, and more often than not have to consult Google in order to find a fix (Windows' autofix solutions are even worse now than they were before - it is better to steer clear of it, as it is just a waste of time. I have yet to find a problem that WIndows can fix by itself, unless it is the simplest of problem).

Emergency updates: Adobe, Chrome patch security bugs under active attack

Kobus Botes

...using open source PDF viewers...

@bombastic bob

Unfortunately there are times when it does not work. Our Revenue Services insists on using the latest and greatest of Adobes fine products, and the only reader that can open it has to be the latest and greatest. Until last year they still insisted on using Flash(!) - as you all know, the most bug-ridden and insecure piece of software anywhere in the universe. They were so beholden with Flash that Adobe actually wrote a special version just for them. Luckily they finally relented and migrated to HTML5, but there are still applications (on the commercial side) that require Flash.

Adobe stopped adding the latest and greatest features to their linux version a long time ago. If I receive documentation from SARS, I am forced to use SWMBO's Windows machine.

My go-to PDF reader is Okular, which works well for my limited use of PDF's (in fact, the only PDF's I cannot open come from SARS).

I gave Evince and Atril a whirl (luckily they were in Mageia's depository; I had never come across them before, so thanks for that). Unfortunately neither of them could open SARS documents either.

Atril did upset me, though, as it silently, and without even a by your leave, elected itself as the default PDF reader. I hate programs that do that, so Atril had been consigned to the dump.

Now where is the steam coming out of the ears icon? Aaah, found it!

First they came for Notepad. Now they're coming for Task Manager

Kobus Botes

Re: Who Cares?

@Phil Opian-tube & Ucle Ron

It is just a matter of unfamiliarity. Whenever I now need to do something on/in Windows, 9 times out of ten I have to google in order to find out how to do it (the only Windows machine I need to touch belongs to my better half). And when I do, it feels so.... limited.

I have been using Linux on my PC's and laptops since 2004. Started off with Mandrake, followed it to Mandriva and then went with Mageia when Mandriva started losing the plot.

Microsoft called out as big malware hoster – thanks to OneDrive and Office 365 abuse

Kobus Botes

Re: Users need to know that


"Not all spam is obvious".

I used to be very confident that I will not be fooled/caught by spam/phishing/ransomware, until one of our clients were hit by a ransomware attack.

In discussing it with the person who opened the offending document (the secretary to a main board director), I discovered the following:

The company had placed job advertisements in various papers and social media, requesting CV's to be sent to said secretary, setting out exactly what information they wanted and the format it had to be in.

To all outward appearances it looked like a legitimate job application - even to the point that the attacker had a long string of spaces after "My CV.docx", to guard against people who display file extentions.

I would have opened that document in those circumstances as well.

Scoot on over for a wheely tricky mystery with an electrifying solution

Kobus Botes

Re: Scoot on over for a wheely tricky mystery with an electrifying solution


"...every time I use the exit button I get a shock..."

OT, but similar. In the drier parts of SA (most of it therefore) one can get a nasty shock when exiting a car. I very soon learnt to firmly clasp the door-post when getting out, and only releasing my hand once I am securely on the ground.

It was fun, actually, if you did not do that and then give someone a firm handshake.

(What happened to the lightning bolt icon?)

How Windows NTFS finally made it into Linux

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Thumb Down

Re: I can only warn

@Luiz Abdala

...but if the FOLDER PATH is longer than 255 digits...

You don't want to know how hard it was to explain THAT to users. This issue caused me no end of trouble - repeatedly.

The one issue that took me a long time to resolve concerned an inability to attach files from shared drives on a document server, to an e-mail (Outlook/MS Exchange 5).

I eventually twigged that it was related to a filename being too long (as copying it to a local drive and then attaching it to the message worked like a charm), but the problem was that the whole path was "only" about 170 characters long.

Experimentation led to the discovery that Outlook could not attach files if the filename was more than 112 characters (I think - twenty years ago and the old memory is not what it used to be) in length.

Icon for MS and its illogical inconsistencies.

Reason 3,995 to hold off on that Windows 11 upgrade: Iffy performance on AMD silicon

Kobus Botes

Re: Good to see


Shame man, don't know what you wrote that upset a whole slew of the downvoters.

Gave you an upvote just to offset one of them.

Cheers (hopefully the beer will improve your self-esteem)

Edited to change set off to offset (I thought it sounded strange, but could not put my finger on it).

Fatal Attraction: Lovely collection, really, but it does not belong anywhere near magnetic storage media

Kobus Botes

Regarding The Power of Observation

When I was at university there were a number of cases where tapes used by the mainframe (Unicac 1100) had become corrupted. Everything they could think of had been checked, but all came out negative; The problem persisted. After a number of weeks a pattern started emerging: it seemed that corruption occured over week-ends.

Interrogating staff and students did not yield any result either. Somebody (the professor who regaled the tale did not mention who) then decided to surreptituosly monitor the computer room, as well as the route along which tapes were transported from the computer room to the storage area, to see if he could catch the culprit red-handed. It took a number of weeks, but he finally got his man - or rather woman.

It turned out that the tapes used by students were kept in a large storage room accessible to everyone, since it was not valuable (in the sense tha the financial tapes were). These tapes were stored in wooden racks bolted to one wall, with the first shelf being about ten to fifteen centimetres above the floor, with three shelves above it. Regularly used tapes were stored on the middle two shelves (for easy access), whilst seldom-used tapes were on the bottom shelve and tapes that were deemed to be never used, plus new tapes, were on the top shelf.

On the particular day the culprit was caught, the Observer noticed the cleaning lady coming along, polishing the floors with a massive polisher (something like this ).

The shelf was just high enough off the floor to allow the polisher to get real up close and personal to the front of the tapes (being stored like a horizontal stack of coins). Those were noisy buggers; my mom had a Columbus like that.

Secondly (I think I have told the tale here before, but here is a summary): one of my colleagues told us a story about a server in a remote site (about 300 km away) that had suddenly started failing, almost to the minute, at the same time of day. Calls to the branch did not reveal any reason why it should shut down (no power failures or surges, nor anyone unplugging the server to plug in a vacuum cleaner or whatever). Eventually one of the techies were sent off on a nice Friday drive to observe the phenomenon first-hand.

The first thing he noticed, was that the server was not in the cubicle that served as a server room any more, but resided on a desk in front of a window. I cannot remember why it was moved, but it was probably because they were upgrading the cubicle to (or maybe creating) a proper server room, and that was the only available space for it to reside in the mean time.

The second thing that he noticed as the magic hour slowly approached, was that the sun had started to shine on the side of the server, the window being west-facing. And right on cue, after about an hour of being baked, the server dutifully shut down because it suffered thermal stress (the sun in Limpopo province in high summer can be brutal).

(Icon for the heat of the sun, obviously)

Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram deplatform themselves: Services down globally

Kobus Botes

Re: So odd... Was it me?


Sadly, no, it wasn't you (it would have been cool, though, especially if you could make them disappear permanently, or at will).

I received a Telegram call from my son about an hour ago about this, and it took ages to connect. His stance is that Telegram is a bit overwhelmed/flooded with traffic, as people took to Telegram in order to communicate.

According to him it was a DNS config gone wrong (heard from someone with knowledge about it), leading to all their DNS servers falling over. And, siince the servers are now unreachable, there is a scramble to get support into data centres in order to get physical access so the servers can be individually reconfigured.

It is going to be a looooong day/night for the poor buggers!

It did not affect me, as I do not partake of FB and their products (OK - I have to confess; I had to reopen my WhatsApp account, since my siblings objected to change to Telegram or Signal. They are heavily invested in the whole FB experience, sadly. I will probably get an avalanche of messages from them once Fb teeters upright again).

BOFH: They say you either love it or you hate it. We can confirm you're going to hate it

Kobus Botes

Re: Deja vu!


Aaaah, Melissa!

I remember her well. A user called me to come and have a look at her machine, as it was doing funny things. The first thing I did was to ask her to unplug the network cable, in case it was a virus.

Unfortunately we were using Outlook, as we had moved to MS Office two years previously (to the utter dismay of the typists, I must admit, as they were extremely happy with WordPerfect), and not on Pegasus Mail anymore, so the first thing I did was to call the people that the mail had gone out to to ask them to delete the message immediately and not open the attachment (luckily not many people in her contact list at the time - it would have been a major issue a year or so later when Head Office created mailing lists and put those at the top of the contact list ("to make it easy to use")).

I was less lucky with ILOVEYOU; a user forwarded the message to me to ask to check if it could be a virus (although my standing instruction was to first unplug the network cable and then call me to come and have a look).

Since my policy had always been to set all machines to display file extensions (I cannot believe that it is still MS practice to hide extensions by default, despite all the mayhem it has caused. It is still in Windows 11 - I do not buy the excuse that it prevents people from accidentally removing the extension when renaming files - it is an easy enough mistake to fix. Mageia highlights only the file name before the extension when renaming - does Windows still highlight the whole name, including the extension? I am not interested enough to fire up my dual-booting laptop just to check), I saw the .vbs extension (which was what triggered my user to not open it and pass it on to me).

I did some searching (as an aside, my search engines of choice before Google were Alta Vista, Excite! and Lycos, with Webcrawler as fallback in case I did not find what I was looking for - in 2000 I still used all of them, but Google had become my go-to) but could not really find anything.

So I unplugged my network cable and decided to see what happens if I run it. I did lose some jpg's, but nothing of note - mostly stuff that others had sent me that I kept for some reason. And I had to wipe the hard drive and reinstall Windows 2000. Since I had contemplated using server 2000 as my desktop, this was as good an opportunity as any.

Since we're on the topic of ancient viruses, just this tale: the very first machine we had in the company (recounted earlier in my posts), an IBM XT, had a virus checker that ran on boot. The typist who used it at the time had the following routine: she would come in earlier in the morning, start the machine and set the date and time (well before CMOS batteries came into fashion!) and then go and make coffee, attend to her make-up, gossip a little check what was in her in-tray and then go to each of us to ask for new typing that we had not yet delivered to her. By the time all of that was done, the machine might have finished booting - it took about 30 minutes or so for it to finish scanning the hard drive (40 MB by that time, if I remember correctly).

Icon, because I had to nuke my machine.

Windows 11 still doesn't understand our complex lives – and it hurts

Kobus Botes

Re: Browser sessions don't work as you've described

@ady 103, @sictransit

Firefox on Windows also allows one to log on to different Google accounts simultaneously (though my better half had to show me). Disclaimer: I did not try this in Edge (not my machine - I use linux), but Edge is hidden from sight by design.

Steps: Open one account

Click on the Google Account icon (top right corner)

Click on Add another account (this was where I came short when I tried it before; to me Add another account means I want to create another Google account, but there you have it) and enter the other account's credentials.

Job done.

BOFH: Here in my car I feel safest of all. I can listen to you ... It keeps me stable for days

Kobus Botes
Thumb Up

Re: The obverse also applies in some cases


"I wonder who else could have been in that class..."

Not my teacher's roommate, if that was what you were wondering about. He told us the story in 1973 and had been teaching for about ten years by that time.

Another reason was that this was in South Africa, not the UK.

Good story, though.

Kobus Botes

The obverse also applies in some cases

"You never put anything controversial in the first half of the document, when people are alert," I say. "And you never put anything dodgy on the last 2-4 pages."

Our Science and Maths teacher at school told us a story about one of his roommates at university, whose test and exam scores were way above his actual ability in one subject.

Upon asking him how he managed to do so well in that particular subject, his roommate told him that he had heard on good authority that the lecturer only read the first two or three pages and the last two pages of each paper (his roommate did a BA in history or something, so most of the exams and tests consisted of having to write lengthy essays).

So his roommate procured a number of old test and exam papers to see which were the most popular questions, and then proceeded to construct the most eloquent and insightful first three to four pages and ditto for the last two or three of a couple of questions that were (hopefully) bound to be asked. As for the rest, he wrote letters to his mother, or a transcript of a rugby or cricket match commentary, or whatever other drivel he could think of to amuse himself.

Apparently his average for the subject was well over 80%.

Windows 11: Meet the new OS, same as the old OS (or close enough)

Kobus Botes

Re: Windows 10 is fine only for standard systems

Missed the edit deadline:

iTunes recently broke in that it no longer sees the music we ripped from our CD's (it is much more practical to use an iPod to listen to our music during long trips, rather that schlepping a shed-load of CD's along (not to mention the posiibility of losing irreplaceble CD's).

And iTunes have no way of copying one's own music from the iPod to the PC. Aternate solutions offered seems to be dodgy or are on despicable sites like Softonic, hence avoided.

Not sure who to blame, though. Could be Apple as well.

Kobus Botes

Re: Windows 10 is fine only for standard systems

@The Oncoming Scorn

One would have thought that with Microsoft's new-found love of linux goodness, they would have fixed Windows' bad-boy behaviour in trampling all over grub during updates.

We have one laptop in our house that dual-boots with Mageia 8, and almost (if not always) every major update breaks grub, forcing you to repair grub before being able to use the machine again.

The last incidence happened on Saturday when 20H2 landed.

What to do about open source vulnerabilities? Move fast, says Linux Foundation expert

Kobus Botes

Re: The problem with testing

@ Tomato42

..."many programmers are incapable of doing that, especially for code they written"...

That applies to ANYTHING you have written. You do not read WHAT you have written (when checking for errors), but what SHOULD have been written, or what you intended to write, hence missing the error completely.

A substantial part of my first job involved creating (from templates, to be sure, but we had to modify it) legal contracts, where absolutely everything must be correct to avoid possible problems later on. I was fortunate to have had very good mentors and it was drilled into me that reading your own writing (no matter how perfect you thought it was) had to involve the following steps:

Read for spelling mistakes.

Read for grammar mistakes.

Read for logical mistakes.

Read for numbering mistakes (paragraphs/sections).

Read for cross-referencing mistakes (where you refer to something in the same document, e.g. page number, paragraph number, section number, et cetera. These things regularly change).

Read for meaning.

Read for consistency.

Check that your indentation is consistent and correct.

Check your apostrophes (dotting the i's and crossing the t's).

Check your capitalisation.

Let it lie for a day or two (not always possible) and re-read.

Once it is perfect and there are absolutely no errors, give it to a colleague or two to check.

Correct all the errors they found and repeat.

And then, six months down the line when you scan through it, the unseen and unfound errors leap out at you...

Not the most exciting task to be sure, especially if you are under pressure and short of time, but it has to be done. (Bizarrely, I used to enjoy the process once started, despite the initial reluctance to get going, since I am a troubleshooter, really. Troubleshooting is what interests me, not necessarily the subject matter (although it does make it easier and more enjoyable if it involves something that I am interested in as well)).

Spotify to introduce lossless audio streaming: Better sound or inefficient gimmick?

Kobus Botes

Re: Analog kid in a digital world...


"The limiting factor is the equipment it's played on."

In my second year of electronic engineering studies our electronics professor had much to say about that. At the time (late seventies) wow and flutter (or lack thereof) was all the rage and manufacturers of tape recorders/players and turntables usually very prominently quoted how low its products' w&f were. I cannot remember exact figures, but I seem to remember premium products would be in the region of 1-2 %.

The prof's rant was about how we wasted money doing that, as the best and most expensive speakers of the time (Bang & Olufsen comes to mind) could not better 5%. And if I am not mistaken, the human ear cannot do much better in any case (any sound engineers who can weigh in on that?).

Manhunt: 'Armed and dangerous' MIT AI scientist sought by cops probing grad student's gun murder

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Sentient train tracks?

"...was reported acting suspiciously by train tracks..."

Rise of the Machines!!!

Luckily for us here in South Africa our rail network will never reach sentience!

Not just Microsoft: Auth turns out to be a point of failure for Google's cloud, too

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GMail out again today...

GMail fell over at least twice today. According to downdetector it was out from 6:48 EST (no info on how long it lasted). When I tried to log on to GMail at 15:30 (GMT + 2), it was unable to connect. Downdetector did not report any problems here at that time and I was able to log on a minute or so later.

Downdetector still shows outages for GMail though, mostly in Western Europe and the UK and the North-Eastern parts of the USA and Canada (Washington to Boston and Chicago to Toronto), plus Florida.

Square Kilometre Array signs off on construction plans – UK last holdout before building phase begins

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@ Roger Kynaston

No Israelites, I'm afraid (not in an official capacity, though I am sure some individuals may be).

Kobus Botes

Re: I've been hearing about the square kilometer array for so long


MeerKAT has been in operation since July 2016 and has already made some significant discoveries.

It was designed and built as a proof of concept, as well as to serve as a test bed. It will form part of the mid-range antennas of SKA eventually.

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@ Jellied Eel

...to expand the number/area of the antenna array(s)...

3000 antennas with a base-line of 3000km across southern Africa. See the illustration of the layout on the bottom right of the page.

See also here for more info on SKA participation in Africa.

Kobus Botes

Re: Units?

@ Yes Me

130 PB/y...

The prospectus is old. According to SKA's Fact Sheet they now anticipate 600 PB/y.

The growth in antennas are equally impressive: they plan to ultimately have 250 stations in Australia, with 10 000 low frequency aperture array antennas per station.

Mind-boggling all-over.

To think how impressed I was in my youth with my big plans: I think the ultimate hyper-biggest I could conceive of would probably have amounted to one dish antenna connected to a mini computer (if that).

Help! My printer won't print no matter how much I shout at it!

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Re: HP

@Admiral Grace Hopper

"...until the LaserJet II died".

I used an LJet II that we bought somewhere in '88/'89. I was supposed to have dumped it, but since there was nothing wrong with it and it was perfectly suited for the little printing I did (plus there were still a couple of new toner cartridges around), I kept it.

It was still chugging along fine when I left the company in 2007.

The only way to get them to stop working (icon) ---------------------------->

0ops. 1,OOO-plus parking fine refunds ordered after drivers typed 'O' instead of '0'

Kobus Botes

Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

...designed by people who know where they want to go and how to get there...

This happened in South Africa as well. Guidance signs on freeways around cities used to tell you where the next off-ramp goes (i.e. suburb or town, et cetera). Then someone in government decided that that is too easy, so all signs were converted to the street name (or road designation) if it puts you on a road somewhere else.

So where previously you would have seen Welgemoed Bellville Parow at exit 20 on the N1 in Cape Town (going east), you are now confronted with Mike Pienaar Blvd Jip de Jager ln M16. Even for locals, going to a suburb where you do not often venture, it is easy to miss your turn-off.

It's beyond stupid.

Kobus Botes

Re: good grief

And in South Africa it is a mixed bag.

The first number plates had the following format:

Two or three letters followed by numbers (six if it had two letters, else 5). The first letter designated the province, whilst all the letters indicated the origin/town/municipality. Each province had their own scheme of how letters were allocated to places. The Cape Province used population (which makes it quite interesting to see how growth has differed over the years). So Cape Town was CA (still is, but they have stopped recycling old/deregistered numbers, so added CAA, but then ran into trouble when the 99999 numbers were inexplicably used up in less than two years, so they now are contemplating to go to incognito numbers like most of the other provinces now use), Port Elizabeth was CB and so on.

Natal used the town or municipality name. Durban therefore is ND, Pietermaritzburg became NP, Ixopo became NIX, et cetera. The Transvaal and the Orange Free State had their own schemes. I know that the person who set up the rules for the OFS was very unhappy when Sasolburg was proclaimed (it was built specifically to service the coal to oil refinery that was erected in the mid fifties) and someone with a sense of humour designated OIL as the place designator. It stayed OIL.

Somewhere in the seventies the Transvaal had run out of letters and numbers, so they changed the whole province to a computer-generated number that had the format of BBB 000 T (where T indicated Transvaal). No vowels were allowed and Q was also disqualified.

After independence in 1994 and with the four provinces now reorganised into nine, the whole thing changed again. The Western Cape and Natal elected to continue with their old system, whilst the other provinces went with the system that the Transvaal had used. Gauteng therefore became BBB 000 GP, North West BBB 000 NW, and so on.

Gauteng ran out of their 8 million numbers two or three years ago, so they changed to a new format, BB 00 BB GP, which gives them 8 million extra (all old numbers had to change to the new format at the next renewal due).

When personal numbers were allowed the Western Cape went with a WP suffix and Natal with NZ (for KwaZulu/Natal, wich is its new name post 1994). Any combination is allowed, as long as it is not obviously rude. Some rude ones therefore slipped through, as the officials in charge of approval do not necessarily know how to read it. The worst one I saw (on an Audi A4), and the way he drove, made me decide that if ever I was looking for a job and he happened to be an executive at that company, I would not accept it. His number was A4Q2 - WP. (It is of course entirely possible that his second car was an Audi Q2 with Q2A4 - WP, but I would take it as his defence should he be called out on it. It cannot have not been deliberate).

I rather prefer knowing where the car comes from. When I grew up in the sixties, it was customary to flash your headlights at someone from your hometown, if you were travelling far away from home.

You had one job... Just two lines of code, and now the customer's Inventory Master File has bitten the biscuit

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Paris Hilton

Re: Adding a comment sometimes caused compile failure

@Paul Shirley

"...by throwing multiple errors for each line..."

The PL/1 compiler on the Univac 1100 we used at university in the early eighties did that too. Although I suspect that it had a time or page limit, as it would stop after probably 100 fanfold pages (I used to have lots of scrap paper for mocking up my flowcharts and writing code - in fact, I still have a couple of those in amongst stuff I kept for some reason, but which will be finally get thrown away once I start clearing the shed).

Icon for "Why did I keep it again?

Is it Patch Blues-day for Outlook? Microsoft's email client breaks worldwide, leaves everyone stumped

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Re: Mmmmmm

Replying to my own post:

Outlook is still a problem - it either times out connecting, or says the server is unreachable.

Downloaded and installed Thunderbird, set it up and mail is flowing.

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An NGO where I volunteer to support their IT had a number of problems yesterday.....

1). Internet access was flaky/weird. They had limited access in the sense that only a few websites I tried were accessible (FB could be accessed, but not El Reg, for instance). It looked like a DNS problem to me (pinging google.com would display the IP address, but it could either not reach it or it would time out. Other sites would be unknown. I could also not discern any difference between local and foreign sites). I did wonder if it was not perhaps related to the DNS security problem that was patched on Tuesday (https://www.theregister.com/2020/07/15/july_2020_patch_tuesday/) but have no idea what their ISP use.

2). Outlook could not connect to the mail server. That had started on Tuesday already. The Outlook client did not crash, though, on the two machines I checked.

3). Their website was down (completely, meaning that it was not a local problem).

A call to their ISP seemingly got everything up and running (their website was up late afternoon when I checked from home). This morning they (the NGO) sent a message to say that mail was still down.

Makes me wonder if these problems were perhaps related (no idea what mail server they use, though).

We' ll find out tomorrow.

Only true boffins will be able to grasp Blighty's new legal definitions of the humble metre and kilogram

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Re: £sd

@ Phil O'Sophical

...a 20% increase without any more crisps in the bag...

This reminds me of a joke that did the rounds when we (South Africa) moved to the metric system in '63 (I read it many years later, but can still remember pounds, shillings and pence (plus tickeys - 2 1/2 pennies).

There was this farmer who bitterly complained about how badly he was affected by it, as his farm was now almost twice as far from town, his fuel consumption has gone through the roof, his crops were halved, everything was twice as expensive (R2 to the pound), whilst his farm shrank by 15%. (We used morgen as the unit of area - https://www.convertunits.com/from/morgen+[South+Africa]/to/hectare).

Someone got so fed up with GE fridge DRM – yes, fridge DRM – they made a whole website on how to bypass it

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Big Brother

Re: Next great idea

@Old Used Programmer

"At the time, the blades were carbon steel and only lasted for a few shaves."

I had a very interesting conversation with someone many years ago (somewhere in the nineties). He worked in an R&D lab for a large company producing razors amongst other things (he was unwilling to say who it was) and according to him a couple of them unofficially experimented with carbon coatings on blades. They managed to produce blades that were super sharp and did not go blunt: at the time of our conversation he was still using the first of the three blades he kept for himself - this was some three to four years later.

Management was less than enthusiastic about these shenanigans (they very enthusiastically gave a presentation and demonstration to senior management, all starry-eyed about the possibilities and market reaction) and ordered them to hand in all samples for destruction. All further research in the same vein was forthwith forbidden to boot.

Most of us are naïve that way. Just look at the history of the Internet and networking. I certainly (in my small involvement in establishing Intrawebs) never considered the malicious ways sharing and linking could be abused, given the bright new future .

ALGOL 60 at 60: The greatest computer language you've never used and grandaddy of the programming family tree

Kobus Botes

Re: .. never used .. ?

Replying to my own post:

Some of my maligned memory cells have taken umbrage at my slanderous suggestion that they are fading as I was just reliably informed that the mini computer was in fact a DEC VAX (brand new at the time).

Second correction: we wrote in assembly, not machine code (although we had to write a couple of small programs in machine code).

Kobus Botes

Re: .. never used .. ?

@ John Thorn

...PL/I (remember that?)...

That takes me back a while. The University where I studied had a Univac 1110 and the second high level language we learned (BASIC being the first) was PL/1 (I still have my PL/1 manual as well as an operating manual for the Univac).

After that came Pascal (the neat thing about it was that the whole syntax fitted on a landscape A4 page).

Assignments meant all-nighters (especially if you left it to the last week) as we only had 16 (I think) punch card machines available. The hierarchy for access to said machines ran from post-graduates (Master's degrees) all the way down to the lowest level, namely first year students.

Then you had to queue for the hopper and wait an hour or more for your job to be printed. Most embarrassing was when you had a loop that did not break out, as you would have to phone down to the computer room and ask for your job to be stopped, as it produced page upon page of errors and that IBM printer was really fast.

Later on we progressed to a mini computer (ISTR it was a PDP-11). At least you had a keyboard and (amber) monitor to enter your code (writing a compiler in machine code at the time). Problem was that the machine had eight terminals and if all of them were occupied it could take up to a minute before whatever key you pressed made it to the display; not good if you used ed (or edlin? - memory is fading with age).

The best of times, the worst of times.

(Icon for the lack of keyboards we wished we could have, rather than the punchcard machines)

A paper clip, a spool of phone wire and a recalcitrant RS-232 line: Going MacGyver in the wonderful world of hotel IT

Kobus Botes

Re: Proper lash up

@Alan Brown

The temporary fibre cement (probably asbestos) classrooms that we moved into when we started High school in 1971 are still in use as I write.

The classrooms were slated to be demolished in 1973/74 (if I remember correctly) once the school was split into two single language schools - this eventually only happened in 1977/78.



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