* Posts by Marco van Beek

75 posts • joined 15 May 2008


Spanish firm raided in logic-bomb backdoor probe

Marco van Beek

Not license expired...

Hi. I read the story in Spanish and the trick was done to all users of the software, but those who had paid for support had the "problem" fixed for free. Those who did have support had to pay, and were offered a new support contract.

Vulcan kept airborne by £400k refuel

Marco van Beek
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Barrel Roll

If anyone needs reminding of why the Vulcan is special, check these out on YouTube:





And if you want an idea of where the Avro engineers might have got the idea for a bomber that was as maneuverable as a fighter....



Desktops are seen as unimportant until...

Marco van Beek

Damned if you do, damned if you don't...

The main problem I usually face is that the better a job I do, the less I appear to be of value. In most cases I am lucky enough to have inherited a sloppy job, and slowly spend the next year making sure it all works, and putting contingency plans in place, even if they are not explicitly asked for.

I always say that what the client wants and what the client needs are two totally different things, and often are mutually exclusive. My favourite was being asked to install Blackberry Enterprise software on a server (at a client's with a single server) back in the days it needed to run on a separate server. It doesn't matter how many times you refer them to the documentation, it is still your fault.

As far as desktops are concerned, it simply comes down to productivity. The more time their staff waste waiting for their desktop to respond, the less time they spend doing real work. With the better clients I eventually get to a rolling replacement program, swapping desktops every three or four years, but even then it is a fight to persuade them not to always give the newest computers to the bosses. Some poor buggers never get a brand new desktop.

UK government ignoring own rules on open source

Marco van Beek

Evolution not Revolution

The subject line makes me sound like I would support the current status quo and leave all as it is, but in fact, with any sold software with free support (rather than free software with sold support), they need the end user to buy into "the next best thing". If the user sees no reason to upgrade, they won't. Hence the reason why open source software will always be superior to closed source software.

Marketing people need lots of new features to promote a new version of a product. If you are talking about a major new application or OS, that also means new hardware. So you get a revolution. Every few years the old all gets thrown out, and we all get shiny new toys that we hate because they are different. Menus change, buttons are no longer where we expect, and so on.

If you want true stability, you want lots of little bits of evolution, changing one thing at a time. For me, this is the overwhelming reason we use Ubuntu on our servers. Facts to support this: Doing an in-place upgrade of production file and email servers from 6.06 LTS to 8.04 LTS took an average of 37 minutes, over SSH (This will work on any Debian related OS). Doing a hardware replacement of a local server took 2 x ~ 15 mins outage, by swapping software raid disks into the new box and rebuilding the mirrored array onto brand new disks, one at a time. The drives were hot swap, so in theory we did not need to power the server down more than once, but we wanted to make sure it booted properly on the new drives.

As we move to virtual servers & virtual desktops where we can, there will no longer be any reason to replace the "hardware", as it won't exist, so if you want to minimise business downtime, disruption, and avoid spending the next 25 years training staff to learn something that has just been replaced, stick with evolution. It's worked for at least the last 6000 years...

Oxygen-from-Moon-dirt passes vomit comet test

Marco van Beek

Re: @Anton Ivanov

Bang on. What is this constant need to use the moon as a base? Creating bases at the L-Point makes far more sense. We currently know of no planet in our system capable of supporting life. At least with a space station you do not have the problem of slowing it down before it hits the surface too hard, and you do not have the problem of having to use large amounts of energy getting back off it.

Ion / Plasma drives are likely to be our best tool for long distance travel, and starting them from a space station makes far more sense. What makes even more sense is to try and make use of ideas like the Mars Cycler idea by Buzz Aldrin. We need to use gravity like sailors use the wind.

IBM Linux chief: Chasing desktop Windows a 'dead-end'

Marco van Beek

Lack of consistency...

My biggest disappointment with Linux desktop applications is the lack of cohesion. Every PIM programmer and every email programmer creates their own address book system, instead of using LDAP. Virtually nobody supports CalDAV. Outlook with Exchange is a massive USP and until every single Linux desktop programmer understands that the reason that Linux has succeeded in the server market is that everybody has been following open standards, they will continue to think that having 20 different address books is acceptable.

I also believe that we, as users, have been dragged into a work ethic that is based on an idea that was developed decades ago, and has little relevance to real day-to-day work.

What we think we want and what we actually need are so far apart it's scary. All systems are so low down the usability scale that any coordination at desktop application level will win users.

Linux webserver botnet pushes malware

Marco van Beek

Steady on guys...

We had a very similar problem on one of our servers a few weeks ago. One of our clients' websites had code like this inserted into every index page. We discovered that their web designer's laptop had got infected with malware, and he then did a website update. They captured the FTP password from the keyboard. No need for any access to privileged account, would have made no difference if the server had been Windows. Nice thing about Linux is being able to grep through every web page on the server for hidden iframes.

Tesla Model S poses for cameras

Marco van Beek

Liquid Cooling

The Tesla Roadster has liquid cooling for the batteries. It is the only liquid cooling on the car, and runs continuously, even when the car is parked.

Marco van Beek


I spoke to one of the Tesla guys at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, and apparently they think the Roadster batteries will last 10 years or 200,000 miles. Now, if my maths are right, and you are doing close to 20K miles per year, then at 25mpg @ £5 per gallon, 200K miles would cost you £40K. If it costs around £4 to charge, and we assume a 100 mile range average, that is 2000 charges over the same period, so an electricity cost of £8K, so you can pay up to £32K for an electric car and get "free" motoring compared to a petrol car.

I think I know what my next car will be...

Tory who claimed brother's tech gear on expenses quits

Marco van Beek

Here's an idea..


Petition for a law making it illegal to waste public money. I know it's a No10 petition, and they are likely to pay it no attention whatsoever, but wouldn't it be nice to know that there could actually be a penalty for wasting our money?

If they can break the law, why can't we?

Marco van Beek

Here's an idea:


Petition for a law making it illegal to waste public money. I know it's a No10 petition, and they are likely to pay it no attention whatsoever, but there must be enough techies reading The Register who are fed up with failed Government IT projects to raise the numbers to a halfway decent level.

Yorkshire boozer establishes 'smoking research centre'

Marco van Beek

Next thing to try is...

Bar Theatre. The exclusions state:

"Where the artistic integrity of a performance makes it appropriate for a person who is taking part in that performance to smoke, the part of the premises in which that person performs is not smoke-free in relation to that person during his performance."

So all we need is someone to write a play about some opium dens and smoking becomes a prop.

And we all know about "Artistic Integrity" don't we, eh, eh. She a goer, eh eh, nudge nudge, know what I mean....

Sorry, I'll get my coat...

Call for heads to roll over failed spook IT system

Marco van Beek

Will they never learn?

Come on guys, it's not like these databases are rocket science. Most of us could do it properly in our sleep. But then, our jobs depend on doing it properly.

How about some responsibility to go with that authority?

Intel playing virtual silly buggers

Marco van Beek

Does Redmond listen ... ?

Ha ha haaa haa haaa haa haaaa haa haaaa haaaa haa Ha ha haaa haa haaa haa haaaa haa haaaa haaaa haa ha ha haaa haa haaa haa haaaa haa haaaa haaaa haa Ha ha haaa haa haaa haa haaaa haa haaaa haaaa haa ha ha haaa haa haaa haa haaaa haa haaaa haaaa haa.

Ouch. My sides just split.

Bucks village repels Street View spycar

Marco van Beek

Re: They started it...

"At least you aren't exposed to adverts while using streetview - if you were you could argue the photography was for commercial purposes."

No, but Google is a commercial enterprise, and arguably the only reason they are doing is to attract users that they can exploit at a later date. Don't forget they charge $400 for Google Earth Pro. So at some point I am assuming they will come up with Street View Pro, and if you couple that with some clever image searching tools, I could come up with all sorts of clever uses, like the name on alarm housings, or houses without double glazing. Maybe StreetViewPro+ won't even have to have blurred faces if it isn't "publicly" accessible. Maybe the next generation of spam will be personalised: "We noticed you have a small <insert name of appendage>. You need our pills if you want to avoid getting slapped by Mrs Miggins next door again...."

So I say, it is for commercial gain, even if that gain is long term, and therefore should be treated as such, and as a minimum if we are captured on film we should be asked to sign a release, aka opt-in.

Also, if all our faces are blurred, then if there is some poor person out there with a blurred face for real, could they sue Google for misappropriation of identity (or maybe that is US law only) and/or libel, as the site would show them throwing up, hitting someone, smoking illegally, etc?

RAF in plot against Fleet Air Arm again

Marco van Beek

Lone Vulcan

The book on getting that lone Vulcan over the Falklands (not once but five times, apparently) is well worth a read. It's called "Vulcan 607". In order to equip the Vulcan's to carry conventional bombs they had to go back to the scrapyard they sold the gear to a decade earlier, and luckily enough of the gear was still servicable to be retrofitted. The number of tanker planes they had to use beggars believe, and it all had to be done on the quiet because technically, the airbase in the Acesion Islands wasn't supposed to be used as a bomber base, only for supplies, as we had leased it to the US.

How to destroy the music business

Marco van Beek
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How to destroy the music business? No, just the record companies.

The Internet is very scary to record companies, just like tape recorders were in the 70's. What record companies have either failed to figure out, or know and are really hoping we haven't noticed, is that there are two sets of monies associated with every sale. A physical element and a copyright element. The record companies used to love format changes. LP's, 8-tracks, cassettes, CD's and now music-DVDs that they can to sell to us the albums we already have, all over again.

A large chunk of us would buy the album and record it onto cassette so we could listen to it in the car. Was it really theft? I owned a licence to listen to the music, and I owned a bit of plastic, and the record companies tied this together so well we had no choice but to go with them, and be turned into pirates because our cassette recording process was better than theirs (Metal tapes, 1:1 speed, etc).

Now, when I buy a bit of software I am allowed to make a certain number of backup copies, I can usually get hold of the software again if I lose the installer. I have paid for a license to use the software, and the media it came on is pretty much irrelevant, other than a useful bit of anti-piracy hardware.

Having spoken to Pete Jenner in the past (and he does have a pretty good track record, so don't assume he is the dummy portrayed in the article), he does understand the music industry far better than the writer of the article. The record companies are but the tip of the iceberg. Many bands don't actually make any money from record sales, not least because they get tricked into accepting large advances and everything they do from then on has some sort of record company charge associated with it, stuff that the band assume the record is paying for, but in fact is being rebilled.

So many bands try to make money from touring. This used to be a good little earner in the 80's, when bands could spend 2 months touring the UK, going to places that have long since been turned into bingo halls. The big bands (Stones, Floyd, etc) make a lot of money out of it, and the Brits do it best. Our concert touring and theatre industry is the best in the world. ALL (yes I mean all. Why do you think there are so many trucks parked outside the back door of the venue?) that stuff you see at concerts will be in the back of a truck by the end of the night, and in most cases, being set up somewhere else the next morning.

Looking at this from a marketing point of view, if a band's USP is its live performances, you release your songs for free on the Internet, build up a fan base (if you are good enough, of course) and make money by playing live. You can't get the same live vibe from an mp3 or an mpeg4, or even a 70mm cinema screen, so it can't get pirated.

Oh wait, this means only talented musicians will make it. Can't have that. It would be the little boy pointing at the Emperor's new clothes all over again...

No Billy Bragg icon? Sorry Pete!

Google: 'We are Meltdown proof'

Marco van Beek

And that's why it doesn't work today is it?

Looks like the main .com site redirects to the local site, which redirects back to the .com site,which redirects to the local site, and so on until the browser times out!

McCain begs for YouTube DMCA takedown immunity

Marco van Beek

The Revolution...

> "The revolution will not be televised and it looks like it won't be on youtube either."

But I bet it gets photographed by Google Street View.

T-Mobile not alone in spinning price hikes

Marco van Beek


Actually, in the UK, they are far more likely to refer back to British Standard 0 (yes, Zero). The latest revision is 2006, and they have the following definitions:

shall: requirement (within the context of the standard)

should: recommendation

may: permission to adopt a particular course of action

can: possibility and capability

is: description

"Must" is not used in standards to avoid confusion with statutory obligations (e.g. in the Electricity at Work Act, equipment MUST be safe). Based on this, either OFCOM wimped out or they do not have sufficient legal powers to use shall or must.

I got an 0870 number for my business on the basis that it was cheaper for my clients than calling my mobile. That turned out well then...

eBay Terror Ambulances of DEATH menace UK - top cops

Marco van Beek
Paris Hilton

Re ECE104

Here's an idea for a new law:

"You can't have any new laws until you properly enforce the ones you already have".

If existing laws are not adequate, then they should be amended or repealed and replaced. As a citizen (or am I still a subject?) I have an obligation to know the law (as in 'ignorance is no defense'). Tell you what, we'll all potter down to the library (no wait, they closed it) and spend the next couple of years reading all the new legislation. In the meantime someone else can pay the tax bill.

I'm off to shoot a Scotsman in York (but he must be carrying a bow and arrow, otherwise apparently it isn't legal), go for a wee in a policeman's helmet (after all, equality works both ways these days. What do you mean I have to be pregnant, where's that European Court of Human Rights gone when you need it?) and name my pig Napoleon (can't do it France, thank goodness we won Waterloo!).

Perhaps we should start a protest day, when we all stick the Queen on upside down on our letters and send them to the Police. Safer than deliberately contracting the plague and flagging a taxi down, or at least until they hang us for treason.

I'm off to do my compulsory 2 hours longbow training. Might come in handy one day. V sign to all to indicate I have both my drawing fingers.

Hmm. No V sign icon. have to be Paris then.

Firefox 3 Download Day falls flat on face

Marco van Beek
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Seems to back up

Downloading at 85KB/s at the moment, so not too shabby on bandwidth

Windows Vista has been battered, says Wall Street fan

Marco van Beek

M$'ing the point - again

Regardless of the hardware / drivers issue, the real problem, and the real cost is the loss of productivity. None of the businesses I look after can afford to upgrade all of their workstations in one go, and none of them can afford the time it takes to get used to all new menus, etc. Most of them have some form of business critical software that does not run on Vista, and will either cost them more money to upgrade, or is no longer available and they have yet to find a replacement because they do not have the time or resources to research and test a new software properly.

It is a fact that Microsoft are trying to force people to upgrade to new software. This is not only the case with Vista but also Office 2007. Have you tried to find things in the new menus? Systems that technically have nothing wrong are causing massive losses of productivity for no good reason.

If Microsoft want to spend $7B on developing a new OS, that is their choice, but given that they are a near monopoly, they should be forced to continue to sell old versions of OS (and Office, etc) for as long as people want to buy them, and when they decide to stop supporting those old OS's, they should be forced to allow other companies to continue to release updates, for a fee if necessary, just like you used to be able to get for older versions of Red Hat (Progeny, I think they were called).

The reason I hate Vista, and Office 2007, is that they have, for no good reason, removed all of my (and my client's) accumulated knowledge of where to find things. It takes time to find them again. In the change between Outlook 2000 and 2002 (XP), Microsoft changed the number of clicks to get to the email account settings from 2 (Tools > Services) to 3 (Tools > Email Accounts > View or Change), and even then once you click on the right account, it takes another couple to get to the advanced features which were once only a tab away. This is progress?

It's not so much Bloatware as TimeSuckingWare(tm) (some of you may be aware of the dark sucking abilities of light bulbs). It almost seems that there a deliberate attempt to slow users down. Perhaps there should be an inverse software law to match the Moore's hardware law. You know, I doubt my word processing productivity has increased by more than a few percent since I started typing on a Tandy 200 (which I am sure lasted a month on 4 x AA batteries, but that might just be fond nostalgia). Admittedly it looks a lot prettier, and I can now embed pictures, but after almost 200 years of keyboards, Microsoft now think we would be better off without them?

So we can now look forward to only being able to buy an OS that doesn't support a keyboard because they have spent billions on another new OS and have decided that we only want to use touch screens?

I am fed up with software writers and marketing researchers dictating the way they think we should work, regardless of how we have done it in the past, regardless of whether the old method was productive or not. I have a "do not disturb" button on my desk phone. I don't have one on my mobile (although a few menus down I can divert it to my voice mail), and the only way I can do it on my email client is to take it offline. Progress? PROGRESS? I'LL GIVE YOU F'ING PROGRESS.

Music coalition takes on Microsoft, Google and pals

Marco van Beek

Reply to Pierre (re Mwahahaha).

In the UK OFCOM were going to sell off a load of radio frequencies as part of the Digital Dividend. At the moment there is a band called Programme Making and Special Events (PMSE) used by TV, radio and live music. Since there is no way that the UK event industry can afford the billions of pounds that is the going cost of a radio spectrum these days, it would have mean that no event in the UK would be able to use radio mics, in-ear monitors or walkie talkies for events after 2012. Not even the BBC. A lot of time an effort has gone into making sure that these frequencies are treated separately, but there is still a long battle ahead. You can read more about it here: http://www.beirg.org.uk/ and here: http://www.jfmg.co.uk/

Next Ubuntu LTS in 2010, unless Linuxes synchronize

Marco van Beek

1... 2... 3... heave... 1... 2... 3... heave...

If all (or even most) of the Linux distros were pulling in the same direction, they could all feed off each others work, avoiding duplication of effort in bug fixing, etc. Just how many people out there are compiling and recompiling software for different kernels, different package managers and different platforms?

There are far more important jobs to be done out there. I don't have a problem with having different distros, competition is good, they say, but I worry more that every single software that uses an address book seems to create their own rather than using a common platform like LDAP that can be shared. I worry that we still do not have a decent shared calendaring system. I worry that I cannot sync my PDA or phone with my server, because everybody seems to want to do it via the desktop, which defeats the object of having a PDA.

I honestly think that GNU/Linux will never make it as a mainstream desktop system until it offers something different. I don't want to say that GNU/Linux needs quality rather than quantity, because that would demean so much good work, but why can't address book writers use LDAP, and LDAP only? Why can't calendar programmers only use CalDav? Package managers are so good these days installing a properly configured server package is a breeze. You just need to ask during install whether to install the full package or just the client. Why are we constantly re-inventing the wheel?

An example. Address Books (Yes, my favourite whinge). To share an address book in Outlook + Exchange you can create a public folder. BUT if you have a Windows based PDA or a BlackBerry, you cannot use that data without using extra software on your desktop. Mac's can share an address book by creating an iMac account and synchronising the address books across all the desktops. How stupid is that? On my server I have an Address Book in OpenLdap. I can access the data from Squirrelmail, I can access it from Thunderbird. We have written a (too) simple web query so that I can get to it from the Web. I can access the data from my fax machine, and our telephone handsets.

All I need now is for those same software writers to understand that I also want to be able to save data from those devices back into LDAP. It's not rocket science. It would be an awesome tool, a Unique Selling Point, for GNU/Linux. And that is only one of the many possibilities that are possible with Open Source software. And that is why I love it.



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