* Posts by Alan Brown

12426 posts • joined 8 Feb 2008

He was a skater boy. We said, 'see you later, boy' – and the VAX machine mysteriously began to work as intended

Alan Brown Silver badge

Re: Static

"My first PC used an 8086 (yeah, with the whole 16 bit data path!), running at a glorious 4.77 MHz, packed full with 640 kb of RAM"

The original IBM PCs came with 64kB ram as standard. Some of the clones maxed out at 256kB

it wasn't that much earlier that we were drooling over 8kB microcomputers and thought a 32kB PET was impossible to fill

Alan Brown Silver badge

Re: Static

"(³) I also remember paying £2k for a 1GB 12" Winchester drive circa 1986/7."

More likely to have been 100Mb. 1GB 5.25" drives were $2000 in late 1994

Take your pick: 'Hack-proof' blockchain-powered padlock defeated by Bluetooth replay attack or 1kg lump hammer

Alan Brown Silver badge

> Unfortunately the processes used at the time meant impurities got into the mix,

You mean the makers couldn't be arsed practicing a modium of cleanliness and would shovel any old shit and floor sweepings into the melt, as it was "only for kids toys"

Alan Brown Silver badge

Re: Confessions of a bolt cutter

> object-orientated magic pixies

Beware of pictsies, they fixate on objects like sheep

Alan Brown Silver badge

Re: Confessions of a bolt cutter

> the stolen bikes are sold on 'Junkie Bridge' by, you know, junkies. Most bikes in Amsterdam are stolen, and so cheap to buy second hand that it's barely worth locking.

There are more bikes reported stolen in Amsterdam each year than there are bikes in Amsterdam. When I lived there the standard joke was that the same bike could be sold off junkie bridge 3 times in one day

Alan Brown Silver badge

Re: Sounds familiar

"Extra points if the code is only valid once or for a certain period of time."

And if the lock happens to be on YOUR F35, with the key generators all owned by the US State Department?

(yes, really)

Net neutrality lives... in Europe, anyway: Top court supports open internet rules, snubs telcos and ISPs

Alan Brown Silver badge

In all liklihood, yes

This decision puts Ofcom in an interesting position as they've previously ruled these discriminatory tariffs are legal

Alan Brown Silver badge

"Actually the court, according to this article, is quite clear that these are NOT in fact good for the consumer in the medium and long term because they reduce competition"

Back in dialup days, several telcos imposed per-minute charges on modem calls to ISPs - except their own ISP

The effect on competition was obvious but they largely got away with it

Many have kept applying that model

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

Alan Brown Silver badge

Re: good grief

Works fine on deterministic plate layouts

Until you have personalised plates

Cops called to Singapore golf club after 'wrongdoers' use scripts to book popular timeslots

Alan Brown Silver badge

"Using that system with a bot when bots are prevented in the terms of service is a violation of that contract."

Objection: assumption made of items not in evidence

If they don't have bot/script protection in place they're highly unlikely to have thought about T&C prohibiting the use of them

This is S'pore - where as other posters have described, it's absolutely normal for the "privileged" stuff to be getting the snot hammered out of it simply to be able to book anything _at all_ due to the outfits in question having 100 times more members wanting to book slots than slots available for members - EVEN IF THEY WERE RATIONED TO ONE PER MEMBER PER MONTH (it's like airlines overbooking seats, but on steroids)

Someone's crying "foul" because politically connected members can't get any slots but overlooking the elephant in the room of the blatant ripoffs which are causing people to resort to this behaviour

These 'clubs' are essentially a license to print money - there's a significant "snob" value from being a member, even if you can never actually get a chance to use the facilities

Infor pays UK construction retailer Travis Perkins £4.2m settlement following cancelled upgrade of 'Sellotape and elastic bands' ERP system

Alan Brown Silver badge

Re: "did not include functional specifications"

> So nobody wants that, instead they want to end up in "somewhere better", without even starting to specifiy that somewhere and that better.

The answer is a couple of lines up. First you identify the system limitations that are being worked around in laborious ways, THEN you work out how you're prefer thing to be done, THEN you go back and see if what you've come up with actually makes sense or if there are other things elsewhere which are causing the entire broken chain you just devised a fix for that could be fixed and make the whole thing redundant.

The road I live on has a traffic problem (massive congestion in peak hours, dangerous speeding in off hours). The residents are clamouring for more pedestrian crossings "to make it safer for people to cross the road". Anyone pointing out that a bypass road was built 40 years ago to get traffic OFF the road, but the intersections around it were never revised to encourage traffic onto that/off the old road, and that the old road is still setup to encourage through traffic gets you looked at like you have a second head. They only look at the issues that are happening right in front of them instead of zooming out a little.

The power of Bill compels you: A server room possessed by a Microsoft-hating, Linux-loving Demon

Alan Brown Silver badge

Re: reminder to cloud refuseniks that on-premises email has its downsides

"The so called cloud ultimately is a real server in someone else's premises "

Which is why IF you're going to do it, you use multiple cloud providers

who will promptly merge behind the scenes, destroying your carefully planned redundancy

Alan Brown Silver badge

Re: No FreeBSD daemon?

Reverse Talk should be all you need


Alan Brown Silver badge

Re: Power!

"But he never fixed the problem of the bloody rabbits eating the insulation on the cables."

He should have chatted to some telco external plant guys. They've been dealing with that problem since time immemorial

Alan Brown Silver badge

Re: Broken devices are not spares

" I'm afraid I stamped my feet and got a bit shouty and made them skip the broken gear and order a dozen new printers. "

If they were that resistant I'd have been having a quiet word to those Senior Fire Officers about arranging for printers to have "wee accidents" involving very heavy objects falling onto them in frame-bending manners.

I'd have also cleaned out the junk BEFORE asking permission

Alan Brown Silver badge

Re: Not met a demon


At another site (a high school), quota checks would take quite a while after reboot and the "technical experts" (ie: the IT teachers) there would reset it if it seemed to be taking too long to get going - resulting in them badmouthing it for being unreliable

I ended up disconnecting the reset switch AND moving the AT power switch inside the case to prevent them fritzing with it, then had a chat with management and the secretaries (who were in front of the server room) were instructed to prevent them gaining access to the area - using force if necessary

The entire school IT system ran reliably for years after the policy change and the guys contracting to maintain the windows systems in the office areas noted their callout rate to failures had dropped by 90%, so they were happy too

Alan Brown Silver badge

Re: I once destroyed the internet.

> [james bond] no matter how good he was, he would be dead within a week..

The original Fleming stories read like random individual scenes where "James Bond" was just a pseudoname for whoever was agent of the day

Definitely not novels, just a collection of (very) short stories

Alan Brown Silver badge

Re: Memory problems

"Turned out to be memory."

fake cache ram by any chance? (PCCHIPS and MSI boards were particularly bad offenders)

The standard test for that was to compile a linux kernel - Sig11 was the giveaway

Alan Brown Silver badge

Re: Wiring Issues

"Only way to turn it off was to pull the spark plug wire. After a good couple jolts, "

I'm surprised you didn't rig a ground wire you could simply drop on the plug.

I had a lawnmower like that and a spanner from crankcase to sparkplug top was the preferred solution (a lot of Briggs and Tecumseh engines had a setup where the throttle arm grounded the magneto wire at the extreme end of travel. The wire inevitably popped loose or the contact would slip. The other trick was a screwdriver to bridge the gap but beware the reverse emf kick - and was usually fiddlier than the spanner)

Alan Brown Silver badge

Re: Windows boot power draw?

Back in the days of 5.25inch full height drives things like 80MB MFM _voicecoil_(not stepper motor) drives (yes, they really existed - @ about $50k apiece when new) would draw 200W. You had to be very careful about powering them on systems as the startup surge would crash a running system.

Alan Brown Silver badge

Re: The frisson of Y2K

"I don't. Sometimes the blindingly obvious has to hit you in the face for you to see it."

Yup. I have a story about an intermittent telco fault which plagued a site for 20 years until I showed up out of hours and found the devices in question had been wired into the non-essential power feeds

More recently I was getting abuse about networking issues at the site I currently work at, to find that the affected areas were fed from a network switch in a building where the mains power got turned off by an overzealous manager at the end of each day.

Alan Brown Silver badge

Re: No FreeBSD daemon?

"They came up with satanic backwards messages in rock songs"

I've never found any in rock songs (there's one deliberately inserted in a Toto song, which is "E pluribus Unum") and the infamous backwards part of a certain Cure track is a BBC weather forecast

Evangelical music is a different matter

If you want to REALLY scare Evangelicals, ask one to say "mm, yes. Special we are" into a recorder and then reverse it. There are a huge number of apparently innoculous phrases which can result in things like that... (by the same token there are phrases in other languages which sound like things in other languages. See HHGTTG and Arthur Dent's "enormous trouble with my lifestyle" comment - just don't get eaten by any small dogs)

Alan Brown Silver badge

Re: No FreeBSD daemon?

JWs are easy: offer to sit down and discuss it over a cup of coffee with them, then explain that your religious beliefs mean that you will be mortally offended if they don't DRINK the coffee, insisting that they must drink some before starting their conversation

It usually works on Mormons too.

Alan Brown Silver badge

Re: Power!

"The same feckwit was also caught disposing of the contents of his bio reactors down the storm drain in the front yard of the lab!"

$50k/£50k fine in most parts of the world for pulling that stunt. I hope someone reported him

Alan Brown Silver badge

Re: Power!

After I explained to our cleaners that anything with a knot tied in it is dead and it might even be _dangerous_ to try and resurrect power cables they find like that, they were happy

Alan Brown Silver badge

Re: Power!

> We couldn't believe it when somebody not only removed a couple of machines from the skip but put in a complaint that, "They don't work, will you fix them?"

I could. That's why I remove the drives.

For added fun and giggles, these days I occasionally secure-erase them and _then_ set a security password, then leave them where I've seen a couple of dumpster divers go after drives. I'm sure they've had weeks of fun trying ti make them go....

Anecdote: late 1990s

The local university finally realised they had a SHITLOAD of old and obsolete crap in stores and dumped off to a local auction house (who put up breathless adverts hyping the sales)

Hundreds of people tunred up for the first couple of auctions. People were paying more than current retail proces (start of the art at the time was low end pentium systems) for 286 and XT systems

for months afterwards there was a steady stream of people showing up at local computer stores with VT100 terminals - complaining they wouldn't boot and asking for quotes to repair them.

Alan Brown Silver badge

Re: Power!

"If you have a proper cable tester (and the time), repair and re-use as you like."

Ahem: mode=serious

"proper" cable testers look at RF characteristics and do Time domain reflectometry checks to identify discontinuities (and how far away they are)

Everything under about $100 simply tests DC and at best does a simple pulse test to determine overall length. REMEMBER: Ethernet is a RF transmission line - 1GB/s is 300MHz

The basic testers are good for many uses but if you can feel issues (like straightened out kinks under the sheath) when running your hands along the cable, chop it up and dump it because those testers will never find them even after that issue is biting you on the arse

Alan Brown Silver badge

Re: Power!


Standard practice whereever I've worked has always been to tie a _hard_ knot in the ends to signify they're borked if you can't cut them and break the retaining tabs off (the idea being that a knot ruins the cables anyway, so why would you try?)

I gave up on that when I caught several twats untying the knots and attempting to reuse the things despite the plugs falling out if you breathed on them.

Now if I can't cut them immediately, I take them away and deal with the things later.

Alan Brown Silver badge

Re: Trumpet

I'm sure that's "Trump and Pence", not "trumpets"

Alan Brown Silver badge

Re: Not met a demon

"We sold a small fortune's worth of these boards to our client...."

It was _really_ common to have a service which "ticked" the speaker line, attached to a 555 nonostable timer which would hit the reset button if it stopped ticking for more than 5 minutes (long enough for reboots)

cost? about $1.50 - extremely useful on machines used as routers (tick on packets, 286 router code booting off a floppy, then later used on 386es running linrouter)

Alan Brown Silver badge

Re: Not met a demon

I had a 4MB slackware 386sx25 doing routing+mail duty in a local museum on the end of a leased line with analogue 28k8 modems (the usual story in the mid-90s: installed as an experiment, then became critical equipment inside 6 months)

After it hit 2 years uptime the staff and I were very interested to see how long it would stay up - 3 days shy of 3 years uptime a cleaner unplugged the bloody thing.

Alan Brown Silver badge

Re: Not met a demon

That 16 bit timer STILL shows up all over the bloody place - even in modern network switches and occasionally in SSDs

Alan Brown Silver badge

Re: I once destroyed the internet.

It could be that the disks were such low density that the magnet didn't splat the entire domain

I recall waving magnets over Commodore PET floppies (60kB or so) in the early 1980s and finding them remarkably resiliant (whereas the things would simply go spontaneously bad sitting after in a drawer for a while)

Alan Brown Silver badge

Re: This is why...

I laughed until my sides Hertz

NASA names the date for the first commercial crew demo flight

Alan Brown Silver badge

Re: Pain in its diodes on its left hemisphere

as long as it's not a Nutrimat. Ugh "not tea"

Alan Brown Silver badge

"But in general satellites are built down to a mass limit"

Mass limits have been pretty "hard" until recently due to the extreme costs

One of the reasons nobody has ever built a Sea Dragon - even thought its launch costs would be unfathomably cheap - is simply because there's never been a launch requirement for one.

People can't conceive of a 500 tonne LEO payload

The only organisation which had routinely been pushing close to mass limits is Inmarsat - and not only wili it take them 10-15 years to catch up with the larger cheaper capacity now available but there are fundamental limits imposed by the fairing diameters (one of the reasons why James Webb is so hideously complex. The REAL solution would be to get a wider nosecone, in the same way that the VC10 was a solution to a problem that was _actually_ solved by extending hot&high airport runways to allow 707s to fly on them)

Don't pay the ransom, mate. Don't even fix a price, say Australia's cyber security bods

Alan Brown Silver badge

Re: I agree with every word

"More to the point, why aren't government cybersecurity organisations making state run IT bulletproof from these sort of attacks?"

I'm at the point of wondering why government cybersecurity operations aren't starting to deploy hit squads.

They pretty much KNOW who the operators are and where they are.

NASA is sending two small hand-luggage suitcase-sized spacecraft into the void to study binary asteroids

Alan Brown Silver badge

Re: If we can make them this cheap

Cheaper. The incremental cost of each article is a lot lower than the first one (which has all the prototypes and R&D hours loaded into it)

There's still the launch costs of course but the "actual hardware cost" of the equipment being launched is usually surprisingly low

A shotgun approach makes sense from a business point of view but not a national prestige one

Adtech's bogeymen are tracking everything - even your web visits to mental health charities, claim campaigners

Alan Brown Silver badge

Re: Another reason to have nothing to do with charities...

Speed camera charities - the staffing salaries were specifically called out when they had the income from fines yanked bby treasury due to sustained abuse (they worked around that by ramping up other rorts such as referral fees - and the emphasis is on "income", not traffic safety)

Q: How does hydrogen turn into a metal? A: Hang on a second, I need to train my AI supercomputer first

Alan Brown Silver badge

Re: Since we can't build a planet

"To be fair, even with current technology we probably could"

The problem is getting it to STAY that way.

I would not like to be around the stuff when it decides to not be metallic hydrogen anymore

Alan Brown Silver badge

Re: Quantum computing

preferably carrying Tea and No Tea simultaneously

When Huawei leaves, the UK doesn't lead in 5G, says new report commissioned by... er... Huawei

Alan Brown Silver badge

Re: Where's the proof?


at least as far as the USA is concerned anyway

Alan Brown Silver badge

"We (the US) seem to be pinning our hopes on OpenRAN which sounds rather like what is known here as a "Hail Mary" play"

The US's behaviour is risking R&D + wafer manufacture leaving North America entirely as it becomes increasingly antagonistic towards _everybody_

Alan Brown Silver badge

Exactly this. In order to work effectively at speed you're going to need 5G nodes _everywhere_ and your 5G device needs to jump seamlessly back and forth from telco to private infrastructure

Alan Brown Silver badge

I'm sure the front end of the Edsel was the primary reason it didn't sell.

Americans have always been rather prudish

Alan Brown Silver badge

More important than 5G now: IPv6

Several ISPs - including Talktalk and all its resellers - STILL have no plans to offer it in the forseeable future

At least the mobe networks have stopped gatewaying phone IPv6 to the world via NATed IPv4

Anyone else noticed that the top countries for broadband speeds are well-known tax havens? No? Just us then?

Alan Brown Silver badge

Re: Edit 2

"Everyone with a fibre connection could get a 1Gb+ contract, but if the costs involved are prohibitively high, not many people will actually do it."

Conversely in the USA you'll get 128kb/s on 8Mb/s capable lines, pay $90/month AND have traffic limits - they're charging what they can BECAUSE THEY CAN (legalised monopolies) and this has a huge bearing on broadband speeds

In Yangon you get 128kb/s GPON connections for upwards of $150/month and you're behind so many layers of CGNAT it's virtually unusable

Elon's Starlink system has many of the US telcos worried - they've been traced back to the funding source of a number of astroturfing outfits masquerading as astronomy groups (not that there isn't a concern, but Big Money is being directed at blocking Starlink and it's not because the satellites can mess up viewing a bit around dusk and dawn)

Starlink has other regeimes worried for the simple reason that it can bypass firewalls (and anyone who believes that the choke points being applied in places like Myanmar aren't there for discouraging international web browsing is naive. Traffic goes onshore from multiple cables cables, goes to Napaydaw (150 miles inland) through military controlled routers and is only then routed around the country. No ISP can buy direct offshore bandwidth and the existing geostationary systems via Thailand are simply far too expensive for the average burmese village (let alone family) to afford.

Alan Brown Silver badge

Re: Regaining Network leadership ?

New Zealand documented _exactly_ how BT is abusing the market as part of its study into the BT/Openreach model proposed by Telecom Corporation of New Zealand

That's WHY it required the company to be cleaved into fully independent lines and dialtone companies before it would provide any further broadband rollout funding

The recent BT "carve up" is sunply more of the same. As long as the same company owns the lines AND sells dialtone/other services carried on them, it will manipulate the market to suit itself

Huawei set to exit server, storage, networking business in the UK

Alan Brown Silver badge


Making America Grate - Again

TCL's latest e-ink tech looks good on paper, but Chinese giant will have to back up extraordinary claims

Alan Brown Silver badge

Re: Wake Me When It's Rugged

"E-Ink. Lovely to read on. Great outdoors in bright sunlight. But... fragile as feck."

They're also bloody expensive

an E-ink 14inch monitor costs over $800

The monochrome module ALONE is over $400: https://shopkits.eink.com/product/13-3%CB%9D-epaper-display-vb3300-nca%E3%80%90display-module-only%E3%80%91-%E3%80%90flexible%E3%80%91/

colour ones are over $1200 and the 31inch display is insanely expensive:

https://shopkits.eink.com/product/31-2%CB%9D-color-epaper-display-ec312tt2/ (NB: This is NOT true color eink, it's a ink/LCD hybrid. AECP is even pricier!)

For a lot of "business use" (ie, "not games"), e-ink would be better than LCD screen if it wasn't for the cringy price


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