* Posts by Steve Williams

58 publicly visible posts • joined 8 Jul 2008


Mars, bringer of WAR: Quatermass and the Pit

Steve Williams

Don't forget the Goon version...

'The Scarlet Capsule.

Starts (Andrew Timothy, father of vet actor Christopher):

"This is the terror-stricken service of the BBC. Today at approximately this afternoon, a discovery was made on the site of the Notting Hill Gate site of the government’s new dig-up-the-roads-plan-for-congesting-traffic scheme. Workmen in the absence of a strike settled for work as an alternative. It was during this brief lull in high-powered inertia that Morris Onions, a scaffolder’s knee-wrencher, stumbled across something he’d found. Ding-dong-billy-bong! I would like it known that though I read this stuff, I don’t write it. Ftang!"

PHWOAR! Huh! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing, Prime Minister

Steve Williams

The filtering seems a bit too general.

What I mean is: Dad sits in front of computer setting up new internet account. Question: do you want p0rn filtering or not. Big decision: does Dad forego the pleasures of unrestricted access after wifey has gone to bed to protect the children, or does he say Naah show it all?

Seems to me a system of user accounts tied to the provider account might be more useful. Mum and Dad can see and do what they want, kiddies are restricted for their own safety. When they are 16 (or 14, or 35) their account can be updated to see what they want.

Confirmed: Bezos' salvaged Saturn rocket belonged to Apollo 11

Steve Williams

Flotsam or jetsam?

Sounds most like jetsam. "Jetsam is part of a ship, its equipment, or its cargo that is purposefully cast overboard or jettisoned to lighten the load in time of distress and that sinks or is washed ashore." (Wikiquote.) However, Wiki doesn't go on to explain the particular characteristics of jetsam in maritime law.

Microsoft: 'Google's secret government meetings let it avoid import ban' - Report

Steve Williams

Probably the way it should work...

Can you imagine the size of the USPTO, and the delay in granting any patent, if it had to completely validate the authenticity and applicability of every patent.

Better to just give an applicant the next ticket from the roll and let the contestants fight it out at their own expense in the courts (which is what the courts are set up to handle).

Do people really believe that if USPTO attempted to prove the validity of all patents there would no further legal challenges in the courts?

WarGames IMSAI machine for sale (again)

Steve Williams

Me too..

I picked up several of them during the early 1980s along with a couple of Altairs. Typically I would find them on sale at ham radio fairs, after Apple II, Commodore and then early model IBMs had displaced them from whatever function the DXers used them for. I had a lot of fun developing the BIOS for the various S100 peripheral cards I could find, preferably CompuPro. Eventually they were both outfitted with 40 MB hard disks.

Oh the joys of sorting out S100 termination problems!

Unfortunately all that stuff was binned 5 or 6 years ago during a move.

Yahoo 'won't screw Tumblr'? Then Tumblr will screw its balance sheet

Steve Williams

Similarly, what is Hipster?

Probably, anything the kids like which I'm not interested in or can't do.

EU boffins in plan for 'more nutritious' horsemeat ice cream

Steve Williams

Is this the Euro-equivalent of the US 'Pink Slime'?

If so, hasn't that already gathered enough bad press?

BMC successfully sells self

Steve Williams

Wonder what, if anything, will happen to QPasa!

...Or whatever opaque name BMC has assigned to it. Neither BMC or MQ Software, the original developer, seemed to have much imagination in realizing its potential. Maybe there is just isn't much money in an MQ monitoring system.

Why next iPhone screen could be made of SAPPHIRE - and a steal...

Steve Williams

True, but...

Many watches costing over a couple of hundred pounds use solid sapphire glasses, sawn from sausage shaped ingots and then shaped and polished with diamond tools.

They are quite, but not completely, scratchproof. However they are definitely NOT shatterproof. Any hope of a sapphire crystal surviving hammering or even a significant drop onto concrete is fantasy.

Brit horologist hammers out ‘first’ ATOMIC-POWERED watch

Steve Williams

Long-term rate stability: good. Instantaneous timekeeping: less good.

Since the display is based on mechanical hands driven by stepper motors, the amount of time the stepper takes to activate, and the stepper's variance over the years, will be a significant source of inaccuracy if you really want to know the correct time NOW.

Even an LCD or LED display takes a significant time (in atomic clock terms) to build up an image.

That's to say nothing of the time taken in the neural pathways to the brain to actually perceive the time.

Opportunity rover stuck in standby mode after Martian blackout

Steve Williams

Can't they send 'Curiosity' to give it a jump start.

On the other hand, I can never seem to find the jump leads when I need them. People doing black hole research could start by looking into the boot of my car.

Flexible flywheel offers cheap energy storage

Steve Williams

Nice big flywheels

The computer company I worked for used to build drum storage, both small and large.

During the 1960's the was a (no-doubt apocryphal) story that a small drum was crated up for shipment without the magnetic brake being set. It was only discovered when the fork-lift guy carrying the crate tried to make his first turn in the opposite direction to rotation.

Better documented were the problems installing the larger drums on US Navy destroyers. These were pretty large drums produced by taking standard iron sewer piping and machining it quite precisely. Once spinning they had a definite effect on the vessels' turning circles.

The factory was always a great source for interesting stories.

Malware-flingers target gullible corporate bods with office printer spam

Steve Williams

Ignorance, click-bait or confused predictive text?

Difficult to tell with The Register.

Japanese boffins READ YOUR DREAMS with MRI

Steve Williams

Beats me how anyone can sleep in one of those things.

Whenever I've been in one the noise has been excruciating.

Blighty's revolutionary Cold War teashop computer - and Nigella Lawson

Steve Williams

2/2d for a cup of tea at a Corner House in 1954???

...You've got to be joking.

Stephen Fry explains… Alan Turing's amazing computer

Steve Williams

"Perhaps we need another competition..."

...comparing the stupid things Mr Fry says against the stupid things Mr Orlowski says.

Boffin road trip! The Reg presents Geek's Guide to Britain

Steve Williams

Some time ago...

...(well, it was actually a long time ago ~30 years) I went on a brewery visit in South London where they were still using a Stephenson beam engine to transmit rotational power around the building. They claimed it was an economic proposition because they had lots of residual low-pressure steam available from the cask cleaning processes.

I left the country, never to return shortly after, so I don't know if it still exists. The visit was the culmination of a pilgrimage to visit all the pubs that brewery served. I didn't make it to all of them, but was still invited. It was Young's, I think.

Surface left on shelves as world+dog slurps up small slates

Steve Williams

"...ultrabooks and Windows 8 laptops that are all stuck on the login screen..."

Better than some stores where they are all without power, but have a stupid plastic sticker on the screen with a representation of what the OS might look like. The sales droids will not power them up.

BEELLIONAIRE Paul Singer slings $2.3bn into Compuware

Steve Williams

Off topic, but...

Seeing the word "Elliott" in the title gave me a flashback to 1968 and the Elliott 803 I first learned to program on. Was only the smallest model with 4k storage, as I remember, and only paper tape for input/output (but *fast*, until you had to print it out on a Flexowriter). As such it only ran the assembly system (system!) and Elliott Autocoder - no Algol. Nice big operator's control panel and a few winky light to show you when/where your program was looping. The architecture could only be described as basic: made the original Intel 8080 look sophisticated. One accumulator, and Q-register is all I remember. No index registers and virtually all code was self-modifying since indexing and subroutine linkage was achieved through program storage. Booted from paper tape via a 5-word program hard wired into th efirst five words of storage.

Sorry for the distraction, we now return you to the scheduled program.

Google maps app is BACK on iPhones, fanbois spared death

Steve Williams

Anyone who shows excess sensitivity to down voting...

...generates an automatic downvote from me.

Steve Williams

From ABC: Australian Broadcasting Corporation

..."Now police in Colac, west of Melbourne, say faults with Google maps are putting people's lives at risk along the Great Ocean Road and in the southern Otways."

Review: Apple iMac 21.5in late 2012

Steve Williams

Memory upgrades.

I read a review on one of the US Mac sites last week which said that on the 21.5" model there is a button or press stud in the recessed area by the power socket. Pressing this was supposed to allow access to the memory DIMMs. Sorry, don't remember which site.

Steve Williams

Promise me as much as you like...

...after 18 months use my power cable still remains firmly in place.

Review: Samsung Series 9 super slim notebook

Steve Williams

What's a "a rather tinselly feel"...

...WRT keyboards? When I ponder on the word 'tinselly' I think of appearance (like a Christmas tree), rather than typing feel.

China plans astro-farms on Mars

Steve Williams

Reminds me of 'Silent Running'.

Will there be cute service droids to look after the plants after the space station is abandoned?

Sandy 'Mary Celeste' Island undiscovered - again

Steve Williams

Map publishing companies famously include minor deliberate mistakes.

So that they can prove theft of copyrighted material.

Slideshow: A History of Intel x86 in 20 CPUs

Steve Williams

A few microprocessors...

Started with playing with Motorola 6800 and Mostek 6502 (in an Apple ][) but found more fun working with CP/M on 8080s and Z80s. I can't remember how many times I produced CP/M BIOS's for various systems and configurations for various S100 boxes. CP/M 2.0, 2.2 and 3. Last one was for Concurrent DOS not so long ago.

During the 1980's programmed AMD 2901 processors on a bit-sliced custom integrated maintenance computer for a big mainframe. Wasn't bad, but the next generation of maintenance processor used Motorola 68010 / 68020s programmed in assembler: and that was such fun! I was really gutted when Intel won the microprocessor architecture wars, the 680x0 processors were so nice to use.

After that I worked on mainframe OSes, so no more microprocessor fun.

Six years ago I threw away my original Apple][ and a number of Altairs and Imsais and a few other odds & ends and just kept one Altar 680, which decorates the top of my bookshelf. I'm purely an appliance computer user now, by preference Apple Macs.

However, there is somebody producing Altair kits again, and I'm sorely tempted!

Intel in Flash flush, offers 'smoother' fresh jobbie to data centre bods

Steve Williams

Interesting article.

But why cripple it with a stupid headline? May be suitable for Bootnotes, but this isn't on Bootnotes.

The time you save thinking up laboured, 'clever' headlines could be better spent on other things. Even having a drink in the pub.

KDE 'annoys the hell of' Linus Torvalds

Steve Williams

It certainly seems that the things he comments about..

... have to be done at high volume and usually with accompanying profanity. And it always gets reported in the tech press.

SO in this case, he tried something he didn't normally use, didn't like it and vented loudly. Big fscking deal. Thats why we have lots of choices when we use Linux. But because he's Linus maybe something will be changed, since one loud Guru outweighs myriads of normal users.

Inside the real-world Double-O section of Her Majesty's Secret Service

Steve Williams

On the other hand...

...the "slightly odd people in and around Pompey" may just have been lonely hairy-arsed matelots looking for some companionship on a weekend pass.

Apple: I love to hate, and hate to love thee

Steve Williams

Apple's attitude to knock-offs doesn't really surprise me...

...I saw what Microsoft did to them in the 1980s. And got away with it and made a huge amount of money. One reason I dislike Microsoft with a similar amount of bile that others reserve for Apple.

By the way, where relevant, Apple licenced what they used from Xerox Parc.

WikiLeaks' secrets weren't, says former MI5 chief

Steve Williams

A State Department representative...

...(I think it was) on Broadcasting House this weekend said that for certain a number of agents working for the US in the field had been killed as a result of these Wikileaks. A British ex-diplomat in the same interview somewhat gently demurred, but it is those US people who are pushing the case against Manning, and perhaps his accomplices. What they believe (or say they believe) is what matters in his case.

Of course, for OpSec they will not specify who or exactly how many agents were eliminated.

Apple CEO: Frothing fanboi iPhone 5 hype screwed our sales

Steve Williams

Not so much the fanbois...

...who are making a rational choice based on the rumours of an impending new model.. Rather blame the online media, forums etc, who see a way to increase clicks by posting any stupid Apple rumours no matter how unlikely. Including el Reg who like to have it both ways: publish all the crap rumours from other sites and get the clicks, but also take the opportunity to be snide to Apple and the fanbois.

Apple desperate to prevent nightmare scenario of iPad in Iranian hands

Steve Williams

Blame the law...

...any US company is liable for high-tech products which are sold and subsequently exported to 'rogue' states. You can usually see exclusions in the T&Cs of sale.

I worked for an American company in Europe some decades ago. We received an official directive from the legal department saying we shouldn't do any business with Libyan companies, which included filling up at the the local Tamoil petrol stations, which were Libyan co-owned.

iTunes fanbois outraged by Apple's sex-life quiz probe

Steve Williams

Too sensible for any company I have worked for over the last 42 years.

Even for an engineering firm. Would be interesting to know which one.

The truth about Apple's mind-boggling low tax rate

Steve Williams

Bang to rights...

I should have looked at the top of the article. Congratulations on calling out the NYT's article.

Steve Williams
Thumb Down


Would have been polite to attribute much of this information to the Forbes article of April 18th.

The Facebook job test: Now interviewers want your logins

Steve Williams

Maybe. It's just another Register story...

...glommed from a story off another online source. Possibly 'The Atlantic' in this case. There are a couple of examples cited there.

Apple's Cook not jumping to HP

Steve Williams

Yes exactly...

...why would he swap a job at a company which makes neat things for one at a company that makes its living on boring government contracts and laying off the people who used to make neat things.

PARC turns 40: mice, money, and the new interwebs

Steve Williams
Thumb Down

Digital Equipment Corp

"Worse for PARC: 3Com, Adobe, and Digital Equipment Corp were formed by former PARC staffers.."

For DEC at least, that's not how I remember it.

Apple eyes kill switch for jailbroken iPhones

Steve Williams

The accurate quotes all refer to preventing use by thieves.

The bits that are raising so much ire by Reg readers are extrapolations by the author.

If you really believe so much in the Register's accuracy then you would probably ignore 90% of their postings about Apple.

Cultists aquiver as Applestore goes into hibernation

Steve Williams
Dead Vulture

Oh for goodness sake...

... don't start again!

You satirize the Apple faithful for their interest but The Reg follows up and publishes any minor rumour like a rabid wombat.

Steve Jobs dubs Google's 'don't be evil' motto 'bulls**t'

Steve Williams

More Daily Mail level journalism...

You quote 7 (or was it 8) words from the town meeting and it's a rant?

This from the online rag that fells acres of electronic trees a week issuing genuine rants from Vulture Towers??

Apple misses self-imposed Windows 7 boot camp deadline

Steve Williams

Dumb article...

...I doubt there's much "chagrin" among Apple enthusiasts because they can't yet (officially) install Windows 7.

I would like to think that in the next year we could see balanced reporting in a neutral tone about the various corporate players in the market. You might even see a better class of comment instead of playground posturing. I suppose it won't happen.

What ever happened to storing pics with electron cannons?

Steve Williams

Not bad....

...but not outstandingly weird technology for the time. Try looking up NCR's CRAM (Card Random Access Memory) storage or Univac's Rotating Head Drum (the heads moved the drum, with a magnetic card wrapped round it by pneumatics, was static).

The IBM unit pictured was something of a special project, but I think NCR delivered quite a few of their CRAM units. Hopefully there are one or two left somewhere in a basement.

Actually, in my opinion, the 1960's and 1970's decades were the high point of mechanical engineering. The engineering needed to make a 3250 BPI GCR tape drive (at that time the icon of high-speed computing) run reliably was significant. Now everything's done by digital simulations.

Intel invests in exafloppy future

Steve Williams

Without reading the article...

...I would guess it's about the welcome further development (at last) of the `Exatron Stringy Floppy´.

The S100 bus-tards here who haven't yet succumbed to Alzheimer's will remember it.

Oh, having read it I see it's about some Froggie thing. Never mind.

Michael Dell: Netbooks go sour after 36 hours

Steve Williams

Obviously Reg readers have much more ...

...experience selling netbooks to the general public than Michael Dell. Or possibly NOT.

Anyone who reads or has heard of El Reg probably has a clue when it comes to buying their personal IT hardware. On the other hand, I would imagine a lot of netbooks are being returned just for the reasons he says by people who are buying on the basis of price or just to see what the fuss is about.

Early tech goes under hammer in London

Steve Williams

Cruise missile prototype?

- Hardly. The Germans considered the option of remote controlled aircraft earlier in WWII and rightly rejected it on the grounds of cost and complexity. Their low-cost V1 flying bomb was a much better candidate.

Bridge made of recycled plastic supports 70-ton tank

Steve Williams

Hmm. What about....

...ultraviolet degradation?

Better stick it where the sun don't shine.