* Posts by smudge

926 posts • joined 8 Aug 2008


How is Trump's anti-Chinese rhetoric playing out? 70% of smartphones sold in the US are – surprise – made in China


If the U.S. government did this for U.S. companies with U.K. data, you'd be mad.

The US PATRIOT Act - and probably its equally stupidly-named successors - did exactly that. I was working on the last Census in the UK, and know damn well the steps that had to be taken to make sure that no one from the prime contractor - Lockheed Martin - had any access to live data or systems.

OK so the U.S. government has occasionally TRIED this sort of thing themselves, and that's the point. Our laws and courts kept them from being able to get away with it.

No. Your laws enabled them to do this. And probably still do.

Transport for London asks Capita to fling Congestion Charge system into the cloud


900 more staff?

To cope with the contract expansion, Capita said it is set to hire and train 900 more staff, the "majority" of which will be "encouraged" to work from home.

WTF are 900 additional staff going to be doing? How many people are already working on this?

Do they have the same productivity as Serco's covid contact tracers?

Beware the fresh Windows XP install: Failure awaits you all with nasty, big, pointy teeth


Re: Alternatives are good.

I'm now flashing back to the evening with the boyfriend who picked the chillis off his pizza then neglected to wash his hands before demonstrating that he knew the location of my clitoris.

L.H.O.O.Q. (Duchamp)



Re: chewed wires

And somehow they knew to not even nibble on mains cables....

Sensitive to magnetic field or to AC? There's a PhD for someone there...

Health Sec Hancock says UK will use Apple-Google API for virus contact-tracing app after all (even though Apple were right rotters)


If you walk past someone's phone, presumably that counts as "contact", rather than any actual physical contact.

I don't think so. I'm pretty sure that time comes into the equation as well, so that you would have to spend, say, 15 minutes with someone closer than 2 metres before "contact" was registered.


Re: distance and signal strength

At any events the radio transmission time is going to be swamped by the variability in the time taken by the electronics to respond. It'd probably end up being 2 +/- 100 metres

I have no experience in this field, but I assumed that you would fire off lots of signals and "average out" the response times to estimate the distance.

Where "average out" is a layman's term for "perform some pretty sophisticated and complex analysis".


Re: distance and signal strength

Would sonic methods work in noisy environments such as London Underground platforms and trains? Which is precisely the type of environment - lots of close contact with strangers - where the app would be most useful.

80-characters-per-line limits should be terminal, says Linux kernel chief Linus Torvalds


It won't print past column 80!

Gives me an excuse to drag out my old story about a DECWriter - basically a hardcopy terminal - back in the early 80s.

One day it started refusing to print anything beyond column 80, no matter the length of the line. If the line was longer, then it would print 80 characters, then carriage-return line-feed, then continue the line.

80 characters - very significant! We spent days checking and re-installing every piece of software we could think of that might be causing the problem. But it still wouldn't print beyond column 80.

Then I decided to actually look at the DECWriter itself. And discovered a pencil that had fallen into it and become jammed.

It was pure coincidence that it was after column 80 that the print head encountered the jammed pencil and took evasive action.

This'll make you feel old: Uni compsci favourite Pascal hits the big five-oh this year


But who remembers Concurrent Pascal?

One of my first professional jobs, at the end of the 70s, was working on a project to build an easily programmable multiprocessor system using Intel 8086s and the Concurrent Pascal system developed by the Danish comp sci Prof, Per Brinch Hansen.

Concurrent Pascal was a high-level language for systems programming, and included concurrent processes, classes, and monitors for controlling access to shared resources. A small machine-dependent kernel provided things like process scheduling, interrupt handling, and basic I/O. There was also Sequential Pascal, a flavour of the standard language, for writing applications.

The compilers for these languages produced p-code, reverse Polish instructions for a stack machine, and these were interpreted at run-time by a machine-dependent interpreter which was another part of the kernel. One of the things we did was change the back-end of the compiler so that it produced directly-executable 8086 machine code. Execution speed was not a problem, but memory was expensive, so we added optimisation for code size, and ended up producing more compact code than Intel's own Pascal compiler.

The multi-processor system worked, but we never got as far as making it resilient. Each processor was in its own cage, with its own memory, power supply, and link to the comms bus. Hence one demonstration when someone asked "How do I know that it's a multi-processor system?". I said "You can turn any one of these processors off." "And?". "And the whole thing will stop working!". :)


Re: Algol W?

Strange. I started programming in Algol W on the St Andrews IBM 360/44 in Jan 1975, and was still doing so when I left in 1978.

Me too. Was Jan 1975 during the 1st year Applied Maths course?

We may even have known each other...

BoJo buckles: UK govt to cut Huawei 5G kit use 'to zero by 2023' after pressure from Tory MPs, Uncle Sam



That must be the end of the Huawei cyber security evaluation centre in the UK, then.

No need for it, since the rabid right-wingers know better. Who needs experts?

Fancy watching 'Bake Off' together with mates and alone at the same time? The BBC's built a tool to do that

Thumb Up

Re: Network latency?

Many thanks for that - a very informative and helpful answer!


Network latency?

I am not a network person, so please bear with me. My question is, how much could the synchronisation be screwed up by network latency effects?

Different viewers could be in different parts of the country, using different ISPs, and with different equipment and quality of connection between them and the Beeb.

To enable people to enjoy a big reveal or a punchline together, the sync would have to be pretty good - no more than a second out, say.

Even assuming no buffering, which would really screw things up, how feasible is it to maintain almost perfect synchronisation over, say, an hour?

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


Re: No love for CORAL 66?

It turned out the FORTRAN compiler on the VAX was actually quite clever.

Unfortunately, their CORAL-66 compiler thought it was clever too.

The first professional job I ever did was to help track down a bug in a sonar simulation system, written in CORAL-66 using the MASCOT methodology (defence bods will remember that). It always eventually crashed with a stack overflow, though the amount of run-time before the crash varied considerably.

Turned out that inside a double, nested FOR-loop was an IF statement of the form IF <x> AND <y> THEN... , where x and y were complex expressions.

Of course, if x turns out to be false, you don't have to evaluate y. So the optimising compiler added a jump to the next thing, which happened to be outside of the nested loops. But it left the temporary result for x on the stack. So eventually there would be an overflow.

The number of iterations of the loops and the value of x depended on the input data, but also on how much time the scheduler gave to each of the "concurrent" processes in its simulation of a real-time system. So even if you fed it the same input data, it would run for different times before crashing.

I remember going to a DECUS meeting to tell everyone about this. But it turned out that we were the last to know :(


My first computer language...

... was Algol W, at university in the mid-70s. Sequence, selection and iteration - what more do you need? :) It set the way for how I think about programming, and I found it difficult to think in other ways. For example, we later covered the functional programming language SASL (a precursor of Miranda, which in turn preceded Haskell), and I found it almost impossible to think that way, until one day the penny simply dropped, and I had no problems after that.

For Raymond, up above, I still have my copy of the MoD "Blue Book" standard for CORAL 66. Used that at university on a CTL mini, and in professional life on Ferranti Argus and CTL/ITL minis.

My real love was Pascal, and I remember how chuffed I was the day I discovered that although I had been using it for many months, I hadn't realised that our implementation of it did not include GOTO statements! I still have a free implementation of it on my home PC - very useful for occasional puzzle solving.

Others I used included Fortran IV and BCPL at university, and ASM-86, PL/M-86, and PL/I in professional life.

But then I became a consultant :)

UK finds itself almost alone with centralized virus contact-tracing app that probably won't work well, asks for your location, may be illegal


Re: It asks for your location?

The idea is that if you notify the app that you have symptoms then "they" send you a test. If you prove positive then they send tests to your contacts.

The question that I can't find an answer to is this - if the self-declarer's test proves negative, are that person's contacts informed that they are free to go?

Otherwise there are going to be a hell of a lot of people needlessly self-isolating for 14 days. Repeatedly, if they are unlucky.

All the descriptions that I can find seem to stop at the point where contacts of a self-declarer are told to self-isolate. Clearly, that is the safest thing to do, but in the absence of any follow-up it means that there will be an awful lot of false positives, or false "maybes".

The answer to my question may well decide whether or not I use the app.

Sometimes one can go a little too far in search of isolation


Re: For what it's worth

I have a few in my screen in front of me.

Have lost count of the number of times that I have tried to delete them when editing documents.


Re: Admiral Grace Hopper to post in 3, 2, 1...

Admiral Hopper died 1st January 1992. RIP.

But she still posts here. She has a really great internet service.

Tata Consultancy Services tells staff to go to their rooms and stay there, even after the pandemic passes


"secured borderless workspace options"

So that'll be full disk encryption and a VPN, then.

"...Subramaniam's interview was accompanied by footage of people sitting on beds while working on laptops."

And make sure that no one is looking over your shoulder.

Iran military manages to keep a straight face while waggling miracle widget that 'can detect coronavirus from 100m away'


Re: you may laugh

but until an independent scientific review proves this device to be a fake, the verdict is out there

You are Eamonn Holmes, and I am laughing.

Ransomware scumbags leak Boeing, Lockheed Martin, SpaceX documents after contractor refuses to pay


Re: You are not really familiar with computer security, are you?

Now try to imagine to secure a building where fences have holes you cannot see....

So you encrypt your data when it's at rest.

You may not see the holes, but you should know where they will be. You set up firewall rules with a whitelist for the only permitted external connections. You disallow externally initiated conections through the firewall, although I'll accept that in this case the ransomware probably initiated connections from inside the firewall - though it's still worth seeing what you could do in that area.

And ultimately, of course, if the sensitivity of the information is great enough, you air gap your systems - with no connections to the outside world.

And so on....

Watch out, everyone, here come the Coronavirus Cops, enjoying their little slice of power way too much


Re: So glad I don't live there anymore

it is easy to go for a sensible stroll in the country, just wear a mask and take a bug sprayer or a chainsaw with you.

There was a time when that would definitely have got you stopped - probably by an armed response unit.

Now: "Man in a mask with a chainsaw? He's an essential worker!".


Re: When people talk about the abuse of petty authority I ask

In the UK, that would be the Home Secretary, Priti Patel. But no one has seen her for weeks.

Zoom's end-to-end encryption isn't actually end-to-end at all. Good thing the PM isn't using it for Cabinet calls. Oh, for f...


Don't we always say...

... that we want open and transparent government?

NASA mulls restoring Saturn V to service as SLS delays and costs mount


I've read that story

At least, I have read a story where the Saturn V at Kennedy Space Center is brought back into action for some crucial mission.

Can't remember whether it was rescuing someone, or diverting an approaching asteroid, or something else.

Does this ring a bell with anyone?

Official: Office 365 Personal, Home axed next month... and replaced by Microsoft 365 cloud subscriptions


Re: Embrace and Extend

I just realised that Douglas Adams must have had a glimpse of the future and of David Cameron, but either the picture wasn't clear or he shielded us from the worst detail.

First crew launch in US since 2011 could happen by May, 34 more OneWeb sats, and astros share their top isolation tips


First crew launch in US since 2011

Please form an orderly queue for this opportunity to get away from Earth.

And if you were currently in the ISS, would you be coming back down any time soon?

UK enters almost-lockdown: Brits urged to keep calm and carry on – as long as it doesn't involve leaving the house


I can guarantee it will be pandemonium with clowns bulk buying flour even though they have never baked a loaf of bread in their lives.

Nail on the head! My wife does make her own bread, but hasn't been able to get bread flour for a couple of weeks or more. Never knew that so many people made their own. Meanwhile, there is no shortage of actual bread and other bakery products.

Tech won't save you from lockdown disaster: How to manage family and free time while working from home


Re: re: maximum distance of 200m

And here in the UK, the National Trust has closed all its parks and gardens, thus ensuring that the number of open spaces available to everyone is significantly reduced. Or, if you like, squeezing everyone into less space.


Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 earbuds: They're good – though for close to £300, they really should be


Re: Waxy build-up

I've never been comfortable with wedging things into my ears, so these buds style things are just no use to me.

They always remind me of the (wired) "earphones" on bedside radios in hospitals in the 60s, which I used to use during long hours at the weekends watching my grandparents die. So I have never fancied buds at all.

Have a nice day!

Tinfoil hat brigade switches brand allegiance to bog paper


I’ve been trying to decide what I should go out and buy now in order to resell at an inflated price on ebay in a few weeks.

Bidets, obviously.

Not exactly the kind of housekeeping you want when it means the hotel's server uptime is scrubbed clean


Re: The cleaner did it.

(I've told this before...)

As have I with this one.

Early 1980s, minicomputer system in a general hospital, used for recording and storing pathology lab results (haematology, biochemistry, etc.). Customer complained of frequent crashes and reboots.

I happened to be on site one day, and was standing, with the customer, in the computer room, gazing blankly at the system. Then there was a "whomp!" which was felt rather than heard, and the lights momentarily dimmed by a lot.

"What was that?" I said.

"Oh, just the X-ray department next door".

Hello, support? What do I click if I want some cash?


Re: Windows appears in the most unlikely places

Quite a few years ago, I was shown how to access the windows system built into EMC Clariion storage arrays

I will always remember the look of glee on the face of one of our penetration testers, when I told her that our company's new photocopiers contained a full implementation of Windows NT and were connected to the internal network. And of course a photocopier must retain, somewhere, images of documents of which it is producing copies...

Grab a towel and pour yourself a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster because The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is 42


Re: That Robot ...

Any otherwise law-abiding denizens of el Reg prepared to own up to it too?

Used to have my own tapes of the broadcasts, but just have the official Beeb CDs now.

IIRC, the name of the worst poet in the world also had to be changed, either to or from Paul Neil Milne Johnson (IIRC), because the real person named in the first version was not best pleased.


Re: fun facts

EDIT: And cricket was replaced by hockey as just about nobody in the Netherlands understands it, leave alone playing it.

And yet I can remember the Netherlands beating England in some international cricket tournament.

I am sure that someone from the Barmy Army can remind us of when that was :)

GCHQ's infosec arm has 3 simple tips to secure those insecure smart home gadgets

Black Helicopters

Re: I'm surprised

Who says there isn't? :)

Come on baby light me on fire: McDonald's to sell 'Quarter Pounder' scented candles


There's something missing

Can I have fries with that, please?

Will Police Scotland use real-time discrimination-happy face-recog tech? Senior cop tells us: We won't... for now


Re: All wee neds look the same

In Coatbridge they don't need to :)

You want a Y2K crash? FINE! Here's a poorly computer


Re: Same as Audits

On 3 January 2000 (the first weekday of the year), the Small Business Administration received an estimated 40 calls from businesses with computer problems, similar to the average. None of the problems were critical.

And just how many small businesses would have been working on 03 Jan 2000?

Several years before 2000*, I wrote an article about the possible Y2K problems, in which I pointed out that 01 Jan 2000 would be a Saturday, and that it could thus be several days before we realised that anything was amiss with, say, our bank accounts.

*1992, in fact, because I began the article by anticipating leap year date-related problems.

Fujitsu warns HMRC Projects team that 30% of them could be out of a job come April


So Fujitsu has no other work?

These people cannot be assigned elsewhere? Cheaper to make them redundant than - retraining them if necessary - using them on another project?

No new Government work foreseen in the immediate future? It's not as if we were leaving the EU or anything like that.

Don't tell us to go Huawei, Chinese ambassadors tell UK and France


Re: Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre (HCSEC)

I wonder why. They are obviously not concerned with protecting Chinese state secrets here.

Because, O Brain of Britain, finding a backdoor or, more likely, a vulnerability in a piece of Huawei kit which may also exist in sensitive networks in the UK would be a matter of UK national security. It also facilitates discussions with the spooks about the possible implications of bugs and vulnerabilities in such equipment.

And, oddly, it probably reassures the Chinese that the UK is taking this seriously.

Verity Stob is 'Disgusted of HG Wells': Time, gentlemen, please


A pedantic grammar Nazi writes...

Time Traveller: Anything you can name. It was very shocking. I heard a doctor – a professional gentleman, mark you – openly split his infinitive while standing in the street. Any guttersnipe could easily audit his ill-chosen words.

Defrocked Lamplighter, baffled: You what?

Time Traveller, warming to his theme: Just so. And what is more, I witnessed a schoolmarm, a steady soul of five-and-thirty summers or more, use an adjective as an adverb. This done with no thought to the innocent ears of her tender charges!

But what about the missing Oxford comma on the new 50p coin? Truly the end of UK civilisation as we know it.

(Hmmm... since it's missing, it can't be "on" the coin, can it? OK then, let's try "But what about the Oxford comma missing from ...?".)


Clunk, whirr, buzz, whine. Shared office space can be a riot and sounds like one too


Re: Nothing new

Not in the slightest!

And I also used to hear bats, too. I see that they produce sounds in a range between 14KHz and 100KHZ.


Re: Nothing new

When I was in my early 20s - 40 years ago :( - I could hear ultrasonic motion detectors. And bloody painful they were too. On a couple of occasions - once in a pub and once in a big house, neither of which I had been in before - I actually proved to the dubious that I could do this, by pointing out the locations of sensors which none of us could see because they were hidden behind curtains.

A few years later - approaching 30 - I was working in an office in a big country house. Every now and then - and it seemed to be roughly the same times every day - I would be conscious of this very high pitched sound that no one else could hear. At least it was soft, and not painful. Eventually I realised that the estate manager would take his dog out into the grounds at these times, and this was him using a dog whistle to summon the pooch.

A couple of seconds' research suggests that I was hearing sounds at 25Hz or higher. Needless to say, that ability disappeared long ago.

Good folk of Forfar: Alan Hattel would like you all to know he's not dead despite what it says on his tombstone


Re: Footie result...

Just coming up to the 20th anniversary of that, on 8th February.

We were hoping for a repeat of that match, but have been drawn at home to Livingston :(


Re: Footie result...

Forfar's... alive???


Why no calls?

"My phone hasn't rung for three or four months. I've been confused by it all but now I know why nobody has been calling."

Aye, right. I always scour the local graveyards before phoning anyone. Don't we all?

Stiff upper lip time, Brits: After bullying France to drop its digital tax on Silicon Valley, Trump's coming for you next


Shurely shome mishtake here?

The UK tax is meant to be a temporary measure until a European tax is agreed

Oh really? So what's all this stuff about leaving the EU, then? Is it a piss-take?

Dixons Carphone to London Stock Exchange: Yay, we grew 2% in the festive quarter. Oh, hang on, no we didn't


My City expert reckons that all trades between the initial announcement and the correction will be cancelled, that Dixons Carphone will have to pay for all expenses thus incurred, and that there may also be a fine in it for them...


The explanation

They have moved some shopfloor staff into Accounts :)



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