* Posts by Alan Firminger

508 publicly visible posts • joined 24 Aug 2008


Guardian lets UK spooks trash 'Snowden files' PCs to make them feel better

Alan Firminger

I suspect that all calculated encryption is fallible.

The only way we get to converse privately is using a one time pad. That might be perhaps a pen drive full of 4kb files of random numbers, one at sender and at recipient. When the sender has used the next files in the drive they are wiped.

Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid: Eco, economy and diesel power

Alan Firminger


There is a comment in the text that the driver does not need to know whether power is diesel or electric.

But there should be a marked difference between driving with front or rear wheel drive. I suspect that the driver quickly and unconsciously adapts.

The secure mail dilemma: If it's useable, it's probably insecure

Alan Firminger

Re: Secure messages

Read : The Defence of the Realm by Christopher Andrew..

New NSA tool exposed: XKeyscore sees 'nearly EVERYTHING you do online'

Alan Firminger

US Congress considerred the previous release by Snowdoen

And they voted marginally to let the spooks continue.

Now how many Congressmen and Senators have something salacious to hide, hint depends on sexuality in all its forms except an early return to a loving home.

All the analysts will pass over this allowed behaviour until a bit of money sends them to flog their stories to the press. Then there will be a Levenson in the US with all sorts of indiscretions brought up.

Someone with something to hide is the legislators.

'New' document shows how US forces carriers to allow snooping

Alan Firminger


Back in about 2005 I learned of a court case in the US, reported by a a page or two on the WWW. The issue was a spy agency was suing a submarine cable manufacturer because it failed to deliver secrets.

The manufacturer submitted the ace salesmen. Before installation he guaranteed that the system was effective. They asked him how he could know. he answered "Because I have installed the system for fourteen other spy agencies."

Using encryption? That means the US spooks have you on file

Alan Firminger

Where is the physical interception

It has to be at the terminal station.

In 1990 the busy terminal station would have one person and a dog as a fall back staff, more staff might show up for day time procedures. A little used link such as to Denmark would be without permanent staff.

But of course then there was no reason why any one would want to break open the locks and set foot inside. Each must possess a serious border guard.

Alan Firminger





Confidence in US Congress sinks to lowest level ever recorded

Alan Firminger

Yes, of course.

But the institutions of government are there to be recreated on the electoral calender to survive the plebeian monstrosity. We are talking about government and its elected support.

Here in the UK what can we look forward to ?

Al Gore: Stop using the atmosphere as 'an open sewer

Alan Firminger

Wrong target

Surely the server farm total power will be about 5% of the the power down stream. That is in front of our eyes.

Obama weighs in on NSA surveillance imbroglio

Alan Firminger

In the UK we kill just short of a thousand each year, in the USA it is ten times that. So let us try to get this down to zero and let us get terrorism down to zero as well, but accept that the fact of a free society is that cars and bleach bomb can and will kill.

Of course I will grieve if my loved one is taken by a car, or a terrorist strike, but this does not invalidate the argument.

Pakistan signs up for China's GPS rival

Alan Firminger

Can someone please explain

How can a few satellites of a global system be accurate in one region of the Earth ?

Intel's answer to ARM: Customisable x86 chips with HIDDEN POWERS

Alan Firminger

Is it really a good business model ?

It looks like a lot of work for each customer. As the versions proliferate then things can get extremely complicated.

You thought only Google dodges UK taxes? So do all the Brit firms

Alan Firminger

But Sweden is a very civilised place to be.

Standard Model goes PEAR-SHAPED in CERN experiment

Alan Firminger

Thanks Nigel.

Alan Firminger

I agree.

A background microwave radiation does not prove the Big Bang, it complies with the hypothesis.

Continuous creation, or perhaps recreation from dead photons may produce what is observed.

Identity cards: How Labour lost power in a case of mistaken ID

Alan Firminger

And I thought Andrew Adonis was still Transport Secretary.

Alan Firminger

Re: Could someone please explain me this British anti-ID obsession?

Because we don't own the government, the monarch does. We are subjects and that is hard enough.

Fraudster gets ten years after selling fake 'ionic charge' bomb detectors

Alan Firminger

Yes ! Why did no customer test a sample ?

The military live with explosives, it is their job.

So before order placement why were demolition experts not given a sample and told to try the device?

Hunt on NHS data sharing: Obviously we HAVE TO let people opt out

Alan Firminger

Re: How can you trust them

Frightening ! Could I live by selling some of my Optimised Pooled Granulocyte ?

Alan Firminger

How do we know that our refusal was correctly processed into the system and is effective now ?

Kepler continues exoplanet bonanza

Alan Firminger

Re: If we can detect these planets...

I think the only way to detect life on these distant planets is to wait for their life forms to evolve to super intelligent then watch out for the H Bomb explosions.

Notebook makers turn to Android in face of Windows woes

Alan Firminger

Re: Poor M$

I don't feel sorry for them.

Microsoft were unethical from MSDOS, then more so when the internet let them want to own their customers. All big corporations in sight are unethical, strangely MS seem to be growing out of it.

Flexible flywheel offers cheap energy storage

Alan Firminger

Yes, it has been tried

But we call it tidal energy.

Alan Firminger

Good old Wikepedia

This is relevant for starters : Gyrobus

And this is a primer on magnetic bearings : magnetic bearings

What is new ?

Researcher hacks aircraft controls with Android smartphone

Alan Firminger

We need to know.

Quite often military aircraft have to join civil traffic streams, so their systems have to be compatible.

Does the military fly with vulnerable systems ?

That question puts a civil servant on the spot. If the answer is no then it it another betrayal of aircrew and implies that nuclear weapons could be brought down on city centres to disintegrate; and if yes then how dare they knowingly deny civil aircraft the same security.

Alan Firminger

11 September 2001

I have already posted on The Register that no civil airliner as large as a Boeing 757 hit the Pentagon.

The rest is speculation.

Shortly after the atrocity happened among the doubters people were asking whether an airliner could be controlled from the ground. I knew about the beacon which transmitted and received between the ground station and the a/c flight control computer, which also provided the autopilot flying through gps co-ordinates. I was shocked then, clearly a conspiracy could provide a vulnerable rom as an update. So I was wrong, every a/c is vulnerable.

Vulnerabilities are even easier to utilise when the attacker has the code of the target system.

In researching this well before 2003 I found several pages that proposed that to beat hijacking every airliner should be subject to an overriding control from the ground. A link from 2001 is below. I was troubled because hijacking is still a threat and ground control of the system through the existing radio channels was always possible if it was coded in.


At the time a forum post reported that Lufthansa when they took a delivery of Boeing airliners refused the standard control code and wrote their own. Fly Lufthansa.

When did Boeing system managers know that they were equipping their a/c with an OS as vulnerable as Windows ?

RAF graduates first class of new groundbased 'pilots'

Alan Firminger

Re: Matt Bryant and others

During the 39-45 war the RAF was an abattoir for combat aircrew,. and they knew it. The problem was to get the meat through while maintaining the intake of volunteers. Those men were heroes like no other.

Most combat crew had no more qualification than Matriculation, got at sixteen. None of the normal degree courses added a desirable skill. School maths and science was all that was required, and if a candidate did not possess the required details that could quickly be taught.

And for any bomber station ground crew was comparable in numbers to to aircrew. Sometimes they had more people in the air than on the ground. Fighters required a bit more work to keep them up.

Mars to go offline for a month as vast nuclear furnace gets in the way

Alan Firminger

Re: We need a relay

Good idea.

If two repeaters traveled round the sun in the earth's orbit keeping station with us at plus and minus pi / 2 then the whole solar system would be forever in communication. No one would ever miss an installment.

Review: Intel Next Unit of Computing barebones desktop PC

Alan Firminger


Is it is for OEMs, who will receive 65 % discount ? Goodness knows what for, perhaps bespoke media centres will become fashionable as something to brag about in the pub.

Or is it simply to secure column inches ? That would explain the musical box.

Why does our galaxy spiral?

Alan Firminger

Yes, but it is beautiful,

although it depends on the music.

Drilling into 3D printing: Gimmick, revolution or spooks' nightmare?

Alan Firminger

Said so


Alan Firminger


The immediate users will be game aficionados, think chess and all the games that require figures. Figures with character or aesthetic quality are especially valued. There will be twenty versions of Napoleon, perhaps 50 beautiful princesses.

These will be produced by artists and sold by post. Then the artists will put files up for sale over the web. Enthusiasts and games clubs will have printers, Salute is coming soon ( http://www.salute.co.uk/salute/salute-2013/ ) , we should see if 3D printing is there.

That is not earth shattering, but it is a commercial start.

No one knows where this will lead. Come back in twenty years, perhaps tourists will buy their souvenir of Pisa emailed to home to save having to carry it

Giant solar-powered aircraft to begin cross-country flight

Alan Firminger

Re: "dependent on local meteorological conditions"

Or violent.

Alan Firminger


There must be a team somewhere that provides all support. I imagine that would be in a twin turboprop aircraft able to operate a communication and control unit either on land or aloft and carrying the service team to wherever needed.

So what comprises support and mission control ? If anyone knows then perhaps you could post a reply.

Apple share-price-off-a-cliff: Told you that would happen

Alan Firminger

Re: Brilliant critique of big business capitalism

I don't question work, work is terrific fun.

I don't question influence because of position.

But the second AC post I find false because AC has security now.

Alan Firminger

Re: Brilliant critique of big business capitalism

Thank you AC. But I cannot see why any of the options you describe are of benefit.

If I had 10M I could have a yacht moored in Greece and pop out there at weekends. We only get one life so why does anyone want to waste time giving the prime minister an earful ?

I suspect the reason is that it is a game and men get addicted to it. It could be played with a Monopoly board but these people do it with our money.

Alan Firminger

Brilliant critique of big business capitalism

My observation is Tesco. Customers get a good deal, shareholders can't complain, The Board of Directors get their millions and farmers commit suicide at the rate of one a week.

All the company problems we see is from a small group of people in control who maximize their take at the expense of whoever they can screw.

The question is often asked at shareholders meeting "Why are you paying shareholders a dividend when our company made a loss?" And the chairman's answer is "To secure future investment." In other words we are a Ponzi scheme.

When someone earns 100k and possesses 10M, why do they want any more ? I don't know Bernie Ecclestone so I can't ask him. I have a suspicion but if any reader is in that class I would appreciate an answer.

Alan Firminger

Re: I remember a company with lots of cash

But before the share price crashed ( Lord ) Weinstock was gone.

The Lynx effect: The story of Camputers' mighty micro

Alan Firminger

Re: Pretty nice machine

The shame.

I have deleted a post of mine correcting errors in the post above, because it contained an error. Full corrections are below.

In the out argument byte the span that referred to a 16K page from 512K of memory had to be 0 to 31 and addressable position was 0 to 3, So it was 5 bits for the source and 3 bits for the destination, the byte was fully used.

And I used a CPC 128 for about ten days. Pete the diver and his colleague wireman wanted to prototype a programmable industrial controller based on a Z80. I said make the controller plug compatible with a CPC 256, I will write an OS that provides a subset of CP/M . So connect the computer to the machine to be controlled and code away in any language. Write until the output runs correctly, then burn it to a ROM and plug it into the controller. A week later they showed up with a CPC 128. It was all working three days later. I hope that is entertaining.

Alan Firminger

Re: Pretty nice machine

I switched pages on an Amstrad CPC256 .The address space was 64K , the page size was 16K . It was an an out command, the argument specifying which memory page, up to 16 as required by the CPC512, became which addressable page, up to 4 . Although swapping over the active page was possible there was never a need.

I am pleased US brought up the CPC128. I never used that but a mate had one, I thought it a good combination of Basic, CP/M and games. This surely was the Lynx killer, or did the Lynx die before Alan Sugar, as he then was, did this.

NASA chief: Earth is DOOMED if we spot a big asteroid at short notice

Alan Firminger

How can the quoted chances be known

The NASA website tells us that comets have orbits that extend up to millions of years : http://pds.jpl.nasa.gov/planets/special/smbod.htm .

I am not surprised, all things are possible up to the extreme of the sun's gravity. It is a long way to our second nearest star.

Loose rocks in space can have the same extremely elliptical orbits. From the limited sample af recent observations nobody can have the faintest idea what is out there, and could arrive on this planet within a few months of discovery.

National Security Letters ruled unconstitutional

Alan Firminger

And across the pond

Prime Minister T Blair told us that the rules were to change.

So don't imagine that the UK is not a totalitarian state.

Infinite loop: the Sinclair ZX Microdrive story

Alan Firminger

Re: Microdrive technology

I have searched to find references to continuous loop technology. My best result is the first couple of lines from the reference below. Interesting, but the esses have disappeared.


Alan Firminger

Microdrive technology

The article has a photograph of a spooled infinite loop and later describes this. My Microdrive was different. I describe my experience of the two methods of running a continuous loop to provide a bit of history.

The spool :

In 1947 I met continuous display from 16 mm film. A unit was provided that mounted on the projector. This pulled the film from the inside of a coil and fed the film back to the outside of the coil. The axis of the coil was vertical, the film edge rested on rollers so it circulated without much friction. The theory was that pulling the film out from the inside caused little or no friction as the movement was always away from the neighbouring surface. It worked almost perfectly. At an exhibition a film would run for a total of say 50 hours, and be pretty horrible at the end.

The esses :

In 1970 I met more continuous loop of film in microfilm duplication. This threw film into a chamber that contained it and drew film out from the bottom of the chamber. Within the chamber the film forms itself into a stack of esses. We would run a loop of several hundred feet at 120 feet per minute. Of course there was degradation, but not much. Silver emulsion survived several hundred passes, tougher materials were available for intermediates. At computer fairs there were big versions of this on display handling wide mag tape to drive the demos.

In 1984 I found Microdrives would fail after ten accesses, reported way above.

I broke open a carttridge and discovered that the method of recycling the loop was the esses but horizontal. The tape rested on its edge. I conjecture that this was the original design and the spool described in the article was a later version to provide a useable product. Several contributors above speak well of the Microdrive, perhaps their cartridges were version 2 .

Alan Firminger

Re: These were great

I got a microdrive with half a dozen cartridges and the necessary interface. After ten reads or writes each and every cartridge failed. I threw the lot away.

And on that basis I never touched a QL .

Apple ordered to surrender coveted docs in iOS privacy lawsuit

Alan Firminger

I am getting the picture ...

... that American women lawyers are less complacent, or crooked, than men.