* Posts by leon clarke

121 publicly visible posts • joined 1 Sep 2008


Oracle: Think our DB sales are great now? Wait until we actually get the new product out...

leon clarke

What does 'licensing support' mean

Two thirds of the money is in cloud services and licensing support. I'm guessing most of it is licensing support, since people tend to rate Oracle's cloud offering as at best a distant fourth place. But what is licensing support? Is Oracle's licensing model so bad that the world is paying about $20 billion a year to cope with it?

Licensing support seems to bring in significantly more than licensing in any case.

Just how are HMRC’s IT systems going to cope with Brexit?

leon clarke

And also

How will companies cope.

Just pretend for a moment that there's a chance in hell of HMRC getting their systems ready in time. Big companies need to then set up their internal systems to integrate with the new HMRC system. That'll take months at least and can't be done until there's a working integration version of the HMRC system to integrate with.

Why the Apple Watch with LTE means a very Apple-y sort of freedom

leon clarke

Battery life

The reason why the Apple watch has such a terrible battery life compared to cheaper bluetooth-only watches is because it's got a relatively powerful WiFi radio in it. Putting an even more powerful LTE radio in will make matters worse.

Got some pom-poms handy? UK.gov seeks a geography cheerleader

leon clarke

Other things the UK government needs to learn

Which continent the UK is in - there seems to be some confusion on that point.

Some understanding of human geography might help with the reasons why trade deals are incredibly complex.

I suspect the successful applicant will also be expected to tell them where the magic money trees grow.

Australia to float 'not backdoors' that behave just like backdoors to Five-Eyes meeting

leon clarke

Too much of this debate fails to distinguish between what's allowed and what's possible

If the police have an appropriate warrant, they are allowed to break down your front door and search your house. However, you are allowed to buy up a second hand nuclear shelter, restore it (including the blast doors) and live in it. Were you to do such a thing (either because you're eccentric or because you have something to hide), a standard issue police battering ram wouldn't have very little impact. So the comparison should not be with search warrants, but on the restrictions on selling really strong doors (of which none exist anywhere in the world as far as I'm aware)

Of course, whatsapp is cheaper, more convenient and practical for more of the population than living in a nuclear bunker, but the distinction still needs to be made.

Your 90-second guide to new stuff Nvidia teased today: Volta V100 chips, a GPU cloud, and more

leon clarke

Re: 120 teraflops using INT8

Thank you. My faith in flops is restored!

leon clarke

120 teraflops using INT8

Er, doesn't the F in teraflops stand for 'floating point'? Or has everyone been talking about flops for so long they've slowly forgotten what the term means? (Distinguishing so clearly between integer and floating point performance makes less sense now than in the '90s)

London app dev wants to 'reinvent the bus'

leon clarke

Small buses

Loads of companies introduced them just after bus deregulation. Strangely they seem to have all disappeared. If you want to drive an incumbent out of business, running loads of small buses make sense; you need to offer a more frequent service and actually carry all of the passengers. The cheapest way of doing that is to have loads of small buses. Once you've driven them out of business, you can stop wasting so much money on drivers by going back to an infrequent service with big buses, just like (or maybe not quite as good as) the incumbent used to offer.

IBM: Customer visit costing £75 in travel? Kill it with extreme prejudice

leon clarke


No travel unless explicitly required by the contract. Suppose you're thinking of buying something from IBM, but you worry that (as happens on all big contracts) there'll be occasional times when a few misunderstandings will happen and need to be smoothed over quickly before the misunderstandings escalate and become a big problem. What needs to happen in this situation is that the IBM guy hops over and has a chat with your boss; it's all sorted out and the proverb continues to be true 'no-one ever got fired for buying IBM'. Now you know that the IBM guy won't hop over until your boss has sent in the lawyers and we might need a new proverb.

Not the droids you're looking for – worst handsets to resell

leon clarke

How 'real' are Sim-only RRPs

If I read the article correctly, they're comparing ebay second-hand prices to the SIM-free RRP. However, I've got the impression that SIM-free RRPs can be massively inflated. The manufacturers can 'charge' what they like because approximately nobody buys phones sim-only, so losing sales here doesn't matter. (They solve the problem of large markets like India where phones are sold SIM-free by introducing a very similar phone with a different name for a more realistic price) The reason for doing this is because the people will think the phone should be compared to a much more expensive phone (probably the iPhone) as the price is the same, but strangely it's much cheaper when bought on contract (because the real price that the operator paid is much lower than the published RRP). Hence customers flock to the phone as it's 'equivalent to an iPhone' but available on cheaper contracts due to some 'special deal' they don't understand. Or that's the theory; it doesn't seem to actually be working for HTC.

Love lambda, love Microsoft's Graph Engine. But you fly alone

leon clarke

What's interesting to me about Graph Engine

What you clearly want now is a 'database' which is scalable (throw more nodes at it when you need more space or speed), which stores things in RAM but properly persists them to (redundant) discs.

If you've got one of them, it's probable that the CPUs will be under-utilised (since they're mostly there to hang all the RAM off)

So the dream would be something that can do some compute on all those nodes. (Why copy data somewhere else for processing when there's an under-utilised CPU in the same place as the data)

That's what Graph Engine seems to be. And I think it's the only open source thing that ticks those boxes. OK, it's a graph database, but that probably fits real wold problems at least as well as SQL usually does when you've got your head round it.

What else can do that?

Did Oracle just sign tape's death warrant? Depends what 'no comment' means

leon clarke

It's pining for the fijords

There have been plenty of Oracle things (Java, Solaris) that are clearly dead, despite flat out denials. I'd say that 'no comment' is less positive than 'we're fully committed to X but we're re-jiging the roadmap a bit'. And we know that the latter really means it's dead but they don't dare tell anyone.

Next Superdome CPU chips amble into HPE

leon clarke

Re: Opteron killed Itanium

I seem to remember that the original Iantium plan was that it'd eventually totally replace the 32bit-only x86, even on desktop once desktop needed 64 bit. But AMD came along and screwed up that plan. After that, Iantium never really made sense as the desktop customers weren't funding all the development as they were supposed to.

A spanner in the works: Google's cloud database hits beta, gets prices

leon clarke

Re: Cool

It seems to me like it'll scale to really big distributed things, in the way that RDS doesn't.

If you need that, it would be worth paying for.

If you want the Google answer to RDS, that's Cloud SQL, and is priced about the same as RDS

leon clarke


I can't wait until Amazon or Azure has got something like that.

I really feel that we should be able to have 'have cake and eat it' databases, and we should have had them for some time. Right now, this is a really cool feature which Google has but the others don't have. But even if it's brilliant, I'd feel a lot happier using it when Amazon or Azure have something that at least almost competes. I know that changing cloud provider would always be a nightmare, but I'd feel happier knowing that there is another cloud provider that does have roughly the right building blocks.

And just because I want to have my cake and eat it when it comes to databases (and cakes) doesn't mean I think this is applicable everywhere; notably it isn't a viable foreign policy.

Inside Confide, the chat app 'secretly used by Trump aides': OpenPGP, OpenSSL, and more

leon clarke

I guess this app is being run on a stock android phone

It won't be on an officially hardened one as officially hardened phones don't let you install apps whose security hasn't been approved by the NSA. And their first tickbox is 'is the crypto FIPS140-1'.

So attacking the phones is the other attack vector for this stuff.

I'd be interested to read what mobile games are popular amongst trump staffers. And so would many other people.

leon clarke

Re: "Hate my life"

The challenge is simple to express:

He needs to say 'Mr President, you need to give me your Android phone, which I'm going to put in this metal box. You'll get it back after the 46th president is inaugurated, whenever that might be. Here's your new phone, which only has secure apps on. You'll note that these exclude twitter'.

Assuming Trump says 'no', and I assume there is someone in the White House competent enough to have made that demand, so I know Trump did say 'no', you can assume the president is carrying a bug around with him. In which case, the CIO has failed in the most important aspect of their job.

Google hardwires its Android app store into new Chromebooks

leon clarke

Not sure there's an anti-trust argument

Critical to the Microsoft case was that there was a thriving market for media players that was killed off by the bundling. Hence MS was using a monopoly in 1 market to establish a dominant position in another market. That's what's illegal.

Assuming we can define some 'market' such that chrome OS has a monopoly (e.g. the market for cheap laptops with an OS that's just a web browser), I don't see how you can argue there's a market for 3rd party app stores that would be adversely affected by the bundling.

Splunk: Why we dumped Perforce for Atlassian's Bitbucket of Gits

leon clarke

I really hate GIT

But it's better than all the alternatives.

Once you've got your head round it, it does the right job and does it very well, everything integrates with it, and everyone either understands it or knows that they have to put the effort in to understand it as it's an essential check-box on their CV.

But learning it is a complete git. And I can't help thinking that it would be possible to invent a distributed VCS that did what people want but isn't quite so confusing. But now, if they did then no-one would use it as a critical mass of people understand git.

US Supreme Court to hear case that may ruin Lone Star patent trolls

leon clarke

So if this goes through, everyone has to be sued in their state of incorporation

...assuming I'm following.

The interesting thing is that very many companies are incorporated in Delaware as that's the most tax-efficient thing to do. So it'll make matters better than East Texas. But not much better.

Until some state decides to have uniquely sensible patent policies (My proposed sensible patent policy:'NO') and everyone incorporates there, knowing that the tax is cheaper than paying the patent trolls.

Blu Vivo 6: Top value trendsetter marred by Chino-English mangle

leon clarke

Re: Come back, Nokia 3310, all is forgiven...

Getting phones with multi-day battery life is easy - buy any remotely modern smartphone and turn off wifi and mobile data. I find they'll last a long weekend if you don't spend too long chatting. The reason for the massive battery drain is 2 related things - the phone is constantly talking to the network get get all those wonderful apps to do all their exciting notifications, and you use the phone for rather more jobs than a 3310 was used for. Get a smartphone to behave like a 3310, and it's a perfectly reasonable substitute for one.

In fact, I suspect that phones will always have a battery life of just under a day - if someone installs a better battery, users will install more apps with more notifications until battery life decreases to the point where it becomes annoying, then uninstall the most pointless couple of apps, leaving battery life in an equilibrium state of not quite good enough but not really annoying.

Dell EMC cranks Xeon servers into ludicrous mode with Tesla GPUs

leon clarke

Imagine my disappointment when I discovered that Tesla GPUs are powered by DC electricity! Is there actually a link between the GPU and anything invented by Tesla

Google's crusade to make mobile web apps less, well, horrible

leon clarke

60% of mobile data travels over 2G networks

..according to the article.

I'd love to see the source for that. It may well be true. I suspect most developers of mobile websites consider bog-standard 3G to be intolerably slow.

If it is true then far more than 60% of users will be on 2G as I'm fairly confident 3G and 4G users will use far more data per person than 2G users

I'd have thought that over 2G, the only chance of a decent experience would be to teach the authors of native apps how to obsessively optimise for really bad networks (a skill that's incredibly rare these days). Getting a web app to perform at that level might be possible but would be even harder.

UK govt sucks at AI and robots, doesn't use them to its advantage – wait, is that good or bad?

leon clarke

Some would say that the UK government isn't very good at intelligence in general, not just AI

Cyanogen mods self away from full Android alternative

leon clarke


Massively agree.

OnePlus is a lot more significant than their sales numbers suggest - among technical Android users it's the only alternative worth considering to a Nexus/Pixel. So its influence on important people in the Android ecosystem is massive.

If you were to assemble a team to do something like WileyFox, when you got them together to start work, half will have Nexus phones and the other half OnePlus. So everyone who matters will know about OnePlus's OS and consider it the right way to do non-Nexus android.

Pass the 'Milk' to make code run four times faster, say MIT boffins

leon clarke


To save others googling for more info, here's the article that the news sites are ripping off http://news.mit.edu/2016/faster-parallel-computing-big-data-0913

The 'good for big data' seems very significant - it's solving problems that happen with massive data sets so don't hope that this'll be eventually applied to small data to make your PC 4x faster

Punters want heart-throbs, not brains, when thinking wrist-jobs

leon clarke

Cheap smartwatches

I've noticed that the current generation of very cheap smartwatches sold on Chinese import sites look pretty good based on the website description - Bluetooth 4, reasonably elegant looks, claim to sync all phone notifications, cost around £40, take ordinary watch wristbands. I've yet to take the plunge and get one but I suspect that when the smartwatch market takes off, it'll be devices like these that dominate the market.

They tend to also have heart rate sensors but if I cared about heart rate sensors, I'd restrict myself to devices which have been reviewed by reputable review sites (which excludes all the cheap Chinese devices)

GearBest has a good range if anyone wants to know what I'm talking about. The previous generation now cost around £20 and don't do anything useful.

DCIG mid-market array guide: Why we left those companies out

leon clarke

One wonders about the relative positions of the cart and horse

Was there a secret list of vendors who ought to end up in the comparison, and then someone created a set of criteria that resulted in the right list.

In the interests of avoiding unproven insinuations of corruption, I won't speculate on how the secret list was created.

Private moonshot gets the green light from US authorities

leon clarke

Remarkably small rocket

I had to google the Rocket Labs Electron - it can get 150kg into a 500km sun-synchronous orbit according to Wikipedia. They're one of the bunch of companies going for the small satellite market.

Now I appreciate that a one-way robot trip to the moon will be a lot easier than a manned mission, but it's still impressive that a moonshot needs an exceptionally small and cheap rocket these days.

Michael Gove says Britain needs to create its own DARPA

leon clarke


In creating a startup culture, where is the venture capital to come from. Surely that'd be helped by doing things that increase the amount of spare money sloshing around in the city, instead of scaring it all away.

Wouldn't startups also want a certainty of access to markets

What are the specific EU rules that prevent the UK from creating a more entrepreneurial state

What reassurances will be given that entrepreneurial high-tech companies will have access to the skilled staff they need? If staff are to come from abroad, how will they and their dependents be welcomed?

Would it be a good idea for a fan of democratic accountability to call an election after becoming leader of the ruling party, in order to give the best possible opportunity for the new PM to answer as directly as possible to the people.

1,000 cats await stadium-sized sandwich bag launch

leon clarke

Re: And the obvious question is...

This is the Register.

We obviously want Fried Egg, Sausage and Bacon sandwiches.

leon clarke

And the obvious question is...

how many sandwiches can you fit in a cubic meter?

If we knew that, we could easily calculate how many football stadiums full of people could share one sandwich bag.

Met cops shop for £150m IT system. Must have: Data centre ops

leon clarke

Re: why?

I've heard the explanation that the Met is the biggest force by a fair margin. As a result, everyone else expects them to go first. Once they've done so, Lincolnshire will discover they have the same requirements as the Met. So they sort-of simulate a national system by the back door. (However, the Met's recent IT chaos has meant some people have got bored waiting for the met to order lots of obviously-needed things and gone for systems that are only as good as a small force can afford on their own)

The other advantage (for politicians in the home office) of a decentralised approach is that the IT cock-ups aren't (technically) actually the fault of the politicians.

So, al in all, a central purchase would be better for the taxpayer.

Citrix asks you, yes you, to write its certification exams and courseware

leon clarke

Missing option

Happily - because I'll submit loads of questions to which I know the answer and then more easily get certified

Bash on Windows. Repeat, Microsoft demos Bash on Windows

leon clarke

A very interesting detail - the root fs is per-user

The linux root fs is contained in a user directory, which presumably means each user gets their own. This may have all sorts of fun consequences, such as allowing the set of mount points to be different between different users, as is possible on plan 9.

Of course I have no idea how Linux users relate to Windows users; if you do sudo adduser, will that create another Linux user in your own private root fs, or add a user to Windows?

Anyway, there are a lot of devils in details about how the 2 systems interact, but it is possible that Windows 10 actually has useful features as an OS for running Ubuntu on which Linux lacks.

Linus Torvalds wavers, pauses … then gives the world Linux 4.5

leon clarke

OK. I have to ask

What was wrong with the old handling of PS/2 mice?

HPE's CloudLine gains some weight – blows up from 72TB to 640TB

leon clarke

I think that's the wrong picture

There doesn't seem to be a 4U server in that picture. And this article has a picture that matches the spec of the CL5200 which the article is actually about http://www.v3.co.uk/v3-uk/news/2450139/hpe-rounds-out-cloudline-portfolio-with-dedicated-storage-server

NASA's Orion: 100,000 parts riding 8 million pounds of thrust

leon clarke

Re: 3 Screens?

Nope. You can't stop the solid boosters once they're going.

The paperless office? Don’t talk sheet

leon clarke

Getting there slowly

Asymptotically slowly.

Now I've slowly got used to having 2 decent-sized monitors, I print out a lot less stuff. Like approximately none. I guess that a typical office now needs quite a small and cheap printer, and with time it'll get smaller and cheaper.

When I retire, I assume it'll be lower-spec than my current home printer. But will still exist.

Now can we kill office desk phones. In a typical office, everyone except the head of HR and the finance guy can't see the point in a desk phone as they just use their mobile for everything.

StorPool CEO: 'We do not need another storage product'

leon clarke

Lock in

If I'm following this, they want you to be locked into their software, instead of someone else's hardware and software combo. Which is a step in the right direction (assuming the software has a sensible price). But I still see something that looks and quacks like vendor lock in.

New Monopoly version features an Automatic Teller Machine

leon clarke

Re: Misses the point entirely

I assume that whoever downvoted this is an unscrupulous bastard who regularly fails to give his young children a chance at Monopoly

Irked train hackers talk derailment flaws, drop SCADA password list

leon clarke

"... possible paths between trains' operational systems and passenger entertainment systems, ..."

As a workaround, train operators could ensure that no aspect of the journey is in any way entertaining.

Security industry too busy improving security to do security right

leon clarke

Too lazy and cheap to fix your kit

No, the problem is that the vendors who provide all this stuff that needs upgrading have a business model in which change requests for 'new requirements' are an important element.

Cyber-terror: How real is the threat? Squirrels are more of a danger

leon clarke

Re: Bottom line. GCHQ *must* have more money.

Regarding Red vs Grey squirrels. I, too, am assuming that all these attacks are the fault of dastardly foreign grey squirrels. True, patriotic, red squirrels would never undermine our national infrastructure.

Behold, the fantasy of infinite cloud compute elasticity

leon clarke

Spot pricing

One mitigation to the problem suggested is Amazon's spot pricing.

When someone suddenly want 1,000 servers NOW they don't take ones that were running idle; they steal ones from people who had put in low bids for spot pricing. When sensible people want 1,000 servers they don't say they want them now, but use spot pricing to wait until the bank trading floor has finished its 1,000 server 'must be run at 4pm' job then grab all the spare servers.

Royal Mail mulls drones for rural deliveries

leon clarke

Odd comment about driverless trains

Presumably he isn't old enough to remember when the Royal Mail started using driverless trains - The Post Office Railway started in 1928

Encrypt voice calls, says GCHQ's CESG team ... using CESG encryption

leon clarke

CESG's hobby is promoting applications for IBE

(IBE = Identity Based Encryption)

This is an idea that was invented by CESG. It is regarded as secure. It is a very cool concept. It's probably CESG's biggest triumph in terms of academic crypto (ignoring rumours that they invented public key crypto before anyone else because inventing something and keeping it secret doesn't count as an academic crypto)

So CESG keeps on coming up with really cool protocols that use IBE. The only problem is that anything you can do with IBE can be done in a way that's slightly less theoretically elegant but more generally understandable using ordinary public key crypto. So that's what everyone always does.

MPs launch 'TalkTalk' inquiry over security of personal data online

leon clarke

I'm really pleased that MPs are taking security of personal data online seriously

Another issue is making sure that ISPs or others don't store excessive personal data, such as browsing histories, in the first place. I hope MPs will ensure ISPs don't do any such thing.

Microsoft's 'Arrow' Android launcher flies into Play store

leon clarke

Auto adjusting to what the user does often

This always sounds like a good idea but personally I hate it.

I want a machine to behave like a machine which means that the controls stay where I expect them to be. Am I in a minority here? The idea of being good at working something because you've got used to how to work it seems to be hopelessly old-fashioned these days.

If they're in the wrong place, I want to move them to the right place myself.

TalkTalk attack: UK digi minister recommends security badges for websites

leon clarke

Re: Read the PCI DSS and weep

That falls into my 'more onerous than PCI' category. No-one will bother with compliance unless it's made mandatory, and if anyone suggests making it mandatory then some trade association will invite lots of ministers to their long conference in the Bahamas to convincingly explain why it's a bad idea. (The more factual aspects of this presentation will involve remaining competitive with economies that don't have excessive red tape. Funding this trade association's blatant bribery would be much cheaper than complying with such a certification)

I entirely agree that to offer any useful protection such auditing and insurance is needed.