* Posts by Michael Prior-Jones

16 posts • joined 26 Apr 2007

This is why old Windows Phones won't run PC apps

Michael Prior-Jones

Deja vu all over again...

x86 emulation on ARM is nothing new... anyone else remember this?


Avoiding Liverpool was the aim: All aboard the world's ONLY moving aqueduct

Michael Prior-Jones

I once took my narrowboat up the Ship Canal from the junction with the Weaver to central Manchester. Cost me £200 in admin charges and a good deal of faffing about, but was well worth it. When we left Runcorn we called the Vessel Traffic Service (the marine equivalent of Air Traffic Control) at Eastham to confirm we were on our way. They asked us if we needed them to swing the bridges. I was tempted to say yes... but with an air draft of only two metres, I reckoned I'd get found out and bollocked pretty quick!

Brits seek rousing name for polar research vessel

Michael Prior-Jones

Re: OK, I probably have diferent ideas of Arctic state of the art

I sailed on the James Clark Ross about ten years ago. British polar research vessels are not "icebreakers" like the Russian ones, but "ice-strengthened". The difference is in the shape of the hull. An icebreaker has a rounded bow profile which forces the ice below the water as the ship progresses (see the picture of the Botnica here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Icebreaker#Ice_resistance_and_hull_form) - but this makes the ship less stable and less efficient when operating in the open water. The British ships both have a more conventional bow shape and a flattish bottom, and break ice by riding up onto it and breaking it with their sheer weight. This is slower and more energy intensive when breaking ice, but provides much better performance in open water. They spend a very small fraction of their duties actually breaking ice. A typical tasking for JCR involves sailing from the UK in August, bringing cargo and supplies down to the Antarctic stations and doing some scientific work on the way. In November and December they start doing deliveries to the Antarctic stations with scientific operations in between. The bulk of the scientific mission is done in mid-season when the ice is starting to retreat. From February to April they will do "last call" at the various Antarctic stations before returning to the UK. Generally JCR then undertakes Arctic work during the northern summer before the cycle repeats. The choice of an ice-strengthened hull profile means better performance in the open sea and a much lower fuel bill for the UK taxpayer, at the expense of performance in heavy ice.

With regard to the Shokalsky incident - the British ships don't operate in the southern Ross Sea because that area is heavily covered by the USA, Australia and New Zealand. JCR is designed for operation in the Weddell Sea and the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula, where the ice thickness is generally less of an issue.

Oh, there's one other issue with Antarctica: the Antarctic Treaty and its associated protocols declare it to be a nuclear-free zone, so nuclear-powered icebreakers are not an option. The USA actually had a nuclear power reactor on one of their bases in the 50s, and were made to take it away once the Treaty was signed!

I beg you, please don't back up that secret directory full of photos!

Michael Prior-Jones

When sorting out other people's laptops in a previous job, I used to take a certain amount of delight in the names people used for their "secret" pr0n folder. Easily my favourite was the one called "Culture"...

Dell PowerEdge R730: Reg rack monkeys crack smiles over kindness of engineers

Michael Prior-Jones

Minor pedantic point

" the R730 uses about 150W of energy" - watts are a measure of power, which is energy consumption per unit time (per second, in the case of watts). You could say "the R370 has a power consumption of 150W", or "consumes 150W", but if you want to talk about energy you could say "a daily energy consumption of 3.6kWh", or even "an hourly energy consumption of 129 kilocalories, which is about the same as a Kellogg's Nutri-Grain bar per hour"...

Job alert: Is this the toughest sysadmin role on Earth? And are you badass enough to do it?

Michael Prior-Jones

I was an Antarctic sysadmin

I spent 2005-7 at British Antarctic Survey's Rothera station as "Communications Manager", a rather grand title for what was basically sysadmin, radio operator and jobbing electronic engineer.

High points: building a massive radio antenna; talking to field parties of scientists on the HF radio; helping scientists to fix their equipment; writing a Perl script that screen-scraped and assembled a popular Sunday newspaper's "digital edition" website to obtain PDFs of each page and printed them out double-sided on A3, just like a "proper" newspaper

Low points: walking to the biology lab to change a toner cartridge in 20 knots of wind and blowing snow; running out of beer part way through the winter; wweeping sticky wet snow off the satellite radome several times a week in the wetter part of the season (ice buildup caused a loss of signal).

Lots of fun. Would do it again.

Curiosity needs OS upgrade before getting down to science

Michael Prior-Jones

Re: Data rate

Yeah, El Reg has massively misquoted the data rates - I did think it was odd to achieve data rates to Mars in excess of a lot of UK broadband speeds! 32 kilobits per second is the top rate direct to Earth, and the fastest link rate is 2 Megabits per second to the Mars Reconnaisance Orbiter, but that's only in view for 8 minutes per orbit!

iPhone denies existence of Gibraltar, other bits of British empire

Michael Prior-Jones

Falkland Islands

At least the Falkland Islands actually has a mobile phone service these days - when I first went there in 2005 you still had to use a red phone box...

Living, biological raygun produced in lab

Michael Prior-Jones


I'm disappointed that you didn't mention the considerable possibility for laser-wielding marine bio-weapons - sharks that can generate their own laser beams are clearly superior to those with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads.

How a Tory gov will be the most tech-savvy in history

Michael Prior-Jones

Shurely shome mishtake?

"Just as Apple, the inventors of the iPhone, ensured that their product was ‘open source’"

Mr Shapps, you have shot yourself in the foot there. The iPhone is anything but Open Source. It is user-extensible within the limits Apple have set out, but that's not the same thing. You clearly don't understand the buzzwords you're using! Fail.

Universal thaws out The Thing

Michael Prior-Jones
IT Angle

A great tradition

It'd better be a good remake. The 1982 version is required Midwinter's day viewing for all staff working on British bases in the Antarctic. Scary! And, of course, all bases are equipped the flamethrowers as standard, just in case...

NASA: Google Gulfstreams not science experiments

Michael Prior-Jones

Regulation, regulation, regulation

Fitting scientific instrumentation to aircraft is a Whole World of Pain, especially in the UK and USA, where the regulatory authorities are extremely stringent about any non-standard aircraft. Colleagues of mine have been involved in this for many years, and they reckon it can take at least two years to jump through all the hoops required for an instrument to be fitted, especially if it involves modifications to the exterior of the aircraft.

By contrast, in Canada, where attitudes to aviation are much more relaxed, the certification can be done in less than a year.

SkypeOut goes mobile, Skype goes beta

Michael Prior-Jones

Other VoIP providers are available...

I make a lot of international calls from my mobile, and found that Rebtel's service was more useful to me than Skype - you call a geographic number in the UK and it patches you through. It costs about the same as SkypeOut, plus the cost of the call to the UK number, which comes out of my inclusive minutes.

Interesting point about Skype on 3 being a frontend to a voice call!

Appraisals are dishonest, waste of time

Michael Prior-Jones

Deming said this years ago

W Edwards Deming made precisely this point in his 1982 book, "Out of the Crisis". Everyone in Western industry ignored him!

Iowa house swallowed in grain bin collapse

Michael Prior-Jones

Great foodstuff disasters...

This sounds not unlike the Great Boston Molasses tragedy of 1919... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Boston_Molasses_Disaster

Antarctica frozen out of internet revolution

Michael Prior-Jones

I was an Antarctic sysadmin...

Until (very) recently, I was the sysadmin/communications engineer at one of the British bases. Permanent internet connectivity (via satellite) has only been installed in the last few years. The base I worked at had a total bandwidth of 384kbit/s full duplex, shared between up to 120 staff using PCs and an IP phone system. But as the bases are behind a NAT firewall at our HQ in the UK, we wouldn´t have appeared in this survey...

Oh, and I can confirm Sean´s point that as all bases have a large number of datalogging computers and servers, the number of networked machines is often significantly greater than the number of staff.


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