* Posts by The Unexpected Bill

216 publicly visible posts • joined 24 Dec 2008


Microsoft confirms Smart App issue renaming everyone's printers to HP

The Unexpected Bill

Any printer you want, so long as it's HP...

Some data points, for whatever they might be worth, which probably isn't very much...

Although the indicated type and printer icon definitely did change, the drivers for my printers (including a Brother MFP) remain untouched and functional. Some are network attached, others are local. Microsoft's print to PDF driver also still worked.

There's a managed printer available from my work computer, and thus far, its icon and indicated type have not been affected by this issue.

Lenovo Thinkpad X13s: The stealth Arm-powered laptop

The Unexpected Bill

Too bad about the price...

I like the idea. I'm looking forward to the reporting on its use with Linux (or whatever other non-Windows OSes might be compatible). I'd have even considered buying one. Like at least a few other commenters, though, I think the asking price is way too high.

Hopefully that won't deter Lenovo or its competition from offering something similar at a lower price point. (Yes, I saw the competing Acer product mentioned in the review. It seems to have been discontinued and it has some other limitations -- the paltry 4GB of RAM in particular -- that would keep me from being too interested in it.)

It's been 230 years since British pirates robbed the US of the metric system

The Unexpected Bill

Re: Try Deepl:

In that same vein, I would like to bring your attention to the following: Twin City Christmas, specifically the track entitled "There Ain't Enough Papers for the Reindeer". (Years later, when that link has probably crumbled away to dust, hopefully your favorite search engine can still find this gem.)

The backstory, in the unlikely event anyone cares: the album in question was produced by a city near my part of the world in the mid-1990s as a fundraiser. It consists entirely of local talent. I have no affiliation with it, and might not even know of it, were it not for the fact that my father was one of the few people who bought a copy on CD.

Norway has a month left until sun sets on its copper phone lines

The Unexpected Bill

Re: The big problem

Probably not all that old -- a lot of "small engines" are still carbureted to this very day. Only a few have electronic or mechanical fuel injection systems. Even those that run on propane or natural gas will likely still have a carburetor and a fairly large generator can still use what would be considered a small engine.

As best I'm aware, all Diesel engines are implicitly fuel injected.

Fine print: my perspective is one of how things are done in the United States, because that's where I am. Perhaps other parts of the world are doing things differently.

'Last man standing in the floppy disk business' reckons his company has 4 years left

The Unexpected Bill

Provided this was some kind of Dallas timekeeper package or one of the many, many clones...you can actually re-energize them if you're not afraid to employ some violence. (I recommend having a few spares to practice on. I lost a few before I got good at it. You can find the more common ones on certain popular auction sites.)

I think one can still get the good old DS12887 brand new. Not so for the other variants often seen in EISA and Microchannel computers (like the DS1387 and DS1397). The only thing one can do for those is to re-energize them with an external power source, which is doable because there also existed versions of those chips that didn't come packaged with the battery and clock crystal. For the packaged ones, they just flipped those pins up, extended them to meet the battery and crystal, and then sealed the whole thing in epoxy.

Carefully carve away the epoxy around the battery pins, puncture at least one of them to disconnect the internal cell and then connect your own external batteries. (I can't take credit for this procedure.)

This has also worked on the various clones of these modules that I've found, like the Benchmarq bq3287mt and Twinhead's TH6887A. The only ones I never got around to figuring out were the STMicroelectronics Snaphat and Caphat modules, mainly because the only equipment I had that used them died of other problems.

The Unexpected Bill

I've heard this said in the past a few times that Windows 10 dispensed with support for internal floppy drives connected to an actual floppy disk controller.

Empirical experience suggests this isn't so. I have a Dell Dimension E310 whose only form of legacy I/O is a 34 pin internal floppy drive connection, courtesy of the LPCIO. (In other words, no, it's not a USB drive or any other more modern implementation.) Windows 10 can most definitely see and use that internal floppy drive. I didn't have to do anything special for it to be recognized. It worked right out of the box.

Scientist shares spicy pic of 'James Webb' discovery

The Unexpected Bill

Re: Chorizo

You sound as though you have a beef with that!

Like Ubuntu, just a bit less hassle: Linux Mint 21 'Vanessa'

The Unexpected Bill

Sometimes You Can

It depends upon what you have to work with. Some LGA775 era Netburst stuff and Core Solo/Duo systems were 32-bit only and will let you drop in a new processor having 64-bit support. You might need a BIOS update before installing the new CPU.

These days it's probably questionable in terms of how well a modern OS will perform on such hardware and whether it's worth investing even a few bucks into a better CPU when a computer having a vastly better specification might only be slightly more expensive. Still, you can oftentimes perform such an upgrade if you want to...

Makers of ad blockers and browser privacy extensions fear the end is near

The Unexpected Bill

Re: The mystery

I always thought it demonstrated a lot of gall on Adobe's part to push other software (oftentimes of dubious repute) while delivering security fixes. ("I'm only here because your software is defective! How dare you take advantage of your mistakes as an advertising platform!")

Only rarely did I ever see them push Chrome in this part of the world. Around here, it was almost invariably McLaughee Security Scam that was offered. While I had absolutely no interest in Google Groan at the time, and only grudgingly so today, at least it could be argued that it was useful by comparison...

Sick of Windows but can't afford a Mac? Consult our cynic's guide to desktop Linux

The Unexpected Bill

Re: "just works"

With "conventional" multi-monitor setups, I've never had a problem with any major Linux distribution. (I tend to shy away from the lesser known offerings for reasons similar to those in the article.)

It's under some of the less common arrangements that I've run into trouble. As an example, I have a touch input capable LCD monitor that I wanted to use with Linux Mint 20's xfce variant on a Dell Latitude D630. The displays themselves all worked fine, but it appeared as though the operating system was treating both displays as though they were touch capable. This threw the calibration completely off. (As I remember it, there was a built in calibration tool and I tried it to no improvement. It would place calibration marks on the laptop's internal display, where they could not be touched.)

I'll grant that this wasn't a problem with anything being displayed, though it did prevent me from using the secondary display completely as intended.

It would be nice if low resolution displays were handled better. Over twenty years on, I still run into problems with Linux GUIs where the windows are too large and can't be shrunk down any further to fit the confines of the display resolution, so you can see and use all the elements within. This happens just enough to keep things interesting.

As someone who has become annoyed with the directions that Windows and Mac OS have gone, I'm glad to see the major strides that major Linux distributions have made in user friendliness and ease of use over the past two decades. (As a frame of reference, my adventures started with an early Red Hat Linux version running on an IBM PS/1 486.) There still remain plenty of rough edges that need sanding down, especially if you tread off the beaten path or have a "corner case" situation.

Why the Linux desktop is the best desktop

The Unexpected Bill

Re: @ Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

"Coincidentally, I updated to Mint 20.3 not half an hour ago. To do that I had to click - I think - three buttons, and didn't even have to stop what I was doing until the obligatory reboot. Apparently, Linux is too hard for those used to Windows."

Linux Mint point upgrades (at least for me) have always been just about that easy. Oh, sure, there was invariably some goofing around to find the right set of incantations that led to an older Dell/Broadcom wi-fi adapter working again, but that was about it.

I wish I could say that a major version upgrade was the same. It's not. I have an old Dell Latitude 2120 netbook that was for some time my daily driver* on Linux Mint 18 something-or-another. A few months ago, I thought it'd be the prudent thing to do to bring it current, even though on every front except being current on security patches, it worked fine.

I'm going from memory when I recount this tale of woe, so it may be that I've missed a step or not gotten something completely right. Instead of the nice graphical mintupdate client, there's this awful console based script you're supposed to run. Okay, fine. There's also a whole laundry list of other things to do...backing out any newer packages you've installed from other repositories, removing those repositories, configuring and using Timeshift if your version is new enough to have it, and probably other things besides.

I wouldn't mind the console based approach one bit if the script's user experience wasn't awful. Here again, you do what it wants, in the way it wants you to do it, or else. As I remember, it insisted that I do a dry run and Timeshift on releases where that feature existed. Okay, but maybe I'd rather have sailed a little closer to the wind. Maybe I don't have the disk space for Timeshift or I don't want to use it for that purpose. That should be my choice. Periodically throughout the upgrade process, it'll ask you to bump your privileges with a sudo prompt. If you're not watching for that, and it's understandable why you might not be, it stalls.

That poor netbook made it through relatively well. Another one (a much less powerful Latitude 2100) did not. At some point during that upgrade, and in spite of have done everything it wanted for safety's sake, some part of the process just died and left the system hanging there. It was with some trepidation that I finally rebooted it, only to find that it was no longer capable of booting graphically. Fortunately, the network stack still came up and I was able to walk it through what was left of the upgrade from the command line. I'd hate to think where a non-technical user would be if this happened to them.

I don't even want to talk about printing on Linux. Most of the time I've had anything to do with it, even on well supported devices (i.e. those that understand PCL and/or Postscript), it has been an irritating process at best. Then again, I hate printers and printing on any OS, and wouldn't mind it at all if every printer in the world just magically fell out of an open window one day.

I've yet to see any desktop Linux react gracefully to the system's running out of (or just low) on disk space. Windows and MacOS both give you a warning that you'd better stop and do something about this problem. Popular distros for desktop use just start acting screwy, and maybe you can open a terminal to run df, if you know to do that. A lot of people don't. I don't think it unreasonable for the computer to clearly warn that something bad is about to happen that will make it unstable or worse. (As you might guess, Timeshift has caused this problem for me.)

Try hooking up a touchscreen monitor to a system where any non-touch enabled displays exist. Tell me what happens. (For me, the system behaved as though it assumed all the monitors were touch capable, and this threw the calibration of the one touch-capable display way off. Evidently, nobody ever tested for what happens when you do that! Yes, I tried to recalibrate and it put some of the targets on non-touch displays.)

I like Linux Mint. I think it's probably one of the best distros going for those just starting out and then some. I'm still unconvinced for the reasons above (and so many more that we won't get into today) that Linux in general is a good fit for everyone who uses a computer, and especially those who don't understand computers reasonably well or aren't prepared to dive in and troubleshoot, possibly becoming quite involved in doing so, when it's all gone wrong.

I feel as though the author of this article is well suited by Linux and even Unix before it. I'm glad it suits them more or less down to the ground. (I'm very sincere here: no sarcasm whatsoever.) To discount other people's feelings and experiences that maybe Linux isn't everything perfect and then some is shortsighted at best. There's still a lot to be done in the name of usability and discoverability. (Yes, I know it's open source and that means I could do it...which is fine, except for the part where I'm not a programmer because I've never enjoyed computer programming no matter how many times I've forced myself to do so. I've certainly done it when I had to, however.)

* Lord have mercy, although it should be said that at the time, an Atom N550 and 2GB of RAM wasn't a bad existence. The small screen size and limited resolution (1024x600) were more of a problem than anything else.

The right to repairable broadband befits a supposedly critical utility

The Unexpected Bill

Re: Lightning Protection

Very early in my schooling, I remember a teacher telling us students that if we saw a weather warning symbol appear during a TV broadcast, we should turn the TV off and unplug it right away. I dutifully went and told this to my parents. Of course, neither they nor I ever did so and none of our TVs ever suffered lightning damage.

Many years ago, and in spite of knowing better, I once strung an Ethernet cable across the yard between two structures for a temporary connection. That was fine until one day when a storm rolled in. Even though the storm still seemed to be quite a ways off, there came a tremendous crash of thunder and a brilliant flash from the wireless router (already in very sad shape) sitting on my desk. That was the end of it. I never did find any obvious damage on the circuit board, so I'm still not sure what produced such a light show.

Going back to TVs and lightning, a very rurally situated friend of mine and his family were weathering a storm at their home when all of a sudden the fire department showed up at their door. They were all very surprised by this, until one of the firemen explained that someone had seen lightning strike their TV antenna tower and produce a brilliant fireball. Convinced that there had been an explosion, someone called it in. They went to check the TV and found it no worse for the experience, apart from a severely magnetized picture tube that the degaussing coil eventually cleared up. The TV went on to operate flawlessly for several more years after that and even survived a mishap with excessive line voltage from an incorrectly wired generator. (It is the latter that actually did more damage, smoking a few diodes within the power supply. Once replaced, the set came right back to life.)

Version 7 of WINE is better than ever at running Windows apps where they shouldn't

The Unexpected Bill

In at least one way, Wine is a better Windows than Windows...

I have a long-abandoned program written for 16-bit Windows that I was still interested in using, and much to my surprise, Wine on a 64-bit Linux platform had no trouble at all running it. I hope that's still true even with the changes that have arrived in version 7. (In case you really want to know, it's a simple household electrical wiring simulator. To my knowledge, nobody's written any program like it since. However, I'd love to be proven wrong.)

Said program is quite limited, but still fun to tinker around and it's something from my youth that I wanted to reconnect with.

Even when run on 32-bit Windows through NTVDM/WoW, some of the program's finer points (like the sounds it can make) didn't work properly. They did under Wine.

Kyndryl spins out of IBM, stock starts trading on NYSE – and shares tumble

The Unexpected Bill

Why the Y?

I apologize in advance for doing this, but Y is at least sometimes considered a vowel.

I'm not fond of the way they spelled it either.

Is that a meteor crashing to Earth? No, it's Chromebook makers coming back to reality

The Unexpected Bill

Re: Wot no Wi-Fi?

Google recently extended the lifetime of all new models to eight years from the date of platform release. I think they did so at the beginning of 2020 or thereabouts.

Even as one of those obnoxious people who tends to keep his technology around until it's given every bit of good that it possibly can, I think that's pretty fair with the qualifier that you want to be sure of selecting a truly new model. Later Chrome OS updates added a field in the "About Chrome OS" part of the settings application indicating exactly when a model's support lifecycle ends. It would certainly be more helpful still if this information was featured on the carton or at the point of sale and maybe that will happen at some point.

Realistically, all of this means you'll probably get about seven years. With many Chromebooks landing in the hands of children, I think a lot of them will be fairly used up by that point.

By way of Lacros, Google's also been tinkering with the idea of further separating Chrome the browser from Chrome the OS as a potential extension of a given platform's life. (I'm only an interested party with a lot of time for cheap computers with low power consumption, and have no affiliation whatsoever with Google or anyone else who provides Chromebooks.)

You can keep things going for a while longer, provided you're feeling somewhat adventurous. Many Intel (and possibly some AMD) Chromebooks can be modified to run an operating system of your own choosing, especially if that happens to be some variant of Linux. I'm hopeful that in time the same might be true for the ARM based Chromebooks.

Google fixes 'Chromebork' one-character code typo that prevented Chrome OS logins

The Unexpected Bill

Re: "clear local data on the device"

Chrome OS does store data locally and allows the user to do the same, though I suspect it is "strongly suggested" that one use the cloud for their data storage needs. Cheaper Chrome OS devices have just enough storage for the OS and very little else. More expensive models have more local storage.

I've seen Chrome OS arbitrarily decide that it was time for a complete system reset without any warning, so keeping regular backups would be especially wise. Not being all that in to cloudy things, I use a USB flash drive. Unfortunately, there's presently no automation in Chrome OS for making backups that I'm aware of (and probably won't be).

In a complete non-surprise, Mozilla hammers final nail in FTP's coffin by removing it from Firefox

The Unexpected Bill

Using FTP in a browser

Yes, I absolutely still do, or at least I did until Fx 90 landed. (In fact, I pref'd it back on in Firefox 88 and 89.) Adobe in particular still maintains an FTP site with patches and other updates for software new and old. HP's FTP site is also still running, and quite handy for products they have "forgotten" about, or at least it is when they haven't helpfully purged the files from there as well.

It won't be as convenient to use a standalone FTP program for quick downloads like this.

Google killed desktop Drive and replaced it with two apps. Now it’s killing those, and Drive for desktop is returning

The Unexpected Bill
Thumb Down

Re: Shit at search, too. (Was: Google - great at search...)

Indeed, their search used to be second-to-nobody.

I've noticed (at least) two things, one fairly recently and the other that's been going on for a while. The more recent change is the inclusion of "nearby" words (similar meaning, usage, etc.) in your query. I see why in a broad sense that this could be useful to someone, somewhere, but for me it's just infuriating because it works so poorly (at least it does in my usage case).

Sometimes when you're going for a web search, you're already teeing up for that long drive down the fairway of hopelessness. It's even less helpful when Google starts dropping words or entire phrases from your query and offers links you can click to include them again. If it's not there using the search terms as entered...just tell me!

(Yes, I know you can force strings to be included in your query. I find that goes from "not specific enough" to "too specific" almost instantly. Google Searches used to work far better as "divining rods" of sorts if you were close but not quite sure of or accurate about something in your query.)

I dunno...maybe I haven't kept up with the times and I need to relearn searching the web. Every now and then I try the other major search engines and find them even worse soon enough.

‘Staggering’ cost of vintage Sun workstations sees OpenSolaris-fork Illumos drop SPARC support

The Unexpected Bill

Re: Old stuff

I can't speak about the DEC (it probably has some value), but an original IBM PC is worth anywhere from one to a few hundred bucks, depending upon how complete it is and whether or not it works. Unusual options and upgrades certainly help the value. Of course, all of this hinges on finding the right person in your part of the world.

I remember legions of the original IBM PCs flooding area computer stores as businesses got rid of them, in the late 1990s. A lot of these places resorted to scrapping them as soon as they showed up. I rescued mine before they'd done any truly irreversible damage (like breaking off expansion card tabs for the gold contact fingers), but they did get as far as yanking all the cables that would come out of it. It survives today (albeit in somewhat disheveled condition) with a 286 upgrade and a VGA card. I'd like to get an XT-IDE board for it at some point.

Samsung stops providing security updates to the Galaxy S8 at grand old age of four years

The Unexpected Bill

Re: Have you actually seen the performance of a 5+ year old iPhone with the latest Software?

Yes. I have a first-gen iPhone SE.

The battery is probably best described as "rather goofy" in regard to its behavior, but it still works acceptably well and has never shut down unexpectedly in regular use. (Cold temperatures have always bothered it, and this has gotten worse with age.) It claims 94% capacity. I'm pretty sure that's a fib. It's the original battery.

The one unexpected shutdown that it had was a byproduct of the previously noted cold weather conditions, and I wasn't surprised when it happened. iOS noticed and told me it would throttle the CPU, but gave me the option to disable all throttling and restore full performance at my own risk, which I did. (Unless there was a time when this couldn't be reversed, I'm not sure why people complained about it.)

As to performance, I have no complaints whatsoever. Even on iOS 14.5.1, the first-gen iPSE is still very snappy and responsive. As much as I hate cellular phones, this to me is the nearly-perfect phone.

Although I'd like for it to see iOS 15, I'll be surprised if it does. At least it should still get security updates for a while...

I haven't bought new pants for years, why do I have to keep buying new PCs?

The Unexpected Bill

Re: When you say "pants",

Dell kept using Broadcom Ethernet chips in their Latitude laptops until at least the D530/630/830. I've never had a problem with any of them under any OS, but I'm not sure why they didn't go with Intel Ethernet parts like almost everyone else.

I still have several in regular (almost daily) use, particularly the D630. There's also a D531 floating around, one of those curious models where Dell briefly dipped their toe into the AMD world. (Not sure what it has for a wired Ethernet solution, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was also Broadcom based.)

Finding good working batteries is getting to be more and more of a problem. (The cheap Chinese ones aren't very good. Thankfully, none have halted and caught fire as yet.)

Crowdfunded Asahi project aims for 'polished' Linux experience on Apple Silicon

The Unexpected Bill

ARM Chromebooks and Linux

GalliumOS runs pretty nicely on a wide variety of (albeit older) Intel based Chromebooks. They don't (yet? ever?) support ARM devices.

In spite of their Linux-based underpinnings, I'm not aware of any other easy (or even difficult) ways to run a conventional Linux on any ARM based Chromebook, old or new. I'm hoping by the time of its demise in 2025, that there might be a viable offering for the Lenovo C330 (MTK8173C ARM based) and similar Chromebooks. If mine's still working by that point, I'd definitely switch it over.

If anyone is aware of any such Linux distribution for ARM based Chromebooks of any kind, I'm definitely interested.

Hey, China. Maybe you should have held your hackers off for a bit while COVID-19 ravaged the planet. Just a suggestion

The Unexpected Bill

Re: Cisco Kit

Believe it or not, all the Cisco routers I've come across were at least assembled in the US. Most are slightly older models, however.

I found it interesting, as I've yet to see any of their late model switches assembled in the US.

Still hoping to run VMware's ESXi on Arm any time soon? Don't hold your breath – no rush and no commitments

The Unexpected Bill

Re: Build it and they will come...

It's been a while since VMWare established a requirement for a microprocessor having virtualization capability. I've forgotten exactly when this happened and a cursory search didn't turn it up.

VirtualBox still provides for software emulation of an x86 CPU and doesn't require hardware-based virtualization support.

ESXi is even stricter on the hardware requirements, as I found out recently when trying to shoehorn it onto a dusty old Dell Optiplex 755 with a C2Q 6600. (My intention was just to tinker around with it, as opposed to any serious use.) Even after finding an older version that would still consent to running on such hardware, it turned into a death by a thousand cuts kind of experience.

Yes, people really do this. My reasoning is that it works and is paid for.

I wish VMWare would have taken a different stance here -- instead of out-and-out prohibiting it, they could have said "you can do this, but we don't recommend it at all". I'm sure it would have been fine for casual tinkering.

I stopped caring mainly because I had previously found ESXi's web based virtual machine client to be pretty buggy. Keyboard input reliability in particular was pretty horrible.

How bad is Catalina? It's almost Apple Maps bad: MacOS 10.15 pushes Cupertino's low bar for code quality lower still

The Unexpected Bill

Re: 10.15 Catastrophe

It does, or at least it is supposed to. I upgraded a test system and while it caught some 32-bit applications, the entirety of Microsoft Office 2011 went unnoticed, as did several other programs.

You should really get an Android or iPhone, says Microsoft: No more app updates for Windows Phone 8.x holdouts

The Unexpected Bill

Windows Phone could have been a viable competitor...

I say this even though I've been watching Microsoft bungle things since Windows CE first appeared in the 1990s. I'm not sure why I continued to hold out hope, every time, that things would be different the next time around.

It happened that I came across a Lumia 640 in the closeout department of a store. It seemed to me that it was probably worth taking the chance for ten bucks, and it'd have the honor of being the first smartphone I ever owned.

Windows Mobile 8.1 ran well on it. Apart from a few rough edges (mostly around the mail client), it was a well thought out operating system. They even thought to include R(B)DS decoding in the FM tuner application. I was impressed enough that there was an FM radio tuner application! Most of the applications available came from very small time developers, who clearly cared about the platform and their work. Three in particular stand out: A really well done GPS speedometer that is to date the only "app" on any platform that I've ever thought enough of to have purchased, Metrotube from Lazy Worm Apps and a bar code scanner whose name I have forgotten. (I'd go and look up the names for the speedometer and bar code scanner apps, but the phone is hiding out in the basement and that's just not happening at this hour.) There was an easily removable battery, headphone jack, and even a place to pop in a Micro SD card (which I did). The phone itself felt very solid and quite well made. It had excellent audio when receiving calls.

(Microsoft released a "port" of DOS for Windows Phone as an April Fools Day joke. I still find it fairly amusing to play around with.)

Was it all perfect? No. Although its audio was excellent when recording video (something Apple in particular could pay attention to), the camera was pretty mediocre. Few of the major application developers ever bothered to make a Windows Phone version of their software and fewer still ever updated their software. I thought it nothing short of miraculous that a WP version of Shazam existed. (It's never been updated that I can see, but as of a few months ago, it still mostly worked.) Every now and again, the software would lose track of certain hardware functions and a restart would be necessary. In other places, the user interface was confusing. I always had to fiddle around a bit before I could find any updates to my installed apps. More and more websites refused to cope gracefully (or at all) with Internet Explorer.

I'd probably still be using the Lumia 640 had it not taken the opportunity to disappear one day. Microsoft's locator service placed it near a major highway, and I took it at face value, figuring that I'd foolishly left the phone somewhere on the outside of my vehicle and it had blown away, never to be seen again. It was about this time, much to my great disgust, that I discovered the carrier had put some sort of worthless insurance on the phone's service plan. I tried and failed to collect any benefit because I had to produce at least a piece of the phone before they'd replace it. Some months later, an iPhone SE replaced it. I probably would have never thought any more of it, but the Lumia 640 later surfaced in a stack of winter clothing.

I shunned Windows 10 Phone when the thing was in active use because I didn't (still don't) care at all for Windows 10 on desktops or tablets. Since it didn't seem likely to bother me now -- and who knows, in enough time, the avenue for an upgrade might not exist -- I went ahead and let the thing upgrade itself. It wasn't exactly flawless, in that my e-mail configurations were tossed right out the window. A few apps disappeared and others lost their configurations. I've never actually gotten any of my e-mail accounts to work with the new system. The new OS really is rather sluggish on the Lumia 640's hardware. I'm sure that just like its PC related brethren, that it slurps as much data as it possibly can, with or without permission.

I do think that if Microsoft had sanded down some of the rough edges, and really pushed to get developers interested in the platform, that Windows Phone could have been a success. In a way, it's sad to think that it's just another historical footnote, steamrolled into irrelevance by Microsoft's continued incompetence and the duopoly of Android and iPhone.

(For whatever it's worth, I utterly despise Android. Amongst many other things, it's a great study in how not to implement user interfaces.)

Ubuntu says i386 to be 86'd with Eoan 19.10 release: Ageing 32-bit x86 support will be ex-86

The Unexpected Bill

Will they really do it, though?

I have to wonder, because Ubuntu has been saying for years that their server variant was x64 only. If one knew where to look, though, an x86 version of Ubuntu Server was available through version 16.04 LTS. Maybe an unofficial 32-bit version of Ubuntu for the desktop will persist for a while longer.

Personally, I think it's silly to drop 32-bit x86 support this soon. I can't think of too many reasons why it couldn't be kept available for a few more years and at least one more major release. There have been general purpose (albeit low powered) 32-bit only x86 microprocessors manufactured as recently as 2012, and there are also the previously mentioned systems with 64-bit capable CPUs and only 32-bit UEFI support.

I'm definitely still using a few 32-bit only systems to do useful work. Some have practical restrictions (would see no improvement due to other design limits, like the maximum amount of memory that can be installed, or there is a need to use older software, like Win16 programs) while others cannot run 64-bit code.

ReactOS 0.4.9 release metes out stability and self-hosting, still looks like a '90s fever dream

The Unexpected Bill

Old fashioned user interface?

I'll get to that in a moment. I've been tinkering with ReactOS since first hearing of it in the early 2000s. Whatever version I first worked with came with little more than a notepad program (maybe also a calculator?) and it lacked any kind of a shell. The control menu icon gave away the fact that a lot of Wine's code was in use at time, since it displayed their logo. It has come a very long way since then. I hope it will reach the point where I could realistically use it as a day to day operating system.

Truth be told, I'd love to see a truly simple and clean user interface (especially one that doesn't waste prodigious amounts of screen real estate) stage a comeback. I couldn't care less about Windows Aero, find ribbons to be particularly pernicious and don't appreciate the arbitrary changes in well established user interface (like menu bars going below toolbars and unable to be moved).

Good design is timeless, and I completely disagree that the visual design of ReactOS is dated or stale.

Here's why AI can't make a catchier tune than the worst pop song in the charts right now

The Unexpected Bill

This all seems like a great deal of overkill.

Some years ago, Korg produced a keyboard synthesizer with what was known as the KARMA system. As I remember it, the idea behind this was that you'd play some or all of a song on the keyboard, and the KARMA system would either take it from there and continue playing or function as a "backing" band while you continued to play.

I also think it's worth mentioning the Fake Music Generator web site: https://www.fakemusicgenerator.com/ . It bases on something known as cgMusic and produces interesting if rather repetitive songs.

Kernel-memory-leaking Intel processor design flaw forces Linux, Windows redesign

The Unexpected Bill

What about fringe makers of x86/x64 CPUs?

I'm greatly curious to know how or if companies like VIA (or maybe even DM&P) and their microprocessor products might be affected by this.

Google to kill Chrome autoplay madness

The Unexpected Bill

For Firefox Users...

Setting the preference value of "media.autoplay.enabled" (to false) does a wondrous job of stopping the plague that is any HTML 5 video.

Why Groan couldn't have something similar, simple and every bit as effective can only be imagined.

A word of caution: some web sites can't cope with this and flip out at the very possibility that someone wouldn't want their video to play automatically. So far, I've found that behavior to be a fair barometer of whether or not I actually want to continue visiting said web site.

Intel's dying Atom chips strike again: Netgear recalls four ReadyNAS, Wi-Fi management lines

The Unexpected Bill

Re: Inquiring mind would like to know...

A properly designed integrated circuit ought to last for many years, if not decades.

Li-Fi with my little eye … a vulnerability

The Unexpected Bill

Re: Why bother?

I'll grant you that running Token Ring might be a clever idea...but where do you get the hardware these days? Wasn't Madge/Ringdale the last Token Ring company left standing?

A better question might be where you'd get the drivers even if you find some old TR hardware sitting around. The Linux TR project (http://www.linuxtr.net/ , guess I can't embed links) site is still online but it's been years since that site was updated and I'd be shocked to learn that any TR driver code was still present and workable. Drivers for Token Ring hardware in Windows versions after Server 2003 and XP would also be quite surprising.

Maybe NetBSD has something?

(In case you're wondering, yes I do in fact still have a working Token Ring network. Or I would very quickly upon powering up the backbone gear and any nodes. I've got a few IBM 8228 and 8226 MAUs in reserve, while a North Hills LAT3371 MAU is my primary. It's tied into my Ethernet network with an IBM 8229 LAN bridge. For a while I even had separate 16 and 4 megabit networks, with a PS/2 Model 50 bridging between them.)

BBC vans are coming for you

The Unexpected Bill

Re: I got caught by a detector van

Funny you'd mention that -- just for "grits and shins" I named a wireless network set up for testing purposes as "cat detector van". I had no idea that someone had spoofed TV detector vans in this way before.

More seriously, I've seen mention made of a lower cost TV license for black and white sets. I'd be greatly curious to know how many people in this modern day and age are still watching a black and white TV as a "daily driver". Probably more than I'd guess. Are black and white TVs of any kind still on the market over there? I'm also curious to know if a "TV audio only" license exists: at least here in the 'States, AM/FM radio receivers with television audio capability for all VHF channels were once quite common.

Facebook offers end-to-end encrypted chat – if you find the right setting

The Unexpected Bill

This sounds like the equivalent of installing a deadbolt lock on a tent.

Linux letting go: 32-bit builds on the way out

The Unexpected Bill

Re: User McUser - 64-bit Atom

That's not quite universally true. There are a few later Atom processors, like the Z2760 I'm using right now, that are much later and 32-bit only. The Z2760 was released in the 3rd quarter of 2012.

I'm not sure why Intel manufactured such chips, only that they did.

Dell to change name to 'Dell Technologies'

The Unexpected Bill

There is precedent... (@werdsmith)

Dell used to have a line of their "own" uninterruptible power supplies that shipped with a software package known as Dell UPS Management Software. This was -- I kid you not -- abbreviated to "DUMS".

Mystery Kindle update will block readers from books after Wednesday

The Unexpected Bill

Kindle Keyboard 3G+Wi-Fi, nothing yet...

Another data point for whatever it's worth...the previously mentioned Kindle (running software 3.4.2) has yet to do anything indicated by the article or Amazon's update information. Nor have I received any documentation in the device's library to indicate that anything has happened. I tried prodding it a few times ("sync and check for items", leaving it plugged in with the wireless enabled for several days) and that hasn't convinced it to do anything either.

The Kindle Store still works just fine.

It sure would be nice to know what was going on (although I'm probably too lazy to call Amazon and actually find out...)

Netcraft adds Heartbleed sniffing to site-scanning browser tool

The Unexpected Bill

I just have to ask...

Does the extension really support Firefox 1.0? Is anyone really still running that ancient of a release? (No, wait. I'm not sure I want to know.)

I'm probably too lazy to actually download v1.0 of Firefox and find out...

Back to your regularly scheduled program.

Tube be or not tube be: Apple’s CYLINDRICAL Mac Pro is out tomorrow

The Unexpected Bill

Re: Rollaway

You're setting it on your desk* wrong.

* or table, or couch, or counter top, or whatever...

Windows 8.1 Start button SPOTTED in the wild

The Unexpected Bill

Re: Half way

I forgot about that! When the need first arose, I was kind of broadsided by "where DID they put the shutdown option anyway"? I wasted a little time ticking through the Start screen and logging out before finally asking SysInternals Process Explorer to do the job. Never mind that doing so was like using a big truck to move a single sheet of paper, it worked.

The next thing I found was a snarky article from another publication (not to be named here, but I'm sure you can find it if you believe that a Start button won't fix Windows 8'sproblems) that said "just push the power button". Whatever. That whole thing just reeked of snark and stupid. While that'll work and may be a legal move under Windows 8, I was of the impression that earlier versions of Windows performed the most orderly shutdown they could before power was shut off, if you did this. So I didn't do that.

The fact that someone has to search the web to find this doesn't just mean it is that person's fault. This is thoughtless, feckless UI design at its very worst (or is that best?) ...

The Unexpected Bill

Waking up from the slumber...

...to post another comment.

I've read all the fury surrounding Windows 8 from both sides while being content to sit on the sidelines. After all, I'd skipped Windows Vista and 7 for the most part. I was initially appalled by the idea of a full screen Start "menu", so why subject myself to it?

I answered my own question upon picking up a cheap computer bundle, one cheap enough to make Windows 8 worth looking into. Worst case scenario I could run Linux, BSD or something along those lines.

Windows 8 does a few things right. On hardware that's really nothing to write home about, it's quite zippy. It gets right through the whole out of box thing quickly as well (at least my example did). Even so, plenty is still wrong enough that I'd find it hard to use on a daily basis. Explorer windows are still crippled (menus in the wrong place, no useful toolbars), IE9 (or is it 10 in Win8?) has inherited the "every browser thinks it's Google Chrome" disease and the various freebie apps like Paint and Wordpad are still infested with those bloody ribbons. Not long after the initial power up, the machine dropped into a STOP error. It's not happened again, so I don't know what to make of that.

I gave the Start screen (what I'd consider) a reasonable chance despite my initial bias against it, learned how to configure it, and really tried to use it. I'd even go so far as to say it's great for tablet computers. The first major miscue is that there's no obvious button on which to click when you're sitting at the "classic" desktop. You're just supposed to know that moving the mouse to the extreme lower left and clicking will bring it up. What a load of FAIL.

I don't care at all about Metro apps. I've gone into a few out of curiosity, but they're not something I could see myself really using. In fact, I excised all but the "Bing News" tile from my Start screen.

What really burns me, the one thing I cannot forgive above all else, is the blatant waste of screen space. It is bad enough that the Start screen has to take up the whole of your screen and worse that the tiles representing applications are FAR bigger than they'd ever need to be for many people. I am one of those people who likes to put as much information on a given screen as will reasonably comfortably fit, and the Start screen isn't any way of doing that.

I tried. I really did. And in the end, after looking at a few different options, I went for Classic Shell. So far I haven't looked back.

Crypto boffins: RSA tokens can be cracked in 13 MINUTES

The Unexpected Bill


These token things are tougher than you might think. I came to have an "obsolete" token and decided to see what it would take to break the thing. A bored mind is a dangerous thing.

The short answer: quite a lot!

Don't try any of this at home, nor anywhere else.

I threw it at walls, jumped on it, stomped on it, ran over it with a truck, attempted to stuff it into a paper shredder, chucked it down a two story staircase repeatedly and watered it. It was still in one piece up until I chucked it down the staircase. Then the casing started to break, but the electronics still worked.

Around that time, I decided to pull the coin cell battery from it, and saved that for another project (probably re-enlivening a computer clock module or something) since it still seemed to be good.

The end finally came when I threw it in the microwave oven for a few seconds...not once, but twice. Nothing happened the first time around, and the thing still worked when I put the battery back in. The second time produced a very nice flash and bang, which was the end of the line.

Maybe you didn't ask. Now you know.

Nigerian scams are hyper-efficient idiot finders

The Unexpected Bill

I don't think so...

I'm surprised by this statement from the report, and in the article:

"Herley's analysis suggests the scam works because it quickly passes BS-detection thresholds in most readers, but those stupid enough to fall for the scam self-select by responding."

Really? I realize that it'll be difficult to look at this objectively, as my "internal logic" (for want of a much better way to put it) always sets off alarm bells when I see one of these messages in my inbox. I really don't understand, other than through greed, why anyone with average intelligence would start thinking that there is going to be any good outcome from responding to these messages, even before they've searched the web. Isn't it an almost-universal understanding that almost any "Something for Nothing" scheme will either have tricky conditions attached or not pay out in the end?

I've seen an elderly person (whose mind was failing) fall for a similar scheme. She was convinced that her grandson had really been calling her to get money since he'd been "imprisoned" against his will and without any recourse. In that case, I can understand why the con was successful. I got there just in time, I think, to prevent a lot more fallout. I don't know what else had happened, but the passwords for her online services somehow changed to unknown values around that same time.

As to whether or not a "stupid person" deserves to be taken by this particular type of fraud, well, I suppose that can be debated all day. It's a given that this fraud will continue to happen, as society demands all types to keep itself in balance.

Hmm...hope I didn't get here too late. I see that part of the discussion had turned to trolling for users of Apple computer equipment.

Techies beg world to join the 1% on IPv6 launch day

The Unexpected Bill

Worth what you paid to hear it...

So far as I know, all the "odd numbered" revisions to the IP spec are beta and testing releases only. Even numbers are for production use.

Windows XP update fails in infinite .NET patch loop

The Unexpected Bill

It was odd...

First time around, the Automatic Updates icon popped up and indicated the need for a few .NET Framework updates. Okay, fine, fair enough. I let them run in the background.

After a while, the icon just disappeared, which was fairly odd. I would have expected the "updates complete" or "you need to restart your computer to finish updating" notice, but I got neither. Automatic Updates popped back up a few moments later with the same updates. Strange. Maybe the updates failed to install themselves...oh well, might as well let it try again. I did, and the same thing happened.

What eventually sorted it was going to the Microsoft/Windows Update web site. It's not been back since doing so.

VIA outs $49 Raspberry Pi-alike

The Unexpected Bill

I'd like to get my hands on this...

...same as the Raspberry Pi (when it becomes available). VIA's design looks a little more interesting to me. I like their inclusion of more RAM and positioning of the ports so that it could be fitted into a conventional computer case.

What I'd really like to see, though, is a socket for installing your own RAM, just to keep the device viable as programs get larger.

The WonderMedia CPUs have been used in some cheap (and mostly nasty, though that's a question of the operating system) "netbooks" running Windows CE.

Sony stock slides to 30-year low after record loss

The Unexpected Bill

Once upon a time...

There was a time when you could buy a Sony product (no matter what) just as a matter of course and be pretty safe in knowing that you'd get good value for the money. A lot of companies would do anything to have that kind of reputation. So what happened? Bad management? Cost pressures?

I recently picked up a Sony table radio from the late 1970s. It still works well, looks good and sounds good. The internal build quality is very high. I could go on and on about similar Sony products spanning many years, from cordless phones to television sets. Most are still around and still giving good service.

If anything, it seems like they started to falter in the 1990s and the whole rootkit-on-music-CD was just the capstone to a series of less than stellar products and services.

I've got my doubts that Sony will fail, given their diversity. They do need to get their products back up to where they used to be, though.

Windows 3.1 rebooted: Microsoft's DOS destroyer turns 20

The Unexpected Bill

Ah, memories!

It's hard to believe that it has been twenty years since Windows 3.1 hit the shelves and the computer market. There are things I do and don't miss, along with fond and not-so-fond memories.

When it worked, Windows 3.1 really did open up some impressive capabilities. It certainly didn't represent the technological pinnacle of achievement, though it was good enough for many including myself. I was, after all, a child at the time. While I knew OS/2 existed as a competitor, the odds of my getting it weren't very good. High resolution graphics, multi-tasking, easier data exchange between programs (via copy and paste or even the more rarely used OLE), and (slightly later on) multimedia were all there. At the time, when everything was working, it was hard to imagine how things could be any better. At the time, I ran it on a Dell Precision 433Si and a Packard Bell "Multimedia" 486 system. Both were massive leaps over the Kaypro PC I had been using.

There were certainly drawbacks. Memory management (due largely to the underlying DOS), running out of system resources, and the oddball crashes that usually took the whole system with them--usually when you hadn't saved your work for quite some time! (How some things haven't changed.)

Some have asked what later versions of Windows have brought us, besides larger disk space, memory and processor requirements. Windows 95 went a long way to relieve the pressure on the three system resource stacks, and it was a little harder for a wayward application to bring the whole system down. With any kind of serious use, I can't see Windows 3.1 staying up as long as any NT-version of Windows could, especially Windows 2000. And these days, it's a lot more difficult for a wayward application to take the whole system with it. (One can still get into situations where rebooting soon is clearly a good idea, but at least you can usually save your work before having to flip the big red switch.)

There's also the matter of things you "probably could do" on Windows 3.1 as compared to "definitely could do" or "are easier to do" on a later version of Windows. Handling things like digital photographs and multimedia stuff, while doable on Windows 3.1 (within reason) is much more easily done on more modern operating systems and more modern hardware. And in some regards, system management is easier than it used to be. It's easy to forget fighting for hours to get enough free interrupts, DMA channels, I/O ranges or dealing with odd interactions between hardware devices that didn't always have a clear explanation. Thankfully, at least some of those problems are much less common today.

Americans resort to padlocking their dumb meters

The Unexpected Bill

I know this is stupid...

...but the only thing I don't care for concerning the new meters is the loss of a spinning disc to "indicate" real time power consumption. The more modern meters seem to all have a boring digital display. While it may be capable of more, around here the display simply switches between a self-test and an accumulated kWh reading.

Couldn't they at least have included a "snake" character that changes its "crawl" speed based on power usage?

I've been told that remotely-readable meters with spinning discs exist, but I've never seen one. As it is, I'm not sure that all the modern meters are remotely readable. Only the ones located in rural areas clearly indicate such capability, at least for now.