* Posts by The Unexpected Bill

202 posts • joined 24 Dec 2008


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.

Facebook: Your boss asks for your password, we'll sue him! Maybe

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Here's what I don't get...

Why would anyone ever turn this information over to a potential employer? I think that would be a huge warning sign. After all, what might they ask about next? Political leanings, hobbies, religion, sexual orientation?

Laws probably vary by jurisdiction, and even then I don't know that a potential or existing employer could force anyone to do this, other than through the order of a court of law.

There was a story on National Public Radio about a man who was told to divulge his Facebook credentials when he re-applied for a job, so I guess it's spreading.

Obnoxious opinions: A) I'd never bank on Facebook choosing to do the "right thing". B) I'm still so very glad I don't have a Facebook account. (And yes, I know that this could well be extended to other forms of social networks beyond Facebook.)

So, what IS the worst film ever made?

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Re: every

I can think of one...the 1999 remake of Gone In 60 Seconds.

Not that the original film wasn't interesting, it just didn't have much of a story line.

Apple antagonist Proview unveils its own iPad

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I've seen that before...

That's basically a Compaq iPaq Internet Appliance (either the IA-1 or the IA-2, I don't recall which one is which). The iPaq CRT monitor's OSD behaves identically to a Mag InnoVision monitor. There is some relation between Proview and Mag InnoVision...

Proview's rendition has a different color scheme, but every other aspect of the design is identical to the Compaq product. These two Compaq products were members of the ill-fated Internet Appliance "craze" of the late 90s/early 2000s. They featured a National Semiconductor Geode CPU and booted into Windows CE from a DiskOnChip device.

I found one on the curb. It's still moldering in my basement, as I never had much luck getting it to boot into anything other than the copy of Windows CE on the flash memory disk.

FCC (finally) cracks down on BLARING! TV! ADS!

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Well....sort of...

> Bingo, no noisy ads, no effort! And no monthly subscription :-)

...isn't there still a requirement to use SchedulesDirect with MythTV?

I know. I hate to be *that* soldier (to paraphrase the BOFH)...

(I played with it a while ago and it was strongly hinted that using SchedulesDirect was required. I figured that MythTV could do the same as a $5 garage sale VCR and accept simple start/stop times. It seems I was wrong, though I never really got it running and lost interest because I don't know when the last time I *cared* about TV was...)

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Magnavox TV Volume Limiter

> Does anyone know if this was effective?

I have a 19" Magnavox* table TV with the SmartSound feature available in the menus. Said TV dates from 1997, has been an excellent set and continues to work very well. (My only real complaint is that the firmware turns the closed caption decoder off after every power cycle, but it's only one key to turn it back on...)

Yes, the feature does work very well most of the time. When turned on, the overall audio level drops slightly. I suppose it simply watches for a sudden spike in the audio signal and cuts the amplifier's gain.

* kind of ironic that the word Magnavox is said to be based on the Latin for "great voice" ... or maybe it means that outright. I'm nobody's idea of a language scholar.

Ten... mono laser printers

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Laser Printers

The Dell printer looks so much like a Samsung laser printer because it probably *is* a Samsung laser printer. If you look at the driver files, you will probably find that they are thinly disguised, with the version information for each giving away the truth. Likewise with the self test page if it's got one.

While on the subject, Samsung has some very credible low cost laser printers, and while I have no experience with anything newer than a 2006 model, their drivers were quite good for Windows and Macintosh systems. (It's also been my experience that while Samsung did "chip" some of their toner cartridges, they will usually continue to work until they really are empty.)

HP's low cost laser printers aren't too bad mechanically, but someone at HP seems inclined to turn their print drivers into a complicated mess. Even the low end LaserJets were free of this scourge for a while, but I fear it has spread to them as well.

Although not the subject of the review, a used laser printer is worth considering for some...especially if it's an older HP LaserJet series machine. They run almost forever on cheap supplies and usually only ask that you put in a new set of rollers and pick pads every few ten thousands of pages you run through one. A LaserJet III probably isn't a reasonable suggestion for anything other than very basic printing needs and is likely to have a lot of miles on it now anyway, but a LaserJet 5, 6 or 4050/4100 is a pretty reasonable bet.

The Secret of Monkey Island

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"Never pay more than twenty bucks for a computer game..."

The Secret of Monkey Island succeeded where almost no other computer game or gaming system ever did--it sucked me in around the early 1990s when I came into a copy the way I suspect a lot of people did. (A neighbor gave me a bunch of "old computer stuff" at the time and one of those things was a cracked copy of the program. Most of it wasn't old, just unwanted.) I was probably too young for it at the time, as I never managed to get off of Melee Island.

Fast forward to the mid-2000s when someone else was giving me their old computer stuff. (Notice a pattern here?) Most of it was the usual junk, but buried deep in a box was a LucasArts multi-game box set that looked new. A few of the disks had bad spots, but nowhere that mattered and soon I was playing once again, with my eye on actually seeing it through to completion. I completed the game while waiting in a car dealership, playing it on a Compaq LTE 5000 laptop.

I always loved the soundtrack, whether played on a proper soundcard or PC speaker (weren't those the days?) The newer version of the game in that box set had better (MCGA) 256-color graphics and no longer required the "type in the year this pirate was hanged" test at startup. I still fire it up every now and again on a PS/2 Model 70 and spend a few hours puttering around with it. This and the modern Rigs of Rods stand alone in holding my interest.

Extra points awarded if you knew that the title of this post was actually something you could choose to have Guybrush say at the end of the game.

Ten... digital voice recorders

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@UltraDisk Voice Recorders

If I may, let me start by thanking you for coming to the Register forum and responding to the review and questions about the UltraDisk voice recorders. However, the whole file system thing sounds a bit confused...NTFS isn't a partition type, it's a file system. In any case, Mac OS X (from 10.2 on up IIRC) does support read only access for NTFS formatted storage devices with any other software being required. Read/write support for FAT32 is defintely present in Mac OS X (and I believe Mac OS 9 as well, but it's been a looong time). If the UltraDisk recorder presents itself to the computer/operating system as a USB mass storage class device, surely it would work fine with a Macintosh (less the software, of course)?

As a Reg Hardware reader who is located in the United States, I'd also like to ask if you have any plan to enter the US market with your products. I do like the small form factor and the convenience it implies.

Al Gore wants to borrow your Facebook and Twitter accounts

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Shoot, why not?

After all, Al Gore _invented_ the Internet, don'tcha know? (imagine that in the most sarcastic looking font available, and you'll have my meaning)

(I don't even play on any of those social networking services, and I never intend to.)

Mine's the coat with the 40-year-old refrigerator that outcools many newer ones in the pocket...

Domino's to serve pizzas on the Moon, apparently

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Domino's Pizza

(it'll surprise me if I'm the first to say it...)

It's Domino's Pizza...does anyone really eat that stuff? This is the same company that once ran a radio ad with people saying terrible things about their product, after which they claimed to be "improving" it. From where I was standing, their pizza went from bad to worse around that time. At least it's cheap.

Therefore, I postulate that it makes little practical difference if their new location is indeed intended to be on the moon. Although I'd love to know how they plan to get it there...

Sony calls time on 8mm video format

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Sony Stuff

Has it really been a year since the Walkman announcement was made? (The answer is no, not quite.)

Earlier this year, I was introduced to minidisc for the first time, with a Sony MDS-JE510 component unit--the first minidisc-anything I'd ever seen in many years of seeking out assorted pieces of audio equipment. (It's a slippery slope and I recommend not ever getting started. The stuff only multiplies!) It required near-heroic efforts to get it working again because I assumed it had worked from the factory. So many bad solder joints and the replacement of a few bad parts later, it came to life. It's still running today.

All I can say is that it is really too bad minidisc didn't really make it. It is everything cassette tape wanted to be when it grew up. Titling, full random access...really the only thing not to potentially like (other than the SCMS infestation) was the ATRAC compression and to my ears it never caused any problems. Then again, maybe I would like it. I'm still making mixtapes on high-bias cassette (remember those?) with a 1981 or 82 era Technics cassettte deck.

I'm also a latecomer to the 8mm video format. I never used conventional Hi8 machines, but I have a somewhat low end Sony Digital8 Handycam that I purchased secondhand not all that long ago. Despite its being a relatively low end model, it does a phenomenal job and has some nice features (slow frame rate recording, time lapse recording, stereo microphone, a light, some onboard video effects). If the Wikifiddlers are to be believed, Hi8 tape is actually a "safer" storage medium for the DV datastream that all Digital8 machines use due to its wider tracks. I gather that most of the modern Handycam product offerings don't do half of the stuff this one does (no Nightshot in particular). From what I've seen, today's flash-memory based cameras might be "better" due to no moving parts, and they might shoot HD video (something I have no interest in), yet many of them don't do as good of a job as the old Digital8 Handycam does. The cheap ones in particular tend to be fairly nasty, especially in lower light conditions. At least the 8mm tapes remain available and reasonably priced.

I'll get my coat. It's the one with the book of technological wonders that never made it, and a DAT Walkman in the pocket.

Name that donkey: Barbarella battles Bathsheba

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If those are the choices, I'd have to say that I like "Bathsheba" the most.

To think that a little commentard such as myself may in some small way influence the naming of a donkey that is far away from my own part of the world...this is The Power Of The Internet(tm).

El Reg iPhone app rated a flaccid 12+

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Paris Hilton

This is a title (first time I've done that!)

That'll be the Paris Hilton angle revealed at last!

Yes, I'll get my coat. Thanks.

Mozilla to shift 12m surfers off 2-year-old Firefox 3.5

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Why I'm (mostly) on Firefox 3.5 even today...

First of all...to those who are crashing out of Fx 4...you have a bad extension, corrupted profile or faulty operating system/underlying computer hardware. You can downvote the comment, but I'll guarantee to you that one of those things is the problem and not the browser itself. And no, I'm not a Firefox "fanboi" or any sort of apologist. I have no affilation whatsoever with the Mozilla organization.

The good news is that Firefox 4 does in fact run on Windows 2000, and it runs quite well. So if you "have" to upgrade a computer running an older (Windows family, at least) operating system, you can, as long as that computer has enough RAM and processor capability to run the newer browser. A reasonably fast Pentium 3 (866MHz+) will still pull it off.

Otherwise...I'm less than totally impressed with Fx4. Call me cranky, say I need to take my pills...but I want my status bar back. (Yes, I've got a status bar extension installed, but something so close to the core of the browser's UI should be a selectable option.) I'm not thrilled about the relocation of the stop/load button to the address bar and don't care for the fact that the Add Ons manager is no longer in a small window of its own. In fact, the only thing I've really liked so far about Fx4 is the ability to highlight a URL in text and have contextually appropriate options (open in new window/tab) appear when I right click said text.

Beyond that...I'm probably going to stay on Firefox 3.6 (or 3.5) with the majority of my systems. (And for those who are wondering why I might be sticking with Fx3.5, I'll tell you. There was this really, really useful little "Image Properties" window available in the contextual menu when right-clicking any image on a web page. It bought the farm in Fx3.6, only to be replaced by a window that seemingly has to process every image on a page before it'll do anything.)

Yes, I could probably figure out how to develop an extension that restores these capabilities.

@ZimboKraut -- it's been a while since I've had anything to do with the inner workings of a Firefox extension, so this is worth what you paid to hear it. (Hopefully not much.) Furthermore, it may well send your browser down in flames, throw all your furniture in the trash, tell the world your darkest secrets, insult your mother or worse--so consider yourself warned. If you look at the package that makes up your VMware extension, there is a declaration within one of the files making up the extension that tells Firefox which versions may safely use it. You may try bumping this value out to something that is greater than whatever it is currently set to. I can't recall exactly where this lives, but some quick Giggling ought to turn it up.

I'll get my coat.

'Upgraded' Apple iMacs lock out hard drive replacement

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Thumb Down

That's pretty dumb...

Many hard disk drives produced over the last decade have an onboard temperature sensor whose data can be gleaned by communicating with the drive through SMART. Practically all drives produced in the last five years do.

So why would Apple need to monitor the drive's temperature in any other way? A company that has the ability to design its own CPUs and other custom logic should know better than this.

Beats me--they did the same thing (with a temperature probe coming from the circuit board, no changes to the drive itself) in the Time Capsule, and I *know* those drives reported their temperature via SMART.

All in the world this will do is leave owners of these machines high and dry after Apple has forgotten they ever made such a thing and nobody sells custom adapters any longer. And no, I don't dislike Apple products--but this is still a very *stupid* thing to do.



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