* Posts by Number6

2261 posts • joined 10 Jun 2009

Yes, it's true: Hard drive failures creep up as disks age


I start getting nervous when I spot a drive over 5 years old (near-24/7 run-time so 43,000 hours or so. However, I've had one that didn't get replaced until something over 80,000 hours (9 years) and it was still functioning. I just replaced a couple that were around 75,000 hours and not showing signs of failure. I suspect my nervousness comes from earlier generations of drives and that newer models do last longer, plus have better monitoring to warn of impending failure.

NASA: Mars rocks won't make it back to Earth until 2033


A shame they are ditching the rovers, it was an interesting challenge to build a self-navigating robot to go find and collect samples and return them to the base station. NASA crowdfunded it a few years ago. It's a lot more challenging than one might think.


Engineers on the brink of extinction threaten entire tech ecosystems


The hidden cost of doing business in China is that for a new product with innovative features, it shortens the time before there's a cheap competitor. If they have to tear it down and reverse-engineer it to make a copy, that takes time, but if you've given them all the drawings, it's much easier.

Yes, I've seen it a couple of times with offshoring, once with an Indian company whose boards worked perfectly in our system and looked remarkably similar, and their EPROMS (yes, that old) were identical to an earlier version of ours apart from where they'd used a hex editor to put their name in instead of ours (good incentive to have a short company name). Turns out some years before the company looked to have the Indian company manufacture for them. The other one, more recent from China, was a subsystem in a competing product that was almost identical to ours. The killer there was that while all the mechanical parts had different part numbers on them, the PCB had our part number etched into the copper. The product was made for us in China.


I've had that, sponsorship with an agreement to stick around for a couple of years post-graduation. Gave me chance to learn the real world in an environment where I'd gotten to know people while a student and expected to make mistakes. Seemed perfectly reasonable to me, although a more recent variant regarding relocation expenses and a promise to stick around for a bit prompted me to push back and tell them to add in a line to say that it only applied if I left, not if they decided to make me redundant, in which case they could eat the cost. That's what real world experience gives you, the awareness of what can happen, and the confidence to insist on precautions.

On the other hand, I get a lot of recruiters wanting to talk to me, so I reckon the shortage is real. I always reckoned I'd have ten years before there was a surge of new people but it's been {mumble} years longer than that.

Disentangling the Debian derivatives: Which should you use?


Re: Devuan

Careful, you'll be telling us that Emacs is better than vi next.

FYI: BMW puts heated seats, other features behind paywall


Sounds like an excellent reason to stick to the used car market for now. OTOH, if it's a subscription service and the hardware fails, are they liable to fix it at their expense? That sort of turns it into an indefinitely renewable warranty.

China is trolling rare-earth miners online and the Pentagon isn't happy


There are certain states where such claims might have gained traction, but the ones that have oil and mined minerals as their main resources probably not so much. California would probably have been protesting, but not Texas.

Software-defined silicon is coming for telecom kit later this year


Re: Remote kill switch

That was my first thought. Having "bought" e-books which were then rendered inaccessible to me, I am wary of anything like this where something can be disabled without the 'owner' having any control over the matter.

RISC OS: 35-year-old original Arm operating system is alive and well


I think I've still got an Archimedes somewhere. If so, it's buried at the bottom of a box. I did find the BBC Micro, and that worked last time I plugged it in, but not powered up the Archimedes for at least ten years.

46 years after the UN proclaimed the right to join a union, Microsoft sort of agrees


Re: Why companies feel the need to setup and join trade and lobbying associations...

That sounds like the UK in the 1970s, where union leaders seemed more interested in their own political power than the interests of their workers. An awful lot of those workers voted for Maggie in 1979 because they were fed up with the state of things, and it is notable that the laws on union power and ballots and strikes has stayed pretty much intact since then and there is no real call to repeal any of it.

I'm lucky enough to have been in a career where I didn't need a union because switching job was always an option for me, but I can see that in certain sectors it's important that pay and conditions are monitored to prevent exploitation. Especially in the US, where you can be fired on the spot for no better reason than the boss got out of bed the wrong side this morning. Notice periods are a pain when you want to move on to your next job, but if the boot is on the other foot, it's a bit of a safety net that gives you chance to find another job. Paid leave, paid sick leave and other benefits also make the working experience more tolerable too, and they pretty much wouldn't have arrived without union pressure over the years.

Engineer sues Amazon for not covering work-from-home internet, electricity bills


Another thing to consider is that if you're working for 8 hours a day and you spend another two commuting, your effective hourly rate is reduced in proportion because you're getting paid for ten hours of your time rather than 8, unless your commute is such that you consider it useful time. I figure near-zero commute costs plus 90 minutes extra me time per day makes up for any additional expenses at home. However, I'm lucky enough to have the space and the equipment for working from home (my home workshop has pretty much the same facilities as I have at work), not everyone is in that position.

10x prices, year-long delays... Life as an electronics engineer in global chip shortage


Definitely an interesting time when it comes to designing stuff, even for prototypes. Had one board that was released to prototype fab, they came back and said they couldn't get one of the parts (which was ins stock a couple of days previously). Whirlwind overnight redesign of board to use a different part so we could get the boards built. Fortunately that part didn't go out of stock before they could purchase it.

How CAPTCHAs can cloak phishing URLs in emails


It comes back to my opinion that HTML email is in itself a security hazard. My system is set up to display plain text and considers the presence of HTML to incline it to bounce a message. Stick to plain text, people, you know it makes sense.

IT blamed after HR forgets to install sockets in new office


Re: Similar tale in a hospital

It's hard to spend money to make it all the way around the corners when there's an obvious way to cut them.


Re: Business as usual

I prefer the small companies because the "could you figure this out" can be a great way to learn stuff that would be someone else's job in a larger company, even if what you learn is just "the company is screwed, time to go look for a new job". A lot of start-ups are in this category, great places to work while they last, but inevitably they either fail, or get bought by a larger entity which starts the downhill slide. Even if they survive to grow on their own, they eventually get big enough and have to change operating procedures that they become the same thing.

Very large companies are definitely best avoided, they're often set up as a set of competing fiefdoms and you get casualties as they challenge each other for dominance.

Akamai's Linode buy: Good for enterprise, risky for others


Another Linode customer here, wondering how long it will be for the basic offerings to be ruined by excessive prices for bundling services I don't need. The purpose of a Linux machine in the cloud is that it is set up to do exactly what I want. I can install what I need, all I need from the hosting provider is a reliable platform on which to run the code of my choice and a way to access it (the ssh console is nice) if I screw up.

I really hope that Akami is sensible enough to leave the basic Linode offerings alone. The price/performance is ideal for those of us who are not making money from what we have in the cloud, and so don't have much of a budget to pay for increases in cost.

HMRC: UK techies' IR35 tax appeals could take years


What it needs is a way of getting compensation awarded from HMRC for lost income due to having to wait for the appeal to work its way through the system. That would speed things up a bit, if they ran the risk of having to give some of it back. Of course, the law is written to avoid that happening.

50 lines of Bash to bring a Wordle fan out of their shell


Re: Quit vim

I remember opening another terminal, finding the PID and killing it that way. Then I learned the easy way.

Snap continues to make a spectacle of itself as it tries to trademark the word spectacles


Beer goggles?

MySQL a 'pretty poor database' says departing Oracle engineer


Re: There is no reason not to choose Postgres

If only MS had done that with its Windows developers...

Tech Bro CEO lays off 900 people in Zoom call and makes himself the victim


Re: Hmm ...

Also when you get a clueless US boss who suddenly discovers he can't just fire a bunch of people in the UK, that he has to go through a 30 or 90 day consultation period first, even if his hit list is unchanged at the end of it. Then there's redundancy pay and, especially if the UK bosses are on the side of the workers, pay in lieu of notice to add to it.

Yes, you can fire people but there's some cost to it, which has to be weighed against the cost of not firing them.


I do remember attending one of two meetings (in the days when we were all in the same building) and being told that while we were OK, the other lot were getting some bad news.

I remember getting an email from the CEO once asking if I was in the office that day (I was working from home as per an existing arrangement). Ended up talking to him on the phone to discover that due to a funding crunch (a peril present in start-ups) I was one of a bunch of people being let go that day. My immediate boss was also on the list. I went in one day the following week to pick up my stuff and wish the survivors luck. I was already looking for a new job, but it's way better if you can do that while still getting paid.


Re: staying in contracting from now on.

I wouldn't knowingly be employed by you either. It's often said that people don't quit jobs, they quit managers. You sound like one of those, it's perfectly possible to be in management and be polite and respectful to employees, it's the difference between being a leader and a boss.

China's Yutu rover spots 'mysterious hut' on far side of the Moon


Perhaps it's the bookstore where they've got Fly Fishing by J.R.Hartley in stock.


Of course, if it's full of stars then that's a whole different ballgame.

Oh, Comcast. An Xfinity customer and working from home? Maybe not this morning


I noticed it as I went to bed last night. A quick check showed that TV and phone had also gone down so I decided it was a good excuse to get some sleep. It was back up this morning when I got up. To be fair to them, outages are fairly rare here, we must have more modern kit in the local cabinets than some people.

Looking at some log files, we lost service at 21:43 and it came back at 22:50 (PST).

Computer shuts down when foreman leaves the room: Ghost in the machine? Or an all-too-human bit of silliness?


Re: US Residential Wiring

I do own the house. I took the switch plate off the wall and joined the wires together so the switch does nothing and the power to the socket stays on.


Re: And their plugs are crap

If you look at a UK plug (and the socket) you can appreciate the safety features.

The flanges to make it hard for your fingers to slip around the sides and grip the live/neutral and yet easy enough to grip.

Earth pin on top, so if a plug is not fully in, anything dropping in the gap hits the earth before possibly contacting the live/neutral.

Sleeving on modern plugs to protect live/neutral even if not fully inserted.

The fuse (if sized correctly).

The socket has the shutters on it so it's hard for kids to poke things in (and why those plastic guards are dangerous)

Switch on socket to cut power to the live terminal

That's off the top of my head.


I have a kettle near a sink in another room, no cooker involved.


No, they just restrict kettles to 1.5kW, 15A from the weedy volts. Means it takes over twice as long to boil water for a cuppa.

Then, because it's a spur system, you find you've plugged the kettle and microwave into the same circuit and the 20A breaker trips, whereas a 30A UK ring main would cope. In many US kitchens you find all the convenient sockets are on the same circuit, which makes it all too easy to do this.


Except when you find a light switch that doesn't appear to do anything, only to discover that it's in series with a particular power outlet. The intention is that you plug an uplighter or other free-standing lamp into it. Often found in rooms where there is no permanently-installed light. We have such a room in the house, not gotten around to fixing it yet though.

Not impressed with US wiring practice.


US wiring is a disaster

How Windows NTFS finally made it into Linux


Re: I can only warn

NTFS was written with Windows in mind (obviously) and may well make assumptions about how it's used by the OS. Linux might not do stuff quite the same way and could well expose weaknesses that have been "fixed" by changes to Windows rather than to the NTFS driver. I am happy to let others find these bugs for me before I use NTFS from my Linux system, not that I'd bother, given that here it's mostly ext4 and an instance of zfs on my file server.

Far more use would be a solid implementation of ext4 on Windows.

What if Chrome broke features of the web and Google forgot to tell anyone? Oh wait, that's exactly what happened


Google is the new Microsoft in terms of ignoring anything outside its own monoculture. I gave up on Chrome some time back. I tend to use Firefox at the moment, with Chromium as a reluctant last resort if something really doesn't like Firefox. I still remember stuff that only works on IE and MS systems (and sends email notifications that use ancient encryption methods that modern SMTP doesn't support by default). Sadly I still have some of that in the house because I haven't gotten around to upgrading it.

As for checking against latest browser releases, that's a fool's game. I tend to hand-write boring HTML with an occasional bit of CSS and rarely some Javascript, and if that doesn't work on your browser then I guess you're not going to look at my page. I check it out when I write it to make sure I haven't done anything too stupid, but then it just sits there taking up space on the web.

BOFH: Here in my car I feel safest of all. I can listen to you ... It keeps me stable for days


Re: BOFH O'clock

You will need a car with a good ventilation system if you're eating the onion bhajis in it.

Wanna feel old? It is 10 years since the Space Shuttle left the launchpad for the last time


I was there the week before it launched. Had it launched at the originally-scheduled time I would have seen it launch, but instead it waited until the afternoon of the day I arrived back in the UK so I got to watch it on TV instead.

Happy with your existing Windows 10 setup? Good, because Windows 11 could turn its nose up at your CPU


That's me screwed then. My desktop dates back to 2013. Having said that, I only run Win10 in a VM on this machine anyway, it has always been a Linux box and it's got 32GB RAM in it.

What benefits might I get (running Win11 is not considered a benefit) from an upgrade to a more modern CPU. I don't consider a lighter wallet to be a benefit either. If one is not doing high-end graphics or CAD then why upgrade something that's still working just fine?

Traffic lights, who needs 'em? Lucky Kentucky residents up in arms over first roundabout


Re: Bunch of wusses

First time I found the Swindon one, I was through it before I realised what it was. Clearly my brain is equally convoluted. I did the Hemel Hempstead one a few times, used to visit BSI Labs there, and never had a problem with that either.

In the US they spoil some roundabouts by putting STOP signs on the entrances, so you can't time your approach for the gap you can see coming.

BOFH: Postman BOFH's Special Delivery Service


Re: Peace and quiet

I remember the boss apologising to us when he had an office built where he'd previously been open plan with the rest of us. A shift in company organisation meant he'd suddenly become the CEO rather than the local director and there are things that are required to be kept confidential. To be fair he kept his office door open as much as he could and was open to casual drop-ins if people had stuff they wanted to tell him.


Re: Peace and quiet

Being happy on company time is akin to stealing from the company, isn't it?


Clearly no BOFH at my place of employment, the office was due some new test equipment but as there was no one there to receive it, it's all on my workbench at home. I guess I'll have to take it in one day, although at least it's been used while in my care.

Who'd have thought the US senator who fist pumped Jan 6 insurrectionists would propose totally unworkable anti-Big Tech law?


So much for the free market his party espouses. Or his definition of "free" is somewhat different to mine.

It's been a long time coming but AWS has at last enabled an interactive serial console for de-borking VMs


I've had full console access with my VPS provider for many years, surprised that AWS is only just catching up with it. Fortunately not had to use it often, mostly when doing major upgrades, but it's nice to know it's there in case I've done something stupid.

Splunk junks 'hanging' processes, suggests you don't 'hit' a key: More peaceful words now preferred in docs


When it comes to typing, they're clearly not old enough to remember typewriters, nor allow for those who used them because we do tend to hit the keys. I'm not sure that "peer" is an alternative to "slave" either, peers are equals, whereas when you have an architecture where one unit is controlling others, the others could be minions, subordinates or secondaries.

They missed kicking the watchdog though, when the nicer term is to pat the dog.

All us HW types will have to think up some creative alternative meanings for MISO and MOSI, found on a lot of SPI documentation.

War on Section 230 begins in earnest as Dem senators look to limit legal immunity for social networks, websites etc


Time to bring back Usenet (not that it ever went away, but it lost market share to all these annoying web-based things).

US politicians should be careful about taking out section 230, I suspect a lot of them could fall foul of it. If you're going to change it, just provide immunity until a legal take-down notice turns up, at which point there's 24 hours to remove the offending item, and that if the removed party wishes to challenge it they should be awarded costs (and possibly more) against the legal firm issuing the takedown notice if they win the challenge. That should help cap the frivolous notices, I assume most legal firms will be smart enough to pass on such costs to the originator.

Knock, knock. Who's there? NAT. Nat who? A NAT URL-borne killer


I'm glad that OpenWRT doesn't seem to be vulnerable, makes me glad I'm running it when things like this crop up.


Re: Web browsers need a built-in firewall....

There are useful things that javascript can do, such as hide/display various bits of text and re-jig drop-down menus based on selections in other menus. That level of functionality does not need any ability to generate network traffic though.

One of the biggest dangers with javascript is the malicious scripts occasionally delivered by ad servers. If all the ad stuff could be done server side then (a) we'd be a lot safer and (b) ad blockers probably wouldn't hide the ads because they could be streamed in from the main site without any of the obvious flags of an advert.

We regret to inform you the professor teaching your online course is already dead


One of my former lecturers provided a rare bit of excitement in one of his classes by dropping dead in front of the class. This was a year or two after my time though.

Europe considers making it law that your boss can’t bug you outside of office hours


Re: It depends upon your boss

If your phone is off or otherwise muted then you wouldn't know about the calls until after the funeral. There are ways to mitigate such things, and in the limit, a new job beckons if the boss is a chronic arsehole. It is said that a lot of people change jobs because of their boss.


Re: In an emergency

UK private health insurance is a dubious benefit most of the time, given that it's taxable and so you're paying a significant chunk of it yourself.


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