* Posts by John Miles 1

96 publicly visible posts • joined 24 Jun 2009


Take-off crash 'n' burn didn't kill the Concorde, it was just too bloody expensive to maintain

John Miles 1

Misapplied brilliance

Yes fantastic engineering - especially when you think it was more than 50 years ago. And horrendously noisy, I remember parking at Heathrow when one was taking off and the fittings inside the car were rattling with the vibration/noise. However, I wonder why the UK thought it a good idea to spend £B's on something enjoyed by a handful of travelers whilst USA built the 747 etc which has been enjoyed by Bs' of travelers.

Autonomy ex-CFO Hussain guilty of fraud: He cooked the books amid $11bn HP gobble

John Miles 1

Re: Extradition?

I have no view on this judgement, but have been involved in other litigation in the US and I can tell you that as a foreign party you are at a severe disadvantage compared to the domestic party.

Copper feel, fibre it ain't: Ads regulator could face court for playing hard and fast with definitions

John Miles 1

The choice of technology to deliver doesn't really affect the consumer, it is really a choice for the network provider: FTTC quicker and cheaper initial build, greater maintenance and upgrade cost. FTTP much more expensive to install, but lower maintenance and upgrade costs.

So how about a new taxonomy for connections or service contracts that ignores the service delivery method and is just based on a guaranteed (not max) speed range.

Level 0: 0 - 10 Mb/s i.e. less than the new 10 Mb USO

Level 1: 10 - 20 Mb/s greater than USO, and actually fast enough for ~ 75% of subscribers

Level 2: 20 - 40 Mb/s Higher levels useful for higher occupancy premises or power users.

Level 3: 40 - 80 Mb/s

Level 4: 80 - 160 Mb/s


UK good for superfast broadband, crap for FTTP – Ofcom

John Miles 1

Despite all the sound an fury about limited FTTP coverage in UK, when one looks at the figures it turns out that UK has the second highest monthly data download volume of the surveyed coutries - much higher than rest of Europe and a close second to South Korea.

In other words, the current UK infrastructure is not actually an obstacle to a high level of usage.

SPARC will fly: Your cheat sheet for cocktail banter at Oracle's upcoming shindig

John Miles 1

Sad to see it going, but a good innings

When Sun4 workstations with SPARC chips came out in the mid 80's they were streets ahead of anything from the PC or DEC/VAX stables at that time, so its sad to see them fading away. But a 30 year innings is not bad for a wholly innovative development from a startup company that went against all the industry conventions at the time. Well done Sun!

Obama's intel chief says Russia totally tried to swing it for Trump

John Miles 1

Historial Context

I'm at present reading 'The Mitrokhin Archive' by UK academic Christopher Andrew. It's a fascinating and hugely detailed account of Russian (KGB etc.) activities throughout the 20th Cent to spy and influence politics in many western countries on an industrial scale. What is alleged to have happened in the recent US election appears very familiar given this history.

Faking incontinence and other ways to scare off tech support scammers

John Miles 1

It's boring but it works totally

I'm on a trial of an new call screening function from my phone provider - have not had a scam call since it started.

Life is almost boring now - my driving history has improved dramatically, I've had no PPI loans and there are apparently no problems with my computers. If only one could do the same for Email.

IBM's pension fund sells most of its IBM shares

John Miles 1

Possibly good strategy

I'm surprised the pension fund holds any shares in the sponsoring company. The whole idea is to reduce risk by making the fund independent of the company. If the employer were to perform badly or go bankrupt you would not want the investments that support the employee's pension to be wiped out as well.

There is also a surprising incentive for pension funds to move out of shares. Whilst shares historically perform better than bonds and gilts it's the latter that are used to value future pension liabilities. If a fund holds most of its assets in gilts and bonds then the value of its assets will match its liabilities quite closely. It stops the deficit varying unpredictably but is ultimately more expensive for the sponsor ( i.e. employer).

DSL inventor's latest science project: terabit speeds over copper

John Miles 1

Re: Actually no

I think 100Gb is a bit more than a 9600b modem - needs optical coherent detectors and dual polarisation, adding DWDM can get one to 10 - 20 Tb per fibre. However the ironic twist is that 40 years ago ( before the first public trial of optical fibre transmission in the UK that achieved 140Gb over 12 miles) the proposed solution for long haul high rate transmission was a waveguide made by lining a tube with copper wire. Plus ca change ...

Agile consultant behind UK's disastrous Common Platform Programme steps down

John Miles 1

Re: So, £270M for a diary!?

Anyone who has ever been involved with the UK courts will know that the justice system has an almost boundless ability to run up costs and delay. So combining that with a software programme seems a fatal mix.

Global IPv4 address drought: Seriously, we're done now. We're done

John Miles 1

Re: IPv6 usage soaring?

IPv6 may have taken ages to start, but for the last three years usage has been roughly doubling each year.

At that rate, another two years gives 4 x 16% = 64% ipv6.

As with any new protocol usage grows slowly initially, then a period of rapid take-up as more clients and servers adopt it followed by a leveling off as it approaches 100% with a few 'hold-outs' and non-compatible systems (the classic S-shaped 'sigmoid' curve).

But on this basis ipv6 may well cross the 50% level in a couple of years or less.

Shocked, I tell you. BT to write off £530m over 'improper' Italian accounts practices

John Miles 1

Re: BT Needs Openreach

No, BT needs OpenReach so that its fat predictable revenue stream can fill in for these occasional mega-lapses

Fake History Alert: Sorry BBC, but Apple really did invent the iPhone

John Miles 1

Tim Harford

Sad to see someone like Tim Harford being seduced the the publicity that a 'startling revelation' produces. Perhaps he should stick to seeing where the facts lead rather than following the most headline grabbing path.

'Inventor of email' receives damages from Gawker's collapsed empire

John Miles 1

Unix had Email in 1978

In 1978 at the Univ of California I was using Email on their Unix systems. I think it was mainly confined to individual machines (networking was just starting then), but it was Email. UUCP and sendmail soon linked machines together in the next year or two before the internet then took off.

Openreach split could damage broadband investment, says BT's chief exec

John Miles 1

Open Reach Split

Whilst separating pension assets and liabilities is not a trivial taslk BT managed it many years ago when they sold their original mobile business. Separating OpenReach is a bigger exercise - but clearly could be done.

Incidentally - much of OpenReach's income and money it should invest in its network comes from Sky, TalkTalk and BT Retail etc. paying for millions of line rentals. e.g. 10M non-BT lines and 12M BT lines gives over £3B a year to run and invest in the access network - not sure extra money would be needed ?

Corbyn lied, Virgin Trains lied, Harambe died

John Miles 1

Grow up

There are a certainly genuine issues with train services ( I commute to work in busy trains and am very aware of them) - but it needs a more mature and researched effort to address them rather than a silly set-up video. When will we have politicians willing to do real work on this rather than going for sound-bites and video clips.

Or perhaps he doesn't use long distance trains very much. Those of us who do normally reserve a seat ( and try to save money by pre-booking). Even if one hasn't reserved a quick look at the reservation tickets finds somewhere to sit for part of the journey.

Some Windows 10 Anniversary Update: SSD freeze

John Miles 1

Why doesn't Win10 support multiple drives better

Given the availability of low cost medium capacity SSDs its surprising (and very annoying) that Win10 doesn't provide a simple option for choosing " O/S & applications on C:, User & Data areas on D:" Instead you have to set it up with everything on C: and then start re-directing specific folders onto D:. Even after doing this I still find bits and piece ending up on C.

Breaking 350 million: What's next for Windows 10?

John Miles 1

Windows 10 a hopeless muddle

Just bought a new PC and got it with Windows 10 ( on the basis that I'd be forced to update anyway at some point). It seems to run OK (albeit on an i5 machine with 16GB and SSD), but the user experience of Windows 10 is a complete muddle - a bit of Win 7 there, a tablet like feel here overlaid with gratuitous Ads.

And to think I paid money for this! Still, the first thing I did was to allocate space for a second partition for Linux - time to take the plunge I think.

Windows 10: Happy with Anniversary Update?

John Miles 1

Polishing a turd

I reluctantly got Win 10 on my new PC on the basis that I'd be forced to update to it at some point - it seems Win 10 is what you get if you spend 20 years polishing Win 95.

Anniversary edition - Something seems wrong when the most useful addition in 2016 is the bash shell - adding capabilities that have been available on Unix for almost 40 years.

Mobile broadband now cheaper than wired, for 95 per cent of humanity

John Miles 1

Mobile only cheaper till you start to use like fixed BB

Mobile data plans cost around £10 per month for 2 GB.

Fixed line broadband starts at around £30 p.m. for unlimited data.

The average UK broadband subscribed downloads ~ 100 GB per month, so at the mobile data plan rate that would be £500.

( Yes there are unlimited mobile data plans, but they are only economically feasible because the average mobile data use is much lower than fixed line BB ).

Three non-obvious reasons to Vote Leave on the 23rd

John Miles 1

Some EU law helps when the individual needs it.

Initially I shared AO's concern about EU law imposition ( and some of it is unwelcome). However the only time I've actually been affected by it was when made redundant without statutory notice. In that case "EU information and consultation Directive" of 2002, as eventually implemented in UK law 5 years later turned out to be very helpful in achieving justice. I'm wondering whether Brexit 'red in tooth and claw' would have given similar employee rights so readily in the absence of a push from the EU.

In economic terms I don't know whether the UK might be better out of the EU in the long term (though I rather doubt it). But I suspect the period of economic disruption and initial decline would persist for so long that people of AO's and my generation might not see benefit in their lifetime.

Smartwatches: I hate to say ‘I told you so’. But I told you so.

John Miles 1

iAPX432 and redundant solutions

That's the first time I've seen a mention of the iAPX432 (Intel's post 8086 new dawn) in about 30 years. One of the problems it aimed to solve was bad object pointer references and buffer overflows. At the same time the Ada language addressed the same problem through compiler technology. Bizarrely Intel then launched the processor with an Ada compiler - so there was then no need for the key features in the new architecture. Both the processor and the language tanked (except for specialist and defense applications) and 30 years later we still have buffer overflows and all the security nasties that flow from that.

Seems to be the same problem with smartwatches - if we didn't already have smart phones they might be rather useful.

In both cases one solution is better than two or zero.

Swiss effectively disappear Alps: World's largest tunnel opens

John Miles 1

Re: How much cheaper than HS2?????

Cost per mile seems pretty comparable to HS2.

HS2 just has to be laid across open countryside rather than blasted through mile after mile of solid rock. What is all the HS2 money going on ?

A UK-wide fibre broadband investment plan? Don't ask awkward questions

John Miles 1

100 years old and still working

So if some of the copper is 100 years old and still working whilst other copper is a few years old it looks like the newer stuff has a long life. Why would one pay a lot of money to replace a working resource with a new one?

Fibre can make good sense for new build or for a new alternate network (and also for remote locations if only someone was willing to pay the huge installation cost). But there is no significant consumer NEED for 1 Gb to premises (bear in mind that the network backhaul from the combination of 100's of users in a small village may only use 1Gb).

Whilst countries like Japan have much higher FTTP penetration their network usage (in terms of GB downloaded per month) is, surprisingly, much lower than the UK. It seems that UK BB lines at several 10's Mb are not an impediment to using the network.

Bash on Windows. Repeat, Microsoft demos Bash on Windows

John Miles 1

Re: Following in its father's footsteps

As one of a small number of people using Unix in the late 70's when VMS came out one wondered 'Why on earth didn't DEC make VMS like Unix' (rather than the clunky RSX11 extension it was). In the following years there were a number of 'Unix like wrappers' over VMS, which did not prosper.

Eventually people realised that they want Unix and they should get real Unix - and Linux arrived to satisfy that need.

Looks like Microsoft have been forced down the same road - will they end up like the once mighty DEC ?

Staff 'fury' as penny pinching IBM offers legal minimum redundo payoffs

John Miles 1

Redundancy - Custom and Practice can help a lot

If there have been previous rounds of redundancy which paid more than the 'statutory minimum' rates then staff made redundant on poorer terms may have a very good case to take to an employment tribunal. i.e. past 'custom and practice' not statutory minima establishes the baseline.

A number of ex-colleagues of mine who were faced with such a situation won their cases. The only problem is that for the last few years it has been quite costly to initiate employment tribunal actions ( a few years ago it was free, but the Conservative government changed that, it now cost circa £500 - £1000). However I know from personal experience that if the award is successful it is likely to far exceed costs. Get good advice on your situation!

UK ISP Sky to make smut an opt-in service from 2016

John Miles 1

Whats the problem

If you don't want the web shield then turn it off. Is it really that difficult ?

Short weekend break: Skegness or exoplanet HD 189733b?

John Miles 1

But you forgot to mention...

Skegness for 'Skegex' - The Midlands Meccano exhibition in July ( really, http://www.nmmg.org.uk/skegex.html ) - Fantastic ingenuity and dedication by all those constructors.

Ex-competition watchdog and TalkTalk adviser calls for Openreach split from BT

John Miles 1

Not 50%

Openreach carries all Broadband connections except for VM's approx 4 M - i.e. it carries around 18 M connections, so it is a hugely dominant provider. The other providers ( e.g. TT, Sky, EE, Vodafone etc. ) are all dependent upon a service provided by their dominant competitor.

The current Broadband situation is rather as if there were several different chains of petrol stations ( e.g. BP, Shell, Texaco etc.) but they all had to use refineries operated by just one company e.g. BP and were dependent upon BP for prices and deliveries. We don't provide petrol that way, so why is it good way to provide broadband?

Exam board in 'send all' fail: Hands up who knows what the BCC button is for?

John Miles 1

Happens all the time - but could mail systems help

I've been a recipient of long Cc: lists from well meaning senders, and occasionally done this kind of thing by accident ( though not on that scale ).

In this spam/phishing era perhaps mail programs could help by adding a few more functions and checking


- Have a 'Send with recipients hidden' button to make it easy/obvious ( though same functionality as Bcc)

- Have a check that prompts 'Did you really mean to send this to 100 visible recipients' ( where the limit 100 or whatever is user configurable).

El Reg celebrates Back to the Future Day

John Miles 1

Now watch it flow back into the jug when I reverse the time direction control

The BBC's Space: A short history of 21st Century indoor relief

John Miles 1


Brilliant critique. Thank you!

Hi. Ofcom? My mobe's call quality is crap – but you said it was fine

John Miles 1

Need an App to report phone performance

Given that Google maps uses info from phones to update traffic stats on roads could not a similar approach to be used for operator and phone performance on a geographic basis.

An app that occasionally reported GPS location, network operator, phone model, RF signal strength and optionally, a user 'quality score' would allow a dynamic data set to be built that gave an accurate view of network coverage on different phone types. This would reflect actual performance rather than 'predicted coverage' and also an indication of how each phone model affects things.

Problem would be getting sufficient take-up given that the operators are hardly likely to encourage it - they would much rather advertise 98 % coverage than have a system report 75% (or whatever).

LibreOffice 5.0 debuts, complete with fewer German code comments

John Miles 1

Star office ?

Didn't Libre/Open office come from a German product Star Office that Sun bought years ago? I wonder if the German comments are a hang over from the original code ?

Hurrah! Windfarms produce whopping one per cent of EU energy

John Miles 1

Solve one problem at a time

So wind energy and solar are providing 8% (each ?) of the energy input they can currently address - that's a pretty good result (and as several comments have remarked, one might not want a great deal more served by an intermittent source).

Of course there is much more to be done to address non-electrical energy - demand side as well as the supply side ( smaller, more efficient cars. fewer unnecessary journeys, better insulated houses with more sensible thermostat settings, wearing a sweater in winter etc. etc. ).

There is an excellent, balanced and scientific book on this by Prof David Mackie of Cambridge University "Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air" - either buy it or read it on his website


Its going to take work and dedication to do this, but either we do it or our children in years to come will shake their heads and wonder why their parents were so short sighted, stupid or selfish.

It's curtains for you, copper: IBM boffins push the LIGHT FANTASTIC

John Miles 1

The real issue is how cheap you can make it

There's nothing new about 4 x 25G WDM 100G interfaces, we already have 100G LR4 interfaces which will do exactly what they describe in the article, but they are very expensive and consume power & space. Presumably IBM have managed to produce a much smaller and lower power interface which will help a lot. I suspect it's still on a separate chip. If one could get true 'on-chip' optical 100G WDM interconnects that really would be something.

EU net neutrality could kneecap the Tories' opt-out pr0n filter plans

John Miles 1

What has Network Neutrality got to do with this

As I understand it network (non-)neutrality is mainly about ISPs giving preferential or poorer treatment to certain content providers, regardless of what their subscribers want. I can't see how giving each individual subscriber the choice to restrict (or not ) access to specific classes of websites relates to an unavoidable restriction by the ISP. The two are quite different site selection paradigms.

Incidentally, I've been running Sky's filter for a year or so with no inconvenience ( no 'false positives' as far as I can tell ), and whilst it no doubt does not block all content in the specified classes, the alternative of putting individual shields on several PCs, Tablets and phones is impractical. If one doesn't want it then its a 30 second operation to turn it off. What is the problem ?

Radio 4 and Dr K on programming languages: Full of Java Kool-Aid

John Miles 1

Re: This is exactly the problem

There's a lot of truth in what you say - The BBC (or for that matter other channels) hardly ever deal with Science/Technology on its own terms. It has to be dumbed down or jazzed up to make it "appealing". Contrast this with, for example, Radio 3 CD Review ( which I like ). For 3hrs every Saturday morning on a main national channel music is discussed, analysed and illustrated at length using sometimes technical but still accessible terms for those that want to listen.

'Codes that changed' the world was a partly flawed step in the right direction, but given the plethora of Radio and TV channels now available, when will some broadcaster have the courage to start doing 'real' science/technlogy programs that really appeal to and inform the millions who work in or study such subjects.

90% of mobile data eaten by TINY, GREEDY super-user HOTSPOTS

John Miles 1

Fixed Broadband context

Just to add a bit of context - Ofcom (and Cisco VNI) reports indicate that UK Mobile data volume is equivalent to only about 5% the volume of fixed BB data ( 29PB vs 650PB, June 2013 data). Though of course some of the fixed BB data will include traffic from home wifi connections to phones.

Marconi: The West of England's very own Italian wireless pioneer

John Miles 1

Visit the Cable and Wireless Telegraph museum as well

Having made it all the way down to this lovely and remote part of England it's also worth seeing the fascinating Cable and Wireless Telegraph museum at Porthcurno on the Lands End peninsular. A superb collection of Telegraph instruments; a fusion of engineering and craftsman's work of art. For sea views try the unique and romantic Minack open air theatre high up on the nearby cliffs.

Landlines: The tech that just won't die

John Miles 1

Idea to stop nuisance calls

Re-engineer the billing so that calling party pays something for the call to be accepted - this charge could even be waived if the call was held for 1 minute or the called party entered a code ( so that genuine callers were not charged). In that way it would now cost a much more money for all those silent and no hope calls to be placed. Not sure how this would actually be implemented ( harder with international calls) - but given that the incentive for making the calls is financial then a financial deterrent seems the best approach.

Tat bazaar eBay confirms: THOUSANDS of workers will be AXED

John Miles 1

Skimming 10% and making a loss?

How can they make a loss when the charge 10% of sale cost ( + paypal charges ) just for running a website - it beggars belief

Facebook worth more than Portugal? Hell, it's worth a LOT more than THAT

John Miles 1

Re: Valuing entertainment generally - Work or Play?

Agree Facebook is similar to TV - an entertainment activity and should be valued on the same basis. Wrong to value as work since some of remuneration is to compensate for the fact that we have to work, not that we simply want to. Conversely, no one is being paid to use Facebook.

Average UK person watches 3 - 4 hrs TV per day (apparently), approx 100 hrs per month. The average Pay TV bill is about £50 per month, so value placed on watching 'valued' TV is about 50p per hour (or 12-15p if you are BBC/Freeview only watcher). That is not too far away from the 40c per hour value placed on Facebook. Multiplying 'TV spend' by 32B hours gives £16B or $25B. Much closer to the $12B figure given.

CES 2015: The good, the mad and the POINTLESS

John Miles 1

Audio cast dongle - yes please

Agree re. wanting a cheap dongle to allow one to cast audio to 'non-dnla amplifiers' - been wanting something cheap and simple to do this for a long time.

Of course it would need power as well ( assuming it connects using phono plugs or 3.5mm jack).

Mobile coverage on trains really is pants

John Miles 1

Works for the wrong people

Why is it that I can seldom get a signal on a train to make a quick call, yet the person next to me can be loudly blabbering trivia into their phone for the entire journey ( or perhaps they are talking so relentlessly that they don't notice that the call dropped ages ago ).

Official: Turing's Bombe better than a Concorde plane

John Miles 1

Bombes found the keys

Small correction - the Bombes didn't decrypt the messages themselves, but rather found the Enigma settings used to encode just one sample message on a particular network, a process that might take an hour or more. Once the settings were known much simpler machines could be used to decode the messages themselves very quickly (different keys were used on different networks and the settings changed each day so a number of bombe runs would be needed).

There is a good description of the bombe operation on http://www.ellsbury.com/enigmabombe.htm

Major problems beset UK ISP filth filters: But it's OK, nobody uses them

John Miles 1

Getting facts right puts things in proportion

Talk Talk with 36% take up has been running filter by far the longest - so suggests around 30% is the long running take-up ( with it varying higher or lower depending on how the option is presented).

According to ONS 2012 statistics only approx 30% of households have 1 or more children - so as its mainly such households that would use a 'child' filter, it sounds like quite a good takeup.

You say Sky is 'bombarded' with reclassification requests. It has 5M subs, with 8% take up that means 400k are using the filter, and off those 110 request a reclassifcation each month, i.e. 0.025%. Not much of a bombardment.

WTF is ... Virtual Customer Premises Equipment?

John Miles 1

Latency and assymetric bandwidth

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. NFV in the home CPE is operating in a rather different environment from the enterprise device. Enterprise networks have massive symmetric bandwidth and almost no latency, so there is no performance overhead in virtualising functions.

But for the typical home user on an ADSL connection their upstream channel may be constrained to 500 - 1000 kbit/s and packetisation and error correction of the link introduces 5 - 20 ms round trip latency. It remains to be seen whether the performance of such a link between the CPE and the centralised NFV server constrains what is possible.

We need to talk about SPEAKERS: Sorry, 'audiophiles', only IT will break the sound barrier

John Miles 1

Very interesting - though not sure about difference between bass enclosures

Interesting and stimulating article with a lot of cogent points. Agree there is much progress needed on Loudspeakers, but not so sure about the differences between bass enclosures.

At bass frequencies all loudspeakers can be viewed as 'motors' driving some sort of acoustic/mechanical filter. In a sealed box the filter is a resonant system comprising the cone mass and the combined springiness of the air and the cone suspension, if done badly there could be a resonant peak. A bass reflex box has an additional filter comprising the air in the port and the cabinet compliance. A transmission line is also some sort of low pass filter + a delay. So in all cases you hear a filtered version of what goes in, its just a matter of how the contribution of the filter is managed and trading that off against cabinet size, efficiency etc.

In regard to transmission lines and transients - Unlike a true transmission line, higher frequencies are attenuated in the line so the port is only emitting delayed low frequencies, this will still change transients (though less than shown) - but so will all other cabinets. Interestingly in the PMC cross section the driver is part way down the 'transimssion line' - so it will work a bit like a resonant tube as well, so there are two 'bass reinforcement' mechanisms being used.

BT Tower to be replaced by 3D printed BT Tower

John Miles 1

Going south ?

Rather looks like its moved south of the river as well ? Didn't know Shoreditch types ventured down there.