* Posts by John 48

59 posts • joined 30 Jun 2009


That awful moment when what you thought was a number 1 turned out to be a number 2

John 48

Re: Trying to teach...

I had a similar experience with a mate of mine, bright bloke in theory - economics graduate - had built a number of international advertising agency businesses in his time. I watched (by remote control) him use Excel as a "grid typewriter" for doing some invoices... working the sums out with a calculator and typing them in. I suggested that I add some formulae to the sheet to do all that for him automatically.

He protested that he would not trust it, and by doing it his way "at least he knew it was right!" Then I pointed out that just from the casual inspection, I could see at least two arithmetical errors in his invoice, and he had so far diddled himself out of five hours of billable time! Even then he was not convinced. You can't help some people.

Come kneel with us at UK's Cathedral, er, Oil Rig of the Canal: Engineering masterpiece Anderton Boat Lift

John 48

Conversion error?

Since when did 350ft equal 76m ?

Why is the printer spouting nonsense... and who on earth tried to wire this plug?

John 48

Re: DIY Electricians

Can someone explain why which way round the live and neutral are matters.

In general, while "not as good" as done the right way, it will make no functional difference. In reality that exactly what you will get half the time in countries that don't have polarised plugs.

The main difference, is with the connections reversed, you may still end up with an appliance being connected to the mains "live" even under fault conditions after the fuse has blown.

Helen Fospero makes yet another Brit telly presenter to win IR35 case against taxman

John 48

Re: Beyond their grasp

"The tax rules here are actually incredibly simple"

Here speaks someone who has never read the IR35 legislation, nor waded through the decades worth of case law that is used to make the assessments required by it.

Socket to the energy bill: 5-bed home with stupid number of power outlets leaves us asking... why?

John 48

Re: Ring mains surely?

Yup the guideline for a 32A ring circuit is that it can serve up to 100 square meters of floor area. Obviously one needs to take into account the likely loading on the circuit, and also the impact of what would be affected should the circuit trip. A greater number of "smaller" circuits offeres better "discrimination" i.e. it contains the effects of a fault to the location of the fault with fewer unrelated items losing power.

For modern usage patterns its common for socket circuits to support a large number of very small loads (small appliances / electronic gadgets) festooned all over the place, and the occasional larger one. So ring circuits are well suited for the task. Kitchens / utility rooms often benefit from their own dedicated ring circuit where the concentration of larger "white goods" can use much of the capacity of a 7kW circuit quite easily.

So a good compromise for many places is one ring circuit per storey, plus a separate one for the kitchen. Plus additional dedicated radial circuits for individual high load items like cookers and hobs etc.

That time Windows got blindsided by a ball of plasma, 150 million kilometres away

John 48

Re: (3) Blind Mice

We had a Dell mouse in an engineering lab about 20+ years ago that would stop moving in one axis only in bright sunlight. We fixed that by taking it apart, and colouring the inside of the top case with a black marker pen.

These boffins' deepfake AI vids are next-gen. But don't take our word for it. Why not ask Zuck or Kim Kardashian...

John 48

Re: Flashed list of IP addresses.....

Funny looking IP address though, e.g. "C519.376.22.342" or "513.342.28.377" etc.

IP V4.5 by any chance?

Boffins build blazing battery bonfire

John 48

Nice though they are....

We (in the uk) only have approx 27GWh of pumped storage added all together - which sounds ok, til you realise our base load could use that in an hour, and peak in 40 mins. The killer however is the maximum power output from them all running full chat is around 2.4GW - so enough to cope with the short term loss of a one major generator, or to balance out some demand during the day, but not enough to keep the lights on longer term even if you have vast generating reserves to allow more storage.

(currently cheap night time electricity is used to pump the water back uphill, but you can imagine if we also move significant amounts of space heating and transport over to electric power, that is not going to be available either!)

Shocker: UK smart meter rollout is crap, late and £500m over budget

John 48

Re: Nah.. They won't be getting a grilling..

"the 20 or so LED light bulbs in my house are costing me about 6 times the cost of electricity they save in replacement - they simply dont last anywhere as long as they claim"

One of the afflictions of being an engineer is knowing what a kWh is, and having the ability to do complicated things like, erm, basic arithmetic…

So let’s see how plausible this all is:

First let’s assume your LED lamps are really crap, not only do they not last the 10’s of thousands of hours promised, yours only last as long as a bog standard filament lamp – say 1000 hours. So you have replaced your 60W with a 6W LED. Your 60W lamp used 1kWh of energy in 1000/60 = 16.67 hours. So in its 1000 hour life, that is 1000/16.67 = 60 kWh of electricity. If you pay 23p per kWh, that’s £13.80. Let’s include the cost of the lamp and round it up to £14.

Your LED will use a tenth of the electricity, so £1.38, and let’s say you paid top money for the poor quality lamp at £5. Brings the total cost to £6.38. So best case, your claim seems to be about 12 x out!

Note also that was an overly pessimistic calculation. In reality you may be paying a bit more for electricity, the LED was probably cheaper than £5, and it will likely do at least 3000 – 5000 hours even if not the full amount promised on the box. That could bring the savings up quite a bit, at 5k hours: old style lamps use £69 quid of lekky, plus a quids worth in lamps, so £70. LED £6.90 of lekky, and a more realistic £3 of lamp – call it £10, and 4 fewer bulb changes.

Brit IT contractor wins appeal against HMRC to pay £26k in back taxes

John 48

Re: So confusing.

No, because the criteria used to judge taxation status is subtly different from those used to asses employment status.

This can often lead to the unenviable outcome where one can be deemed to be an employee from the point of view of the tax man, and an independent contractor from the point of view of the potential employer.

Bombshell discovery: When it comes to passwords, the smarter students have it figured

John 48

Does a password found on "Have I Been Pwned?" actually indicate *it* was breached?

I may be misunderstanding this, but I was under the impression that if a set of access credentials are listed on Troy's site, it generally indicates that the credentials were collected from a compromised web server or similar. I.e. the presence on the list alone can't be taken as an indication that the credentials themselves were necessarily weak, just that in many cases they were inadequately protected by a site that was hacked.

Every major OS maker misread Intel's docs. Now their kernels can be hijacked or crashed

John 48

Re: I'm impressed

I remember the first time I encountered protected mode assembler on a '386... it only took a couple of days to get a grip on the changes to the instructions set from 8086 style real mode stuff.

The problem was it then took *months* to fully get your head around the vast changes in architecture and how they all fitted and played together. The documentation of the day was a single 3/4" thick Intel programmers reference guide (small print, thin paper!) that was pretty dense and hard going.

The segmentation alone is vastly different and more sophisticated - but you could see that lots of it was engineered get you from a place you would rather not start at (i.e. DOS programs all hitting the hardware directly for maximum performance), and allow a transition to a system that could run several such programs concurrently and not have them fight to the death.

Firefox 52 kills plugins – except Flash – and runs up a red flag for HTTP

John 48

Re: Flash left, ad blockers gone?

Note that plugins are not the same as extensions. Adblock etc are typically extensions which are still allowed.

Microsoft quietly emits patch to undo its earlier patch that broke Windows 10 networking

John 48

Re: ,So there's an online fix for not being able to get online?

So far a straight release and renew has not worked on any affected machines I have tried it on. However this has worked:

netsh winsock reset catalog

netsh int ipv4 reset reset.log

Also I have noticed that its not uncommon for the problem to only strike one network interface, so I have been able to successfully fix some laptops remotely via wifi even though their ethernet was borked.

Chaps make working 6502 CPU by hand. Because why not?

John 48

I remember writing the processor!

Finishing my engineering course at university in '88, we had to team up and produce a "project" that represented a chunk of the final grade. The girl who would one day become SWMBO and I, decided that a software emulation of a 6502 might be fun. Managed to do that, plus a small machine language monitor program with inline assembly and disassembly, and a small set of emulated system calls for IO etc. It was quite fun keying in some 6502 assembler, and having it run on a Prime multi user mini computer or on an early PC. ISTR even running it on an emulated DOS machine on my Amiga once just to see how many layers of emulation one could run (at an effective clock speed of some 10kHz probably!)

Australia's Dick finally drops off

John 48

Re: dropped off a *long* time ago

It has to be said some of their customers are pretty clueless as well though... A mate of mine (Engineering graduate) has a weekend job there.. he gets people walk in and say things like "I need a lead for my computer"... He asks "what kind of lead?", they answer "I don't know, you're supposed to be the expert!".

John 48

Re: dropped off a *long* time ago

Yup, Maplin's first shop in Westcliff used to be a place of wonder. Folks would walk in and describe a project they wanted to build, and one of the lads behind the counter, would pull a pencil from behind their ear, sketch out a circuit, reach for the shops calculator and compute some values, before checking how much the customer wanted to spend and their preferred assembly technique (vero board etc). Then bagging up all the bits for them!

More recently the spotty youth behind the counter asked me what a grommet was for when I bought one ;-)

I guess there is only so much market for hard core electronics shops - let's face it Maplin used to sell mail order all over the UK from the one shop. There is only so much need to be able to go and browse / look at resistors! (although playing with the assembled synthesizers or the early Atari 400 and 800 machines on display was always worth a visit).

IT manager jailed for 5 years for attempting dark web gun buy

John 48

Re: Thought crime

Firearms offences in the UK are "strict liability" offences, with a mandatory 5 year jail term. Attempting to purchase a firearm without a license is an offence under the law, and that is it pretty much game over. There is no need to prove intention or anything else, and very little wriggle room for a judge or jury to do anything else other than hand out the prescribed sentence.

Smart meters are a ‘costly mistake’ that'll add BILLIONS to bills

John 48

The reason they are so keen on deploying smart meteres...

is that they will allow "demand management". i.e. in an ideal world, the ability to communicate with appliances in your home and tell them to enter a "low power state" when the demand is outstripping the supply capability.

Of course what this will really mean in the real world, is that they can remotely turn off power to individual houses (i.e. yours!) on a much finer granularity than can be achieved with the current mechanisms of demand management. Not only that its cheaper than building the power stations actually needed.

This is what you get when you spend loads of money on renewable power generation capacity that is not despatchable on demand, can only actually provide a tiny fraction of the installed capacity over the year, and that requires that you build the same capacity again in a conventional power station to make up for when its dark and the wind is not blowing.

Which begs the question, why not cut out the middle man and just build the nukes required instead?

John 48

Re: short term benefit

Tezfair Wrote:

"I brought one of those meters that give you a live readout on consumption. It was useful at the beginning as it showed things like two florecent tubes in the kitchen consuming 120w each, when the tubes were only 60w (old design)."

What it really showed you was that the display was probably just doing a quick "amps times volts" computation of the power being used, and getting the wrong answer! It sounds like it was not correctly allowing for the non unity power factor of older florescent lights...

(a common failing of many of the power meters that just clip a current transformer round the wires feeding your consumer unit)

Traditional strip lights with an old inductive ballast will present a load that is partly "reactive". That means that not all of the current actually drawn ends up being used to actually do any work. The reactive current is drawn on one part of the mains cycle, and then pushed back again on the next. Hence you will not actually be charged for all of that current drawn (the old style domestic meters we have now are quite good at only charging for the real power used and not the reactive part).

The same error will occur for any other load that is not purely resistive in nature (e.g things like CFL bulbs, induction motors in fridges/freezers etc, modern "switched mode" PSUs as used in practially every phone charger and plug in gadget).

Mad Raspberry Pi boffins ripped out its BRAINS and SHRANK them for your pleasure

John 48

Re: An old dog

> True, on the other hand neither does it need Ethernet nor an OS (nor a touchscreen for that matter).

Does the phrase "the internet of things" ring any bells?

Mundane household appliances with ethernet / wifi and TCP/IP stacks etc are gaining in popularity, so this is quite an elegant solution for DIY embedded applications which nicely circumvents the slightly clunky nature of using a full fat PI for these jobs.

Wii got it WRONG: How do you solve a problem like Nintendo?

John 48

Re: Mod it.

Yup, stick on a HD loader and a 2.5" external drive and you have a decent enough media player as well as iPlayer, DVD player etc plus near instant access to all your games with no disc swapping.

Sure for the hardcore first person shooter player, its not going to cut the mustard, but keep in mind that they are in the (vocal) minority. It created a whole new concept in family gaming, and appealed to a much wider audience that any previous games system. The control system was revolutionary enough that MS and Sony had to find a way to include similar functionality. To describe it as a fail is nonsensical on pretty much any level.

However I agree with the argument that it was a unique product at an appropriate time, and following it with a warmed over "more of the same" was not going to maintain that sales momentum.

What should Ninty have done? IMHO, created a new next gen console to match the current competing lineup in hardware terms. Slap in backwards compatibility to let you bring your old games and controllers with you, and you might convert some of the keener family gamers as well as enabling the hard core gamers with a platform capable of running current HD titles.

Also maintain the Wii as a parallel line to cater for the new market that it created. refresh it with fully featured media playing capabilities and an HD output built in wired and wireless networking, DLNA streaming etc. Above all, allow the price to fall to the casual purchase level. It then becomes the goto box for a media player to upgrade all those second TVs etc,

No anon pr0n for you: BT's network-level 'smut' filters will catch proxy servers too

John 48

Re: To not be self-defeating

So by one of us simply pointing out how to change your computer or router to use OpenDNS or Google's DNS servers here in a comment, the comments section of theregister, or possibly the whole site must by extension also be banned?

Pretty nifty way to take out any site that you fancy huh?

Why a plain packaging U-turn from UK.gov could cost £3bn a year

John 48

Re: Hmmm

Yup, so much simpler for the youngsters to go for one of the nice branded duty free packs available from every street corner, via a black market created by the perfect and unintended co-operation of existing smokers and HM Gov!

Coding: 'suitable for exceptionally dull weirdos'

John 48

Re: Comment from the Cockwomble in question

Computer science taught properly is far from "non academic". Its a rigorous and broad syllabus (not to be confused with computer studies, or ICT).

Its also worth highlighting that maths and physics, while very worthwhile subjects in their own right, are not in any way prerequisites for computer science. Yes there are some specialised areas of software development that require strong mathematical skills,. however most don't.

Successful software development can draw on many skills and aptitudes - many creative as well as hard science based. A maths degree is not going to make you a wizard at good user interface design.

Chaos Computer Club: iPhone 5S finger-sniffer COMPROMISED

John 48

Re: Perspective please

You are right, it would be so much simpler to chop the finger off with stout wire cutters when you are pinching the phone, and take that as well...

Two more counties to get gov-funded bumpkin broadband from... guess?

John 48

Re: Re-nationalise BT...

Yes, cos it used to work so well when it was state owned before...

Instead of roll out of 24Mb/sec services we would be campaigning for V90 support.

Beam me up? Not in the life of this universe

John 48

Not only compression

but they seem to be ignoring coding gains in the transmission stage. They assume a symbol rate near the Nyquist limit, but then ignore the fact that multiple data bits can be encoded per symbol yielding data bit rates far higher than the actual baud rate. Even using today's 256QAM (as used in HD digital terrestrial broadcast), you would gain you another couple of orders of magnitude throughput.

Move over, Freeview, just like you promised: You're hogging the 4G bed

John 48

This could usher in a whole new world of hurt

Some of those folks who went through the hassle of upgrading their aerial so as to get reliable DTV operation (especially in the switchover period), may suddenly find they need to do it yet again!

Lots of people swapped from grouped aerials (i.e. ones designed to work effectively only on a subset of the allocated TV broadcast frequencies), to "wideband" ones that attempt to cover the full range of frequencies (470 - 862 MHz). Needless to say the "jack of all trades" wideband aerial is a bit of an engineering compromise, and they don't perform as well as the narrower band grouped aerials. This is most noticeable at the bottom end of the TV spectrum (i.e. group A channels). Hence people in marginal reception areas attempting to re-tune to a lower frequency set of multiplexes, could find themselves back to the days of unreliable reception.

Bill Gates offers big bucks for better condoms

John 48

Re: Re:30% chance of pregnancy after 50 'perfect uses'

I seem to recall reading that the effectiveness stats were actually based on couples using them correctly for a year rather than the failure rate per shag. So a 2% failure rate would suggest 2 unwanted pregnancies in a year of correct usage by 100 couples. Still not perfect but far better odds.

Bank whips out palm-recognition kit - and a severed hand won't work

John 48

Re: Germs and Toast

You need to be quicker than that:


Microsoft Office 2013 vs. Office 365: Is either right for you?

John 48

Office 2010 H&S Allows installation on 3 PCs

That does rather change the economics for home users...

Behold ATLAS, the fastest computer of 50 years ago

John 48

Re: Compute time was billed at around £750-800 per hour

Compute time != computer time. ATLAS was a multi tasking system, so in modern parlance the CPU time spent solving your pet problem (i.e. the "compute" time) would not be the same as the amount of elapsed time the computer spent running your program. Or in other words, even if it took an hour to run a program to completion, it may have only actually applied 5 minutes of actual compute time to it during that period.

New nuclear fuel source would power human race until 5000AD

John 48

Re: we know that nuclear power is safe

"However Chernobyl and Fukushima have left large areas of land uninhabitable for the next 1000 years or so", you realise that the powers that be in Japan are waiting for the radiation to fall to a "safe" level before the land can be reoccupied? The irony being that the vast majority of the so called exclusion area is already significantly less radioactive than the normal background level of radiation in Cornwall!

Microsoft set to 'do a Nexus' with its Surface tablet

John 48

Re: On the other hand

Interesting how the price of generic x86 hardware + fancy case + latest OSX is significantly less than the cost of the same when bought as a pre-assembled computer from Apple... There is a massive profit being made somewhere!

Brit judge orders Facebook to rip masks from anonymous cowards

John 48

re: All she had to do was block the accounts offending her.

When someone sets up a fake account in your name, and then sets about spamming all sorts of people with malign messages purporting to be from you, how do you block that?

Its a form of proxy attack, where they defame your reputation by their behaviour, and then you cop all the negative feedback that their actions create. Rather similar to when someone used your email address as a "from" contact on their spam campaign.

Ten... Qwerty mobiles

John 48

Re: Xperia Mini Pro

The key to battery life on the Xperia Mini Pro seems to be to add the android switch widgets that let you control things like GPS / Wifi / Bluetooth etc, and use them to turn off things you don't need at the time. GPS especially is a power hog. With all bells and whistles running, then you will need to charge it once a day certainly. However kept in standby, with wifi, mobile data, GPS off etc, and it will run for 5 days between charges with just a few calls and texts to deal with.

Ten... eight-bit classic games

John 48
Thumb Up

Re: Other classics...

There is a flash port of The Way of the Exploding fist... runs in your browser...

Sitting down all day is killing you

John 48

Is there any chance we could have some stats reporting that actually means something?

I do get fed up with all these reports that say "doing x means y is 40% more likely to happen", but then give you no clue whatsoever as the likelihood of y happening if you don't do x!

How do I know if I should be worried about a 40% increased risk in something without, knowing what the baseline risk was in the first place?

Dr Who scores new companion from Emmerdale

John 48

Re: After Russell T Davies finished writing/directing .. it went down-hill

RTD wrote nicely paced episodes, and was quite good with building tension and climax etc. The main problem was he was hopeless at science fiction, drifting more into fantasy fiction much of the time.

Just compare some of the plot lines like in the early Tennent episode an alien race enslaved half a populous by "blood group control", to one of the better Moffat episodes like The Empty Child or Blink...

Commodore outs Linux-running Amiga Mini desktop

John 48

The VIC slim on the other hand

...is quite a nice take on the "all in the keyboard" theme. Infinitely better than the "all in the monitor" designs that seem to be common elsewhere.

Hackers may be able to 'outwit' online banking security devices

John 48

Barclays *is* two factor...

The Barclays implementation requires something that you know: i.e. your PIN and your personal customer number (not the same as your account number), plus something that you have - i.e. your debit card.

The Commodore 64 is 30

John 48

Better graphics, is a bit questionable. The TED chip gave you more colours, but the things you lost (hardware sprites, and the audio prowess of the SID chip) meant that animation and sound was never close to what the C64/128 could achieve, and that killed it for games players. The bundled apps of the plus/4 were at best "token" and not of any real value other than as a marketing hook.

Fusion boffins crack shreddy eddy plasma puzzle

John 48

Hydrogen is a PITA to handle though

Much better to combine it with carbon sequestered from CO2 in the atmosphere and make synthetic diesel.


John 48
Thumb Up

aha, the reason no one will play a two player game with me even to this day!

Yes many fond memories... level 28 of Mayhem still haunts me to this day. I took weeks of trying to complete that. One lemming to save, and about 9 minutes to do it in.

Two player lemmings is where I earned my reputation as an "utter utter bastard!", to the point that SWMBO (who was my beloved GF at the time of lemmings release) is highly wary of playing any two player (computer!) game with me these days. There they would all be, happily walking safely to the exit, green clad lemmings in one direction, blue the other. Could I resist the temptation to upset the happy balance? It seems not. Quick turn one around with a quick attempt to build by some obstacle, or area of confined headroom, and then "oops", there appears to be a blocker right in the middle of someone's carefully constructed bridge! Or, for devastating effect, (my speciality), dig the ground away from under the opposing exit and watch them frantically try to get a builder to repair the damage. Oh how easy it was to ruin it all with a basher when they finally managed.

I can still hear the exasperated screams of "oh, I am not playing with you any more!" ;-)))

Errata : SWMBO was just read this over my shoulder, and proclaimed "its not just me", "its the reason that nobody will play two player lemmings with you! In fact they are now wary of pretty much any multi-player game, right from Scrabble to Monopoly!"

Intel mad for power, but stacked-up dies keep MELTING!

John 48

Who is Eric Moore when he is at home?

... or is this a new Moore's law we have not heard about?

The IBM PC is 30

John 48

February 1984's IBM PC Portable and the August-announced PC AT

The PC-AT did not just have a faster 6MHz processor. It had a faster 6MHz 80286 in place of the 8088/6 of the earlier machines, and also a 16 bit wide version of the expansion bus (or ISA bus as we know it today). It also brought us what we would now recognise as the standard keyboard layout.

LulzSec hacker Sabu: Murdoch emails 'sometime soon'

John 48

Even if it does throw question over the voracity of their email database...

It would be interesting to see if they (NI) can produce the actual backups of the email database to refute (or more likely confirm) the claimed content.

The thing about email is that at least one copy of every email sent or received probably also exists on someone else's computer over which you don't have any control.

So for an investigator with a copy of the hacked emails, it would not be too difficult to take a random sample, contact the other parties to said emails, and verify if they do indeed match. Once you have a good correlation it becomes a whole lot harder for NI to refute and claim they have been altered by the hackers.

Mac trojan evades Apple's brand new security fix

John 48
Black Helicopters

Apple must be rubbing their hands with glee...

I am sure Apple must be viewing this as a glittering marketing opportunity. First you need a bogey man to get people scared and make the draconian medication seem more palatable ("war on terror"?). Then you "offer" to limit software installations to those sourced through the approved app store.

Shrinkwrap vendors will be encouraged of course to contribute their big high ticket apps to the store as well - to create a better "user experience" with streamlined purchase, install and updates just a click (and credit card number) away.

How long do they wait until this starts to become the *only* way to get software on the machine?

Even armed with the DVD bought from the retail dealer, you still need a permission token from the app store. Its just for your added protection you understand.

Then the software vendors find that every route to market needs participation from the app store. Oddly they have started to charge for this. Only an admin charge to "cover costs" though. Oh, and that charge applies to updates as well. Users this is in your "best interests" so its better you just accept it. After all you would not want to have to jailbreak you Mac now would you?

Software vendors, you obviously would not want to write anything that conflicts with Apple's world view now would you - just in case there is a vetting procedure for software to get permission to be sold to the Mac user base. Remember just because they paid for the thing, its not their computer. Oh, and we have "simplified" the app store for vendors now - there is no longer a charge for adding your product to the store. Instead we will simply charge small fee based on 30% of the sale price.

Any of this sound familiar?

In true Apple tradition, its ok to punish your loyal customers, but its better to get them to pay to be punished. They will like you more that way.

Cameron cocks up UK's defences - and betrays Afghan troops

John 48

Tanks still have a place

If you read any of the crop of recent front line accounts from Iraq* and Afghanistan, it seem fairly clear that there is still a significant use for armoured brigades to support troops on the ground in counter insurgency roles. Columns of Warrior APCs supported by Challenger II main battle tanks often proved to be the only way of safely delivering vital resupply and troop relief in urban siege situations like that of Cimic house in Iraq.

* Read Dan Mills "Sniper One" for a breathtaking account of British forces in the thick of an all out conflict not seen since WWII



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