* Posts by Andrew Oakley

91 publicly visible posts • joined 18 Apr 2006


Put Rescuezilla 2.5 on a bootable key – before you need it

Andrew Oakley

Encryption by default

Disk recovery tools are obsolete in the age of encryption by default. You can't partially recover an encrypted partition.

Windows boss takes on taskbar turmoil, pledges to 'make Start menu great again'

Andrew Oakley

It's TASKBAR that needs fixing more

In all honesty, the reason I'm avoiding switching to Win11 is that you can't vertically-align the taskbar. Not the Start menu, the taskbar. Almost all screens are wider than they are high. If you're going to run out of screen real estate, it'll happen from top-to-bottom, not side-to-side. There's always plenty of space on the side. So putting 24 or 32 or 48 pixels of taskbar on the bottom or top edge makes no sense. I thought maybe switching from 1080p to 1440p might make me think again, but no. You always run out of vertical pixels. You never run out of horizontal pixels.

I'm petty. I know.

Boom! Just like that the eSIM market emerges – and jolly useful it is too

Andrew Oakley

If only...

If only there was some continent-wide economic union that Britain could join that would guarantee customers the right to roam in other countries for the same price they pay for British bundles.

UK military may recruit wheezy, alcoholic keyboard warriors

Andrew Oakley

Colour blindness?

I got rejected for naval university sponsorship because of colour blindness - I wonder if that's now no longer a problem for non-overseas recruits?

After all, if the job is in the UK, then "reasonable adjustment" is already required for minor stuff like that.

Although I'm pretty badly colour vision deficient - as in, can't easily spot a fire engine parked on a field of grass.

You've heard that pop will eat itself. Boffins have unveiled a rocket that does the same

Andrew Oakley

High tech gurus

Ah, the Kidderminster Market Tavern. Somewhere between the Blues Brothers Country & Western skit and Delverance, and that was assuming there was a friendly crowd.

Amazon and Netflix join Hollywood to lob sueball at 'Kodi' service SetTV

Andrew Oakley

Re: Shame they couldn't have joined together ...

I would pay more money than my Raspberry Pi costs (it's a 3, so, er... £32), to have a legit Amazon Prime or Netflix plugin for Kodi. I subscribe to both; in the case of Netflix I subscribe to the top-end tier as I have a billion children who all want to watch it at once.

Having said that, Kodi works okay on an Amazon TV Stick, which also does Netflix. You have to sideload Kodi but once there, it works acceptably, if your definition of "acceptably" includes performance on a par with a RPi 1 and an inability to stay loaded to scan the library in the background on cron. It provides an icon on the Fire TV home screen and plays back my licence-fee-paid library of TV recordings in 720p just fine. Struggles a bit with full HD (damn you, beautifully-shot BBC4 history documentaries), but who has the storage for full HD who can't also afford a decent dedicated media player?

ATM fees shake-up may push Britain towards cashless society

Andrew Oakley

Theft of cash machines by JCBs

In Shropshire, Gloucestershire and other rural counties, we've seen a wave of ATM thefts. By which I mean that someone turns up with a JCB (backhoe) and simply carves the ATM out of the wall of the village shop.

It's an easy crime and village shop owners are increasingly reticent to host cash machines due to the risk of not just the ATM getting stolen, but their building being damaged and consequently being put out of business until the building is made safe, repaired or completely rebuilt.

With no post office, no local bank branches, spotty-at-best mobile data and poor broadband, this means that quite often the only means of payment is the old-fashioned chequebook.


Crypto-busters reverse nearly 320 million hashed passwords

Andrew Oakley

Plausible deniability

You call it a security weakness. I call it plausible deniability.

You have the right to be informed: Write to UK.gov, save El Reg

Andrew Oakley

Force? No it doesn't.

"Section 40 forces all news media publications to pay for the lawyers of both sides in any court case" - No, it doesn't.

Section 40 encourages news organisations to join a complaints arbitration scheme.

If El Reg chooses not to do that, then THE REG is forcing complainants to pay for expensive legal services when a cheaper arbitration service is available. Therefore it is fair that El Reg should foot the bill for making that choice.

Not all complainants are going to be millionaires. Section 40 is designed to protect ordinary Joes.

Raspberry Pi adds PIXEL eye candy to desktop

Andrew Oakley

(Disclaimer: I run Cotswold Raspberry Jam and enjoy an occasional smidge of hospitality from the Foundation)

I've also long hankered for USB3, also as a dream base for NAS. However I recently gave up and built myself a Intel mini ITX NAS.

A USB3 controller currently costs quite a lot more than the USB2 controller chip the Pi uses. Furthermore it would require other major changes, for example the SOC would need to support USB3 speeds and the ethernet port is currently managed from the USB2 chip. Now if you had USB3, you could open the possibility of gigabit ethernet, but again, at a price. So you've got both price and a major architecture redesign against you. Both of those weigh heavily against an SBC aimed at children with a budget of thirty quid.

It could still happen, and it probably will eventually happen. But it would probably come along with a large redesign of the whole product line, and quite possibly with a break in compatibility with the current product line. Doing that is something the Foundation will be loathe to do, because a lot of the value of a Raspberry Pi is the huge community that it has built around it. There are a gazillion howtos and tutorials out there which, for the most part, work with any model of Pi; if the Foundation breaks compatibility then they have to start from scratch again, and we're back in 2011 all over again.

My investment into self-build Intel ITX NAS means that I've gambled that USB3 Pi won't happen for at least 18 months. No doubt I'll be proven wrong shortly after Christmas.

Dad who shot 'snooping vid drone' out of the sky is cleared of charges

Andrew Oakley

Air rifle will easily see off a drone

A perfectly legal zero-paperwork .22 air rifle will easily see off a drone from 2-300 metres in England and Wales.

Heck, a decent .177 CO2 air pistol with crappy dome pellets would see off a drone if it got to within 50 metres. Drones are not particularly sturdy nor stable devices. Again, zero paperwork required in England and Wales; just proof of age. Get proper pest control pellets (the pointy ones for killing rats) and you will shatter most plastics.

Getting a shotgun licence is also easy in England & Wales, unless you have prior convictions or a history of mental problems. However the police would want to inspect your home to see that you have a lockable metal gun cabinet and a sufficiently large outdoor area to use it without endangering anyone else, which pretty much rules out all UK urban & suburban housing as it's too close together. In villages and farms, though, there is basically no reason to stop any sane law-abiding subject from obtaining a shotgun licence.

What English and Welsh law has very strict control over is automatic, revolving or semi-automatic firearms. Anything that could kill and that you could fire more than twice without pausing to reload. The idea is, given the island is only 700 miles long and an armed police unit is rarely more than a few minutes away, your killing spree will be slowed down enough that people can escape and the police sniper will arrive and kill you before your third victim. (And we mean kill; British police don't do sidearms, we do assault rifles or sniper rifles or nothing. No pansy pistols unless you're a plain clothes detective).

Terror in the Chernobyl dead zone: Life - of a wild kind - burgeons

Andrew Oakley

Re: Hmmm

I thought it was that the planet was going to be invaded by a gigantic swarm of twelve foot piranha bees?

BBC Micro:bit delayed by power supply SNAFU

Andrew Oakley

Re: So far...

Gamechangers was also an expletive-laiden post-watershed drama that no children would be allowed to watch, about a game that had a mature rating that no children had been allowed to buy, with a plotline that focussed on hidden pornography.

Quite how that managed to get related to the "teach kids to code week", I just can't imagine. I mean, Daniel Radcliffe must have cost a lot of money, the programme must have been comissioned by some fairly senior management staff at the BBC, can they really be that out-of-touch that they don't understand watersheds and age ratings?

Having said all that, it was good... for a TV movie. Worth a watch, especially as it's free on iPlayer. *If* you're old enough.

Andrew Oakley

Codebug works, shipped, in stock

This delay/SNAFU is particularly dissapointing given that the device that was very close to the original design, the Codebug ( www.codebug.co.uk ), blew past its Kickstarter in April, shipped in July and I have three of them, all fully working, all using the same Scratch-like web-to-USB-download IDE, and being used this week by my three children. In stock now at Farnell for twelve quid fiddypee.

Well, I *think* I have three of them. My kids love them so much they kind of grabbed them and they disappeared. One was definitely running some LEDs for a Lego model at the weekend. Two were last seen pinned to clothing for the twins' birthday as fancy age badges. I'll report back when the inevitable washing machine API occurs.

Why on earth the BBC decided to go with the Micro Bit instead of the Micro Bug, I just don't know. Adding the sensors, removing the onboard CR2032 battery and adding Bluetooth (well known to be the curse of death for many projects) very late in the day seems to have fouled things up. Perhaps the coding lesson that Auntie Beeb are trying to teach our children is the old Unix addage "do only one thing and do it well". If so, they've spectacularly succeeded in providing a mistake to learn from.

Microsoft to Windows 10 consumers: You'll get updates LIKE IT or NOT

Andrew Oakley

Re: no matter what MS force on us

"Why would anyone want a 'fix' to stop important security updates & fixes?" Because they're on holiday with their laptop on an expensive metered 3G connection in a poor signal area.

I'm not suggesting that the user should stop the update indefinitely. But an option to postpone it by 2-4 weeks would solve the vast majority of problems with this.

Of course there will always be a smaller number people who are permanently in low/expensive bandwidth areas. For them, I'd suggest... don't use Windows 10.

Sinclair is back with the Spectrum Vega ... just as rubbish as the ZX

Andrew Oakley

Re: RCA? Pah. Young 'uns know nothing

Also, my Atari ST was better than your CBM Amiga.

Who am I kidding...

Andrew Oakley

RCA? Pah. Young 'uns know nothing

The original Speccy used an RF modulator (analogue TV signal), not RCA. You had to tune your telly in to the signal, just like any of the other 3-4 terrestrial analogue channels. If you were *really* lucky, it wouldn't clash with the channel already used by your video cassette recorder.

Not that I care, because I was a Commodore 64 lad, and we all know that the C=64 was better than everything. Also, only brats owned a BBC.

France kicks UK into third place for public Wi-Fi hotspots

Andrew Oakley

But are hotspots indicative of poor 3G?

I'm not convinced that large numbers of hotspots is automatically "better" than smaller numbers, especially not in areas that have comparable population and income. It could simply indicate awful 3G coverage, especially as France has a more rural spread than the UK.

My own experience in France is that there are lots of terribly shonky wi-fi hotspots that underperform 3G by many megabits/sec. Unless you're in clearly IT-savvy premises such as conference centres, then most hotel, café and campsite wifi in France is usually unusable. It's then down to coverage maps and an unlocked 3G router to find the best network for the local area, then grab a Pay As You Go SIM from a French high street chain. It pays to have researched coverage and downloaded/printed the 3G settings for all the French national providers, before leaving these shores.

Added to this shonkyness is the problem of campsites & holiday parks charging exorbitant fees for next to no data allowance or limited time, whilst still being unusably shonky.

GCHQ protesters stick it to British spooks ... by drinking urine

Andrew Oakley

Why it could or couldn't

It will surely come as no surprise that the GCHQ building is Protected Site; I can't remember whether this is under section 128 of the Serious & Organised Crime and Police Act, or whether it's under some Ministry of Defence secret places ruling. There are notices every 50 metres or so on all the fences around the site and its car parks. You can't miss them, and any I sincerely doubt that any protestor bright enough to use a computer could be unable to read and understand those notices.

Therefore if you take a photo with the GCHQ building in the background, it's illegal, regardless of any innocent purpose.

Next up is the law around the intended use of the photographs. If it is reasonable to believe that the photographs might be of use to someone committing acts of terrorism, the photograph is illegal. It doesn't matter whether the photographer is a terrorist or whether the photographer knows any terrorists, it is enough that the photographer intends to publish the useful photos on a website where terrorists might be able to find them, for example posted on a website visible to the general public. Photos of GCHQ cryptographers posted to social media and public forums DEFINITELY count here.

That's where the "could or couldn't" comes in. It's down to the police, the CPS and the courts to make a decision on whether the photos might reasonably get used like that.

I'm at a loss to understand why the protestors don't get this. Maybe because I've lived around Cheltenham for twenty years I just assumed everybody knew this. However, there are notices on the fences, it's not difficult, just read the bloody signs and ask a policeman if you're not sure.

'Stop dissing Google or quit': OK, I quit, says Code Club co-founder

Andrew Oakley

Nobody volunteered to push ads for Google

"ultimately, if somebody is paying you, you can't publicly slag them off and expect the relationship to continue" - well, there's the rub. Was she paid? I thought it was a volunteer job.

I'd be pretty annoyed if I volunteered my time for free only to discover that my work was basically providing cheap tax-dodge advertising for a megacorporation, even if it was an otherwise ethical megacorporation. And Google is a very long way from ethical. I'd imagine she's quite rightly pretty livid.

If Google want to employ someone of her calibre, then they should convince her to sign an employment contract and pay her a salary. Tax-dodging your way around employment law in the name of some horrible half-bred mutation of charity and marketing is not the right way to do it.

Top ten car gadgets: Get your motor running with new shiny-shiny

Andrew Oakley

Brodit device mounts - seriously wonderful

Some solid ideas but not the best choices. For OBDII diagnostics, as others have mentioned, the "Torque" app is massively cheaper at 3 quid and does everything you'd ever want the iODB app to do for £60, including telling you exactly why your engine management light is on (I could have spent a hundred and fifty quid at the dealers to find out I simply had a ten quid brake switch in need of replacement).

For dashboard mounts, there really is only one best choice and that is Brodit, who will sell you a standard base/mount to fit the exact position you want on your exact dashboard on your exact car, into which screws in a variety of very slim and unobtrusive cradles to fit your exact device. For example I have the centre-mount dashboard base for my Seat Leon, plus the delightfully slim mount for my Samsung Galaxy S 4 Mini; meanwhile my wife's car has the right-hand mount for her Vauxhall Zafira, plus the larger but still svelte mount for her Samsung Galaxy Note Classic. Should we borrow each other's cars, we can easily swap the mounts over. And they are a billion squllion times less bulky than any generic mount.

For offline GPS, I'm quite happy with CoPilot at twenty-five quid for the whole of Western Europe, but I appreciate that it isn't as fully-featured - or slick - as Garmin (my old employer paid for the Garmin app on my old N95 and that was better than CoPilot; but it was also one of those "nice if you can claim it on expenses" kinds of purchases; you'd be daft to buy something so extravagant for yourself unless you were spending a *lot* of time driving abroad). I really have no idea why anyone with a half decent smartphone and a Bluetooth car radio would want a separate GPS device.

On the subject of Bluetooth car radios, basic generic non-DAB models come up in Aldi and Lidl frequently for under 50 quid, usually sporting AM/FM radio, SD card, USB port, aux-in socket and sometimes CD/MP3CD. I went for the one without a CD player - because who needs the clutter when you have SD cards? - and am mostly pleased, for the money. They're not amazing - in particular the MP3 file browsing and repeat/album play modes can be very poor, and AM reception prone to interference - but if your basic needs are Bluetooth + MP3 playback + FM/RDS and nothing fancy, they are reliable and offer great value for money.

Ofcom snatches spectrum from SPIES for mobile broadband

Andrew Oakley
Black Helicopters

Not THAT Spectrum

This is not the Cold War retro Sinclair 50-year-rule story you were looking for. Move along.

Security researchers uncover three-year-old 'RUSSIAN SPYware'

Andrew Oakley

Which OS?

Can't see where the article tells me which operating system this malware affects. Shall I just have a wild guess at Microsoft Windows?

What's wrong with Britain's computer scientists?

Andrew Oakley

Re: Comp Sci degrees were sold to many kids looking for a well paid job....

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.

I am seeing a lot of graduates with computing degrees who apply for software developer roles, yet are hopeless at programming. Their experience of computer programming seems to be limited solely to the exercises in their tutors' reference material; typically noddy sales systems (airline booking). They've learned only what was required to pass the module. Ask them to do anything outside that exercise, and they have no idea. It's not merely that they have to look it up (looking stuff up is fine - we'll buy you all the books you can eat and you'll have a web browser on your desktop), it's that they have no realisation that the language they're supposedly skilled in can do anything other than the one or two exercises they've tried.

If a primary-age child was given a box of Lego but three years later was only ever building the exact same model as per the set's instructions, we would think there was something developmentally wrong with that child. Yet that is exactly what we're getting with computer science graduates and we give them degrees!

Worse, they can recite theory about object orientation and several different software development methodologies, yet can't actually write an object skeleton for any set of requirements other than the one or two exercises they're familiar with, and don't understand the concept of dependencies.

Coding tests are fairly hopeless. They'll pass the multiple-choice questions and still fail to grasp the concept that they can use those little nuggets of code to build a larger program that can solve a larger problem.

It's quite clear to me that the current output of comp sci graduates have been taught to pass modules and pass exams and nothing else.

What I expect from someone with a comp sci degree, is a person with a curiosity about what computers can do, who are interested in commanding computers, and are interested in learning as many ways as possible to make a computer perform a variety of tasks. Instead I get a lot of people who have no curiosity at all, whose only interest is to get a job (any job) and can make one or two computers do one or two things.

It's almost like they've been brought up in a world of single-purpose electronic gadgets, rather than the "my computer can do anything, I just have to find out how" attitude of the 8-bit generation. I actually think the Raspberry Pi push has a better than 50-50 chance of solving this problem, but we won't see those kinds of kids coming out of uni for ten years yet.

'I'm BIG, I'm BALD and I'm LOUD!' Blubbering Ballmer admits HE was Microsoft's problem

Andrew Oakley

I can't help thinking that mobile is an extremely poor strategy for Microsoft - the market already has two dominant players and Microsoft are far too far behind to ever catch up. And they were never, ever going to be big in mobile - Microsoft's bloaty kitchen-sink programming strategy would always have prevented them from ruling mobile even if they'd started at the right time; Microsoft make software for PCs not because they want to target PCs, but because PCs are the only devices powerful enough to run their feature-rich applications at a usable speed.

Microsoft need to concentrate on business desktop - business desktop is NOT going away any time soon, and it's good money. Switching to an entirely business-to-business model is highly profitable for many firms wanting to recover from the doldrums - ask the resurgent IBM. Domestic users may be dumping PCs for tablets and Steam boxes, but businesses are not (they may be supporting tablets in *addition* to regular PCs, but regular PCs are *not* disappearing from offices). Frankly with the amount of piracy rampant in the home market I sincerely doubt Microsoft ever made much money from the domestic scene anyway.

Microsoft's cloud-based Office 365 is *incredibly* successful; I don't know anyone who's used it and doesn't love it. They just need to make the best desktop operating system too, and that means ditching the half-arsed mobile and touch interface that is the Start Screen. They need to research and write a new set of desktop windowing standards; Office 2013's interface is a mess - it makes sense in the browser in Office 365 but as a stand-alone application UI, it's horribly confusing. They need to revamp, reinvent standards such as the Multiple Document Interface, which was possibly the most intuitive and greatest contribution to desktop computing since Xerox Parc, and research and create new desktop UI standards.

Businesses are currently delaying and delaying upgrading to Windows 8(.1) and Office 2013 because the UI is designed for mobile and browser. No office worker who lives on the keyboard wants to use an interface designed for a touch-screen. Nobody has got desktop right at the moment - Apple are all over the place with their on-again-off-again love-hate affair with skeuomorphism, the Linux desktop is more fragmented now than it has ever been, and former Linux leader Ubuntu is making *exactly* the same kinds of "we'll integrate our UI to combine both mobile and desktop" mistakes that Microsoft are making. Microsoft are already doing well in business cloud; business desktop is ripe for the picking. Microsoft just have to reach out and grab it.

Blighty's great digital radio switchover targets missed AGAIN

Andrew Oakley


A DAB radio costs 25 quid and eats a set of 4 AA batteries before 9 hours of listening.

A mechanically-tuned FM radio costs 3 quid and a set of 2 AA batteries lasts longer than 24 hours of listening.

A digitally-tuned analogue-signal FM-RDS radio costs 15 quid, has all the pushbutton/auto-tune functionality of DAB and still lasts more than 24 hours on 4 AA batteries.

A mechanically-tuned AM-MW/LW radio will last 96 hours or more constant listening on a pair of AA batteries!

If Kerrang was still on FM in the Midlands, I don't think I'd bother with DAB at all.

I do find myself listening to a lot of BBC World Service on DAB, though. But a lot less local radio - BBC Radio Gloucestershire isn't even on DAB at all!

'Symbolic' Grauniad drive-smash was not just a storage fail

Andrew Oakley

Re: And why aren't the Government using the law for these things?

>In what way does the *UK* Offical Secrets Act apply to Edward Snowden,

>a U.S. citizen, or indeed, to a Brazilian friend of the journalist that met

>and reported about the U.S.-sourced data and that journalist's employer?

The moment that data touched UK soil. The UK govt doesn't really believe it has destroyed every copy of the data. It just wants to make it a bit more difficult for the Grauniad to blatantly breach the OSA from within our own shores.

It's not a question of "What did the UK govt achieve by doing this?" Rather, the question is, "What would the UK govt be implicitly encouraging if it did NOT do this?".

Yeah, so the Graun can continue to run the story from overseas - keep doing that, and eventually they'll have to move the whole newspaper overseas. Be careful not to relocate to another NATO ally, because we all know that a secret here is a secret there too, so sooner or later you'll get your hardware trashed and your bum searched there too.

If you enjoy the standard of living in South America or Eastern Europe, then that's your decision to defect (and let's be quite clear; moving your operations to a non-friendly state in order to avoid your home state's security is defection by any other name). But don't imagine for one moment that you can blatantly spill NATO secrets and then expect to be able to walk in and out of NATO borders without a shedload of trouble.

ZX Spectrum cassette player lost? There's an app for that

Andrew Oakley

Works on ZX81

I've been using FLAC & WAV files to load stuff on to my ZX81 for years. Absolutely no reason why this app won't work for the Spectrum - and if it includes binary-to-audio on the fly, then that's impressive.

Netbooks were a GOOD thing and we threw them under a bus

Andrew Oakley

Me too </aol>

I love my netbooks. My PC World Advent 4211 (rebranded MSI Wind U100) ten-incher has a surprisingly spacious keyboard for a netbook, and I've added various bits and bobs to make it fit my needs. The nice thing about the MSI Wind, other than being cheap (I got mine free off a relative, but they can be had in good condition second hand for under £100 if you look hard enough), is that it has a LOT of user-replaceable components that adhere to standards, that you can easily upgrade. If something breaks, or you don't like it, chances are you can replace that bit. You can even upgrade the BIOS to overclock the CPU at the touch of a function key.

First up, replace Windows with Ubuntu 12.04. Works much smoother. 3D accelerated desktop also works just fine, although I can't think why I'd need it. Free.

Second, swap out the awful R8187SE mini PCIe wifi card which is unreliable at keeping hold of a connection. Swapped that out for a nice reliable Intel one. Five quid. Two minutes with a screwdriver.

Next, the hard drive. Swapped the spinny-platter thing for a 60GB SSD. Super-fast boot and far fewer worries about receiving bumps when thrown into a backpack or briefcase. 35 quid. Two minutes with a screwdriver plus reinstall/copy.

Fourth, battery. Being second-hand the battery held only 4 of its original 8 hours. Swapped that over for a high-capacity battery that gives me TEN HOURS OF BATTERY LIFE including wifi permanently on and display brightness set to three-quarters. With wifi off it gives over 11 hours. Twenty-five quid, two clips and ten seconds work.

Finally, removed all remnants of embarrassing PC World Advent branding. Replaced BIOS with genuine MSI Wind BIOS (which gave an additional advantage of opening up the CPU overclocking settings) and covered up the lid branding with a Linux sticker. Job done!

It's a Proper PC with a Proper Keyboard. LibreOffice/OpenOffice is a joy to use on it. SSH sessions are perfect. The GIMP is, well, as usable as it is on any other PC. Web browser is a Proper Web Browsers, with all the search extensions and plug-ins that I demand.

Downsides? Would have liked HDMI (only got VGA for output to a real monitor) and a higher resolution (the default Ubuntu printer dialog spills below the 1024x600 screen, but that's easily worked around). And I guess I would have liked a better 3D card so that it could play Torchlight at an acceptable framerate (it manages 8-12FPS, which isn't).

And for those who say the Atom is underpowered... well, stop using Microsoft Windows. Ubuntu runs full pelt on it with all the bells and whistles turned on, no problem at all.

I also have three Asus EEE 901 netbooks for my children. Their childreny fingers make short work of the tiny keyboard, and the two tiny 4GB + 8GB SSDs can be joined into one small-but-acceptable 12GB drive using LVM under Ubuntu (plus there's the shared drive on the home network server). The 901 has the proper 1024x600 screen, plus wifi and Bluetooth. Battery life is 5 hours with a new battery, dying back to 3 hours after 5 years heavy use. The 901s seem to go very cheap on eBay due to keyboard failures (a new keyboard is only 6 quid and a doddle to fit) and Windows running out of space (firstly, don't use Windows on a netbook, and secondly, use LVM to join the two tiny SSDs into one larger drive).

Biz users, hard-up punters: Nobody loves Windows 8

Andrew Oakley

Re: I really like Windows 8...

"Just how 'aging'?"

Intel Core 2 Duo E7200 (2.53GHz overclocked to 3.5GHz), 4GB RAM, Asus P5Q Pro motherboard, 500GB SATA HDD, ATI Radeon 5770 graphics.

Running on 1600x900 display.

Andrew Oakley

Re: I really like Windows 8...

I agree. I'm a Linux user for everything except games. Windows 8 + Classic Shell provided me with a way of getting DirectX11 on my aging Windows XP games machine for 25 quid.

It Just Works. With Classic Shell it bypasses the Metro UI (which I neither like or dislike, because I've never used it for more than the 2 minutes it took to install Classic Shell) and gives me a Start menu.

Windows 8's UAC is pretty sensible. It's not annoying like Vista, and I'd say it's even slightly less naggy than Windows 7. And it seems fast and responsive; I seem to be getting about 5 FPS better performance in 3D games than I did on exactly the same hardware under Windows XP.

If the one and only thing this does, is to allow me to install GTA:V when it comes out, then it will be considered 25 quid well spent.

Even for the sole purpose of getting off Windows XP before it becomes unsupported, it's a good deal. Add Classic Shell and consider it a cheap way of getting Windows 7, if you want to think of it that way.

Will I still consider it a good deal when the 25 quid offer ends after 31 Jan? Dunno. Don't care. I've only got one Windows machine and that's upgraded now. For anyone else looking to upgrade from XP... fill yer boots, get in while you can.

GCHQ boss: Crypto-genius Turing brought tech to British spooks

Andrew Oakley

Turing's lesser-celebrated eccentricities

No mention of some of Turing's lesser-celebrated "eccentricities", such as leaving classified documents lying around his unlocked study and inviting unvetted foreign street prostitutes to come and live with him, though.

YouView: The long march to... er, where exactly?

Andrew Oakley

The interface IS the message

This article seems to completely ignore the convenience aspect. I already own Sky Plus but I watch hardly any of the pay channels. I continue to rent Sky Plus solely because the user interface is SUPERB, and because it is easy to distribute around my home; there are standard remote controls which I can pick up relatively cheaply which are EXACTLY the same no matter which shop I buy them from, there's a built-in RF modulator, there's an RF "magic eye" backchannel for remote controls in other rooms, there is a distribution amp in the loft, job done.

I've wanted to switch to some kind of Freeview Plus PVR + iPlayer solution for some time, but... Jesus H Christ they're bloody awful. No RF modulator on most of them. No "magic eye" backchannel at all, making it unnecessarily difficult to use remote controls in other rooms. Remote controls that you can only purchase direct from the manufacturer's "spares" department at a horrendous price (really, 60 notes for a remote?).

Sure, all these problems can be solved by daisy-chaining my own RF modulator, my own RF<>IR remote sender, a bunch of generic remotes... but it just ends up looking like a cobbled-together mess, which is exactly what it is.

Furthermore, Freeview Plus EPGs and recording library listings interfaces and iPlayer front-ends, universally SUCK. All of them. If Youview only does one thing, if all it does is give me a better front-end to an EPG, stored recordings and iPlayer, then I am willing to pay for that alone, even if I have to continue cobbling together a bunch of RF-boxen to do the multi-room thing.

I can count the number of programmes that I watch on pay TV channels on one hand, and still have two fingers left over. I almost exclusively watch Freeview content. But via Sky, because the user experience, the convenience, the interface.

And before anyone starts, no I do not want a Freeview PVR in every room. I want one central record+store box, and then to be able to play out on any screen in the house. Sky Plus does this very, very well.

Sugar content now to be measured in Cadbury Creme Eggs

Andrew Oakley

It's worrying (for values of "worry" that include mild peeves) that the usually mathematically-strict XKCD should mix Old English with Metric measures, and worse, not clarify, in an article about British confection, whether the Old English units are British Imperial or American Customary Units. XKCD, hand back your maths-nerd credentials at once!

How can family sysadmins make a safe internet playground for kids?

Andrew Oakley

OpenDNS Family Shield for typos + spend time with them, job done

What's working well for my five-year-old daughter so far, is OpenDNS FamilySheild to protect against accidental typo-squatting pr0n, and then just spending time with her when she uses her netbook (and by "her netbook" I mean my old Eee 901 netbook, only her login has a stripped-down Openbox desktop with only the launcher icons she uses).

One thing I don't let her do is use the netbook on her own. For example she can't take it into her bedroom and shut the door. Mostly we use it on the kitchen table or in the lounge.

Oh, and I wholeheartedly recommend getting a cheap graphics tablet for young kids. The Trust Flex Ultra Thin is less than 20 quid delivered and, after a bit of xorg.conf wrangling, has done wonders for her Tux Paint masterpieces.

Smart meters: Nothing can possibly go wrong, says gov

Andrew Oakley
Black Helicopters

There goes the shipping forecast... and your power supply

Pundits wondering why they can't just keep their existing electricity meter, might want to ask BBC Radio 4. Many electricity meters use a longwave radio data service, carried alongside BBC Radio 4, to synchronise Economy 7 times, clocks forward/backward for summer time etc.


Which is all fine until the BBC's Radio 4 longwave transmitter blows a valve.

Because there are no more valves.

And nobody makes them anymore.

And the BBC have said that once one of the two remaining valves blow, Radio 4 Longwave becomes Radio 4 DAB. Which the electricity meters don't listen to.

But nobody has stopped to ask "what happens to the data service, and the electricity meters which rely on it?"

So, whilst we can argue all we like about exactly what the new meters should do, how smart they should be, and who should pay for them, what you can't argue about is that pretty soon we are definitely going to need new meters.

OccupySF BOFH runs protest network on pedal power

Andrew Oakley

Anti-capitalism but PRO-sweatshop?

So basically the anti-capitalism protesters are basing their campaign around mass-produced imported electronics made by sweatshop workers who have to pay their own employer for their mandatory food and accommodation?

I wonder how much a netbook or a smartphone would cost if the factory workers were paid a Western minimum wage?

Glow-in-the-dark kittens to help produce cure for AIDS

Andrew Oakley

LOLcats overload?

Glowing kittehz AND an STD? I predict 4chan will melt.

Ofcom Radio pokes at potential pirates

Andrew Oakley

Drug dealers on pirate radio

Okay, to answer the drug dealers question.

A big pirate operation will need funding. This comes from advertising, but in a roundabout way; event promotion, sort of like product placement. Local shops and services would be very, very dumb to advertise on big-name pirate radio because they'd get fined pretty much straight away.

For the larger pirates, how it works is that an organised crime gang will control the supply of drugs in particular nightclubs. Any rival dealers will get bounced out, man-handed to the polis or just plain beaten up, whereas dealers from the "in-house" gang will get waved through the door and overlooked by the bouncers.

The big pirate radio stations then get paid to promote the nightclubs controlled by the drugs gangs. Sometimes there's also negative advertising ("dissing") of rival nightclubs.

The gang control can be either directly through links with the nightclub management, or it can be done by, ahem, "persuading" the bouncers. Now the bouncers do get criminal records checks, but there's essentially a never-ending supply of clean-skin bouncers with no record. Drug dealing is incredibly lucrative so they have plenty of funds to tempt even the most saintly of broken-nosed weekend rugby wannabees.

You've got to bear in mind that even the big-name pirates will be essentially hobbies, labours of love by the DJs and engineers. It's their baby, they'll do anything to keep it going. And especially with the engineers, they tend to be geeks with not much common sense about how organised crime works. When faced with the need for a couple of hundred quid to replace a transmitter, or the need to have a bouncer guarding the studio door, they'll accept offers of help from strangers not because of the profit, but because that's what needs to be done to keep their station going. They're idiots, and they're still guilty, but they never went in to the pirate business to become rich or to promote drugs.

For the smaller pirates, the ones which don't operate regular or frequent hours, they'll generally have no other criminal connections and will be run by some independently wealthy electronics geek. Typically these will be teenagers with rich parents and a little too much pocket money or a lucrative part-time job, often from out-of-town country villages or posh suburbs. These lads will simply see the inner cities as places with lots of listeners and lots of tall buildings, the concept of crime won't even figure in their mind - they grew up in a place which didn't have crime, it's something they don't need to think about. For them, sure, you *can* just wire up an MP3 player to a biscuit-tin TX, shove the aerial up a tree on top of a rural hill and scarper until the battery runs out, but sheep don't have radios and tractor drivers only listen to Radio 2, so in all likelyhood you won't get many listeners and thus have nobody to brag to. Whereas an inner-city tower-block will have a power supply and thousands of keen listeners well within range. Then, at some point, an organised criminal ring-leader will spot some potential and make the lad a very, very interesting offer. If the lad is sensible then he'll correctly figure that if he just goes back to his home village and keeps out of the inner city for a few years, or even better buggers off to university on the other side of the country, he can just ignore the offer. Otherwise... he's starting down the path to real trouble.

Andrew Oakley


You can buy a decent community-sized FM transmitter over the counter in various European countries for less than a hundred quid, so I find the argument that raiding their equipment is effective at keeping pirates off the air, is highly dubious at best. It's certainly cheap to do, but it's whack-a-mole. Pay a couple of hundred euros and you can get a high quality quartz-locked TX with RDS and all the bells and whistles, that won't wander all over the band and won't interfere with anything except stations on that specific frequency.

Previously the biggest threat was the DTI confiscating the DJs' record & CD collections. Now everything is on MP3 and backed up at home, that threat is gone.

The days of pirates blocking emergency comms is long gone. The emergency services moved off FM nearly three decades ago. The last pirate to block an emergency frequency was Radio Caroline in 1989, on 6215kHz, an emergency frequency that was so close to the 49m band used by the BBC World Service, Radio France International et al that nobody had used it to make an emergency call for well over a decade even back then.

What are valid arguments, are interference in other officially-licensed broadcasters, and health and safety. Health and safety, in particular.

Typically when the moronic surveyors turn up they inevitably find a tower block. Now their triangulation kit will easily identify a location on the horizontal - i.e. long/lat grid ref on a map - but it won't help them identify which floor the little bastards are occupying. So what they tend to do is trip the fusebox floor-by-floor until the signal goes dead, then they have found the correct floor.

To get around this, decent pirates take their mains power supply from something else. And this is where health and safety comes in. The AC's story about taking 3-phase off a lift shaft using a couple of nails sounds pretty typical. I've known a pirate in the West Midlands take power from a street light mounted to the side of the tower block - leaning out of the window on the 5-6th storey, disconnecting the bulb and attaching wires directly to the socket. A professional pirate will use a "cat and mouse" relay system, with the studio some distance from the transmitter connected by a HF link, and an early warning system (typically, one of the DJs' girlfriends monitoring the output) to tell the studio to scarper once the TX gets busted. You then get into a battle of wits whereby the pirates try to create an HF receiver that can't be broken into or the source studio identified without triggering the early warning system.

Mozilla's Skywriter gets Ajax treatment, emerges as Ace

Andrew Oakley


Am I the only one dissapointed by the lack of Sophie Aldred-flavoured late-80s classic Doctor Who content in this article?

Why Microsoft is Acorn and Symbian is the new CP/M

Andrew Oakley

Acorn, whatever happened to them? THEY BECAME ARM!

Um, the author of this article does know that Acorn went on to become ARM, the designer and patent-holder of the CPUs used in almost every smartphone and low-power device on the planet, right?

PARIS joins the 17-mile-high club

Andrew Oakley
Thumb Up


Just superb. A bunch of tech journos and backroom geeks put a paper aeroplane into space. That's an outstanding achievement, and all the better for being almost entirely pointless; it's great to do something this significant just for the fun of it.

For further reading into the field of boffinry and half-arsed over-achievement, take a gander at "Backroom Boys: The Secret Return of the British Boffin" by Francis Spufford.

Gov axes £35bn Severn Barrage tide-energy scheme

Andrew Oakley

This would have flooded Oldbury nuclear power station

Whilst it's all very nice to talk about how abandoning the barrier plans has "saved" the wildlife sanctuaries along the estuary (notably, Slimbridge Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust), let's be realistic here.

The barrage plan would have flooded Oldbury nuclear power station, currently being decommissioned.

I really don't think the plan was a goer from day one. Nobody in their right mind wants to put a 1960s decommissioned nuclear power station underwater.

World's first pedal-powered ornithopter takes flight in Canada

Andrew Oakley
Thumb Down

Does pedaling/flapping add anything that gliding/car-tow does not?

As the video shows, the craft is launched by a tow-rope from an automobile. It fails to gain any significant height in the video.

I am really not convinced that the pedalling/flapping wings is really adding much here.

I suspect that a control experiment, of a rigid glider pulled by a car tow-rope, would achieve much the same result.

Sod hedgerows and fields, build more base stations

Andrew Oakley

Rural planning permission is totally broken

The main problem is that the planning system does not really distinguish green belt land - patches of fields bordering directly onto large towns - and the deeper countryside far away from any large towns or cities.

Contrary to popular misconception, the UK is not short of countryside, as anyone who has looked out of an aeroplane window on a cloudless day can confirm. Whilst green belt regulations are important in preventing urban sprawl, applying those same regulations to places which don't have any "urban" let alone any "sprawl" - say, Shropshire, Herefordshire or Gloucestershire - is a fundamentally flawed idea.

In Gloucestershire we have now got to the astoundingly stupid position whereby remote village primary schools - state schools - are taking out adverts in local rags to attract pupils, in order to prevent their numbers falling so low that they will close. They're asking parents in towns to drive their kids out to their remote primary school where they can enjoy "pupil to teacher ratios as low as 6 to 1" (this is Withington Primary). How has this come about? Because planning regulations and NIMBYs have prevented the building of new family homes or the conversion of other buildings into family homes. Because offices can't get decent cheap broadband so there are no office jobs for prospective parents. Because small factories have been told they can't move heavy lorries down those roads anymore so the factory relocates, and the families with it.

After living all 38 years of my life in the countryside, I finally gave up last January and moved to a suburban new development on the outskirts of a local town. My wife and I decided to have "just one more" child, it turned out to be twins, and that was it... we ran out of bedrooms. The price difference between 3 bedrooms and 4 bedrooms in our Gloucestershire village was 150k. That's insane. So the school lost another of its dwindling number of pupils, the playgroup lost not one but two prospective recruits, the pub, post office, garage, bus and village shop lost a whole family of customers. Our house was bought by some rich old lady. Can't imagine she'll make much use of the school, or the pub, or the garage... maybe she might use the bus, once a week. Oh wait, they cancelled the bus route already.

We are strangling our countryside to death.

And me? I now live in a massive Bovis box. It's got all the character of a concrete slab but it's big enough for everyone to have their own room. Plus the broadband is so fast I could actually run my own business from home. Mind you, I'm rather enjoying the shorter commute to work, especially as I can listen to streaming audio on my 3G phone as the frequent bus service shuttles me back and forth to the town centre.

FringOut phones home

Andrew Oakley

Fring == SIP frontend

I thought most people just used Fring as a way of making SIP calls on their handset.

It's nice that they've added some SIP credit to fund the development, but... this is essentially a SIP frontend. A very, very good SIP frontend.

For example, I have a SPA3102 VOIP gateway at home which routes incoming calls from the BT landline to regular BT handsets, but routes outbound calls from those same handsets to VOIP.

Fring allows me to make calls from my bog standard Nokia mobile phone using the same VOIP account.

Given the huge amount of inclusive call-time most mobile contracts allow, I use Fring almost exclusively to make international calls only. For example, calling back to the UK whilst abroad in a hotel which has WiFi.

Perseid meteors 'thrill star-gazers'

Andrew Oakley

3:16am Fri 13 Aug = International Space Station

If you were up at 3am decided to look skywards, then quite probably what you saw wasn't a satellite but the International Space Station.

Next visible tonight at 3:42 and 5:15am.


YouTube, iPlayer on a TV? Simples

Andrew Oakley

Wii already does this

I watch YouTube and BBC iPlayer on my Wii already. What exactly does this add that my Wii doesn't already provide?

Nine Inch Nails guy scores Facebook movie... bitch!

Andrew Oakley

Requiem for Pop Will Eat Itself

God help us. Trent Reznor has become the new Clint Poppie. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clint_Mansell