* Posts by Arthur the cat

1456 posts • joined 18 Aug 2009

He was a skater boy. We said, 'see you later, boy' – and the VAX machine mysteriously began to work as intended

Arthur the cat Silver badge

Re: Wheeled office chairs

I think the name changed because something happened in the past which made the Germans unpopular in the UK.

About the same time as the royal family changed their name from "Saxe-Coburg and Gotha" to "Windsor".

Arthur the cat Silver badge

Re: Nylon knickers: a whole new problem for "Britain's first supercomputer"

Probably more embarrassing for the male member of staff that kept causing sparks to fly.

Oh god, Bri-Nylon underpants. Proof positive that the devil exists.

Arthur the cat Silver badge

Re: Static

my first 32K of RAM set me back around US$2,000 in 1978

When I started using computers in the early 70s core memory was approximately 1 currency unit(¹) per memory unit(²). In 1979 we were flabbergasted by the drop in price when we bought 16 kwords (16 bit words) of semiconductor memory for a PDP-11 for a mere £2000.(³)

(¹) Dollars or pounds. Pounds were worth more in those days, but the dollar/pound ripoff was even bigger than today.

(²) Bytes or words. 24 bit words for ICL 1900s.

(³) I also remember paying £2k for a 1GB 12" Winchester drive circa 1986/7.

Alibaba wants to get you off the PC upgrade treadmill and into its cloud

Arthur the cat Silver badge

Re: A "cloud" computer"?

Right back to the 1960s, but without the reliability.

1960s reliability??? See: Field Circus Engineer and Provocative Maintenance.

Arthur the cat Silver badge

Re: Another attempt to kill the "Personal" in PC...

Given how brilliant(¹) the average user is at playing system admin with their PCs to ensure they never, ever suffer from malware, maybe that's not so bad an idea.

(¹) Do I really have to mark this as sarcasm?

We want weaponised urban drones flying through your house, says UK defence ministry as it waves a fistful of banknotes

Arthur the cat Silver badge

Perfectly safe

<pollyanna-voice>Weaponised drones in a civilian environment. I'm sure that will never, ever go wrong.</pollyanna-voice>

0ops. 1,OOO-plus parking fine refunds ordered after drivers typed 'O' instead of '0'

Arthur the cat Silver badge

Bitcoin base-58

Generally you won't find me saying much nice about Bitcoin, but their decision to use base-58 encoding was brilliant. No digit 0 or upper case O, no digit 1 or lower case l.

Family wrongly accused of uploading pedo material to Facebook – after US-EU date confusion in IP address log

Arthur the cat Silver badge

Re: International Standards Organization

We'll accept that you say Aloominum because that's what it was originally called

As ever, things are even more complicated than that. From the webelements site:

In 1761 de Morveau proposed the name "alumine" for the base in alum. In 1807, Davy proposed the name alumium for the metal, undiscovered at that time, and later agreed to change it to aluminum. Shortly thereafter, the name aluminium was adopted by IUPAC to conform with the "ium" ending of most elements. Aluminium is the IUPAC spelling and therefore the international standard. Aluminium was also the accepted spelling in the U.S.A. until 1925, at which time the American Chemical Society decided to revert back to aluminum, and to this day Americans still refer to aluminium as "aluminum".

Someone else can explain why our transatlantic cousins dithered in 1925.

The power of Bill compels you: A server room possessed by a Microsoft-hating, Linux-loving Demon

Arthur the cat Silver badge

Re: No FreeBSD daemon?

It usually works on Mormons too.

My in-laws from my first marriage lived on a rather interesting(¹) housing estate which was about 45% Jewish and 45% Mormon(²). If the doorbell went when they weren't expecting anyone it was a 50/50 chance whether it would be a little old lady asking if they would knit socks for the Israeli army(³) or a pair of clean cut young american chaps in smart suits asking if they'd heard the word of Jesus. My FiL found the quickest way to get rid of the latter was to say he was a communist(⁴) - this made them back off like he'd just asked them to help sacrifice a baby to Satan.

(¹) i.e peculiar.

(²) There was an LDS church/temple/whatever by the estate entrance.

(³) I'm not joking.

(⁴) He was actually chairman of the local Labour Party, back in the days of Harold Wilson.

Arthur the cat Silver badge

Re: No FreeBSD daemon?

It's already happened, starting long ago. Here's a very old story about Texans objecting to a Beastie T-shirt (in 4.3 BSD days), and here's one of the many threads on the FreeBSD forums.

Generally it's evangelical Christians, not SJWs, who have problems with Beastie.

QR-code based contact-tracing app brings 'defining moment' for UK’s 'world beating' test and trace system

This post has been deleted by a moderator

Google, Amazon pass on UK Digital Services Tax by hiking ad prices, fees at same rate the government takes

Arthur the cat Silver badge

This is proof, if any more is needed, that Google is a monopolist and needs to be broken up. Being able to hike your fees because your company's tax is increased (rather than an indutsry-wide levy) is good evidence that you are a monopolist.

No. Any company can hike their fees any time they like, by any amount they like, for any reason or none. It's when a company hikes its fees and doesn't lose business that one starts thinking monopoly. Take a look at Google's next few quarter's advertising revenue in the UK (if they publish details) to see what happens.

Amazon spies on staff, fires them by text for not hitting secretive targets, workers 'feel forced to work through pain, injuries' – report

Arthur the cat Silver badge

Re: Trump & Bezos

Take a look at AP News here.

TL;DR version: from 1988 to 2015 Trump's wealth increased by 300%. The S&P 500 went up 1,336% in the same time. Gates and Buffet made even more.

Ex-Autonomy CFO Sushovan Hussain loses US appeal bid against fraud convictions and 5-year prison sentence

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Meanwhile, British case awaits judgment

<small-voice-from-back-seat>Are we nearly there yet?</small-voice-from-back-seat>

Brit uni's AI algorithm clocks 50 exoplanets hidden in Kepler space 'scope archives

Arthur the cat Silver badge

Re: EVE online Project Discovory

A name for it! Thank you.

Arthur the cat Silver badge

Re: EVE online Project Discovory

Are you sure your strap line is correct?

Considering I often can't find something when it's right in front of me, my personal opinion is yes.

[Does anyone else have the technique of pretending to use what you're looking for to improve your chance of finding it?]

Weary traveler of 2020, rest here with some soothing, happy tech news. FreeBSD finally merges in OpenZFS

Arthur the cat Silver badge

Re: It's not the Ubuntu lawyers who need to give their ok

It's Oracle lawyers that must approve that. Yep, same lawyers who are about to extract billions of dollars from Google

Google has billions of dollars to extract. Open source projects like FreeBSD don't, so any attack on them would only bring (more) ordure down on Oracle's head.

Worldwide Google services – from GCP to G Suite – hit with the outage stick

Arthur the cat Silver badge

Re: Oh my, Google Cloud and Slack at the same time

We used to talk about five nines availability - seems like that's last millennium's history.

They decided to improve it to nine fives.

SQLite maximum database size increased to 281TB – but will anyone need one that big?

Arthur the cat Silver badge

I don't know about Mac OS but FreeBSD or any other OS with ZFS could run it as a single pool.

Ex-Apple engineer lifts lid on Uncle Sam's top-secret plan to turn customized iPod into 'Geiger counter'

Arthur the cat Silver badge

I think at least 10% of my friends have signed it at some point in their lives.

India selects RISC-V for semiconductor self-sufficiency contest: Use these homegrown cores to build kit

Arthur the cat Silver badge

Re: "Does adopting the home-grown model actually reduce risk"?

It could, if the design is formally verified.

Unless you control the silicon foundries you have no idea whether the actual hardware is built to the proven design. Hardware back doors can be very small and spotting a handful of extra transistors and wires in a multi-billion chip design is difficult.

I can see my house from here! Microsoft Flight Simulator has laid strong foundations for the nerdy scene's next generation

Arthur the cat Silver badge

Anyone else

misread that as ASBO Studio?

Sun welcomes vampire dating website company: Arrgh! No! It burns! It buuurrrrnsss!

Arthur the cat Silver badge

Early on in the life of our first startup (~30 years ago), tendering for a 7-8 digit contract from a UK utility, we made the short list of two. The other contender was IBM. There was a meeting to decide who got the contract, both IBM and us to provide up to three people to answer the client's questions about our tenders. The three IBMers were there in expensive suits. One of our number, the domain specialist, was also in a suit because he'd been an IBMer until we hired him. Our sole marketing man was in chinos and sports jacket. I as main techie wore DMs, black jeans, black T-shirt and a motorbike jacket. It soon became obvious that the IBMers were all marketing types with no real technical knowledge, and they were somewhat undermined by our ex-IBMer knowing that the software they were pushing was vaporware. We answered all the clients questions from domain specific stuff right down to what hardware and networking we'd install.

We got the contract. We continued to beat IBM afterwards and first they asked us to port our software to AIX(*), gave us machines for free, and ultimately when their project got canned, they started selling our product into their contracts.

(*) Doing the port I also had direct access to their compiler team, because our code gave the C compiler a more vigorous workout than it had got up to that point. Getting compiler bug fixes in less than an hour was the best service I've ever had from a vendor.

Clarke's Third Law: Any sufficiently advanced techie is indistinguishable from magic

Arthur the cat Silver badge

Re: a GUI in the office was a dim and distant dream.

I had VAXstations & X-terminals on my desk in the 80's.

I had a Sun workstation and a Symbolics Lisp Machine on my desk in the mid/late 80s. I also briefly had an HP Smalltalk-80 machine(*), but it was a prototype and failed almost immediately. They took it back promising to return it in a few days, but then HP management changed their mind and "it never happened, I must have been dreaming it". Shame, because I probably could have taken it home otherwise.

(*) Based on a NatSemi 32032, which was unusual.

US govt proposes elephant showers for every American after Prez Trump says trickles dampen his haircare routine

Arthur the cat Silver badge

Re: Surely the washing instructions

You aren't supposed to dry clean hamsters.

I wonder how much duct tape the White House buys?

Arthur the cat Silver badge

Surely the washing instructions

say dry clean only?

I got 99 problems, and all of them are your fault

Arthur the cat Silver badge

"Well class, can anyone explain to teacher what paper out, insert more paper means?"

Q: What’s big, red and pulses UV light into the cosmos three times a night? A: Mars

Arthur the cat Silver badge

Re: Big, red and spews UV light?

Here I was expecting an analysis of Trump's ego,

I do not want to think about Trump flashing three times a night!

Doctor, doctor, got some sad news, there's been a bad case of hacking you: UK govt investigates email fail

Arthur the cat Silver badge

Re: There but for...

My bet is that his password was liamfox123

Drliamfox123 more likely. He gets very shirty if you don't call him Doctor, even though he hasn't practised as one in yonks.

Arthur the cat Silver badge

Re: Delusional Officialdom

I would, FSVO "robust". I've got a friend in the Cabinet Office who says their mail system is so secure it's been next to impossible to use during WFH. As a civil servant he's forbidden from forwarding anything to his personal mail account, but the politicians do so for convenience, hence Liam Fox's little mishap.

I wonder if he used TalkTalk for his personal mail?

Amazon gets green-light to blow $10bn on 3,000+ internet satellites. All so Americans can shop more on Amazon

Arthur the cat Silver badge

Tempora mutantur, et nos mutamur in illis.

people who are unable to … complete schoolwork because they don’t have reliable internet at home

When I was young it was the dog that ate your homework, not the internet.

'I'm telling you, I haven't got an iPad!' – Sent from my iPad

Arthur the cat Silver badge

Re: Lost count

See, that's a training issue, and the person handing over the laptop and dock should have taken a couple minutes to explain how to dock and undock the kit.

I believe the conversation went along the lines of "Have you used a laptop dock before?", "Yes, of course I have, just leave it there."

One hopes it was taken out of his check, or his department's budget.

The latter. His punishment was much mockery from the software devs.

HeThey used... sarcasm. HeThey knew all the tricks, dramatic irony, metaphor, bathos, puns, parody, litotes and... satire. HeThey waswere vicious.

Arthur the cat Silver badge

Re: Lost count

when we lend out 3 to 400 pounds worth of kit

Cheap kit. At one company we had a line manager who was given a shiny new workstation grade laptop worth about £2.5k, plus a docking station for it. He destroyed both within 20 minutes.

"Nobody said you had to unlatch it from the dock, so I thought it was a bit stiff because it was new, and levered it out with a screwdriver."

Voyager 1 cracks yet another barrier: Now 150 Astronomical Units from Sol

Arthur the cat Silver badge

Re: Imagination and wishful thinking

I expect the 4+ billion year old paint out there is pretty faded by now.

I had this vision of a (space) lichen encrusted marker stone, carved with a fancy arrow pointing back into the system and a seriffed font saying "Sol 13,943,337,109 miles, 2 furlongs".

Intel, boffins invent an AI Clippy for code: Hi, I see you're writing another lock-free bloom filter. Can I help?

Arthur the cat Silver badge

Alan Turing says

If I give it one function which is designed to check whether a Turing machine halts and another function which checks whether a Turing machine doesn't halt, what does it do?

Someone made an AI that predicted gender from email addresses, usernames. It went about as well as expected

Arthur the cat Silver badge

Re: Work with facts

Sex and gender were the same until recently.

When I was a teenager sex was what you wanted and usually didn't get(*), gender was what the teacher bored on about in Latin, French and German(**) lessons.

(*) When in company.

(**) Other gendered languages are available.

911, I wanna report a robbery. Hundreds of thousands of stars stolen from a cluster. I think it was the Milky Way

Arthur the cat Silver badge

Re: Light years not a measure of distance

Amanfrommars' posts are more conherient than yours.

Muphry's law strikes again.

Virgin Galactic reveals giant mirror feature in cabin design for Beardy Branson's space bus

Arthur the cat Silver badge

Re: Capitalism at its ugliest

Of course it will be packed with the super-rich.

The super-rich are the top 0.1% or maybe 0.01% of the wealth statistics. These days ~14% of UK households are worth more than £1 million, so could afford a VG ticket if they wished to(*). 14% isn't super anything, even if they're richer than the average.

The super-rich buy a ticket on Soyuz or set up their own space program, they don't fly Virgin.

(*) Before anyone states the bleeding obvious, yes it might involve remortgaging or selling their house. Obviously every choice has an opportunity cost, which is why most of us wouldn't take a suborbital flight even if Branson wasn't involved.

Arthur the cat Silver badge

Re: Capitalism at its ugliest

I know a couple who are signed up (AFAIK they're the only married couple with both going, they certainly were a few years back when the Observer interviewed them). They're well off, they're Cambridge techies, but definitely not super rich(*). It's just that the husband has wanted to go into space since he was young and when he asked his wife she said "well, why not?"

(*) Not even a second home, never mind a yacht.

Arthur the cat Silver badge

Re: It's been so long …

I am sure the marketing wonks could come up with a good way to sell it.

When you wish upon a star … it might be your great grandpa!

Arthur the cat Silver badge

It's been so long …

since VG first sold tickets, I'm wondering how many of the initial ticket buyers will be declared medically unfit to fly by the time flights actually happen.

Once considered lost, ESA and NASA's SOHO came back from the brink of death to work even better than it did before

Arthur the cat Silver badge

Re: A fitting tribute to intelligence and sheer dogged determination

However, I often wonder if engineering mindsets could also reshape other areas, where rationality and the will and capability to make things work (instead of the opposite) often appears to be in short supply.

Politics comes to mind, national and international, where engineers are strongls underrepresented.

The problem is that politics involves people, and they are generally not too happy if you try to force on them an upload sequence that makes them operate in a different fashion. Hardware is a lot more biddable than meatware.

EU orders Airbus A350 operators to install anti-coffee spillage covers in airliner cockpits

Arthur the cat Silver badge

Just how hot can coffee get?

a clumsy captain spilled his coffee into the aircraft’s radios, melting two of them. [My emphasis.]

Did someone mix up the coffee and the napalm?

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin. Hang on, the PDP 11/70 has dropped offline

Arthur the cat Silver badge

Re: Er ...

I once worked for a firm where the owner had a thing about equipment being left on and "wasting money".

I've found security guards particularly bad for this. When I worked for the MoD all our labs and offices had emergency power off buttons outside by the door and the night patrols would wander along hitting them, sometimes even when you had an "experiment running overnight, leave power on" sign. I also know of one university that shall remain nameless where a security guard turned off power to a lab for the Christmas break. It was the lab full of freezers containing expensively obtained ice core samples.

If you think you've got problems, pal, spare a thought for these boffins baffled by 'oddball' meteorites

Arthur the cat Silver badge


I believe in a God that can count beyond ten thousand.

But can He count beyond ℵ0?

Bill Gates debunks 'coronavirus vaccine is my 5G mind control microchip implant' conspiracy theory

Arthur the cat Silver badge

Re: Both in the news - Gates vs Drumph

No, Bill G's dodgy practices were preceded (and massively outdone) by Thomas J Watson.

VMware to stop describing hardware as ‘male’ and ‘female’ in new terminology guide

Arthur the cat Silver badge


Obviously t'aint is too negative and we should use t'is.

UK intel committee on Russia: Social media firms should remove state disinformation. What was that, MI5? ████████?

Arthur the cat Silver badge

Naming maybe, but …

You can name them all you like but past performance suggests the most egregious offenders(*) won't be the slightest bit shamed.

(*) We all know who they are.

Imagine surviving WW3, rebuilding computers, opening up GitHub's underground vault just to relive JavaScript

Arthur the cat Silver badge

Oh dear

a chamber deep inside hundreds of meters of permafrost, where the code now resides fulfilling their mission of preserving the world’s open source code for over 1,000 years.

It's a shame that permafrost will probably have melted, flooding everything, within a couple of centuries.

Twitter says hack of key staff led to celebrity, politician, biz account hijack mega-spree

Arthur the cat Silver badge

Re: A far better money making scheme...

Such a stock market move would stick out like a sore thumb.


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