* Posts by Martin an gof

1493 posts • joined 27 Jan 2010

Ever found yourself praying to whatever deity runs Microsoft Teams? You're not alone

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: Teams on Linux

The other school my children attend uses Google Classroom, and it was my children who first spotted that Google had added the "Meet" facility to the usual list of options before the teachers had noticed, and held online get-togethers from very early on in lockdown.

My main concern with Classroom is that while Google says they won't pass on the data, it's obvious that they do - I've had this argument here before, but I am not at all happy that when logged in to Google Classroom, YouTube "knows" it's a specific child using the computer and sets filters according to age data that should not be shared outside Classroom. In one instance this blocked a video from being watched which the children had been asked to watch as part of their lesson! Easily sorted by opening the link in Firefox Private mode, but that should not be necessary.

We found that Teams works ok - if rather slowly, but that's understandable when you look at the data it is pulling in from a vast range of addresses - with Firefox on OpenSuse (15.2) for all the functions we tried, except video calls which have to be made through the client software. I was slightly surprised to see a Linux version was actually available. We'd have been stuck if it weren't as we don't have a Windows machine in the house, and our only Mac is so out of date (and non-updatable) it is barely usable to browse anything more than the very simplest of websites.

The main problem with online education is that some schools just don't seem to have thought through what might work and what might not. I get the distinct impression that some of them were rather hoping that it would all go away and that come September with all the children back in school, everything would be back to normal, though perhaps with a few more children "off sick" than usual.

Of those that have thought it through, there's an interesting question about the long-term value of the additional equipment (webcams, laptops) and licences they have had to buy. If there's one thing I am certain about it is that at least 50% of the value of school is the social interaction, and you get significantly less of that as a passive viewer of an online ppt stack.

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: Teams on Linux

My wife recounted a later occasion where the person "chairing" the meeting was a sign language user. It proved impossible to "pin" the interpreter onscreen and because there were more than 9 (or whatever Teams's limit is) people attending, the mostly silent interpreter kept getting shuffled offscreen. Zoom, apparently, made pinning the interpreter a doddle.

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Teams on Linux

One of my children is required to use Teams for school. We thought using it in a browser would be fine (though there are scores of scripts to allow from dozens of different domains) until we realised that the browser version doesn't allow video calls, so we installed the app - only available as a .deb or a .rpm (not ideal for OpenSuse, but works ok). The blasted thing takes an age to wake up, and installed itself to auto run every time my child logs in to the somewhat underpowered laptop which is the only computer we have with a webcam. That said, once it's going it seems to work ok.

Oh, and now it's installed, OpenSuse checks for updates every hour and complains because the repository key doesn't check out, or somesuch.

My wife has had plenty of her own problems with Teams, apparently because she works for two different organisations which use it, and it doesn't like that. One of the organisations is the professional body for her line of work and at a board meeting a few months ago, they spent so long trying to get everyone on line at the same time that they gave up and went with Zoom instead.

I've also had problems with the thing at work. I don't use it myself, but have been called to help people who can't find information in the places they think it should be, or can't join video calls with the link they've been given, even though it works fine for others.

Teams does strike me as a product which isn't quite ready for the heavy beating it's getting in mainstream use these days. Give it another couple of years and maybe.

M.

Samsung shaves 0.1μm off pixels to make new ISOCELL sensor lineup 15% slimmer

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: Pixel binning

As you know, the individual sensor "pixels" are only sensitive to luminance so in order to have a colour image you need to apply colour filters.

In a "traditional" sensor, as I understand it, one pixel in a group of 2x2 has a red filter, one a blue filter and two have green filters. Other combinations are possible, of course.

In the final result, each image pixel corresponds to one sensor pixel, and the full RGB value of the image pixel is calculated by interpolating from adjacent pixels so that - in effect - what you end up with is an image with full resolution luminance but quarter resolution colour. It's actually a bit more complex than that because what the sensor pixels are measuring doesn't give them a true luminance measurement and because with the RGBG sytem you get a quarter resolution for red and blue, but a half resolution for green - our eyes are more sensitive to green anyway.

And then, as you say, you perform yet more blurring if the image is stored as a JPEG so the "true" resolution of the final image is actually lower again.

With "pixel binned" sensors the four pixels in the group are output as just one final image pixel. Effectively you end up with full resolution colour, but you "throw away" a lot of luminance and some green-channel resolution. What you gain (in theory) is "accuracy" - by combining the luminance values of four sensor pixels you should end up with a "cleaner" (less noisy) result. In theory you also gain some sensitivity because although each sensor pixel is smaller than in a traditional sensor and so can "collect" fewer photons during the period when it is doing so, there are four of them all collecting at the same time.

These sorts of techniques have been used for many years in various forms. "HDR" image recording is one common example - in this case the "sensor pixels" which are combined are separated in time rather than space, as the camera takes three (usually) images in rapid succession, each with slightly different settings. The difference is that while a 12Mpixel camera which uses HDR is marketed as a 12Mpixel camera - not a 36Mpixel camera - a 12Mpixel camera which uses pixel binning is marketed as having 48Mpixels. Of course, it really does have 48Mpixels, but you only get that resolution if you treat the sensor as a traditional sensor, which sort of defeats the object and probably leads to worse images than you would have got from an actual 12Mpixel sensor with larger pixels.

There is an additional thing at play here, of course, and that is that very few people view the images they take at 1:1 on their screens. If you are viewing a 12Mpixel image on a 1920x1200 desktop monitor, each monitor pixel is combining the values of four or five image pixels, so is effectively performing "pixel binning" on display! With very high resolution displays, we rarely watch them from a distance where individual display pixels are discernable to the eye, so even if we did have the image at 1:1 scale on screen, the Mk I eyeball performs the pixel binning.

It also applies to other fields; I was once involved involved in the creation of a device for measuring the thickness of materials (metals, mainly) by firing an ultrasonic pulse into the material and timing the reflection(s). To create a cheaper device we tried to do away with the extremely accurate high-speed timers usually used in these circumstances and instead took multiple measurements using a less accurate timer which was not synchronised to the measurement process, theorising that the natural "dither" thus introduced could be averaged out to give a more accurate result. It did seem to work, but I left the project before it was commercialised.

M.

Nvidia to acquire Arm for $40bn, promises to keep its licensing business alive

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: Independence

On the other hand, don't forget that one of the very first licences went to Intel (via DEC), who came up with the StrongARM processor (later XScale?) which was a huge step up in performance from the 600 and 700 series chips Acorn were then shipping in RiscPCs, and (I believe) also introduced the 32-bit addressing mode. My StongARM-containing RiscPC is still running...

Arguably it was the deal with DEC that started the whole licencing model that has done so well for ARM over the years.

But still, back then they were a very minor player in the grand scheme of things and hardly a threat to anyone. Nowadays the opposite is true and I'm not at all certain that nVidia has the best long-term interests of ARM at heart.

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: BBC coverage is surprisingly ok

Yes, well, there is that, though at the moment it is debatable whether they are setting out to destroy international trade, more like they are being utterly incompetent and pig-headed.

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

BBC coverage is surprisingly ok

There's a reasonably good writeup by the BBC this morning, which also includes comment from - shall we say - somewhat less than ecstactic Hermann Hauser and Tudor Brown. Can't say I'd heard of Tudor before this. My bad.

I didn't like the original Softbank deal, but selling the company to nVidia - which directly competes with some of ARM's customers and is a US firm subject to the whims of the current administration - has the potential to be so much worse.

M.

Up from the depths, 864 servers inside, covered in slime, it's Natick!

Martin an gof Silver badge

What went wrong?

Both this article and the one on the BBC are full of what went right, but in the articles when the datacentre was first sunk, it was said to be planned to leave it there for five years.

It has only been two, so why dredge it up now?

M.

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

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: This is why...

No, Resistance is useless.

M.

Adobe Illustrator's open source rival Inkscape delivers v1.0.1 - with experimental Scribus PDF export

Martin an gof Silver badge

And because we're all recommending our favourite drawing applications...

I have to put in a word here for Xara. Unfortunately the company is moving in the Adobe direction with a subscription-based service, but the stand-alone products are still available if you look hard enough. I like Inkscape and have been using it for some years, but sometimes it makes life difficult. I've never had that problem with Xara Designer. It's possibly because it has - very far back in the mists of time - a heritage from the RiscOS world, as Xara is a distant descendant of Artworks when the company was called Computer Concepts (bit surprised to see that website still alive). In fact some of the example art provided with Xara originated in Artworks. RiscOS came bundled with a very good (for its time) vector drawing application, known as Draw, and Artworks had to be rather better in order to sell. I never had Artworks myself, but I did have Computer Concepts's desktop publisher, Impression.

The one downside with Xara is that there is no Linux version, and the Windows version doesn't play nicely with Wine, which means I have to maintain a Windows installation in order to use the thing.

M.

The National Museum of Computing flings opens its non-virtual doors

Martin an gof Silver badge

Cleaning stuff

It's not necessarily as difficult to clean things as you might think. We have a lot of Elo touchscreens at work (the National Waterfront Museum) and at other sites in the museum group they have prevented access to them. Our museum would be a bit sparse without.

If you read the manuals you are only supposed to give them a light wipe over with a damp microfibre cloth, but I have long said that they should be able to stand a lot more than that as the panels are actually (similar stuff to) Gorilla Glass. The plastic surrounds might be a bit less robust, but in our case the things are in setwork and you don't see the plastics (much).

Elo has been looking at the problem too and, who'da thunk it, but they have now decided that a weak bleach solution is acceptable, or certain types of commercial cleaning products.

But we don't have 40 year-old BBC Micros, Spectrums etc. to worry about, or at least, the ones we do have are safely shut away in a glass case.

M.

Don’t lump us in with Facebook, internet infrastructure companies warn European Union

Martin an gof Silver badge

Is the problem simply that politicians don't have a clue?

Much as some (many? most?) members of the public confuse Google with "the internet" and misunderstand the way things are plugged together, I get the distinct impression that the same is true of politicians, even those who have been put in charge of departments with specific responsibilities. I've long felt that having an education Minister with no experience of the education system other than attending Harrow thirty years ago (I generalise, but you get the drift) is a contributing factor to the utterly confused policies successive governments have had towards education in the UK, and similar arguments could be made for those with responsibilities for transport, health, defence, the environment and so on and so on.

It probably (in the UK at least - I believe some other countries might be better) stems from the sheer lack of suitably qualified candidates. There is a disappointingly small proportion of MPs who have qualifications or real-world experience in anything other than Politics or Journalism.

It has undoubtedly been entrenched by the tendency of those in charge to promote their mates - who probably went to the same school and likely as not studied the same courses at university, or at the very least joined the same cricket or rowing club.

It has definitely been exacerbated by the hostility of recent governments towards "experts", but I'm afraid this part of the equation has been around for a very long time in the general "PHB class" - in my very first (proper) job after leaving university, I was told by the newly-appointed "station manager" (i.e. top bod in the building), who had rather rapidly and unwisely been promoted from sales droid to head of sales and then to overall head of the outfit in the space of a couple of years, "I don't want you to tell me it can't be done, I just want you to do it!" It was rather difficult for me - as very much the junior in the building - to explain that I wasn't saying it couldn't be done at all, but that it couldn't be done as quickly and easily and cheaply as the manager wanted.

It's one thing when that attitude means that the manager's office has to "make do" without the fancy new 12V string lights to impress visitors for a couple of months, it's a completely other thing when it means that ministers ram through legislation which could have (and often does have) far-reaching and long-standing consequences, probably more so for the proletariat than for the ministers themselves.

Perhaps what we need is some kind of children's TV-style induction course for new ministers.

"Good morning minister. Now, it may seem like magic, but actually there is some very clever engineering behind the systems which allow you to take a picture of your cat with your mobile phone and almost instantly send it to thousands of other people. Oh, sorry, yes, 'engineering' is a very long word.

"Why don't we begin at the very beginning..." (cue cutesy tune)

Sorry, political rant over for a bit

M.

Surprise! Voting app maker roasted by computer boffins for poor security now begs US courts to limit flaw finding

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: if we know the election results within 48 hours rather than immediately

So if you are counting manually (or is *everything* counted mechanically in the US?) you can only count one set of results at a time, then the papers have to be collected and re-counted for the next. Not terribly efficient :-)

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: if we know the election results within 48 hours rather than immediately

Are they all on (physically) the same paper?

Around here (UK), if there are several different elections on the same day, each one gets its own ballot paper, so counting can be prioritised or can be done in parallel, but in most cases different elections happen at different times.

M.

Digital pregnancy testing sticks turn out to have very analogue internals when it comes to getting results

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: Too soon?

Ooh, that's cruel. I hope it was good news in the end - though from the date and the fact that you are still with us, I suspect it was.

My rather elderly dad has a regular "MoT" and being something of a worrier, the time between visiting the clinic and receiving the results of the blood (etc.) tests is a trying time for my mother. This year it coincided with lockdown and my dad couldn't visit the GP to get the results.

So they telephoned. "I can't tell you that information over the phone". "But the surgery is closed, so how do you expect me to get the results?"

In the end they relented and told him that there was "nothing to worry about" without telling him the actual numbers, but it was weeks before they would let my mum visit to pick up the results on paper. I don't think it occurred to them to post them.

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: Surprised?

It needn't be bolder if it's bigger, or the background can somehow be made more contrasty. It's a long time since we used these tests, but I seem to remember that they weren't consistently coloured; one test had very clear blue lines while another had faint lines both for the "reference" and for the "indication". I can't imagine it would be difficult to make the lines thicker, or perhaps devise another shape - maybe concentric circles - where an outer circle is the reference, and the whole of the inside is the indicator. It would be easier perhaps for people to distinguish "doughnut" from "circle", though sometimes the indicator line isn't as bold as the reference line...

Hmmm. If in doubt, an image recognition app, as I see two others have already suggested.

And if you want to be absolutely certain, a test from the GP. You'll have to "book in" at some point anyway.

M.

Intel screams Tiger Lake is 'world's best processor' (then quietly into its sleeve: for thin Windows, ChromeOS laptops)

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: Imitators ?

I am looking forward to some actual reviews on a retail product by a third party.

Your best bet is probably to keep your eye on Phoronix then.

Here is his first take on the matter.

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: What's wrong with "times"?

I seem to remember we once had a very similar argument about thousands separators (commas, apostrophes or full-stops) and the use of the full-stop instead of the proper decimal·point for decimal·fractions.

1,234.567

1'234.567

1.234,567

1,234·567

etc.

M.

As Amazon pulls union-buster job ads, workers describe a 'Mad Max' atmosphere – unsafe, bullying, abusive

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: "Self-Criticism and Ruthless Exposure of Their Own Shortcomings" --- V. I. Lenin Mandated

That seems to be what happened with this year's exam rankings in the UK too. Teachers were forced to rank children in their classes and not allowed to have "ties", thus there would always be one and just one person at the top of the list, and likewise the bottom and every position in between, even if two children were in fact working at exactly the same level. This made it possible to have a precise distribution of grades, even if in reality the distribution varies year-to-year.

When you hard-code this sort of thing there are always going to be undeserving losers and undeserving winners. A classic example would be the Eleven Plus exam (or at least, the 11+ as it was 40-odd years ago - I have no experience with the system as currently run in the backwards parts of the country :-), where the grammar schools had a fixed number of places available so in some years, children who in other years would have scored well enough to progress to the grammar, didn't, and in other years vice-versa.

The thing that's confusing me is that while I have long disagreed with the whole principle of the 11+, I can see that if you wish to have a streamed school system you need to have some kind of at least semi objective filter. In the workplace I really can't understand what on earth the benefit is of forcing the bottom 5% of your workers out on a regular basis, particularly if they are actually working well and meeting targets. I can actually see some big disadvantages.

M.

FYI: Chromium's network probing accounts for about half DNS root server traffic, says APNIC

Martin an gof Silver badge

Out of interest then...

Just how does Firefox detect domain hijacking, if it doesn't do it the same way as Chrome?

M.

Outage: Faulty UPS at data centre housing London Internet Exchange causes grief for ISPs and telcos alike

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: Hospitals

I suppose it depends what kind of failure you are trying to protect against. From a personal perspective at both home and work we get far, far more "short" (under a second) mains outages or surges than lengthy power losses. These are blips that would - without a UPS - cause the connected loads to reboot, with "downtime" measured according to how long it takes for the servers to come up again. With a UPS I get a flurry of warning emails*, but everything carries on as normal. A UPS is very beneficial for my use-cases.

As you say, you will get the same thing with the momentary blips caused by failover tests and similar. The difference in a hospital, of course, is that a large amount of critical kit (e.g. bedside kit) has its own internal batteries, unlike a typical data centre which will typically have a massive UPS covering multiple devices. This kind of hospital kit tends to be tested very regularly too, and by "distributing" the UPS, a unit failure has very local consequences.

M.

*once I had realised that the people who installed the system at work had put the actual computers on the UPSes, but not the network switches. I mean, what? (Oh, and these were Cisco 2950 which take about a minute from power-on to come out of the STP "learning" phase and actually pass packets)

Backup a sec – is hard drive reliability improving? Annual failure rate from Backblaze comes in at its lowest yet

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: YMMV...

And I have some Maxtor 80GB 10k rpm 320SCSI discs that are still in daily use (or were before lockdown) and are coming up for 15 years old. The computers of which they are a component are powered up for around 7½ hours every day, 7 days a week. Pretty certain there are also some 160GB Maxtor SATA discs of the same vintage still in use too, but in both cases once booted the things are not exactly thrashed :-)

M.

Australian regulator slams Google ‘misinformation’ in pay-for-news-fight

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: Nope

Care to explain?

Martin an gof Silver badge

If these legacy media companies are making their web-pages free access, Google owe them nothing.

I think you are missing the point. Bearing in mind that I avoid Google wherever possible, have never even visited Australia and am basing this on a few news reports, I think that a part - possibly the main part - of the argument is where the advertising revenue goes.

If a person looking for news goes directly to an outlet's website, that website benefits from the advertisements it shows, directly. It can also glean information about the visitor for "analytics" purposes which in itself might have some value. These adverts provide income to support the newsgathering and story writing.

Leaving aside the fact that many websites use Google products to present the advertisements and perform the analytics - and remembering that other providers are available - if, instead, the person looking for news goes to the Google search page and can read the story on that page without visiting the news outlet's page because Google has scraped it and possibly summarised it, none of the advertising revenue goes to the originating site, and the analytics are all mucked up as well.

How is that sustainable? How is it fair that one of the richest companies on the planet is allowed to profit from other people's work in this manner? If the story was about a newspaper and newspaper A wrote an article that was then lifted word-for-word and published in newspaper B, would that be ok?

If television station C recorded an item off-air from television station D, re-did the voiceover and then broadcast the item on its own news programme, would that be ok?

If I have understood things correctly, in most important respects, this is exactly what Google is doing.

M.

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

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: K-Series

Dunno - but as far as I remember I never did have a new gasket. I did have a new water pump at one point - the oil was beginning to show emulsification and I assumed it would be the head gasket, but the mechanic spotted the water pump.

I suppose he might have done the gasket anyway at that point, particularly if he'd taken the head off to check. I can't remember. Sold that car some 19 years ago and it was still running fine.

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Good point. The Phillips radios in our Renaults had "TP" and other flags on the LCD display, so if you knew what they meant it was obvious what was going on. Our Citroën, on the other hand, doesn't have anything obvious on its multifunction LCD monitor and on top of that it will usually (but not always - haven't quite worked that out) auto re-tune to DAB if the FM station has a DAB simulcast, and I don't think TA etc. works in quite the same way on DAB.

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Or switch off "TA" altogether. Again, should be standard in any RDS radio.

The way it works is that when you have selected the TA function the radio searches for a broadcast which has the "TP" (Traffic Programme) flag set. Very often this will happen as soon as you start the car, so it will find a station reasonably local to your starting point, but that depends on the way radio works. In Cardiff, for example, you could easily pick up a station in North Somerset, which is a bit pointless.

The really tricky bit is what happens next, and this depends on how the radio stations are set up.

In the bad old days, independent stations often put "TP" up, whether or not they had any traffic bulletin planned. On top of that they don't implement the "AF" (Alternative Frequency) list properly. Most ILR stations only have one or two transmitters, so often (maybe things are changing in these days of massively syndicated stations, but this is how it used to be) the AF will only list one alternative frequency - the station's other transmitter (if it has one).

Thus as you drive away from your start point the radio will keep listening to that first radio station as long as it is able to decode RDS with any degree of accuracy and only when the signal fails altogether will it search for another station with TP set.

BBC Local radio used to work differently. The AF list will include adjacent transmitters of other Local stations, but some radios won't retune because the PN (Programme Name) is different.

So you are listening to Radio 4, which doesn't usually broadcast TP, and the radio is "keeping an ear on" some other, often quite random station, which does have TP set. Good radios will actually have a second tuner for this job, but not-so-good radios used to dip out every now and then, for a fraction of a second, retuning briefly to the other station. This second radio (or lack of) is also the way the radio determines when it is time to swap to another frequency in the AF list.

When the traffic bulletin is about to be broadcast, and often triggered by the jingle, the transmitter of the TP station will also set TA (Traffic Announcement). At this point, whatever else you are doing is interrupted while the main radio retunes.

ILR would then keep TA active until the end of the sponsor's jingle at least, and often until a little while later, maybe until the presenter had made a link or an ad break had played. Once TA is cleared, the radio will retune to the original programme.

It all sounded very useful when RDS was invented, but it does tend to get abused... which is why any decent radio will be able to turn such functions off.

Hwyl!

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: Never quite that simple

"programs" - not "applications" or "apps," BTW. I believe term appeared a little later with the advent of java

Well, Acorn was using the term "applications" with the Archimedes long before 1995, which is the date that Wikipedia gives me as the inception date of Java. Not sure whether they started with Arthur (1987) or with RiscOS 2 (1989) and I'm certain Acorn weren't the first to use the term in that manner.

In Acorn's case it signified a slight difference from the "programs" of old, which tended to be a single lump of executable code, called directly by the user. Acorn's Applications were actually directories (folders) containing not only the main executable but also any support files required, other than shared components. A double-click on this special directory (signified by a name starting with "!") usually caused the OS to search for Acorn's equivalent of a batch file named "!Run" in the folder and use the instructions contained therein to launch the application.

I've just realised how similar the basic concept is to the systems such as Flatpak or 0install... oh, I see Wikipedia has an article.

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

They cheaped out by not using a standard external reset? How unlike Acorn.

Sounds like a variation on the story of powering up the first ARM test silicon. It ran just fine, which everyone was pleased about because that rarely happens with the first iteration, then someone noticed they hadn't connected up the power supply and it was running on stray power coming in via the I/O pins or somesuch.

And at the opposite end of the scale, computer fans are quite good for demonstrating why perpetual motion is impossible. After demonstrating that I could light an LED by connecting it to the leads of a computer fan and blowing into the fan, I then demonstrated that there was quite a lot of difference in the power required to run an LED and the "generator" fan's twin, but connecting the two and asking the class to volunteer to blow.

A can of compressed air usually did the trick, but the second fan would run slowly enough to make the point.

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Draining and flushing was (IIRC - it was many years ago now) one of the first things the bloke did, as was checking the baffles, looking for blockages, all that sort of stuff. From memory he said that the sending end had several inlets, intended to mitigate exactly this sort of problem. I learned to live with it and it never really caused me any problems, other than not running the tank quite as low as I might otherwise have done.

That car had a distributor, but electronic timing. The spring on the rotor arm rusted away and I conked out about 180 miles from home late on (again, if I remember correctly) a Saturday evening. An acquaintance correctly diagnosed the problem, and it was fixed with the spring from a ballpoint pen. Fixed enough to get me home and to Halfords on Monday for a new distributor cap.

Had the same problem a year or so later, but as the cap was something like ten quid, it didn't seem to matter quite so much!

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge
Meh

I had a Rover - a 214 with K-series engine which would cut out if you went around a left-hand bend with less than a quarter of tank of petrol. Friendly mechanic who managed to solve every other problem with every other car I have ever owned completely failed with that one - though he initially thought it would be something very simple in the tank - so the only solution was to keep the tank topped up at least to half way. If you happened to be "caught short" you dipped the clutch, coasted around the bend and as soon as the road straightened, lifted the clutch, whereupon it would bump-start and carry on as if nothing had happened.

It was only a real problem if you happened to need to go around a left-hand bend and uphill at the same time, and was quite a good conversation starter.

That car was two years old when I bought it with 97,000 miles on the clock, and I thought it had done well when I got rid of it a few years later with 198,000ish miles. My current car, a Renault Modus with 1.5l dCi engine has just crossed 198,000 miles in nine years and still regularly makes 65mpg or more.

I bet now that I've boasted about that it'll die next week.

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

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

Also GEM (1984) as used in - among other machines - the Atari ST and some Amstrad PCs (though it wasn't the primary interface in those)...

Also Amiga OS (1985)...

Also "Arthur", a.k.a. RiscOS 1.0 (1987).

All these machines could be - indeed were - used in offices, particularly some of the Amstrad machines. All predated 1988 :-)

M.

Oh what a feeling: New Toyotas will upload data to AWS to help create custom insurance premiums based on driver behaviour

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: That's settled, then.

Similar but perhaps not quite so all-pervasive with our Citroën. Until we'd actually signed for the thing it wasn't obvious that the data gathering - in particular sending GPS data back to the manufacturer - wasn't absolutely verifiably off-turnable. Yes, there's an option buried three menus deep in the car's central touchscreen interface, but if you go back later to check it, it appears to be turned back on every time you restart the car. The same is true of some of the "driver aids" that actually seem to be "driver hindrances" such as the speed limit recognition system which constantly gets it wrong yet cannot be permanently turned off.

The one bright spot on the horizon is that apparently the tracking feature requires a subscription, which is paid for the first three years. Presumably if we refuse to pay the subscription when it comes up...?

M.

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

Martin an gof Silver badge

And what's with all those underwater bridges in the St Paul's screenshot?

M.

Can I get some service here? The new 27-inch iMac forgoes replaceable storage for soldered innards

Martin an gof Silver badge

I thought separating OS and data was pretty much universal these days?

From my pov I put data on separate discs (or at the very least separate partitions) to the OS, mainly so that it's possible to wipe and re-install the OS without having to worry about the data. The same goes for home folders. For a single user the discs might as well be in the machine - and are probably faster for it. With multiple users, data on separate - shareable - discs means people can access their files from any suitable machine and don't have to make sure to log into the same machine on which they originated a file.

There is a slight performance argument - temp files are more likely to be stored on the OS disc, as are applications which may need to access libraries during use, so if you are hitting a lot of data it's a bit quicker to get it from a separate place where it isn't contending for accesses (though the performance arguments aren't as great with SSDs as they were with spinning rust).

There's also the option of formatting the partitions differently though the choices may not be great under Windows. OpenSuse, for example, uses BTRFS by default for the OS, but BTRFS is not renowned for its speed, so speed critical data could usefully be put on a disc formatted differently - until recently OpenSuse's default for a home folder / data partition was XFS which regularly beats BTRFS in speed trials, though of course BTRFS uses Copy-on-Write which has some safety advantages.

M.

University of Cambridge to decommission its homegrown email service Hermes in favour of Microsoft Exchange Online

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: MS' deep pockets

Will the world pandemic give us the chance to reset

Well, Wales's largest youth organisation certainly hopes so. Each year they put out a "message of peace and goodwill" to coincide with the Eisteddfod held during Whitsun. This year's Eisteddfod didn't happen, of course, but the message was still put out - and reflected the current situation.

Versions here in 57 different languages.

M.

Google to pull plug on Play Music, its streaming service that couldn't beat Spotify, in favour of YouTube Music

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: I've just uploaded my music collection to...

I wish I had kept all my old Goon Show recordings...

The Goon Show - 86 episodes available at the time of writing.

get_iplayer - download and transfer to USB to your heart's content. Has the advantage of including meta information that you probably didn't have on your old recordings. Use of the "--pid-recursive" option is highly recommended.

Assuming you are outside the UK you may be limited in exactly what you can download, but for those of us in the UK, it's fantastic.

M.

Heir-to-Concorde demo model to debut in October

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: "Hardly any conventional planes are flying right now"

I realise I'm very late to the party but...

...a lot of the aircraft I see in Europe are private or freighters, and it's easier to spot the military flights now that the map isn't flooded with commercial flights.

FR24 has been keeping tabs on the situation, here is July's take on the matter and there are links to other articles from this page.

M.

Battle for 6GHz heats up in America: Broadcasters sue FCC to kill effort to open spectrum for private Wi-Fi

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: Radio mic use

Twice in our case - once for the 2012 "digital dividend" when we had to vacate the "800MHz band", that is TV channels 61 - 69, and again more recently when - despite being promised that the "700MHz band" (channels 49 - 60) was "safe", clearance of that band was announced. We had just bought some new kit in that band and had older kit retuned. Both bands are now allocated for "mobile broadband" (i.e. 4G / 5G).

There was a compensation scheme in both cases, but the amount of money available was determined partly by the age of the equipment. We're a small venue (in the grand scheme of things) and considering equipment that's only 10 years old as worthless isn't the way we work. Again, this time, some of our kit could be retuned (the newer kit as it happened) and we had to replace other kit.

Our next problem is going to be "white space" devices which are now allowed to share the much-reduced amount of spectrum available.

But 6GHz? That's a bit esoteric for us. As mentioned, all our radio mics are below 1GHz.

M.

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

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: Weird. American air carriers have required liquid-resistant designs

"pass through" liquids to the floor through drain holes

Despite "no food / no drink" policies, one mid-evening jock on a radio station I worked at managed to spill half a bottle of cider on the controls*. He did the rest of the show with wet trousers as the drain holes were right above his legs. It did put half the desk out of action, but only because sticky cider doesn't really do much good to faders. The actual "electronics" were in a rack-mounted pod safely out of the way.

The switches and pots were sealed, so no problem there and the Penny & Giles conductive plastic faders were easily fixed by dismantling and cleaning with water. IIRC I only had to replace one or two of the wipers, which were probably nearing replacement through normal wear-and-tear anyway.

The biggest problem was that said jock didn't report it at (say) 8pm when it happened, instead he soldiered on with the main mic, two CD players and a couple of other things unusable, leaving it to the next guy to page me in at 10pm.

And the next guy really didn't want to use the "spare" studio - so rather than moving into a non-smelly, fully-working studio the other side of the news booth, he also soldiered on while I dismantled and reassembled one half of the control surface.

Grrr...

Swapping studios was a problem for jocks, for some reason. Yes there was a slightly complicated "offer, accept" set of buttons to push, but the main problem was timing - if there wasn't a second person to press "accept" within the 30 seconds or so after "offer", you had to run between studios to do it yourself. That the studios were quite literally next door to each other didn't make any difference, and I often found myself an unintended part of someone's programme while I dismantled the studio around them. Chris Needs used to do it deliberately, I think, as it gave him plenty of opportunity for innuendo at my expense...

M.

*it was his last live show (he had one more turn on-air, but had already recorded that to tape) so I suppose he thought the rules wouldn't affect him...

UK govt finds £200,000 under sofa to kick off research into improving mobile connectivity on nation's crap railways

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: wireless antennas on overhead line equipment??

Of course, as of March, the "core Valleys Lines" are owned by Transport for Wales, not Network Rail and some of those are due to be part-electrified* following years of prevarication by others.

But your point is still valid, though I'm not sure that the OLE itself is vital for this role, it'd not be a massive leap to use other trackside equipment for similar purposes.

I think TfW is supposed to take ownersip (has already done so?) of pretty much all the rest of the track in Wales at some point too - though not the "main line" between the Severn Tunnel and Swansea / Carmarthen.

M.

*e.g. I believe the Rhymney line is only to be electrified from just north of Queen Street to about Ystrad Mynach, with the line from there to Rhymney and "awkward" bits such as the Caerphilly Tunnel left as they are. The new trains on this line are to be "tri mode"; electric and battery most of the time with Diesel backup. So you'd still have a blackspot for a mile and a quarter under Caerphilly mountain

Sick of AI engines scraping your pics for facial recognition? Here's a way to Fawkes them right up

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: Yeah but ...

Of course - have been dealing with this for parents for a while, but with both of them now well into their 80s and one of them rapidly losing eyesight, they were finally persuaded earlier this year to "sell" the car to one of my siblings and give up driving for good. The eyesight thing was rather difficult as the eye doctor kept signing the paper work with "one eye is no good but the other is still - just - legal", even though we all knew that the multiple gatepost scratches on the previously pristine car told a different story.

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: Yeah but ...

Yes, I believe they only require you to update your licence if your address or name changes or - I suppose - if you need to add or remove categories, points and suchlike. However once you have had a photocard licence then you must update the photo every ten years.

There are several "ratchet" systems out there now, some of which are hitting us having recently rebuilt our house:

  • we had to have a new water supply connected to cope with domestic fire suppression sprinklers (mandatory in Wales). Our ½" supply was unmetered, our 32mm supply has a mandatory meter.
  • we had to move the gas and electricity supplies. The electricity meter was forcibly changed for a "smart" meter, though they seem to be allowing us to keep our original gas meter. Odd that.
  • we had to de-register the house for Council Tax as it was unoccupied for more than six months. If it had remained registered it would have carried on at the same banding when we re-occupied it, but re-registering it means they will have to reassess it and as we've added two bedrooms it's highly likely it will move up a band or two

Only recently discovered that unlike when I learned to drive, provisional licences are also valid for ten years - it was two when I learned, after which you had to apply (and pay) for a new one. However, a pass in the theory test is only valid for two years.

M.

New Google rules mandate Android 'Poundland' Edition, Go, for sub-2GB RAM phones once Android 11 is out

Martin an gof Silver badge

Software always expands to fill the available memory and in general, this is a good thing™

Why?

Memory that isn't being hogged by bloated apps is available for other things - code for other apps (avoiding paging if multitasking), storage caches (speeding up file access) even - shock, horror - user data. Maybe not so vital on a mobile phone, but editing large images, video etc. is much easier if the whole thing is in RAM rather than bits of it being on disc.

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

I have a Nokia 5.1 which as 3 GB of RAM so it can be done.

And there's a Moto G5S here with 3GB too. Certainly a step up from 2GB. Two years old and already needs a new battery (random rebooting when "heavy" apps are launched). Seems to be a bit of a complicated task though...

M.

Cisco restores evidence of its funniest FAIL – ethernet cable presses switch's reset button

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: Who designs such cables?

The British BS1363 plug...

Part of the reason for that zone is to prevent the insertion of plugs upside-down - i.e. using the earth pin to open the shutters on the L&N. Unfortunately, this safety feature seems to have passed the makers of many multi-gang extension leads by, and most such leads omit the zone above the E pin in the interests of a more compact product. By rights - I believe - they shouldn't be able to claim compliance with the standards.

This one's probably ok

This one pretty definitely isn't

</gripe>

M.

Microsoft accused of sharing data of Office 365 business subscribers with Facebook and its app devs

Martin an gof Silver badge

On another tangent, "corporate" and "PiHole" in the same sentence? Is PiHole really up to that task on a corporate level? Asking for interest really - I'm thinking of sticking one in at home but am worried about the potential performance hit...

M.

Networking boffins detect wide abuse of IPv4 addresses bought on secondary market

Martin an gof Silver badge
Meh

Re: Interesting market effects

once a network supports IPv6 it makes a lot of sense to push IPv4 to the edge

So is that how you see small business and domestic networks in the future? IPv6 to the outside world but IPv4 internally? I ask because migrating all my kit to v6 internally looks like being a right royal pain in the backside for no particular benefit.

How does NAT work in that scenario? Does each internal v4 address get a unique external v6 address?

For my servers, instead of 'port forwarding' do I now set up permanent address translation tables?

More to the point, will I need new kit? My Draytek modem is supposedly v6 capable, but as my ISP is not I haven't had a chance to test it...

M.

SoftBank: Oi, we paid $32bn for you, when are you going to strong-Arm some more money out of your customers?

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: Two questions...

Two questions:

When have investment bankers ever been in it for the long term?

How do you reduce a market by "several hundred percent"?

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: MIPS

Running a PC is not the sole purpose CPUs, you know it.

And the key here is that ARM is possibly (I don't really know) the only CPU designer which provides devices suitable for everything from extremely low power / basic performance up to devices suitable for desktops and servers which share (subsets of) the same instruction set and similar architectures such that swapping one part for another doesn't mean a complete redesign.

And they have the stuff now, and it works, and the licencing means that there's usually something affordable for everyone. I gather that the basic M0+ core can reach around 1 Dhrystone MIP per MHz at around 4µW per MHz in a die of 0.007mm² - that's a square with sides eight hundredths of a millimeter long. Ignoring the stuff required to make an actually usable system you could potentially fit over a hundred of these cores on a sliver of Silicon just 1mm on each side. The M0+ runs the Arm v6, Thumb and Thumb 2 instruction sets.

At the other end of the scale the sky seems to be the limit with partners producing ARM-based processors having performance characteristics similar to x86 devices but at a fraction of the power budget - this is why Apple seem to be moving away from Intel and towards ARM. Yet even the latest Arm v8 processors have largely backwards-compatible instruction sets, and most can execute the exact same Thumb 2 instructions that the M0+ uses.

Can anyone else offer that breadth of product?

M.

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