* Posts by Martin Howe

42 posts • joined 30 Apr 2010

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

Martin Howe

Re: Doomed

Foone has done this and tweeted about it: https://twitter.com/Foone/status/1302820468819288066

Geneticists throw hands in the air, change gene naming rules to finally stop Microsoft Excel eating their data

Martin Howe

Re: Happens in Google sheets as well.

As for 00:00, I find it useful to think of "Midnight AM" and "Midnight PM", as the context (end of one day or beginning of next) is often important but not obvious from the original sentence.

Dutch Gateway store was kept udder wraps for centuries until refit dug up computing history

Martin Howe

At the charity shop we are very occasionally given Gateway machines from the early 90s or late 80s, with processors like 120MHz P1 or P3. They all worked immediately on powering up. Must be a lesson there :)

Boffins baffled as supergiant star just vanishes – either it partially blew itself apart or quietly turned into a black hole

Martin Howe

The x-ray energy comes from interaction between the rebounding inner shell and the outer shell; in a sufficiently massive star, the gravity swallows up the entire star (or most of it) before that can happen.

More info here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamma-ray_burst

Who's going to pay for Britain's Aunty Beeb to carry on? Broadband users, broadcaster suggests to government

Martin Howe

I must say how depressed I am at the "you can't opt out of taxation for schools, the NHS, etc" argument. The TV licence has *degenerated* into a tax, whereas when the BBC had a monopoly, it was simply a fee.

Schools and the NHS are *essential* things that any government should be doing. TV is not. It is entertainment. The best way to do it would be to split the BBC into the 'TV for Consumers' arm, and make them have ads like the other channels (hence no need for the licence to raise money), who IMO, they have degenerated into being no better than.

The other issue is the cost, a one-size-fits-all when nowadays, much of the BBC's output literally isn't worth watching; at a massive £3-4 a week (for a minimum wage earner that *is* massive), one is forced to continually pay for rubbish just to get the few gems; since the BBC is no longer special, it's time it was disestablished and made to pay for itself; in which case, it should realise that no commercial entity would be allowed to get away with that.

For the rest, such as the World Service ... well when I can stop laughing at the idea that the UK is still a Power of World Importance (tm), maybe HMG should pay *that* from the FO's budget :)

I guess the bottom line is that the BBC is no longer the paragon that it was and shouldn't therefore be allowed to keep the privileged position that it was only permitted due to being one.

Time has caught up with you, BBC; now here's your coat - there's the door!

Thought you'd go online to buy better laptop for home working? Too bad, UK. So did everyone. Laptops, monitors and WLANs fly off shelves

Martin Howe

Re: For furniture...

And for computers and such - I work for a charity shop that sells a lot of second hand electrical stuff on eBay (yes we can and do PAT everything) and the eBay side has been a lifeline for us as we're a small charity and may have to close the brick-and-mortar side of the business or scale back opening times.

Long story short, we've been prepping Latitudes and Optiplexes like there's no tomorrow for the last couple of weeks and already sold £200 worth of monitors and nearly £1K of laptops. Of course our stuff isn't suitable for the legalistically bound big corporates, but we seem to be acceptable to small businesses. (Ironic, since most of the recent stuff was donated by a big local corporation, sans HDDs of course).

Reliable system was so reliable, no one noticed its licence had expired... until it was too late

Martin Howe

Re: Soon never seems soon enough

Indeed. One of my many jobs at work is in the charity shop arm of the business, selling stuff on eBay; we acquired an old machine that sorely needed to go to the recycler, but the c. 20 year old (!) Foxconn motherboard, complete with a 120MHz Pentium 1, was still ticking away fine. Was even Y2K compliant and accepted a date of 24 Jan 2019 without issues. We sold it for nearly £100 on eBay!

Sure, you can keep Grandpa Windows 7 snug in the old code home – for a price

Martin Howe

Re: It's a lose-lose situation

"Windows X Titanic" ? Now that's a thought. Imagine Windows 10 running on IA64 ... about as close to the agony of Hell as is possible without actually going there :)

In Windows 10 Update land, nobody can hear you scream

Martin Howe

Windows 7 "outdated"?

Windows 7 seems to have evolved into the sweet spot for Windows OS. A bit like how all automobiles, bar a few special cases, have four wheels, a steering wheel, a shift stick or drive setting handle, and brakes.

Why change what works so well until something truly a huge step up, something that makes the pain of learning something new justifiable, becomes available?

Change for changes' sake makes no sense. The only thing obviously lacking in Windows 7 is a good touch UI for non-desktop use, but that could added on as an installable component for those who want it.

So by what objective metric is Windows 7 supposed to be outdated?

Meltdown, Spectre: The password theft bugs at the heart of Intel CPUs

Martin Howe
Thumb Up

Re: How does knowing where imply knowing what?

Thanks - that took me a couple of re-reads but it helps a lot.

To save anyone else the re-reads, the key is the number 256, the number of values a byte can hold plus the memory accessed in the second step need not be protected memory.

1) Access kernel memory to put value in register.

2) Speculative execution subsystem tries to execute as if (1) was OK. It will then speculatively execute "memory access at address **in non privileged memory areas that we have legitimate access to** of which the register forms part of the resolved address (as an index/scale/whatever to a base address) that causes **one of 256** pages to be pulled into cache. It doesn't matter what data values are in these pages, nor which pages, as long as the pages are accessible to us and there are *exactly* 256 possible pages that could be accessed. It is the fact that the data values are now in cache that matters. They could be the number of fleas on your cat, number of bugs in the Pentium FPU, doesn't matter.

3) (1) faults due to privilege level. (2) Is "thrown away" as fault prevents the CPU getting to it "in the real world", **but the cache lines involved are not flushed**".

4) By using timing analysis to find out *which* page was cached, that's also the number in the register and that number was loaded from kernel memory and used in an index register of sorts **before (2) was thrown away**. Thus, you now know which number is in the address in kernel memory.

At least, that's how I read it in simple terms. Ouch!!

Martin Howe

How does knowing where imply knowing what?

Please can anyone give me a simple explanation of how knowing where data is in memory and/or whether it is currently cached or not, allows an attacker to actually access its contents if they don't have the privilege level for the memory addresses in question? Does the underlying caching mechanism *not* check bounds, privilege, etc? Does speculative execution not also do so? Bit rusty with architecture so would appreciate a simplified explanation of the one on the website - thanks.

You can help fix patent laws … now!

Martin Howe

I hereby patent making sarcastic article titles

In today's interconnected and industrialised age, patents make as much sense as medical doctors treating sick people for evil spirits.

Problem 1 - Novelty, or rather, the lack of it. Too many ideas are easily imagined by reasonably clever people who are bombarded with information daily on the internet; the days when only a "competent practitioner of the art" could come up with something novel are for the most part gone for good. True novelty is rare.

Problem 2 - Discovery vs. Invention. Many things such as software, business processes and computer architecture are essentially mathematical abstractions and are as such discovery rather than invention. These should not be patentable in the first place.

Problem 3 - Abuse of patents. Company A buys IP for B, not to use B but to prevent it competing with product C, even if B might have been better.

Problem 4 - Prevention of composition. Patents prevent ideas being used as components. For example A=B+C. A is novel in itself, so is B but C is already patented. A never exists or gets compromised. Consider some of the early steam engines that had exactly this problem.

Problem 5 - Absolutist interpretation of IP ownership. A patent owner can charge as much as they want for a licence or even simply refuse to do so. There's no concept of knowledge being used to wider benefit to the world as a whole, at a reasonable cost.

Problem 6 - FUD. So many legal battles are about patents because it's not always clear whether a patent is valid, if it applies to a particular product, and so forth. Worse, we expect non-scientists (i.e., Judges and Juries) to decide such things!

Basically, patents are only sensible now for things that are novel AND require huge investment to make or market or distribute. E.g, drugs. Even there, there is a case that medical technology patents should be regulated, as people shouldn't die just so that others can make profit.

What I would like to see is this:

*Patents abolished for anything that does not need significant investment.

*Patents abolished for anything that is ultimately a mathematical abstraction.

*A legal right to use any idea as a component of another (cost to be arbitrated).

*No right to hold a patent unless the holder actually uses it.

*Specialist patent tribunals to arbitrate disputes over the above.

Probably not comprehensive or perfect, but it would be a starting point.

PS: Also, the concept of Prior Art to be explained to every lawyer in the world. With a 2x4 to the head. Especially those working for the USPTO :P

Leaping hedgehog probes planned for Martian moon Phobos

Martin Howe

Martian's weight loss programme

Anybody reminded of the Ruum?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ruum :)

Anonymous hacks Westboro Baptists over Sandy Hook protests

Martin Howe

Hacking is wrong; but since Westboro Baptist Church are racist, sexist, homophobic bigots, who may picket children's funerals, its very hard to feel sorry for them.

There is life after the death of Microsoft’s Windows 8 Start button

Martin Howe
Thumb Up

Re: Plan

"Fixing what wasn't broken and finding solutions for problems that didn't exist is a waste of two resources already in short supply, time and money."


Psst, kid... Wanna learn how to hack?

Martin Howe

Back to the future

Blimey, it's the ZX80 all over again! Actually it's more SC/MP + a subscription to Elektor :) Oh happy days...

What should a sci-fi spaceship REALLY look like?

Martin Howe

Spherical space ships

The Death Star. Just THE DEATH STAR. (OK it was an oblate spheroid, but close enough)

The Borg cube is very efficient in terms of volume usage, but if the DS were that shape, the audience would likely not accept it as a spaceship. (Though given how weird most stuff in SW is, who knows?)

Beeb to fund ad-mungous Local TV for local people

Martin Howe

If only it will be like local free ad papers

Free ad papers are usually local to a district or a small chunk of a county. Local TV tends to focus on a whole county or even several counties. Local TV that is as local as the free ad papers would be great; however, I can imaging it being almost impossible to fund, so it likely won't happen.

Chicago lawyer deploys distractionary dumplings

Martin Howe

Non story

In picture as given, she looks like any other lawyer, or banker or stockbroker or whatever. Dressed smartly; although she quite clearly would look beautiful under the business suit and glasses, she's not making anything of that in this image.

If dressed improperly in court, that's a matter for the judge. Move along please, nothing to see here.

Ten... fantasy gadgets you wish you owned

Martin Howe

The Tomorrow People also had Matter Transporters...

... for use by us normal folks who can't jaunt. ISTR these were belt-worn devices also.

GNOME 3: Shocking changes for Linux lovers

Martin Howe

"Mobile devices, Phones, Tablets and The Cloud are in. Desktops are out."

Not for me they're not - their screens are too small for the things I do and I'd trust the cloud to keep my data safe the same amount I would trust al-Qaeda. Oh and I'm a mostly NON-mobile power user, not a kid hooked on blingy games or a stockbroker updating their share options on the train :P

April Fools Day's Finest

Martin Howe

Wikipedia did it right...

...they played clever by using true articles but with deliberately misleading front-page links to them. Fanny scratching was about a ghost, for example.

Wi-Fi security befuddles clueless home users

Martin Howe
Black Helicopters

And this on the very day...

...that a Chocolate Factory Car of Omniscience (tm) drove up and down our cul-de-sac, c/w Google logo. I wonder if it's an omen... :)

Half a million Germans rally in support of 'Baron von Googleberg'

Martin Howe

So this guy has been caught red handed, cheating big time...

and the people want him BACK? Sounds very "Assange". After all Assange hasn't been tried yet, but there seem many people who believe him guilty but still support him as they don't want to admit how serious the alleged offences are. The public love a bad boy :(

Britain takes delivery of first Nissan e-cars

Martin Howe

Why the sniping and canards?

Ever since I first read it in Elektor as a teenager, ye olde canarde about gas/coal/oil power stations rears its tired old head again. Oil, Gas and Coal will run out. A switch to renewable will be required in the future.

A generation of electric cars needs to be bedded in by that time. Having them run (ultimately) off fossil fuels in the meantime does not make pollution any worse but does facilitate it getting better in the long-term.

This is no different to refactoring a large software system under the hood so that when "The Great Event" occurs, the internal infrastructure is already in place.

Duke Nukem Forever release date revealed

Martin Howe

If DoomScript and Lord Lucan appear sometime soon

I might believe in DNF being released. Then again, maybe not.

Dirty PCs: How much filth can you take?

Martin Howe

Don't forget pet owners

My laptop's fan vents need de-cat-furring about every other month. Despite the eight cats in the house, keeping the place itself clean isn't too hard - it's the electronics that really need it :)

Google data center links shot down by 'bored' riflemen

Martin Howe

Where is Judge Dredd when we need him?

Forgive my ignorance, but don't they have Law in the USA? OK, so it won't really be a helmeted jackbooted thug beating the shooter to the floor with a huge stick while shouting "TEN YEARS, CREEP!".

But surely the Police out there can at least arrest these people? Surely the Courts can sentence them to a gun ban? As I understand it, for those folks that must be worse than the Death Penalty. If they violate the ban, jail them, five years per violation. When a form of criminality becomes widespread and the Law becomes disrespected, draconian measures are the only way.

Judge Dredd returns to the silver screen

Martin Howe

Word on the street is...

... Stallone was willing to keep the helmet on, but the studio overruled him, having paid "big" money for a well-known star. He regards the film as a lost opportunity for the Cursed Earth scenario among others. The opening montage of 2000ADs was his idea.

Wonder how much of that is true?

Organ banks on horizon as boffins prep tissue-freeze tech

Martin Howe

Not just Niven either....

Creep: You can't arrest me, Judge! OK, so I had a transplant, but what *crime* did I commit?

Dredd: Receiving stolen goods!!

Classic 2000AD organ leggers from the late 1970s, those were the days :)

BBC dumps Gulf oil spill on Middlesbrough

Martin Howe

Croydon, Harlow, Stevenage... isn't there a poem for that?


Digital ad portrayed Catholic Queen as 'flesh-eating zombie'

Martin Howe

It's still on the London Dungeon's YouTube channel


For sale: Dr No's Scottish bunker complex

Martin Howe

Data centre's been done

RAF Ash, Kent was one of these, now a company stores secure servers and such in it

Their website is: http://www.thebunker.net/

SCO rises from the dead (again)

Martin Howe

It's like the Predator and A L I E N movie franchises


Brighton NIMBYs complain over BT broadband upgrades

Martin Howe

I for one ...

... welcome our new green, capacious overlords. Well I would, but unfortunately they don't see our district as worth conquering :(

Many things that used to be luxuries have in the fullness of time become ubiquitous and have in practical terms evolved, more or less, into a right. Running water? Electricity? Sewerage? Telephone? 56K? Well it's arguably time for decent broadband speeds to be considered as such.

Realistically, it will require government intervention and take years for unprofitable areas to be served, but that's no excuse for telling people they should move from their loved homes to get it. Sure the cabinets shouldn't be sited insensitively, but that should apply to any street furniture.

Even with LLU we will get no more that 6Mbps, so if BT want to put a cabinet on our street, let them. Oh and it will give the cats somewhere else to sit :)

Mozilla's next Thunderbird gives Gmailers hope

Martin Howe

I know my account settings already!

No thought for the technical end user who knows EXACTLY what they're doing and just wants to type in the settings they so carefully and painstakingly crafted in years gone by. Mozilla are by no means the only offender but are surely one of the most notable.

It's like graphics editing programs that allow you to select or drag a region by mouse, but omit a spin box so that you are unable to do something to EXACTLY the dimensions or location required.

McKinnon family awaits final, final extradition decision

Martin Howe

What has Asperger's Syndrome got to do with it anyway?

I just wish McKinnon hadn't tried to use his condition as a way of handling the case; it clouds the issue and many people are unaware of the range of effects of the condition. Perhaps it is better to first consider what would happen if he was normal.

A political activist, convinced of the existence of a Ridiculous Fantasy From The X Files Big Government Cover Up (tm), hacks into a computer system that is weakly protected, sniffs around for evidence for a smoking gun and gets caught. There is little damage caused by the act itself, but panic causes the victim to suddenly perform a lot of security work that should have been done in the first place.

In the UK (imagine he'd done it to GCHQ) we already have laws for that; it'd be worth a heavy fine and a suspended sentence or a few years in prison, depending on the severity of the offence.

Consider the arguments about (a) applying the concept of extradition before the law is updated to take account of new technology, (b) failing to fall back on appropriate UK law in light of that, (c) exaggerating an unextraditable and relatively less serious offence into an extraditable and serious crime for the sake of national pride, (d) exaggerating estimates of damage caused by the criminal act (see (c)), (e) differences in prison regimes and sentencing, (f) and this is the **only** relevance of Asperger's Syndrome, how well the legal system in the imprisoning country prevents disabled criminals from being abused by other convicts during incarceration.

While worth examining in themselves, they all miss the fundamental problem: the **retro-active** use of a **new** agreement, thus contravening the spirit of one of the holiest and most sacred principles of UK law.

For any government to break one of a country's most sacred legal principles for the sake of expediency is a truly terrifying act, since it seriously compromises the Rule of Law and means that potentially "none of us are safe". Accordingly, it is something that can be considered **only in the most extreme circumstances**, for example the 1946 war crimes trials and suchlike.

McKinnon's crime was nowhere near on a par with genocide or institutionalised child abuse; accordingly, his extradition should be prohibited by legal principle alone. Having said that, he shouldn't get away with it, so we should just use the Computer Misuse Act and have done with it.

Election losers? Our clapped-out parties

Martin Howe

The Bland are leading the Bland

"I find myself longing for Blair and Hague again - how bad is that?!"

Er... not that bad actually! At least they were (a) fervent charismatic supporters of (b) something you could either love or hate. Even Paddy Ashdown was a fighter (figuratively as well as literally).

Nowadays, the big three remind me of the closing lines of Animal Farm... pigs desperate to stay at the trough and who look much the same, coached in "persona" for fear of being seen as extreme and scaring off the voters.

Tories buy YouTube home page

Martin Howe
Big Brother

LibLabCon is so 20th Century...

... fancy El Reg succumbing to the "any colour as long as it's Red, Blue or Yellow" fashion so loved by the mainstream media. Tut. Tut. You'd think there were no other parties in the UK. In the interests of the Real Opposition I feel inclined to redress the balance a bit ;)


* Homepage - http://www.ukip.org

* Twitter - http://twitter.com/nigel_farage

* Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1343813145

* YouTube - http://www.youtube.com/user/ukipmedia

Disclaimer: there are other parties (allegedly). BB, for obvious reasons.

Megan Fox not world's sexiest woman: Official

Martin Howe

Shark Jumping at it's Finest

I stopped taking the FHM 100 seriously when SMG was elected back in the early 2000s. Buffy girl? Black leather corset? Trying to be "sexy"? ROTFLMAO!!! Pretty, maybe, but world #1? NO WAY!

Anyway Cheryl Cole is a convicted thug and for me average looking at best. If we're talking girl bands - Sarah Harding (yummy for a blonde) or Frankie Sandford. Page 3 girls - Peta Todd or Vikki Blows. Actors - Caroline Catz or Clare Holman. Even Megan Fox if I really must. But Cheryl need not apply.


Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020