* Posts by Primus Secundus Tertius

1271 posts • joined 31 Oct 2010


Fastly 'fesses up to breaking the internet with an 'an undiscovered software bug' triggered by a customer

Primus Secundus Tertius

Design "reviews"

It seems to me that so-called design reviews are just a box-ticking exercise so that an activity in the management plan can be marked as completed. Nothing really happens until the whole system falls over.

FBI paid renegade developer $180k for backdoored AN0M chat app that brought down drug underworld

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Re: Stupid cops


Sure, legalise all drugs. See what that does to people's driving. Then let the cops focus on motoring offences rather than real crime.

But not where I live, please.

FYI: Today's computer chips are so advanced, they are more 'mercurial' than precise – and here's the proof

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Re: Once upon a time.....way back in another century......

AC has described the ideal case.

In practice, there were repeats of item 1 between items 2 and 3, 3 and 4, etc. Table-thumping customer managements and toadying contractor sales people.

(S)He also omits a necessary step between 1 and 2, namely the software design. The requirements stated what was thought to be required - not always a correct piece of analysis. The software design says how you get there in terms of data structures and algorithms. Once software got past transcribing maths into FORTRAN the SD was essential.

For CPUs, replace software with microcode. This was even more problematical than orthodox code.

Home Office slams PNC tech team: 'Inadequate testing' of new code contributed to loss of 413,000 records

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Tech failure

Looks to me like a classic case of second-rate techies having become complacent, and having driven away any really bright people.

Management alone will never solve this unless they appoint and fully support a first class techie. Not quibbling over budgets and procedures, but recognising a good technical plan and giving management support to get the budgets, equipments, and staff.

The job of management will be to fight the stifling effects of public service procedures.

UK data watchdog fines 'pandemic partner' biz £8k: It sent 84,000 marketing emails to people who'd given info for track and trace

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Re: "it had faced technical difficulties"

"So, who still thinks that the NHS sharing patient data with 3rd parties is a good thing ? "

Answer: the Treasury.

The Treasury will sell any public data, but everything about themselves remains secret. Time that policy was reversed.

Tesla Autopilot is a lot dumber than CEO Musk claims, says Cali DMV after speaking to the software's boss

Primus Secundus Tertius

Intelligence takes time

Nature had over 500 million years, starting in the Cambrian geological era, to develop intelligence. Various people, the type Damon Runyon described as promoters, claim they can do it in five years. And nature had a few dead ends: trilobites, dinosaurs, ...

GCHQ boss warns China can rewrite 'the global operating system' in its own authoritarian image

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Re: Who are they addressing?


Perhaps if you are so impressed with China you would like to go and live in Hong Kong.


'Global Operating System' is a metaphor.

Sucks to be you, any aliens living anywhere near Proxima Centauri's record-smashing solar flare

Primus Secundus Tertius

In which case, it probably missed any planet.

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Insignificant flare

The Earth is at 1.5 x 10^8 km from the sun. The area of a sphere of this radius is 2.6 x 10^23 square metres. So 10^23 Watts from the flare is about 0.4W per square metre. The full-on perpendicular energy of normal sunlight is 1.4KW per square metre.

So the energy of such a flare would not be noticed on planet Earth.

BOFH: Postman BOFH's Special Delivery Service

Primus Secundus Tertius

Re: Peace and quiet

Hot desking is an issue where management really ought to lead from the top. Introduce it first in the directors' offices.

Cracked copies of Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop steal your session cookies, browser history, crypto-coins

Primus Secundus Tertius

Re: Open options


The NHS was using files of type '.xls'. That was the default format before MS Office 2007, but Open Office took until about 2009 to move on. Looks like they were using ancient software, of whatever brand.

Spy agency GCHQ told me Gmail's more secure than Microsoft 365, insists British MP as facepalming security bods tell him to zip it

Primus Secundus Tertius

Re: Either or both secure or insecure?

The biggest ISO sham reassurance is ISO9000 Quality Assurance. You will be assured that meetings have been minuted and actions acted upon. But I never met a QA person who could read the code for a program and say, "That's wrong".

UK's National Cyber Security Centre recommends password generation idea suggested by El Reg commenter

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Old Ways Best

The Plain Old Telephone System did it the easy way.

"Hello, its me", in a unique voice.

Prince Philip, inadvertent father of the Computer Misuse Act, dies aged 99

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Re: 8 days where no laws can be passed.


Politics is not as easy as some people seem to think. Look at the failures when businessmen get into political office: various little-known British politicians, plus Trump the Prez.

IBM creates a COBOL compiler – for Linux on x86

Primus Secundus Tertius


The unbeatable feature of COBOL is its support for binary-coded-decimal arithmetic, in which you can represent a billion dollars, or a billion anything, to the nearest cent.

Compare that with the "lousy floating point arithmetic" (*) of the IBM360 single precision, and you realise what the real world thinks is important.

I once used BCD arithmetic on an IBM 1620 computer to calculate PI to 300 places.

*Dijkstra, Structured Programming.

Turns out humans are leading AI systems astray because we can't agree on labeling

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Re: Does anyone know...

I once saw an aeroplane system 'leap' from Cologne to Leipzig. A bit embarrassing for an RAF plane to suddenly be over East Germany.

SpaceX small print on Starlink insists no Earth government has authority or sovereignty over Martian activities

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Martian settlers

I look forward to the day that settlers on Mars dump their American coffee in the Martian sands as a protest against taxes which they claim are unjust, especially if they are not represented in Congress.

Atheists warn followers of unholy data leak, hint dark deeds may have tried to make it go away

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Re: Same could be said about religious people

"Atheism is not a faith"

Exactly. It is a working hypothesis. In principle, it could be disproved by events.

Hero to Jezero: Perseverance, NASA's most advanced geologist rover, lands on Mars, beams back first pics

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Re: imperfect evidence of life, on Mars

The phrase "talking biped" neatly identifies the main zoological weed on planet Earth.

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Re: Life on Mars

The Solar System is 4.5 billion years old. The universe is 13 bn yrs, the galaxy 12 bn yrs. It is possible to imagine that life arose elsewhere in the galaxy 8 bn yrs ago. Ejected rocks carrying bacteria could move around the galaxy at, say, 20 miles per second, or c/10,000. In 1 bn yrs they would then travel 100,000 light years, the diameter of the galaxy.

So life starting at one point in the galaxy could spread all over. It would not have time, however, to reach the Andromeda galaxy.

This is, of course, the old panspermia hypothesis. Maybe one day we shall be able to test it.

Rubbish software security patches responsible for a quarter of zero-days last year

Primus Secundus Tertius

Re: "one had to understand the hardware to get the best out of it."


You are so right about proper testing. Two reasons why it will not happen.

1. Testing comes near the end of the project. Given all the overruns in the early stages, there is never enough time to test all the fail cases.

2. If the fail cases are tested, they will show that the design did not consider the fail cases. Probably because the design document did not specify how failures should be treated.

Microsoft's Gooseberry is a dish best served really, really cold: Progress made on silicon quantum computing

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Re: Australia has invested heavily in quantum computing

Basic research:

A good example is the transistor. First created in the lab in 1947, it did not become important until the integrated circuits of the late 1960s. But it is based on the quantum physics developed in universities in the 1920s.

So the transistor demonstrates a forty-year gap between basic research and day to day application. Controlled nuclear fusion is taking even longer. Then there is QC.

Must 'completely free' mean 'hard to install'? Newbie gripe sparks some soul-searching among Debian community

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Re: "Drivers" me mad...

For initial access to a network I have a USB thingy that is recognised as a wifi device by most versions of linux, although Windows needs a driver.

So I can install the linux and then look for the driver for my real hardware.

Windows Product Activation – or just how many numbers we could get a user to tell us down the telephone

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"Why bother?"

Because all the fonts and styles and themes are different as between MS Office and the other Office products. If you have to wrestle with 50 documents a day it is such a tremendous drag.

150,000 lost UK police records looking more like 400,000 as Home Office continues to blame 'human error'

Primus Secundus Tertius

Re: I heard...

@Dr Syntax

"...they are, therefore innocent."

Not necessarily. Sometimes the Scottish position of 'not proven' is appropriate.

File format conversion crisis delayed attempt to challenge US presidential election result

Primus Secundus Tertius


It is time the dictionaries updated their definitions of "compatible" to recognise the shortcomings of the computer industry. I have just checked my Concise Oxford (12th edition, 2011, the latest) and it still has the old perfectionist definitions.

Welcome to the splinternet – where freedom of expression is suppressed and repressed, and Big Brother is watching

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Different censorships

The article might have added the misdeeds of, e.g. Iran and Turkey, to the known infamy of Russia and China.

Cybersecurity giant FireEye says it was hacked by govt-backed spies who stole its crown-jewels hacking tools

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These things tend to happen when the techies who founded the company are replaced by the accountants.

The oil industry saw a similar disaster with BP.

Pure frustration: What happens when someone uses your email address to sign up for PayPal, car hire, doctors, security systems and more

Primus Secundus Tertius

Other casual people

At least two other people have given my email address instead of their own very similar ones. In the first case I get many emails, including once a request for a job reference for that person. I telephoned the would-be employer and explained the situation, so I hope the sloppy emailer did not get that job. In the second case it was theatre tickets in a remote town. I phoned the theatre, and later the person contacted me and apologised.

I am sure a lot of people have similar problems. "Something should be done", as they say. We have seen the mobile phone system go through several revolutions, and something similar is needed with the Internet. A system created by remote and ineffectual dons is not fit for public and commercial use No, IPV6 is not the answer. Nor are the proposals from the various secular and religious dictatorships of this world.

DeepMind's latest protein-solving AI AlphaFold a step closer to cracking biology's 50-year conundrum

Primus Secundus Tertius

Same again

This seems to be a pragmatic approach, that the next protein will be only a little bit different from the previous one. But there has been a lot of hard work to make this approach succeed.

Master boot vinyl record: It just gives DOS on my IBM PC a warmer, more authentic tone

Primus Secundus Tertius

Re: That's the Hi-Tech option...

I was involved with a PDP-11 microprocessor system that ran off a solid-state disk in 1982. But the SSD was volatile, and had to be loaded up from magnetic tape. The system could not boot directly from tape, so we had to type in some magic octal numbers to boot the tape.

In fact there were two tapes: (1) to load a main-memory system to read the second tape, and (2) the image of the SSD. The final stage was to tell the memory system to boot from the newly loaded SSD.

The SSD was impressive: directory listings that normally took ages came out in a few seconds. I called it the "square disk".

China offers world its COVID QR Code movement passport at G20 Leaders' Meeting

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Re: Coming to a country near you

Back in my student days, a foreign student told me that in his country they had colour-coded id cards. Life could be difficult if your id was a wrong colour.

Here's how it might work in the UK, or maybe just England in a few years.

* Blue - for the aristocracy (blue-blooded!) or other privileged types;

* Yellow - middle class whingers e.g. liberal democrats;

* Red - Socialist Idlers Party etc.

* White - no evidence against you yet.

It's always DNS, especially when a sysadmin makes a hash of their semicolons

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Programming interminable comments

During the years I was programming in Coral 66 I had several comment problems.

'comment' comments must end with a semicolon;

But it was easy to omit that terminator, especially if you were used to other programming languages. The result was that the next statement was treated as a comment until its final semicolon. I.e. it was effectively absent. This could cause mysterious problems.

I had a pretty-printer program for Coral that I had written, and it was the pretty-printer which finally revealed the mistake: showing the statement as run-on text at the end of the unterminated comment.

Election security fears doused with reality: Top officials say Nov 3 'was the most secure in American history.' The end

Primus Secundus Tertius


I've heard of George 3, but what sort of king is Potus 45?

Biden projected to be the next US President, Microsoft joins rest of world in telling Trump: It looks like... you're fired

Primus Secundus Tertius

Re: FPTP must die


FPTP has the great advantage that you can vote AGAINST someone if you feel that person is unfit for public office. Voting against a wrong person is sometimes more important than any other consideration.

I am glad there will be no more elections for the European Parliament in Britain. They used a scheme in which you had to vote for a party list; so if one candidate in that party was bad you could not vote specifically against that one, but had to decide whether to abandon the whole party.

Primus Secundus Tertius

Joe and the Onion

The Onion is an American satirical rag that normally gives the US Vice-President a hard time. When Joe was Obama's VP he was portrayed as a small time crook who somehow had made it to the White House. But he seemed to take it in good spirit, and after Obama's term came to an end The Onion published what looked like a conciliatory article.

But for some reason the Onion has said hardly a word against Trump's bible-banging VP. I want to know why.

Did Arthur C. Clarke call it right? Water spotted in Moon's sunlit Clavius crater by NASA telescope

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Re: There is no Dark Side


I have read that the albedo of the moon is very low: comparable to coke (the coal product, not the drink). If the moon had an atmosphere and clouds we would see it as many times brighter.

Elsewhere, buried in the article, is the statement that there is a higher concentration of water in the Sahara desert than there on the moon. So the article is PR padding rather than news. They could probably discover a few atoms of gold, or plutonium, there if they tried. Or phosphine, as on Venus.

NHS COVID-19 contact tracing app is leaving some unable to access government self-isolation grants

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Re: meh

Ministers generally say what their civil servants tell them. So the ignorance is probably in the civil service. As it always has been.

Ed Snowden doesn’t need to worry about being turfed out of Russia any more

Primus Secundus Tertius

Well piloted


Pontius Pilate was a very sensible man. When a group of native activists wanted him to execute one of their number he said, "Sod off!". But it was not reported like that.

When you tell Chrome to wipe private data about you, it spares two websites from the purge: Google.com, YouTube

Primus Secundus Tertius

Re: BleachBit is your friend!

@Jake: I have used Firefox since its version 1. I save selected pages from the web; Firefox does this reliably, Internet Explorer would frequently fail to save. I have always avoided Chrome.

Hey Reg readers, Happy Spreadsheet day! Because there ain't no party like an Excel party

Primus Secundus Tertius

Re: The bane of auto formatting....

On most occasions, auto formatting is useful. It is, as ever, the user's fault when it goes wrong.

Ideally, modern schools would teach these things. But that would entail telling the little ones they had got it wrong. Correcting children's work like that is "not done" nowadays. British state education has become a comprehensive disaster.

BOFH: Rome, I have been thy soldier 40 years... give me a staff of honour for mine age

Primus Secundus Tertius

Re: Thats my first guffaw in delight for a while.

The ones with teeth marks have hard centres.

Excel Hell: It's not just blame for pandemic pandemonium being spread between the sheets

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Re: I don't think the problem is Excel

I find it jolly useful that MS Word can read html files and turn them into docx (or pdf or txt or even odt).

But I agree with you about Outlook: it seems aimed at people who are pretending to be businessmen.

Libre Office Word can even produce and read back what it calls docbook. But other xml software I have says it is well formed but not valid.

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Re: Use PDF


... or even change things. I have had to answer some strange questions at interviews because of what agencies do.

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Re: Alternative?


"Excel has the concept of a "format" and no concept of data types".

Excel has major types: text, numbers, and dates. But its default is 'general', where it just analyses guesses. General is the general cause of all the generally quoted faults in this article.

Primus Secundus Tertius

Re: VBA Security Security Security Security... I can't hear you!!!

"Excel is great at what it does". Yes, absolutely.

I have rerun some calculations I did in my student days 50 years ago. Exercises that took a half day or whole day are now done in a few minutes.

Primus Secundus Tertius

Ye Olde English Proverb

A bad workman blames his tools.

[No, not the singular!]

Pack your bags! Astroboffins spot 24 'superhabitable' exoplanets better than Earth at supporting complex life

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I don't want to be bumping into galactic dust at FTL speeds, thank you. Nor even > 0.1c.

Bring on extra-dimensional transit.

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Re: an atmosphere containing oxygen

Anaerobic life, fermenting glucose to lactic acid, has only a small fraction of the energy that comes from complete oxidation. Advanced life needs that high energy that comes from oxidation.

What a Hancock-up: Excel spreadsheet blunder blamed after England under-reports 16,000 COVID-19 cases

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Re: Ah, CSV and Excel

I had a colleague in a small charity who did not realise that a .ods file was a Libre Office spreadsheet rather than a renamed instance of a csv file.



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