* Posts by Primus Secundus Tertius

1215 posts • joined 31 Oct 2010


Future airliners will run on hydrogen, vows Airbus as it teases world-plus-dog with concept designs

Primus Secundus Tertius

Re: Looks good to me

When is someone going to point out that water vapour is a greenhouse gas?

Mind you, most of it is produced by the sun shining on the oceans. So human activity makes a negligible difference.

The next step will be for an eco-campaigning health & safety group to demand that hydrogen be replaced by helium.

Edit: I now see that people have made the point about greenhouse gas.

Amazon Lex can now speak British English... or simply 'English' if you're British

Primus Secundus Tertius

Re: Correct

A very educated German said to me, "Yes, we know about Scotland and Ireland. But as far as we are concerned, you are all English".

Something to look forward to: Being told your child or parent was radicalized by an AI bot into believing a bonkers antisemitic conspiracy theory

Primus Secundus Tertius

Re: Don't worry, GPT-3 doesn't want to kill us

Thank you, DH1, for the pointer to the Guardian article.

I have now read it. At the bottom is an editorial note, that what was published were the best bits taken from eight different attempts at the task and manually edit/merged. So not entirely a machine effort, then.

BOAGS, I say. B*llsh*t On A Grand Scale.

As I read it, I began to feel like I was talking to the average Help Desk, feeling that the Turing Test has blurred boundaries.

Primus Secundus Tertius

GPT3 heal thyself

Can GPT3 be trained to detect the kind of writing produced by GPT3?

'We're not claiming to replace humans,' says Google, but we want to be 'close enough' that you can't tell it's a bot talking

Primus Secundus Tertius

Re: Bot test

There is an overlap here between the best of the bots and the least able humans.

Similarly, the brightest dogs outshine the weakest humans.

Chinese State media uses new release of local Linux to troll Trump

Primus Secundus Tertius

The city of Munich (a.k.a. München) spent 15 years trying and failing to replace Windows & MSOffice with Linux & OpenOffice. Let's see whether China can manage it, perhaps with Kylinos and Kingsoft Office.

I did try out Kingsoft Office, and it is clearly designed to support the Chinese language.

Notepad++ website sent to China's naughty step after 'Stand with Hong Kong' software update

Primus Secundus Tertius

Re: Not Just A Developers Tool

I find notepad++ is useful for so-called "plain" text, which comes in many varieties: ANSI, UTF8, UTF16-big-end, to mention just a few.

Sometimes it is easier to handle word processor files than "plain" text.

NHS tests COVID-19 contact-tracing app that may actually work properly – EU neighbors lent a helping hand

Primus Secundus Tertius

Government cannot procure

Yet another failure by British bureaucrats to commission an effective piece of software.

There are lessons which have been demonstrated many times, but which are being just ignored by our PPE (*) establishment.

PPE - a. Personal Protective Evasion.

b. An Oxford degree for waffly essay writers.

British Army does not Excel at spreadsheets: Soldiers' newly announced promotions are revoked after sorting snafu

Primus Secundus Tertius

Re: I sympathize


I have no problems sorting my own data. But other people's data can be difficult: most people have no idea how to make a systematic table. Especially when postal addresses are part of the table. And over the years different people have committed their own different misunderstandings.

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

Primus Secundus Tertius

Re: User Error

"CSV is a perfectly fine data format for data exchange"

Oh no it isn't! Capital letter 'O' instead of numeral '0', etc. Some years ago, exam results in Scotland were screwed up by that problem in the data.

XML with a schema that enforces data types is something you could write into a contract to ensure reliable data transfers between organisations. You cannot reasonably type XML manually, but Excel can, with difficulty, be made to export that way.

But clearly XML is a non-starter for the situation the article describes.

Primus Secundus Tertius

Re: User Error

"a spreadsheet to do the work of a database"

I have regularly used Excel as a database for membership lists of organisations. From there I could do Mail Merge postal or email messages to the members. Also it was a format that most other committee members could handle if necessary.

Primus Secundus Tertius

Re: They are creating a database ...

"... so why are they using a spreadsheet?"

Answer: it used to cost extra to get a version of Office that included Access.

But I understand Access is there in Office 363⅔.

Maybe there is hope for 2020: AI that 'predicts criminality' from faces with '80% accuracy, no bias' gets in the sea

Primus Secundus Tertius

Re: Very dodgy subject

Whenever I see a nasty villain on TV I always hope it is good acting. That's what actors are paid for. There again, they often end up at odds with the tax authorities.

Only true boffins will be able to grasp Blighty's new legal definitions of the humble metre and kilogram

Primus Secundus Tertius

Re: Only true boffins...

The European Parliament, to which we no longer subscribe, had it well organised. Votes were at fixed pre-arranged times. An MEP would turn up shortly before, receive his or her orders from the party, then proceed to her or his democratic duty.

Primus Secundus Tertius

Re: Only true boffins...

The -1 superscript in s(-1), equivalent of Hz, will bamboozle a lot of politicians and journalists.

Couple wrongly arrested over Gatwick Airport drone debacle score £200k payout from cops

Primus Secundus Tertius

"… probably old pals …"

Sometimes, but not always. In my own area…

Back in 2012, for the first elections for the new position of Police Commissioner, a retired cop offered himself to the Conservative Party. The party decided he was too close to the police, and chose someone else. The ex-cop stood as an Independent.

The Conservative won the most of the first preference votes, but not an outright majority. After the second and third preferences were counted, the Independent ex-cop was declared the winner. But four years later, 2016, a Conservative was voted in.

Now the Conservatives have ditched their own man, who will be re-standing as an Independent, and have chosen a lawyer. Politics is a rough game.

The election was to have been this year, but will now be in 2021.

BBC voice assistant promises to summon streams even if you're just a little bit Brahms and Liszt

Primus Secundus Tertius

Re: Dear BBC

"some news and current affairs coverage outside the M25".

I disagree. The BBC News website is overloaded with stuff from Wales and Scotland, even though they must surely know that my IP address is in England.

It is time for the minorities in the Remote West and North to behave like minorities and stop imposing their boring lives on the rest of us.

Mind your language: Microsoft set to swing the axe on 27 languages in iOS Outlook

Primus Secundus Tertius

Widely understood

"... anyone can speak English if one shouts it loudly and clearly enough..."

In my experience that includes cats and dogs.

Attorney General: We didn't need Apple to crack terrorist's iPhones – tho we still want iGiant to do it in future

Primus Secundus Tertius

Common law duty

In a Common Law country there is a legal duty to help the authorities maintain such law and order as ordinary people generally support. Apple conspicuously fail in this duty.

Windows invokes Sgrîn Las Marwolaeth upon Newport

Primus Secundus Tertius

Re: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch

I believe it is a station between Euston (London) and Holyhead (for the ferry to Dublin). I doubt that the signage at Euston can cope with it.

ALGOL 60 at 60: The greatest computer language you've never used and grandaddy of the programming family tree

Primus Secundus Tertius

The "bad for science" machine was the IBM 360, where the floating point exponent represented 16**n rather than 2**n. As a result the floating point mantissa sometimes lost three bits. The result was that the single precision floating point was good to only about six decimal digits. Hence the proliferation of double precision floating point on IBM. It was not needed on ICL 190x nor Elliott 803.

IBM were mainly interested in commercial arithmetic from COBOL compilers. This used binary coded decimal (BCD) arithmetic, which could handle billions of dollars to the nearest cent. COBOL type computational defaulted to BCD, I believe. I was once trying to explain floating point data to a database salesman. I finally got through to him with the phrase computational-type-3.

Primus Secundus Tertius

Re: Military uses

I remember hearing a military project manager in America moaning, in about 1996, that the young chaps did not seem interested in learning Jovial.

Primus Secundus Tertius

Re: No love for CORAL 66?

In my experience there were very many poor compilers for Coral 66. It seemed to me that the Defence Ministry (British) thought it was the job of the computer industry to develop compilers, whereas the computer industry thought the MOD should spend the money if it wanted people to use a cranky language that nobody else used. There was a front end, to analyse Coral source code, available from MOD; but the back end, to generate object code, would be a software company job.

I remember using Coral 66 on a project running on Intel 8086 hardware. When a procedure (subroutine, if Fortran is your thing) was called, the calling code put parameters onto the stack in one order, and then the procedure code picked up those parameters and re-stacked them in reverse order. That was the result of the front-end / back-end situation I mention above. It slowed down the code, of course; not a good idea in a real-time system.

The company management was not interested in technical matters like that (and the company no longer exists). So they did not follow my advice to get the compiler fixed. Instead they encouraged the over-use of procedures coded in assembler to avoid the speed problem. There were many errors in that assembler code.

What do you call megabucks Microsoft? No really, it's not a joke. El Reg needs you

Primus Secundus Tertius

Opposite view


Someone has to tease them.

Forget tabs – the new war is commas versus spaces: Web heads urged by browser devs to embrace modern CSS

Primus Secundus Tertius

Can it do orange?

The RGB colour scheme cannot do a vivid orange, unlike the human eye. Can this new scheme do it?

Microsoft expands AI features in Office, but are they any good? Mixed, according to our vulture

Primus Secundus Tertius

Editing challenge

"Maybe the challenge of taking someone's mangled, cliché-ridden, gender-biased prose and transforming it into something lucid, balanced and objective is too demanding for AI…"

I had to review many documents written by junior engineers. Many needed a human rewrite before one could leave MS Word to tidy up the details.

Stob's vital message to Britain's IT nation: And no, it's not about that

Primus Secundus Tertius


Verity, or the printer, has lost the last three letters of the famous platform ticket station. Oh 'ell!

Appareils électroniques: Right to repair gets European Commission backing

Primus Secundus Tertius

What about updates

The car industry provides another good example to the electronics industry, and specifically to software. Nobody sells a car that needs to be updated every month. The EU should refuse any certification to software that does not last at least one year.

Mind you, I worry a bit about the modern systems of internets-on-wheels.

UK.gov tells rebel MPs to go Huawei – but 5G Telecoms Security Bill was the price

Primus Secundus Tertius

Everybody snooping

If Google and Facebook are earwigging everywhere, why not let Huawei join the fun.

I have another question: do the Russians buy from Huawei?

Google: You know we said that Chrome tracker contained no personally identifiable info? Yeah, about that...

Primus Secundus Tertius

Government and business


There seems to be a difference between British and Americans here. Americans resist all government monitoring as if they were still fighting against George 3rd. British accept government monitoring within reason, but object to commercial monitoring especially from large American corporations.

The Reg produces exhibit A1: A UK court IT system running Windows XP

Primus Secundus Tertius

Blame the apps

Windows XP was no more insecure than Linux when running as an ordinary user. But many apps were so poorly written they would only run as administrator. Blame the apps (and management, of course).

Meet Clippy 9000: Microsoft brags about building Earth's largest AI language model, refuses to let it out of the lab

Primus Secundus Tertius

Linguistic drivel

Shakespeare and monkeys, and wild, wild typing!

Primus Secundus Tertius

Re: My litmus test


Can it also recognise a film that is well-produced but incredibly boring, aka a turkey?

Google says its latest chatbot is the most human-like ever – trained on our species' best works: 341GB of social media

Primus Secundus Tertius

Re: "I have met quite a few people that couldn't pass the Turing test."

I have my doubts about many of the "people" on company "help" lines.

Vendor-bender LibreOffice kicks out 6.4: Community project feel, though now with added auto-█████ tool

Primus Secundus Tertius

Access and One Note

In MS Office I regularly use One Note to prepare the first draft of a document where I am initially not sure what the shape of the final document will be. Its structure of sections and pages allows snippets from many other sources to be parked in a convenient way for later consideration. It has other party tricks. But LO has nothing like it.

Access is much more powerful than LO Base.

These days I do not exchange documents with many other people. But where that is a requirement - e.g. the city of Munich and other parts of the German government - the different styles and fonts between MSO and LO are a nuisance.

Someone get Greenpeace on the line. Boffins clock carbon 'pollution' cloud 30,000 light-years wide choking galaxies

Primus Secundus Tertius


By far the commonest 'ordinary matter' (as opposed to 'dark matter') is hydrogen. Most of the carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen in the universe is found as their hydrides: methane, ammonia, and water.

Carbon ions only in a very energetic environment, near a star or black hole.

US Embassy in London files extradition request for ex-Autonomy boss over HPE fraud charges

Primus Secundus Tertius

Past misdeeds

Back in the last millenium, the British Ferranti company was persuaded to buy what was touted as a big American software company with lots of US government contracts which were, however, secret and could not be revealed until the dosh was handed over.

The money was paid, but the company turned out to be an empty shell. Ferranti staggered on for a while but then collapsed into the arms of Weinstock's GEC.

As far as I know, nobody in the US took a rap for this case. So HP/Lynch could be regarded as revenge.

Talking a Blue Streak: The ambitious, quiet waste of the Spadeadam Rocket Establishment

Primus Secundus Tertius

Also in Stevenage

When I worked for Hawker Siddeley in Stevenage, ca 1973, there was at least part of a Blue Streak on the premises. My reaction was, so that is how large a 1 megaton H-bomb warhead is. But later I read there were many dummies in that warhead to confuse the enemy. So maybe not so large.

Irish eyes aren't smiling after govt blows €1m on mega-printer too big for parliament's doors

Primus Secundus Tertius

Re: ""Four grand for a printer!?" and I always wondered wtf she was buying."


"...external printing shops..."? What print shops?

There used to be two print shops in every street, but not nowadays. As secretary of a committee I used to use them, but nowadays committees are run by email. Often there is only one copy of a document in a committee meeting.

Pack your bags, you're going to America, Lord Chief Justice tells accused Brit hacker

Primus Secundus Tertius

Re: Odd thought


Diplomatic immunity is an excellent thing. Would we want our own diplomats in various hostile countries liable to be arrested for road accidents etc. Although the Sacoolas incident was a genuine road accident, it would not be beyond our enemies to concoct a road accident.

The proper response to the Sacoolas incident is at diplomatic, government to government level. Some kind of sanction by us against the US Government until a satisfactory apology and compensation. Maybe the USG has offered this, but Dunn's parents are being unrealistic.

Remember the Uber self-driving car that killed a woman crossing the street? The AI had no clue about jaywalkers

Primus Secundus Tertius

Re: How about


1. "surprisingly few incidents" is today's euphemism of the day.

2. Voice recognition is still very poor compared with OCR or a reasonable typist.

Are you coming to the party dressed as an IMP? ARPANET @ 50

Primus Secundus Tertius

Re IPv4

IPv4 was a work of genius. Everythnig since then looks like a student project exercise.

No extra bank holiday for 75th VE Day, but the pub will be open longer

Primus Secundus Tertius

Re: Bastille Day

I was stuck in a French town one Bastille Day: everything was closed except the local museum. So there I went.

There was a fascinating section on the German occupation during WW2. Gestapo identity cards, knives, pistols... Then there was the town map: the main square renamed to Adolf Hitler Platz, the main street to Adolf Hitler Strasse.

Later, when I told my German friends, they felt (light-heartedly) there were possibilities in that naming scheme.

BOFH: The company survived the disaster recovery test. Just. The Director's car, however...

Primus Secundus Tertius

Re: Very Thorough

Do you mean MI5 HQ - just down the road from "the 600 gasbags". I am quoting a Whitehall civil servant there.

Or perhaps MI6 HQ, on the other side of the river.

Spacecraft that told us 'you're screwed' finally gives up the ghost after doubling its shelf life

Primus Secundus Tertius

Sea level rising

The article quotes a rise in sea level of 5cm in 11 years. This is roughly 20 inches per century.

Since the peak (trough?) of the Ice Age 20,000 year ago, sea level has risen about 300 feet, or 18 inches per century, with almost all of that long before men were burning coal and oil. It is good to see these changes continuing at about their pre-industrial level.

Revealed: The 25 most dangerous software bug types – mem corruption, so hot right now

Primus Secundus Tertius


You are spot on about 'some "harmless" change in another piece of code'. I had to deal with some free() statements that had been a long way away from the original malloc() statements. Then some 'upgrade' removed the malloc code but forgot the free code.

I concluded that a lot of programmers never really understood pointers.

Eco-activists arrested by Brit cops after threatening to close Heathrow with drones

Primus Secundus Tertius

@Chris G

Not just CO2 but hot air in general.

It is time the authorities listened to the geologists and not the eco-freaks. Geology tells us the history of planet Earth. In particular, for most of the time since the Cambrian era, 550 million years ago, the planet has been much warmer than it is now. Ice ages have come and gone without human intervention. So there are natural reasons why the climate varies from one epoch to another, and these natural causes dwarf any human effort. That means all these eco-carbon policies are a complete waste of time, effort, and money.

First water world exoplanet spotted – and thankfully no sign of Kevin Costner, rejoice!

Primus Secundus Tertius

Re: Thank you!

You would think, with the bloody fortune I have to pay in taxes, that everyone would know what a light year is.

British education in the state schools has become a comprehensive disaster.

Not so easy to make a quick getaway when it takes 3 hours to juice up your motor, eh Brits?

Primus Secundus Tertius

Re: 30m quid on removing greenhouse gases?


Your first reference deals with the last 2,000 years. I was talking about the last 20,000 years, when our ancestors could walk from Biarritz to Brittany, Cornwall, Pembroke, and Ireland with only a few river crossings. It was 7,000 years ago (5,000BC) that the sea broke through between Calais and Dover.

I stand by my claim that most of the 300 feet rise in sea level was long before the industrial era.

Primus Secundus Tertius

Re: 30m quid on removing greenhouse gases?

Well said, Jimmy. There is the organic carbon cycle, CO2 -> plants -> animals -> CO2; and there is an inorganic cycle, silicate rocks -> carbonate rocks -> silicate rocks. The inorganic cycle is vastly greater than the organic cycle, driven by geophysical processes.

Our burning of coal and oil is merely a part of the organic cycle, and has a negligible effect on the overall carbon situation. Sea level has risen some 300 feet (ca 90 metres) in the last 200 centuries, but industrial carbon burning has been only in the last two centuries. Most of the sea level rise came before the industrial burning.

That proves your point, Jimmy, that things are not well understood.



Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020