* Posts by lpcollier

65 posts • joined 18 Jun 2011


To have one floppy failure is unlucky. To have 20 implies evil magic or a very silly user


Deliberate floppy errors

Back when I was in secondary school, the computer labs were set up with 4 PCs in the middle of each of several large square tables. CRT monitors sat on top of the desktop style cases. We (bored students) would swap all the monitor, keyboard and mouse connections between opposite PCs. The computers would boot up fine and appear to work fine, but users would get error messages when they inserted the floppy and tried to read something, or discover files that they didn't recognise if the person opposite happened to insert a disk at the same time. It caused hours of fun and frustration.

The GIMP turns 25 and promises to carry on being the FOSS not-Photoshop


Re: Single window interface

A lot of what you describe is also true of Photoshop. There are lots of hidden tools, and different tools are shown or hidden depending on which workspace mode is chosen. Tools will only affect the active selection in Photoshop. Lots of tools need you to click the tick/OK icon to finalise the changes, similar to anchoring a new layer as you describe.

Very little helps: Tesco flashes ancient Windows desktop on Scan-As-You-Shop device


Re: Who is their CTO?

"I still have an Econet network in my room. It sends the passwords in the clear." - that fact nearly got me expelled from school back in the day.

Rich professionals could be replaced by AI, shrieks Gartner


generations away

Nah... it's literally generations away. There have been massive promises from AI since the early 80's. We're at a point now where the fad of personal assistants such as Siri, Alexa etc. is only just borderline useful for simple everyday tasks, and that's using the power of vast data centres by sending off the audio input for processing off-site. It's still based on simple pattern matching and still very easily confused. The ability to parse the complexity of a legal situation or an intimate medical problem, ask intelligent questions and arrive at a reasonable conclusion isn't remotely possible at the moment.

The best expert systems rely on experts to give useful inputs and are really only helpful for searching a well defined but large database, e.g. pattern matching for genetic or hormonal conditions. These work because they're based on objective observations and tests, and it's worthwhile because it's not possible to learn all of the thousands of genetic conditions and their patterns of results. Subjective symptoms are a totally different thing.

When it's possible to have a natural conversation with an automated telephone system, rather than feeling like you're trying to guide a two year old to find the key and open the door when you're locked out of the house, we'll know that we're possibly within a few years of some useful expert AI.

systemd-free Devuan Linux hits version 1.0.0


Re: It is not that clearcut

That's a distro issue - ideally the Debian Way would be to have an "Init System" virtual package (is that the right terminology?) that can be fulfilled in several different ways including systemd. But I guess it becomes difficult to do that at such a low level as the init system.


Re: Honest inquiry

Does Gnome "do one thing and do it well"? Of course not, it's a GUI desktop environment, not a single program. Within Gnome there are many different executables that form a (sometimes) coherent and cohesive whole and are developed and maintained as a project, and hopefully each executable within Gnome does follow the Unix philosophy. Systemd is exactly the same - it's a collection of small binaries developed and maintained as a project that can form the next step (after a bootloader and kernel) of a complete operating system. There are pros and cons, but systemd does provide a robust mechanism for that bottom layer of a working system and seems to me a far better approach than a collection of shell scripts.


Why do you _NOT WANT SYSTEMD_ out of interest? It's an elegant system that works with easily understandable text-based configuration files. It's not a "Registry for Linux" as many articles/posts have claimed, it streamlines bringing up a Linux box and does away with a confusing script-based system that was years out of date and difficult to optimise/parallelise. A change of init system isn't something we should be doing more than once every couple of decades, but systemd seems very good to me.

Would you believe it? The Museum of Failure contains quite a few pieces of technology


Re: Betamax - Betamax quality wasn't actually that much better.

Actually high-band U-matic was very good for standard definition. And many of the Blurays you enjoy are still filmed on chemical filmstock then transferred to a digital video format. We're not quite tied to physical media in the same way as with analogue tape, but choice of codec is still relatively tied to the medium - compact flash or SD for mobile, removable SSDs for small/medium portable production units and straight to RAID arrays in studios. The transfer speed of the removable drives can limit choice of codec.


Re: Betamax - Betamax quality wasn't actually that much better.

Betamax - the consumer format - was not used in the broadcast industry. Betacam was used for some cameras and U-matic was the preferred studio video cassette format. The smaller Betacam cassettes were the same form factor as Betamax but were not the same format.

Printer blown to bits by compressed air


Re: Dangerous

Re. air in IV lines - it's a theoretical issue. Generally because the bag is higher than your body the air won't ever actually enter your bloodstream, the bubbles gradually work their way back up line. There is a concept of an "air embolus" which is where a significant amount of air (or other gas) is directly injected into a vein. If enough is put in in one go it can end up in the heart and cause the pump to fail, just like an airlock in any fluid pump - the ventricle will contract and compress the air rather than moving it forward. This does actually require quite a lot of air in one go. It's possible to do this over a period of time, but not a very long period as small bubbles will get absorbed.

Regarding a "hypospray" - it generally won't end up in the bloodstream, air or liquid pushed against the skin in force will likely just cause abrasions, i.e. separation of the top layers of skin as you see when someone has slid along the ground from a sports or road accident. The jet injectors that are available will push a medicine under the skin, not into the bloodstream - this works for some vaccinations but not for most medicines sadly. We have nothing like the Star Trek hypospray sadly.

-- medical doctor, former engineer who lurks on The Register....

Render crashing PCs back to their component silicon: They deserve it


Re: " like the way your bank waits until you are abroad...."

Time to get a new bank. I had an issue like this a few years ago. I went on an extended trip abroad, and had to phone my credit card company at least five times to have the card unlocked, only to have a locked again a few days later due to "unusual activity". They claimed that it was impossible to flag my holiday on their automated security system, or to set it up so that human intervention was required before blocking the card. Time for a new bank.

Tesla autopilot driver 'was speeding' moments before death – prelim report


Re: Why wasn't he paying attention?

I think you're basing your judgement on 1980s computers. They're a bit faster now.

I certainly DO take my feet of the pedals when I use Adaptive Cruise Control on my car (i.e. radar-guided speed control), not least because I can get my foot onto the brake pedal more quickly when it's flat on the floor in front of the brake, than when it's down on the accellerator.

Cortana expelled from Windows 10's new school editions


Re: What about the rest of the telemetry?

Yes! My first thought was, how do I get hold of this? Can I register as an educational institution?

Gullible Essex Police are now using junk science lie detectors


Re: Sociopaths? Timid rabbits? Otatoheads?

What can be gained? It's theatre. The polygraph doesn't need to work, people need to *believe* that it works. It's essentially the same principle that homeopathy "works" - it's a huge placebo effect. The problem is, it only works by intimidating people into telling the truth, and trusting the examiner to recognise the truth when they hear it. Where the technology becomes a problem is when the examiner and others begin to believe the results are authoritative, and trust the machine when the suspect is telling the truth and the machine says they aren't. It's the technological equivalent of the bad cop / good cop gun to the head routine - if you pull the trigger, it's all over.

UK South East Coast Ambulance slammed for creaking emergency dispatch IT


Wrong Photo

I should think the East of England Ambulance Service are a bit miffed at having a photo of one of their vehicles attached to this story, which is about an entirely different ambulance service.

Medicos could be world's best security bypassers, study finds


Re: So a dilemma.

Actually, it might be. The fastest I've seen a user-switch on a real NHS computer is about 45 seconds. I've seen it take as long as three minutes. In a busy ED with maybe 6-8 computers shared by 8-10 doctors and the same or more in nurses, plus all of the specialty teams coming and going through the unit. That's an aweful lot of time being wasted switching users. I personally do my best to avoid using another person's account, but during an emergency sometimes there just isn't time to mess around.


Re: The Medico God complex.

Yes, you're right. Doctors share passwords because they want to be God.


Re: For Pete's sake

Nice idea, the problem is that NHS IT is a mess. A total mess. It's not a case of just logging into a workstation, it's a case of logging into anything from three to fifteen different clinical information systems depending on the specialty. Many of those are "web based" (usually tied to an ancient version of Internet Expolorer complete with obsolete ActiveX controls) and require separate passwords. They all have different password requirements and different password expiry lengths. The ubiquitous smart card is a great way to STEAL passwords, by having the smart card in situ then inviting a colleague to log in to something, the password management software will happily (and often silently) record their credentials. Genius! Probably the most secure approach to hospital computer systems I've seen is to have everything in virtual Windows instances in a server farm with the workstations purely acting as host displays, with a smart card or other token to reconnect to each user's desktop. It's fast, pretty secure and very convenient, but also very expensive.

Our CompSci exam was full of 'typos', admits Scottish exam board


Re: reminds me of an IT course I once took

I had this issue quite a lot with IT/CompSci questions at school. This is 20 years ago, before many of these were electronic or multiple choice exams, so I could write what I liked on the answer paper. So I would tend to answer the question as written, with the disclaimer "based on the question as written, which appears to be in error, the answer would be..." then I would also answer the question that they appeared to be actually asking. I'm not sure that approach helped me, I think I just got branded a smart ass.

Why Oracle will win its Java copyright case – and why you'll be glad when it does


The code is trivial

If the segment of "copied" code shown in the article is representative of the sorts of claims that Oracle is making, then it shouldn't win. The code is utterly trivial, and obvious to anyone with any insight into what its doing. Free software developers and supports _shouldn't_ cheer an Oracle win, because free software is predicated on reimplementation and replacement of non-free software. That's what GNU essentially is. If such trivial reimplementations become subject to copyright then no-one will ever be able to create free alternatives. Of course, it's hard to say whether Google genuinely did a clean room reimplementation, or cut'n'pasted and edited the result a bit like the best high school plagiarism, but the presumption for trivial code should be that it's not been copied - or that it doesn't matter.

Bletchley finds Hitler plain text war machine on Ebay, buys for £10


eBay would have removed it

The selling of Nazi war memorabilia is not allowed on eBay, so if the seller had realised what it was they certainly wouldn't have been able to see via eBay.

123-reg still hasn't restored customers' websites after mass deletion VPS snafu


Backups may not be the answer

There might be another issue at play here. Heart Internet, 123-Reg's more upmarket sister company, provides backups for their VPS service. It's a separately hosted file store that's mounted via NFS, ONLY accessible from the IP address of the relevant VPS host. If 123-Reg have the same system, then it wouldn't be possible to pull backups until the VPS image is back up and running.

I beg you, please don't back up that secret directory full of photos!


Re: Unprofessional

There may not be a specific law, but I think charges could be brought depending on circumstances. If you fix a PC and in doing so transfer images that you know are criminal (for whatever reason) then arguably you're facilitating the ongoing crime by providing the new or repaired PC. I'm pretty sure there's provision in UK law to prosecute in that sort of circumstance. Regarding non-ongoing crimes (e.g. you see an image of some past illegal acrivity), again I wonder whether if you have a friendship relationship with the perpetrator there could be scope for a prosecution. I think it's a bit different that just driving past a potential crime scene in your car and not stopping or reporting.

Gopher server revived after 15 years of downtime


Gopher (almost) seamlessly spanned multiple servers with a single interface. FTP requires the user to log in (even as a guest) to a separate FTP server for each site you want to visit.

NHS IT must spend a fortune to save a fortune, says McKinsey


Re: NHS IT - the cockup's built in.

Really? I'm not sure where you get your information from, but the key pieces of software in the NHS for primary and secondary care are:

iSOFT/CEC Patient Centre (plus a number of other hospital patient management systems)

GE Centricity PACS (plus a number of other radiology RIS systems)

EMIS Patient Management (plus a number of other GP patient management systems)

A number of systems for use in speciality areas, e.g. various operating theatre management systems, Euroking for maternity data, BadgerNet for neonatal data.

All of these are owned by profit-making companies and sold to the NHS for a tidy profit. To my knowledge, they're all mutually incompatible, requiring further expensive "interface" software to do semantic mapping when data is moved from system to system. What's absurd is that the NHS is unable or unwilling to design its own systems to replace the above, and sell them to public and private providers in other countries for profit to help fund our own system.

Gazan medico team 3D-prints world-leading stethoscope for 30c


Re: Am I just too pessimistic?

Like many professional tools, decent quality *does* matter, and is generally not appreciated by those who don't use the tool for hours every day.


Re: I think the whole thing matters.

They exist, there's several different digital augmented stethoscope models. But, they need batteries, they're heavier to carry around a neck or in a pocket, and can't be submerged. There's also a professional skill in being able to diagnose with standard instruments.


I think the whole thing matters.

I agree with you - in a quiet room you can generally use any old stethoscope. But the other bits do matter - soft ear tips are kind on the ear and provide some isolation. Cheap tubes make a horrible squeaky rubbing sound if you or the patient moves. The cardiology diaphragms are very sensitive and I think worth the extra money.

In any case, I suspect cheap Chinese stethoscopes would be perfectly fine for field work, or sponsor individual doctors and send them something decent.

Lee (6141355 :)


Autosculpt?! Really?

There's no such thing as an "autosculpt". It's auroscope or otoscope.

Why do driverless car makers have this insatiable need for speed?


Re: Driverless cars do not need to be owned

I think it's a matter of practicality. I have a Ford with adaptive cruise control (radar in the front grille). I use it on pretty much all motorway journeys. If it could steer as well I'd be very happy to lean back and watch a movie. The big but is that you have to understand the system a bit to use it properly. It took my wife, who isn't a technophobe, a good couple of years to feel confident in turning it on and setting it up for the road conditions.


Re: The end of any driving pleasure

This already exists - there's buses powered that way.


Re: The end of any driving pleasure

The way to do that would be to physically swap out a block of cells in some standardised form factor.


Re: The end of any driving pleasure

In addition to what you said, unless/until self driving is made illegal, those who bother to drive manually will _have_ to be treated as a hazard by the other AIs so will be able to go out of turn at a junction etc. and the other cars will dutifully stop without causing a crash. The only problem will be whether the whole system becomes a supergrass network. My guess is that it won't, because governments are rubbish at large scale data.

Acer Revo One RL85: A pint-sized PC for the snug


Re: Moving "users" folder

I try not to use Windows if possible, but last time I had to I'm pretty sure there was an option to add any folder to the Documents library which I thought actually worked rather well as a seamless way to see files from multiple locations in one place. I seem to remember it being a little more confusing when saving, but not much.


Just Scan

Yes, absolutely. I think it's less about Windows having overscan turned on, and more that the 16:9 setting on most TVs automatically overscans despite being a totally irrational default for the past few years. Most TVs have a setting called "Just Scan" or something similar that just displays the incoming frames like a monitor would. My older LCD TV needs switching back to this mode every time the input is changed, which is really frustrating.

Self/Less: Crap science, eyebrow acting, and immortality for the 1%

This post has been deleted by a moderator

Google IS listening: Binary blob banished from Chromium build


typo city

Was whoever wrote this high? I'm certain it's not a "kernel module" nor is it a "binary blog".

One USB plug to rule them all? That's sensible, but no...


Re: As the old saying goes...

I don't know what you mean by "capable" but the solid brass pins on older UK mains plugs can easily carry 30A and a 13A mains fuse will tolerate 2-3x its rating for quite some time.


Re: As the old saying goes...

Don't be silly. The UK supplies are 13A 240V, which will deliver far higher current at lower voltages.

BOFH: Getting to the brown, nutty heart of the water cooler matter


Medical Students

This reminds me of an old trick that consultants used to play on medical students (you'd get sacked now, of course). When a patient has diabetes, the urine is often sugary. The consultant would ask the nurse for a sample of urine in a bowl, dip his finger into it, lick his finger and take a guess at how high the patient's blood sugar was (of course he had looked at the charts earlier). He'd then pass the bowl around all the students how would each dutifully dip a finger in and taste the urine to "learn" how to assess how sugary it is.

Of course, the consultant had dipped one finger in, licked a different finger and hastily washed the urine off.

Apple to devs: Watch out, don't make the Watch into a, well, a watch


Re: A mite unfair...

Yes, because Microsoft were a monopoly, Apple aren't. Microsoft forced several large companies almost out of business by leveraging the Windows monopoly to make their competitors' products effectively obsolete or so far behind the curve that no one would buy them. Apple aren't doing that, in fact the App Store has been a profit powerhouse for many startups and larger companies.

Apple do keep a tight rein on the App Store which is frustrating at times, but also keeps it free of the dross that the various Android stores are packed with. On the desktop they've retreated from a number of markets and effectively given them back to their competitors (mainly Adobe with Aperture/Lightroom, Final Cut Pro/Premier). I don't think Apple are in any danger of being fined.


Re: Add fuel to the flames !

All this has happened before, and all this will happen again. The first digital watches required the pressing of a button to show the time, because the LED segment displays used so much power and the battery tech wasn't up to it. That's why the first Hitchhiker's Guide book frequently references digital watches - even the technophile Adams thought it was pretty stupid to replace perfectly good clockwork watches with digital models that had less functionality. I guess he got that one wrong...


Re: Well, well, well, well...

It isn't a monopolist by a sensible definition. A decade and a half ago, Microsoft were considered a monopolist because nearly every computer sold ran a Microsoft operating system. Those that didn't - PCs running Linux, Macs, even big iron - were a drop in the ocean. Even to run Linux or another alternative OS, most people had to buy a PC that included a Microsoft license then wipe the hard drive.

Right now most personal computers sold don't run an Apple OS, most watches don't, most phones don't, most smartphones don't. They might be the biggest grossing seller in each of those markets, but they don't represent a monopoly. In other markets, e.g. Blu-ray players, there's even less interoperability with most manufacturers only allowing accessories and software that they provide.

Telly behemoths: Does size matter?


Speaking of annoying the pets, we had the opposite problem. We had a late 70's TV with ultrasonic remote that was brought into the house in the late 80's. We noticed that it kept changing channels on its own, and after a few more weeks noticed that it tended to do so when the dog was in the room. It took a couple of months to figure out that the dog's metal "choke" collar must jangle at the right ultrasonic note whenever the dog scratched and change the channel. We had to chase down the dog and remove her collar before sitting down for the evening.

£150m, three years... TWO base stations. Gov.uk? You guessed it


You disagree? Do you know how to go about getting road tax for your car? Or register the birth of a child? Apply for a job or a college course? Hint: 2G won't get you very far.

Ofcom will not probe lesbian lizard snog in new Dr Who series


Re: Did the BBC just troll people?

I thought it was all quite ham-fisted - they've made the point that they're a married couple in previous episodes, but felt the need to mention it at least 3 times in this episode plus the pointless kiss, together with the ridiculous 'my lungs can store oxygen' which makes no sense at all. And they hinted that Clara is gay too. That's all fine, if it fits with the story, but it's grating to have it highlighted so many times, very amateurish and actually served to undermine their point.

Raspberry Pi B+: PHWOAR, get a load of those pins



Yep, I remember the non-volatile RAM settings very well. As a student, I actually produced a bootable floppy for my school that would reset the NVRAM and restore all the default settings automatically as well as doing some other self-testing modelled on PC BIOS testing - I can't remember exactly what. It came in handy a few times when people had managed to mess up a BBC Master with random * commands.

Creaky PC? SanDisk gives users a NAND with speedy '3-bitter' SSD


Re: Percentages and bits

Yes and no. Each additional bit doubles the precision of what can be stored, but you can't store two independent 2-bit numbers in 3 bits. Think about the old 8-bit/16-bit divide. You can store two 8-bit numbers in a 16-bit word, or store a 16-bit word as two 8-bit bytes (LSB and MSB). You can't store 8x 8-bit bytes in a 16-bit memory location.

Party like it's not 1999: Cry FREEDOM for a better web


Re: "Responsive Design"

You're right, that is how HTML always worked, except that it only worked for more or less flat text, Wikipedia being an excellent example. Complex layouts with multiple navigations and menu bars, images that dovetail with each other to produce a magazine style result don't reflow easily and end up requiring four way scrolling and zooming in and out. "Responsive design" changes the style sheet based on screen size and shape to optimise the layout and try to target it to the dimensions of the device being used.

Reg reader fires up Pi-powered anti-cat garden sprinkler system

Thumb Up

Re: Roof of my convertible

Now *that* is awesome!



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