* Posts by Ian Tunnacliffe

78 publicly visible posts • joined 13 Jun 2007


Millions of smart meters will brick it when 2G and 3G turns off

Ian Tunnacliffe

My two pennorth

I have been getting calls from my energy suppliers for years asking me to book a smart meter install. I just keep telling them I don't want one and the poor sod in the call centre accepts that and we get on with our days. Then a month or so ago I got one of these calls and the PSITCC said that if I accepted a smart meter they would pay me a hundred quid. I said no thanks and we got on with our day. If they try that one again I am inclined to try to see how high they are authorised to go. A hundred is not attractive enough but if I can get them up to a grand.....

ALSO. The TV ads featuring a caricature Albert Einstein figure make me determined never to cooperate with any company that would sanction their production. AE was one of the greatest mathematicians and physicists that ever drew breath. He was not some bumbling mad inventor and to portray him as such just gets on my nerves (comment toned down for public consumption).

Lost your luggage? That's nothing – we just lost your whole flight!

Ian Tunnacliffe

File under "things that never happened"

Sadly I don't believe a word of this. The piece doesn't say how many decades ago this is alleged to have taken place but we can assume it goes back to the era when most large airlines ran their inventory/reservations/ticketing/check-in systems in house. Those systems were IBM or Sperry Univac mainframes and didn't run database software in the modern sense. If, as speculated here, it was Alitalia, they ran an IBM system. Any database that could behave as described here would likely be an extract from the production environment used for back office purposes. Even at Alitalia it could not have impacted front line airport operations.

Douglas Adams was right: Telephone sanitizers are terrible human beings

Ian Tunnacliffe

Re: Real Sanitizers

And the show overran so long that we had to leave or there would have been no more tube trains.

G7 countries beat UK in worldwide broadband speed test again

Ian Tunnacliffe

I'm in a big city in Spain. When we moved apartment recently my fibre connection was upgraded to 1Gb because the provider couldn't be arsed messing about with 600Mb any more. And it costs 21 Euros a month.

Russia's Mir space station returned to Earth 21 years ago

Ian Tunnacliffe

See it for yourself

If you find yourself anywhere near Toulouse you can go to the space museum there and see - and walk through - the carbon copy Mir that stayed behind on Earth. I was there about 15 years ago but I just checked online and it's still there.

Voyager 2 receives and executes first command in 11 months as sole antenna that reaches it returns to work

Ian Tunnacliffe

I remember reading in Look and Learn in the late 60s about how the Solar System planets were going to line up soon in a way that wouldn't repeat for hundreds of years and that NASA was evaluating proposals for a "grand tour" mission. Here were are. I am much older and greyer and the grand tour is still going. It actually brings a lump to my throat.

Virgin Media? More like Virgin Meltdown: Brit broadband ISP falls over amid power drama

Ian Tunnacliffe

Still down this morning

Been working on 4G since yesterday afternoon.

Norway Quizwall experiment ends with more quizzing than commenting

Ian Tunnacliffe

Look, it's

"Two beans and a bean, a bean and half and half a bean"

Otherwise it just doesn't scan.

Hundreds stranded at Manchester Airport due to IT 'glitch'

Ian Tunnacliffe

It would be unlikely to be SITA in this case since Manchester is an ARINC customer.

Ian Tunnacliffe

Re: Check-in System?

Actually this is a very good question and one that the airline industry is discussing seriously today. There are several key functions bundled up into the process we call "check-in" today. One of them is the issuance of a boarding pass. This is usually the document (paper or electronic) that indicates an entitlement to pass into the secured area of the airport. That requirement isn't going to change in the near future. Then there is seat assignment. In the modern world many seats are allocated well in advance (often at a charge) and there is no firm requirement for this to happen at the same time as BP issuance. However it is still part of the airport process because there may be need to make adjustments at the last minute eg because of aircraft changes, seats going unserviceable and delays to inbound connections. Then there is baggage acceptance and bag tag issuance. There is no logical need for this to happen at the same time and place as the other bits but on the whole people don't like to wait in multiple queues so historically they have been done together. And then there is the requirement to send information to third parties, primarily governments but also airlines providing connecting flights and sometimes downline airports.

Historically it made sense to do all these things together in a single process called "check-in". With the technology, security and other changes that have occurred over the last few years it may no longer do so. IATA is currently engaged in defining a new standard for managing the airline booking and delivery process. This is called ONE Order (careful with the capitalisation) and the aim is to change airline procedures which involve separate records for bookings (Passenger Name Records, PNRs) and payment (Tickets) and moving towards a retail-style arrangement of a single order that covers both types of information. As part of this effort the whole process of delivering flight services at the airport and beyond is being reviewed.

As always with multilateral initiatives involving hundreds of players in multiple jurisdictions and different business priorities the process is slow but there should be a beta release of the ONE Order standard at the end of this year. After that it will be up to individual airlines and groups of airlines to implement the changes so don't hold your breath but over the next few years we should see significant changes in airport processes and the end to the traditional check-in.

Of course airlines that sit outside the IATA-defined processes like Ryanair have the ability to make some of the changes more quickly, basically because they don't have to coordinate with all of their partner companies. They will probably be faster to streamline airport processes.

Ian Tunnacliffe

Re: Check-in System?

Probably because the delays to check-in led to late departures and flights lost their slots in the air traffic system. The airline operations departments and potentially the crews on the flight deck will be trying to negotiate new slots in what is already a highly loaded system. The problem now being that a new slot could be offered at short notice and the only way to be in a position to accept it is to have the passengers on board and the doors shut.

Ian Tunnacliffe

As usual the media (including El Reg) tells us almost nothing about the nature of the outage. Based on the diverse spread of airlines impacted I would surmise that it is the common-user front end system that has had problems rather than the departure control systems of the airlines involved. The common user system at Manchester is (from memory) MUSE from ARINC (Now part of Rockwell-Collins). I imagine there are people awake in Annapolis already this morning.

Aviation regulator flies in face of UK.gov ban, says electronics should be stowed in cabin. Duh

Ian Tunnacliffe

Re: Please discharge battery before entering the aircraft.

"There are two billion passenger flights a year"

More like three and a half billion on scheduled airines.

Travel booking systems ‘wide open’ to abuse – report

Ian Tunnacliffe

Re: Scanning boarding cards

Try again. The message got through eventually. It can be a pain, especially when you use the self-service tills, standing around like a lemon until the assistant comes to swipe his/her card to let you pay for your stuff. But they do come and in the last year at least they have just done it, without asking any stupid questions. I am talking Heathrow and Gatwick here. YMMV at other airports.

Ian Tunnacliffe

Re: Scanning boarding cards

Yes. That's why I have never allowed them to do it. You just have to be firm. eg

"Do you have a boarding pass?"


"Can I scan it?"


This sometimes takes them aback slightly but they comply. WH Smith has no basis whatsoever for demanding to see your boarding pass and if you call them out in in they do back off.

Database man flown to Hong Kong to install forgotten patch spends week in pub

Ian Tunnacliffe

When exactly was this alleged incident? The only overrun accident to a civilian airliner that I can find in the records was in 1988 when a CAAC Trident left the runway laterally in bad weather and killed 7 out of 89 on board. Other than that, the US military dumped a Hercules into the harbour some time in the 1960s with over 50 fatalities. And that's about it for Kai Tak. Maybe you were at some other Asian downtown airport?

For the record Kai Tak was always a blast to land at. And the double decker bus into town just added to the charm. The new airport (where I am headed in 2 hours time) is perfectly fine and rather efficient but I will never get excited about flying in there.

IBM bags $700m services and infrastructure contract with Etihad Airways

Ian Tunnacliffe

Etihad has been using IBM for many years. This isn't a new deal but rather a continuation and an extension of a long-standing relationship.

Europe a step closer to keeping records on all passengers flying in and out of the Continent

Ian Tunnacliffe

They are getting meal choices because they are getting the whole PNR. Supplying a feed of PNRs is a lot easier than creating a report from them in which you could pick and choose the fields to supply. Meal choice is not a mandatory field. If you don't make a specific request you get the rubber chicken like everyone else. Or nothing at all on an increasing number of flights. No-one in Greece will have to do anything to comply because the Greek airlines' booking systems are run outside Greece (primarily in Germany as it happens).

Router cockup grounds United Airlines flights WORLDWIDE

Ian Tunnacliffe

Anyone for some facts?

It was not the "entire computer system" that was out. It was the Weight and Balance application that in US carriers is typically part of the Operations/Dispatch suite. This is different to airlines in other parts of the world that typically do W&B in the Departure Control System (DCS) that also handles seat allocation, passenger check-in, baggage acceptance, boarding control etc etc.

Weight and Balance is a critical application that produces the load sheet. Valid load sheets are a legal (as well as common sense) requirement and without one a flight may not operate. It is possible to calculate load sheets manually but this has not been done as a routine process for many years and probably the skills required to do it are in very short supply. Hence the FAA ground stop.

United's major IT systems are outsourced to H-P Enterprise Services. This is a legacy from when EDS (acquired by H-P) ran IT for Continental Airlines (which acquired United along with its name five years ago). I suspect that there may be some tense meetings between United and H-P execs in the days to come.

You're outta here! Baseball star strikes out sleazy trolls who targeted teen daughter

Ian Tunnacliffe

Re: get yer pitchforks

Not grammar pedantry, just the smart-arse know-all kind. Curt Schilling, hero of the American League Championship Series in 2004 is/was a pitcher. In the American League, as distinct from the National League, pitchers don't bat. So he would have very rarely carried a bat for a living.

Hillary Clinton draws flak for using personal email at State Dept

Ian Tunnacliffe

It might be useful if El Reg were to acknowledge that the law requiring officials to exclusively use government-provided email didn't come into force until a full year after Clinton left office.

You know - for the sake of accuracy or something.

URL LOL: Delta splats web flight boarding pass snoop bug

Ian Tunnacliffe

Swedish 'Future minister' doesn't do social media

Ian Tunnacliffe

Re: "Please fax any responses [....]"

Ah, no it doesn't.

There are still a gazillion messages an hour flowing around the airline industry whose format was originally designed to be carried on store and forward teletype networks (not telex - that's a circuit switched network) but they are more or less universally carried on IP networks nowadays. Just like everything else.

Does my mass look big in this? Roly-poly galaxy El Gordo more porky than first feared

Ian Tunnacliffe


Serious point here amongst the smart arse ones. If you are going to report on stories like this involving very big numbers do you think you could use exponential notation? We've probably all got our minds around the idea that a billion is more usually 10^9 rather than 10^12, but trillions and quadrillions? Much better to avoid ambiguity I would have thought.

Who’s Who: a Reg quest to find the BEST DOCTOR

Ian Tunnacliffe

Hartnell as Number 2 but Eccleston wins. Hands down. No contest.

I saw all the early series but lost contact during and after University in the late 70s when telly in general played a very small part in my life.

I watched the first episode of the reboot with curiosity but not expecting all that much. He snagged me at

"Lots of planets have a North".

And in the classical star manner he left us wanting more. Lots more.

Digital radio may replace FM altogether - even though nobody wants it

Ian Tunnacliffe

Re: DAB Bashing

Experience of DAB depends almost entirely on location. I live in the IT workers' paradise of the Thames Valley - on the A4 between Slough and Maidenhead to be precise - and there is just one windowsill in my house where a strategically placed DAB set can (usually) get some sort of signal. I have a semi-built-in system in my kitchen that uses an external aerial to receive DAB reasonably effectively. Apart from that, forget it.

That's point one.

Point 2 is that even if you had decent signal coverage DAB receivers are heavy, bulky and power hungry. If you are away from mains power for more than a couple of hours then your DAB receiver rapidly morphs into a brick. And if you are on mains power, chances are you are online too so can use Internet radio. Failing that, the radio signals from Sky or Freeview telly.

So, where DAB works quite well there are alternatives that work just as well, and where FM is the best solution DAB hardly works at all.

In this case El Reg is perfectly correct to lead the resistance to a compulsory switch. If it gets a bit tedious for your taste, well you don't have to read the articles.

Baywatch babe Pamela Anderson battles bullfighting

Ian Tunnacliffe

Re: It's pretty effing gruesome.

Obviously you haven't seen a corrida either. The matador is the first into the ring to face the bull when it is undamaged and in peak condition. It is high risk. Matadors do get hurt - badly hurt.

And the bull is not "tortured" for half an hour to an hour. The whole process from start to finish takes about 15 minutes.

Neither of these things will change your mind I know, but at least get your facts right.

Ian Tunnacliffe

Re: "Only" 8.5% attended a bullfight....

Actually quite a lot of bulls are killed at the fiesta of San Fermin. Including the ones that run through the street goring Americans beforehand.

Ian Tunnacliffe

You could also put "sport" in quotes because nobody in Spain - pro or anti - considers it a sport. It is not reported in the sports sections of the newspapers nor does it appear on sports TV programs. It is a thing separate in itself. It is a cultural activity, an art form, a test of courage and resolve, a showcase for the skills of breedrs and much else besides. But it is not a sport.

Ian Tunnacliffe

Re: @OP

To coin a phrase, this is utter bullshit. The torero enters the ring with over half a ton of highly muscled bull in peak condition and only a cape to protect himself (very occasionally herself).

It is true that at a later stage the bull is weakened by the picador's spear before the matador dispatches him with the sword but he remains extremely dangerous. Toreros do get badly injured although it is over 20 years since the last one died in the ring in Spain.

There is no concept of "winning" or "losing" in the corrida. The bull will always be despatched even if the leading torero is rendered incapable of doing so, except in fantastically rare circumstances it may be spared by the President (of the corrida, not the country) to go to stud.

There are serious arguments to be made about whether the bullfighting culture has any place in the 21st century and there is no doubt that the tide is running against it, but let's argue on the basis of actual facts.

Techno-thriller author and gaming franchise Tom Clancy dies at 66

Ian Tunnacliffe

I "discovered" Tom Clancy about 15 years ago. I started with Red October, which was terrific and read through chronologically as far as Executive Orders. At which point I gave up, as a once-brilliant writer of stories founded in cold-war realities morphed into a one-dimensional right-wing polemicist with an increasingly shaky grasp of reality. Stuck for something to read on a long flight I later bought Red Rabbit and was astonished at how far his work had fallen. The trademark detail and accuracy of Red October was replaced by wild-eyed, mouth frothing neo fascist ranting.

Obviously most of the recent output that bore his name was concocted by a team of anonymous hacks at the publishing company. Good business for them I suppose.

I will try to remember him for the first three or four books. They were good.

Ian Tunnacliffe

Re: Clancy and Dolby

Could it be something to do with that ever present merit cigarette?

Blighty's great digital radio switchover targets missed AGAIN

Ian Tunnacliffe

Re: If...

Well, I must live within about five miles of you and DAB is only reliably available with a roof mounted aerial . There is one windowsill where I can sometimes get DAB depending on the weather and no doubt the phase of the moon.

I get very cross when the Beeb uses my licence money to advertise this useless system.

Shopping list for Tesco: Eggs, milk, bread, tablets (the £60 7in Android kind)

Ian Tunnacliffe

Re: Tesco Value Tablet

Dunno about that. I bought a Tesco Value webcam for my mum's PC earlier this year. £5.97 if I recall correctly.

Fitbit Flex wristband: What to wear out when wearing yourself out

Ian Tunnacliffe

Re: food calories

With you on most of this, but I wouldn't get too hung up on the calorie versus joule thing. They both measure the same quantity and there is a constant relation between them. I calorie = 4.184 joules. Incidentally the unit that is commonly referred to as the "calorie" is actually a kilocalorie - or 1000 times the energy required to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water from 14.5 to 15.5 degrees Celsius.

RIP Harry Harrison: Stainless Steel Rat scurries no more

Ian Tunnacliffe

Celebrate the life and mourn the death

HH was one of the greats. Read the first few chapters of The Stainless Steel Rat and tell me that we are not heading rapidly towards the society described - though without the space travel of course.

I have also long appreciated his description of how robbing banks is actually a deeply philanthropic activity.

Study fingers humans for ocean heat rise

Ian Tunnacliffe

Re: memory

I was a Physics undergraduate at a decent university in the 1970s. I have no personal recollection at all of any "New Ice-Age" stories. I have no doubt that they existed because I have seen the evidence, but they certainly did not dominate the debate about human effects on climate and environment. The Club of Rome published "Limits to Growth" in 1972 and that was probably the most influential text of the period. It certainly didn't produce any kind of cooling.

Mozilla releases Firefox 10, adds developer tools

Ian Tunnacliffe

Switched to Chrome

Tried Chrome on the Mac a year or so ago and wasn't impressed. About a month ago I got so annoyed with Firefox grinding my computer to a halt that I gave Chrome another go. It's improved in the interim as FF has gone backwards. I imagine I'll stay with Chrome until it starts to annoy me and the whole cycle starts again.

So, what's the best sci-fi film never made?

Ian Tunnacliffe

Stainless Steel Rat

Just agreeing with posters above. Would make a brilliant movie. Not perhaps the greatest novel of ideas ever, but a brilliant basis for a film.

Also agree that much as I would pay money to watch a film of any of the Culture novels I find it hard to imagine any director being able to do them justice.

Virgin America heads to the cloud with Google

Ian Tunnacliffe

In a word, no.

This agreement covers normal office automation functions. If a Virgin employee includes any of those data in an email then they will be held in the cloud. But Virgin's customer service systems (reservations, web booking, check-in etc) are completely separate. As it happens they use the aiRes system from Indian software house ibs, hosted in a specialist airline industry data centre.

Spanish fascist decries Franco Eurovision slur

Ian Tunnacliffe

You in Paracuellos?

If so the cross is dedicated to Francoists murdered by Republicans.

No question in my mind, the Republicans were on the whole the good guys and the Falange definitely the bad guys - but there were definitely atrocities on both sides.

DAB lobby launches radio scrappage scheme

Ian Tunnacliffe

Pointless pointless pointless

See heading.

IT failure downs Stansted systems

Ian Tunnacliffe


No, I am sure nobody in the entire history of the airline industry ever thought that high availability systems might be a good idea. It's a good job there are people like you around to point us in the right direction.

In fact if the facts are accurately reported and both internet and airport check-in were down then it is likely to be a failure in the back-end passenger services system of one specific airline. In general these are airline-specific rather than utilities provided by airports (although there are exceptions). These back end systems have typically four nines availability or better although there are variations between the mainframe systems used by traditional airlines and the .NET based Newskies used by Ryanair and others. Life gets more complicated when check-in is being managed by a ground handler rather than the airline itself although that isn't likely to be the case here as a ground handler's system failing would not have affected web check-in.

It is also extremely unlikely that anyone at the airport would have been in a position to "reboot" the system even if they had wanted to as check-in systems usually live in vendors' data centres that are often not even in the same country.

Survey outs Britain as nation of tech twits

Ian Tunnacliffe

Stupid Stupid Stupid

This "survey" shows nothing useful at all. If you confront people with a multiple choice list and they either don't know or don't care about the answer, they will select one of the choices maybe at random. So if you neither know nor care who Tim B-L is then you just pick one of the alternatives - which may well be "Head of MI5". If you allowed a "don't know" alternative AND people took the survey seriously, I doubt if you would get so many silly headlines. But then the PR company wouldn't achieve its objectives and the thing wouldn't be done.

FCC approves radio mast 'shot clock' rule

Ian Tunnacliffe


@AC 1747. That was meant to be ironic, right? Sorry to ask but there are nut jobs out there who really believe that stuff. Wouldn't expect to find them in these parts though.

@Bazza. With you most of the way but if you think that we don't get charged for receiving calls you should see my Vodafone bill when I get back from a trip across the Channel. And Paris is a lot closer to London than Seattle is to Miami. The US phone system developed its charging systems differently to ours and has had free local calls for decades. Since they use local area codes for cell phones too that pushed them in the direction of charging for inbound calls. Not better or worse than what we have. Just different.

Apple preempts Win 7 with fresh iMacs, Macbooks

Ian Tunnacliffe

@Anonymous Coward

"It seems you are the one who does not know much about the tax system: VAT does not stand for "Value" Added Tax - how does that make any sense?"

And here's me sitting down and filling in my Value Added Tax Return that HM Customs and Excise have kindly sent me. Do you suppose I should write to them and tell them they have it wrong?

Ian Tunnacliffe

@Grease Monkey

" "Because they are in business in order to make money."

On what evidence do you base this? I can see none. "

Stock price, quarterly earnings reports?

Ian Tunnacliffe

@Anonymous Coward

Not got such a good grasp of the tax system have we? All the VAT further up the supply chain is reclaimable such that the net tax take is that paid by the final consumer. Each business pays tax only on the value it has added. That's why it's called Value Added Tax. Geddit?

The reason it has more impact is that in general VAT rates are higher in Europe than are sales tax rates in the US. Oh, and the fact that prices in the US are invariably quoted net of tax while in Europe they are usually quoted VAT inclusive, especially for products and services offered to the consumer rather than B2B.

Ian Tunnacliffe

@Dale Richards

"To be fair to Windows, these issues haven't been a problem since the bad old days of Windows 9x/Me."

Well, my last Windows machine was XP and it still had both issues. Not as badly as 98/ME to be sure but I definitely couldn't leave it running for more than 48 hours or so without having to reboot or it would slowly grind to a halt.

Ian Tunnacliffe

All Good Fun

I sometimes think that El Reg would vanish in a puff off smoke if it were not for these periodic Mac vs Windows spats, with the penguins cheering on from the sides.

I use a Mac. My wife, my son, my daughter and my business partner all use Macs. I am very happy to be using a Mac. I am happy that I don't need to worry overmuch about malware (not completely complacent but the odds are in my favour). I am happy that a crashing app doesn't bring the O/S tumbling down with it. I am happy that my machine doesn't need to be rebooted on a regular basis to recover its resources. I am happy that I can afford to think of these things rather than looking for the absolute cheapest computing I could find.

If I were a hardcore gamer I would probably have stayed with Windows, but I'm not. In the event that I ever need to run an app that is Windows-only I have Parallels although I have never actually installed it because I have not yet hit that need.

But I don't feel the need to slag off those who stick with Microsoft. They can definitely buy cheaper hardware. They can play more games and there is no doubt a greater quantity of applications available for the platform. And so long as Windows remains the dominant O/S in the market the bad guys will probably continue their concentration on low-hanging fruit rather than trying to raise their game and come after me.

On the whole, life is good.