* Posts by Fred M

91 publicly visible posts • joined 17 Aug 2011


Student satellite demonstrates drag sail to de-orbit old hardware

Fred M

It used a Arduino and it failed. What a surprise! Maybe the friction-fit pin headers weren't the best call for something that's experiences a lot of vibration and acceleration on launch.

When you spot an Arduino that's the surest sign that the person who made it hasn't the slightest clue about electronics or embedded development and they've probably just copied some libraries from SparkFun and joined them with some if statements.

More victims of fake crypto investor scam speak to The Register

Fred M

You can be *too* cautious

The subjects of scams and the tax man reminds me of a story that might be worth sharing...

A few years ago I had a call at work from someone with a foreign accent saying that I owed the tax man some money and offering to take payment over the phone. I also smugly though "there was no way anyone was going to pull a scam on me" so I declined his kind offer.

A week later my boss had a VAT demand on his desk for some electronics which "sounded like my sort of thing" and asked me if I'd told HMRC to go f**k themselves.

It turned out that a £1500 bit of kit that I'd won in a competition (so hadn't payed anything for) and had delivered to work (for safety and convenience) still required VAT and duty to be paid on its value. Occasionally, just to keep you on your toes, the scam isn't a scam.

A Raspberry Pi HAT for the Lego Technic fan

Fred M

Re: Overengineering

It is indeed overkill from a hardware point of view. The RP2040 that's on the expansion board and a bit of C would be enough, but that's not really the point.

This easily links two things that kids (or more likely big kids) might already have lying around - Lego motors and a Raspberry Pi. I guess the idea is to take these two and help kids make the jump from block programming as used for Lego Boost, WeDo, etc. to a bit of Python.

BoJo looks to jumpstart UK economy with £6k taxpayer-funded incentive for Brits to buy electric cars – report

Fred M

Re: Still no answer...

There is also ready a £1500 government grant on electric motorbikes. They have to meet certain criteria to qualify but my Zero FXS did.

DIY with Akamai: What to do when no one sells the servers you need? You build your own

Fred M

Is anyone else unable to concentrate on the text and is just wondering "why are they trying to solder the middle of that capacitor"?

Hold horror stories: Chief, we've got a f*cking idiot on line 1. Oh, you heard all that

Fred M

Nicely done

"The company's policy was that staffers couldn't hang up unless the caller was abusive"

Called customer an idoit. Customer got abuse. Can now hang up. Problem solved.

Are you sure your disc drive has stopped rotating, or are you just ignoring the messages?

Fred M

To be fair, if the door wasn't closed then the disc had stopped rotating. His diagnosis of the problem (if not the cause or solution) was spot on.

China's really cotton'd on to this whole Moon exploration thing: First seed sprouts in lunar lander biosphere

Fred M

First alien life?

So, if it hatches, that fly will be the first thing to be born and life its whole (short) life on the moon. Does that make it the first alien lifeform? First contact has been made!

FPGAs? Sure, them too. Liqid pours chips over composable computing systems

Fred M

There are a few cheap options for FPGA. The Lattice iCEstick combined with the open source IceStorm tool-chain seems popular amongst hobbyists. Not tried it myself though.

Personally, I've gone with the MiniZed Zynq SoC board (ARM A9 + FPGA) alongside an Arty S7 that someone kindly gave me. I'm also planning to play at the very low end with Xilinx CPLDs for when simple and easily solderable (i.e. QFP not BGA) are more important than power.

If it helps, this is the advice I got when I asked how to get into programmable logic.


Fred M

It is quite a leap, isn't it? I've not done any Functional Programming but before getting into coding, I came from a background of actually wiring those 7400 series logic gates together (which sometimes seems quicker than the synthesis step).

Fred M

I'm just getting into FPGAs and they're a fun way of "coding" something very different. If you imagine writing C where every line of code runs at the same time then you're getting some of the way there (although this is of course a huge oversimplification).

Anything PCIe connected seems to be ridiculously priced. Actually, I suppose as it's aimed at enterprise customers it's not really. I've just got my head in the sub-£100 hobbyist end.

Sysadmin cracked military PC’s security by reading the manual

Fred M

Re: Only cracking I have done is

I found that the transparent padlock and pick sets on Amazon for about £15 are a good start too. Great as a present for someone you think might like lock picking.

What a flap: SIM swiped from slain stork's GPS tracker used to rack up $2,700 phone bill

Fred M

Re: Just wait until we all have an embedded SIM card....

I've got one myself. It's just a NFC chip. No SIM. No malware. No tinfoil.

Relive your misspent, 8-bit youth on the BBC's reopened Micro archive

Fred M

The reason I like coding on microcontrollers now is it give you that same sort of "I know about every byte in memory" sort of experience that I remember from the BBC Micro. Although even near the lower end of the microcontroller spectrum you may find higher specs that we were used to back in the 80s.

23,000 HTTPS certs will be axed in next 24 hours after private keys leak

Fred M

"and the reassuring green padlock is displayed in visitors' browsers"

Padlock? Are you sure it's not a little green handbag? Like one of those being swung around today.

Microsoft ends notifications for Win-Phone 7.5 and 8.0

Fred M

Re: I like Apple things

True. That was a very original interface. If Apple had come up with it then it would have been lauded as "an amazing intuitive work of genius".

I wanted to like Windows Phone (8 and 10) but as we all know, the app support was just too dire.

Next; tech; meltdown..? Mandatory; semicolons; in; JavaScript; mulled;

Fred M

"Get used to it, snowflake. You're dealing with computers here. They don't "do" empathy and they don't give an Aardvark's left testicle about your emotional state."

Exactly. And if you don't agree then you should go help your uncle jack off a horse.

The age of six-monthly Windows Server updates starts … now!

Fred M

As it's optional, surely it's a good thing? Most people will quite rightly stay on LTSB. However, if there's a feature that you want (and is worth the regression testing) then having it available promptly on the 6 monthly schedule is a bonus.

Why do you cry when chopping onions? No, it's not crippling anxiety, it's this weird chemical

Fred M

Re: Sharp cutlery knives

I'm going to take a wild guess that you don't get invited round for dinner very often, and that when you do it 's only once.

FUKE NEWS: Robot snaps inside drowned Fukushima nuke plant

Fred M


"images like the one below show nuclear fuel – possibly the orange blotches - spread around the debris"

If the Simpsons have taught us anything, it's that nuclear fuel is green (and, if I remember correctly. that it's pronounced "nucular").

The life and times of Surface, Microsoft's odds-defying fondleslab

Fred M


I wonder how things would have gone had the Courier not been cancelled. That was an interesting device that unfortunately never saw the light of day.

LASER RAT FENCE wins €1.7m European Commission funds

Fred M

Re: Pulsed agrilaser in the 40W range

I've got a 40W CO2 laser (in a laser cutter) and I must admit I have been tempted. The most I have done so far is place some mousetraps in the places where they like to dig and then crap.

Just what Europe needs – another bungled exit: Mars lander goes AWOL

Fred M

Can't they just send Matt Damon to fix it?

Boffins eschew silicon to build tiniest-ever transistor, just 1nm long

Fred M

Re: Shirley

Grease was the first thing I though of too. I'm sure I've got a tub of that in the garage. I'll go stick a multimeter in it and see if it semiconducts.

It's Friday – and that means one thing: Yup, Microsoft's TypeScript 2.0 is out

Fred M

"The TypeScript team also had to set non-nullable types off by default because it is a change that breaks existing code"

Indeed. I suspect the most common use of Typescript 2 will be for the recently RTM'd Angular 2... which doesn't compile with strictNullChecks on.

Google slaps Siri with Assistant and Amazon with Home device

Fred M

There are at least 20% of Google voice searches in my house. Often from my Android Wear watch. However, most of them are "OK, Google. Show me pictures of Lightning McQueen / Paw Patrol / a dinosaur."

Little warning: Deleting the wrong files may brick your Linux PC

Fred M

If it was Windows 10 rather than Linux that let you bork the firmware, I wonder how many of the arguments above would completely switch sides on whether the OS was at fault.

GitHub falls offline, devs worldwide declare today a snow day

Fred M

How did the distributed bit actually work

Never had this problem with Source Safe. Just sayin'.

Jokes aside - did people find that the distributed bit actually worked as they thought it would? Or did they wait for GitHub to come back up just in case?

Russian Pastafarian wins right to bear colander

Fred M

Praise Bob. Send money.

(I'm hoping some of you get that. But just in case, The Church of the Sub-Genius is worth a look.)

PEAK FONDLESLAB: Fewer people will use tablets next year – claim

Fred M

Fewer people saying "fondleslab"?

As long as fewer people are using the word "fondleslab" then I'll be happy. (Let's be honest - it's pretty much just here.)

Windows 10 Edge: Standards kinda suck yet better than Chrome?

Fred M

"After decades of dominance through proprietary lock-in and anti-trust-busted software bundling, the monster lurking in web developer nightmares will no longer be the default browser for Windows."

"Regrettably, since Apple doesn't allow other browser rendering engines in the App Store there will never be any real competition there."

And yet Apple don't have to face any anti-trust action. Odd.

As always, XKCD says is best. https://xkcd.com/1118/

'Facebook without sin' attracts 0.00006 times as many users as Facebook

Fred M

Religion get everywhere

Myself and some friends created the first ever social network here in the UK back in 2000 - the long-gone everyonesconected.com. Before we admitted defeat (by the US-based friendster, myspace, facebook. etc.) and we pulled the plug it was overrun by Christians. Some of them weirdly decided that it was a Christian site and would start telling other users what they should and shouldn't post. At least this one actually is.

Microsoft kills its Euro pane in the a**: The 'would you prefer Chrome?' window

Fred M

Obligatory XKCD link

What? Nobody's posted a link to this yet? Shame on you.


Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray

Fred M

Useless anyway

They're too powerful to be safe and not powerful enough to be useful, so no great loss. I'll stick with my 40W CO2 laser, thanks. A bit less portable I admit, but at least it will actually cut through stuff. Not tried it on the neighbourhood cats that crap on my lawn, but very tempted...

Man brings knife to a gun fight and WINS

Fred M

Slightly misleading headline

Let me adjust that rather click-bait headline for you. "Police robot looks for man in house after he'd left"

I was expecting to hear the (slightly heroic) tale of how a man with a knife defeated a gun-wielding robot like the script of some bad action movie. That wasn't really what happened.

Google leaves STUPID vuln on Nest devices

Fred M

I prefer it this way

Personally, I feel this is a feature rather than a security defect. I like the fact that the hardware is yours to own and hack if you want to. Devices need to be firmware upgradable and to be honest if someone has got into your house and has time to attach a USB stick to your Nest then you've vulnerable anyway. I can easily hack your PC if given time with it and a bootable DVD or USB stick.

What would improve things is making sure the end user is aware of this feature and perhaps having a way to disable it - or perhaps enable it if disabled by default.

I'm not a Nest owner by the way, I'm very happy with my Tado. Incidentally they can be upgraded remotely as I discovered when they fixed a bug I found that stopped it working with Sky Broadband.

'CAPTAIN CYBORG': The wild-eyed prof behind 'machines have become human' claims

Fred M

Re: "he installed a chip in his arm"

Opening the garage door is exactly what I do with mine. (See video part way down the page.) More stuff to come, but I've only had it a couple of weeks.


Could a 'Zunewatch' be Microsoft's next hardware foray?

Fred M

Well the .NET Micro Framework started out on those SPOT watches many years ago. It would seem likely that this would be what they'd use as there seems to be renewed effort heading that way recently. It'd be nice to see it come full circle.

The .NET Micro Framework was open sourced by the way, once the watches were abandoned. Isn't is strange how Apple is now the locked down corporate monster and Microsoft is (relatively) open these days?

London Tube has new stop at Azure Station

Fred M

Re: I see that TFL's boundary has grown...

Don't forget that quaint little tennis playing town of Wimbleton.

EE & Vodafone will let you BONK on the TUBE – with Boris' blessing

Fred M

Re: EE and Vodafone?

It should be possible to have an Oyster app for any NFC enabled phone. However I believe that the PAYG Oyster balance is stored on the card for speed of retrieval (despite what this article suggests). It's pure speculation on my part, but I suspect that an app on the phone might be more susceptible to reverse engineering or hacking than when embedded on an Oyster card.

@WonkTheSane - You're right that this requires NFC and excludes Apple, but so does this payment system. NFC underpins how both Oyster and contactless bank payments work. It'll all be OK in a year's time when the innovative geniuses at Apple "invent" NFC.

Sonos offers updated music controller to Fandroids for testing

Fred M

Re: Confused

You know the graphic mock up will have been done by an iPhone toting hipster in the marketing department on his Mac.

UK's CASH POINTS to MISS Windows XP withdrawal date

Fred M

Re: Are they running on XP Embedded ?

My thoughts exactly. Surely a device with restricted functionality and a very basic UI shouldn't be running a desktop OS, or even something like XP Embedded. I'd have though something like an ARM microcontroller coded directly in C be up to the job? It'd be far less vulnerable to attack and probably cheaper too.

BT scratches its head over MYSTERY Home Hub disconnections

Fred M

My surprise disconnection

I recently switched from Sky to BT and whilst it's a definite improvement I've also had an unexpected disconnection. Rather than send me my first bill (or any warning that they were due a payment) BT very helpfully just cut off my broadband. Nice.

Also the "engineer" who installed it left with the broadband partially working and no phone. "Not my area of expertise. Maybe it'll work better tomorrow."

Ten top tech toys to interface with a techie’s Christmas stocking

Fred M


I can thoroughly recommend the Tado. It was a easy to install and works very well. They're currently offering a free visit for installation but you probably won't need it.

The beta version I got had issues with Sky broadband (and of course Sky won't let you change their awful router or DNS servers). Once we'd identified the problem a Tado engineer and new firmware written and remotely deployed within a day. Great service.

WTF is ... 802.15.4e?

Fred M

Re: Zigbee?

Thanks. That clarification was what the article was missing.

Google reveals its Hummingbird: Fly, my little algorithm - FLY!

Fred M

Top Googling top

Here's my top tip for getting the most out of Google's search algorithms:

1. Use Bing for a whole day

2. Go back to Google

3. Realise you have very little to complain about

Want FREE BEER for the rest of your life?

Fred M

I really did have that

You may not believe Jake, but I did have that about 20 years ago - initially misdiagnosed as ME. It's nowhere nears as nice as it sounds. It wasn't like being drunk all the time but more like permanently coping with a hangover. An anti yeast treatment sorted me out and I was so happy that it did.

Sammy had Sweet Fanny Adams to do with Swiss Fanny madam's blast

Fred M

Re: Headline excellence...

"If you really can't see why .... then I'm not going to explain it to you."

@Ledswinger If anyone had any doubts that you were a genuine female Reg reader (rather than just a guy trolling) then you squashed that right there.

British Bebo founder buys back social network for $849m profit

Fred M

Re: First ever social networking site?

Friend Reunited was indeed before 2001, but wasn't social networking. In fact I had a meeting with Friends Reunited to discuss collaborating on them developing the social networking side of things.

Fred M

Re: Local shop, for local people

I think Bebo was an excellent example of how the UK is not the place for social networking. I'll give you a short history lesson of social networking...

Many years ago (early 2001) some friends and I started the first ever social networking site - the long forgotten EveryonesConnected.com - well before MySpace, Friendster, Bebo, etc. Being based in the UK we found that UK venture capital was too sensible and cautious to invest. The term social networking wasn't even being used and they couldn't see any exit strategy. [Sidenote: Is there one?] Anyone in the US couldn't see past their shores and weren't interested in anything that wasn't physically US-based.

Shortly afterwards the Birches (who ran Birthday Alarm) started Ringo, which I also believe was UK-based. I can't find anything to confirm this so I'm relying on my memory, but I remember that the Birches shut up Ringo, moved to the US and started Bebo. They seemed to immediately get investment and interest. That kind of supported my suspicion that being US-based was essential if you were going to make a financial success of it.