* Posts by Dave Pickles

218 posts • joined 12 Sep 2011


The ideal sat-nav is one that stops the car, winds down the window, and asks directions

Dave Pickles

The satnav in my BMW begins every instruction with "please". Of course to suit the stereotypical Beemer driver it should also add "... unless you know better".

Amazon tells folks it will stop accepting UK Visa credit cards via weird empty email

Dave Pickles

Re: Will be interesting

Santander moved all their UK debit cards from Visa to Mastercard a few months ago.

Survey shows XP lingers on while Windows 11 makes a 0.21% ripple in the enterprise

Dave Pickles

I wonder how many of those 0.21 percent are folks like me running a user-agent randomiser on their browser?

Rolls-Royce set for funding fillip to build nuclear power stations based on small modular reactor technology

Dave Pickles

Re: Chernobyl - graphite fire

Not quite. The reactor was coming up to its summer shutdown and it was planned to run a test to see if the rotational energy in the turbine could be used to power essential electrical loads should the reactor trip - if so it wouldn't be necessary to have standby diesel generators running continuously just in case. Unfortunately they botched the process of reducing the reactor output and grossly undershot the level needed for the test. The control rods were withdrawn far beyond normal in an attempt to correct, resulting in a power surge and explosion.

31-year-old piece of hardware not working very well: Hubble telescope back in safe mode over 'synchronization issues'

Dave Pickles

Re: It’s going to L2?

It's going to the L2 point of the Sun - Earth system, not L2 Earth - Moon. It will be 1.5 million km from Earth so outside the Moon's orbit, but should only be eclipsed by the Moon rarely if at all (can't quickly find the inclination angle of the Moon's orbit).

Config cockup leaves Reg reader reaching for the phone

Dave Pickles

Re: Nothing new...

'Yes, that "please make a backup of your data before commencing this upgrade prompt" you always ignore? I learned pretty early in my career the value of not doing that :)'

When running an upgrade on VMS one of the prompts read:

"Are you satisfied with the backup of your system disk?"

Somehow those words always had the desired effect.

Dave Pickles

Re: Me too...

ISTR Informix wouldn't allow UPDATE or DELETE without a WHERE clause. Never saw it happen but I can imagine muscle-memory adding WHERE 1=1...

Computer shuts down when foreman leaves the room: Ghost in the machine? Or an all-too-human bit of silliness?

Dave Pickles

Re: Fuel pumps

But for some reason they didn't include the last line of the verse:

"You make a grown man cry"

Thatcher-era ICL mainframe fingered for failure to pay out over £1bn in UK pensions

Dave Pickles

Re: It doesn't sound much faster

Yes but you need to factor in 30 years of code bloat.

UK's Civil Aviation Authority hashing out rules for crash-proof cargo pods on drones

Dave Pickles

Re: Mid flight failure

Indeed. A four-engined aircraft can do pretty much everything on three engines that it can on four, while a quadcopter drone is in plummet mode if a single motor or propeller fails.

Fixing this would require the motors and propellers to be uprated so the drone could fly on two, and a more sophisticated control system to recognise and deal with the failure eg by shutting down the opposite motor.

NASA hopes VIPER rover will search for water in Moon's Nobile crater in 2023

Dave Pickles

Re: Why solar powered?

But what if your RTG-powered probe crashes? "Yes there's lots of water at the south pole; shame it's all now radioactive"

This drag sail could prevent spacecraft from turning into long-term orbiting junk. We spoke to its inventors ahead of launch

Dave Pickles

Doesn't the sail increase the size of the spacecraft, making it MORE likely to hit something?

Children of China, your state-sanctioned hour of gaming begins … now!

Dave Pickles

It's not about the kids

It's about the Chinese Communist Party showing the country's tech companies who's in charge.

Live, die, copy-paste, repeat: Everything is recycled now, including ideas

Dave Pickles

Better to light a single candle than curse the darkness

I'm sure OpenStreetMap and their users would be delighted if your were to add your former house to the map, after having so thoroughly assured yourself of it's continued existence. Actually most buildings on OSM are traced (legally) from Bing, so maybe it's a dastardly plot by Microsoft to remove you from history.

THX Onyx: A do-it-all DAC for the travelling audiophile

Dave Pickles

"The closest approach to the original sound"

Many years ago I saw a demonstration by Quad of their valve amplifiers. One amplifier was fed with audio in the normal way and was connected to a dummy load, the second was bridged between the input and output of the first and fed a loudspeaker. Even with the gain of the second amp wound up there was complete silence from the speaker - until the first amp began to overload then the result was deafening.

Probably not possible due to coding delays, but it would be interesting to try a similar end-to-end test with modern audio kit.

Get ready to make processes fit the software when shifting to SAP's cloud, users told

Dave Pickles

Limiting innovation

Suppose my company comes up with a new way of doing business which is not only better for our customers it also makes more money for us. Unfortunately we are a SAP shop. We have to persuade SAP to change their code to match our new process, in which case our competitors who are also SAP customers have a ready-made solution to do the same!

BOFH: You say goodbye and I say halon

Dave Pickles

Re: I'm curious


I suppose the advantage of halon is that you have a normal working environment until the fire happens.

UKRI denies pulling funding from Newport Wafer Fab over Chinese ownership concerns

Dave Pickles

Mmmm, chunky chips...

BT to phase out 3G in UK by 2023 for EE, Plusnet, BT Mobile subscribers

Dave Pickles

Re: Not that simple - some 4G/5G devices and/or SIMs currently use 3G and 2G for voice!

Samsung phones use a proprietary VoLTE driver, so if LineageOS or another alternative ROM is installed they have to fall-back to 3G or 2G.

As Europe hopes to double its share of global chip production, Intel comes along with $20bn, plans for fabs

Dave Pickles

Re: gimme gimme gimme

"Currently it can cost 30 per cent more to operate a fab in Europe or the US compared to Asia."

So slap a 30% tax on imports from Asia. Fixed!

Go to L: A man of the cloth faces keyboard conundrum

Dave Pickles

I was going to suggest that the priest entered the name of the saint commemorated on that day, but as there is no saint for July 2nd, at least in the Anglican calendar, that would fall rather flat. Maybe he could have entered "third Sunday in Lent" or whatever.

FYI: There's a human-less, AI robot Mayflower ship sailing from the UK to US right now

Dave Pickles

Pirate Fodder

What are the chances of it disappearing without trace, or mysteriously losing all of it's expensive tech?

Ireland warned it could face 'rolling blackouts' if it doesn't address data centres' demand for electricity

Dave Pickles

Re: Time to reconsider nuclear

Just rename the place back to Windscale.

Bank of England ponders minting 'Britcoin' to sit alongside the Pound

Dave Pickles

Re: for use by households and businesses

At present money is fungible - if I pay £100 into my bank account and later withdraw £100 it's impossible to say that I withdrew the exact same money that I paid in. Britcoins presumably have serial numbers which can be tracked.

Bless you: Yep, it's IBM's new name for tech services spinoff and totally not a hayfever medicine

Dave Pickles


Wonder how much that cost...

OVH data centre destroyed by fire in Strasbourg – all services unavailable

Dave Pickles

What on earth is burning in there? I wonder if it was a 'sustainable' construction building, with wooden walls and wool insulation. It certainly sustained combustion...

Planespotters’ weekends turn traumatic as engine pieces fall from the sky in the Netherlands and the US

Dave Pickles

Re: Quick turnaround for the 777?

The engine was on fire, and since the only people who could put it out were on the ground, that was the place to go.

Citibank accidentally wired $500m back to lenders in user-interface super-gaffe – and judge says it can't be undone

Dave Pickles

The other pertinent point is that the loan was subject to New York state law. In that jurisdiction there is a "discharge for value defense"; a lender who receives full payment for a debt is under no obligation to refund the payment if it was made in error.

The judge's decision also explains why the 'six eyes' barrier failed. Everyone involved had the same incorrect understanding of how the software worked.

UK watchdog fines two firms £270k for cold-calling 531,000 people who had opted out

Dave Pickles

Re: Reporting calls

They presumably connect to the UK phone network via a SIP gateway in the UK, so go after whoever runs the gateway.

Dave Pickles

Re: Spoofing unused codes

Get an open source call blocker application such as ncid (http://ncid.sourceforge.net/), together with a USB fax modem which understands CLI and a Raspberry Pi or similar.

Ncid accepts regular expressions in its blocklist. UK numbers are exactly 11 digits (except for a very few places that aren't...) so a regex for ill-formed numbers is simple enough.

The list of UK number ranges which have been allocated is published weekly by OFCOM at https://www.ofcom.org.uk/phones-telecoms-and-internet/information-for-industry/numbering/numbering-data. A script in your favourite language will turn this into a list of number ranges which haven't been allocated. The list is fairly long (about 65k ranges) but it's possible to add an extra check into ncid against this list.

Countless emails wrongly blocked as spam after Cisco's SpamCop failed to renew domain name at the weekend

Dave Pickles


Yes I had a very quiet Sunday thanks to all incoming mail being flagged as spam. Fortunately nothing important got bounced.

From https://www.spamcop.net/fom-serve/cache/351.html SpamCop are supposed to return if an address is marked as spamogenic, or NXDOMAIN otherwise, I believe Spamhaus do the same. Instead the address of the domain parking page was returned. Maybe postfix ought not to reject mail if the check returns an unexpected IP address.

Takes from the taxpayer, gives to the old – by squishing a bug in Thatcherite benefits system

Dave Pickles

Re: 2^16

"I suspect that the memory chips actually had 1536 more bits than stated!"

Yes but knowing IBM they would charge extra to make them available.

Dave Pickles

Re: Language!

From my sigmonster file:


-- Norman deForest explains the joys of PL/1

I only used a cut-down version, on CP/M and later DOS. I gather the full language was rather more daunting.

Asus ROG Phone 3: An ugly but refreshing choice – for gaming fans only

Dave Pickles

Re: Was this article written by a bot?

Don't forget Vulture Central will soon be it Tier-3 land. El Reg's hacks are doubtless doing sterling duty drinking the pubs dry before they are forced to close again.

Japan sticks the landing: Asteroid sample recovered from Hayabusa2 probe

Dave Pickles

Re: Protective gear?

Unfired pyrotechnics? Unused thruster propellant?

UK's Space Command to be 'capable of launching our first rocket in 2022'

Dave Pickles

Re: But I can't help wondering about the vacuum test

It's called a steam ejector. Squirt steam at high pressure into a venturi. The exhaust gas is entrained with the steam and exits at high speed, leaving a partial vacuum behind. Rolls-Royce had one at their Bristol factory many years ago (for testing RB211s among other things) which I had the pleasure of seeing in action.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledges £12bn green economy package

Dave Pickles

How many Nukes will we need?

A very quick calculation of the extra electrical power needed.

Income from Fuel Duty was £28.4B in 2018-9 (source OBR). Road fuel is taxed at 57.5p/l so neglecting heating oil and red diesel that gives a total annual usage of 50e9 litres.

Averaging the energy density of petrol and diesel at 35MJ/l, assuming an IC engine efficiency of 30% and an electric engine efficiency of 80% (including distribution and charge/discharge losses) gives a total annual energy requirement of 6.5e17J, or 21GW. That's around six Sizewell-B - sized stations.

Lockdown bidder block shock: Overzealous parental filters on Virgin Media and TalkTalk break eBay for UK users

Dave Pickles


This is the second article I've seen here recently which has used this word, so I looked it up. From "The Joys Of Yiddish" by Leo Rosten (1968):

1. A toy, plaything

2. An inexpensive trinket

3. A bruise or wound

4. A nobody

5. A misfit

6. A loose or kept woman

7. An ineffectual person

8. A cute female

9. A sexy but brainless broad

Maybe Virgin thought users were looking up one of the other meanings?

One more reason for Apple to dump Intel processors: Another SGX, kernel data-leak flaw unearthed by experts

Dave Pickles

"....and every one of those firmware 'updates' slows down the processor measurably....."

My well-travelled notebook runs Linux 4.14.4, the last version before Spectre, along with the microcode and firmware from that time.

X.Org is now pretty much an ex-org: Maintainer declares the open-source windowing system largely abandoned

Dave Pickles

Re: and if not on Gnome3

Out of interest I just tried the latest release of KDE under Wayland. It does run (for sufficiently slow values of 'run') but every action produces a stack of error messages in the log.

The engineer lurking behind the curtain: Musical monitors on a meagre IT budget

Dave Pickles

Re: Tulip Computers

Tulip, ah yes, little pizza-box computers.

I had a 16MHz 386sx on my desk which got upgraded to 25MHz. I had to ask for the old one back; with the slower machine I could read a text file or directory listing as it scrolled up the screen, the new one was too fast even with ctrl-Q to freeze the display.

Hydrogen-powered train tested on Britain's railway tracks as diesel alternative

Dave Pickles

Re: Masthead

Thanks, you've won back the space occupied by the cookie pop-up, which has remained ignored and unclicked at the bottom of the screen for the last couple of months.

Dave Pickles

8.5 Bar?

The hydrogen isn't stored at 8.5 Bar - that would need the entire train to be used as the fuel tank. According to the linked article it's stored at an unmentioned high pressure then reduced to 8.5 Bar to feed the fuel cells.

NHS England awards £1.6m deal to build digital staff 'passports' in fight against coronavirus second wave

Dave Pickles

Re: Mobile Phones

But if you're redeploying to another NHS Trust, you'll presumably have to hand in your 'work' phone...

FYI: Mind how you go. We're more or less oblivious to 75% of junk in geosynchronous orbits around Earth

Dave Pickles

At least everything is in the same orbit

The satellites and junk are all orbiting the Earth in the same plane, so the relative velocity of any collision will be very low.

You're all wet: Drippy chips to help slash data centre power consumption and carbon costs

Dave Pickles

Re: No physics again.

"I know it says "50 times greater", but what does that even mean."

(According to Slashdot) The original article states that previous attempts at water cooling with microchannels in the silicon used more power to pump the water than was being dissipated in the chip. Presumably it is this figure which is being reduced by a factor of 50.

Everything's falling apart. The Moon is slowly rusting up – and it's probably Earth's fault

Dave Pickles

Re: "1.5x10^27 oxygen particles [..] annually"

If I've remembered the Avogadro Number correctly that's 40Kg per year.

China testing digital currency, but rollout looks to be slipping

Dave Pickles

Re: You don't need to be a government

That'll be Waitrose?

Pulling a couple of receipts from the recycle bin they do indeed have the same "Token ID". Abstrads.

Apple's at it again: Things go pear-shaped for meal planner app after iGiant opposes logo

Dave Pickles

Apple at odds with reality

"Applicant's Mark consists of a minimalistic fruit design with a right-angled leaf"

That's what a pear leaf looks like!



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