* Posts by Peter Gathercole

3899 publicly visible posts • joined 15 Jun 2007

Cunningly camouflaged cable routed around WAN-sized hole in project budget

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Forget between buildings. The meal hall of my uni. college had different phases on the sockets of each side of the room, and probably an earth fault as well.

One of my friends was getting shocks while setting up a PA and lighting system for an event (it may actually have been the same event that had a partial stage collapse during the setup - not good when the performers were John Otway and Wild Willy Barrett when they were younger and Really Free), so stuck a meter between the earth's of each side, and was astounded to see +100V AC measured. Between the earths!

I think he also measured the potential between the live on each side, and saw a difference there as well, but I can't remember what it was.

China bans Micron products after security review finds unspecified flaws

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: If they really wanted to make a point

It depends on how much of that market share goes into products that are re-exported to the rest of the world. As I understand it, this ban is for devices destined for the internal Chinese market, in particular sensitive parts of Chinese government and military.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Wouldn't put it past them

It would not be difficult to embed an ARM or RISCV processor or a micro-controller in the refresh circuitry of a DIMM. What it could do is up for debate, but given the state of SOCs, it would not be impossible to implement a mesh network to ex-filtrate information from a system. Would still need a route out of an environment, though.

More inventive minds than mine would probably come up with something, I'm sure.

Search the web at least once every two years or risk losing your Google account

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

New account for every phone?

Why did you do that? All of the Android phones I've owned have been registered against the same Gmail/Google account. I checked the devices that Google remembers, and I could not believe how many there were!

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: "The web biz has justified the change"

Except that they did not need to tell you up-front. I know there will be a clause in the original agreement like "We may modify the terms in the future and publish these new terms and conditions. We will show you a (small) message to let you know when this happens. It will be your responsibility to read these new conditions, and your continuing use of the service will imply that you have accepted the modified T&Cs" etc.

Once you agree to a clause like that, unless it crosses legislation, you don't have a leg to stand on.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: They want your phone number

If you have just one account registered with a phone number, and you use them on the same system, even if you clear your cookies, and sandbox the use, they will probably still find a way of linking them together. They're devious like that.

It still amazes me that Firefox manages to link together my work and personal systems, so that even though I don't log in to Firefox, and disable syncing between devices, it still manages to mingle the page history in Firefox between the different systems.

Official: Lomiri desktop now runs on Debian

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Do people actually want this?

I have to wonder about this. Unity was not universally popular when Canonical made it the default desktop on Ubuntu. I actually found it obnoxious enough to work out how to use something else (however, I think it is very suitable for mobile use).

On top of that, it runs on Wayland, which the comments on the recent Asahi Lunix article shows has it's critics who want to stay with X.org.

Still, I can completely ignore it as a personal working enviroment, as I will choose to do.

Asahi Linux developer warns the one true way is Wayland

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Nope @MacroRodent

I don't really agree, although I'm prepared to accept that the type of application you're running will make a difference. The problem with your argument is twofold.

Firstly, 'modern' X11 applications are not written correctly. They render into a local pixmap on the client, and then blit this across the network. This was NEVER the way X was intended to work, and will always require more network bandwidth. It was intended that you would send graphics primitives that are super efficient across the network, and let the server do all the rendering local to the display hardware (remember the backwards terminology of X11). In addition, font handling was done locally in the server as well, so the client program would sent the character references in a network efficient manner, not the complete glyphs that represent the characters. This means that properly written complex programs can be written that work over mere KB/s links. Many (many) years ago, I set up systems at a computer show, with just a 14.4Kb/s SLIP modem link back to the office, and we had all sorts of programs running through that link at a usable speed.

Of course, this is completely foreign to the people who learned to program graphic applications on Windows, so they don't use it in it's most efficient manner, and they then complain that it's slow. Whodathunkit!

Secondly, with X11, you don't need to remote control a whole graphics console on a remote system. This means that your window manager should be running on your local system which manages just your display hardware. This allows many, many people to run client programs on a single remote system simultaneously, without having to worry about virtual frame buffers and display manager for each user on the remote system. This means that the client program can be much lighter in resource use.

In addition, it allows you as a user to manage your sessions much more easily. Attached to a local or a remote system, a window displaying on your screen looks the same and they can sit next to each other, or overlap, and they can be managed the same, including cut and paste between windows (albeit slightly limited to text and parts of pixmaps, rather than more complex objects).

People who complain about the limitations of X11 really don't understand how it works, or how to use if effectively. It's not perfect, but it does things that Wayland/RDP/VNC will, by design, never be able to do.

Tesla batteries went from fully charged to fully disabled after botched patch, lawsuit claims

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


So, here's the rub.

If you charge at home in the UK, there is no 'fuel duty', and currently VAT is at a reduced rate for domestic users.

Are they going to force home owners to have a second electricity meter so they can measure how much of the electricity was used for a vehicle for tax purposes, and how much for domestic use, and mandate by law that they cannot charge off their normal domestic supply?

Or will they push up VAT on all electricity, and put a 'car levy' on people who charge cars at home (interesting observation, when buying electricity at a public charging point, you pay the full 20% VAT, which is one of the drivers keeping electricity from an EV charging point more expensive that charging at home).

Maybe they ought to colour the electricity for the lower tax uses red, like they do with agri-diesel.

As it stands, the UK government are going to take a huge hit if everyone buys an EV and charges at home.

Offshore wind power redesign key to adoption, says Irish firm

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Ballast

Well, you really want something that is heavier than the surrounding medium to give a weight differential to make it an effective ballast. Seawater would have some benefits, but would not help in that respect.

What is interesting is that the main movement of water caused by weather only goes down 10 metres or so. Below that, any movement is mainly caused by currents, so maybe part of the solution is to go deeper with the supporting structure. Would probably still need to be tethered, though.

BOFH: Ah. Company-branded merch. So much better than a bonus

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Cheapo USB key

In the case you outlined, cheap is better for two additional reasons.

1. Chances are the amount of data needing to be transported is pretty small, so speed is not really an issue, and

2. There is a high possibility that it will go missing, at which time cheap becomes important.

Dump these insecure phone adapters because we're not fixing them, says Cisco

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Bit hard on the bright young things?

When the CD format was new, the aluminium layer containing the data was sandwiched between two acrylic disks, so you had tough plastic on both sides of the disks making them extremely resistant to damage. I'm pretty certain that I still have one or two made like this. They're slightly thicker, and heavier than modern CDs.

Very quickly, the CD manufacturers worked out that they could make them more cheaply by just using one disk, putting the aluminium layer on the top, and then using a lacquer and the ink layer to provide some protection. But not much.

It is very easy to scratch the top of one of these CD and ruin it.

But the early two disk sandwich had other problems. One of the issues was that the boundary between the disks that contains the aluminium foil was difficult to seal, and early CD's used to suffer oxidation of the aluminium foil. And although it has little relevance, the ink that they used to use contained solvents that would leach through acrylic, and also attack the foil.

Thanks for fixing the computer lab. Now tell us why we shouldn’t expel you?

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Command.com

It was Platform 9¾.

Whoever heard of something as silly as Platform 5¾!

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: How secure *IS* your system

Well, networking was an add-on even to UNIX, as it pre-dated most LAN implementations. Early UNIX networking meant UUCP over serial lines and modems!

But the foundation of a multi-user, and multi-tasking operating system meant that there was a concept of different users from very early on in UNIX's history (you'd have to go back to Edition 3 or 4 to lose the concept of different users) and certainly by Edition 6 on PDP-11, the first version that I used, the concepts of both users and privileged users was well established, as were virtual address spaces.

Once you had these established as fundamental features, adding networking could be a bolt-on, especially given UNIX's very open device driver model.

This was not unique to UNIX, but what actually made UNIX different was that it could be run on quite modest hardware (especially as people started writing C compilers for many architectures). As soon as microcomputers gained memory management hardware and a protected instruction mode, UNIX was able to be fully ported. The biggest restriction for it penetrating the PC world was actually the price of hard disks.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Giving out the password to a privileged account

The printer was probably attached to the printer port on the back of her VT100 or VT220 (or whatever compatible terminal it was) and somehow she had turned on the printer port either as an alternative to the serial line to the VAX, or in addition to it.

This could be done in the setup, or by a character sequence sent to the terminal, or sometimes on some terminals by a sequence of keypresses. The reason why they were overprinted is that "Enter" on the keyboard generated a carriage return without a linefeed, so the print head moved back to the left column and overprinted the text.

I used to do some very obscure things on a Falco 5220e VT220 compatible terminal, which allowed you to use the second RS232 port as either a printer port, or as a connection to another host, controlled by escape sequences. I would log on to the second server on the second port, run a command to capture input to a file, switch back to the first, and then turn the second port to a printer port and turn it on, and cat a file to the screen (I think I even went to far as to put the capture command in the stream sent to the second system). By using uuencode and uudecode, I had a reliable, error-checked binary file transfer mechanism between two systems that were not network connected (we had a terminal concentrator switch that allowed you to select which host you could log on to).

Colleagues used to wonder how I could move files around between systems so easily!

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: How secure *IS* your system

The really sad thing is that there were more secure network systems around, but they required client machines to have a privileged mode, and for all of the normal users to not have access to it. Examples of the time include SunOS, with NFS as the filesharing model. OK, YellowPages had it's own security holes, but they weren't (quite) as obvious as the PC networks in the early '80s, and you didn't have to use YP if you were prepared to keep /etc/passwd and /etc/group, plus a small number of other files synchronised across the clients and servers.

It was obvious that something as open as BBC Micros were (you had access to the whole system, including where it held the station ID and User ID), it was impossible to really secure the network. But Windows should really have been better, but it was also designed without any security in mind.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

How secure *IS* your system

I ran a Level 3 Acorn Econet of BBC micros (with a 10MB hard disk, no less) at a UK Polytechnic back in the early '80s, something that was never really that secure.

I had to frequently remind staff that although it was very convenient, the security was lamentable, and they should not store assessment results or upcoming assignment or exam questions on the file server. In reality there was no way of stopping the students from seeing or amending them, especially when two of the students were very good at understanding how things worked (they both were already, or went on to become well known game writers for the BBC Micro and other systems - shout out to Gary and Peter).

One of them already had experience of hacking a Level 2 fileserver before he even came to the Poly, and in many ways, I was actually following him (often as a result of "I can see what he did, but how did he do it") type situations, even though I had been using BBC micros almost from the first day they were available.

While I loved what Econet provided, it really wasn't fit for purpose as a general computing environment, at least not for completely open and unprotected systems like the BBC micro.

Microsoft makes Windows Server 2022 licenses a little less cynical

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: it wasn't just Ballmer

Yes, but one wonders just how much of that work was to get WSL working, and also to get Linux working in an Azure environment better than anywhere else.

Microsoft are not motivated to be altruistic. Everything will be working to a plan to get leverage over other companies, and especially over something which had the potential to completely pull the rug from under Microsoft's revenue.

They gave up on trying to make everyone run Windows in the cloud. They're now making it so there are compulsive reasons to run Linux workloads in Azure.

Musicians threaten to make Oasis 'Live Forever' with AI

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Emulated quality @AC

I know there are still good musicians out there. I know that it's very difficult for them to get exposure. Too many of them are limited to self-publishing on the Internet, to be abused by the media platforms who try to steal the income, and in some cases, the copyright and control of their tracks.

But just look at the popular streaming tracks.

A large number of them have stock base lines and drum tracks, autotune, are pasted to the grid, have a lack of harmonic progression and limited chord choices, and credit lists to the writers that have so many contributors that you wonder what each of the actually did, and at the end of it an artist that has very little control of their image, the way they're marketed, or even their longevity.

There are exceptions. I think Billie Eilish is extraordinary. Taylor Swift (not really my cup of tea) has managed to become big enough to be able to control her own image. Adele is a power of nature in her writing, and I've grown to appreciate Lady Gaga more and more as time goes by (why are these all women?)

But where are the new towering giants like Prince, Clapton, Bowie, or dare I say it, Lennon and McCartney. Are they in the likes of Justin Bieber, or Harry Stiles. Even Ed Sheeran appears to becoming a bit generic. Yes, they can knock out a catchy tune that will get some traction for a while, and then get largely forgotten.

IMHO, the problem is the music industry that is too often trying to re-make the last big hit, and unwilling to support and promote good talent with new ideas. Image is everything (just how much female skin do we have to see in videos!) and the biz are too fixated on making money rather than good music. Just listen to the scorn in the lyrics of "Grace Kelly" by Mika, something that is both catchy and musically interesting, and says heaps about the music industry.

That's my view. It's a generalization, but how else can you sum up something like the music industry in a few hundred words.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: We have a moral and commercial responsibility to our artists

Too often it is the record companies, labels and music publishers who are driving this.

I know I've mentioned him before, but Rick Beato's musical deconstruction of many well known tracks is often targeted by take down requests, normally from lawyers and people specifically employed to prevent certain bands from being musically quoted, even though these video essays are clearly covered by some of the copyright exemptions. Often, when the artist themselves are directly approached, the ban is lifted, so it's not the artists that block.

And what is so ironic is that these review often actually drive sales for the music, as people discover for the first time how good some of this older music actually is.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Emulated quality @AC

In the beginning, no, they weren't any real different from any of the similar bands of the time. There is almost certainly a strong element of luck in it being them rather than one of the other skiffle/R&R/Blues influenced bands playing covers doing the circuit.

But very soon, they started writing their own material. The early material, like the "She Loves You" was just taking what was popular, and writing more of the same. But you look at the evolution of their music from, say, "Please Please me" through to "Rubber Soul" which was a period of less than three years, and then I would say accelerating the rate of their musical development through "Revolver", "Sgt Pepper's", the White Album and really culminating in "Abbey Road" (yes, technically "Let it Be" was later, but IMHO "Abbey Road" was the last proper Beatles album, with Let it Be being pulled together from already recorded material and material created without the whole band), they drove musical evolution, by their own talent and that of those around them (would they have been the same without George Martin - almost certainly not). All of the Beatles albums were released in a period of less than 8 years. There is no other period in popular music before, or I would say since, where change happened so rapidly, and the Beatles were a major part of that change.

They covered more diverse musical genres, and possibly even created some than any other one popular band of the time. They used their fame to explore instruments and recording techniques. Would we have got to the place where there was space for Pink Floyd, The Moody Blues, The Who, and then on to Punk and melodic writing of Prince and so many other artists (including Oasis) who claim the Beatles as a major influence? Maybe, but as fast, almost certainly not.

If you are sceptical, please take time to properly listen to Abbey Road (and I mean listen, put good headphones on or play it on a proper HiFi in a quiet environemnt, and listen to the whole thing, and actually concentrate on the music). It may not be your cup of tea, but the nuances, musical skill, and the meaning behind the lyrics and their social commentary of Britian at the time is unsurpassed). The production quality on equipment that, by today's standards, was pretty crude is fantastic. Find Rick Beato's deconstruction of the end of "The End" on YouTube and see just went on when creating these masterpieces.

It is a world away from today's menu driven musical creation, where real talent is ignored just for the sake of driving sales

Linux kernel logic allowed Spectre attack on 'major cloud provider'

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Did any such attack take place? Ever?

You don't have to tell me about this problem. It takes months to arrange an out-of-band service shutdown on the systems I look after, even for left-leg right-leg maintenance. Fortunately, they are Power AIX systems which seem a little less affected by Spectre type problems (although IBM have issued both firmware and OS fixes, mainly as a PR exercise IMHO), and these systems are also less likely to be targeted by miscreants because of architectural differences, and are also some way back from the places people can get to from the Internet.

One of the problems of the initial Meltdown vulnerability was that in both Windows and Linux on X86_64 systems, the kernel memory was mapped in to the address space of a process (although it was rendered inaccessible by protection bits, which is what Meltdown worked around). AIX never had this problem (kernel is in a separate virtual address space from processes, with only a small part of the kernel text segment containing the system call vectors and 'fast' system call code mapped into a process address space), so Meltdown was never a problem with AIX. I think this is also mainly true for may of the other speculative execution problems that affect Intel.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Did any such attack take place? Ever?

The issue with your comment is that if people are actively using it, they're unlikely to shout it from the roof-tops, and if you are a victim, the first you will hear of it is long after the leaked information is used to compromise any systems, making it extremely difficult to identify what the vector for the loss was, and that is even if they know they've been a victim at all.

I agree, some of these vulnerabilities are actually difficult to exploit, and more often than not probably return some completely uninteresting data most of the time, but that's not an excuse to not take every preventative measure available.

GlobalFoundries sues IBM for flogging 'chip secrets to Intel, Rapidus'

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

2015 is a long time ago in tech, especially when it appears that IBM did not sell of their chip R&D labs. to Global Foundries.

I think it will all depend on the wording of the contract of sale. If it is the 2nm gate-all-around technology, then chances are that it did not exist in 2015, so it will probably revolve around what was detailed in the contract for derivative technologies.

There may also be something in any time-based exclusivity, which has probably expired now. In addition, as far as I remember, IBM claimed that GF were in breach of contract over late delivery of Power9+, or was it Power10, and the associated z technologies, which caused IBM to look around for other foundries to make their chips. In order for other foundries to build these chips using the designs, they would have to be given details of the processes used to create them.

In my view, this probably means that there were clauses in the contract that allowed IBM to move manufacturing to someone other than GF, especially if there was a breach of contract. IBM has enough good lawyers to not have some get-out clause once exclusivity had passed or the contract was breached.

Fancy trying the granddaddy of Windows NT for free? Now's your chance

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: VMS 1.0...

There was a DECUS C Compiler available to paid members.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: The modern museum

The shelf full of manuals is nothing!. In the '80s, I had a PDP-11 system running RSX-11M, with paid software maintenance. Every month, I got a PRINTED patch list of MACRO-11 code, and I think they were cumulative since the version was released each one got thicker. I had them stacked in a corner of our secure room that held the system. Eventually, I had two stacks each about four feet tall.

I never got around to applying any of these fixes, because we took the attitude that if something wasn't affecting us, it did not need to be patched! Such innocent days, although at the time the closest thing we had to networking were remote terminals connected to RS-232 serial lines (although we did have a CAMTEC X.25 PAD attached to one of the DL-11 lines).

Plus the fact it was much more interesting to play with the Edition 6 and Edition 7 UNIX kernel on the system during the time I had the system down for maintenance!

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: The modern museum

It's worse (or better) than that! RSX-11 had file versioning, and for all I know IAS had it as well. It was part of the Files-11 filesystem that DEC used on many of their OSs.

Australian bank stops handling cash at the counter in some branches

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Opening hours

That is the reason why banks in the UK used to close their counters at 3:30PM, to give time for the reconciliation while still allowing their staff to leave at a normal time on most days.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Opening hours

Reading the small print of the details, the repayment rate was calculated once per year, and it was explained to me that even if you did make a large overpayment, this would not make a difference to the monthly payments until the next annual review (although changing interest rates would - they have it all their own way!) And it was also explained that what I referred to as an "out of band" payment (which was my terminology) included a large overpayment in place of the normal regular payment.

I'm not sure what they would have done if I had, but I did not want to be on the hook for several months payments on a mortgage which had technically already been paid off.

I did think of another solution, but it required engaging a solicitor or conveyancer. They have the means of paying large amounts of money in single remote transactions, as they do it all the time during house sales and purchases. But they would have charged a considerable fee.

Anyway. All done now, and I don't expect to have to do such a thing again in my lifetime.

How this startup tracked that Chinese spy balloon using AI

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Global surveillance

Let's look at this realistically. The only time you can have 100% surveillance on a location is if you have a satellite in a geostationary orbit above what you're interested in, and you have clear skies.

Generally speaking, surveillance satellites are in polar or highly inclined orbits, so that they can cover the maximum amount of the Earth's surface. But what this means is that they only pass over one particular area periodically, typically twice in any 24 hour period.

So, a particular satellite may not have captured any images of MH370, although if you had access to all of the pictures from every global surveillance platform, you may be able to capture a few images of the plane, but it probably depends on the cloud cover at the time.

What the security forces are interested in are quite often relatively static, so being able to see them once per day (assuming one pass is at night) is often enough to get some idea what is going on. Large balloons, being relatively slow (although I guess this depends on the altitude), are probably quite easy objects to follow. Planes, not so much.

IBM shrinks z16 and LinuxONE systems into standard rack configs

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: ..forklift..

Correcting myself. The power system was called a "Bulk Power Assembly" (BPA). It was actually something like the top 6U of the frames, which were taller than a normal IBM 40U rack.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge


I can't say for certain whether they ship a forklift, but the IBM P7 775 HPC systems that used to use the same 26" racks as whatever was the then z system (z196?) came with a device called a 'lift tool" (which was basically a large trolley with a scissor lift incorporated in it) , and also had wind out rails to allow you pull the drawers out of the rack more gently than just tugging them. But removing the drawers from the racks was a relatively unusual operation, as much of the work could be carried out with the draws in-situe, as may of the replaceable units pulled out from either the front or rear of the drawer.

These were both powered using a meaty Makita rechargeable hand-held power drill which was actually part of the maintenance kit.

When we got the original details through, there was supposed to be a powered tow unit to move the racks, but when they were delivered, they resorted to old-fashioned muscle power to move the racks (although 3.5 metric tonnes per rack, without the water, was quite heavy, and creased the aluminium load spreading sheets that were used to prevent damage to the suspended floor).

I'm sort of interested in how they power these new systems. For full-blown z-systems, there is a thing called a "Bulk Power Unit" at the top of the rack that conditions the power and provides multiple-redundant power conversion and regulation from whatever is the local supply voltage (normally three-phase, of course) to what the system actually needs (I think it was 48 or 64 volts DC). This BPU is 'intelligent' in that it had it's own redundant service processor pair in it, and is controlled and monitored from the Hardware Management Console.

I wonder what they do for these 19" rack-mount units.

Germany sours on Microsoft again, launches antitrust review

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: When companies get too big

There is plenty of innovation in the Linux market place. This is what causes what you complain about, too much choice.

With desktop innovation there is much more than just Gnome3. There's plenty of alternatives, with KDE, LXDE, XFCE, Cinnamon, Mate, Unity and many, many older or more niche desktop environments.

The problem as you've pointed out, is twofold. Only the major desktops are picked up by the dominant distros (with Gnome being pushed quite hard by Red Hat). If you are trying to manage a Linux desktop rollout, you will almost certainy decide on a major distro, and probably accept the desktop they include by default, maintaining the momentum of the establishment (this is analogous to Windows dominating the desktop).

The second aspect of the problem is that the more innovative tools and environments are normally small projects, and it is very difficult for them to break into the mainstream to be noticed.

I experienced this from personal experience. IBM has (well, had, it's slowly being wound down in preference to Apple) an internal set of tools that implemented what they called their "Open Client" environment for IBMers who wanted to use Linux on their corporate systems. Initially it could be layered on top of Ubuntu, SuSE, Red Hat Enterprise and a couple of more niche distros (they've now decided on just Red Hat, can't understand why), but they shipped a heavily customised version of Gnome 3 as the standard environment.

I found this even less usable than the standard Gnome 3, so I found the options to switch back to normal Gnome. But I then had cause to call the helpdesk, which at the time would accept calls on the Open Desktop environment (although now help is only available from the internal community). But all their guides assumed the modified desktop that was shipped. They were confused, and I was so fed up that I worked out how to fix the problem myself from the pointers they gave.

So large companies need standards, just to allow them to operate. Giving users in an organization choice can never work, unless the users are self-supporting.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: They will get let off again

They're not the bad boys they used to be. After a brief period of apparent altruism (which was almost certainly just them changing their focus), they've adopted a whole new aspect to their 'badness'.

The problem is not really Microsoft, but more like the American capitalist system where not chasing a market dominant position can lead to the board of a company being sued by the shareholders. It almost appears to be a crime to be satisfied with having enough of the market.

The most bizarre online replacement items in your delivered shopping?

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Years ago....

When memory was expensive, I ordered 2x2MB memory upgrade kits for IBM X Stations. I got delivered 2 memory carrier boxes each containing 20 DIMMs, each of which were 2MB in size. We worked out that it was something like £5000 of memory at IBM prices.

Took the correct number I'd ordered out, and stuck the rest in a cupboard. Unfortunately, they traced the over delivery and asked for them back. As this was an IBM to IBM delivery, I was told by my manager to return them, and not claim ignorance. Not sure what I would have done if it was an external supplier.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Why would you not? @yetanotheraoc

Not true!

There's two dates used, either of which may be shown. "Best Before" is a suggestion. "Use By" is a directive. If you were to eat something that was beyond it's "Use By" date and got food poisoning, and then tried to sue the supermarket, you wouldn't have a leg to stand on.

I've bought bread which has remained unopened until the date on it's "Use By", and found that there was already mould on it. And some of the vegetables that are being sold at the moment, I would not use on the day that I bought it!

I am prepared to check food that is just past it's "Use By" date, but very often I chose to discard it because the packet is bloated, or looks or smells unpleasant. As a result, I would not plan a meal where I would be using perishable ingredients beyond their "Use By" date. It's too much of a lottery.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: This is why I now go to the shops.

We have a problem now that we have to check the dates on the items we buy.

There's no point in buying on Monday something that is intended for a meal on Thursday which goes out of date on Tuesday. This is what happens all too frequently in our Tesco. and heaven forbid you want to actually try to do just one shop per week!

I know that delivery chains are tough now, but I often think that this particular mainstream Tesco (not an Express or a Metro) gets deliveries that are much closer to their use by dates than other Tescos that I visit.

What point is there in buying bread, various dairy products, fresh meat and fish that goes out of date the following day? It used to be that they would move the items to a short-date section of the store, but no more, it just gets left on the shelf, and cleared when it expires (or not if the shelf fillers can't be bothered to check - I've frequently seen expired items still on the shelf, and I normally call this to the attention of the manager).

We end up doing two supermarket shops a week now, just to be able to cook with still in-date items.

A new version of APT is coming to Debian 12

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Ubuntu video drivers

Just how "previously loved" are these laptops?

If they are older than a certain age, then you may find that the driver you need for the GPU in the laptop has been removed from the current binary driver that Nvidia make available for Ubuntu. I've come across this problem more than once over the years.

Nvidia decide that you should not be using their older hardware, which is a real problem for laptops where you can't just pop out the graphics adaptor and install a new one.

They do normally tell you in their info about their universal driver which cards are still supported. The release notes are normally referenced in the long description for the package that can be seen in Synaptic (not sure about the Software Centre).

If you don't want to use Nouveau, then you may find that installing the older Nvidia packages from the version you're running, or even from an older Ubuntu repo. may actually allow you to get it working, but it's quite a faff, adding an older repo. and then installing the driver you need, and then holding the package so that it will not be automatically upgraded.

Ford seeks patent for cars that ditch you if payments missed

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: The US Patent Office should be disassembled

Mobile phone operators can do it already as well, and they have the option to add the IMEI number of a device to the blacklist to stop the phone being used with a different SIM. Whether they do or not, I don't know.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Patent? @Stuart

I thought that there was a provision in US Patent law that makes it difficult to defend (note I said defend rather than register) a patent if, after a fixed time, you've not actually demonstrated an implementation using it.

I could be wrong, but I thought that it was there to prevent somebody patenting something that they didn't/couldn't make work, to prevent speculative patents as a land-grab for interesting ideas that were not yet realizable.

Feel free to correct me, I'm genuinely interested.

If we plan to live on the Moon, it's going to need a time zone

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Just set the entire moon to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC +0) ...

I (obviously) meant directly over head in Greenwich when I was talking about GMT. And yes, I should have said "at it's highest", as Greenwich is significanty north of the equator.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Just set the entire moon to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC +0) ...

CUT and GMT are not (quite) the same. They were, at one time, but since GMT is a sidereal time system that is actually based on the Earth's rotation, and CUT is supposed to be an absolute reference, as the Earth wobbles, they add or subtract leap-seconds to GMT (although I think I heard that they were going to stop that).

If you do not adjust time as a result of wobble, then you face the problem that the Sun may not be exactly overhead at 12:00 noon GMT.

It's a problem for the future, as the Earth's orbit around the Sun will change in the (very) long term. GMT will have to diverge from CUT.

Backup tech felt the need – the need for speed. And pastries and Tomb Raider

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Formatting DVDs?

To incrementally write a one-time writeable DVD (either +R or -R), it was necessary to write it as a multi-session disk.

Each time you added a something new, it put it into a new extent, and then invalidated the old disk index, and wrote a new one. The amount of space for the indexes was finite, so there was a limited number of additions you could make to a disk. And each time you added something, the total space that could be used on the disk went down.

In this case, they're talking about DVD-RAM, which is a very different beast. The disks did indeed come with a pre-recorded timing track, and were effectively 'hard' sectored.

The second dust bowl cometh for America, supercomputer warns

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: what is it about post WW2 planned cities that make them so lifeless and forgettable? @raff

Actually, I think you are wrong, or looking at it without taking in the historical context. They were originally built precisely for the people who would live in them.

I know Basingstoke best, and the aim of the place was to act as relocation hub for people who had been living in really bad housing in London (they were called London Overspill towns, but that was not really accurate).

If you look at them all, the idea was to produce a nicer environment to live in than the terrace slums that had been so badly damaged in the Blitz. As a result, almost all of the houses were well built, and around Basingstoke, had gardens, kitchens, good plumbing, central heating, and generously sized rooms. They were arranged around local centres which had a good sized convenience store or small supermarket, food outlets (normally a Fish and Chip shop as built), medium sized schools close by, and a doctors surgery and maybe a dentist. There were also social clubs, community centres and sometimes pubs as well, and green spaces like parks, playing fields, playgrounds and even small patches of woodland left to separate the areas of paving and concrete up.

The bus services were good, and allowed you to get into the centre of the town or the industrial estates (also built to house relocated and new businesses) for work quite easily, allowing the families to exist without needing a car, as most people being relocated from London would not have had one at the time. But there was provision for cars as well as families became better off.

The ex-council house we bought in Popley at the beginning of the '90s had been lived in by the same family since it was built, and I remember talking to them when we were viewing it, and they said it was like heaven on earth compared to where they had moved from.

What has made it worse in the last 30 years, and this is not really anything special to Basingstoke, was when economies were made, such as reducing the bus services, consolidating the medium sized schools into smaller numbers of large schools outside the town, shutting down the local centres and filling in the green spaces and ex-school playing fields with more dwellings, often apartment blocks. And it was not helped when the large stock of council houses were sold off, and became less well maintained in private hands than when they were owned by the Council, which also fragmented the communities. What had been small communities, clustered around a town centre became soulless, slowly decaying areas of increasing deprivation, although I would say that it was still mostly better than the social engineering that produced the tower blocks in many large cities around the country in the same period (look up the Biker Wall for real evidence of "Socialist housing").

I would imagine that many of the council houses sold have ended up in the private rental market as well, which probably doesn't help much.

The 'new towns' were built with the best intentions, only to be corrupted by the modern world.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: All I can see

It depends on your perspective. I used to live in Basingstoke in the early '90s, and I thought at the time that, for a modern town, it was not actually that bad. But I knew people who remembered from before the new town was built in the '60s, and thought that all the concrete in the shopping centres and the rings of housing estates around the edge were just horrible.

But a few years ago I had occasion to drive through it (well, I guess around it mostly), and it seemed to me that the green spaces that had been deliberately left to make it more pleasant (or do I mean less unpleasant) were being filled in by to my eyes ugly high density apartment blocks that totally changed the character of the place.

The only major improvement was that they'd removed most of the roundabouts from the ring-road. But I guess that people who enjoy that type of environment may think differently, just as I did 30 years ago.

Oh, and for all it's shortcomings, I think MK (in the late '90s) was nicer, although the grid road system was infuriating!

US weather forecasters triple supercomputing oomph with latest machines

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: Hyper-local forecasting? @AC re. 50% chance.

It may be that is not what you want it to mean, but that is how various weather forecasters predict rain. It's a difficult to understand definition, but they've struggled over the tears to come up with something better.

I used to help look after the IBM supes at the Met. Office some years back before Cray got the gig, and I believed that the UK forecast was down to 4KM cells when I left, and they had the capacity to do 1.5KM for special forecasts (I remember when the Power7 775's were being commissioned just before the 2012 Olympics, they produced a forecast with an exceptionally high resolution - I think it was 800M, but it could have been higher, for the location of the sailing events, just because they could with the extra power). The organisers were quite happy, as they accurately forecast difficult conditions for the first scheduled day, so they delayed the event until the next day, and that produced much better racing.

I think that generally, the forecasts they produce are reasonably accurate at larger scale, but the local forecasts appear less than accurate. They also change a lot as you get closer, probably because the predicted weather mostly happens, but not necessarily where they said it would, but it still happened somewhere close by. But I feel they're less accurate now than they were 10 years ago. And this is not just the Met. Office forecasts, but the MeteoGroup ones used by the BBC as well.

But it may just be the way it is presented. The TV forecast has to be much more general than the local forecasts served up by the weather apps, and sometimes it gives a better overall picture.

If you have a fan, and want this company to stay in business, bring it to IT now

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: air CON

I've previously related a personal experience about what happened with too little O2 but without CO2 to lt you know there's a problem here.

It's surprising how little you actually notice a lack of oxygen if there is no build-up of CO2!

Spotted in the wild: Chimera – a Linux that isn't GNU/Linux

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: But why?

net-tools is marked as depricated by many distributions, but I knew that it could be installed if it was not in the standard set for a distro. Unfortunately, I don't have admin. access to all of the Linux systems I work with, and do not have total freedom on some of the ones I do, so it's difficult on those systems.

I had assumed that because it was part of the fundamental networking in older GNU/Linux systems, that it was a part of GNU provided toolset. I must re-educate myself about exactly how much of the toolset is actually provided by the FSF.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: MUSL floating point is incomplete on ARM 64 bit

I misunderstood your comment. I had not realised that you were saying that although MUSL does software 128 floating point arithmetic correctly on AArch64, some of the other maths functions in the library don't work to this precision. That does seem a bit of an omission.

I was commenting on something much more generic with C data types. Sorry.

Peter Gathercole Silver badge

Re: But why?

From my point of view, the GNU toolset is going in a direction that I don't like.

I was annoyed when they pulled netstat, route, ifconfig et. al. from the TCP packages, and I was extremely cross when they pulled pg from coreutils (I work on traditional UNIX systems for my job, and muscle memory is persistent). It seems that some decisions are made on the whim of the package maintainers who won't listen to counter arguments.

So, yes, having a free platform with alternate tooling is of interest to me, although I would ask why, if you want the FreeBSD tooling, why not run FreeBSD?

The reason why I'm currently sticking with mainstream Linux distros is the scope of the pre-built repositories, although the above changes and systemd are challenging that decision.