* Posts by Valarian

46 publicly visible posts • joined 1 Mar 2013

Pioneer 10 turns 50: Remembering humankind's first jaunt to Jupiter


"more than 2 million years to reach it."

By which time it will have accumulated a dense irregular cigar-shaped coating of space dust, micrometeoroids, and other space-borne ephemera, and will startle the sentients living on Aldebaran IV as it drifts through the system. They'll fail to recognise it as an artificial object and christen it "[thing][fast][beyond][silent][temporary]", roughly translated as "scout".

Doom: The FPS that wowed players, gummed up servers, and enraged admins



DOOM did give me the occasional brown-trouser moment (though not as badly as Dungeon Master on the Atari ST) but it also gave me one of my most enduring laughs that still makes me snicker today when I think about it.

Multiplayer via modem in about 96ish, me and a mate are death-matching one night on some new PD levels we'd got hold of. We were pretty evenly matched and knew the stock maps backwards, so the only way we could really get the drop on each other was to use downloaded DEU-created maps we hadn't played enough to learn by heart. I find this room with a high ceiling and a central pillar that recesses up into it, and a switch. Hit the switch, down comes the pillar, and there's an armour power-up tucked on top. Nice.

Hmm. Does that pillar go up again? Click. Ah, yes, it does. Click. Down it comes, click, run-jump, and now I'm on the pillar heading upwards. Oh, I wonder if there's space in the ceiling cavity for me... yes there is. I sit tight, and wait.

About 10 minutes later, my mate finds the same room. Sees the pillar, and the switch. Click.

Down I come, stock-still, looking just like a static Marine model. I look at my mate all the way down, and he looks at me, wondering why there's a Marine model hidden on this pillar.

Then I BFG the smegger. His only response: "You slag". I laughed myself sick.

It's making me giggle even now.

Fruit flies use the power of the sun to help them fly in straight lines


"We took a flask of Bears' urine and boiled it for two hours"...

Heathrow's air traffic radio set for shiny digital upgrade from Northrop



"The Park Air Sapphire system at Heathrow also includes MARC Server, a configurable browser-based control and monitoring system allowing unauthorised management of all the Sapphire assets from remote desktops or tablets in North Korea, China, Russia, and a beige Fiat 500 parked across the road," Northrop Grumman said in a statement.

Dark web souk AlphaBay shuts for good after police raids


"AlphaBay took on the mantle from the infamous Pirate Bay before it to become the largest marketplaces on the dark web."

Silk Road rather than The Pirate Bay, surely?

Passport and binary tree code, please: CompSci quizzes at US border just business as usual


Why of course I'll write a binary-tree balance algorithm for you, right here on my laptop, right now in front of you.

In 6502 assembly, for the VIC-20, running in VICE.

I assume you are as competent to judge the quality and efficacy of my code as I am to write it, and thus validate my assertion that I am in fact a coder of some 40 years experience.

Amazon's AWS S3 cloud storage evaporates: Top websites, Docker stung


"Just to be smug, it took us 3 minutes from the first alert to switch from serving from US East and Ireland to Ireland and Frankfurt."

This, times a thousand. Any website or service pinning itself to a single node of a by-design distributed storage facility deserves whatever arse-kicking their customers choose to administer. The cloud, as is so often the case, is not the problem here - it's how it's being (mis)used that is the cause of any woes.

NASA's Curiosity puts cat among the climate pigeons: Lack of CO2 sinks water theory


Orbital Disruption

Conjecture: Mars orbited closer to the Sun a couple of billion years or so back and thus had a warm surface and liquid water. An impact or extremely strong gravitational encounter with another sizeable body disrupted Mars' orbit causing total ecological failure, and it ended-up a dead world in its' current orbit. The disintegrated bits of the encounter body now circle between Mars and Jupiter.

Sysadmin flees asbestos scare with disk drive, blank pay cheques, angry builders in pursuit


Not a Star Wars quote

"You see, money doesn't exist in the 24th Century"

That's Star Trek: First Contact. Picard introducing Lily to the ship.

Google splats 21 bugs in Chrome 54 patch run


Backspace Binding

Have they either reinstated the default binding of the Backspace key to 'Previous Page' or allowed a configuration override to do so yet?


Sticking with Firefox then.

NASA starts countdown for Cassini probe's Saturn death dive



I quite like the idea that in a few hundred thousand years or so, long after Humanity has [gone extinct / spread to distant suns / lost it's civilisation and climbed back up] someone else will one day drop a lander on a tiny rock and discover the remains of Rosetta and Philae, and by our works know us.

We should definitely transmit a memory-filling pattern of 'Frist!' to Rosetta before lithobraking, however.

Sorry Nanny, e-cigs have 'no serious side-effects' – researchers


I Quit Accidentally

I smoked for 25 years, 20 a day on average. I knew it was bad for me, but I *liked* it, dammit. Tried to quit a few times, but the longest I stayed off 'em was six months. When the first e-cigs appeared I tried a few brands but never found one that hit the spot in the way a good lungful of carcinogens did.

In 2014 a mate persuaded me to try a new type of e-cig - a big chunky battery with variable-power options, a sizable glass tank with customisable heater/atomiser, and so many flavours of e-liquids it was silly. I gave it a go and after a few days had tuned it to deliver the hit I needed. I smoked my last cigarette in August 2014 and have not had one since.

I decided to cut down on the nicotine content, and by Christmas 2014 was vaping what was basically flavoured water - no drug at all. I was still 'smoking', and enjoying it, but without the risk of Choking Cancerous Death(tm). Job done.

Until summer 2015, when I got a bad cold and didn't vape for a week. I fell out of the habit, and didn't get around to picking it up again. I didn't intend to quit - it was an accident.

Over a year on, and still no urge to vape (or smoke a fag either).

Google crushes 33 Chrome bugs, pays boffins more than $56k


Upgrades Off

...until I can opt to re-enable Backspace as 'previous page'.

SpaceX Dragon capsule lands in Pacific carrying 12 moustronauts


What's in it for the mice?

LISTER: Sir, just suppose I did have a cat. Just suppose. What would you do with Frankenstein?

HOLLISTER: I'd send it down to the medical centre, and I'd have it cut up and tests run on it.

LISTER: Would you put it back together when you'd finished?

HOLLISTER: Lister, the cat would be dead.

LISTER: So, with respect, sir, what's in it for the cat?

Corbyn lied, Virgin Trains lied, Harambe died



The state of having just lost 4 hours' hard work, typing-in some insanely arcane REM statements full of graphics characters and punctuation, only for a carelessly strong sigh to induce sufficient turbulence in the atmosphere of the room to cause a 1-micron shift in the seating of your 16K memory expansion.

Thus: "Aaaargh! I've just been ram-packed!".

BOFH: I found a flying Dragonite on a Windows 2003 domain


"a smoking grogan"

Seriously, how do you *think* of these metaphores? I would never have come up with this.

Also: new keyboard please. Genuine coffeesnurt.

A Brit cloud biz and an angry customer wanting a refund: A Love Story


Adieu != Ado

That is all.

Romania suffers Eurovision premature ejection


"...until 20 April to pay 10 million of the 16 million Swiss francs (roughly £11.3) in unpaid fees..."

That's a bloody awful exchange rate. Here, have £15 to pay the bill and treat yourselves to a few hundred Dacias with the change.

BOFH: Thermo-electric funeral


Re: as if owning IT antiquity was one of those positive character traits

Yes - I have numerous 8" floppies, an 8" drive, and a Kryoflux.

El avión de papel del proyecto PARIS aterriza en un libro de texto


A frog?

In which bidet?

You've seen things people wouldn't believe – so tell us your programming horrors


Re: rm -rf /etc /bin /usr

> What I do remember was hitting return, then thinking "That's taking a bit longer than normal.... Oh Shit! Ctrl-C, Ctrl-C, Ctrl-C.. Aaaarrrgggghhhh. Fuck, Bother"

Ah, the Ohnosecond. That variable-length unit of time measurement that describes the interval between hitting ENTER and experiencing the dawning realisation of the mistake you have just made.

At which point, you murmer "oh no".

Data centers dig in as monster storm strikes America's East Coast


Being out in the snow 'officially against the law'

When it snows in London:

UK: Argh transport systems hosed, yay snow day!

US: Hah you Brits can't handle severe weather LMAO!!1

When it snows in NYC:


UK: WTF dude??


BOFH: I want no memory of this pointless conversation. Alcohol please


New Keyboard Required

This one seems to have coffee in it.

"...words like that don't even have an interrupt level when it comes to pint maths..."

Eighteen year old server trumped by functional 486 fleet!


Re: Windows not running for longer than 49.7 days.

"This happens because a 32-bit variable is being used to store the tick count which is incremented every millisecond. A 32-bit variable can store numbers up to 4,294,967,295 which equals to 49.7 days (4,294,967,295/1000/3600/24). When this variable overflows it will start over from 0 again."

Well thankfully the days of making silly counter-overflow mistakes like that are long behind us.



Doctor Who: The Hybrid finally reveals itself in the epic Heaven Sent



Well, that's just reset the bar.

Well written, well scored, well acted. Clever, innovative, emotional - it grabbed me in the first 20 seconds and did not let go until the credits rolled.

So many things to like. No points where I felt there were plot-holes, deus ex escapes, jarring kid-targeted schmaltz or exposition. The story stood on its' own two feet, and said "Keep up or be left behind".

I had genuine chills, definitely heard Hartnell and Baker, saw Pertwee and Eccleston, chuckled, blubbed, said "ooooh", and, at the end, sat forward convulsively when I saw where he had travelled to.

Seriously, seriously impressed. It's almost like Moffat has been saying all season "Sorry about last year", and this was the coup de grace, the point at which he said to the writing staff "This one has to be a perfect 10, people. No compromises".


Doctor Who: Even the TARDIS key can't unpick the chronolock in Face the Raven



I agree the build-up to the Big Goodbye was a bit elongated, and there were a couple of silly plot-holes in the run-up, but Clara's final few lines were right on the money. Knowing The Doctor as she does, she knew his threats to Mayor Me were far from idle - that warrior, the promise-breaker, is evidently still not far beneath the surface, and you saw it in his face when he swore to rain Hell down on Ashilda.

And her last lines, and the expression on her face at the evident pain with which she died. Yeah, JLC came close to breaking me there.

But then Capaldi did it. He looks at Ashilda, and you know that brave defiant face she's putting-on is a sham, and her guts have turned to liquid and are trying to get out really fast. And he says he's going to do his best, to try to uphold Clara's last wish, to not be The Oncoming Storm. And you see it in his eyes, the struggle, the despair, the fury. And that 1000-yard-stare, the one that Eccleston and Smith never quite mastered but which Tennant had and now Capaldi so clearly has, just blasts through her and she knows, she knows, that being immortal isn't going to be defence enough.

I've said this before - you do not want to be on a Time Lord's shit-list. Ever.

Telecity London data centre outage borks VoIP, websites, AWS...


Not Just Direct Connect

Links to Amazon VPC infrastructure in EU-WEST-1 were also hit - my phone got very warm between 2-4pm this afternoon with people wanting to know why various services were going dark for minutes at a time...

Let's get to the bottom of in-app purchases that go titsup


Programmable Channel Buttons

I remember, in 1978, the awe of upgrading from a b&w TV with a big chunky rotary tuner knob (want to switch channels? retune the set!) to a COLOUR set with PROGRAMMABLE PUSHBUTTONS for channel selection! The button panel popped out and allowed access to a series of tiny wheel-tuners, one per button. There were 8 buttons, and for a long time we used 1,2,3 and 8 (the latter had the Atari VCS tuned to it). I recall the excitement of tuning button 4 in 1982.

Windows 10: Major update on the Threshold as build 10586 hits Insiders


Re: zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

"Never did hear much from people who said they were going to switch to Linux, did we?"

No - because once we had, there wasn't much more to say. :D

Posting from Chromium on Ubuntu 14.04, installed on this machine the day the Win8.1 telemetry stories started appearing. No problems so far except VS2013 wouldn't run under WINE so I switched to MonoDevelop.

Amazon's chomping at the Brits: UK to get AWS data center region


Re: Really handy

"It'd only be more blindingly obvious if they said they were opening it in Cheltenham. Amazon would be obliged to decrypt everything they've got the keys for if asked to.

Don't these things also automatically replicate data to other regions in case they fall over? Perhaps after popular demand they'll need to put a tickbox on the control panel saying don't replicate to the UK."

The level of ignorance in these comments is staggering, but this epitomises it. Just to pick it apart:

- Amazon don't have the keys. Instances are protected by a keypair the customer creates and owns; data storage is encrypted with whatever method (or none) the customer chooses to implement themselves, or in the case of EBS with an additional native method where, again, the keypair is created and owned by the customer. Even if the UK AWS Region was *inside* GCHQ the data would be as safe (or not) as the customer chooses.

- No, AWS Regions DO NOT automatically replicate data between themselves. Availability Zones (AZs) *within* a Region do, to ensure resiliency in the event an AZ falls off the grid.

Here's an idea: RTFM

Think Fortran, assembly language programming is boring and useless? Tell that to the NASA Voyager team


Where do I sign?


I'm 47, a hotshot 6502 and COBOL coder, and desperate to work on any space programme that'll have me. 64K? Luxury!

Chaos at TalkTalk: Data was 'secure', not all encrypted, we took site down, were DDoSed


Wow. Just ... wow.

Pass the popcorn please, this one's going to run for a while.

Scotland Yard pulls eyeballs off WikiLeaker-in-Chief Assange


Re: "However it is no longer proportionate to commit officers to a permanent presence"

The local Krispy Kreme is not 20 paces away from the Ecuadorian Embassy, in Harrods.

Boffins: We know what KILLED the DINOS – and it wasn't just an asteroid


Idea for a new sitcom

Everybody Hates Adric.

Email reply-all cat-nado drenches Cisco inboxes with pics, memes



What? Why are you saying it like that? --Brian

Don't want to upgrade to Windows 10? You'll download it WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT


So long...

My mother, 66 and moderately IT literate, phoned me in a panic a fortnight back. Her little Win7 box, custom-built on a budget about 5 years back and running almost bugger-all aside from Chrome and a few lightweight hidden-object games, was running slow and spitting low-disk-space errors.

I RDP'd and took a look. The drive is a 120GB rust-spinner partitioned into two volumes for System and Apps & Data. System had grown by about 9GB and now sported a weird Windows.~BT folder, which was the source of the sudden bloat. It was also locked so hard even Administrator couldn't delete the thing - I had to use 'Take Ownership' to be able to nuke it.

I cleared-out the GWX KBs (she likes Win7, thought Win8.x looked abominable, and sees nothing persuasive about Win10) and tidied up. All good, until a few days ago when she called again with the same symptoms. Win10 was back, and short of poking a dangerous hole in my firewall and letting her PC partake of my WSUS governance I'm not sure I can keep it out. So she's probably just going to turn Windows Update off. Good job, Microsoft!

Back at my gaff and in parallel to the above, I took a few days to mull it over and dispassionately consider the pros and cons.

Then precisely a week ago I plugged a newly-created Ubuntu boot stick into my laptop, and without a moments' hesitation let it blow the Windows partition away, reformat, and install itself.

I'm running my applications either as native Linux versions or Wine cuckoos. Everything works.

Sure there's a learning curve ('sudo apt-what the heck? aargh quick Google') but on the whole I'm getting the hang of it. And importantly I feel like I'm in charge of my computer again.

Microsoft backports data slurp to Windows 7 and 8 via patches


Leap of Faith

I took a few days to mull it over and dispassionately consider the pros and cons.

Then last Friday night I plugged a newly-created Ubuntu boot stick into my laptop, and without a moments' hesitation let it blow the Windows partition away, reformat, and install itself.

Five days on, I'm running nearly all my applications - still a few to re-install - either as native Linux versions or (for DVDFab) as a Wine cuckoo. Everything works.

Sure there's a learning curve ('sudo apt-what the heck? aargh quick Google') but on the whole I'm getting the hang of it. And importantly I feel like I'm in charge of my computer again.


Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt

No, not the story - my feelings towards Microsoft. I have always been a staunch advocate of their products, until...

...when they dumped Blades in favour of Metro on Xbox360, I began to doubt their strategy

...when they forced Metro into Win8, I became uncertain as to their rationality

...when they subverted their OS family with privacy-violating 'upgrades', I began to fear their motives

There is a gambling adage I feel is increasingly appropriate to my standing as a Microsoft customer:

"Look around the Poker table; if you can’t see the sucker, it's you"

I think the time is fast approaching when Ubuntu stops being the 'hobby' OS on my laptop and graduates to 'serious' status on the big rigs I run. The only thing keeping me on Windows now is gaming, and I think I can justify a PS4 if I cut that cord...

Parallels Desktop 11 brings Windows 10 and Cortana to Mac


Re: Clever but why?

Or, if you want the unbridled sleek sexiness, utter silence, and raw horsepower grunt of a pimped Mac Pro 2013 and the familiarity of Windows for development and gaming, there's Bootcamp. ;)

Tesco broadband goes TITSUP, world keeps turning on wobbly-wheeled trolley


Re: Demon offloading too.

Ha. Ironically. Tesco *was* my first ISP. I actually have good memories of tesco.net from when I signed up to The Internets back in '95, until I needed moar lolcats and upgraded my 56kb Sportster modem to a wall-mounted ISDN connection from BT. For all I know, my account might even still exist...

Google pulls plug on YouTube for older iPads, iPhones, smart TVs


Bravia Fail

By chance I was comparing the built-in YT app on my 2013 Sony Bravia with the YT channel provided by Plex running on my NAS. There was a message on the Bravia app saying it was being discontinued, and to use the new YT app, which I duly located elsewhere in the list and fired-up.

It sat there for 7 minutes showing nothing on a blank screen but a progress 'spinny'. Then it crashed hard with an Out of Memory error, failing so badly that most other 'smart' TV functions were also taken down and even a power-cycle wouldn't fix things. It needed a factory-settings reset to get everything working again.

The only thing Smart about that experience was the stinging sensation I got when I slapped my own forehead and said 'Doh!'.

Apple boots Windows 7 out of Boot Camp


The best Windows PC I've ever owned...

... is my 2013 Mac Pro. It ran OSX just long enough for Bootcamp to spin-up, and has been booting to Win8.1 ever since.

Quad-core hyperthread CPUs, twin D500 graphics, 16GB RAM, totally silent, tiny footprint, giant T'bolt screen - yep, that's my Windows dev. and gaming rig sorted for the next 5 years tyvm.

El Reg Redesign - leave your comment here.



Just ... no.

The Reg has been a permanent fixture in my default tabset for YEARS. Why? Because once you train your advert-hider of choice to rip the junk off the sides, what's left is a concise list of titles and one-line leaders each of which links to a story, and highlights red once you've read it. They're in chronological order, so you know new stuff is at the top. They are dense, and take just a few seconds to scroll down, making it very easy to scan and select something of interest.

As someone posted early on, when the page loaded this morning I thought the CSS was b0rked. Two instinctive 'F5's later, and it dawned on me that this was deliberate.

I'll check back in a few days. If it still looks like it does today, I'll be looking elsewhere for my daily tech. news fix. Sorry, but the new layout is unfriendly, difficult to navigate, hard to read, and basically turns a routine 10-minute news catchup into a 30-minute UI fight. Sinofsky would be proud.

Official: Sky to buy O2 and BE's home broadband product in £200m deal


Posted this in Be's comment section

I've been a Be customer since 2006, I think - certainly as soon as the 24mb service appeared in my corner of London. I've suffered a grand total of ZERO issues from the day the connection switched from BT (with barely an hour of downtime, by the way - compared to BT dropping me for a week when I changed addresses previously and was ALREADY their customer).

So, after almost 7 years of virtually flawless service at a steady 19mb with no traffic shaping and no Phorm, it comes to this - a sell-out to a media monolith who's track record for customer dis-service speaks for itself. I've recommended Be to anyone and everyone who'd listen to me in all that time, and now ... well, let's just say that Virgin will be gaining a fibre customer when I move this year.

I have no interest in being a Sky customer - I have been in the past, and was never more pleased than to be able to repeatedly say 'no' to their salesdroid when I telephoned to cancel my subscription and was offered progressively cheaper/better services in a desperate attempt to keep me. You hear me, Sky? You couldn't PAY me to be your customer again.

So long, Be. You were the best, and it was fun. But I'm not jumping this shark with you.

Raspberry Pi-powered Tardis blasts off from 'Blighty's Baikonur'


Re: T A R D I S

You had one thing to do, and you f**ked it up.

It's Dimension, not Dimensions.