* Posts by Geoff Mackenzie

744 publicly visible posts • joined 7 Jul 2007


US boffin builds 32-way Raspberry Pi cluster

Geoff Mackenzie

Re: Any performance figures

Guess the performance will compare pretty nicely once your Xeon PC is running 32 VMs so that it looks like a Beowulf cluster. There's a lot of point-missing going on in this comment thread; this is not built for throughput, but to work like a Beowulf cluster. The same goes for Glasgow's Raspberry Pi cloud - they're not planning to replace Google's data center anytime soon, just to understand and model it so they can develop for something that 'shape' without tying up the big one that does the real work.

Geoff Mackenzie

Re: Nice @AC 12:21

... Just to be clear, if I'd been asked what platform these systems really ought to run on, I'd have recommended GNU/Linux. Any of my former colleagues would confirm that I raised the possibility at every excuse, ad nauseum. The machines were more powerful (and power thirsty, and physically fragile) than they could have been running Linux and disabling virtually everything on the Windows boxes meant we were barely running any of the code we were (as far as I was concerned, needlessly) paying for licenses to use. It's not the way I would have designed the system if it had been up to me.

Integration with other aspects of the technical environment would have been prohibitively difficult. We needed to talk to old COM drivers which would have needed to have been replaced or wrapped somehow, and it just wasn't worth it given that the Windows boxes worked, and the infrastructure people liked the remote management and monitoring features they had. The development teams all had Win32 experience, with relatively few of us having done much with Linux. Overall, for that business, Windows made sense for the bulk of what they did. (There were a few Linux boxes in the mix, too, and more were arriving around the time I left).

I don't think there's any sense being dogmatic.

Geoff Mackenzie

Re: Nice @AC 12:21

Yup, I'm only reporting what I saw. Several tens of Windows XP machines (mostly aging Dell desktops) running critical systems (the older stuff mostly written in VB6, the younger stuff mostly in C#). They were shielded from most threats by running few applications (mostly, one in-house application) and not having full access to the network (and no access to the internet), never running a browser and so on, but soldier on they did, surviving patches apart from a couple (I exaggerate not, I remember 2 occasions in 5 years across multiple versions where an OS or Antivirus update floored the machines briefly), and better management of the roll-out would have avoided those minor hiccups too.

My own development laptop was a Windows XP machine and never once fell prey to malware in the 3 years of general bashing it took (including plenty of temporary software installations and removals, which left a little cruft as we've come to expect but didn't break anything) and ran absolutely consistently (a few little niggles, nothing serious) until it was replaced by a faster model (also on XP) which performed similarly well every day until I left the job. Obviously as a 'tech savvy' user I wasn't taking risks with it, but I wasn't treating it all that kindly either since I knew I could re-image it in half an hour if necessary. It never was necessary though.

I know MS software has some weaknesses; all the Windows boxes were rebooted hilariously frequently from a Linux fan's perspective, and there were a million little silly faults (the file copy dialog's pointless animation stayed squint for *YEARS* between NT4 and Vista, where it was finally replaced IIRC) and the overall user experience is really quite bitty and unaesthetic in my view, but these are not serious problems. The machines did their actual jobs flawlessly, and the development tools (even lowly old VB6) were great.

I'm still a GNU/Linux fan myself, as I say, and prefer it when I have the option. Usually, when I use Windows, it's for a bad reason (mostly platform lock-in, the Kinect being a case in point), and I don't like the way MS license their software or behave towards other businesses, but I'm not going to pretend the flaws are worse than they are and I no longer gurn when someone wants something built for Windows. Fair enough, it's a perfectly decent target for development and will run what I write just fine.

Geoff Mackenzie

Re: Nice @AC 12:21

I used to be like that too. I grew up on little micros, first met MS properly when I got my first PC, and gradually fell out of love with them between DOS 5.0 and Windows 95. After that I was borged by the penguin army and moving from the (basically functional, but) irritatingly crude platforms I'd been used to over to this rather beautiful Unix derivative, combined with very strong opinions and over-confidence in my knowledge (I was a teenager after all) made me quite the zealot for many years. It took half a decade of coding for Windows to convince me that it's actually a plucky little platform and even its quirks are quite endearing when you've seen it soldier on, day in and day out, for years, doing useful work with respectable consistency.

So, as a former MS hater myself, I think it might have to do with an overestimate of the extent to which other platforms' advantages over MS products are actually *news* to anyone at this point, combined with a refusal to recognise that Microsoft actually do produce usable software. I still run Linux on my own boxen, with only one willing to occasionally boot Windows 7 for Kinect development; I still consistently prefer Linux when it's an option but no longer feel the need to ram it down everyones' throats to quite the same extent.

Geoff Mackenzie

Oooh! Oooh! 'Us' too!

Glasgow Uni has a Raspberry Pi cloud also:


And they used Lego! I wasn't involved in the project (hence the apostrophes around 'us' in the title - just trying to give the impression I'm a real part of this institution, rather than a 31 year old undergrad desperately trying to hang on for another year, heh) but saw a couple of presentations about it recently as all the level four projects were winding up.

This isn't a Beowulf cluster of course, but it's another 'big' stack of tasty Pi so I thought I'd mention it.

Give porno danger classes to Brit kids as young as FIVE - parents

Geoff Mackenzie

Re: The most important lesson

This could be a good reason to educate kids about porn. With their immunity to thought-crime prosecutions of this kind, they may be our last line of defence!

Geoff Mackenzie

Ridiculous religious garbage

I honestly wondered what these 'dangers of porn' actually are. Naturally, searching for that phrase turns up hundreds of religious groups' sites, all feeding off each other in a massive orgy of mutual confirmation.

The real danger is that mind-warping crap like this might come up when someone's innocently searching for porn. Religion can cause lifelong addiction, reduced respect for others (outside the in-group) and even death (and highly destructive behaviour) in some cases. I think maybe that angle needs to be explored too.

Modern Warfare 3 flogged on eBay for a grand

Geoff Mackenzie


Nobody paid over £1,000,000 for it, AFAIK.

Tesla pre-sells all 2012 Model S output

Geoff Mackenzie

A bit silly (@AC 09:11)

First off I thought I detected a whiff of sarcasm in the first post there anyway, but even if not, conventional airliners are also perfectly capable of dropping out of the sky because of 'a short or something'.

Nigerians panic over killer calls

Geoff Mackenzie

... but ...

on the other hand, there actually are no gods; just because that's not strictly provable doesn't mean every bonkers notion gets equal credit. It'd be irrational to say that I know for sure no gods exist, but it's pretty crazy to suggest that science can have nothing to say about a pretty immense, elaborate claim with no supporting evidence.

E-petitions site: Death wish FAIL

Geoff Mackenzie

Oh dear

"As of 4.20pm yesterday, the site had received 2,260 petitions and collected 13,676 signatures."

And yet, it's creaking under the strain. I dread to think how much WTF is to be found in that tiny web app. Personally I like the fact that the "ouch, I'm way too overloaded" error actually suggests refreshing that page; I'm betting at least half of the load is from serving the error page repeatedly to swearing users.

Linus Torvalds dubs GNOME 3 'unholy mess'

Geoff Mackenzie

Maybe I'm going to be unpopular

... but actually I like GNOME 3. I used Ubuntu on my main desktop until Unity arrived, at which point I gave Fedora 15 a spin and apart from a couple of very minor UI gripes (e.g. Linus's 'new terminal from an old one only' complaint, and Alt+Tab not working as I want it to between two firefox windows (got to Alt+Tab then choose the one you want, when it should be pretty obvious it's the other one)) I like the look and feel of GNOME 3. Haven't had any rendering issues and am enjoying the relatively uncluttered visual environment and pleasant, smooth and useful animations.

Going to give Fluxbox a try, but on the big machine GNOME 3 is just fine by me.

Hobbyist killed by home-made hovercraft

Geoff Mackenzie

Lidless bikers

I read somewhere (in 'Superfreakonomics' I think) that where helmets are not mandatory on motorcycles, there are more healthy organs available for transplant, so not only do lidless bikers put less of a load on the health service, they're actually quite helpful.

Arguably, riding without a lid might make accidents more likely - I haven't seen any statistics but it's pretty distracting hitting a large insect (like a wasp or a bee) with a lid on, let alone without one. I suppose that might be offset by the 'wasp stuck in helmet' risk though; I'd be interested to see the numbers.

Well, not that interested to be completely honest. But I'd wear a lid on my bike whether or not it was a legal requirement, and I suspect most bikers would do the same.

Geoff Mackenzie

Just to be pedantic

It's Reliant Robin, not Robin Reliant, unless I drive a Civic Honda.

Nokia unveils budget Symbian smartie

Geoff Mackenzie

I'm confused

Isn't Symbian dead now?

The Microsoft mobile reboot needs rebooting

Geoff Mackenzie

Also, as a Linux zealot ...

... I'd like to add that El Reg has a blatant pro-Microsoft bias, often going so far as to be reasonable and balanced, and focus on a product's practical usefulness rather than its ideological purity.

Deleting 'innocent' DNA will cost £5m

Geoff Mackenzie

I suspect ...

... that when everyone dies, recovering disk space will not be a priority. In all (or slightly more) seriousness, dead people should stay on the database anyway, since it's possible they committed unsolved crimes and their records may exonerate other suspects in the future.

Also, at that point, the crime of storing their DNA for (probably) no good reason has become victimless.

Pre-release Windows 8 code hits PC makers

Geoff Mackenzie


3Gb!? You could fit my Puppy installation in that 15 times! :)

Microsoft: IE9 not yet 'broadly' available

Geoff Mackenzie

I've tried FF4 ...

... on an EEE 900; I don't really consider it to be a lower end system to be honest, but I suspect most would (Celeron M 900MHz, 512Mb of core) and it starts and runs very nicely on that. FF3.x was definitely a little on the sluggish side (particularly at startup, but not great at rendering big, complicated pages with lots of graphics either).

Trying it on some of the lower-end systems you have in mind might well be worthwhile. Apologies if I'm encouraging you to waste your time :)

Labour MP debuts fondleslab-assisted Parliament oratory

Geoff Mackenzie

"might make the House appear out of touch with modern life"

Never! Being able to afford an iPad is a sign of being out of touch with modern life, in my impoverished opinion.

Posted from my EEE 900.

Nokia: Keep codin' for Symbian and Qt!

Geoff Mackenzie

Yeah, but

that's an optimistic forecast.

Dixons whacked by profit warning

Geoff Mackenzie


he wasn't there learning how the experts do it, that's for sure.

Feeling heat from Macs, Microsoft sells PCs sans crapware

Geoff Mackenzie

"Just the software you need"

So, finally I can have Windows without MSIE and Windows Media Player?

HP rocks Redmond with webOS PC play

Geoff Mackenzie

You just answered my question

Maybe I misread the article, but I got the sense that webOS was open source from a slipshod read, and was hunting around online to see if I could confirm this. It seems it's not really - the only parts that are open are the chunks that have to be for legal reasons. I still like the sound of this, but I'd be a lot more excited if HP would release the rest of it under the GPL as well.

As it is I'll keep my eyes peeled and think about running it if they're selling it to people who don't want an HP PC if they don't want too much for it. Sounds like it could be entertaining to play with - and maybe even useful here and there - although to be honest I don't like the idea of using web technologies to build local applications, seems like some odd hoop jumping to me. Ready to be proved wrong but I always thought AJAX was a slightly itchy workaround, rarely preferable to just writing a thick client if you need those sorts of user interface features.

10-year-old girl becomes youngest ever supernova discoverer

Geoff Mackenzie

Envy, much?

Yeah, a young girl's sharp eye and interest in a field she's likely to have access to more information about than most children must be a sign of some kind of disorder.

Well done to her, and to her father for introducing her to something he loves.

Paul Allen reloads patent attack against tech titans

Geoff Mackenzie

"technology incubator"

Cool, another term for patent troll. I'll add that to the pile.

National Identity Card holding chumps have buyer's remorse

Geoff Mackenzie

All in favour of a refund

... in cases where the buyer was mislead. The seller should refund them though, and the rest of us - we all paid to support this project, regardless of what we thought of it. I suggest we find the people who were pushing this and get them all to chip in personally, not just for the 30,000 with the cards, but for the rest of us as well.

Senior Guardian hacks turn on Assange

Geoff Mackenzie

Not sure what to think

Personally I support Assange, it sounds like something kinda messy may have happened there, and if the women (as the Guardian article says, unless I misread that) just want him to be tested for STDs I think he should make the time and do it (surely in the UK would do though?).

I don't like the fact that he was so evasive about it initially (no idea who they are; sure, if anything even vaguely like that happened, the only way that's true is if he does this all the time). The conspiracy allegations are even odder, but then if I was in his position I might tend to jump to that conclusion as well.

It would be a bit of a shame if Assange ended up 'falling down some stairs' in an American prison after being extradited on espionage charges after being arrested just because he's a bit odd sexually and refused to go get tested when they asked him to in the first place.

Microsoft gets in a spin, announces Office 365

Geoff Mackenzie

Writing the story

Anyone reading it?

Microsoft releases fixes for record number of vulns

Geoff Mackenzie


is not 10 years old.

Windows to Linux defections to outpace Unix shifts in 2011

Geoff Mackenzie


You don't seem to have a very clear picture of the Linux landscape there.

"Different versions of the 2.6 kernel differ by more lines of code than are actually in any of the other free Unix kernels in total"

More than half of the kernel is drivers. Linux has better hardware support than most free Unix kernels. You can choose what you compile in if you really care; Ubuntu runs beautifully on my Sheeva plug and even clips along at a reasonable speed on my EEE 900, complete with Gnome. OpenOffice.org starts from cold on my EEE in less than 5 seconds. Hardly bloated.

The 'dumbed down' Linux distributions (let's take Ubuntu as a canonical (sorry) example) are there for people who need or want them. If you want something rawer and leaner, you can still have it.

Email worm wants to party like it's 1999 (almost)

Geoff Mackenzie

No virus scan here either

I love using my CPUs for stuff I wanted to do.

'Hyperbolic map' of the internet will save it from COLLAPSE

Geoff Mackenzie

Collapse of the internet?

It's just hyperbole.

Firefox 4 beta gets hard on Windows

Geoff Mackenzie

Why so negative?

I take your point that there's nothing (as far as I know, ready to stand corrected) like Direct2D on other platforms, but I don't think it's so easy to say there never will be, or that all web browsing needs Direct2D anyway.

Firefox might use Direct2D on Windows but it's going to continue working on Linux as well, so if Direct2D was being sabotaged, FF could just stop using it. Also, I think it's paranoid in the extreme to suggest MS would deliberately sabotage an API a lot of people use for the sake of a web browser market dominance plan that would also depend on Mozilla not keeping up with the (documented) DirectX changes.

Google's Schmidt satirised as privacy pervert

Geoff Mackenzie

A minor difference

Phorm were actually intercepting traffic, so it was impossible for BT customers to avoid them. With Google I believe it's just really quite difficult to avoid them. I am ready to stand corrected if I'm wrong though, and even if I'm right I'm aware this is an academic distinction for your average web user anyway.

Oh, I guess another difference would be that Google are offering useful services. It doesn't excuse their dodgy behaviour but it's the reason I still deal with them.

US undergrads crash NASA satellite into Arctic

Geoff Mackenzie

I would have liked them to ...

... drop it somewhere inland and unpopulated. I'd love a bit of charred satellite, and if 10% of it hit the ground, I bet it was worth watching, too.

The Large Hadron Collider's mega-pic churn

Geoff Mackenzie


I think this sentence fragment is evidence of the damage being done to the space time continuum by the LHC. At least the time part. Also, I'm not going to submit this post until next Tuesday.

SCO gets sale approval

Geoff Mackenzie

I'll have the good bit of SCO

It's a bit tarnished with patent trolling filth though, so I won't outbid hplasm.

Ruby on Rails 3.0 sets sail gets off ground oh, chuff chuff

Geoff Mackenzie

Want :)

Downloading tonight. I've been looking forward to this :)

Boffins baffled by mysterious Martian crater

Geoff Mackenzie

The pyramids, the face etc.

Probably look less exciting when the light's not coming from just the right angle.

Still, agreed, I'd like to see more pictures.

Doc develops RSI-reducing rolling mouse

Geoff Mackenzie

Would this be ...

... the bullshit type of chiropractor? From the 'clinic' website:

"Chiropractic philosophy recognizes that the power that created the body can heal the body - as long as there is no interference. The doctor does not heal you, he is a co-facilitator with you for your body to be put in the correct environment to heal itself. The main purpose of the chiropractor is to reduce interference to your inborn, innate healing ability."

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm. I seeeeeeee.

Can't wait to get my hands on this pointless overpriced wobbly mouse thing. The guy obviously knows what he's talking about. What a co-facilitator.

Paul Allen launches patent broadside on world+dog

Geoff Mackenzie


You can't use iPocalypse, it's an Apple trademark.

Google tests 'streaming' search engine

Geoff Mackenzie

Ha, ha, ha

Poor Google, every time Schmidt talks it sounds creepy:

"I actually think most people don't want Google to answer their questions," CEO Eric Schmidt recently told The Wall Street Journal. "They want Google to tell them what they should be doing next."

Read that in an evil voice and add a cackle.

Opera: Firefox tab sets? We've had 'em for years

Geoff Mackenzie

I had a slow Opera experience ...

... on my Linux box once. Very, very sluggish performance compared to FF. These days it runs beautifully on the same machine (fresh install), so I have no idea why that was (it was just a few months ago) - I don't think it was really the browser's fault but there's no sense accusing someone of lying, this could well have happened for one reason or another.

FF starts in less than 2 seconds after a cold boot on my (three year old, but reasonably powerful) PC and runs very nicely; not quite as fast as Opera, especially on JS-heavy pages, but it's certainly not a bloated mess. Opera starts in around 5 sec after a cold boot, and runs very quickly after that.

Calm down, a few deep breaths there. Opera's just a browser, and it's not Mozilla's fault it's never (yet) managed to grow its market share to the size of FF's.

Geoff Mackenzie

Agree that Opera's a nice browser

but I only use it for testing (hey, at least I test to make sure stuff works in Opera, eh? I support Opera better than I support MSIE, mostly because it's so well behaved it's not hard to do so). My only problem with it is that it's not FOSS.

Religious reasons in other words :)

Internet Explorer 9 beta due on September 15

Geoff Mackenzie

Border radius yet?

And standards compliant by default, rather than the stupid tag solution that requires me to add a kick-me sticker to the head of every page?

Google, boffins crack Rubik's Cube mystery

Geoff Mackenzie


They figured out a way to figure out the maximum number of steps to figure out a puzzle.

I'd just like to say without a trace of sarcasm that I am mightilty impressed by these people.

Oh, and @Daniel B., it's the maximum of minima. The minimum is zero, or one if you exclude already solved starting states.

Geoff Mackenzie

That's not what they did

They used cleverness plus grunt, not just grunt. It's in the article.

ASA: You can't say 'f**k'

Geoff Mackenzie

serious or widespread offence

Two people complained to the ASA

Microsoft purges Windows of serious SSL vuln

Geoff Mackenzie


I would have thought actively rushing security fixes would be a bad idea.