* Posts by Warm Braw

3354 publicly visible posts • joined 6 Sep 2013

Is it time to retire C and C++ for Rust in new programs?

Warm Braw

Much too easy to make memory errors

The counter-argument is that Rust, in order to be able to determine memory safety statically, makes it sufficiently harder for average developers to use it correctly that they immediately resort to "unsafe". I only have anecdotal evidence of that - the number of "how do I do that in Rust" discussions that seem to recur on StackOverlow and the like without reaching a conclusion and the extent to which proponents of Rust lament the way people fail to properly understand it and approach it with the right mindset: an appeal to true belief is always a warning sign in my experience.

I also fear there's simply too much of it - apart from the language itself with its pointlessly "improved" syntax, there's the build system, the packaging system and, of course, the macro system. It's a lot to learn - and most of it adds no significant obvious value. The language is also going to have to co-exist for some considerable time with others. If it appears in the Linux kernel it's still mostly be going to be working with data structures whose lifetime is controlled externally and so beyond the reach of static analysis.

I'm happy to be proved wrong, but I'm afraid I start from a position of skepticism.

Edit: BTW, I see that posts are still inexplicably being moderated. Assuming the moderator permits, I'd just like to say cheerio to fellow commentards who have been incredibly informative and (mostly) good-humoured over the last 10 years. I've greatly benefited from your wisdom and will still occasionally visit, but I'm afraid the lack of spontaneity means participation has become unnecessarily tedious.

Nadine Dorries promotes 'Brexit rewards' of proposed UK data protection law

Warm Braw

Re: Good god...

big rewards ... for multinational companies

This suggests exactly the opposite and that it's lose/lose for everyone.

Incidentally, am I the only person having every post moderated at present?

Network congestion algorithms have design flaw, says MIT

Warm Braw

Arguably, there's too much reliance on good behaviour

The interesting thing about this is that these attempts at "fair" capacity sharing is that they're pretty much dependent on transport implementations that are entirely under the control of end users doing "the right thing". There are things a "greedy" system could do (such as unnecessary retransmissions) that might reduce the likelihood of its traffic being dropped compared with that of another user. I don't think we can for ever rely on Internet users simply using the protocol stack that came with their operating system.

In a time before calculators, going the extra mile at work sometimes didn't add up

Warm Braw

nearly impossible to automate

One of the problems was that there wasn't really any settled form of implementation, the market was just too small, at least for computers.

I think the IBM 1401 had a "sterling" option fairly early on. PL/I and (some versions of) COBOL supported sterling declarations. There were (at least) two different "standards" for punching sterling values onto cards: a BSI system and an IBM system. Both systems used a single column for pence: the IBM system punched the second row for "10" and the top row for "11" and the BSI system was the opposite (as the order of numbering of the top two card rows was different...). IBM used two card columns to represent shillings (as standard numerics) whereas BSI used overpunching to represent 10-19 shillings using a single column. Both systems could potentially be mixed, so you could have BSI shillings and IBM pence or vice versa...

Musk tries to sell Tesla's Optimus robot butler to China

Warm Braw

Mow laws and care for the elderly

Two activities of clearly equal value and complexity.

Google shuts off IoT Core services shortly after announcing API stability commitments

Warm Braw

Re: Google discontinuing a service??

Given the supported useful lifetime of your average IoT product, Google probably needed to get this announcement in early or risk being seen as a paragon of relative stability.

We were promised integrated packages. Instead we got disintegrated apps

Warm Braw

Lots of little single-task programs

Welcome to the world of microservices: programs that spend more time talking to each other than actually doing anything and whose security boundaries are a mystery to everyone.

Sorry, was that off-message?

Googlers demand abortion searches ‘never be saved or treated as a crime’

Warm Braw

Re: Just for starters

butchers ... but why musicals?

It may help if you can work out which of these is the butcher?

Open source VideoLAN media player asks why it's blocked in India

Warm Braw

A pleasant interface

There are many positive things that can be said about VLC. It's the first port of call for handling media files.

However, having long experience of VLC silently doing something other than that which was asked of it, particularly when transcoding, I'd say that as far as the interface is concerned, pleasant is as pleasant does.

UK launches 'consultation' with EU over exclusion from science programs

Warm Braw

Re: Reap what you sow

Except the scheduled NI increase was supposed to pay for the Social Care policy that has been promised for years and never delivered and the rise in Corporation Tax doesn't take effect until the next financial year. The non-indexation of the personal allowance will soak up even more of GDP than planned as inflation has soared way beyond expected levels.

Most of the coronavirus spending has come from borrowing so far, not taxation. Though it will no doubt feed through into taxation shortly.

The real issue, unfortunately, is the sluggish recovery of GDP - even the Tory leadership candidates would agree with that. And it's about to slump further.

Warm Braw

Re: Bankrupt the country so you can sell it to Rishi's father in law

we can all fuck off somewhere else

Easier said than done, unless you have Rishi's family wealth.

Warm Braw

Re: Brexit means Brexit

As a trade expert pointed out recently, the dispute resolution procedures are places you really don't want to go because their use implies the agreement has already fundamentally broken down. You might win or lose the specific point being argued but the likely result is that there is no longer any common shared interest in the agreement's continued operation.

If the UK really doesn't want to be party to the Withdrawal Agreement, there are provisions to terminate it. Up to now, the government has run from that prospect, whatever may be said in public. It's possible that the next PM might actually find it a useful temporary distraction from the growing financial chaos.

However, it's not going to get renegotiated - no EU leader is interested and the UK has no clout to force their hand.

Warm Braw

Re: Reap what you sow

Funny how it was only when we left, despite being a net contributor, that taxes went up to their highest ever proportion of GDP.

UK hospitals lose millions after AI startup valuation collapses

Warm Braw

Re: Heads should roll

Regrettably, we've seen similar problems in local authorities that have invested (and lost) real money in a whole variety of speculative commercial ventures (from property developments to electricity retailers).

While it's easy to criticise, what's fundamentally behind this is a chronic shortage of funding (which is why 43 hospitals have roofs that could collapse at any minute and social care is increasingly unavailable to those who need it) that is leading managers to seek other sources of income, sometimes unwisely and sometimes with tacit encouragement from central government.

Public services need more money and if we're not prepared to give them it while still insisting they operate they will increasingly be driven to find it in other ways.

Apple to compel workers to spend '3 days a week' in the office

Warm Braw

Re: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who insisted...

It's also anti-hypocracy: the government has been desperately trying to force civil servants back to the office, even where there is no space to accommodate them while simultaneously insisting that ministers can not only work effectively from home, but even work effectively from the beach.

Warm Braw

The artisan weaver, working from home, was only undone when there was technology to replicate his skill - perhaps not matching it in quality but at a fraction of the cost.

Given the present state of GitHub Copilot ("your AI pair programmer" which I carelessly misread as "your au pair programmer") I suspect Apple may have jumped the gun.

Warm Braw

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who insisted...

... the concept of work had once been explained to him, but he remained unable to comprehend its purpose.

UK government lines up billions to refresh legacy tech in 600-system tax dept

Warm Braw

The need in the past to forgo operational maintenance and upgrades...

... will come round again. And was partly enabled by the government owing the hardware and being in a position to sweat the assets a bit further.

Not going to be so easy when it's all in someone else's cloud.

Your AI-generated digital artwork may not be protected by US copyright

Warm Braw

Protecting AI-generated works with copyright is vital

No form of intellectual property is "vital" - it's a tradeoff ostensibly for the greater good. It's not (supposed to be) a licence to print money.

AI laser probe for prostate cancer enters clinical trials

Warm Braw

You seem to have more thumbs up than I would be comfortable with...

Our software is perfect. If something has gone wrong, it must be YOUR fault

Warm Braw

Re: Sigh. Back in the day

Not only that, they never fix the crap but simply change it for different crap to suit their marketing schedule.

But they have your data and you can't get it back from them, so they know there's nothing you can practically do about it.

Except roll your own, which I'm increasingly convinced would be a better option for large-scale users of common SaaS applications.

After eleven-year wait, Atlassian customers promised custom domains in 2023

Warm Braw

No-one seems to know just why

Have they tried this?

Google tells Apple to 'fix text messaging' in bid to promote RCS protocol

Warm Braw

Re: Party like it's 1999

Well my new phone only ships with one and the only reason I discovered RCS existed was that messages were sometimes taking days or weeks to arrive and the version of messages on my phone shipped with RCS on by default.

I have turned it off, thank you, but in order to do that I had to know that the app known as Messages had fundamentally changed its behaviour and the only clue to that was its total unreliability. I presume the release notes (and indeed the privacy warnings) are to be found somewhere beyond a "Beware of the Leopard" sign.

Warm Braw

Re: Party like it's 1999

Frankly, I'd much prefer it if Google simply provided an SMS app. Like there used to be. So I'd know which technology was being used to deliver the messages and half of them wouldn't show up two weeks late.

If I want a real-time text conversation, there's no shortage of choices and I wouldn't choose Google's offering.

South Korean regulator worried Apple, Google, may be working around app store payment choice law

Warm Braw

There may not be specific laws, but the Competition and Markets Authority in the UK (for example) has fairly wide-ranging powers without them.

The problem (as in SK) would seem to be that companies with deep pockets could draw out the process of investigation and compliance with proposed remedies almost indefinitely.

Report slams UK plan to become 'science superpower' by 2030

Warm Braw

Re: It's a complicated issue...

If schools are bad, can I afford to have children go to school abroad, their accommodation, nanny and frequent visits?

There are clearly those who embrace the opportunity offered by their wealth to outsource their children as well as those who may be happy to live in gated ghettos with the heads of peasants on perimeter spikes. However, I venture to suggest that very few people are quite so sociopathically venal - or, cynically, that few will experience wealth that tests their moral fibre - and the proposal that "the more money you make it matters less where you make it" is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Warm Braw

It's a complicated issue...

... and we now live in an era where complexity of any kind must be denied.

While funding is of course a significant factor, science requires an ecosystem in which to thrive. It requires strong institutions, facilities, international cooperation and respect.

Britain's universities are under attack from all side and from within. They depend increasingly on zero-hours contracts and generally treat their highly-qualified staff as disposable (showing the value they really place on "education"). Facilities are increasingly unavailable - there's a significant shortage of lab space for life sciences (for example), particularly in the Oxford-Cambridge "arc" whose development has largely been abandoned (because "levelling up" would mean having to spend equivalent sums in the north), so research is going elsewhere. Post-Brexit, the UK is not a preferred destination for EU researchers because of the high cost and complexity of moving their families and their precarious status once here: surprisingly, scientists are people and they have lives outside of their work. And generally they would prefer to be somewhere where they haven't had enough of experts, where they don't have to wait years for hospital treatment, can find a dentist and don't get yelled at in the supermarket for being foreign.

We've voted not to have the things that science requires. Or trade. Or social care. Etc. And a lot of people still seem happy to have empty slogans instead. It will be interesting to see whether that changes after a freezing winter with 13% inflation.

Google sues Sonos yet again, claiming it stole IP and infringed patents

Warm Braw

Sonos' chief legal officer, Eddie Lazarus...

... sounds like he might deserve a raise.

Google hit with lawsuit for dropping free Workspace apps

Warm Braw

American cheese

Two words that prove the US justice system is beyond redemption.

FauxPilot: It's like GitHub Copilot but doesn't phone home to Microsoft

Warm Braw

how about curating the data set to indicate the licenses

Given the small finite number of boilerplate licences, you'd think it would be an eminently suitable task for ML.

UK wants criminal migrants to scan their faces up to five times a day using a watch

Warm Braw

Re: What has immigration status got to do with criminal punishment?

If we can't distinguish between good criminals and bad criminals, how are we to excuse those who are ambushed by cake?

Enough with the notifications! Focus Assist will shut them u… 'But I'm too important!'

Warm Braw

It's not just the OS...

They're annoying enough, of course: my latest phone has a priority notification to indicate it has finished charging - usually around 3am - and another to say it has entered "battery-preserving" charging mode an hour or so later.

But it's everything. There was a protracted period in which I needed to be alert to events in the care of a relative and there was no practical means of suppressing other notifications on my phone because an urgent call or text could come from whichever carer/healthcare professional might happen to be on duty. While, fortunately, there were few serious incidents in the small hours, I did discover to my cost that Royal Mail has a habit of sending text messages at 2am to advise of its delivery intentions.

And there are the banks that send you your balance alerts when they perform their nocturnal reconciliations. I recently gave up on an application for a bank account when the "online" process became too farcical, but continued to get e-mails and text messages for days afterwards at frequent intervals urging me to resume from the point where I had lost the will to live.

And, naturally, I don't even check my e-mail automatically any more, it's just asking for grief.

Of course it's a vicious circle - the shoutier it becomes the more it gets ignored. Maybe spare a thought for the people that do sometimes genuinely need to be alerted to critical events in the real world?

US-funded breakthrough battery tech just simply handed over to China

Warm Braw

Not to mention that the US in the 19C was ripping off European intellectual "property" right left and centre. The rules are intended to protect the interests of incumbents and the only way emerging economies can emerge is to ignore them.

HPE says $30m Solaris verdict against it didn't provide 'evidence' of copyright

Warm Braw

Re: "previously published code cannot be registered in a later computer program"

The US remains an outlier in this respect with the result that you may have an automatic copyright but be unable to effectively enforce it unless you have also registered the work with the copyright office.

GitLab plans to delete dormant projects in free accounts

Warm Braw

Re: A year seems a bit too low... Three years maybe?

Inactive projects can be a risk

Heedless use of random code is a risk regardless of origin or maintenance status.

Linux may soon lose support for the DECnet protocol

Warm Braw

moving ever more slightly to the right each year

Speaking as one of the gnarly oldsters, it seems to me that's mostly a feature of the jejune youngsters hereabouts self-consciously imitating their swivel-eyed brethren across the waters.

I blame that new-fangled CB radio, myself. And MTV.

Warm Braw

It's probably worth elaborating that a little further.

There was no fundamental architectural reason to change the MAC address: endnodes sent out periodic "hello" messages that could have been used to map the 16-bit node address to a 48-bit MAC address. However, given that 1000 endnodes were permitted on a single LAN segment, it would have meant routers reserving potentially at least 6KB of space for the mapping - which is a big chunk of a 64K address space being used for other kernel things - and that endnodes (which may well be CPU-constrained) might have to look up a 48-bit key to find the associated 10-bit DECnet local area address. Fixing 32 bits of the MAC address got rid of those problems.

Interestingly, the first Phase V routers were faced with a different constraint: the change from routing vectors to link state routing made it very difficult for contemporary hardware to find room for the routing database which led to some considerable arguments in the organisation.

Also worth pointing out that DECnet made much more use of Ethernet architectural features: it used different multicast addresses to segregate endnode (host) traffic and Level 1 and Level 2 routing traffic and used different protocol types for discreet functional operations (like remote booting).

While DECnet's day has clearly gone, I do regret that accessing those Ethernet architectural features is still rather more trouble than it needs to be on Unix/Linux: there's an implicit assumption that the network is there for IP and convincing the network driver otherwise requires some effort. And, indeed, privilege/capability.

Microsoft thinks there are people on 2G networks who want to use Outlook

Warm Braw

Re: Lite mode should be standard for mobiles

One mobile phone company app that I need to pay my PAYG bills is 30MB. Another provider's app is 162MB. I have mobile banking apps that vary between 13MB and 300MB. The bloat really hasn't got much to do with the functions offered.

Warm Braw

Re: "the best Outlook experience"

Hardware is usually ridiculously overpowered and relatively cheap

Except that this "lite" version exists precisely because there are markets where that simply isn't true.

Maintaining two versions doesn't sound like efficient use of developers' time. Nor, in most cases, does the pursuit of elaborate features used by hardly anyone that disproportionately absorb both development and maintenance resources.

One of the reasons hardware is (relatively) cheap is that there is an enormous focus on cost throughout its life cycle. The mere utterance of the letters SDLC seem sufficient to ward off any consideration of cost when it comes to software development.

Nancy Pelosi ties Chinese cyber-attacks to need for Taiwan visit

Warm Braw

It can't attempt to stop trading with all of them at the same time

That process has to some extent already begun [FT], initiated by international trading partners alarmed at the increasing instability of business conditions and China appears to be unconcerned.

Historically, Chinese policy has always valued (at least the appearance of) stability and taken a long-term view of its ambitions. That caution seems to have been abandoned and Xi seems to be an impatient man with almost unfettered personal power and a personal mission. I think it would be foolish to prejudge what China "can" and "can't" attempt to do: Putin has essentially wrecked his country's economic future in pursuit of a mad historical fantasy starting from a much weaker position.

If there's one lesson we should learn from domestic politics it's the vacuity of the question surely they can't be that stupid?.

Google asks workers for ideas on being 'more focused and efficient' in internal survey

Warm Braw

Stunning failure of management...

... IMHO, for the CEO of a company to say, basically, "sorry, chaps, but we haven't got a clue what you're all doing - could you fill us in?".

Data brokers amass profiles of pregnant women – and, of course, it's all up for sale

Warm Braw

Re: I used to be nice to christians, not any more

More Catholic than the Pope?

Holier than thou.

Bad news, older tech workers: Job advert language works against you

Warm Braw

Re: Examples?

The interesting thing, though, is that firing people in Portugal is quite hard and the problem is actually retention - once those rookies get a bit of experience they tend to head off for a higher-wage economy, Not to mention that it's technically illegal even to ask your staff to read their emails after their contracted hours.

I suspect it's simply dressing up in the clothes of Silicon Valley to seem fashionable. Like the free fruit. And that's ageist: the pips get stuck under your false teeth.

Warm Braw

Re: Examples?

In Portugal, there's a phrase that's repeated verbatim in about half the job advertisements I see:

Integration into a young and dynamic team

I think it simply means "must be biddable", but it sounds dreadful. And that, no doubt, is the point.

Homes in London under threat as datacenters pull in all the power

Warm Braw

Re: Not near wind farms

a lot of people want easy access to their DC

Good luck with that as time goes on. Giving random customers access to locations housing other people's kit and shared infrastructure is a big risk. It's also a significant expense to configure the space to permit it.

I know one large organisation in the capital with some specialised kit that no colocation service would accept given its nature and the access needs that, ironically, ended up buying a private house to put it in (with appropriate change of use).

Warm Braw

Re: Not near wind farms

take some time from slugging it out with each other

Politics is now a game of competitive fantasy. It's imperative that reality is kept at bay so no-one notices that everything around them is shit. Literally, in the case of the waterways. Distraction is the only thing that's important.

Warm Braw

They might as well just build the houses

It's not as if anyone will be able to afford electricity by the time they're finished.

Sage accused of misselling perpetual licenses it knew would soon be obsolete

Warm Braw

Spend the year looking at migrating to a package from some other vendor

That presupposes they haven't all taken the same route.

And, as has already been pointed out, your accountant is ultimately in charge of your fate: if they can't (or won't) easily deal with your data then any potential savings will simply evaporate.

Apple's secret car team tosses keys to Lamborghini lead

Warm Braw

I'm hoping we can at least assume the wheels will have rounded corners.

There is a path to replace TCP in the datacenter

Warm Braw

Re: Multiple stacks

In many ways, it's surprising TCP has survived as long as it has - and more so that we've got this far with essentially one network protocol and one transport protocol and that they've provided a sufficiently adequate basis for everything from e-mail to high definition video streaming and the transition from noisy, slow analogue lines to fibre.

It's not just that there are transport protocols better suited to data centre operations. IP (whether v4 or v6) combined with Ethernet framing (and the consequent need for mapping between datalink and network layer addresses) is less than optimal too. The requirement is for something that functions much more like a bus or backplane interconnect than a general purpose network.

One of the (ultimately doomed) innovations of DECnet Phase V was that the equivalent of DNS recorded the protocol stacks available on the target host (at least a network layer and transport layer) and the resolver would return the protocol stack(s) that were mutually supported by the communicating parties along with the addressing information for each layer. Sounds like an idea whose time might finally have come.