* Posts by Steve Coffman

33 publicly visible posts • joined 13 Jul 2007

'Doomsday' asteroid Apophis more massive than first thought

Steve Coffman

Re: Science fail.

"So what the hell are all those supercomputers doing? Crunching numbers to game the stock market? Designing the next generation grow lights?"

Sweet 16 bracket predictions...

Microsoft to bake Windows 8 in three flavours

Steve Coffman
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Re: It's Run Time

I guess the author was too busy even to bother to look up the definition from previous articles on El Reg : http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/02/13/woa_office_15_ie10_clearer/page2.html

Apple orders PC builder to 'choose sides' in laptop battle?

Steve Coffman


many of HP's business class computers can be ordered with FreeLinux pre-installed. You can even get FreeDOS on some models as well (such as the HP Pro 3405 Series MT for example.) I'm not an HP shill, just pointing it out...

Apple launches three-pronged education assault

Steve Coffman

I should have been a bit more specific

While what you say is true for a college student having to purchase their own texbooks, I was thinking of education overall including public K-12. At the volume discounts school districts get for textbooks, it's cheaper for the textbooks than an iPad. On average textbooks run $50 each, and say if you have 6 classes, that'd be $300 - still far less than the starting price of an iPad. And I think the average college student is probably going to take better care of a device they had to purchase vs. something that is provided to say your average high school student. Since I work in educational IT I know how kids treat equipment and I don't think an iPad wouldn't last that long in that sort of an environment.

Steve Coffman


I've been saying for a number of years now that it's just going to be a matter of time before we shift away from traditional textbooks to some sort of eReader in education - it makes sense from the standpoint of being more easy to readily update curriculum, it would be a lot less for students to have to carry around, etc.

But in order for that to happen, the device must 1) be rugged - it's going to have to stand up to it getting dropped, spilled on and abused, 2) have great battery life, 3) be easy to update (if it's not a networked device) and 4) be inexpensive! And right now the iPad doesn't fulfill all those requirements - plus there is the issue (as has been pointed out) of it not being as easy to read as other devices. I'm certain the shift will happen, but as for right now for most educational institutions the iPad (in it's current incarnation anyway) is not that device.

Ten... best Blu-ray movies of 2011

Steve Coffman

I beg to differ

"I think blue-ray is a wonderful medium, but not very suitable for older movies." I disagree - most film footage that has been well preserved still has more resolution than what the BD format can muster, and with digital color restoration there are a lot of older films that have benefited from the conversion. However, if you have a movie that's on some old, scratchy 16mm stock, then unless some serious digital restoration is done, then no it won't help. However, since most of the older movies being converted are usually classics or well known movies they are in many cases cleaned up or restored for their release on Blu-Ray. The studios aren't going to spend the money to do that for the average older or B-grade film though.

Win8: A beginner's guide to FondleWindows

Steve Coffman
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"Tiles are better than icons," insists Microsoft's Jensen Harris

Sure, in the same way icons are "better" than a command line interface. It all depends on what you are trying to accomplish...

Ubuntu board rejects slippery Flash installs

Steve Coffman

@ "I suspect"

" I suspect that if you ask Joe Bloggs in the pub what "Third Party Software" means and why this concept is important to the Ubuntu installer, the most likely answer would be "WTF?""

I would suspect that you'd actually get the same reaction if you asked Joe Bloggs in the pub what Ubuntu was...

Microsoft finally says adios to Autorun

Steve Coffman
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I've seen quite a few CDs that launch via autorun Adobe Reader or Macromedia products (now Adobe) that are included on the disc to pull up an index or menu of documents contained on the CD... it's done for those people not smart enough (or perhaps too lazy) to be to open the CD manually and then the appropriate application or document file themselves...of course it seemed like a good idea at the time it was developed to have this functionality but we all know the problems that it has led to years later...

Iomega's flashy SSD clones your PC

Steve Coffman
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So you DON'T have to waste an afternoon...

Most of us that back up our OS drive do so in order to avoid having to spend a large amount of time reinstalling... while it may be true you can reinstall your OS in an afternoon, installing patches, updates, drivers and all of your applications & utilities that you use can be majorly time consuming - that's why I have a mirrored array for my primary boot drive (in case one drive physically fails) and I occasionally back that up to an external drive (because if you experience data corruption on the primary boot device that keeps your OS from loading, having a mirrored array won't help because more than likely the corruption is present on both drives...been there, done that.) So the last time I had to rebuild my system due to a HD failure it took a better part of a weekend to get my system back to where it was originally - which is why I now back it up! All of my media and other data is stored on a RAID 5 array and most of my applications, games, etc. are installed on a secondary partition on the mirrored array so I don't have to back up all of that just to back up the primary OS partition (which is only 50GB in size, so it doesn't take too long.)

However for most people this particular unit wouldn't be the ideal device to do backups - you'd be better of with an external eSATA drive to do backups for a lot less money and still probably have better transfer rates... USB 3 devices generally still aren't anywhere near their theoretical throughput.

Confusion over 'secret code' in US military Cyberforce crest

Steve Coffman


"Be sure to drink your Ovaltine."

Google's encrypted search casts shadow on web analytics

Steve Coffman


Works fine in IE8 - I get no prompt for secure/non-secure items... looks like it's your outdated browser that's having the issue...

Microsoft fills Outlook crack with Apachesource

Steve Coffman


Except when using Outlook in default mode with an Exchange server all the data is left up on the server in your Mailbox and a .PST file is not used... .PSTs are only used for stand-alone instances of the Outlook client, or if the default delivery location is changed from the Exchange Mailbox to a local Personal Folder (aka .PST file.) The only other instance where PST files are used is if you export data out of Outlook to a .PST (for instance if you want to backup or archive your Outlook data.)

"Open sourcers have tired on their own to crack open the Outlook/Exchange hegemony. Past efforts have included the Evolution email, address book and calendar system for Linux desktops with the Ximian connector to Exchange, so Evolution could work with Exchange servers.

These efforts, though, have failed to gain mass market share and left Outlook firmly entrenched as the default email client for business and looking unassailable - until now."

Knowing the internal structure of the PST file isn't going to help you much with developing a client to communicate with Exchange, since how Outlook data is stored and acessed on the Exchange server itself is completely different...

Computer pioneer and Gates mentor Ed Roberts dies

Steve Coffman

Methinks you've missed the point

The MITS and other systems of its time came out primarily as HOBBIEST computers... a computer the average Joe who was interested in such things could actually afford and be able to tinker around with it. No offense to your "real" HP computer, but many people started out in computing with these so called "toys". I got my start years later on an Atari 8-bit computer, which you would still probably consider a toy, but it lead me to learning a number of programming languages, going to college to try for an engineering degree and ultimately endning up with a career in the IT sector. So who cares if the MITS wasn't "usable" in a business environment? That's not what it was developed for...

Opera's Jon Von Tetzchner on browser choice, the iphone and Google

Steve Coffman
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IP addresses for mobile phones?

Oh goody, more stuff for hackers to target! No thank you! That's all I want, the ability for someone to connect to my phone directly over the Internet. The looming spectre of more malware and viruses targeting mobile devices is scary enough... with actual IP addresses, I can just imagine the future of botnets...

Bloated Office 2010 kicks dirt in face of old computers

Steve Coffman

@good luck with Office 2003

Well unless they change the current XML-based document formats they are using for Office 2007 & 2010 with the NEXT version, Office 2003 should continue to work fine with the free Office Compatibility pack for Word, Excel & PowerPoint. In my organization we're using all versions of Office from 2000 on and they all work fine opening and editing Office 2007 documents. There are some features used in the new version of PowerPoint that aren't backwards compatible but we really haven't run into any issues with it.

Collisions at LHC! Tevatron record to be broken soon?

Steve Coffman


where's my crowbar when I need it?! I'll see you guys in Lambda Core...

Weather balloons no longer a crazy idea for rural coverage

Steve Coffman
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Sounds all well and good but...

US supplies of helium are dwindling... "The element that lifts things like balloons, spirits and voice ranges is being depleted so rapidly in the world's largest reserve, outside of Amarillo, Texas, that supplies are expected to be depleted there within the next eight years." That's somewhere around 2016. Once the supply is gone, it's gone forever... there's no easy or inexpensive way to create helium. There are other sources of helium in the US and Russia, but it's not being collected (it's a by-product of natural gas production) so who knows how much we'll have available in the coming decades... and as the supply gets smaller, the price is going to increase drastically.


I can't see hot air balloons being very viable... and I don't think people would be too keen on hydrogen filled balloons being used in their area... so it'll be interesting to see if this flies (pardon the pun.)

Dirty, dirty PCs: The X-rated picture guide

Steve Coffman

School computers

I work for a school district and we find all sorts of interesting things crammed into computer cases, DVD/CD ROM drives etc.; wrappers, candy, paperclips, pens etc. One time a student hid a container of milk behind a system and no one knew it was there until it burst and rotten milk poured out onto it... luckily it didn't fry anything but it sure didn't smell too good. I think the best one was computer at our alternative High School that some kid was using for his drug stash... his plastic baggie came into contact with the CPU fan and started making a lot of noise...

We also have a control computer fairly close to a CNC mill and it gets pretty full of sawdust that has to be periodically cleaned out. Used to have an old PIII that was running it for 4-5 years that had never been cleaned out and I'm surprised it was still running when we finally upgraded it...

MS exec gets shot down after 'inaccurate' Windows 7 spiel

Steve Coffman


Everyone knows that the best GUI ever was GEM! (Which incidentally Apple sued Digital Research, Inc. over the "look and feel" of....) I say we forget it and all just go back to CLI's!

Snow Leopard data-munching bug predates Snow Leopard

Steve Coffman

Should go without saying....

doesn't matter what OS or hardware you are using - BACK UP YOUR DATA - because it's not a matter of IF... it's a matter of WHEN!

'Amateur' IBM brings down Air New Zealand

Steve Coffman

More background...

"A generator failure Sunday at an IBM data center in Auckland, New Zealand crippled key services for Air New Zealand, prompting the airline’s CEO to publicly chastise Big Blue for the failure. The data center outage crashed airport check-in systems, as well as on-line bookings and call center systems Sunday morning, affecting more than 10,000 passengers and throwing airports into disarray.

The problem occurred during planned maintenance at IBM’s Newton data center in Auckland. A generator failed during the maintenance window, dropping power to parts of the data center, including the mainframe operations supporting Air New Zealand’s ticketing. IBM says service was restored to most clients within an hour, but local media reports say Air New Zealand’s ticketing kiosks were offline for up to six hours."


"IBM expressed its regrets and said the likely cause was a failed oil pressure sensor on a backup generator during a scheduled maintenance session"


I say let's blame the manufacturer of the generator... it does make you wonder why they didn't have more power redundancy in the data center... although from the article it sounds like they probably do, it's just that the section of the data center that went down was connected to that particular generator that failed. As to the Kiosks not coming back up for six hours, hard to say who's to blame for that... someone else may be responsible for the maintenance of those and not IBM.

'Evil' Windows 7 campaign goes global

Steve Coffman
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They obviously don't understand educational needs...

In the K-12 arena at least, none of the creators of curriculum (you know, the guys that write the actual textbooks that students use) develop software that goes along with the curriculum other than for Windows based PC's and the Mac. Using an emulator like WINE on Linux just doesn't cut it... if it doesn't work or there are technical problems, you are not going to get any support from the developer what so ever if you're not running it on a native OS. So promoting an open source OS for use in education just doesn't make sense....

Microsoft hosts Feynman lecture series

Steve Coffman


So you gotta install a Microsoft browser plug-in to view content provided by Microsoft? BFD... if you want to watch videos on Apple's website, you gotta install Apple's Quicktime. I don't hear many complaints about that.... if you want to see the content on Adobe's website (and just about every other website with rich content) you gotta install the Adobe Flash plugin; again i don't hear much sreaming there. But since it's from MS, it's automatically gotta be crap, huh? I've actually downloaded and installed Silverlight to be able to watch videos on Netflix... and you know what? It worked fine.

Even El Reg's own review of Silverlight was positive: "...Silverlight is shaping up to be what client-side .NET should have been from the beginning: lightweight, high-performance, cross-platform, and supported by a rich GUI framework that takes a sane approach to layout. There is room for this alongside Flash."


I seriously doubt if Steve Jobs had purchased the videos and made them available for free online but the 'catch' was you had to install Quicktime that anyone would say anything at all...

P.S. Silverlight is supported on Intel-based Macs.

US State Dept. workers beg Clinton for Firefox

Steve Coffman

Yup, FF is so much safer...

"An unpatched memory corruption flaw in the latest version of Firefox creates a means for hackers to drop malware onto vulnerable systems. Security notification firm Secunia reports that the security bug (which it describes as extremely critical) stems from errors in handling JavaScript code. The flaw has been confirmed in the latest 3.5 version of Firefox, released in late June."


The way I see it... every browser sucks... and blows... at the same time!

Microsoft takes hard line on Win 7 hardware

Steve Coffman


Microsoft has been producing hardware for over a couple decades... so why now all of a sudden would this be considered an anti-trust issue? From the gist of the press release it more or less sounded to me that MS is just guaranteeing that their hardware will be compatible with Windows 7, and some of the hardware may have Windows 7 specific enhancements. Big-woop.

As to the "drivers on the device" comment, the most common USB device that I can think of that most OS's don't necessarily have drivers for are printers. Have you looked at the size of most printer drivers lately? I mean JUST the driver, not all the support software that goes along with most printers? They can be HUGE. I doubt most manufacturers are willing to add a ROM/SRAM to store the drivers for multiple OS's on their device just for your convenience and to cut down on the OS size. You can just install it from the CD/DVD or download it yourself, thank you very much. Interesting idea, but one that isn't going to gain acceptance.

Dell punts germ-free netbook for school kids

Steve Coffman
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Re: Features

Windows XP or Vista Home? So much for connecting to a domain, eh? I work in Educational IT and I think this thing will go over like a lead balloon... for the kind of money they are asking for it after all the upgrades, you could buy a REAL computer with a decent processor, a couple gigs of RAM and a decent sized HD. Also I don't think laptops are all that practical for the age of the students they appear to be marketing this towards, i.e elementary students. They WILL get dropped and abused.

Apologies after teacher's 'Linux holding back kids' claim

Steve Coffman

The reality of educational software

I agree that having a free OS and other software suites would be a good thing in saving school districts money. However, the reality is that the vast majority of educational software is developed for Windows, a small amount for Macs, and almost nothing for Linux. If all the students needed was a desktop OS where they could get on the Internet and type up a paper, or work on a PowerPoint-type presentation an open-source solution would be fine. However, a lot of software and hardware used in industry do not have any Linux versions - such as CAD/CAM software including AutoCAD, MasterCAM, Chief Architect, Rhino 3D, etc. Also, hardware such as laser engravers, CNC machines and dimensional printers do not have Linux driver support - nor do the majority of them run on Macs. The vast majority of educational software does not have Linux versions - software that comes with textbooks, online learning systems, etc..

Sure, you could run a Windows emulator on top of Linux, but if you were to look at what most school districts have for computers they just don't have the power to be able to do that... how well do you think Win XP would run on top of Linux with emulation with only 256MB of RAM? The reality is a lot of schools and districts don't have the money to upgrade or buy new computer systems. They're stuck with what they've got, which in a lot of cases are 5-7 year old computers. So until developers start porting or developing educational software that runs natively under Linux, it isn't going to be widely adopted. As a matter of fact one school district in my area converted over to Linux desktops only to convert back to Windows due to compatibility issues with their existing sever infrastructure. And attempting to support two separate OS platforms means the IT staff has to be trained in both, or have larger staffs with dedicated techs - which incurs more man-hours and ultimately costs more money. So before you start promoting open-source as a cost-saving measure for schools, you have to look at the whole picture and see what the existing infrastructure is and what software and hardware is actually being used in an educational setting.

Internet security suites fail to block exploits

Steve Coffman

@David Kelly:Simple solution is ...

"Run a UNIX based OS, like Linux or OS X and the need for an anti-virus is gone."

Problem with that is there are many software packages that are used in the industrial and educational fields that are simply not available on Linux (or even Mac for that matter.) So it doesn't do you much good if the OS you use is less vulnerable to viruses/malware/adware if the software you need to run won't work with it. Some examples? AutoCAD, SolidWorks, Rhinoceros NURBS, MasterCAM, Chief Architect X1 (there is a Mac version for this) and just about every software package that now comes with school textbooks, to name a few (as well as drivers for laser engravers, CNC machines, dimensional printers, etc.) And again the reasons for this are market share and also the number of Linux/UNIX variants out there... so until the Linux/UNIX (or Mac) market matures enough to the point that developers are willing to port or write software for it, we are for the most part stuck with Windows and the problems associated with it.

P.S. Yes, I realize that you could probably use WINE to get some of the Windows software to work under Linux, but graphically intensive applications are tricky enough sometimes to troubleshoot under the native OS, not to mention possible performance and hardware issues and you would be SOL for support solutions...

DARPA wants Matrix style virtual world for cybergeddon

Steve Coffman
Black Helicopters


Good thing Replicants only have a 4 year life span....

Vista attacked by 13-year-old virus

Steve Coffman

Anti-Virus software

I don't really think you can blame either Vista or Bullguard on this one... a lot of anti-virus programs no longer scan for boot sector/MBR viruses unless specifically configured to do so, or you manually do a "full system scan" and include the boot sector. This is because boot sector viruses are pretty uncommon anymore, and usually due to the restrictions of space, they were pretty limited to what they could do originally. Even if you had an infected boot sector, it would be highly unlikely they would be able to do much in Windows itself, because most of them were designed to work within DOS... and if they did attempt to make modifications within Windows, the "real time scanning" of most modern AV software would pick it up and/or data execuation prevention would stop it... which is why we really haven't seen any major issues with boot sector viruses in years...

Gunplay fingered for internet slowdown

Steve Coffman

Burying cables

In some areas that's not possible to do depending on who owns the land the cable is running over... in my school district where I work in the IT dept., we had to run fiber from poles to get to one of our schools because it had to run over railroad tracks. It took quite some time to get permission from the railroad to do so, since they own the property that the tracks run on. Do ya think they would have let us dig up their tracks to run fiber under it? Not likely...

MS update sends PCs 'haywire'

Steve Coffman


Luckily my system didn't go haywire after installing the .NET patch, but afterwords I noticed a new process running called mscorsvw.exe. I run my XP system pretty lean and mean and have disabled all non-essential services and processes (I only have a total of 4 non-MS processes and 4 non-MS services that load on startup...) so I was curious as to what it was. Doing a quick web search, it turns out it is a background compiler for .NET assemblies. Theoretically it is supposed to compile the assemblies during idle time (it is set to lowest priority) but mine wasn't doing much of anything while my system was just idling. The info I found says if you run the command ngen.exe executequeueditems from the .NET folder (mine happened to be in C:\WINDOWS\Microsoft.NET\Framework\v2.0.50727) it will force it to process everything it has in the queue. I gave it a try, and it worked great - it compiled something like 97 assemblies, and after a reboot the mscorsvw process is no longer running.

BTW, if the process is running at 100% CPU usage after you execute the command, that indicates that the .NET framework is corrupt and should be reinstalled. Check out http://searchwincomputing.techtarget.com/tip/0,289483,sid68_gci1225866,00.html for more info on the process.