* Posts by keithpeter

1489 posts • joined 14 Jul 2007

NSA warns that mobile device location services constantly compromise snoops and soldiers


Traffic analysis has been popular...

...since olden days, c.f. Gordon Welchman's The Hut Six Story: Breaking the Enigma Codes

Coat: off out with my personal locator beacon to get some exercise

A tale of mainframes and students being too clever by far


Re: A question for 'Sam'

Seemed a bit harsh to remove 'Sam' - unless he decided to stop going himself. Clearly not deliberate sabotage. Could have been a good learning point about machine arch differences &c

Icon: used to work in FE. Have taught day release (not IT). Usually committed students.

'I'm telling you, I haven't got an iPad!' – Sent from my iPad


I don't condone the attempted blame-shift but surely if these records were important enough to warrant dismissal then there should perhaps have been some kind of formal archive process. If nothing else, to prevent alteration after filing date &c.

When I did lesson observations as part of local quality assurance, we had to upload completed paperwork to a system that time stamped everything.


Having implemented VLEs on several occasions (Web Course In A Box, Blackboard, the ever wonderful Moodle with a rabbit hole spelunk around Granada Learnwise) I would suggest that Terry 6 has it nailed.

Some member of 'leadership' at Lee D's old employer obviously had a sense of humour.

Dutch Gateway store was kept udder wraps for centuries until refit dug up computing history


Cow boxes

They arrived one fine morning in Brum resplendent in their cowness. A Pentium P60 with 8 Mb RAM and a (huge) CRT. Unpacked, linked together and they ran Windows 95. Then a memory and hard drive upgrade and Windows 98. Briefly Sun Java Desktop (which was actually Linux and could not be got working with the Sportster modem). Replaced by an HP box, then an Apple iBook.

I spent (relatively speaking) huge amounts of money on those computers. Now it is a recycled Thinkpad and Slackware...

UK housing associations offer framework worth up to £400m to eBay-for-plumbers startup (but it won't get to keep it all)


Small and local

Hello All

Housing Cooperative tenant here - couple of hundred tenancies:

We have Dave with the Van for minor repairs (flush not working, gutter fell off in the wind, fence fell over &c) and triage of more major work.

Contracts with a gas fitter, electrician, plumber and roofing/larger build jobs contractor including emergency call-out

Cyclic maintenance (new kitchens/bathrooms/doors/windows) jobs go out to tender, usually bundled into 10 house lots.

Works for us and the transaction overhead is a phone call to Mavis. Nothing like £40 per household!

Edit: QA contractors have to be on the qualified list held by the housing management agent. Published criteria and appeals process if any company refused &c.

Why so large a scale one asks?

Coat: mine's the one with a copy of E. F. Schumacher's volume in the pocket

Another anti-immigrant rant goes viral in America – and this time it's by a British, er, immigrant tech CEO


Re: We hear these stories all the time

..."That was the point I realized something was wrong..."

Which is I imagine how change happens. Wondering what lead you to the insight? Peer group? Television from outside your immediate family? School?

Keep it Together, Microsoft: New mode for vid-chat app Teams reminds everyone why Zoom rules the roost


Research project...

"[snip] they are removed by the fact that what should be an instinctual experience comes with a set of rules defined by Microsoft"

I've paid the bills for decades by organising small groups of people for face to face interaction at regular times of the day/week for extended periods (teaching). I think that there is a lot in the psychology mentioned by Lanier that is valid.

BUT as OA says this is really still looks like a research project to me.

The key is the 'set of rules' which are usually negotiated (tacitly) between participants early in the lifetime of a group within institutional norms (c.f Goffman and Tuckman) so it feels 'normal'. Trying to force those on people is just going to seem weird to the participants.

I also was amused by the use of a psychology excuse for a technical issue: if you pop to the loo part way through a face to face lesson, it is very unlikely (to the extent that I can't remember an instance in 30 years) that anyone will hop into your seat while you are out of the room.

LibreOffice community protests at promotion of paid-for editions, board says: 'LibreOffice will always be free software'


Re: "Personal Edition"

Mergenthaler Linotron phototypesetter springs to mind as a possibility.

Joseph Ossanna must have been some kind of genius...


Re: MS Works

MS Works and Clarisworks (aka Appleworks) did the job for basics.

I wonder what a simple cross platform light weight 'works' application with fresh code might look like. Sternly limited feature set (no Chandler Project stuff) aimed at making documents.

Gnumeric is still going strong. Abiword seems to be alive but with bugs...


"Personal Edition"

With 'personal edition' in the About screen, this isn't going to get installed in schools or colleges in UK as pointed out in the article. Don't care what the licence buried deep in the distribution files is. No way is that language getting past the management.

I've been trying for years to persuade one of my employers to move from OpenOffice to LibreOffice (alongside Microsoft Office) for years...

Coat: Mine's the one with a copy of Unix Text Processing in the (large) pockets along with a printout of man groff_mm

Mind the airgap: Why nothing focuses the mind like a bit of tech antiquing


Re: At a loss

AlphaSmart Neo had usb, you plugged it in and pressed the button and your PC assumed it had a new USB keyboard and sent the 'input' to whatever window had focus.

The previous AlphaSmart USB based devices that I had a few of about 10 years ago survived being lent out and taken home by various students very well. Clunky and unattractive so no theft, no user accessible software to mess about with, and no storage to lose. Just had to watch the AA batteries on the older models.


Re: At a loss

Or in my case just pulling the USB WiFi adaptor out of its socket...

I find it easier to focus on things if I set up a special environment for the activity. E.g. when preparing maths lessons I have an old shoebox with the regulation scientific calculator, the maths instruments, a clip board and white paper, pencils, blank 'short' lesson plan templates and the recommended textbook and revision guide. This box is kept in a bureau of the kind where a flap folds down to provide a work table. Once planned up and written out, I hit the laptop and assemble/edit the resources and check the Web sites for video snippets. That way I'm selecting the resources that fit my plan for a specific class and not letting the available resources drive the plan.

Perhaps it is the same for writers who compose on the screen. A physical device associated with a specific location may be the mind trick that drops them into the 'flow state'. £40 might not appear expensive in that case.

I miss three pieces of software from my MacOS days: Preview, Textedit and Eastgate systems' Tinderbox. Preview could copy diagrams and snippets from a PDF file and paste them into textedit as vector images. Textedit was 'rich' enough for my needs. You could probably project manage something like a feature film with Tinderbox.

Euro police forces infiltrated encrypted phone biz – and now 'criminal' EncroChat users are being rounded up


31 payg sim cards on a daily rotation? Choice of 7 burner phones bought off the market stall? (gcd 7, 31 = low repetition)


Re: But private ciphers also exist...even if end-to-end encryption is broken.......

@Basis and all...


I am old enough to have actually used a code book to send domain specific information over a Telex link (shipping, 1980s).

Coat: Journal of Commerce in the pocket.

Linux Mint 20 isn't exactly bursting with freshness but, hey, there's kernel 5.4 and it's a long-term support release


Re: Low end machines

"My biggest surprise with Linux is how much better the more lightweight window managers now look. Years ago I'd look at screenshots of anything that wasn't Gnome or KDE and turn away in horror. Now, something like xfce looks good to my eye."

Xfce4 is lightweight these days according to OA and parent poster?

Coat: shuffles off with aid of Zimmer to the comfort of jwm with a couple of xterms, one running lynx

'It's really hard to find maintainers...' Linus Torvalds ponders the future of Linux


Re: Maybe...

If you think about all the instances of the Linux kernel operating right now - from phones and embedded devices via servers and network devices in data centres, through to high performance compute clusters, isn't the desktop operating system aspect (i.e. endpoint client) almost of measure zero? Nice to have but it hardly defines the project.

Is it not amazing that a self organised group of programmers managed this huge project?

'One rule for me, another for them' is all well and good until it sinks the entire company's ability to receive emails


"my PhD thesis (written in LaTeX) was entirely stored (including diagrams) on two floppy disks"

@Custard [OT]: as a matter of interest, have you ever tried recompiling your thesis on a recent LaTeX version? I sometimes wonder about the longevity of digital formats. I'm guessing markup based systems are probably the safest bet

Coat: mine hosted, in the distant past, a Selectric maths golfball and a set of Rotring pens...

80-characters-per-line limits should be terminal, says Linux kernel chief Linus Torvalds


cat <somefile> | grep -B 1 -A 1 PATTERNS #?

"They cause problems for things like 'grep' both in the patterns and in the output, since grep (and a lot of other very basic unix utilities) is fundamentally line-based."

See title

Ah, my coat.

Laughing UK health secretary launches COVID-19 Test and Trace programme with glitchy website and no phone app


Re: Unmanaged BYOD

Does anyone know if a DBS check is required of applicants?

These people will be handling the address phone number and details of contacts of children (<18) and vulnerable adults.


Re: Oh No Surely Not...

"This was on Radio 4 yesterday (they were talking to an ex-junior doctor academic). Those on near minimum wage just take the incoming calls from people who think they might be positivie. The clinical tracers are the ones who make the outgoing calls to those who are confirmed positive."

Numbers look wrong way round for that.

Fred(a) gets a positive test, phones up, gives minimum wage person the contact list with (say) 10 names.

Clinical tracers have to do 10 phone calls, each of which could generate n new contacts, including Freda of course

One new positive test generates a large cascade of follow ups.


Re: Oh No Surely Not...

Verification: OK daft question (this is Serco) why not...

Issue each call a unique case number

If caller asks for verification, advise caller to ring off, ring number listed on Web site and on posters, go thru' the menu and give the case number

System then connects caller to advisor who has the relevant details including the time that the caller rang off...



I gather that the tracers are recruited, employed, and trained by Serco.


One hopes there has been a change of culture since then.

I'm going to avoid the usual 'what could possibly go wrong' comment because we really need a system that works, in the sense of allowing local measures to deal with clusters, to avoid economic meltdown.

ALGOL 60 at 60: The greatest computer language you've never used and grandaddy of the programming family tree


Haskell's grandad?

Microsoft doc formats are the bane of office suites on Linux, SoftMaker's Office 2021 beta may have a solution


Re: Compare with WPS Office?



I think parent poster means this one...

Fancy some post-weekend reading? How's this for a potboiler: The source code for UK, Australia's coronavirus contact-tracing apps


Re: Sage & onion

@Dr Syntax

I'm a bit worried about the trend towards criticism of epidemologists and public health modellers generally based on micro-analysis of small samples of particular implementations of models. People are playing defence lawyer when they should be looking at the basics (one person infects between 2.4 and 3.6 other people on average when there is no immunity in a (sub)population, there is a 6 to 14 day period when someone is infectious but not showing symptoms, simple differential equation)

This is applied (messy, political, entangled with desperate economic imperatives) science not systems level software engineering. The basis of science is that independent work by different teams using different methodologies tends (with eddy currents) to converge on something that we can regard as close to truth or reality in some sense. This is not an argument about engineering change orders or which library to use or what code style might be best.

I suspect that there is a lot of 'flood the zone with shit' going on by various kinds of useful idiot.


Re: Sage & onion


Put something together and run it past these people.

You might find project 5.6 of interest

(I have some interest in what comes out of project 5.2 based on a walk across town this morning as my daily exercise)


Re: Sage & onion

Not my field really, but John Carmack worked on the Imperial College model for a bit before the Microsoft people got involved. The quote below comes from a couple of parts of Carmack's twitter thread about the code...

"Before the GitHub team started working on the code it was a single 15k line C file that had been worked on for a decade, and some of the functions looked like they were machine translated from Fortran. There are some tropes about academic code that have grains of truth, but it turned out that it fared a lot better going through the gauntlet of code analysis tools I hit it with than a lot of more modern code. There is something to be said for straightforward C code. Bugs were found and fixed, but generally in paths that weren't enabled or hit."

It is also worth pointing out that the broad ballpark results of the model were similar in general outline to those produced by a team at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. They have put a simplified model up as a Web page for educational purposes. You can twiddle around with that and get thoroughly depressed. You need to read the help page and the associated paper to understand how the variables and interventions interact. The point is that these programs are not systems engineering, they are research. We draw some comfort when different research teams using different methodologies, implemented using different tools give broadly similar results.

Finally, it might be worth checking the last paragraph of the article quoted in the parent thread to this. The - no doubt very talented and effective - software engineer who looked at the code seems to have some interesting ideas about how to manage public health which probably lie quite a few standard deviations from the views of the majority in the UK.

(I still think that Ferguson should release the original file)

Wanna be a developer? Your coworkers want to learn Go and like to watch, er, Friends and Big Bang Theory


Re: Correlation and causation

Selection effect?

Only workaholics would want to do 60h+ weeks?

Behold: The ghastly, preening, lesser-spotted Incredible Bullsh*tting Customer


TDLB was the D units. Later came the A units. Fun not


@Mr Humbug

Count yourself lucky that you did not have to complete the TDLB or A units for assessors as well. You had to compile evidence for those - in voluminous quantities.

Prepare to have your shonky password hygiene shamed by Firefox 76


Re: Firefox has sought to arrest its slide in the rankings

"I've got FF set to use a separate search field so I DON'T want search and shonky suggestions added to the address bar when all I'm trying to do is enter an address myself!"

Does unticking Preferences | Search | Provide Search Suggestions help at all still? I'm on the current ESR one (68.xish). I still get the 'helpful' search suggestions in the separate search box though

UK finds itself almost alone with centralized virus contact-tracing app that probably won't work well, asks for your location, may be illegal


Re: And what about the people ...

Those that do have a smartphone and run apps can run this one. Those that don't, won't. Just because this app won't reach 100% of the population doesn't mean we shouldn't bother with it at all (privacy issues aside)

I think that you are basically assuming that the percentage who do/are able to download and use the app are a random sample from the population as a whole in a particular district (I gather the idea is to modulate lockdown/restrictions in specific areas). If that assumption is correct then yes, a percentage will be enough.

However if there is any systematic difference between the set of people who download and successfully use the app and those that don't, then the decisions generated could be less than optimum in an area. You would not know about the mis-match between the data generated from the application and reality for the incubation period + symptoms worsening period, so say 14 to 21 days. If the R from app was 1.05 and the real R was 1.5 (say) that could be a very significant issue


Re: And what about the people ...

The age distribution of those prepared/able to download and run the app will be skewed away from those most at risk from infection because of the need for an Apple/Android device as mentioned or implied above. This means that the decisions based on the data may not actually be those needed to minimise infection in a given region. (That would be an issue with the Google/Apple api based system as well tbf)

The lack of compatibility between the UK based NHS application and the Rest Of The World Except Australia and Possibly India system may have issues for mutual travel arrangements going forward especially if the UK system is missing a significant number of interactions

And finally, if the system really does miss significant interactions, the data generated will be obviously divorced from the true infection rate in a given postcode - as will become apparent some weeks later (infection/symptom time lag) for each degree of separation in a local graph

Have I missed anything?

Coat: mine's the one with an ancient Blackberry which I may decide to replace with a landfil android if this app looks like it might actually generate useful public health action

Ding dong Dell, servers in the well. Who pulled them out? Little PC stout


Forced replacement

""We executed well," said Clarke, "taking advantage of tailwinds from the Windows 10 refresh cycle, declining component cost while navigating through CPU shortages and a dynamic tariff environment.""

Am I correct in thinking that this sentence means that Dell sold a load of client PCs because of Windows 10? One assumes that continued updates to Windows 7 would have saved lots of businesses, public sector organisations and domestic users a bit of money?

So pointless market churn?

RIP Freeman Dyson: The super-boffin who applied his mathematical brain to nuclear magic, quantum physics, space travel, and more


Couple of more names for your 19th Century chronicle



Dynamical systems basically. Just how many times has negative feedback been invented? (Steam engine governor onwards)


Re: Nothing ignomious

Alas, falls of any kind when you are over 80 or so can be serious. I know this from experience with family members. It is part of the 'old age' experience.

Robotic exoskeletons?

Coat: mine's the one with a copy of Disturbing the Universe in the pocket. His generation basically invented operations reseach (sort of a gap year project during ww2)

iFixit surgeons dissect Apple's pricey Mac Pro: Industry standard sockets? Repair diagrams? Who are you and what have you done to Apple?


RAMdisk! Excellent idea

Windows 7: Still looking after business (except when it isn't)



Just wondering: could you not provide the functions you miss from Lotus in the form of an Excel plug-in and profit?

Icon: I had A level Maths students doing investigations on old 286 based DOS computers as noone else in the college wanted them. The students liked a change from the symbolic work. Memories.

Flat Earther and wannabe astronaut killed in homemade rocket


Just ask a Bristol fishing boat skipper. They had all of this crap sorted around 1100 or so (grand banks cod)

Icon: welcome back to port


Only one parachute?

Why not a last chance personal pack?

Why not 3 parachutes deployed in various locations and under control of the rocketeer?

Hope the dependents are looked after

Startup Mycroft AI declares it will fight 'patent troll' tooth and nail after its Linux voice-assistant attracts lawsuit


Re: Startup Mycroft AI declares it will fight 'patent troll'

Does anyone in the US sometimes worry that this kind of shenanigans might act as a damper on innovation and new ideas?

I mean, can you imagine if Claude Shannon and Bell Labs had to hack their way though this stuff? Or Johan Von Neumann or any of the other founders?

Just a thought

Tech can endure the most inhospitable environments: Space, underwater, down t'pit... even hairdressers


Re: Ex fruity genius...

One of the great advances that has occurred over my working life is the advent of smoke-free workplaces. Your experience was the *norm* in many places in the 1970s. When I worked as a messenger in Liverpool in the mid 1970s there were offices that appeared to have their own internal fog and ceilings that were honey brown (having been painted white).


Re: Surprisingly ...

Routine now that one (I work in further education)

One day soon I'll take my portable typewriter in and show them what the shift key does and why it is named thus.

Keyboard icon: I can be a little heavy handed while typing

Wake me up before you go Go: Devs say they'll learn Google-backed lang next. Plus: Perl pays best, Java still in demand


"Forth is so niche it's not on anyone's radar."

The dish pointing software could well be written in Forth back in the day. But there we are...

At last, the fix no one asked for: Portable home directories merged into systemd


Re: Systemd is devastating

Got Devuan?


Slackware as canary.

If/when PV has to include systemd so as to be able to provide a full desktop within the default install as a result of the creeping symbiosis, then its freebsd.

Google promises next week's cookie-crumbling Chrome 80 will only cause 'a very modest amount of breakage'


Re: Oh....like the silent change that borked thousands of business users....

Quote from theverge article referenced above.

"After complaints, Google was forced to reveal it had launched an “experiment” on stable versions of Chrome that had changed the browser’s behavior. The experiment was made silently, without IT admins or users being warned about Google’s changes."

Firefox allows you to disable 'experiments' and 'studies' through both the preferences page in the GUI and through the about:config list for more granular control. Is there an equivalent in Chrome?

Icon: just upgraded the missus to Windows 10 and she is a Chromie

Capita Education Services accidentally spaffs email addresses in Helpdesk snafu


Re: Oh for fucks sake

Instructions for sending a TELEX message from the comfort of your email application...


I especially like the idea of an ocean code...

Mine's the one with the ACME code book in the pocket.

A fine host for a Raspberry Pi: The Register rakes a talon over the NexDock 2


Re: Bring back netbooks

Interesting. How bendy is the keyboard?

I need to learn about Windows 10 for.... reasons

Sometimes shining a light on a nuclear problem just makes things worse


Re: Solved by a stroke of sheer luck

How does your colleague separate out the factors once he has seen a promising result?


Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020