* Posts by martinusher

1190 posts • joined 24 Feb 2015

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'Beyond stupid': Linus Torvalds trashes 5.8 Linux kernel patch over opt-in Intel CPU bug mitigation

martinusher Silver badge

Re: Timing?

> I wonder if it would cause any major issues to simply limit user space access to timers (and I guess Linux jiffy counter?) to like 1/10,000 of a second accuracy or so, instead of the nanosecond accuracy it is now.

There's a whole world out there of high frequency stock trading that seems to require high precision timing for everything, including network transit times and clock coordination accuracy in the uub-microsecond precision range.

Office supplies biz owned by UK council shrugs off ransomware demand for 102 Bitcoin

martinusher Silver badge

Email plus HTML/scripting is a disaster wating to happen

I'm a bit old school in that I think of email as primarily a text medium so I tend to preview and open mails in plain text, only switching to HTML if there's something of interest. There should never be anything executable in an email. No ifs, ands or buts. Nothing executable. Ever. Or to quote my late mother -- "Don't touch it -- you don't know where its been".

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

martinusher Silver badge

Somebody's bought a new computer....

Programmers who own the absolute latest and greatest hardware are a menace to all who have to deal with their output. I'm saying this as someone who's had to be the clean up crew on more than one occasion -- you always get issued with those clever sods who really understand the minutia of expression parsing and so pack a small function's worth of code into one giant line which 'obviously' works.

If you've ever come across 'shrouded source', a method of distrbuting commerial applications in the early days of Unix, you'd realize that a compuer can parse giibberish. A human can't. We need code to be logically laid out and easy to read, not just weks or months but potentially decades in the future.

Remember when Republicans said Dems hacked voting systems to rig Georgia's election? There were no hacks

martinusher Silver badge

Re: Coup, one small glimmer of hope

This 'issue' is blatantly political and needed slapping down. This suit was brought by a small pentecostal church, one that is small enough that it probably wouldn't be affected by the proposed opening orders. In real life religious organizations are actively working with state and county health officials to develop protocols for opening safely.

Made-up murder claims, threats to kill Twitter, rants about NSA spying – anything but mention 100,000 US virus deaths, right, Mr President?

martinusher Silver badge

The Federal government isn't all of the United States

My home stage, California, is physcially and economicaly on a par with the UK. The US itself is quite diverse with states like ours being quite 'normal' compared to the outer reaches of what are sometimes termed 'the flyover states'. Unfortuantely, the way that the political system is set up means that a relative minority of the population gets to choose the Federal government; that minority is entrenched in the GoP dominated 'red' states and sytematic attacks on the electoral system has entrenched it, making it very difficult to dislodge.

To give you some idea of the scale of the problem, Trump became the President due to a majority of 50,000 votes in three states. Overall the vote count, the so-called popular vote, gave Hilary Clinton a win by over three million votes. This is bad enough but then the process of packing the courts wiith unqualified but idologically sound judges has proceeded apace and the GoP dominated Senate has blocked any attempt by the House to exercise oversight. Its a nasty situation. But then things aren't any better in the UK. The system is skewed, its not really democratic (you get to vote for one MP every five years)(Whoopee!). There isn't even the semblance of Constitutional protections and a Bill of Rights in the UK, ther's just custom and practice, a process that's favored a small ruling elite since 1066. The only thing to be said in the UK's favor is that shorn of Empire its now a small, relatively ineffectual state that can't do the kind of global scale damage that our government can do.

British democracy died in the 1980s when a truculent (Labour) GLC was summarily replaced (before an election, no less) by 'managers' selected by the central governemtn from outlying (Conservative) councils. Say what you will about the US, if you tried to pull that stunt here you'd be tied up in the courts for years. Its something our Dear Leader has yet to understand -- he ducked or flunked his civics classes at high school so hasn't a clue what a President can and cannot do. He only gets away with what he does because a bunch of GoP politicians enable him -- they recognize a useful idiot when they see one.

martinusher Silver badge

Re: You supported a system...

Not wishing to get too pot and kettle but the UK seems to be running a close second behind us. I think its got us beat in the deaths per 100,000 stakes, its got a dubious excuse for democracy running it and both the Conservatives in the UK and the Republicans in the US share common traits, consultantts and a general disdain for the great unwashed.

Jared's got more style than Dominic as well.

Boeing brings back the 737 Max but also lays off thousands

martinusher Silver badge

The software is just a fig leaf

Readers here will be familary with the idea of a software workaround to cure a system design issue. Normally this is just a nuisance, it might irritate people when it doesn't work but it doesn't usually result in fireballs like it does when its applied to aircraft. The fundamental problem that the MAX had, the 'out of control trim' situation where the plane found itself unflyable with the cockpit crew unable to correct it, is something that's been lurking since the earliest models of the 737. It hasn't made headlines because the problem was understood and even documented in the manuals for early plane versions. Where the MAX screwed up was that by moving the engines they made a nuisance problem into a truly dangerous one and their drive to keep development timescales, costs and avoid re-certification meant that they applied a software workaround which 'should have worked'. (Many of El Reg's readers know exactly where that's going.) Anyway, since the MAX is designed to turn what was a short haul plane into a long distance capable aircraft with configurations designed to mimic cattle car traveling conditions -- the'MAX' refers to MAX profits -- the idea of spending any time on that plane doesn't appeal to me. There are alternatives.

You're not getting Huawei that easily: Canadian judge rules CFO's extradition proceedings to US can continue

martinusher Silver badge

Re: Justice

> think she'll actually be tried in the US if things get that far, so Canada's judicial system won't play any role in determining her guilt or innocence.

That's a very naive view of the Federal justice system in the US. It thouroughly politicized these days. There is some pushback by people who still believe in doing the right thing but its only a matter of time before they get taken down. (.....and then there's the small matter of Julian Assange.....) The best that Ms Meng can hope for is a show trial, a pretence of justice and impartially that further exposes just how rotten the system is. (The problem with being a martyr is that it might prove a point but you're still dead.)

The real issue here is how far does American extraterritorialism reach? We have a very flexible legal system in the US where your ciminal liability is largely dependent on how well you're connected and how much money you can rake up. So Paul Manafort is out of prison -- don't want him to catch Covid-19 -- and Flynn's charges were dropped against him by the Justice Department after he had plead guilty to charges (the same Justice Department that's gone into overdrive investigating people from the previous Administration). Its really not a good idea to encourage this sort of thing.

Pablo Escobar's big bro and former accountant sues Apple for $2.6bn over FaceTime bug

martinusher Silver badge

Re: "Apple failed to provide a phone free of exploits"

I can secure any phone for $100K. I just can't guarantee you'll be able to use it afterwards.

(I just don't understand why so many people don't understand that mobile phones have to tell the infrastructure who they and where they are. Its fundamental to how they work. All you need to do to track anyone is associate the device's uniue IMEI number with a person. Various techniques are used to obscure this for day to day phone operations but when you're dealing with a state (or someone with very large amounts of money) then you have to assume that IMEIs are going to be both known and tracked.)

(Even if the IMEI sn't known or visible you're probably vulnerable to tracking by the 'fingerprint' of the phone's various applications and how you interact with them. It just depends on how much you're worth to the tracker.)

IBM's sacking spree reaches Australia – and as staff wait to exit, they're offered AU$4k to find new workers

martinusher Silver badge

Serious HR-speak here

None of the comments so far have complemented IBM for pack so much HR-speak into such a small area. Sure, its BS, but that's what they're paid to do -- put out the steamin' pile 'o crap that so dense that people don't realize what it really mans.

My interpretation of all this 'cross functional / Agile' stuff is that its really saying "We are going to give the work to a bunch of young (cheap) people who don't quite know what they're getting themselves into and who need a job, any job. We are then going to work them into the ground as they try to cope with doing the work of what was once several specialists. If (when) they fail to perform we'll replace them (India's got lots of spares)'. The subtext is that they'd want to get rid of a lot of the more experienced staff not just because of cost savings but because they'lre likely to push back against being made too agile (i,e, worked into an early grave).

This makes perfect sense at a mangerial level. The problem is that it doesn't make sense if you actually want to get work done. Management have always believed in magic programmers, superstars who somehow can do wondrous things overnight, and these people do exist. But they know its an illusion; they're either adjusting project parameters so that it appears that things move quicker than reality or they're consummate BS artists who will move on (into management or marketing) before they get found out. Meanwhile the customers suffer, the business suffers, but there's always someone else to blame -- just keep those bonuses comng.

Frontier: Yes, yes, we've filed for bankruptcy protection, but that's not stopping us giving key staff $38m in bonuses

martinusher Silver badge

Re: Verizon sold wire line knowing this outcome

The primary asset that Frontier bought was FiOS - fiber Internet.

FiOS was pretty good at first but both Verizon and then Frontier started milking it. Frontier also allowed the service to deteriorate. I eventually had to dump FiOS because Frontier would not let me cut the cord -- we were paying $140+ a month just for a TV service which we never watched. Frontier made the mistake of assuming that customers had no choice, they could charge whatever they felt like and treat their customers like crap. Unfortunately for them we did have a choice, and while cable based Internet isn't as good as fiber (and TimeWarner Cable isn't particularly well liked as a company) it works.

FiOS isn't going to go away. All Frontier is doing with bankruptcy is selectively stiffing creditors. Its SoP for US corporations.

(Incidentally, the legacy phone service died years ago, its all VoIP now and its crap in both quality and reliability compared to the old wireline technology.)

martinusher Silver badge

Re: The Golden Rule

> If proposals were made in good faith, and those proposals were accepted and therefore lead to certain behaviors, then the offers need to be honored within the structure granted to the company.

Unless they're pension obligations for the regular staff, of course.

Document? Library? A new kind of component? Microsoft had a hard time explaining what its Fluid Framework is

martinusher Silver badge

Yes, but....

...what are people actually producing with this kind of short attention span collaboration?

(I think I know the answer. They produce bright ideas for others to implement. All Blue Sky. Seen it before more times than I care to count.)

BoJo buckles: UK govt to cut Huawei 5G kit use 'to zero by 2023' after pressure from Tory MPs, Uncle Sam

martinusher Silver badge

Maybe by 2023 we will have some competitive kit

Its a two pronged approach. Do what you can politically to hobble Huawei while cobbling together kit of our own that might just be competitive. It might just work. It probably won't because our infrastructure, technical education and corporate structures aren't set up to make competitive kit -- its how we ended up handing the market to Huawei and other Chinese companies in the first place. The only way to regain the initiative is a massive government investment program, a program that can't be implemented by handing huge sums of money to legacy players (you've seen how this works out many times). There just isn't enough money to be made in a realistic timeframe to attract suficent private capital.

If SpaceX's launch goes off OK this week (hopefully) expect Trump et al to lay on the "triumph of American technology' bit really thick; instead of seeing it as success despite innumerable financial and technical obstacles its a validation of the system. The reality is that Musk, like Huawei, saw an opening in the market and went for it, everyone involved worked their tails off and despite setbacks made it hjappen.

martinusher Silver badge

Re: So...

>What about the powerful broad spectrum radiation source we see every day (if we are lucky) in the sky?

Even when its not shining we use our own local broad spectrum radiation sources so we can see.

I put it down to a generation or more of poor to non-existent science education.

Microsoft drops a little surprise thank-you gift for sitting through Build: The source for GW-BASIC

martinusher Silver badge

Not bad for the year -- but they may not be telling us everything

Rich's blog post about this (referenced in the article) does show up a gap in our collective memories about computers which I figure was due to the arrival of cheap terminal type computers such as the BBC Micro. There were usable tools around since the late 70s for microprocessor development but they were insanely expensive -- an Intel MDS, for example, cost about 50,000 pounds at a time when a decent house could be had for 10K. These systems did come with compilers -- typically PL/M and a really versatile linker locator. Gradually other systems appeared -- the Zilog development system had a seriously useful language, PL/Z, which could be used to build complex, overlaid programs. My first pre-PC system was an Osborne 1, it was CP/M based and by the early 80s you could get all sorts of languages for it (I had Prolog, Lisp, PL/1 and Forth, for example).

My first contact the IBM-PC world and Microsoft came in mid '84 and while GW-BASIC was pretty good as BASICs went their software ecosystem had numerous deficiencies. One was that their version of the Intel linker/locater was seriously deficient, it was like a cut down version that was narrowly targeted towards buiilding simple PC programs. The other was a lack of language support which prompted inexperienced programmers to produce some fearsome piles of crap. Its actually not difficult to program in assember provided the assembler supports -- and you know how to use -- macros. This is probably the key to Microsoft's portability; macros allow you to structure assembler in something that starts to resemble a high level language**. This combined with a proper linker -- one that allows multi-module suppoort and the control of symbols exported from linked modules -- makes programming easy. Unfortuantley Microsoft seemed to keep the good stuff for themselves leading to generations of programmers struggling with poor tools and tortous code.

I'd guess that if GW-BASIC was available for several processors then the real source is in macros.

(**Its possible to write an assember in macros -- the code doesn't have to emit machine code for the processor it was ostensibly written for).

Runaway Latvian drone found meditating in tree after shutting down nation's skies

martinusher Silver badge

Its the fate of all lost model aircraft

The current edition of the AMA (American aeromodellers) journal has two items about lost planes. One is a picture of a competition sailplane that disappeared a couple of years ago that was found recently. It disappeared because after crash landing it was picked up by a teenager who took it home and hid it in the crawl space under their house. This explains one common way that planes disappear -- its difficult to lose a bright yellow 4 meter wingspan plane, you need someone to move it The other piece was an article on using a quadcopter and mapping software to find a lost plane.

This goes to show just out of touch the official world is from real life. That drone is a model. Models get lost. There are all sorts of ways to locate models that are used by amateurs, up to and including GPS tracing and position reporting by cellphone. None involve the closing of a naitonal airspace.

Campaign groups warn GCHQ can re-identify UK's phones from COVID-19 contact-tracing app data

martinusher Silver badge

Why would you assume that a phone implies any privacy?

Mobile devices are by their very nature easily trackable -- the system needs to know where every device is at all times for it to work. We can demand privacy, even pass laws , but it doesn't alter the fundamental fact that at any instant the system will know exactly where each device is. Keeping intelligence and law enforcement agencies from this cache of information is like trying to keep a hungry cat from a bowl of catfood. It won't happen; all that protects us is that most of us are boring and its not cost effective to treat us as anything but noise.

So, if you are worried about privacy then you have to learn to switch the things off. Real, 100%, boot from cold to restart, off. All other usage implies that you're giving up intelligence to someone -- GCHQ, maybe, but certainly the myriad of 'analytics' firms. If you really need to communicate confidentally then in addition to properly set up encryption you're going to have to skip around public WiFi hot spots like some WW2 Reisitance operator trying to keep one step ahead of the Gestapo.

Dutch spies helped Britain's GCHQ break Argentine crypto during Falklands War

martinusher Silver badge

Re: Huawei

> Instead half the planet joined a bidding war for what was available and hoped it would be fit for use if it arrived in time.

I wish it was as simple as that. PPE -- or toilet rolls for that matter -- is a commodity and like all commodities in short supply there's a significant market in futures, selling product that you don't have but expect to have sometime in the future**. Quite apart from this being a dream scenario for scam artists it suggests that the same shipment is flowing virtually through numerous suppliers so it looks like there's a lot more product about than there is. Just don't actually try to touch any product.

(**In the US, at least.)

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

martinusher Silver badge

Re: The influence of ALGOL 60

I thought that the notation of Algol predated computers as such, it wasn't so much invented for the computer but an adaptation of an exsiting mathmatecal notation to decribe operations inside a computer. Algol itself, as you say, isn't dead, its the base for all block structured languages and its forms are recognizable in them today (even though the signature feature of a 'new' language is that it doesn't require semicolons or braces or similar lexical quirks).

I've always felt that there really are only two computer languages -- ALGOL and LISP -- with everything else being based on them. There are also line by line interpreters that pretend they're languages and might even be useful for programming but if the language wants to grow it has to adopt features from either (or both) of these two original languages.

martinusher Silver badge

Re: BNF

>Isn't BNF still useful for representing languages?

Apparently its not the 'modern' thing to do, at least that was what I was told by some clever so-and-so who was implementing a form of scripting used on a piece of embedded hardware. Judging by the dog's breakfast that resulted -- and the relative ease of specifying a grammar that I needed for a test tool -- I reckon that BNF.1 isn't obsolete, its as relevant as ever.

martinusher Silver badge

Re: Algol 68 is not ALGOL 60

68 was essentially impossible to write a compiler for (because of features like being able to define procedures inside a procedure) but that didn't stop a useful subset of the language, Algol--68R, being implemented on ICL 1900 series machines. I think the 'R' stood for the "Royal Radar Establishment", the group that developed the compiler. It was actually a pretty useful language, I used it to write a program that simulated the operation of a pipeline and found it 1970s standards a very easy language to use. Ihave a copy of the language definitiont (the green book with the language definition, "Report on the Algorithmic Language....").

Total Eclipse to depart: Open-source software foundation is hopping the pond to Europe

martinusher Silver badge

Re: A logical conclusion...

>blocked from working on a project because of where they happen to live.

Its worse than that. The Administration has just announced new controls on the export of semiconductors to Huawei from companies that use any technolgoy that originated in the US. So, for example, TSMC is blocked because it uses machinery or materials from companies like Applied Materials.

This kind of extra-territorial jurisdiction isn't new, I first experienced it in the early 1980s with controls on the export of semiconductors needing a US license even thought they were made in the UK and Japan. The UK government mad no attempt at drawing boundaries -- they even allowed a FBI raid on a company accused of moving a computer from one office to another within the UK without a new US export license -- so I'd guess that those of us cursed with long memories would avoid relocating actvities to the UK rather than Europe simply because the governemnt cannot be relied on tol look out for UK citizens or their interests in any dispute with the US.

martinusher Silver badge

Re: Why?

Its a good idea to move any sensitive development out of the US. We're currently in full-blown Cold War mode so it can get very dangerous doing any kind of international collaboration -- the stuff we've got used to taking for granted -- if there's any Federal money involved in any of your work.

We had another academic arrested yesterday, accused of 'wire fraud' by the FBI for failing to disclose work done for/with the Chinese when applying for a NASA contract.is fast becoming a technolgical backwater or you run the risk of prosecution for vaguely defined crimes. Since an increasing amount of our sort of work is done with/for/in collaboration with Chinese people -- either in China or domiciled/citizens of the US, it doesn't matter -- doing any advanced work here is becoming dangerous.

martinusher Silver badge

Re: Bye bye

Bunch of Libertarians up there.

California has never been particularly left leaning (read up on its hisory.....). Its been firmly in the Democratic camp for the last decade or so because successive Republicans made such a mess of the budget and the like that nobody in their right minds would give them control over anything more complex than a partking lot.

You can't have it both ways: Anti-coronavirus masks may thwart our creepy face-recog cameras, London cops admit

martinusher Silver badge

So the technology is imperfect?

Facial recognition technology isn't perfect because faces aren't a good way of identifying people. In the US it has long been the practice to have identification pictures of people include an ear lobe -- faces can fool but apparently ears are unique. Since its already been shown that its possible to track people using characteristics like their gait its only a matter of time before a person can be recognized from their entire appearance, with or without a mask.

The prize - ANPR for humans - is just too tempting to ignore so don't figure on it being given up on any time soon (they'd chip us like pets if they thoiught they could get away with it). Expect every countermeasure to be met with new techniques which willl require new countermeasures.

Swedish data centre offers rack-scale dielectric immersion cooling

martinusher Silver badge

De-ionised water works OK

Back in the early 80s I worked on a radio transmitter that used water cooling. The water was de-ionised because the main source of heat was sitting some 10Kv above earth so needed a fair bit of plastic tubing between it and the the rest of the system. The only snag with it was that pure water freezes at 0C 'on the money' and Murphy's Law being what it is there was a cold snap over the Christmas break that froze up everythiing. (You know what its like -- you dream of a White Christmas but all you get is mud and maybe a bit of slush.)

I've also used informal water cooling on the loads used to test high power audio amplifiers. (Its a high falutin' way of saying "put the load resistors in a bucket of water".)

If you're going to spend $3tn, what's another billion? Congress urged to inject taxpayer dollars into open anti-Huawei 5G radio tech

martinusher Silver badge

Re: Only themselves to blame

"Currently that technology is dominated by proprietary standards..."

There's a bit of journalistic smokescreening going on there, the sort of stuff you'd expect from politicians but not engineers. Put simply, international standards are agreements that include a patent pool as a key component -- all the proprietary intellectual property needed to implement the standard goes into the pool which then becomes equally avaialbe to all members for an agreed single fee. Literally everything importat goes through this process.

The only reason why Huawei has got the lion's share of IP for the 5G standards is that they put in the leg work. US manufacturerxs were missing in action and what implementations they had were years behind Huawei's. Its a nuisance but also a fact of life -- and it proves that its obviously easier and cheaper to hire lobbyists and PR people than engineers in the US. This might be the undoing of Open-RAN -- I normally welcome open standards but you just know that as things stand at the moment if the US government has anything to do with it then it will not be open, they'll claim jursdiction over anyone and anything that's even peripherally involved in the project. (Fortuantely, as I noted its currently a whole lot easier to hire PR types than engineers in the US and the traditional way of making up the shortfall by importing engineers from overseas is currently not that attractive -- the visa system's a shambles, there's neither job nor immigration security, if you do become a permanent resident (and then a citizen) the IRS will 'own' you for life and the FBI will be snooping on you to make sure you're not talking to the 'wrong' people.)

Breaking virus lockdown rules, suing officials, threatening staff, raging on Twitter. Just Elon Musk things

martinusher Silver badge

Re: Herd mentalty

>However, he isn't wrong that other places are allowed to operate and his isn't.

The decisions about who opens what have been devolved to states and counties so there is going to be some variablilty. But that's the way it should be; there are parts of California that haven't seen any sign of Covid while other parts -- including, unforutnately, where Tesla is located --- that have seen significant clusters.

I'd guess its the same situation in the UK. There will be areas where the virus is rampant and other areas where life is going on as normal. This doesn't mean that the quiet areas have no risk, its just that so long as nobdy spready contagion into those areas they're going to remain quiet.

BTW -- SpaceX seems to be operating normally.

martinusher Silver badge

I'd like to see him try this stunt with his other factories

Mr. Musk can more or less get away with this type of tantrum in the US because of the way that we organize our society.

I'd like to see him try it on in China or Germany.

Uncle Sam courting Intel, TSMC to build advanced chip fabs on home soil – report

martinusher Silver badge

Re: Missed Opportunity

The problem with 'regime change' in China is that the idea isn't actually that new, we've been meddling in China since at last 1850 and all the Chinese got out of it was exploitation, conquest and the inevitable millions of casualties, widespread poverty and so on. Attacking them in the 1990s would have been just 'more of the same' to them -- a society that's 5000 years old can afford to be patient.

China's 'threat', such as it is, is economic. They're good at what they do. We have two ways to respond to this. One is to play 'Age of Empires', a game they're probably more familiar with than we are. The other is to stop messing around and compete with them as peers, something that might involve investment in education, infrastructure and all sorts of other things that we've tended to skip because it eats into (short term) profitability.

Try thinking in terms of an international sports league rather than a clash of empires.

US piles yet more charges on Theranos CEO, COO. We could do with good blood testing now... and this wasn't it

martinusher Silver badge

I know they were a bit fraudulent but.....

.....if every overhyped claim by a company resulted in criminal charges most of our stock of executives would be in jail by now.

Piling on the charges like this is typical of the US justice system, especially the Federal system. Its designed to intimidate so that the defendant folds without the US attorney having to go through that tedious business of actually proving a case in court. Its a practice I disagree with because it makes a mockery of the justice system -- yes, those two did pile it on, yes, they took a bunch of investors' money and blew through it without producing a product. There should be a reckoning but, seriously, I've worked for at least two companies that have blown through investor dollars without producing anything tangible. (In my defense I was just one of the poor sods around the back trying to get the thing to work -- there's analagous people in the Theranos story. The money went down a different rat hole, typically 'marketing' and other front office expenses, essentials like nice vehicles and the like.)

BTW -- 'Stock of executives'? In my experience the same names and faces keep cropping up in the executive suite. Its a bit like a self-help society for the well off.

It is unclear why something designed to pump fuel into a car needs an ad-spewing computer strapped to it, but here we are

martinusher Silver badge

>I appreciate many vehicles have a hinged fuel cap that stays attached to the vehicle, but it would seem that the advertising team thought that *all* cars have them.

The most common type of fuel cap in the US is a plastic one that sits behind a door that's released from inside the car. This cap is attached to the car by a piece of plastic and you may find a couple of bits of bent tin on the door that you can put it in while fuelling so it doesn't dangle down and mark the paintwork.

I haven't seen a removable cap for many years, its probably an emissions requirement (leaving the cap off will eventually trigger a engine check warning).

If it feels like the software world is held together by string and a prayer, we don't blame you: Facebook SDK snafu breaks top iOS apps

martinusher Silver badge

Re: Oh dear

It appears that Facebook throws app developers a bone in order to get pretty much unrestricted access to the user's device. This probably explains why quite ordinary applications request a laundrty list of permissions when installing ("but it doesn't work with images, why would it need access to the camera, photos and what-have-you?").

Using a language that implements even rudimenatry type checking might save everyone a lot of time and bother. We also need to explain to some of these programmers what the term 'deprecate' means.

'A' is for ad money oddly gone missing: Probe finds middlemen siphon off half of online advertising spend

martinusher Silver badge

Re: Useful summary of the reason

I've found that everywhere I've worked for years has been dominated by sales and marketing (sales being the ground troops for marketing's generals). Product development got less and less emphasis with it being dominated by people who were good at marketing product, typically themlseves. The result has been a bit of a perfect storm all the elements come together in a sort of maelstorm of hubris, the most visible manifestation for the workforce being a ruthless drive to cut costs to feed this monster and a tendency to outsource (itself driven by glib salesmen who promise much but don't necessarily deliver).

Advertising, marketing and finance provide essential support functions for the business of business. Unfortuantely they seem to have lost sight of the 'support' bit as they've promoted themself first to be the core function and then the only function of business.

The iMac at 22: How the computer 'too odd to succeed' changed everything ... for Apple, at least

martinusher Silver badge

Re: Hype

>The iMac was irrelevant to Computing.

It filled a niche which is now occupied by the tablet. The G3 was small, self-contained, made no noise when running (no fan), it was the perfect "Internet appliance".

Not a computer, though.

Eclipse boss claims Visual Studio Code is an open-source poseur – though he would say that, wouldn't he?

martinusher Silver badge

Re: Eclipse...

>Give me Textpad any day.

Suddenly I find I'm not alone...someone else uses Textpad.

One thing I have noticed about the VS type editors is that its object reference and unpacking capabilities allows you to build incredibly convoluted code. This is really useful if you've got to unpick a pile 'o' crap to figure out what's gone wrong, its a lot more difficult with a normal search capability because of the indirect referecnes. This leads to an interesting question about whether 'convoluted' or 'labrinthine' qualfies code as 'structured'.

martinusher Silver badge

Eclipse has other lives....

I'm not a great fan of Eclipse but I've found myself using it time and again. Not to develop applications -- it seems to be a lot of bloat and bother to make mere programs -- but as the foundation for development systems supplied by chip vendors. The three I've worked with recently include the Code Composer Stuido from Texas Instruments for DSP development and toolsets from Xilinxx and Lattice (they each provide nested development environments, one for the FPGAs itself, the other for their soft processor if you're using it). These toolsets use a fair amount of scripting (especialyl the FPGA ones) which I'd guess is where the MS bite would come in -- MS has only recently discovered shell scripts and they're constantly reinventing scripting languages targeted exclusively towards their software ecosystem so it may be problematical trying to integrate true third party tools into their environment. (Their USB driver support tends to be a bit hit and miss as well -- not a big issue unless you're trying to use a JTAG loader/debugger.)

Corporate loves its Windows software ecosystem but the reality is that if you need to get serious non-Windows application work done then you need to work on Linux. The majority of the tools that I use in a Windows environment are running under Cygwin, its not a perfect solution so I'd guess one reason why MSFT is pushing a Linux environment embedded in their platform is the recognition of the inevitable -- Its becoming increasingly difficult to work in a Windows environment, especially a modern locked down one, so they either have to bow to the inevitable or lose the trade.

martinusher Silver badge

>Post 1995 that is - the DOS years are all a bit of a blur now anyway

I think the name you're searching for is "Programmers' Workbench".

Find your wallet, Apple: Ex-engineer adds eight more patents to lawsuit seeking credit for his developer work

martinusher Silver badge

Re: Could the patents be invalid?

Waste of time.

I was the lead developer / team leader on a range of products in the 90s that used a particular technique to track packets through a network in order to measure network performance. The basic idea wasn't novel although implementing it required some thought to get it to work smoothly.

Imagine my suprise/disgust to discover a clique of engineers working on a rather different product had patented the concept. They're at least two teams removed from the original idea so they can't have 'invented' anything but in US corporate land details like this don't matter. Everything you do belongs to your employer (read your contract...). I suppose it might be nice to have one's name on a patent but realistically I'd be a bit ashamed to claim that I'd invented the use of a CRC pattern to verify data integrity.

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

martinusher Silver badge

A couple of misunderstandings.....

This article suggests that there's some kind of higher law that the UK government is has to work under. I can't imagine what that is -- the state is sovereign. So I'm not quite sure what all that business with 'human rights' and 'privacy' is about. There's laws about this in the EU but the UK's withdrawn from that organization (remember?).

The second thing is this "big ID number". Phones and other mobile devices already have a unique ID number. They have a phone number merely because that mapping is easier for people to remember (although the widespread use of contact lists makes the notion of a traditional phone number obsolete).

The other thing that's bugging me is that people seem to be trained to treat the outer layer API as an immutable property of an operating system rather than just a convenient model for applications developers. In real life these components and their drivers are just peripherals and can be manipulated in all sorts of creative ways if the need arose. Apple and Google don't like most people doing this because it woukld cause chaos but we all know that its done because its the target of the exploits that are used by virus writers and intelligence agencies (the actual 'exploit' is to find a wormhole to load the actual package). Once again I'll hear people saying "you can't do that!" but I'll just invoke the 'soverign nation' concept. (For the more tin-foil helmet inclined it may be that Dr. Levy has accidentally put his foot in it by intimating that there's a lot more you can do with a mobile phone than host messages and cat videos....)

OK, so you've air-gapped that PC. Cut the speakers. Covered the LEDs. Disconnected the monitor. Now, about the data-leaking power supply unit...

martinusher Silver badge

Of course you've got to know what you're looking for

Anything that can be modulated by a peice of software can transmit data. I'm not quaking in my boots too much about this, though. At 50 bits/sec it'll take a bit under 2 days to transmit a megabyte ("MiB")(if you insist). I reckon the chances of extracting a usable amount of data would be low to nil (even if the software used on both the system and the phone were optimized). Not that I wouldn't take notice -- there's a reason why Tempest was invented -- but I'd be more likely to asking awarkward questions like "where's that unauthorized transmssion coming from?" and "why is there a cellphone in this facility?" (and you can be pretty sure that there aren't any SmartThings, 5G or WiFi, within a mile of the place.....).

Britain has no idea how close it came to ATMs flooding the streets with free money thanks to some crap code, 1970s style

martinusher Silver badge

The question should be "Who has never made a coding mistake?"

We don't ask this question because the answer's obvious -- nobody. I know that self-testing code and bulletproof formal logic are the dream of the bean counter but the reality is that you really need someone who's not actively involved in the development to build and operate the test environment for that product. A good tester (and I've had the misfortune to work with several) is someone who's both methodical and an utter bastard. They're the surrogate user, the one with the malicious streak, someone who takes great pleasure in destroying your creation and setting new speed records for doing so if possible.

Its really nothing personal. They exist to keep us developers honest. Off duty they're actually normal people, colleagues you socialize with.

Latvian drone wrests control from human overlords and shuts down entire nation's skies

martinusher Silver badge

>I mean it's not small, it's the size of a light aircraft.

Its about the size of a typical giant scale model aircraft. The wing span is about average for a R/C sailplane but its a bit longer than these craft.

As for 'military grade' -- that just means 'expensive'. Its been well over a decade since the first powered model crossed the Atlantic (it was R/C controlled at both ends for takeoff and landing but it was autonomous over the ocean) and proper R/C dones have been a significant, if increasingly underground, part of the hobby for at least a decade. (The difference between 'official' and 'unofficial' is that amateur organizations don't like models flying outside the line of sight, it spooks the authorities who are proposing ever more draconian regulations in order to somehow reverse time, regulations that could make model flying a bit of a chore).

BTW -- What a lot of people think of as a drone, the humble quadcopter, is a relatively recent type of flying thing. They are effectively impossible to fly without sophisticated control electronics. A properly set up sailplane, OTOH, can literally fly all day in the right conditions. A lot of military surveillance planes like this one are really just upgraded sailplanes with a motor assist and a 'sensor package' (the bit the Latvians will be worried about, it not only costs the big bucks but itts the sort of thing that people like the Russians would love a close look at).

Bye, Russia: NASA wheels out astronauts, describes plan for first all-American manned launch into orbit since 2011

martinusher Silver badge

Manual control

I'd expect the manual control panel to be just a single largish touchscreen situated between the two passngers.

Square peg of modem won't fit into round hole of PC? I saw to it, bloke tells horrified mate

martinusher Silver badge

Re: soft modems

There was a time, possibly referred to as PC98, when certain people at Intel thought that all of the hardware peripheral functionality, up to and including ADSL modems, could be largely simulated by software on their processor. Which it could, assuming you weren't planning to use the processor for anything else.

(Incidentally, I think the grinding noise might have been due to the Packard Bell card retainer, the metal bracket at the end of the card, being a bit smaller than an official ISA card retainer. There were simpler solutinos to this than hacking up the case.)

You can get a mechanical keyboard for £45. But should you? We pulled an Aukey KM-G6 out of the bargain bin

martinusher Silver badge

Re: are these mechanical keyboards any good for actual work?

>BM Model M "borrowed" from a server which ended up in a rack

I use an IBM keboard. I have the cheap 'n cheerful ones on other systems but IBM's ergonomics are well thought out for people who like to touch type. The weight is useful as well since the thing stays where you put it.

Three things in life are certain: Death, taxes, and cloud-based IoT gear bricked by vendors. Looking at you, Belkin

martinusher Silver badge

Re: IoT rules?

Most IoT functionality has been around in one form or another for years. What distinguishes IoT from that kit is a combination of "the cloud" and web programming paradigms. Neither of these are needed for sensors to operate although they might be useful if you're connecting to a public service but even so this connection should be reuqired just to get a basic level of functionality.

Everyone's into clouds because they require little capital investment to utilize -- you pay the bill and you have a magic computer that scales and never goes wrong. Its a very attractive proposition but it has the drawback that if the expected revenue stream from whoatever you're peddling doesn't match what the cloud costs then you lose money (so you drop the sub and the entire application ecosystem goes dark).

Assange should be furloughed from Belmarsh prison, says human rights org. Here's a thought: He could stay with friends!

martinusher Silver badge

Re: Incompetent Also...

We've actually released a lot more than a trickle of prisoners in California due to a proposition passed in 2018 that downgraded a lot of minor crimes, the process being necessary due to gross overcrowding in our prison system. More recently we've been trying to get people released who are on remand; these aren't dangerous felons but just poor people who can't afford cash bail or to pay a bail bonding company. This has met stiff resistance from -- you guessed it -- the bonding companies but the virus emergency provided DAs with the ability to kick out people by reducing their bail to 0$.

As for Assange, we live in 'democracies', dammit. We don't hold people indefinitely in solitary confinement in maximum security prisons, that's what totalitarian states like Iran does. Everyone knows that we're respecting Assange's rights, we are giving him due process and so on and even the Tooth Fairy agrees that we couldn't be more open and transparent.

Florida man might just stick it to HP for injecting sneaky DRM update into his printers that rejected non-HP ink

martinusher Silver badge

Re: HP printers

I've had the same experience as you. As printers die they're replaced by Brother printers. Works for me. HP needs to spend its R&D effort on making better printers, not coming up with new ways to degrade their functionality.

In the US HP has pushed a sort of monthly lease model where you pay a fixed rate per month that allows you to print up to a certain number of pages (with relatively punitive charges for overage). As a sales wheeze its very slightly ahead of our time, the idea that you don't really own anything you buy, you just keep up the lease payments. (I'm expecting 5G to explode the number of common household objects that we have to pay monthly service fees forr but I'm also going to be spearheading the consumer resistance to this.)

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