* Posts by steelpillow

922 posts • joined 16 Jun 2016


Analogue radio given 10-year stay of execution as the UK U-turns on DAB digital future

steelpillow Silver badge


dab is shite for three irreconcilable reasons:

- wavelength limitations forbid adequate coverage of not-spots, they are fractally distributed over the land surface of the planet.

- the standard allows operators to fsck the signal to squeeze in more "quality" content, i.e. advertising

- the technology it is subject to patent licensing fees

Give me a medium-wave slot with a bandwidth of 25 kHz and some mobile phone processing tricks, and I will digitally stuff Hi-Fi stereo down it, right into your back room and your short tunnel, my dear - and, as Groucho Marks would say, even innuendo. That saves 5 kHz on the dual 15 kHz channels that FM needs for stereo, which is plenty enough to add metadata such as song info, station playlists or whatever. So no need to revisit the dicing-and-slicing of channels, even. A dual-mode radio would automatically switch to the technology you just tuned to. You could even use your old FM tuner with a digital decoder bunged between the output socket and your priceless old valve amp. But hey, whoever designed consumer technologies for the convenience of the consumer? >Sigh!<

Barclays Bank appeared to be using the Wayback Machine as a 'CDN' for some Javascript

steelpillow Silver badge


"We want to reassure our customers that their data was not at risk as a result of this error."

Well, you gotta either laugh or cry and who wants to cry?

Yes, Prime Minister, rewrite the Computer Misuse Act: Brit infosec outfits urge reform

steelpillow Silver badge

Don't change the ban, change the insurance policy.

The law is right to keep pen testers with unknown-coloured hats at bay. The problem is obtaining permission to carry out defensive screening. Emailing the hapless outfit with "Hi, can I run a fake cyberattack on you?" can hardly have a good response rate.

We need a regulatory regime where insurance companies put your permission in the small print and are then able to delegate the research to approved cybersecurity operations.

It's National Cream Tea Day and this time we end the age-old debate once and for all: How do you eat yours?

steelpillow Silver badge

Unsalted butter of course. Applied before the scone is properly cooled.

Then the jam (if you can wait that long)

Then the cream

Washed down with Worcestershire-brewed pear cider (aka perry) from Clive's Fruit Farm, although his Wobblejuice cider when on draught is an acceptable alternative; none of that West Country playboy stuff.

After 84 years, Japan's Olympus shutters its camera biz, flogs it to private equity – smartphones are just too good

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: Who do you think you are? David Bailey?

Beer for the memory.

Dropbox attempts to muscle into password manager market with passphrase wrangler, document vault

steelpillow Silver badge
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One password I'd store in it

Currently the Dropbox service uses Google to manage and verify its web login. The usual two or three Google javascript servers have to be enabled and allowed to scrape up your shit before your ID/password are accepted. Clearly, one object of this exercise is to remove Dropbox's dependency on soiled chocolate, and hence also their clients'. One vileness less has to be a good thing.

US govt: Huawei is a national security risk and a menace, except, you know, when we need it for 5G standards work

steelpillow Silver badge

The 5G standards committee

US: OK, what you got?

Huawei: This 5G tech miracle >slap!<

US: Uh.... This is crap, we'll bring you ours tomorrow

[Stage right, sound of photocopier]

US: This is how it's done.

H: Hey, you just photocopied ours.

US: Hell no, this is all patented by US companies, it's all ours. You can license it if you like.

H: Those patents are all dated after we gave you a copy!

US: Security, we got a snake in the grass here. If they don't shut the fuck up, beat 'em senseless and throw 'em out with the garbage.

Trump: You guys did a great job ensuring fair play with this G Whiz thing. What was that company I should buy into? Frisco, Disco, somethin'? Hey, did I just see Reagan's brain in the corner there? Can someone catch it and bring it over? Wibble...

It could be 'five to ten years' before the world finally drags itself away from IPv4

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: What has it got in its pocketses?

"How the traffic is transported around inside the ISP is irrelevant to Google, who can't see any of those details."

Well, not until they have de-anonymised them for their ad-targeting products, anyway.

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: What has it got in its pocketses?

OMG! The cost of NAT! Please, please point me to a PoP router that does dual-stack but not NAT and tell me how much cheaper it is than the standard ones.

Oh, and please explain why IP v4 addresses are so fscking in demand?

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: What has it got in its pocketses?

There's certainly an endless supply of people who don't give a shit about pedantry but just want the easiest way to get online.

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: What has it got in its pocketses?

I see v6 advocates criticizing v4 for not being forwards compatible.

I see v4 advocates criticising v6 for not being backwards compatible.

The only way to resolve this ping-pong idiocy is to have an overarching protocol within which both sit as subsets. Dual-stack then becomes just one option open to the software implementation.

steelpillow Silver badge

What has it got in its pocketses?

"little pockets of IPv4"


"about a third of the traffic that reaches google is over IPv6"

So, erm gosh, that's tough: 1 - 1/3 = 2/3. Phew! No wonder the poor guy didn't realize what big pockets some people have.

Truly, the price of IPv4 addresses is so astronomical because so is the demand. It will not disappear until a protocol compatible with both v4 and v6 supercedes them both. We could call it The One Ring.*

* Remember the Cambridge Ring, anybody?

Huawei launches UK charm offensive: We've provided 2G, 3G and 4G for 20 years, and you're worried about 5G?

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: Enough of these rational arguments!

Sorry, could you explain how Huawei's smooch campaign is "a purely emotional response from a bunch of ra-ra-brexit backbenchers"? Would you seriously regard a Trump/Cisco/NSA deal as ra-ra-British?

Being a pro-EFTA European I regard Brexit as the first step in a far healthier European integration - "Reculer pour mieux sauter" as the French say (oh, look it up you ignorant c***). But hey, since when did reason influence Brexit-bashers...

Devuan Beowulf 3.0 release continues to resist the Debian fork's Grendel – systemd

steelpillow Silver badge
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OpenRC oh yes

Just received this via my Devuan mailshot sub:

What's new in Beowulf 3.0.0?

* Based on Debian Buster (10.4) with Linux kernel 4.19.

* Support for ppc64el in addition to the existing i386, amd64, armel, armhf and arm64 architectures.

* runit optional alternative /sbin/init.

* openrc optional alternative to sysv-rc service and runlevel control.

* Standalone daemons (eudev, elogind) to replace aspects of monolithic systemd.

* New boot, display manager and desktop themimg.

Thank you my VUAs.

steelpillow Silver badge

What most disappoints...

...about the debian adoption of systemd is the way they have encouraged/persuaded so may toolchain developers to abandon compatibility with any other init system. The devuan and other init freeks (sic) spend a lot of time feeding retro-compatible patches upstream where they can, but otherwise having to fork very basic things like udev. "All communities are equal but the systemd community is more equal than others".* FFS!

* Apologies to George Orwell

Talk about a control plane... US Air Force says upcoming B-21 stealth bomber will use Kubernetes

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: "the whole post could be misdirection"

Or maybe the Kubernetes install is just a test environment, to be replaced by something stupidly expensive and stupidly clunky on the production systems. These kinds of announcement always need to be parsed rather carefully.

steelpillow Silver badge

"flight software running in the Cloud"

I thought this was blue-sky research.

Publishers sue to shut down books-for-all Internet Archive for 'willful digital piracy on an industrial scale'

steelpillow Silver badge

"I frequently give free electronic copies of my books away, more or less to anyone who asks, but that's very different from me grabbing a million of other people's books and handing them out to anyone who can find a website."

Don't forget that one digital copy given away can very quickly become one hundred thousand pirate copies.

I put out electronic editions through the major sales sites and they tend to earn more for me than the paper editions.

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

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: not the terminal, the punch card

Oh the joy when my school computer club received our weekly batch of programs back from Cambridge without having been fed into Titan - because a technician had dropped the lot in a heap on the floor.

I was one of two sufficiently nerdy geeks (or was that geeky nerds?) to punch out the line numbers.

But the 80-character limit also arose when home computers arrived and the TV was hijacked as a cheap monitor. 640 pixels per line was pretty much the limit of their resolution and, by coincidence, it yielded the same 80 characters. This led it to be adopted as the VGA standard.

Ampere, Nvidia's latest GPU architecture is finally here – spanking-new acceleration for AI across the board

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: Impressive, but ...

I believe that the G nowadays stand for General rather than niche Graphics (which it presumably also does rather well).

I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Spacecraft with graphene sails powered by starlight and lasers

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: Calling Isaac Newton...

I stand corrected. Have one on me.

Still doesn't fade faster than gravity though, mutter, mumble...

steelpillow Silver badge

My next SF novella is now going to have the main protagonist, a solar-powered AI space station, buying laser boost from a handy laser "filling station" whenever it is in a hurry. What to call the station brand? It won't be BP.

Shame that any patent will have expired by the time it actually happens. You read it here first!

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: Calling Isaac Newton...

"Perhaps it means that the force of gravity from the Sun will exceed the force on the sails"

Nope. Gravity obeys an inverse square law. Lasers are, to a first approximation, constant with distance.

What do you call megabucks Microsoft? No really, it's not a joke. El Reg needs you

steelpillow Silver badge

Mobile Wannabees

The main strand that strikes me as a continuous theme ever since Bill Gates realized that he had missed the Internet has been its failure to conquer the mobile market.

Microsoft are the definitive mobile wannabees.

Has a nice, deflating ring to it as a monicker, I feel.

Senior MP tells UK Defence Committee on 5G security: Russia could become China's cyber-attack dog

steelpillow Silver badge

The H word

It is well known that any Internet discussion on certain matters will invariably bring gratuitous mention of a certain H-word denoting a certain mid-twentieth century Nationalist leader.

Seems that the politico-cyber-security world has a new H word. Can you tell what it is yet?

When the chips are down, thank goodness for software engineers: AI algorithms 'outpace Moore's law'

steelpillow Silver badge

rememris the memberstor?

If memristor-type devices ever actually take off, we may see a new Moor-ish law for neural net hardware kick into life.

There's a black hole lurking within 1,000 light years of Earth – and you can see stars circling it with the naked eye

steelpillow Silver badge

Maths up the Khyber

Now I am no astronomer, but I do know that if one object has 6 solar masses and another has 4, then the heavier is certainly not orbiting the lighter. Throw in a second 6-solar-mass object and the 4-baby is just a bit of fluff. So how one of the bigger ones "orbited an invisible [smaller] companion" needs some explaining, as does the apparently total rubbish artist's impression.

In fact, as an example of the three-body problem, either this system is highly unstable or the mass estimates are way off.

Happy birthday, ARM1. It is 35 years since Britain's Acorn RISC Machine chip sipped power for the first time

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: My Risc PC still gets powered up every day

I still have my working RISC PC but TBH I moved across to Linux/x386 because things like network interfaces, decent graphics and software upgrades were so darn expensive and getting hard to find. Also, killer apps like Sibelius and Xara had moved across.

Still, with RISC OS now available open-source, maybe one day I will have a decent RISC V/RISC OS workstation (with unpwnable OS in ROM) alongside my AMD64/Devuan.

Lords: New IR35 off-payroll tax rules 'riddled with problems, unfairnesses, unintended consequences'

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: unintended consequences

"the consequences have been announced a LONG time ago, on those pages and others

How can it be unintended ?"

Because most civil servants are ignorant as shit and assume our outcries are just swinging the lead* - as they would naturally do in our position.

* How language changes. I feel the need to explain that the origin of the phrase is a nautical one meaning to sound out the depth of water with a lump of lead on the end of a rope, to see if one can gain passage and not run aground. Outside of its original context, it has connotations of trying to get away with a con.

AWS rolls out 'Linux 2 Ready' scheme to lure penguins into using its homegrown distro

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: Would be nice if they hadn't removed SELinux

SELinux is one of the few tools I'd like to see a smart assistant for:

"It looks like you are configuring SELinux. Can I help you with that?"

But unlike other smart assistants, after the click-through it then tells me exactly what it has done and what the consequences are.

Somewhere, way out there, two black holes, one large and one small, merged. And here on Earth, we detected the gravitational wave blast

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: Question

We see so many because so many are happening within detection range, which is basically a timecone back into the past as well as outwards. The buildup to the event is not significant to detection when it happens.

We see more like a cross-section of the ripples as they wash past.

Do different frequencies travel at different speed? Theory says no, but I'll bet those detectorists would be the first to tell us if they did!

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: Stupid question

We used to refer to valves as Group 0 semiconductors. confused the heck out of the pointy-haired managers.

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: I'm not talking about this at home

So you don't have a good 5G signal, then?

Scaleway disarms its ARM64 cloud, cites unreliable hardware as the reason

steelpillow Silver badge

Hazard a guess...

...that the Universal Reason is at least partly to blame - the entry of new, more reliable servers to the marketplace has been delayed beyond the end-of-life of the current ones.

Academics: We hate to ask, but could governments kindly refrain from building giant data-slurping, contact-tracing coronavirus monsters?

steelpillow Silver badge

Personal convenience

Judging by the slap-happy trails of some, many who get tested positive for the virus but still feel active will simply leave their mobes at home or switch off the app. How many will want to risk a reminder of what they already know perfectly well, that "You shouldn't be here", followed by a bunch of cops in bunny suits?

Armbands with a virus logo would be a better warning than some stupid app, plus a law to bang you up in solitary if you are caught without it.

Iran military manages to keep a straight face while waggling miracle widget that 'can detect coronavirus from 100m away'

steelpillow Silver badge

ride time

I can't help wondering who is fooling who.

Is somebody taking the Revolutionary Guards for a ride or are they fully aware they are talking bollocks?

Started from the bottom, now we're near: 16 years on, open-source vector graphics editor Inkscape draws close to v1.0

steelpillow Silver badge
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Re: 275 GTB vs Midget

I was happy enough with Xara.

Even happier when the best bits of the Xara UI were donated to Inkscape. Was what finally persuaded me to leave my RISC PC for Linux.

Academic showdown as boffins biff-baff over when Version 1.0 of Earth's magnetic core was released

steelpillow Silver badge

Long ago in, er, the very same galaxy...

President of Zirconia: "What shall I do with these bloody things? They've managed to get weakly magnetized."

Grand Vizier of Zirconia: "Chuck 'em out the garbage chute when we pass that planet that's coming up. That'll hoover 'em up and keep 'em out the star lanes for a few billion years."

President; "Okey dokey. ... Done!"

Tribunal halts all Information Commissioner's Office cases because UK data watchdog can't print or organise PDFs

steelpillow Silver badge

Now if I were a plaintiff

I'll bet plaintiffs unable to print their documents would not be accepted as a reason for delaying.

I could go in with a workstation airgapped from their network (i.e. mine) and set up the facility for them in the time it takes for them to give me their email address.

They should be stung for this, and stung bad.

Ofcom waves DAB radio licences under local broadcasters' noses as FM switchoff debate smoulders again

steelpillow Silver badge

AM >FM > DAB > ?

AM coverage used to degrade gracefully. Just fit a better antenna and boost your signal. Longer waves even go round corners; Long Wave AM is still unbeatable as an international broadcast medium. But even with techniques such as SSB (single sideband) it is subject to interference and fading, so for music junkies FM is much better. Sadly it lopped off the highest audio frequencies to save bandwidth, so HiFi enthusiasts turned against it. And it cuts out rudely instead of fading, for instance when going under bridges, so even truckers were left with their doubts. But it still didn't save enough bandwidth, hence DAB to push out more channels and make more money offer more choice. But early DAB was both crap, expensively license-encumbered and had poor coverage. Modern DAB is better, could be rolled out more widely, and the licensors are getting less greedy as they realise that "pile it high and sell it cheap" makes them more money in the long run. But even if the money were spent it would always be ridiculously broadcast-antenna dense and when it does degrade it will always makes filthy burps at full volume. Moreover you can cram more channels in by squeezing the digits, and what industry is not going to resist that?

If I ruled the world I'd bring in FM2 - full 20kHz+ digital audio with modest compression and basic mobile techniques such as multipath equalization and error correction, carried over an FM signal with GMSK - basically just a HiFi version of GSM, somewhat simplified for one-way broadcast and and run over a much lower frequency band. A relaxed level of compression would allow introduction of compression/transmission algorithms which decay gracefully to listenable music rather than Volume Level 11 vomit.

Planet Computers has really let things slide: Firm's third real-keyboard gizmo boasts 5G, Android 10, Linux support

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: Ribbon cable failure

It's a much better-quality ribbon cable on Gemini. Also, unlike the S5, there is no sliding action so it is less exercised. Few if any such failures have been reported for the Gemini. I guess The Slider (RIP Marc Bolan) will be an interesting one to watch.

steelpillow Silver badge

letting thngs slide

Planet have also let support slide. They say they haven't and I know they are working hard on Cosmo's many bugs. But fixes that also apply to Gemini are just not making it across any more. Moreover, their customer communications have always been basically nonexistent and they show no sign they give a shit about that.

So yes, highly desirable device - when my Gemini eventually dies I will probably replace it with one of these or its successor - but you are buying the moment not a lifecycle.

steelpillow Silver badge

@Ian Entwistle: have you tried opening it and leaving it on a radiator for a week? I have rescued more than one 'leccy toy that way.

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: Whilst I loved (and still have) my Psion5mx...

"I can't help but think that bluetooth keyboards for more mainstream portable screens are a better solution"

Back a few years my S5 became unusable. The first generation of Linux netbooks had just come and gone (Thanks, Microshaft), so I got a Nexus 7 tablet, Bluetooth keyboard and leatherette wallet. When folded up it looked for all the world just like the standard 80's Filofax. Used it routinely, never once took either out of the wallet.

But the keybaord was so-so. You can keep your Bluetooth to yourself, thank you - especially as the Master of the Keyboard Martin Riddiford has not designed it!

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: Head office?

That Central London thing will surely be an accommodation address for correspondence. Lots of businesses do that.

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: "the hinge is a complex affair"

The designer, David Riddiford, was burned by that on the original Psion Series 5, for which his classic keyboard provided the prototype for Planet. This slider is his fourth iteration - if anybody can make it work, he can. I certainly would not trust Apple any more - butterflies or butterfingers, I'll take Riddiford's bling any day.

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: CEO Dr Janko Mrsic-Flogel

That was largely because so many in the niche had already bought Geminis. I was truly impressed how the Cosmo still rang bells.

'Social distancing champ' Linus Torvalds releases Linux 5.6, tells devs to put health before next release

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: Whatever for?

Maybe it's for Android, part of some crossover deal with The Other Mega-Slurper?

Drones intone 'you must stay home,' eliciting moans from those in the zone: Flying gizmos corral Brits amid coronavirus lockdown

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: Don't give them ideas...

Oh yes the government should. Big Money Defence plc buys the most successful drone kit manufacturer, develops damage-tolerant upgrade with greater firepower and sells assembled horror to gov't for 1,000 times the old kit price. Pass along quietly please, nothing to see here, kids.

Thankfully they are too busy right now streaming videos of their streaming noses to act on the opportunity. (And I do honestly hope they get better soon, I wouldn't wish this covid shit on anybody).



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