* Posts by Richard Tobin

295 publicly visible posts • joined 13 Aug 2007


Leader of pro-Russia DDoS crew Killnet 'unmasked' by Russian state media

Richard Tobin

Axis nations


Woman jailed after RentaHitman.com assassin turned out to be – surprise – FBI

Richard Tobin

Re: As George Carlin remarked...

"The curve is in no-way Gaussian" - this statement is meaningless unless you have a non-arbitrary scale of intelligence, which we don't.

These days you can teach old tech a bunch of new tricks

Richard Tobin

PCs? That's nothing

There are people out there making adaptors to connect BBC Micros to HDMI monitors: https://stardot.org.uk/forums/viewtopic.php?t=14430

China reportedly bans iPhones from more government offices

Richard Tobin

Perhaps it's the other way round

They don't want government employees using devices they can't crack.

X may train its AI models on your social media posts

Richard Tobin


As the Jargon File notes, the standard unit of bogosity is the microLenat. The Lenat itself is far too big for practical use.

RIP Doug.

Intel to rebrand client chips once Meteor Lake splashes down

Richard Tobin


I think they should return to names that are chemical elements with a letter missing, like Xeon and Itanium. There are plenty of possibilities: Ron, God, Odium, Geranium, ...

Amazon, Bing, Wikipedia make EU's list of 'Very Large' platforms

Richard Tobin

El Reg must have been relieved

to find it wasn't on the list.

Google reminds everyone it too can launch a ChatGPT-like chatbot … waiting list

Richard Tobin

Waiting list

I was on the list about two hours.

Sandia opens up ultra-fast X-ray cameras to speedy shutterbugs

Richard Tobin

How much?

I'd like to put one of these on my Raspberry Pi, but you don't mention the price.

It's been 230 years since British pirates robbed the US of the metric system

Richard Tobin

"New" spellings

(This post was rejected - I think that must have been a mistake)

"color, center, aluminum and other new versions of old words"

That's an oversimplification. According to the OED, although "centre" was the form in which it came from Norman French, by Shakespeare's time "center" was prevalent in Britain, and was only replaced by "centre" as a result of Johnson's dictionary. "Aluminium" and "aluminum" were both common in the USA for much of the 19th century; the decline of "aluminium" was assured by a report by the American Chemical Society which recommended "aluminum" around 1890. It also recommended "sulfur"; but was less successful with "iodin".

For password protection, dump LastPass for open source Bitwarden

Richard Tobin


"Maybe you trust your brother. Me? I'm not so trusting." As usual, the question is not whether you trust your brother, but whether you trust everyone he trusts. And everyone they trust...

Server installer fails to spot STOP button – because he wasn't an archaeologist

Richard Tobin

Core memory

I think I've mentioned this before - we had a PDP/11 with 32KW of core memory and the rest semiconductor. Some decorators pushed the big red button, and when we turned the power back on the system continued running, since the operating system was all in core, but the user processes died one by one as most of them were in semiconductor memory.

Block Fi seeks bankruptcy protection as 'shocking' FTX contagion spreads

Richard Tobin

Re: Let me test my understanding of all this

I think you're misinterpreting "protection". Bankruptcy is not primarily for the benefit of the owners of the company, but to ensure an orderly payout of its assets if it can't be saved.

World's richest man posts memes as $44b Twitter acquisition veers off course

Richard Tobin


"One laid-off staffer was in charge of managing the system which controls badge access to Twitter's buildings. He was called back in to help regain access to HQ by those who had locked themselves out."

That was a joke.

Twitter engineer calls out Elon Musk for technical BS in unusual career move

Richard Tobin

And of course...

... the moron has fired him: https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1592186302379982849

Twitter is suffering from mad bro disease. Open thinking can build it back better

Richard Tobin

Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly

I'm told that in the world of Air Traffic Control the phrases used are "loss of separation" and "metallic contact".

World Cup apps pose a data security and privacy nightmare

Richard Tobin

Re: Just buy the cheapest smart phone you can get

Presumably to install the app you need to have connected the phone to your Google or Apple account, so you'd better have disposable versions of them too.

If you think 5G is overhyped, wait till you meet 5.5G

Richard Tobin

I don't think the way it's been sold is the problem at all. Most people probably don't even know that it can be used for anything other than mobile phones.

I have a 5G mobile phone, and generally get a good signal. The only "problem" is that it makes no difference at all - nothing I do benefits from the extra speed.

Moon has been drifting away from Earth for 2.4 billion years, rocks reveal

Richard Tobin

Re: those further away than geostationary orbit tend to depart (eventually).

Without the moon, we would still have tides, caused by the sun. They would be smaller, and happen at the same time every day. You can see the tidal effect of the sun in the difference between spring tides (when the sun and moon are aligned) and neap tides (when they are at right angles). If I recall correctly solar tides would be about a quarter as big as lunar ones.

Richard Tobin

Yes, tidal forces transfer rotational kinetic energy from the earth to the moon. Drag in the oceans causes the high tide not to be perfectly aligned with the moon, resulting in the gravitational force between them not being exactly through the earth's centre.

Make your neighbor think their house is haunted by blinking their Ikea smart bulbs

Richard Tobin

Re: Smart devices for dummies

If you want to transmit information, why use someone else's lights?

Richard Tobin

trapped in the Upside Down

umop apisdn

Tetchy trainee turned the lights down low to teach turgid lecturer a lesson

Richard Tobin

Re: Old School

Copying down notes does indeed help you remember, but what goes along with that is that the lecturer should also be writing the material on a blackboard, to match the rate at which students can copy it.

Burger King just sent spam receipts to customers

Richard Tobin

You gave them your email address when you bought a burger?

What did you expect?

Apple network traffic takes mysterious detour through Russia

Richard Tobin

Block sizes

"Rostelecom’s AS12389 network began announcing, which is part of Apple's block and is usually announced as part of the larger block."

A /9 block is *smaller* than a /8 block.

My smartphone has wiped my microSD card again: Is it a conspiracy?

Richard Tobin

A micro sd card in my Raspberry Pi melted. I have no idea why.

Cookie consent crumbles under fresh UK data law proposals

Richard Tobin

Straightforward solution

Websites should not be allowed to set any non-essential cookies without the user opting in, nor should they be allowed to put up blocking banners. If they want more cookies they can just have a link to an opt-in page.

Bill Gates says NFTs '100% based on greater fool theory' amid crypto cataclysm

Richard Tobin

Re: A pipe-smoker comments...

Wilson was not entirely wrong. The pound was devalued by 14% against the dollar, but that didn't mean that people could buy 14% less of the things they actually spent money on. Inflation at that time was well below 5%. Even if you wanted to buy dollars, the exchange controls dating from the second world war still limited what you could convert.

No-one, on the other hand, buys anything real with Bitcoin. If you actually want to buy something, you convert it to real money, so a 30% fall is really that.

Google calculates Pi to 100 trillion digits

Richard Tobin

Re: spot the difference

Somewhat surprisingly, it turns out to be possibly to compute the Nth digit of pi much more cheaply than computing all the first N digits. This was used to verify the last few digits, making it very implausible that there was a bug in the calculation.

For more information google "Bailey-Borwein-Plouffe".

Richard Tobin

Re: Google can't count

The definition of "trillion" isn't maths, it's English.

Richard Tobin

Re: They'd get a shock...

That's a fair first approximation. It's probably 14 or 15. In the first 10^9 digits there is no sequence of 9 zeroes, but a sequence of 8 zeroes occurs 8 times. There are two sequences of 9 nines.

Farewell to two pivotal figures: The founder of Inmos, and the co-creator of MIME

Richard Tobin

Re: What A Shame

In the 1980s there were dozens of parallel computers all of which were supposedly going to lead to a breakthrough. None of them did. Relatively few problems can be most efficiently implemented in a transputer-style grid.

Tweaks to IPv4 could free up 'hundreds of millions of addresses'

Richard Tobin

"Of the four, the lowest address fix is regarded as the least problematic"

But... all my Sun 2s running SunOS 2.0 will stop working!

Salesforce staff back an end to its relationship with NRA

Richard Tobin

How do we protect our 2nd amendment & our kids at the same time?

You can't. You have to choose which you want.

We've never even built datacenters using robots here on Earth

Richard Tobin

"a 966-year-old dynasty"

Which dynasty begain in 1056?

Microsoft veteran on how he forged a badge to sneak into a Ballmer presentation

Richard Tobin

Re: IBM Catering

I worked at IBM (Warwick) during a summer vacation while I was at university. There were refrigerated vending machines which were meant to provide food and drinks. But for some reason this had been replaced with a system in which you obtained a token from the vending machine, then took it elsewhere to get the food. The vending machine was still refrigerated, and dispensed chilled tokens.

The wild world of non-C operating systems

Richard Tobin


I don't know of any operating system whose kernel was written in Basic, but the system utilities of RSTS were.

Oxidation-proof copper could replace gold, meaning cheaper chips, says prof

Richard Tobin

Effect on copper prices

Demand for copper is 25.5 million tonnes per year, and 66.4 tonnes of gold was used in electronic components. So using copper instead of gold would increase demand by a couple of millionths. That's not going to have any effect on prices.

DeepMind AI tool helps historians restore ancient texts

Richard Tobin

Needs to be used with care

Being trained on documents from which our existing knowledge of ancient history is derived, it runs the risk of interpreting texts so as to conform to that knowledge, and missing unexpected facts.

Joint European Torus more than doubles fusion record with 59 megajoules

Richard Tobin

Re: Not enough information

A practical fusion generator will have to achieve Q > 1, but it will also have to achieve it at high powers for long periods. There is no one "crucial piece".

Achieving Q > 1 was not the aim of this experiment - JET is too small, so it loses heat fast.

Richard Tobin

More megajoules

The energy released - 59 megajoules - is equivalent to 14kg of TNT (The Guardian) or 60 kettle's worth of water (BBC). Both these are correct.

Clearly a kilogram of TNT is a lot less exciting than I thought.

Developer creates ‘Quite OK Image Format’ – but it performs better than just OK

Richard Tobin


The C code is readable and readily understandable in a single pass.

Pen Test Partners: Anyone could view Gumtree users' GPS location by pressing F12

Richard Tobin


"In both Firefox and Chrome, F12 opens the "view page source" developer tools screen".

I just tried it, and all it did was turn the volume up.

AsmREPL: Wing your way through x86-64 assembly language

Richard Tobin


"Note that this was in 1960 on an IBM 704. Contrary to what someone posted upthread, the first interactive LISP was not the 1963 PDP-1 LISP."

McCarthy's own History of Lisp paper that you cite says "L. Peter Deutsch implemented the first interactive LISP on the PDP-1 computer in 1963". McCarthy had already hacked up a proof-of concept demo on the IBM 704, but it wasn't usable system. There's some more about it at https://www.quora.com/What-was-it-like-to-use-LISP-on-an-IBM-704

Richard Tobin


"REPL stands for "read-evaluate-print loop", and REPLs were first seen in Lisp development environments such as Lisp Machines."

Lisp Machines? Lisp had a read-eval-print loop long before Lisp Machines. The first interactive Lisp was PDP-1 Lisp in 1963. The manual describes typing (CAR (QUOTE (A B C D)) followed by a space: "the computer takes control of the typewriter, impulses a carriage return, and then types out: A".

You can download the manual from https://www.computerhistory.org/pdp-1/1822b607c479d2e9de9b19ba958c16e3/

Amazon tells folks it will stop accepting UK Visa credit cards via weird empty email

Richard Tobin


Visa are bleating about customer choice - but what they don't want is for retailers to have a choice. Most companies can't take the risk of not accepting both Visa and Mastercard, so there is no real competition to keep their charges down. Amazon are doing this for their own benefit, but if it eventually reduces the cut taken by the credit card middle men then I'm all for it.

Computer shuts down when foreman leaves the room: Ghost in the machine? Or an all-too-human bit of silliness?

Richard Tobin

Magic / more magic

An old story from the jargon file:


RIP Sir Clive Sinclair: British home computer trailblazer dies aged 81

Richard Tobin

Re: MK14

The MK14 - a cheap version of the NS Introkit - was more Chris Curry's project than Sinclair's. It's said that Sinclair's lack of interest led to Curry leaving to form Acorn with Hermann Hauser.

Hacking the computer with wirewraps and soldering irons: Just fix the issues as they come up, right?

Richard Tobin

Re: PL/I … "think C with even crappier aesthetics"

PL/M was a language developed specifically for (Intel) microprocessors. IBM's own system programming version of PL/I was PL/S.

It was said that IBM had trademarked all the names from PL/2 to PL/99.

Richard Tobin

Re: I'd hire him...

"He should have reported the hardware as unreliable and got that resolved instead."

When you're an undergraduate working on a project that is not one of your options.