* Posts by Richard Tobin

275 posts • joined 13 Aug 2007


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.

Richard Tobin



Florida Man sues Facebook, Twitter, YouTube for account ban

Richard Tobin

Re: Oy!

No no no. He's an "Aberdeenshire business owner":


Nutanix is finally happy to mention its name and ‘profit’ in the same sentence

Richard Tobin


It's normal to start an article about a company that readers may never have heard of with some background information!

China signals dissatisfaction with gig economy impact on ride-share drivers

Richard Tobin

"Ride sharing"

It's time the term "ride sharing" was abandoned. There's no sharing involved, it's just a commercial transaction.

Tor users, beware: 'Scheme flooding' technique may be used to deanonymize you

Richard Tobin

Re: Pretty unreliable

It gives me different results in Firefox and Safari, and several of the programs were ones I've never even heard of, much less installed.

Namecheap hosted 25%+ of fake UK govt phishing sites last year – NCSC report

Richard Tobin

Filter by registrar

Presumably it should be reasonably straightforward to configure a firewall to block all connections to domains registered with a particular registrar, which would be an incentive to companies like Namecheap to clean up their act.

Facebook Oversight Board upholds decision to ban Trump, asks FB to look at own 'potential contribution' to 'narrative of electoral fraud'

Richard Tobin

Has he been banned from El Reg forums?

At least he can still use Usenet.

George Clooney of IT: Dribbling disaster and damp disk warnings scare the life out of innocent user

Richard Tobin

Sun fun

Back in 80s we wrote a number of programs to do "amusing" things to the screens of Sun workstations. One had a vaguely ant-like creature that would run across the screen and steal a letter. A more subtle one would displace letters up or down by one pixel - if you were actively working you probably wouldn't notice anything as the screen would get refreshed, but if you weren't doing anything after a while all the lines of text would become wavy.

Prince Philip, inadvertent father of the Computer Misuse Act, dies aged 99

Richard Tobin

Re: forthright with outspoken opinions

"The Monarch is the constitutional backstop against a tyrannical parliament" - an absurd fantasy.

Richard Tobin

Seen elsewhere on the internet

It's tragic for the queen to lose her husband and two of her cousins on the same day.

Over a decade on, and millions in legal fees, Supreme Court rules for Google over Oracle in Java API legal war

Richard Tobin

Your starter for 10...

Who said "Oracle will ultimately prevail over Google for a very simple reason: Google is guilty."?

Please stop leaking your own personal data online, Indonesia's COVID-19 taskforce tells citizens

Richard Tobin

No confidential data should be in QR codes

They shouldn't be putting this data in QR codes. It should just be a unique identifier, used only for the vaccination program, that allows the person's data to be looked up in a secure database.

Memo to scientists. Looking for intelligent life? Have you tried checking for worlds with a lot of industrial pollution?

Richard Tobin

Re: Pollution, right

A similar argument applies to radio signals. Human broadcasts from 50 years ago were easily distinguishable from noise. But modern digital transmissions are compressed, and the more efficiently a signal is compressed the more it resembles noise - any regularities indicate inefficient compression.

License to thrill: Ahead of v13.0, the FreeBSD team talks about Linux and the completed toolchain project that changes everything

Richard Tobin

Re: "we don't have one big dictator"

"Isn't it Berkley Standard Distribution?"

No, Berkeley Software Distribution.

Barcode scan app amassed millions of downloads before weird update starting popping open webpages...

Richard Tobin

Re: But which app is the bad one?

Yes, this is a problem. The article says "LavaBird's now-banished Android app shouldn't be confused with ZXing Team's Barcode Scanner that remains in the Play Store." But that app has lots of similar complaints. Does it really have the same problem, or have people just submitted complaints about the wrong one by mistake?

You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right? Trust... but verify

Richard Tobin

"Trust but verify"

How, in practice, is this different from "don't trust"?

Realme 7 5G: Parents, this is the phone you should have got your kids for Christmas

Richard Tobin

Re: A Tecnical Editor is sorely needed here.

I'm very doubtful that most people can tell the difference once the resolution is over about 200ppi. Things like contrast and colour gamut are much more important. Just being able to read the display in bright sunlight would outweigh any amount of resultion for me.

Richard Tobin

Not cheaper than Moto

"We'd recommend it over more expensive models, like the OnePlus Nord and Motorola's Moto G 5G Plus." But the Moto G 5G Plus is actually cheaper, at £249.99.


Reports of one's death have been greatly exaggerated: French radio station splurges obituary bank over interwebs

Richard Tobin

What's the problem?

For printed news it makes sense to publish a description of someone's life when they die. But on the web, why not just have them there all the time? I suppose it would lead to more libel suits, though.

Um, almost the entire Scots Wikipedia was written by someone with no idea of the language – 10,000s of articles

Richard Tobin

Scottish census

"While very nearly all Scottish people speak English, the Scots language was apparently still spoken, read, or otherwise understood by nearly 30 per cent of Scotland's population according to those responding to a 2011 census."

The authors of the 2011 census realised that many people in Scotland would not know whether they spoke Scots, so they provided a number of recordings of people speaking it. If you could understand any of them, you could reasonably say you understood Scots. There was a great variation between them, and I think that most people in England would have been able to understand one of them, so I'm not convinced it was a useful question.

Chinese State media uses new release of local Linux to troll Trump

Richard Tobin

Re: Google Translate at its best...

"Galaxy" can refer specifically to the Milky Way - it comes from the Greek "galaxios" meaning "milky". It's only in the last hundred years that we have known that there are other similar structures (though it was conjectured before).

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin. Hang on, the PDP 11/70 has dropped offline

Richard Tobin

Re: Core memory in Canada

I've probably mentioned this before...

We had a PDP-11/40 which had originally had 32k (words) of core memory, but had been upgraded to 128k with semiconductor memory. One day some decorators accidentally pushed the big red button. When we powered it back on, the operating system came back because it was in low memory - which was core - but each process crashed in turn as it got parity errors in the semiconductor memory.

If you want to design and make your own 5nm high-end system-on-chip, Marvell's offering ASIC-as-a-service

Richard Tobin


... Intel can use it.



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