* Posts by GrahamRJ

97 publicly visible posts • joined 2 Dec 2016

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All of the norths are about to align over Britain

GrahamRJ

Real scientists freely admitting they can't predict exactly where it's going to be at any given date - but with complete consensus amongst all real scientists that it's happening because of really hot stuff that's definitely there and is definitely hot.

Maybe the anti-environmentalists could learn from that, because there is equal scientific consensus on the existence of volcanos and the existence of climate change...

GrahamRJ

Re: That's not all of it...

At the Gare du Nord...?

The world was promised 'cloud magic'. So much for that fairy tale

GrahamRJ

Ironic

Back when I started at my current job, we set up a Jenkins server and build slaves to run our builds. It ran perfectly happily on three ancient desktops hidden under a desk in the lab. It even failed-over nicely when one of the slaves died. A load of the other builds then got moved to the cloud, but my stuff stayed on-prem because no-one was prepared to pay for AWS for my project.

One new company, two new sites and four servers later, the lineal descendants of that setup are still running perfectly happily as low-priority VMs using the spare CPU cycles on our file server. It costs us basically nothing beyond 2-3 days a year for me to go round applying updates to the various VMs.

Porsche wants to sell you a rusty tailpipe soundbar for $12k

GrahamRJ

That explains why audiophool stuff is a load of old cock then.

UK comms regulator rings death knell for fax machines

GrahamRJ

Re: Much loved???

"Normal people"? I'm a child of the 80s and 90s, and I can state as fact that the only "normal people" who had their own fax machine at home were running a small business from home. No-one else ever did - they were expensive to buy, expensive to run, and there was no reason whatsoever to do it. So even back in the 80s and 90s, anyone who owned a fax machine just for fun was automatically not a "normal person". In 2022? They're either someone who wasn't normal in the 80s/90s and still isn't, or they're someone cosplaying 80s/90s which also isn't normal.

I'm not sure how you get from sending a fax to killing someone's granny either. If your granny's life depends on getting a fax through, you're starring in a Saw movie and someone's playing with you. You for damn sure aren't working in any medical profession.

Heart now pledges 30-seat hybrid electric commercial flights by 2028

GrahamRJ

Re: It's not time to railroad

85% of flights are short haul

If you count flights by airplane take-offs, then single/2-seaters flying touch-and-goes are definitely going to give you that figure, sure. But 85% of passengers, not so much. With a 200-mile range, that's not even enough to get from London to Manchester; and realistically you'd be lucky to make Birmingham and still have enough power to stay in the stack for a bit. Typically you'd consider "short haul" to get from London to anywhere in the UK or near airports in neighbouring European countries, and this emphatically can't deliver that.

School chat app Seesaw abused to send 'inappropriate image' to parents, teachers

GrahamRJ

Re: Living in fear of a 2nd wave.

Clearly you've not seen that image. With the Photoshopping involved, this is not an organ which any human owns.

Keeping printers quiet broke disk drives, thanks to very fuzzy logic

GrahamRJ

Re: The Ex

Apparently their house had central beating.

US border cops harvest info from citizens' phones, build massive database

GrahamRJ

Beaver State?

There's more than one way to get that designation, surely...? And it's only now I discover that El Reg has removed the Paris Hilton icon. :(

Toyota's truck brand Hino admits faking and fudging emissions data for 20 years

GrahamRJ

Re: Establish a system to preserve certification test records

The big difference is that no-one has ever died, or even become ill, from a single vehicle's emissions. (Apart from suicide bids, of course, but it's not even been possible to do that since the 90s when cats became a thing.) This is very different from the food industry, where dodgy food absolutely *can* do nasty stuff to you.

Lapping the computer room in record time until the inevitable happens

GrahamRJ

Better than office chairs

Roller skates. I spent some time on the Ford campus in Detroit, a number of years back. The campus has "tornado tunnels" connecting all the buildings, so that whatever the weather conditions outside, you can walk from building to building in air-conditioned comfort. Nice wide tunnels, with a nice smooth concrete floor, obstructed only by fire doors every so often.

And unusually for offices, the doors everywhere have "no roller skates or skateboards" signs on them. Apparently the suitability of the surface for competitive roller-skating after hours hadn't gone unnoticed. Which might have been officially ignored, except that those fire doors didn't have windows, and there were a few unfortunate incidents of speeding engineers hitting fire doors with unwary victims on the other side.

Samsung boss likely to be pardoned for bribery

GrahamRJ

How Han survived after Greedo shot first

Han Duck-Solo?

Your job was probably outsourced for exactly the reason you suspected

GrahamRJ

Quality is fairly measurable by quantity of defects - but only if your company is rigorous about tracking and evaluating issues. Many are not, which is where your JavaScript sausage factories fall down.

For quality, most of them probably happened between the late 80s and the early 2000s. That's where development standards like MISRA, DO178B and the like were set up, based on evidence from tracking issues in various safety-related applications.

Some of the details will vary (C coding standards about using pointers aren't that relevant for JavaScript), but the overall process requirements are unlikely to be any different. You still need to specify your system-level problem, break down the system-level problem into implementable requirements, code up those implementable requirements, (optionally) test that you got the implementable behaviour you specified, and finally test that you got the system-level behaviour you wanted.

Evidence from back then was that bug frequency before testing was mostly language-independent - it correlates much more strongly with coder experience than anything else. So the other conclusions about quality are probably still valid too.

As for economics, that comes back to the constant debate of quality versus speed to market. You can't study that, because any benefit of being first to market is going to be radically different depending on the market.

After 40 years in tech, I see every innovation contains its dark opposite

GrahamRJ

Motion sickness AFAIK was mostly an artefact of the frame rate for mid-90s VR. (I was there, and I remember just how slow it was to respond to your head moving.) I played with my brother-in-law's Oculus recently, and that's basically seamless now.

More interestingly, he mentioned that there's a real business case for this. I've always said that I'll work in a paperless office just as soon as they give me a screen the size of my desk - until then, cross-referencing multiple datasheets is a non-starter. He says he's got a Minority Report kind of thing though where all the documents hang in the air in VR, and you can pull them towards you for a look or shuffle them around or whatever. Sure it's not as crisp as a good monitor, but I can see definite applications there - after all, an Oculus Quest is cheaper than 2 half-decent monitors, and my company are already giving the mechanical engineers 3-screen setups.

NYC issues super upbeat PSA for surviving the nuclear apocalypse

GrahamRJ

Why stay on the mainland?

I've never worked out why all the post-apocalyptic stuff involves people hanging around the cities. Me, I'm heading for the nearest marina and stealing a nice 50-foot yacht with plenty of solar panels. (Wherever you live, you can reasonably bet the owners live in a city and are now toast.) Halberg-Rassy ideally, but I'll take anything with sails. And whatever state the rest of the world is in, no-one's throwing nukes at the Azores or Canary Islands.

Twitter sues Musk: He can't just 'change his mind, trash the company, walk away'

GrahamRJ

Re: Why aren't Twitter happy

They can probably take it or leave it. They're angry that (a) he's slinging mud about their company, and (b) he's not giving them the billion dollars pulling-out fee. And realistically he could probably have got away with (b) if it wasn't for (a). Money is business, but slagging them off makes it personal.

We need a Library of Congress – but for the digital world

GrahamRJ

Re: BBC Domesday Project

If it was run competently, one person who can answer the question "have you done anything like this before?" in the affirmative, with evidence of positive results. And who then has the budget and authority to hire a small number of people to do what they know needs doing. And with a reasonably well-bounded definition of what "success" looks like.

CAPSTONE mission is Moon-bound, after less rocketry than expected

GrahamRJ

Re: NASA boffins will spend months nudging CAPSTONE.

Almost certainly - but $5m buys a lot of boffin time. And with the rocket equation being what it is, price goes up exponentially as the fuel load gets bigger.

How can we make the VC world less pale and male, Congress wonders

GrahamRJ

I'd love to run a failure like Facebook (net income $39.3billion) or Netflix (net income $5.1billion)! And whilst IBM may no longer be the world-dominating colossus it was in the 70s, it's still doing pretty well (net income $5.7billion). As for the others, Microsoft was run by white guys until 2014, and AMD was run by its white founder continuously from its foundation until 2002.

The skin colour or gender (Carly Fiorina, anyone?) of a CEO is not a good indicator of a positive, innovative attitude in the rest of the company, nor indeed (Clarence Thomas) on their moral values.

Totaled Tesla goes up in flames three weeks after crash

GrahamRJ

Re: Deja vu again

You're misunderstanding the "anti-CO2 crowd" then. No-one thinks that rising CO2 and rising temperature levels will kill all life on Earth.

What a return to Eocene conditions will (provably) do though is kill most existing species, because most species cannot tolerate such extreme temperatures. Humans have the technology to ensure we survive as a species, but (also provably) the living space for billions of people will become uninhabitable. Most of those people are black or brown.

The "anti-CO2 crowd" think that mass extinctions and widespread starvation or displacement of people, caused solely by human action, is a bad thing. YMMV.

Separately, many of the "anti-CO2 crowd" also think technologies that allow fat rich white people to keep using the same unsustainable level of resources, just *different* resources, are a bad thing. There's widespread recognition that electric vehicles aren't going to help a society that normalises 100-mile-a-day commutes.

Samsung fined $14 million for misleading smartphone water resistance claims

GrahamRJ

No problems here

I've been using a Samsung S5 Neo for the last 5 years, and it's been exposed to all sorts of walking weather and beach holidays. The USB port needed to dry out before you could use it for charging, but that's all. Otherwise it was pretty bombproof. It's finally given in (the phone is OK but the GPS is dead, and the version of Android stops some stuff working), so I've moved to a Samsung Xcover Pro which I expect will do another 5 years.

Teeth marks yield clue to widespread internet outage in Canada

GrahamRJ
Paris Hilton

First time on the internet...

... that a beaver in action prevented porn addicts getting off.

At least the beaver got wood though.

Atos, UK government reach settlement on $1 billion Met Office supercomputer dispute

GrahamRJ

Re: Seriously

If that rain is accompanied by 100mph winds, it'd be nice to know. Especially if you'd have a chance of travelling on a plane, ship or lorry, or going over an exposed bridge when it happens.

Majority of Axon's AI ethics board resigns over CEO's taser drones

GrahamRJ

Re: The answer isn't getting rid of guns

> probably finding new ways to kill kids

There are plenty of ways to kill people. The point is that guns are specifically designed to kill people, quickly and efficiently, and every other method of killing multiple people quickly is significantly harder to acquire/build. And moreover, most of those methods are fairly tightly controlled.

You can kill people if you smash your car into a crowd, for example. Except that owning and driving a car requires multiple months of training, followed by formal qualifications issued by a government agency, followed by lifelong registration of both you and your vehicle with a government agency. Stealing a car normally needs you to get the key off the owner (theft of cars dropped an order of magnitude instantly when immobilisers appeared). If your doctor thinks you are a danger to the public behind the wheel, they (in most countries) have a legal duty to tell that government agency, who will take away your privilege of driving for the safety of the general public. And if you drive dangerously, both your privilege of driving and your vehicle can be taken away. And even then, killing people is harder than you'd think, because governments have insisted on car companies designing their vehicles to reduce the damage they'd cause when they hit a pedestrian.

If guns in the US had anything like this level of controls, they would not be the biggest killer of young people in the US.

You can make your ANFO bomb, too. Except that bulk orders of AN are checked these days, because we all know about what the IRA, Tim McVeigh and other terrorists did with it.

Knives? Limited success rate even against civilians - the guy on London Bridge was stopped by one guy wielding a fire extinguisher and another guy with a narwhal tusk, and he was down before the police shot him.

When management went nuclear on an innocent software engineer

GrahamRJ

Re: nice story

Re the waste, the most persistent waste is plutonium isotopes. The reason the UK has so much of it is that fast breeder reactors can use it as fuel, so other countries shipping us their waste would essentially have been powering the UK for free. But more stocks of uranium were found, and various environmental groups went batsh*t about building more reactors, so the UK government decided it would be easier just to sit on the stuff. One of these days we might get something done with it.

Aside from plutonium, the rest have relatively low halflives. We're also not short of *really* deep mines where the stuff could be stashed, and vitrification is very effective at stopping it going wandering about.

Boeing's Starliner CST-100 on its way to the ISS 2 years late

GrahamRJ

Re: Just the two failures then..

You've heard about Boeing's 737-MAX debacle? I wouldn't stake too much on that hope, especially if I was part of the payload.

Seriously, you do not want to make that cable your earth

GrahamRJ

They've probably upped their charges since then too.

By the way, you know what you call a baby electronic component that doesn't want its nappy changing? A pullup resistor...

Logitech Pop: Stylish, portable, but far from the best typing experience

GrahamRJ

Why is extra clickiness a good thing?

I've just recently sprung for a Corsair K70 at home with Cherry MX Brown keyswitches, since the latest work-provided Logitech was tragically awful. When I'm working at speed, I really wouldn't want anything louder than the existing snare-drum-roll volumes, so I'm not sure what the appeal is of the Blue keyswitches *designed* to be more noisy. Just on a plain old membrane keyboard, I actually had a coworker throw a strop and refuse to sit near me because I was, quote, "typing too loud". I used an AT keyboard for a while which I salvaged from a recycling bin, but the noise from that was always something to put up with rather than a positive benefit.

A tactile response on your fingers, sure - I'm well into that. But a louder audible click? If you need to listen for the click before you know you've pressed a key, you aren't a good enough typist to recognise a difference between a Cherry MX anything and an Amazon Basics knock-off of a ZX Spectrum keyboard.

NASA's modified Boeing 747 SP SOFIA to be grounded for good

GrahamRJ

Wrong name

So we had something big, flying, with a 5 year mission to seek out (if it could see them) new life and new civilisations...

Hmm, what should we call it?

Your AI can't tell you it's lying if it thinks it's telling the truth. That's a problem

GrahamRJ

Re: It's not the AI that needs fixed

My gran had a wolfskin coat. (I never asked about red riding hoods.) Don't confuse a feeling of superiority with getting a different outcome.

Debugging source is even harder when you can't stop laughing at it

GrahamRJ

Warning names

This is in our current code, and frankly I'm quite pleased with it.

Our equipment uses plain-text commands to tell it to move things around and store settings. We needed to be able to erase settings as well though. At the time we had no protection against customers seeing our internal-use-only commands, and we weren't sure that production wouldn't do something silly either.

The erase command is therefore called "stage.calibration.full-erase-of-entire-eeprom-with-no-undo-be-very-sure-before-doing-this".

Our kit has been in production for 9 years now, and so far no-one has unintentionally erased settings. I'd say that's a win.

RIP: Creators of the GIF and TRS-80

GrahamRJ

Bah. Johnson, Pepys, Newton, Hooke and Dryden all drank coffee. If it was good enough for them, it's good enough for me. I prefer a drink that tastes of something.

Chill out to the sounds of an expert typing on a variety of mechanical keyboards

GrahamRJ

IBM keyboard

I retrieved an old IBM keyboard from the "dead PC bits" at the tip, around 99-00, attached to a 286 PC. It was utterly filthy and it had a full-sized DIN connector, but it still worked. I took it completely apart, washed all the mechanical bits in the sink and gave the PCB a judicious spritz, and it worked for the next 10 years. By far it's the best keyboard I've ever used.

Eventually a couple of keys gave up and a couple more were iffy. I did consider whether I could desolder some less-frequently-used keys and swap them around, but realistically I had to admit it had had a good innings and it was time to call time on it.

Behold, Eclipse's open-source software defined vehicle project

GrahamRJ

Open-source and safety-related? Hard nope!

I used to write software for car engine controllers, including Ford's first hybrid. On that, I personally designed the safety-checking feature which made sure the main controls didn't randomly command whatever it wanted, and pulled the plug if anything went sideways. I had a team of up to 6 engineers in my company on implementation and testing, and in Ford we had 2 guys liaising with the rest of the Ford team. We had access to testbed vehicles as needed, and a test track to check things safely at speed. We reckoned on around 10% of our time on coding, 20% or so on design and requirements capture, 20% of time on reviewing the design and code, and the remaining 50% of time on testing and reviewing the test specs.

Why is this important? Well, because an electric motor can kick off at full chat any time the software says so, regardless of what the driver does. We can't even guarantee that the mechanical brakes are strong enough to hold back the electric motor. And we can't even guarantee that turning the key off will cut the motor either. So a hybrid or SUV needs its software to be *at least* as reliable as an ABS system.

Can I see Eclipse doing this? Can anyone spell "hell no"?

For that matter though, can I see Toyota and Tesla doing this? Also "hell no". We actually used the Prius powertrain (just uprated for an SUV) and we wondered how Toyota kept throwing out new features so quickly. Then the lawsuit happened, and the answer is that Toyota simply skipped all that design, reviewing and testing. I *really* doubt Tesla are doing any better. This worries me, to say the least.

BOFH: You say goodbye and I say halon

GrahamRJ

Re: Great murder choice.

As a (relatively inexperienced) diver, the main theory elements for each qualification are the new and interesting ways you can kill yourself with the new combinations of gas, depth and time. So that people can get familiarised with what these actually feel like, diving clubs rent hyperbaric chambers from NHS hospitals to run so-called "dry dives" where they put you through those scenarios without actually being at risk of drowning. (And not coincidentally, also somewhere with a lot of doctors in very close proximity.)

Somebody is destined for somewhere hot, and definitely not Coventry

GrahamRJ

Microchip microcontrollers

I remember when word-of-mouth got round that NCSA Mosaic (I never figured out how to drive it) on our Solaris network had been supplemented with Netscape Navigator (then still unversioned, because v1), and you could use Yahoo! or Lycos to search for stuff. Links to the US averaged 50 *bytes* per second at busy times during the day, but you could get as fast as 1MB per second at night.

But even in those early days, smut was pretty front and centre. As an electronic engineering student in the mid-90s, I inevitably used Microchip PIC microcontrollers for projects because they were cheap and fairly well supported by the community. So of course I went looking for other people's source code I could reuse - and I brought up a search engine and typed in "pics". Let's just say the page titles that came up were not what you want shown on a large screen in a busy computer lab.

Good news: Jeff Bezos went to space. Bad news: He's back

GrahamRJ

Re: Congrats ...

Not just for astronaut training. Funk was also refused a pilot job by all airlines - and then refused access to the Shuttle programme because she hadn't had a job as a test pilot.

UK spends £36m on 18 little 'bullet-proof' boats to protect Royal Navy assets

GrahamRJ

Neal Stephenson was here first

"See, I told you they'd listen to Reason."

Imagine surviving WW3, rebuilding computers, opening up GitHub's underground vault just to relive JavaScript

GrahamRJ

Apologies to Percy Bysshe Shelley

I met an engineer with an antique plan

Who said, “Two vast and trunkless archives of Git

Sat on the backup drive. Near it, on the wall,

Half torn, a readme printout lies, whose text,

And wrinkled paper, and sneer of cold command-line,

Tell that its author well those manuals read

Which yet survive, stamped on these pointless things,

The hand that typed them, and the drive that sped;

And on the printout, these words appear:

My Github is 0zym4nd145, Coder of Coders;

Look on my l33t Works, ye Mighty, and despair!

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal disk store, crashed and burnt,

The lone and level tunnel floors stretch far away."

Anyone for a round of Ging Gang Goolie? Solar Orbiter probe snaps little 'campfires' flickering on Sun's surface

GrahamRJ

Ging Gang Goolie not on campfire list these days

I've just had a "virtual Cub Camp" on Zoom with my son and his Cubs pack, one part of which was the traditional sing-song, led partly by the leaders and partly by the Sixers. (My son acquitted himself well with Alice the Camel; the other kids clearly hadn't learnt their songs though.) But no Ging Gang Goolie, unfortunately. I don't know whether it's the "goolie" part which makes it unfashionable.

(I was up for leading "He jumped without a parachute", but they never asked the parents. Which was a shame. OTOH I suppose it stops a pissed-up parent rolling out a Macc Lads song or something like that, so fair play.)

You're testing them wrong: Whiteboard coding interviews are 'anti-women psychological stress examinations'

GrahamRJ

As an embedded software engineer, I certainly do use whiteboard exercises (actually more usually done on paper). Since we're working with C, I have a standard question for inserting values in a sorted linked list - easy to explain, but with a few corner cases which need to be spotted. As a matter of course, I give them 15 minutes or so on their own for it, because I know that trying to perform with people watching. I'm up-front with them that the purpose is not to have perfect answers to all the questions, it's to use the questions to have a technical conversation.

If they do the whole thing perfectly, then great. More usually, I'll ask "what happens if you get this?" and then it's a case of seeing how they deal with fault-finding for an input they hadn't anticipated. If they get stuck, I'll lead them with hints to help them solve it. The aim is very much to reduce the pressure on them and make the exercise more collaborative.

Before that, I have a few more basic questions which establish that the interviewee has actually used C in anger. Some are a little specific to embedded, so if the interviewee doesn't know, I'll explain what they mean and see if they can think of a context they'd be useful.

As far as sexism goes though, IMO that's already happened before anyone walks in the door. I've reviewed CVs for dozens of people, and I've had precisely one woman's CV sent to me. My uni course had 110 guys and 4 women. If women aren't doing subjects which lead to engineering at school, and they aren't taking engineering at uni, we won't have female engineers on the other side. I've known a few bloody good female engineers in my 25 years in industry, and I never saw any male engineer look down on them. A few managers and sales-drones have, mind you, but there's tended to be push-back if that happens.

NASA trusted 'traditional' Boeing to program its Starliner without close supervision... It failed to dock due to bugs

GrahamRJ

The redundancy in that case was provided by the Russians and Soyuz.

Trump's bright idea of kicking out foreign students unless unis resume in-person classes stuns tech, science world

GrahamRJ

Re: PSA

You mean the gun nuts in Michigan, perhaps? They certainly like Trump.

Oh, you mean the people protesting against black people being killed with impunity by the police? It's an interesting idea to call anti-racism "fascist", but not exactly founded in reality.

A real loch mess: Navy larks sunk by a truculent torpedo

GrahamRJ

Re: Kids Toys

My gran had a load of Bayko. I used to love playing with that. When she died, it all went to ours and sat in the loft. I raided some of the metal rods for my Warhammer 40,000 figures, because I needed something for the standard bearers' flags to hang on, and it was hard to find 1mm hardened steel rods.

My son now plays with it occasionally at my folks' place when he visits. Things go around...

Baby Diesel? Little d'Artagnan? There is another child of Musk in the world

GrahamRJ

Follow the naming convention for landing-pad ships

... and use the names of Ian M Banks "Culture" ships. I would particularly suggest:-

Little Rascal

Youthful Indiscretion

Sweet and Full of Grace

Although given the number of other kids he has, perhaps:-

Someone Else's Problem

Bezos to the Moon: Blue Origin joins SpaceX and Dynetics in a three-horse lunar lander race

GrahamRJ

Not so much. It's easy enough to fall back to a rope ladder, or even just a rope - remember that there's only 1/6G on the Moon, so it's only the equivalent of lifting a 15kg load. Somewhat tiring if you have to do all day, to be sure, but nothing too impossible.

Brit magistrates' courts turn to video conferencing to keep wheels of justice turning

GrahamRJ

Misreading

Somehow I read that as the "Kinky Cloud Video Platform". I was wondering about how the judges' sexual preferences were relevant, the presence of bars, cells, chains and handcuffs notwithstanding.

International space station connects 100Mbps symmetric space laser ethernet using Sony optical disc tech

GrahamRJ

Re: Nice technology

The point for space applications of course is that there isn't a lot of fog, rain and snow out there. It's less of a demonstrator for an Earth-to-satellite link, and more for higher-bandwidth links to, say, Mars or the Moon.

GrahamRJ

Unless they've got transparent space suits, there's not going to be a right lot to see.

Jeff Bezos tells shareholders to buckle up: Amazon to blow this quarter's profits and more on coronavirus costs

GrahamRJ

Re: The drop in profits

This is nothing that hasn't already been said since the invention of the Spinning Jenny in 1764. If you want to protest against industrial automation, I'm afraid you're 250 years late to that particular party.

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