* Posts by Electronics'R'Us

322 posts • joined 13 Jul 2018


Windows 11 comes bearing THAAS, Trojan Horse as a service

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Start at boot

$COMPANY installed Teams on all work computers some months ago.

The default setting was for teams to launch at boot, but this is somewhat annoying.

I work from home most of the time and the start sequence is Bitlocker -> AUP screen -> user name -> password and somewhere in that sequence it will usually pick up the WiFi but critically it is not yet connected to the VPN.

When it did this the first time, it went full screen and complained about the connectivity and crucially was interfering with the remote client which is actually something I do want to start immediately when it sees a network available.

I shut it down (of course, the default setting is for it to remain running available in the 'hidden icons' so I killed it from there).

Only then could I actually use the secure client to log in to the VPN.

I adjusted the settings as soon as I found where they were: Do not automatically start and do not remain running when I click 'close'.

You know, what normal operation of any application should be.

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The browser became part of the OS with Exploder via a service pack (and it silently installed itself with AOL).

The is no reason whatever for the browser to be a part of the OS; it is an application, not a core OS component.

If M$ wants to have rendering library that is available for any application that chooses to use it, fine. Embedding the browser (an application, remember) into the kernel is nothing short of both stupid and evil.

Bill Gates famously said that using any browser other than IE should be very painful and that was one of the things that got them into trouble.

So if I want to use the provided browser, fine. Do not force me to use it (as it does even now from windows search).

The OS should provide services for any application designed to run on top of it.

End of story.

Gung-ho tank gamer spills classified docs in effort to win online argument

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Re: You are... not me

The MOD routinely over-classifies documents.

True story. One of the bases I was stationed at would stamp the newspapers 'Restricted'.

Although it is certainly the case that the OSA applies to 'Restricted' (now 'Official'), classifying documents appropriately might also be a welcome thing.

Iffy voltage: The plague of PC builders and Hubble space telescope controllers alike

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Power supply capacitors

The vast majority of silicon regulators require both input and output capacitors.

The various types each have their own issues, but Sprague wet tantalums are likely to be in the mix somewhere given the years in which this was designed (Sprague is sadly no more). There could be any number of types (mylar was popular as it is dimensionally stable over temperature).

Without knowing the details, it seem this regulator is providing power to all the instruments and therefore as loads are switched in and out there will be thermal differentials. It is due to the load step response (along with loop stability) that output capacitors are required. I can't go into that any further without sending half the audience to sleep defining poles and zeros.

Note that electronic loads are not constant so there will be almost continuous output current variations; local capacitors should take care of that but anything within the loop bandwidth of the regulator should be taken care of by the regulator output capacitors.

Input capacitors are required under just about any circumstances I can imagine.

Given the time it was designed, it may well be a discrete design which means more components. More components = greater chance of failure.

Something else that can give issues is the internal reference voltage source - you cannot have an effective regulator without one.

Back in the day that would probably be a Zener (possibly a bandgap reference although they were not particularly common until about the late 80s) and such devices are just as susceptible to ageing as anything else electronic.

So there could be a number of different culprits.

Cyberlaw experts: Take back control. No, we're not talking about Brexit. It's Automated Lane Keeping Systems

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I have a vehicle that has ALKS which has never been engaged. If I am not able to maintain the correct lane, then I should stop and get some rest (unfortunately, not everyone thinks that way).

Having been in the technology business for over half a century, I am naturally highly sceptical of 'breakthrough' technology as it usually isn't. I am also highly sceptical of autonomous anything.

There are some autonomous vehicles in appropriate settings where the traffic density is low enough to permit such operation and / or where the hazards to a human operator are very high. That is one of the reasons that autonomous (sometimes semi-autonomous) minehunters have been developed among other things. There are autonomous (very large) trucks used at mining operations but that is hardly a high traffic density zone.

New technology though?

ABS? They may be electronic now, but they were fitted to aircraft designed in the 50s which although mechanical had the same underlying mode of operation.

Regenerative braking? That was in use in South Africa (railways) at least 50 years ago. Trains were timed so as to have one going down a steep incline while another was going up. The train going down fed electricity back into the local power section so the train going up had enough energy available. My power electrical lecturer waxed lyrical about it in the early 70s.

Lane keeping at it's simplest is not rocket science; there are lots of problems to contend with, though, particularly in reduced visibility.

There are some useful pieces of technology in the vehicle, though; it is an automatic and when I am going down an incline and I brake moderately hard, the system will automatically downshift me to the lowest appropriate gear which is very useful in the rather hilly terrain around here.

Then there are things that have uses in some countries but are a waste of space and resources in the UK; cruise control comes to mind. For the most part, trying to use cruise control in the UK is more effort than it is worth. I found it very useful in the USA, though.

I have yet to see any real breakthroughs for road vehicles.

Facial-recognition technology gets a smack in the chops from civil rights campaigners

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Re: Customer Service

When I go to a supermarket I am a 'man on a mission'.

I am not there to browse; it's not an antiques shop or some other place where I may well be interested in just looking around. I want to get in, get what is on my list and look at some things that may be of interest, and get out.

When things get moved around, I don't bother looking for the item(s) - I just go somewhere else where I can buy the item(s) at much the same price without the hassle of searching a very large store for the new 'hiding place'.

If they have moved it to the ready made meals aisle then they are definitely not going to get the sale. We haven't had a 'ready made' meal in over 20 years.

So don't move stuff around if they want me to buy the things I usually get.

Now, we have 'loyalty' cards which can be abused but as I spread my shopping across at least 4 supermarkets (and none of them use Nectar which is used by a lot of retailers) so none of them get the overall picture.

One supermarket actually sends me money off vouchers for things that I actually usually buy which is not the case for most of them.

Arm chief hits out at 'ill-informed speculation' over proposed Nvidia buyout

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I have had the misfortune to work with Nvidia in the past. I thought Vitesse was difficult to work with (the first time I had seen an NDA attached to data sheets and reference manuals) but Nvidia takes the cake.

Secrecy is in the DNA of Nvidia - it is pervasive. That is a fairly standard position of GPU makers and understandable to an extent, but it flies in the face of the historical position of ARM.

I cannot see how this would not be anti-competitive.

Let's see.

Licencing costs - increase? Given the Nvidia culture I think that is definitely possible.

Move ARM out of the UK? I can see that too; moving the HQ to the USA would give Nvidia far more freedom to rape and pillage.

This statement really caught my eye: "This transaction opens up access to even more innovation that the entire semiconductor industry can harness."

Open up access? That is the direct opposite of the Nvidia model. Luckily I was not drinking coffee when I read it.

Battery recycling boosted by dentist-style ultrasonics, if manufacturers can cooperate

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Re: This is news

If the WEEE directive was properly enforced (might need amending) then the cost of recycling really would fall on the manufacturer.

That said, this type of legislation would need to be passed in many countries for it to be meaningful.

As it is, many companies buy insurance or have a deal with a (often shady) third party to make sure the paperwork is all in place.

Said third party often goes out of business before any recycling is actually necessary; paperwork is all in order, so guess what happens.

I agree that the way to get industry to 'cooperate' is to make sure the cost of recycling falls on them in a way that cannot be avoided.

Hubble memory errors persist despite NASA booting long-idle backup payload computer

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Re: I wonder if ...

On top of that - assuming they are still in the industry - they will have moved on to more modern electronics so may not actually be as well versed as the current team are anyway.

You seem to be assuming that moving on to more modern electronics means they don't remember the older stuff, but that is not the way it works (for me, at least).

I have been moving to 'more modern' electronics for decades but I can still remember the details of the (much) older stuff I worked on 50 years ago; the modern stuff builds upon the knowledge of the older stuff. There are newer methods of achieving the same results (software defined radio comes to mind) but doing a radio with purely analogue electronics is still perfectly achievable although there may be limitations (in both instances here).

I did my first multi-gigabit switch over 20 years ago; the underlying rules for that and more modern parts are the same but there are details that are not that important at lower speeds that can be major issues as the speeds become faster. These types of issues are not confined to modern processors - as an example, modern switching power supplies are a very different beast today although the functionality (from a top level perspective) is the same.

Layout has certainly changed over the years; what was appropriate in the 80s (with 70s and 80s era parts) is not appropriate for newer parts but that is because the newer parts have to be dealt with in context of their I/O speeds, not because the underlying physics has changed.

I currently work with very modern microcontrollers but I also work with a decades old radar system and I am quite comfortable with both.

It is perfectly possible that the original designers (and those who developed the various hacks over the years) have retired or even passed on but that is why documenting the design thoroughly (very likely more in depth for something designed in the 80s than present) is incredibly important.

Anyone still using cash? British £50 banknote honouring Alan Turing arrives

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Yesterday for me as well.

Had to pay the chimney sweep for the annual cleaning.

Tomorrow when I pay the handyman who does garden chores.

There are a lot of very god reasons to use cash, not least that the card operators take a cut. Using cash means that the small retailers I use actually get to keep all of it (apart from the VAT I had to pay).

South Korea bans 1700 tech products for using forged test reports

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The paperwork really matters

There are a number of compliance tests and the issue is that the place doing the testing can be audited.

In the UK, audits and accreditation are performed by UKAS.

If a company did this with goods for sale in the EU (which require a CE marking) they would be in very big trouble. Although CE is a self certification system you are required to provide compliance evidence if it is demanded by the relevant authorities.

Non compliance can get products removed from the market although manufacturers are usually given a chance to prove compliance; a lot of them might not because the process is expensive.

The facilities in China are not necessarily audited to the satisfaction of other countries which is possibly one of the reasons China is not a signatory to the agreement.

Not being a signatory means that the paperwork cannot be accepted because the quality of the actual work done cannot be shown to be adequate,

Systemd 249 release candidate includes better support for immutable OSes and provisioning images

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Re: SystemDicks

I'll just assume SystemD is installed

Assuming that any resource is installed (apart from the essentials, of which systemd is definitely not) is lazy and poor programming.

That is hardly new; I have seen embedded systems where card inits (in a compact PCI rack) did not return error codes so I updated the code with the addition of a status word and as it went through each part of the initialisation it cleared the status bit associated with it. That was over 20 years ago with the target running LynxOS. My host was running Solaris.

Prior to that being implemented no-one could tell just what had not come up properly as subsequent commands to the system simply returned an error.

If the status word for the entire initialisation (I used a 32 bit word as it was easily sufficient for the specific needs I had) was non-zero it was trivial to find out where the init broke.

That code took me all of a day or so to write including learning the 'not for the faint of heart' ioctl(). Good investment in time from my perspective as I was one of the poor sods who had to figure out what was not working.

Decent software should handle errors gracefully and have clear error / status reporting.

It should also not, tentacle like, try and be more than the minimum necessary.

Want to keep working in shorts and flipflops way after this is all over? It could be time to rethink your career moves

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My landline 'broadband' struggles to get to 1Mbit and that just doesn't cut it for online meetings where screens are being shared. The company has certainly raised the game with network bandwidth so I requested a cellular data connection which was approved without any hassle at all. They will also pay for office furniture for those who need it.

It is a rolling monthly contract that the company pays (I never see a bill).

Netgear AirCard. Works a treat.

Amusingly, even though I am in deepest rural southeast Cornwall, because I live on top of a hill I get really great network coverage.

On the WFH front, it looks like that will be my primary location with the (very) occasional office site visit for those times where you really can't beat getting everyone around a table. That works for me as I have a home office.

I log off at normal time and I do not check / respond to emails outside of my normal working hours unless it is an urgent project (most aren't).

I realise that the water cooler moments don't happen but the team feels free to contact me whenever they have an issue and we turn cameras on because the non verbal clues are so important.

Works for some - for others, not so much. I have great sympathy for the younger members of the team (recent grads and young married couples with small kids come to mind) who are trying to get stuff done in a converted bedroom (if there was a spare in the first place) or in a shared areas which is apparently common for some recent grads.

Do you come from a land Down Under? Where diesel's low and techies blunder

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Re: Alternative steps

Some years ago (about 2005 or so) I was working in the automotive third party business and we had a contract with one of the large waste disposal companies in the UK.

They were using a lot more diesel than they should be (big trucks but even so...) so a bright individual came up with an idea to fit a RFID tag at the fuel cap of each of their vehicles and put a reader on the fuel nozzle.

The reasoning was that the pump would only operate if it read a valid tag so we implemented the system for them such that a hash of the tag was available from what was basically a password hash file.

Diesel consumption went down by about 25% almost immediately.

No points for guessing who were most put out by the new improved fuel delivery system.

The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The best time to build a semiconductor foundry is 5 years ago

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Re: True for some parts

These fabs are smaller and have no need to go to a new process node until they update the equipment.

Going to a smaller process node does not preclude making 65nm (or larger) parts; that is simply the smallest feature size supported.

They are mostly owned by the vendors (TI, Analog devices, Spansion, Hitachi etc) who are still pumping out 68HC devices in some cases.

TI is still making 741 opamps (originally released by Fairchild in 1963!).

No doubt it is on a newer process node, but the specifications compared to a modern device are pretty rough but if you have a circuit that was proven with them (there are lots of those still around) then that is what you will need to buy.

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True for some parts

The high performance processors (CPU / GPU) are definitely affected due to a lack of investment, but there are far more devices made and sold than those.

Those parts aren't sexy but a processor, memory and a GPU alone do not a computer make (well, not a very useful one anyway).

There are the parts in the power supply (and with modern parts we have gone to local point of load converters due to the very high core currents required; as core voltages go down, the current goes up for the same power) which is difficult to distribute, to say the least.

I remember designing a 1.8V 30A point of load converter almost 20 years ago and I had to use what is known as remote sense (you sense the voltage at the device you are powering) because even using very heavy copper and multiple layers, I still had voltage drops over a few inches of about a quarter of a volt.

That was not the highest current regulator I designed; 100A at 1.2V still haunts my dreams.

Then there are workhorse parts such as configuration memory, peripheral controllers and the like.

In the wider market there are parts that are simply not suitable for a 7nm process (it is believed that the smallest feature size for NOR flash is 65nm to get decent yields for example although there is nothing stopping a 7nm line from producing them but it seems like a waste of a top end fab line). Parts such as ADCs, DACs, ethernet PHYs and the like sell many more parts than processors and GPUs combined and the fabs that make them are churning this stuff out day in and day out.

So the shortage is for the latest and greatest parts on very tiny nodes (FPGAs included although I am not sure I want to pay upwards of $2K for a single part).

There doesn't currently seem to be a shortage of all those essential but often forgotten parts.

'Vast majority of people' are onside with a data grab they know next to nothing about, reckons UK health secretary

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It is crap like this...

That pushed me to opt out of the organ donor register.

When it was opt in (as it used to be) I thought it would be a wonderful thing to donate my organs in the event of an untimely issue (although at my age I am not sure they would have many more years in them anyway) but when it changed to opt out (if you don't opt out then we can just take them) I went and opted out.

There were all the 'do you really, really want to opt out"? messages of course.

They asked for a reason (for feedback purposes natch). I simply wrote:

I am not a chattel of the state.

Had to change my driving licence (had to do it twice as the first time did not change the status with a strongly worded letter to the effect of 'I deliberately stated I am NOT an organ donor. Please remove it from the licence')

I have already opted out of this one as well. Funny that Matt Hancock thinks so many people are on side; everyone I explain it to is horrified at the thought of their most private information ending up in the hands of some unscrupulous data fetishist in an insurance company or some other company that will be handing out directorships (as we all know it eventually will).

Oracle hits UK reseller with lawsuit for allegedly reselling grey market Sun hardware

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Restrictions of forward sale

The only law I know of in the USA that can prevent someone from selling something they have paid for is ITAR and even then it only restricts sales to specified countries (and sometimes individuals).

Long story as to why I am familiar with it. Amusingly, if someone in the UK buys ITAR listed equipment, it is considered a re-export if it has to go back to the USA for any reason and needs an export licence. It then needs a new USA export licence to be returned to its owner. Madness.

Seems like Big Red wants to try and force people to buy only new kit (and if they are sourcing from the grey market, I don't think that's going to happen) for which they can then stiff their sales people out of the commission they should have earned.

Going to be interesting.

The common factor in all your failed job applications: Your CV

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I have been on both sides of this fence.

For a while I was completely freelance and my primary client was building an 'electronics and software capability'. They had one, but it was mainly in India. They needed to build it in the UK (primarily so they could work with companies that required security clearances).

As part of that, I was the second human (well, I claim to be one, anyway) reviewer and as I have been in this business (electronics, software, FPGAs) for a long time it was fairly easy for me to figure out who was going to make the cut; one thing that put me off (and one of the client's clients) was spelling mistakes and poor grammar.

Now that may seem harsh, but the tools we have today can do spelling checks and hint at grammatical issues. Your CV is telling me a story; make it flow a bit so I can see how you have progressed, learned new things, implemented interesting (or totally uninteresting - it might well be applicable).

On the other side of the fence, I have not had to write a completely new CV for over 20 years although I have had 5 different jobs for 5 different companies in that time. I did tailor it a bit but that took pretty minimal effort. It also meant I could make sure that all my latest experience was up to date.

On ageism: yes, it exists. I have been ghosted quite a few times after recruiters / companies figured out my age but I wouldn't want to work for a company like that anyway.

To get all the keywords in, my CV is (of necessity) quite long but it gets past the keyword search for jobs I might actually be interested in.

Electronics is somewhat different to IT when it comes to recruitment, especially at senior levels.

I have seen my share of 'we only want an Oxbridge graduate' which was a warning that they weren't looking for someone with the right skills but where they got their degree. I have seen many people with advanced degrees from Ivy League colleges who had zero common sense.

As it happens, I do not have a degree, but I have done many things that the younger crowd haven't (yet) simply due to being exposed to so many technologies (I can easily read a schematic with discrete transistors such as RF detectors, for instance). I have also had a lot of opportunities to becomes more educated and better at the jobs I have done and I make sure that is clear in my CV.

In my experience, a degree is useful in many contexts, but any degree I would have done would have lost a great deal of relevance (although I like to point out to some who think only the new shiny matters that we have not yet repealed Ohm's Law).

I had a small test (just a few questions really) at the latest place that were actually reasonable considering the role I had been invited to apply for. I know that puts some people off, but it was pretty simple stuff.

Keywords are important but so is the narrative; far more important, apparently, than the 'keep your CV short' mantra at least in my experience.

I got the latest position at the age of 66, incidentally. Some places do value the experience that brings.

Why did automakers stall while the PC supply chain coped with a surge? Because Big Tech got priority access

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Different types of supply chain

Well, not in overall structure, but the details matter.

Vehicle manufacturers are integrators. They buy fully assembled and tested electronics from suppliers and they only pay for them after they are delivered in the majority of cases. This has close parallels in the world of avionics where the manufacturer (Boeing, Airbus, Embraer for instance) simply specify what the electronics must do and how it interfaces and then buys boxes that do that.

Those suppliers are given a forecast by the manufacturers and adjust their forecasts accordingly. These forecasts are usually measured in many months. The suppliers are not going to keep many months of inventory on the shelf simply because the costs are high and the margins very thin, so increasing the forecast can take several months to achieve a new level of deliveries.

That leads to one of the major differences: Apple / Samsung et. al. have their devices completely made at one or more subcontract house and Apple (for example) has complete control over the entire device and their subcontractors then place orders for literally millions of parts, unlike vehicle manufacturers and their suppliers each of whom may be ordering perhaps a few thousand parts at a time.

So the suppliers to the vehicle manufacturers each have an even lower volume of parts they will use compared to the PC/laptop/phone markets so they are even lower on the silicon device food chain.

The Home Office will need to overturn a long legacy of failure to achieve ambition of all-digital border by 2025

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Re: Curious

One of the problems is that the only people who are really inconvenienced are the law abiding.

A lot of these proof of identity checks are required by money laundering laws. When I came back to the UK in 2004 (having lived and worked in the USA for 22 years) I had to live with family until I had 3 months worth of utility bills (for a business phone, as it happens) before I could even contemplate renting.

I dislike statists such as Priti Patel and the estate agents I dealt with were pretty much in her mould (more's the pity). If there were a method that is not tied to a government database I might be tempted to try it, but knowing the UK governments of past and present (and these issues have been around for a lot longer than some might think) that isn't going to fly.

I got a new bank account relatively easily, but only because I had one with that outfit in the past.

The people that the government claims they are targeting (money launderers primarily) are usually way ahead of this game.

In intelligence parlance, they create legends where bank accounts, work history, driving licences, utility bills (and $whatever) are all acquired over the years so they have all the necessary documentation as soon as they walk into the country (on a passport with the name in question).

For them, it is not a problem at all.

In China, the Smart TV watches you, shares IP address, Wi-Fi SSIDs, viewing habits, and more

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Big Brother

Re: The smart TV watches you wherever you are in the world

Best not to plug the damn thing into the Internet.


It's a TV. I don't use streaming services (the broadband out here would have to buffer probably overnight).

My sky box nags asks me to connect to a router when it is powered on and I never do. It has been connected to a phone line once and only once at initial setup as that is a required step.

It can scan all it wants but as I physically turn my router off when I don't need it, it will be nicely contained within the confines of my home. As my nearest neighbour is about 400 yards away their router sometimes shows up on the list but not very often.

I recently got a new TV which has dozens of apps that splash on the screen at startup, which gets quickly turned off.

To TV manufacturers: If I wanted an internet connected data slurper, I would buy one. Stick to rendering the image.


Appeals court nixes online blueprint sharing ban on 3D-printed 'ghost guns'

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Re: Why bother with 3D printing

I lived (mostly quite happily) in the USA for over 20 years. Politically, it is a very different country than the UK.

I found the Constitution fascinating; in just a few pages you have the basis for just about every law in the USA. Compare that to any other country where I doubt you will find anything more concise (except perhaps China where it seems the only basis of law is 'the CCP tells you what to do and you obey').

Before the Constitution was ratified (and it would not have been had what we now know as the bill of rights not been guaranteed to be at least presented) there were many publications taking both sides (the federalist papers come to mind) on guns and indeed just about everything else in what was to be the foundation of all law in the USA.

One argument (among many) was that an armed citizenry would tend to keep the government in check. Looking at the norms of the time, that was actually a pretty good argument.

Side note: the bill of rights was not applied to the states until after the reconstruction amendments (13, 14 and 15).

The first proposed 12 amendments (of which 10 were shortly thereafter ratified and now collectively known as the bill of rights - another was ratified in the late 1980s IIRC) contained the 2nd amendment and needs to be read in the context of the time when individual gun ownership was quite reasonable and necessary.

The problem, though, is that it is exceedingly difficult to remove an amendment (it is the same process as adding one) so unless the 2nd amendment is altered (requires the same effort as removal) then the existing laws won't change which means that gun ownership is a birthright in the USA. Not all guns, mind - fully automatic weapons are regulated.

As an amendment to the constitution requires 2/3 of the several states to ratify it for it to actually make it into the constitution, this is simply not going to happen. The rural and southern states simply would not be on board for the very good reason that the population tends to be more conservative in those states. Note that this means it is not the number of people who want it - each state has an equal vote on constitutional amendments and that is in fact written into the constitution.

That said, there have been some attempts to regulate weapons over the years with varying degrees of success.

In the mid 1980s (in Florida FWIW) my then father-in-law was an avid hunter (the only way to get venison at the time, incidentally) and asked if I wanted to come along. I duly went to a gun show in the fine city of Lakeland and bought a 12 gauge shotgun and a 30.06 rifle without a question asked.

I don't think that is possible today.

I will note that I spent almost 12 years on active service in the UK military and in fact first fired a Lee Enfield .303 at the tender age of 14.

Railing about the number of guns in the USA is unlikely to get you (or anyone else for that matter)anywhere. Look up the NRA.

Oh - the politics thing. Under Bill Clinton (and indeed any previous democrat administration) the country was centrist (for the USA). The centrism of those times would be viewed in the UK as somewhere to the right of Attila the Hun.

Food for thought.

BadAlloc: Microsoft looked at memory allocation code in tons of devices and found this one common security flaw

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Re: Need trapping

At the hardware level, all integers are signed. Whether the ALU result flags are checked is another matter.

Overflow is raised by the ALU when the addition of two positive values results in a negative value or the addition of two negative values results in a positive value (i.e. the result sign bit is not valid).

Note that 0xFFFFFFFF is -1 in a signed regime, so adding 8 to it results in 7.

As malloc() takes a single argument, then sanity checking is up to the programmer. It would be nice if malloc only accepted signed values but that would require a redefinition of size_t which is not going to happen.

For the rare times in embedded I actually use dynamic allocation (for small and bare metal systems it's use is actively discouraged) I have my own wrapper that does overflow and sanity checks.

Vote to turf out remainder of Nominet board looks inevitable after .uk registry ignores reform demands

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Re: "Nominet’s board has dug in and effectively dared their own members to force them out"

We need the equivalent of RAID.

Spray on and wait for them to...

Joint UK government procurement seeks supplier to support controversial Clean Air Zone system

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Re: What's so controversial?

When these zones are introduced, those with non-conforming vehicles (and probably anyone who is unsure about it as well) will simply drive around it.

This pushes up the concentration of NO2 in the surrounding areas which may have been quite nice until that happens.

It is quite simply completely foreseeable.

When I lived in Thanet, the local outpost of Canterbury Christchurch University decided they would charge everyone (staff and students) to park within their car park with the completely foreseeable result that they all then simply parked on local residential streets that were already jam packed; this simply pushed the problem elsewhere.

Same principal.

Intel offers to produce car chips for automakers stalled by ongoing semiconductor supply drought

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Re: There's no chip shortage!

The automotive industry forecasts their requirements months ahead and orders appropriately.

When the pandemic hit, they re-assessed their forecasts and reduced the forward requirements for parts (chips included). This is actually the automotive industry telling their suppliers (who actually make the electronics) of the new forecast.

Those subs do not want to sit on lots of electronics and so they would have changed their forecasts to their suppliers.

It turned out the forecasts were wrong, but in the meantime the big fabs replaced the (now unnecessary at the time) devices with lower forecast shipping with other devices for other companies. A fab has to operate 24/7 to be really profitable so that is hardly surprising. I can imagine they went to their big customers saying something like "We have capacity to fabricate <some millions> of <your device> if you want to take the opportunity".

As those parts they are now making are probably contractually required at certain dates the automotive industry must now wait until a fab has spare capacity.

There is nothing special about the vast majority of parts used in automotive, incidentally. The only parts that require any special qualification are those in the engine bay, for the most part.

The parts are often a standard part (might be pre-programmed for them, highly likely) that has a cryptic part number unique to the automotive supplier but in reality a lot of it just standard microcontrollers, memory and other devices.

A bit of an own goal, but a warning that supply chains can bite you very hard, very easily.

Changing fabs is a bit of a problem for a lot of devices; TI bought Unitrode in 1999 and agreed to continue using the existing fab for 10 years. After that, they closed the fab and moved production to a more modern fab.

A part that was in a power supply for a particular head up display from the new batches simply did not work after that. The process was different enough that the part had subtly different characteristics.

'Chinese wall'? Who uses 'Chinese wall'? Well, IBM did, and it actually means 'firewall'

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Engineering terminology

In engineering, precise terminology matters a great deal. Wishy washy (because something can apparently be taken as offensive when taken out of context) stuff doesn't cut it when a precise description is required.

That is the reason we have accepted names for many things as those names convey a great deal of information.

If you are going to propose new names you need to show why these new names are just as effective as the ones currently in common use.

In control theory, we talk of servo control of a feedback system (servo has the same root as slave, incidentally). Try suggesting a name that is both widely used and also precisely describes what is being done.

In SPI, we refer to master / slave because that identifies very precisely how it operates.

I am old enough to remember that we used to refer to frequency in terms of cycles per second; this was renamed to Hertz (abbreviated Hz) in 1960 and took about 15 years to catch on widely not because anyone objected to Mr Hertz being honoured by have a unit named after him but because it takes time to collectively agree that a new term is universally understood.

Even if you could come up with new names for these (among the name and alphabet soup that pervades engineering) it would take several years for it to catch on and in the meantime there would be wide confusion over the new terms.

Spelling matters as well, incidentally; it is not elitist to expect correct spelling.

The last thing I need in design is confusion over what a particular term implies.

Some terms are appropriate and have been in use for decades (hosts.allow and hosts.deny were names used in IRIX systems back in the 90s for instance and can, in many cases, replace blacklist and whitelist, but not all).

You want us to use different terms? Then propose them with a full explanation of why they can convey the same very precise meaning as the existing terms rather than sitting around and just being offended on other people's behalf.

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Replacement words

In emacs when deleting a chunk of text*, one gets the perversely rewarding result '240** characters killed'

* The last time I used it, anyway,

** Your number may vary.

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There's another word that has been hijacked by taking one of the many contextual meanings and suggesting it means only that.

One can find discriminating diners; is that offensive to crappy food (or more to the point the people who put it together).

Then there are the discriminating opera lovers (who may find Puccini somewhat gauche - another word that can have some people in a rage),

I am not suggesting that illegal discrimination (choosing something based on a view of a particular person's <skin colour / lifestyle choice here> for whatever reason) should be the norm; what I would like is for these people (who seem to have far too much time on their hands) to understand the nuance of language.

When I choose a software tool I discriminate based on features and price, and that is as it should be.

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Red Team?

Here we go again.

Some things are ok (allow, deny convey the same meaning generally as whitelist and blacklist and have been in use for many years) but a lot of this is utter madness.

So when will the chess associations get involved? "White moves first..."

I have noted elsewhere that the term master / slave in the context of electronics (including device drivers) has a very specific meaning that is not particularly well conveyed by any other 'suggestion' I have seen. In this context it is utilitarian and has no 'racial / socio-economic' connotations at all.

Are the old westerns going to get colourised so that the good guys (in white hats) and the bad guys (in black hats) get some other colour? Can't do blue hats (offensive to smurfs, surely) and can't do red hat (IBM will fling a sueball).

Dear woke idiots: Get a life.

Openreach out and hike prices on legacy fixed-line products: Broadband plumber pulls trigger after Ofcom gives the nod

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Re: it's not private infrastructure

And infrastructure has to be forward looking, the UK Openreach has already been squatting on copper for long enough.


I am on a landline that struggles to get 1 Mb down so I rather think I should not be subsidising those who may already have orders of magnitude better data rates to get even better data rates.

UK terror law reviewer calls for expanded police powers to imprison people who refuse to hand over passwords

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Re: Plausible deniability

Whatever you do, don't change your password to "No comment".

Many years ago, one of the crew wrote DAMIDFK as an aide memoir for a password. When asked what it meant, he replied:

"Don't ask me, I don't fucking know".

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Re: Plausible deniability

Given that any compression algorithm will have, for some inputs, an output that is larger than the input you could really have fun.

So present them with a file that is smaller than the 'compressed' version.

Sit back and watch plod's head implode.

Yes, there's nothing quite like braving the M4 into London on the eve of a bank holiday just to eject a non-bootable floppy

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Re: Scammers and time wasters do blacklist people...

Quite a few years ago when I was living in the USA, I would get the occasional pamphlet (a dreadful end those came to).

One day, a pair of the JWs knocked on the door and I decided to have a bit of fun.

Many years before, I was working in the middle east and I was taught how to speak, read and write Arabic, so I picked up a copy of the Q'ran (in Arabic, of course) to see what all the fuss was about; interesting book, for certain values of interesting.

Anyway, I still had that copy so I said they could tell me about their religion if I could tell them about mine* - the look on their faces when I produced the Q'ran was priceless - after I had translated the name of the book for them which was, after all, in Arabic.

They never called again.

* Not really my religion.

Whatever 'normal' is, global CEOs don't expect to see it return before 2022 and are ploughing funds into security

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Our new normal

The company I am at has confirmed that the way we are currently working will predominate the way we continue. They have gone as far as to significantly beef up the internal network speeds (all those VPN connections were really dragging the system down at first), provide a mobile WiFi dongle for those with crappy landline broadband (such as myself) and any necessary IT kit and even office furniture.

The office space has been converted to 'collaboration spaces'; that means meeting rooms will actually be available for the times it is actually necessary.

We have hired some people that have yet to actually visit the office and are not in commuting range (one new engineering manager lives in Northern Scotland and the office is in Plymouth) and others who live perhaps 2 to 3 hours drive away and it hasn't dented their effectiveness.

That means I work from home unless I actually need to go into the office, usually to see just what problems the hardware we are trying to fix is having (it is very old kit, so all those decades of experience are really useful here).

There are some people who need to be onsite all the time, but with fewer others, it is far safer for them and less noisy as well.

I am aware that this is not the best situation for a lot of people (young families for instance and young graduates who may be in shared accommodation come to mind) but there is an option to go to the office more frequently for people in those circumstances.

I am going into the office this week, for the second time this year and everything still seems to be getting done and product delivered.

Now that half of Nominet's board has been ejected, what happens next? Let us walk you through the possibilities

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The problem

is that once such a culture is entrenched (and it apparently still is, given the whining from the remaining employees who were part of the board), the only way to fix it is to do a truly clean sweep.

I have seen that on more than one occasion in the armed forces (and there is actually a recent event) where an entire unit is disbanded.

A new unit is then formed to take its place with none of the cliques from the old allowed into that new unit (they are dispersed in the rest of the service). This includes the officers who are sometimes given a quiet suggestion that they resign rather than face a court martial depending on the severity of the issue. If your entire old unit is disbanded then there has been a major failure of leadership, at the very least.

I know of at least one occasion where an entire ships company was replaced and the thus displaced personnel dispersed around the rest of the service. I am not advocating that all of Nominet has to go; just the toxic board and any layers of management that have been infected.

Somewhat drastic but it is really the only way to excise the poison of such a culture. It is destabilising in the sense that a completely new board will need to be appointed / voted in but it marks a very clean break with what has been going on for the last few years.

The kids aren't all right: Fall in GCSE compsci students is bad news for employers and Britain's future growth plans

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Re: Regurgitation

I agree that you have a point; it's actually been a circular thing. Lower power - Hmmm, I can do X with that now.

Manufacturers, I can do X, but I need it to last longer. Manufacturer - hmmm, market seems good. Make lower power.

Rinse and repeat.

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The difference


The report uses the terms 'digital skills' in such a muddled way that some clarity is truly welcome.

Have one as it is that time (in the UK anyway).

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This comes up all the time: "We don't have enough people with <your choice of skill here>".

What they should be saying is that they don't have enough people willing to sit through hours of boring crap that will make virtually no difference to their future.

As to 'IT is changing so quickly', I agree with another poster who stated that the new shiny appear (and often disappears) quickly and often and always offering 'a new paradigm'.

I started out in electronics for money over 50 years ago and many, if not all, of the skills I learned then are still relevant today (although you wouldn't know it by looking at the electronics curriculum in many universities).

Certainly we have moved forwards in physics a great deal since then, but the fundamentals have not changed enormously (our understanding of quantum mechanics, on the other hand...).

I am comfortable in perhaps half a dozen languages (which I took the trouble to learn on my own time) and quite a few shells and scripting tools and even did some admin for a while (trying to bridge an AppleTalk network to Novell Netware was interesting).

In electronics, the vast majority of advances are evolutionary, not revolutionary. Modern microcontrollers integrate lots of peripherals onto a single package, but the fundamental operation is no different than using a device with a couple of peripherals and physically separate peripherals as we did in the 80s onwards; they just happen to be within a single package. The code to drive it is, basically, the same. Sure, we have much lower power per gate and a modern micro can run on the same power a single gate required in the 70s and 80s but that has been an incremental improvement driven, in large part, by IoT.

There have been numerous exceptional advances in physical devices (GaNFETs for instance) and digital circuit designers really need to understand transmission line theory (well, they do if they want to use modern high speed interfaces - simulators are great, but they can lead you very badly astray). The point is that none of these things require any really new knowledge; they require a thorough understanding of the underlying physics.

If someone understands the fundamentals properly, then they can understand anything built on it (which is just about everything).

As someone else noted, the skills necessary to get ahead will be largely personal effort.

On another front, the aptitude to be a designer is really only found in a small percentage of the population in the first place but those with that aptitude can also do finance. I suggest comparing starting salaries for both.

Oh, and stop calling someone who replaces a circuit board in the washing machine an engineer; they are a technician at best. The common perception of engineering is a repair mechanic, unfortunately.

I happen to enjoy electronics and embedded programming which is why I do it and keep up with developments in those fields which is perhaps part of the reason that my last 3 full time jobs were offered to me after I was 50 (I started the latest job aged 66).

The perception that formal education is supposed to turn out worker drones is fundamentally flawed and simply limits people to those of lower capabilities at least in the short term; there are some underlying fundamentals that everyone really needs to know, of course.

So stop complaining that there aren't enough people studying skill X and start teaching them how to think critically; the results might surprise the education establishment.

Ministry of Defence tells contractors not to answer certain UK census questions over security fears

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I was working for...

a list X company at the last census (as I am now, different company though).

I don't remember any such guidance then and it seems silly really. Putting my main day to day tasks as 'engineering' is hardly giving much away.

The 'postcode only' guidance is particularly hilarious given the size of most locations (unless I put my home in there which might be viable as I am working from home the vast majority of the time anyway - depending on which maps are used my postcode will put you either 1/4 mile west or 1/2 mile east of my actual location).

Paranoia; we've heard of it.

Missile systems software dev leaker has sentence almost doubled after UK.gov says 4½ years was too soft

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Re: Inexcusable

Just for a bit of support; I have been through the DV process (it was continuous vetting back in the day) and is required for uncontrolled frequent access to Top Secret information. Anyone with DV clearance is under absolutely no illusions as to what damage unauthorised disclosure can cause.

Here is the definition of Top Secret:

HMG’s most sensitive information requiring the highest levels of protection from the most serious threats. For example, where compromise could cause widespread loss of life or else threaten the security or economic wellbeing of the country or friendly nations.

Regardless of the motivation of the particular individual, the information he was working with, when disclosed, could and usually will, cause major problems.

Refusing to provide the encryption key(s) is compounding the problem as a damage assessment is very difficult if not impossible to achieve. I would note that in this sort of case, the powers under RIPA are simply a bit more convenient to invoke; if the government has some evidence that he has TS information on his personal laptop (a very big no no) they could ask the court to require access using the official secrets act anyway and refusal would be contempt of court.

He can consider the damage done when he comes out and will quite probably have to choose a new career path. Note that I really believe in rehabilitation as it is the best for all concerned, but this person has now, through their own actions, put themselves in a position of not being trusted which will be a difficult bar to overcome.

Following Supreme Court ruling, Uber UK recognizes drivers as workers, offers min wage, holiday pay, pension

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Re: So we now have...

It is because of the IR35 nonsense that I stopped doing freelance. I was never inside IR35 but the situation is now so ridiculous that it is necessary to take out insurance just in case HMRC decide to investigate you.

The primary thing the government gets from the 'inside IR35' thing is employers National Insurance but it is (illegally) being subtracted from the contractor day rates in many cases. There is the expense thing too, admittedly, which is definitely wrong; if a large company can subtract travel expenses, why can't a small (1 person) company do the same? That never made any sense to me.

By putting the most vulnerable people inside IR35 who then make much less and often don't make enough to eat properly, we are socialising those costs, which looks like it brings in less money when all that is calculated in (HMRC won't do that calculation, of course).

In a truly ironic twist of fate, I am now full time employed but working from my home office about 29 days out of 30 (or perhaps slightly more) so it really isn't much different in terms of work environment and because I am over the state pension age, I no longer pay employee NI.

Quite a net loss to HMRC, really, and quite a gain for me (paid holidays and all that).

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Re: Fuck uber

On the occasions I had to go to Bristol to meet a client, I found a taxi firm that has an app which lets you see when the cab will arrive (and the app tracks it on a map in real time), what the cost should be (it might be slightly less or slightly more depending on traffic) and the drivers are friendly.

The vehicles are spotless inside. Highly recommended.


US govt indicted me because I make privacy tools, says crypto-chat app CEO accused of helping drug smugglers

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Grand Jury

The USA grand jury process is itself secret and the subject of the investigation has no right to appear or offer their side of the story. It is the prosecutor and their chosen witnesses that are present apart from the jurors themselves.

The running joke (at least some years ago when I was dating a defence lawyer in the USA) was that a grand jury would indict a ham sandwich if the prosecutor asked them to.


Desperate Nominet chairman claims member vote to fire him would spark British government intervention

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Citation needed

“We have been warned that instability will be of serious concern to government. We know it would create a scenario which would make intervention more likely,” Wood wrote.

Really? Do show everyone the actual warning. Oh, what's that? It was a verbal comment only?


'No' does not mean 'yes'... unless you are a scriptwriter for software user interfaces

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One does run the risk of an Alderson Loop though.

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Re: It really is time for Master Slave to go.

Primary and secondary have been in use for years and reflect the true relationship far better anyway.

You are aware that we have secondary slaves in some architecture right? (IDE at least).

In many hardware implementations the description 'master / slave' is the most accurate representation; primary and secondary do not properly capture the concept. SPI is controlled entirely by the mastering device (which is why it is called the master).

There are, of course, multi-master systems (PCI comes to mind but it is not the only one) where we talk about targets (I bet that could get interesting).

Anyway, this discussion was held just a couple of weeks ago.

ISP industry blasts UK Telecoms Security Bill for vague requirements, high costs of compliance

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"The security of our telecoms networks is paramount and it is vital that we bring in tough new securitysnooping standards to keep everyone under surveillance so we have total control protect them for the future.

"We understand many organisations will have views and once the Bill becomes law we will launch a consultation on the draft code of practice and carefully consider ignore the responses of all those affected."

Don't be a fool, cover your tool: How IBM's mighty XT keyboard was felled by toxic atmosphere of the '80s

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SGI Keyboard

I 'liberated' my old SGI keyboard over 20 years ago from a former employer as the SGI Indys we used were being replaced with Sun equipment.

At my next place of employment where I was writing a lot of code, that keyboard was used and it sounded like a machine gun going off. Worked very well as a 'do not disturb' device.

It is still going strong.



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