* Posts by Samuel Penn

49 publicly visible posts • joined 31 Aug 2007

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

Samuel Penn


A colleague had the BSOD screensaver running on his own PC at work. Not as a practical joke, he just liked it. He also had one of the few machines with a CD writer.

One day when he was out, someone else was trying to use it to write customer data to a CD. I eventually noticed that he'd been doing a lot of swearing for the last couple of hours. On asking what was wrong, he said he'd spent the morning trying to write to CDs, but the machine kept crashing half way through.

"Is it crashing, or is it just the screensaver?" I asked.

He was not amused.

YouTube is going to splash adverts all over your videos, and won't pay creators unless there's a big enough audience

Samuel Penn

Somebody has to pay, somehow

YouTube provide free uploads, hosting, network bandwidth and access to all the software. As much as I hate the ad based model, why shouldn't Google reclaim costs in some way? It may be the creator's content, but that doesn't mean someone else has to provide them a free platform.

Based on the backlash when Google announced they would start charging for storage for Photos, I guess asking people to pay to upload videos would also get objections.

Google could provide it all for free, they can definitely afford to, but I don't see that they have a moral obligation to do so.

Built to last: Time to dispose of the disposable, unrepairable brick

Samuel Penn

Re: The same arithmetic when choosing an automobile

I just bought a new (1 year old) car end of last year. My previous car was 6 months old when I bought it in 2006.With the addition of a bluetooth adapter and mobile phone holder it lasted fine. I expect this one to last me about the same. I'm hoping electric cars with 300+ mile range will be sensibly priced by then.

I update my mobile phone every couple of years.

Meet the open sorcerers who have vowed to make Facebook history

Samuel Penn

Re: Google could kill WhatsApp in a stroke

They have Hangouts, which has done cross platform video and chat on phones and desktops for years now. It even used to be combined with their text messenger app at one point.

Except they seem to want to replace it with Duo and Allo which don't work on desktops.

Forgive me, father, for I have used an ad-blocker on news websites...

Samuel Penn

Re: I added the TheRegsiter to whitelist

It was the intrusive animated ads on The Register which prompted me to install an adblocker in the first place. I feel no more guilty than when I don't watch ads on the TV, or don't read ads in a Newspaper.

'$5bn for Slack?! I refuse to pay!' You don't pay – and that's its biggest problem

Samuel Penn

Re: Speaking as someone who knows bugger all about Slack..

We have an internal XMPP chat server, and some people in the company still wanted to use Slack. No idea why. Fortunately we seem to be standardising on XMPP.

And how did GMail invent threaded conversations? GMail's conversaton threads are the most confusing email interface I've used, far worse than the threading interface that has been common on desktop based email clients since the mid 90s.

Dry those eyes, ad blockers are unlikely to kill the internet

Samuel Penn

Re: Surely ...

I'd be interested to know how much I'm worth to Google. i.e., how much would and individual need to pay each month for Google's services in order to offset the amount Google get paid advertising to us?

Why do driverless car makers have this insatiable need for speed?

Samuel Penn

Re: The end of any driving pleasure

They also don't need to carry anything more than a single small bag. Someone recently observed that a personal car is more than a means of travel - it is also a base of operations. Being able to just throw stuff into the boot, and not give a shit about trying to minimise weight or squeeze everything into one bag is so much less hassle compared to travelling by other forms of transport. You can then decide whether you need a heavy jacket when you've reached your destination, rather than having to try and predict the weather (possibly days) in advance.

It's not just antivirus downloads that have export control screening

Samuel Penn

Re: Bah!

Not DriveThruRPG by any chance? Just had a very similar message from them.

W3C's failed Do Not Track crusade tumbles to ad-blockers' Vietnam

Samuel Penn

Re: Irony

I only started using an ad blocker after the Reg started using offensive ads that obscured the whole page. Until then I either put up with them if they were inoffensive (because I understood they provided the sites I read money) or went elsewhere if they were offensive. I wanted to continue reading the Reg, so an ad blocker got installed.

However, now that I don't see any ads I don't click on them any less than when I did see them.

It's 2015 and VMware tools break VMs if you open two browser tabs

Samuel Penn

Re: Hands up

Hands up who have to use the abysmally bad web client because the old client doesn't run on Linux.

Fortunately I don't need to use it very often.

Audi TT: It's NOT a hairdresser-mobile, the dash is too flash

Samuel Penn

I just want a dumb car

I change my car every 7-10 years, I change my phone every 18 months. Putting technology like this into a car is just wasted effort since the car will be obsolete for most of its useful life.

All I want is better connectivity between car and mobile device, with a standard way to mount and charge a phone securely (with an adapter for specific phones), and possibly displaying phone content on the dash. Since this probably requires agreement between (at least) Apple and Google on how to do this, it's unlikely to happen.

My current car choice was limited by the fact that only one car salesman knew what an MP3 player was, and thus understood my requirements for connecting my PDA to the car's audio (via an AUX socket). I expect the technology change during the lifetime of my next car will be equivalent to that between a Zaurus C-860 and Nexus 6 (and my current car still has a few years of life left in it).

Euro ministers ditch plan to ban roaming charges

Samuel Penn

Presumably there will be limits, similar to what Three have. You have a lower data limit when roaming (25GB), they don't allow tethering and you can only do it for 3 months a year.

Marriott: The TRUTH about personal Wi-Fi hotel jam bid

Samuel Penn

Re: thumbs up, specifically for

Data prices in the US are ridiculous, or they were two years ago when I tried doing this. A UK monthly contract which gives me 25GB/month of roaming data in the US is significantly cheaper than a US pay as you go SIM with 2GB of data was.

Samuel Penn

My UK phone provider gives me 25GB/month when roaming in the US (and a number of other countries) as part of my standard contract. It's not as good as the unlimited data I get in the UK, but it's good enough. It's one of the reasons I switched to Three.

Pebble: The brilliant stealth wearable Apple's Watch doesn't see coming

Samuel Penn

Re: Battery Life

I only take my solar powered watch off at night, and it charges fine. As long as it's not covered by your sleeve all year, it'll charge whilst you're walking around or sitting at a desk.

DRUPAL-OPCALYPSE! Devs say best assume your CMS is owned

Samuel Penn
Thumb Up

Re: Society for Rational Network Management, War Trackers Interest Group

The communications throughout that book were such a wonderful take on Usenet. They are lacking in the sequel unfortunately, which I'm currently reading and not enjoying nearly so much.

Mobile carriers keep the promised land on an ever-receding horizon

Samuel Penn

Re: I feel for you

Also on Three, with their £18/month One Plan. Unlimited data with tethering. My normal usage tends to be 3GB-5GB/month, so I'd actually be happy with a 10GB cap. There are cheaper options, but Three also have free international roaming (to some countries, including the US) which is useful to me.

Rebellion sees Chromium reverse plans to dump EXT filesystem

Samuel Penn

What has work to do with it? All my external USB drives are formatted ext3, and I watch videos from them on my Chromebox because it doesn't support NFS. Dropping ext would be a pain.

TalkTalk and Three want to make it easier to switch mobe networks

Samuel Penn
Thumb Up

Re: im moving soon

I left Vodafone for Three at the beginning of the year, also because I wanted more data and free international roaming. It was easy, and I even get better reception with Three than I did with Vodafone.

Moto 360: Neat gizmo – if you're a rich nerd

Samuel Penn

Re: How about a watch that has the correct time?

Mine does. Automatically syncs with some atomic clock at Rugby every night via whatever radio signals that is sending out. It's also solar powered, with a twenty year life expectency on the battery. I haven't had to 'charge' it for 10 years so far.

Little pink handjob: Sony's Xperia Z1 Compact

Samuel Penn

Re: we love ours

> The daily battery like is very very good - even before switching on all the

> very efficient stealth modes built into this device.

Define very very good. Mine lasts about 20 hours, with medium usage. It gets me through the day with some music streaming, podcast playing and a bit of browsing (it's rarely used for phone calls), but I would consider that minimum acceptable rather than good.

XBOX ONE owners rage as HDMI SNAFU 'judders' Brit and Euro tellies

Samuel Penn

You're assuming the TV has enough HDMI ports for everything. Even some expensive, otherwise high end, TVs are limtied to one or two HDMI ports. If you have a blu-ray player, games console and Sky HD box, then at least one probably isn't going to be plugging directly into things. Even receivers can have quite low numbers of HDMI ports.

Check out The Register's Google+ page

Samuel Penn

Re: Not for me but...

The Register using pop-up ads was what drove me to originally install Adblock. That was some time ago though.

The CURSE of WHO: WHY has there never been a decent videogame with the Doctor?

Samuel Penn

Mines of Terror

I played Mines of Terror on the BBC, and thought it was actually a pretty good game. IIRC, you could program Splinx with a set of commands to go and run tasks for you, which was a crucial way to get around some of the threats and actually worked quite well. It was one of the few games I actually played to completion.

You've been arrested for computer crime: Here's what happens next

Samuel Penn

Re: A weakness in the forensic tools

I was on a Jury about 8 years ago, for a case which involved some computer evidence. The document that we (the Jury) was given included a lot of detail on how they got material from the computer, and described some of the technology involved. Even back then, the software supported at least ext2 file systems.

Keyboard fatigue? Now you can SCRAWL in Gmail and Google Docs

Samuel Penn

Re: What usage ?

I use it all the time on my Galaxy Note 10 for note taking in meetings. The Samsung software doesn't actually work very well for this, so I just use Evernote with the Samsung OCR keyboard. I find it feels more natural than typing.

You thought NFC tags were Not For Consumers? Well, they're in Maplin's

Samuel Penn

Re: @DragonLord 10:14

I have a bluetooth device that is powered from the car's cigarette lighter, and plugs into the car's audio (via the AUX socket). Switches to car mode and pipes audio through the car's speakers in one device. However, it sometimes picks up the bluetooth when I'm in the house, so it's not perfect. I think it was about £10.

However, I'm tempted by the NFC tags just to see what I could do with them. They potentially have the feature of being a lot more precise.

Oi, Google, you ate all our Wi-Fi keys - don't let the spooks gobble them too

Samuel Penn
Black Helicopters

Use Spider Oak

Does everything you're asking for by default.


Google shreds Reader in new round of 'spring cleaning'

Samuel Penn

Re: Boo!

I use BeyondPod for podcasts, I could never get Google Listen to work.

Reg readers brew up the ultimate cuppa

Samuel Penn

Boiling water a necessity

Semi-skimmed milk first, any form of "builder's tea" (Tetley/PG), about 10 seconds of brewing, though the water must be actually boiling hot from a proper kettle, not from one of those hot water machines that only produces tepid warm water.

If it's American tea (even if branded Tetley/PG), then double the number of tea bags and up brewing time to several minutes.

Take that, freetards: First music sales uptick in over a decade

Samuel Penn

Re: Now... will the movie industry take note?

Ditto on Skyfall, but couldn't figure out how to get the digital version on Linux. Ripping the DVD worked fine though.

Fanbois: The Next Generation. YOUR CHILDREN belong to Apple now

Samuel Penn

Google T's and C's

If they're under 12 then Google won't let them have an Android tablet even if they wanted one, unless they lie about their age or use their parent's account.

Classic game 'Elite' returns … on Kickstarter

Samuel Penn

Re: Multiplayer game based on Elite?

Actually, it's called Vendetta Online. VO is a twitch based first person shooter just like Elite was, whereas Eve is more point and click.

UK.gov proposes massive copyright land snatch

Samuel Penn


So how does this work if an image is licensed under the GPL, CC-BY-NC, or something similar?

Motorola Mobility loses to Microsoft in German patent battle

Samuel Penn

Psion 7 did this

I'm sure that the Psion 7 used to break long SMS messages into multiple smaller ones.


Samuel Penn

Google Music isn't available outside of the US. Their 'Play Music' app also seems to have problems detecting new music that has been uploaded to the phone. At least on my Nexus, it takes days before it notices that I've added more files to the Music folder.

Samuel Penn

Re: Usual over zealous permission

Phone state also seems to be for detecting if you're on a call, in which case that could be used to switch off the music when the phone rings. Seems a poor choice of security granularity on the part of Android if that is the case. No idea why it needs access to the logs though, so I also decided not to try it.

Crims fall back on old-school cons to avoid anti-fraud tech

Samuel Penn

Re: Re Time to phase out cheques

I used to pay our milkman by cheque, by the highly secure method of leaving it in the milk bottle. I was working in London at the time, so didn't get back home until late evening.

Cheques are also useful for paying/gifting to friends/family.

Page won't show his ring to prove Google+ 'engagement'

Samuel Penn
Thumb Up

Re: Anyone used the multi-user video chats?

We've used it for team meetings where it worked very well, and 'Hangouts with Extras' option allows you to share your screen. Unlike our 'official' company meeting software, it worked on Linux and people's tablets.

People like Fraser Cain organise astronomy hangouts, with someone hooking their webcam up to the Hangout, and a group of astronomers can get together and discuss the view live.

Samuel Penn
Thumb Up

I actually like it...

Never used Facebook, and got annoyed with Twitter, but I have been using G+ since it was launched (quite a few people in our company got into it early on). There's a large number of science people on there who post some quite interesting articles (rather than the text speak one liners you seem to get on Twitter). There's also some astronomers on there making good use of the hangouts - hooking up telescopes to a video feed and having online discussions about what they're looking at for example. We've also used the hangouts to do multi-way video conferencing at work.

It doesn't tend to get used so much for communicating with friends (I use email for that), but is more a way of sharing interesting stuff with complete strangers who are interested in the same sort of stuff. In my experience, it's got a good signal to noise ratio (much better than Twitter, which always seemed to be full of posts about what someone was having for lunch) and a decent amount of content. I guess it depends on what you're interested in and who you follow.

Hands on with the Samsung Galaxy Note

Samuel Penn
Thumb Up

Looks good

I really like my Streak, and this seems to be like that but better. I don't particularly want a phone - what I want is mobile access to email/web/satnav etc that does phone calls on the few occasions I need to. For this the Streak is great, and the Galaxy Note looks like it'll fill the same niche.

A tablet, even a 7" tablet is too big to carry around in a pocket, a 5" phone however fits in my pocket just fine, but is big enough to be used for other things. I'll definitely consider the Galaxy Note when I need a new phone - probably sooner if it doesn't require special connectors.

Dell puts gun to Streak 5 tablet, pulls trigger

Samuel Penn

I love my Streak

My phone is a 5" Streak, and I love it. However, it's use an actual phone is secondary to all the other uses it gets put to. Shame that it's being discontinued - I dropped mine the other day and it's now slightly dented (the glass is fine however). If it did get broken, there's nothing else on the market to replace it with.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

Samuel Penn


Android 3 seems to have dropped support for USB mass storage. Apparently, it's not reliable enough and they've gone for some other standard (MTP). Which is strange, since USB mass storage has always worked without any problems at all for me, and yet my ASUS tablet won't talk to my Linux box at all using MTP.

Toshiba AC100 Android smartbook

Samuel Penn

Pretty much agree

I'd give it a slightly higher score, since I still find it useful, but agree with most of this. You did miss the issue of standby not working - it comes back from standby after a few minutes, which means you have to power it off completely when not using it. The hardware is lovely though, and reminds me of my old Psion 7 (which is why I got it).

Google shocks world with unthreaded Gmail

Samuel Penn

You call that threading?

To be honest, I never realised that was Google's attempt at threading. I just found the layout annoying because it hid everything. In pretty much every decent email (and news) reader I've used, threading displays subsequent replies indented beneath the original in a tree view. You can immediately see which emails belong to which thread, and also see and access individual emails without any extra effort. This also supports sub-threads within threads. To me, this is the natural and obvious way to handle email, and it's been the norm for me since RISC OS email apps back in the 90s.

I've never liked Google's implementation of this however. Why can't they implement proper threading, with a decent tree view?


Group Test: smartphone satnav apps

Samuel Penn

Google Nav and CoPilot

I've tried both GoogleNav and CoPilot on my Streak (Android 1.6) recently, and both seem to have the same problem of not handling phone calls well. I've only tested this whilst stationary, but both have the SatNav screen completely replaced by the incoming phone call, and after the call (using bluetooth headset), it returns to the home screen rather than navigation. This isn't exactly ideal, and if I was the sort of person that got lots of phonecalls, then it would render the mobile close to useless for this purpose.

What I'd expect, is a subtle on-screen indication of a phone call which doesn't block the navigation view.

My other problem with CoPilot is that I can't find a way of displaying estimated journey time (apparently it's possible, but I can't find a way of making it work and anyway, it should be there by default). Most of the time, I know roughly where I'm going and use the SatNav for deciding whether I have time to stop off at a service station before my meeting. Not having this feature makes me want to stick with Google Nav, despite it's lack of other features.

The 5" Streak however is definitely big enough to use as a satnav.

One last thing - the option to switch between overhead and 3D view is really nice (my old SatNav, a PSP, has it). It switches to a large scale (configurable) 2D view if the distance to the next event is greater than 3km. Generally, if all I'm doing is travelling along a road, being able to see how far along it I am is far more useful than seeing the turnoffs I'm going to be ignoring. Especially useful on the M1, where I can be on the same road for 3 hours+.

Blu-ray winning in Europe

Samuel Penn


There's a large number of DVDs which aren't available in region 2, so if you live in the UK, you have to import region 1 DVDs. Personally, about half my collection is region 1 (mostly anime, but also things like Cosmos and Bullshit), the other half is region 2. May laptop is fixed to region 1, our old DVD player was fixed to region 2 (though our new one plays anything).

I did think about getting one of the new iMacs as a DVD player/web browser, but the region encoding issue makes it useless in that role (I could fiddle with open source player software, but if I'm going to fiddle around with things like that, I might as well stick with the old Linux box which currently fills that role).

So yeah, region encoding is a big pain. Having said that, I got a PS3 to use with a new HD TV, since even if Blu-ray lost I could still use it as a games console.

Blogging: made in England?

Samuel Penn

1996 is two years late

Steve Jackson Games (the ones who got raided by the US secret service for writing a game about 'hacking') started in 1994.