* Posts by Arbuthnot the Magnificent

23 posts • joined 3 Dec 2019

The Battle of Britain couldn't have been won without UK's homegrown tech innovations

Arbuthnot the Magnificent

Most Secret War

Anyone interested in WWII boffinry should track down a copy of "Most Secret War" by R.V. Jones:


The power of Bill compels you: A server room possessed by a Microsoft-hating, Linux-loving Demon

Arbuthnot the Magnificent

Re: I once destroyed the internet.

As a callow youth I worked as a technician at a certain awful UK PC chain, and occasionally had to deal with customers at the till. The obnoxious ones would get their card surreptitiously swiped over the magnetic detagger as I returned it.

Competitive techies almost bring distributed disaster upon themselves – and they didn't even find any aliens

Arbuthnot the Magnificent


In about 2005 I was network admin for a big print manufacturer and I had the SETI client running on all our servers and desktops. One of the Beancounters asked about power consumption of the PCs being on overnight (even though the factory consumed so much electricity that we literally had our own substation onsite) but I appeased him by using group policy to set the monitors to power off - he didn't know the difference between the PC being off or just the monitor.

ReactOS hits a milestone – actually hiring a full-time developer. And we've got our talons on the latest build to see what needs fixing

Arbuthnot the Magnificent

It's interesting...

But in the last few years I've tried it about half a dozen times on different machines, and I've yet to be able to get into the desktop. I hope they get it running though, it could be fun!

MediaTek trumpets cheap gaming chipsets for strange subset of people who enjoy PUBG on their smartphone

Arbuthnot the Magnificent


Known to me as "where the F*** are the drivers for this F****** MediaTek dongle".

Paging technology providers: £3m is on the table to replace archaic NHS comms network

Arbuthnot the Magnificent

Hospital pagers

About 6 years ago I was involved in procuring a pager system for a new-build NHS hospital, and I worked alongside the winning vendor (Multitone) to implement it. They were the only sensible choice, and were a pleasure to deal with. Their system is robust and feature-rich, and to label it "archaic" is missing the point. The hospital was covered by dual redundant transmitters with dedicated cabling, analogue line as well as VoIP connectivity, and the devices themselves also supported WiFi IP connectivity. There were interfaces to the phone system and SMS links to staff mobiles as well - this thing was the absolute definition of belt and braces. To hear some muppet link Hancock say we need to get rid of it because it's obsolete like faxes is ridiculous. If I was going to go into cardiac arrest in the middle of a huge steel-framed building I know I'd rather the crash team was called on a Multitone pager than some Android app written by the lowest bidder.

Only true boffins will be able to grasp Blighty's new legal definitions of the humble metre and kilogram

Arbuthnot the Magnificent

NPL and the kilogram

A few years ago I was on a tour of NPL and jolly fascinating it was too. The tour guide gave a talk about the standard kilogram, how it's calibrated against the other other ones in France etc. (including the time the boss left his backpack, containing the UK kilogram, on the Eurostar and had to dash back to find it). The highlight for me was the fancy high-tech plasma machine they use to clean the kilogram to remove all the atmospheric pollutants that sink into the surface, especially compared to the French solution - one particular old chap gives them a run down with a chamois, and only he is allowed to do it so they are all the same!

BoJo looks to jumpstart UK economy with £6k taxpayer-funded incentive for Brits to buy electric cars – report

Arbuthnot the Magnificent


That'll really help people commute to the jobs they lost.

Devuan Beowulf 3.0 release continues to resist the Debian fork's Grendel – systemd

Arbuthnot the Magnificent

"false dichotomy"

They keep pushing it as being "sysvinit vs systemd" because sysvinit is old and not perfect, but completely ignore the existence of OpenRC, S6, runit... I use Artix Linux, Gentoo, GhostBSD, all on OpenRC, works perfectly, simply and understandably. You want to use systemd, fine, but don't try and make everyone else use it.

Snapping at Canonical's Snap: Linux Mint team says no to Ubuntu store 'backdoor'

Arbuthnot the Magnificent

Debian and Debian derivatives

If you want a shiny Debian-based distro that's as neat, tidy, fast, well-supported and full-featured as Mint but without Canonical interference there's MX, which also has the bonus of choice between systemd or not. For a purer Debian-but-no-d experience Devuan is getting pretty good these days - I keep an ASCII partition as it's the only way I can get my organisations outdated Pulse Secure VPN client to work.

Linus Torvalds drops Intel and adopts 32-core AMD Ryzen Threadripper on personal PC

Arbuthnot the Magnificent

Quite an upgrade...

I've got a photo somewhere of his old student 486, which is on display in a museum in Helsinki.

A paper clip, a spool of phone wire and a recalcitrant RS-232 line: Going MacGyver in the wonderful world of hotel IT

Arbuthnot the Magnificent


A firm I worked for many moons ago "splashed out" and upgraded the office network cabling to CAT-5E, but refused to put any spare cabling in to allow for growth - to keep costs low they only put in exactly what was needed at the time. Fast forward a few months and a bunch of new starters are announced - all needing PCs and phones. I could install small switches by the clusters of desks to handle the extra data connections but the phones were analogue, so I'm ashamed to say I ended up splitting CAT5 cables to connect more than one phone through, with a similar mess at the patch panel. This was in place for at least a decade before they went VOIP.

Pervasive digital surveillance of citizens deployed in COVID-19 fight, with rules that send genie back to bottle

Arbuthnot the Magnificent

It is with great reluctance that I have agreed to this calling. I love democracy. I love the Republic. Once this crisis has abated, I will lay down the powers you have given me!

Broadband providers can now flog Openreach's new IP voice network in bid to ditch UK's copper phone lines by 2025

Arbuthnot the Magnificent

Contingency kit?

I used to work on telecoms provision in the NHS - a new build hospital we specced up had mainly SIP with ISDN2 plus some POTS emergency lines for ambulance service etc. It's all about belt and braces.

So you locked your backups away for years, huh? Allow me to introduce my colleagues, Brute, Force and Ignorance

Arbuthnot the Magnificent

Re: Seen in the wild

My late father-in-law was a TV repairman in the 60s and 70s, and he used to have the apprentice distract the owner whilst he gave the box a smack to break the tin whiskers! Often he could then just furtle around drinking tea for half an hour and declare it fixed (got to make them think they are getting value for money).

You spoke, we didn't listen: Ubiquiti says UniFi routers will beam performance data back to mothership automatically

Arbuthnot the Magnificent

Re: "In other words, you ain't got no choice."

"Is there anything that's worse than an ASA?"

Yes, a PIX...

The delights of on-site working – sun, sea and... WordPad wrangling?

Arbuthnot the Magnificent

Re: Greybeards might recall

NI is still very much alive - LabView is everywhere in my field (physics). It's widely loved for how powerful and flexible it is, and hated for how arcane it is to configure and debug.

Unlocking news: We decrypt those cryptic headlines about Scottish cops bypassing smartphone encryption

Arbuthnot the Magnificent

Re: IndyRef2

Hmm - on my second LineageOS handset, with no real problems - USB access works from my Linux machine.

Dixons fined £500,000 by ICO for crap security that exposed 5.6 million customers' payment cards

Arbuthnot the Magnificent


Worked in PCW as a tech when I was a nipper, many moons ago. Everyone slagged off the old REPOS terminals but you wouldn't have had a problem with them! I was there when the first Windows-based checkouts arrived - Eclipse, I think it was called. Queues to the back of the store when the things went wrong (which was, in the words of the now-legendary Tom Jones, not unusual).

GSMA report: Sorry, handset makers, 5G is not going to save the smartphone market

Arbuthnot the Magnificent

Re: For a mobile device, 4G is more than fast enough for me.

Yep, I use 4G at home (with a Teltonika router) because wired broadband is crap in the area (rural Durham) and it's OK for that. Never use 4G on my handset though; I always set it to 3G because it's fast enough and I'd rather have the battery life.

Jet2 hacker who deleted every account on UK company's domain cops 5 months in jail

Arbuthnot the Magnificent

Re: He was stupid

Yes, if you're going to get back at the shitty company that laid you off because you wouldn't suck up to the boss and lie to customers, by maybe deleting the firmware from all of their switches and routers and scheduling a reload, you'd best do it from the library or something. I imagine.

Motorola's mid-range One Hyper packs 64MP cam, huge screen and – ooo – 'Quad Pixel' tech

Arbuthnot the Magnificent


Touchscreen on my old Smart Ultra failed last week so I picked up a second-hand LG G3 on eBay for peanuts, one root and wipe and Lineage OS installation later I've got a nice phone. If you don't need / want Google bloat it's amazing how nicely older hardware runs.

I'll give you my Windows 7 installation when you pry it from my cold, dead hands (and other tales)

Arbuthnot the Magnificent


Nobody said "leaving to escape updates" but "leaving to escape MS". But since you mention it, updates in Windows are much more of an ordeal than in any Linux variety (except possibly Linux from Scratch, but that's not a fair comparison).


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