* Posts by F. Frederick Skitty

338 publicly visible posts • joined 12 Jan 2022

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So you've built the best tablet, Apple. Show us why it matters

F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

They seem to be going in the other direction, by slowly turning macOS into iOS.

Gentoo and NetBSD ban 'AI' code, but Debian doesn't – yet

F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

What a great article, using the news from NetBSD and Gentoo folk before expanding to a very good analysis of the current "AI" boom. I'm going to bookmark this and refer the next management idiot to it when they raise the idea of using ChatGPT to generate code.

Brexit border system outage puts perishable goods transport in peril

F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

Re: At least the lettuces should be fine

You win the Internet for today with that one.

Lightweight Dillo browser springs back to life, still doesn't care about JavaScript

F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

Re: Posting from dillo

I'm fighting a losing battle at my current employer. I want all the core functionality on our websites to work even if JavaScript is disabled in the browser, but our front end developers believe that almost everything must depend on JS being enabled and screw any graceful fallback. The worst part is that since they do client side validation in JS, some of the "full stack developers" (AKA jack of all trades, masters of none) skip any validation on the back end.

Tesla devotee tests Cybertruck safety with his own finger – and fails

F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

If he'd tried shutting his finger in the door, then he'd have most likely severed it, as demonstrated by some slightly less stupid[1] Cybertruck owners who used a carrot.

[1] I say only slightly less stupid, as you have to be a serious moron to own one of those Tesla contraptions in the first place.

BOFH: Smells like Teams spirit

F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

Re: Teams: "Ghastly, it all is. Absolutely ghastly. Just don't even talk about it."

I actually have a sledgehammer within easy reach of my desk (a Halder one with rubber and plastic heads, intended for assembling stuff rather than rapidly disassembling it). I work entirely from home, but when someone or something annoys me I often look at "Sledgy the Attitude Adjuster" and let my imagination run wild just for a moment.

Musk moves Tesla's goalposts, investors happily move shares higher

F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

Re: Tesla is screwed

If the hat fits, then a right wing bigot who owes his success to apartheid era diamond mining should wear it.

Meta comms chief handed six-year Russian prison sentence for 'justifying terrorism'

F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

Re: To the gallows

Ukraine is doing a good job of shutting off Russian petrochemical exports at source. They are hitting the most sophisticated parts of Russia's oil refineries, which are impossible to repair as they were built by Western specialists with precision parts that are now sanctioned.

As well as limiting fuel supplies to the military, it will also leave Russia with only crude oil exports, which are mostly routed through a couple of very vulnerable pipelines. One of those pipelines has already been damaged in a previous attack, so expect to see them targeted again.

Some smart meters won't be smart at all once 2/3G networks mothballed

F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

Re: "...... delays since its inception in 2012,....."

ineption, noun, commencement of ineptitude, (see Capita, Fujitsu).

NetBSD 10 proves old tech can still kick apps and take names three decades later

F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

Whereas there are dozens of platforms that NetBSD runs on which Linux never has. Vax for example.

F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

I've not used it, but there's various binary compatibility options in the kernel - I always comment them out in the config file when building a custom kernel. But assuming you can get any required shared libraries if the program you want to run isn't statically linked then it would probably run on the default kernel as that has pretty much everything compiled in or available as modules.

BOFH: The new Boss, Aiman, is suspiciously good – for now

F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

Re: Totally OT question

It wasn't hard wearing, just cheap. The word "shoddy" came to wider use as meaning "of low quality" when a politician made a speech about it in parliament and ripped a piece of shoddy cloth in half to show it's lack of durability.

A cheeky intern nearly turned MS-DOS into NSFW-DOS

F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

"... 1993, the final days of MS-DOS ..."

Hardly. Windows ME was released in 2000, and was still just a graphical shell on top of MS-DOS.

You break it, you ... run away and hope somebody else fixes it

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Try a barrel printer - the chain printer's even louder brother. We had one at my first employer, and it was still used for monthly invoices despite being officially obsolete. It haf a room to itself and a massive acoustic hood, but could still be heard from roughly fifty metres and numerous partition walls away.

Good news: HMRC offers a Linux version of Basic PAYE Tools. Bad news: It broke

F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

The reason Python is "popular" is because it's the first language you learn on contemporary CS courses. A few years ago it was Java for the same reason. JavaScript is also very popular, but it just seems like Stockholm Syndrome for programmers where they've just spent too long unaware of the alternatives and their relative strengths or weaknesses.

It's also the language used by a lot of people who aren't primarily programmers but need to program as part of their job. It's easy enough to learn and get something vaguely working, but having had to look at code written by scientists, I've never come across well written examples. It's usually what I call "stream of consciousness" coding - one long sequence of statements written on the fly, masses of duplication and buggy as hell.

And it was Python 3 code I worked on for a year (this was the backend to a supply chain and order management system, not the scientists' code I mention above). My experience of that was typical Python programmers don't use OOP properly, with every data member public for example because typing underscores is apparently too hard (a shit way of supporting data hiding anyway). Then the Pythonistas would whine that OO is "a broken paradigm" rather than admit they were too lazy to use it well.

As for tests, as someone points out above it was mostly testing for issues that wouldn't crop up with proper static typing. So huge amounts of effort expended on testing the language rather than the logic.

F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

Re: Old news

I've tried MyPy but it doesn't really help, as lots of "pythonic" (or in other words, idiomatic) ways of doing things work against it and can't be statically checked.

I also spent a large part of that miserable year of Python programming having every code review peppered with comments about removing the MyPy type info I was using, since the other programmers didn't like having their "freedom of expression" limited. Yet almost every production issue was related to difficult to diagnose bugs that related to Python's dynamic typing.

F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

Having spent a miserable year working on a Python based system, I'd strongly suggest rewriting it in a statically typed language. Perl code was hellish to maintain at times, but Python code is even worse in my experience. Both languages have OOP features tacked on as an afterthought, and their dynamic nature means tooling is always going to be poor. I know there's optional typing with recent versions of Python, as well as add ons to also support it, but in practice it's very ineffective and even an IDE like PyCharm is unable to do much with it.

What's brown and sticky and broke this PC?

F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

Re: The user was left to set the time on her PC every day

Linux using a sensible timezone such as UTC, and Windows using a local timezone and applying any daylight saving difference. That's the kind of amateur hour crap I'd expect from Microsoft.

F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

Re: The user was left to set the time on her PC every day

You interacted with the PROM by essentially programming in Forth, Straightforward for most things, but I had an RDI Sparc based laptop that needed an arcane program entered at the PROM to fix a problem with the disk controller.

What strange beauty is this? Microsoft commits to two more non-subscription Office editions

F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

Re: it tends to screw up the formatting.

A word processor isn't supposed to be used as a desktop publishing tool, hence Word being a poor choice for your customer to write their educational material with.

Ran into this over twenty years ago, as a new generation of technical authors came along. Their predecessors had used proper publishing tools, such as LaTeX or Framemaker and SGML. Then came the next wave who insisted on submitting Word documents. Since we had a big share of the target market for these documents in electronic form (defence and legal compliance), we initially pushed back by pointing to our contracts that stated the acceptable formats such as LaTeX and SGML using the US military standard DTDs. Eventually we had to give up as the computer literacy of the technical authors cratered, and just scraped the contents of Word documents that then had to be marked up by an internal team of editors. The frustrating part was that the technical authors were supposed to be highly intelligent and degree level educated, but the editors ran rings round them when it came to computers. And those editors were all people who had left school with little or no qualifications, but appreciated a decent paid job with training.

Exchange Online blocked from sending email to AOL and Yahoo

F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

Suspect this is similar to the cock up 123 Reg (now a GoDaddy subsidiary) made when moving their hosted email service to a new system. They didn't even implement DKIM, and every email from accounts that has been moved was blocked when sent to a Gmail email address. Took two weeks to get it sorted.

Trump 'tried to sell Truth Social to Musk' as SPAC deal stalled

F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

Re: "the use of a Chinese firm"

Those MAGA hats Trump sells? Made in China.

Plummer talks to us about spending Microsoft's money on a red Corvette

F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

Re: I've been using 7-zip for ages now

Java uses Zip compression for it's archiving format, so JAR files for libraries and standalone applications are just Zip files with a specific layout of the files within. Same goes for WAR files used to package web applications.

Twitter's ex-CEO, CFO, and managers sue Elon Musk for $128M

F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

Re: Move over Donald

"Why do people as rich as this become total dirtbags/scumbags/assholes in a very short time after getting rich?"

In the case of Musk and Trump, they were born into very wealthy families. Musk's family made its fortune from mining gems using poorly paid black South Africans during the Apartheid era. Trump's family from real estate with massive corruption to get tax breaks and even subsidies during the "machine" politics era of New York.

Can't speak for Musk's family dynamics, but Trump's father was a nasty piece of work. He wanted his eldest son to be a ruthless businessman like himself, then when he took a different career path and became an alcoholic basically wanted as little to do with him as possible. Following the eldest son's death, Donald was belatedly promoted to heir apparent but has seemed to have an inferiority complex that he tries to hide with bluster and lies.

F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

They had two of them on display in my local shopping centre yesterday. Took a close look - they look incredibly cheap and poorly made, which surprised me as I had assumed the interior and trim would at least look superficially decent.

Cops visit school of 'wrong person's child,' mix up victims and suspects in epic data fail

F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

Does she have a tongue like an eel and like the taste of a man's tonsils?

Microsoft might have just pulled support for very old PCs in Windows 11 24H2

F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

Slightly off topic, but I remembered that the Alpha processor came in versions with differing instruction sets. Tru64 Unix would emulate the missing opcodes in software when running on the less capable processors. I came across this, as the emulation caused some software compiled on machines with the more capable processors to run incredibly slowly when sent to clients with older kit.

HPE seeks $4B in damages from Autonomy boss Mike Lynch and his ex-CFO

F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

Léo Apotheker stated: “If, as seems most likely, the explanation I heard was not satisfactory, I have no doubt that I would have recommended to HP’s Board that it should abandon the deal”.

Mandy Rice-Davies Applies

Ukraine claims Russian military is using Starlink

F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

Hadn't considered the donation of terminals. Taking of "quiet words", I wonder if the Pentagon had some of those with Musk after he switched off the Ukrainian's access to Starlink a while back.

F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

Re: Pickups from the battlefield ?

The Russian gains have been minimal, and I'm not sure that Starlink would be used right on the frontline, but a little way behind for longer range communication. Plus, when the Ukrainians do retreat, it seems to be in good order following a mobile defense doctrine. So I think it's far more likely to be the Russians using terminals they've imported through sanction busting methods.

Talking of mobile defense, the Ukrainians find themselves in a similar position to the Germans after Barbarossa and Case Blue failed. Generally superior equipment and training, but severely outnumbered. It was Hitler's insistence on holding ground at any cost that caused Stalingrad and later on the collapse of Army Group Centre. Hoping the Ukrainians can learn from that, and be more pragmatic - although the Bakhmut and now Avdiivka defense suggests otherwise.

F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

It's just not possible to have completely watertight sanctions, so I'm sure if Russia wants to use Starlink terminals they'll be able to get them in limited numbers.

I am wondering though, if the firmware can be modified such that only terminals supplied directly to Ukraine would work in that geographic area, and all others blocked.

Some kind of cryptographic handshake that uniquely identifies each terminal and can't be easily spoofed by the Russians. I'm sure there's already the basis for this in the existing firmware, since it's a subscription service. Sure, they will most likely crack it eventually, so have regular updates that at least keeps them secure most of the time.

Please install that patch – but don't you dare actually run it

F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

Re: We dont go for "uptime" records

About fifteen years ago I worked on a warehouse management system, and for one client had to write a data export to the client's SQL Server instance. There was a long period when said instance was rebooted every night because of a bug in SQL Server that resulted in a memory leak.

F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

Re: Only in heaven....

"...the original policy maker has long gone and been replaced by a weight to keep the chair from escaping..."

You've reminded me of the nickname an Italian colleague had for our "systems architect". I assumed from the way he pronounced it, that "ballast" was an Italian word with respectful connotations and being used ironically for our frankly incompetent architect. Nope, he eventually explained it was the English word, since the architect's only purpose was weighing his chair down.

Republican senators try to outlaw rules that restrict Wall Street’s use of AI

F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

"More American accessing stock market just means Wallstreet gets to play with more money".

It also means more people lose all their money when the inevitable slump or crash happens. Just like 1929, when large numbers of small investors bought into the fantasy that stocks and shares would always increase in value, only to be bankrupted.

40 years since Elite became the most fun you could have with 22 kilobytes

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Re: Elite & Black Angel

I played Elite on the Commodore 64, and the docking computer was definitely the first upgrade to buy. Even with that, it would occasionally go wrong and crash into the space station or into a ship that launched just as you were about to dock.

Post Office boss unable to say when biz knew Horizon could be remotely altered

F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

Re: Compensation?

"... surely a competent defense lawyer would have insisted on calling someone from Fujitsu to the stand ..."

Having done jury service twice, I can assure you that the time and money would not have been available. In a perfect world the defense would be able to call someone from Fujitsu to testify, but these were considered small time cases of false accounting. I've read a lot of documents from the 2019 court case and the current inquiry, and they show how the Post Office used a tactic similar to plea bargaining in the US. Many of those convicted had plead guilty to false accounting when faced with Post Office lawyers threatening a much more serious charge of theft. It was made clear that prison was less likely if the accused admitted false accounting, although those who avoided prison were usually bankrupted by being forced to pay the back the "missing" money. And as for that missing money, HMRC is now getting involved since the Post Office would have overstated their profits by including the money that many sub-postmasters paid out of their own pocket in desperate attempts to make their accounts balance.

I went down the rabbit hole of looking at the documents because I was interested in the technical reasons for the problems in the Horizon system. The technology on the backend was Oracle DB, Pro*C (Oracle's embedded SQL pre-processor) and until roughly 2012 a messaging platform called Riposte. The latter was ripped out when the "Online" version of the system was rolled out, which also included a rewrite of some of the frontend from Visual Basic 6 to Java. Some examples of the VB code were included in the documents, and it was shocking. Things like numeric values overflowing, and no unit tests that may have caught such shoddy coding errors. Another problem was the permissions system, which was abused by Fujitsu - they had their own staffers with the most elevated privileges making changes to the data that left no audit trail. This included data that was supposed to be *immutable* records of transactions.

How Sinclair's QL computer outshined Apple's Macintosh against all odds

F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

Fantastic article - this kind of content is one of the main reasons I still read El Reg. Another reason is that you rarely (never?) switch commenting off on articles, and the signal to noise ratio remains remarkably high. I dislike the DevClass sister site, as although it has some interesting articles I feel that the lack of a comment section means the opportunity for more insights is lost.

Asahi Linux team issues promising update on efforts to conquer Apple Silicon

F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

Re: Congratulations

I have older Apple hardware running Linux, hand me downs from graphic designers and other users who need macOS to run certain apps. I expect at some point the ARM based stuff will start trickling down to me as well.

Being able to run Linux means I won't be stuck with out of support macOS versions as I suspect the OpenCore Legacy Patcher will struggle to adapt to the M* based stuff.

I know I'm not alone, as I see fellow developers running Linux on the x86 based Apple kit all the time at conferences, training courses, etc.

The New ROM Antics – building the ZX Spectrum 128

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Re: Two head scratchers...

That weird way the books were organised by publisher was something that Christina Foyle, the daughter of one of the founders, insisted on. Her Wikipedia page describes some of her other obnoxious business practices, but doesn't mention her admiration for Hitler and the Nazis. A friend who worked at the sprawling old store back in the 1990s said the basement was full of long out of print books, which would occasionally be sold in one of the obscure corner rooms. Since moving to the new shop earlier this century, the amount of shelving space is a fraction of the old store and it's a shadow of its former self where browsing often turned up some really interesting books.

Infosys co-founder doubles down on call for 70-hour work weeks

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Re: Slavery

Exactly - I was referring to the "economic miracle" that Murthy was alluding to. That was a very specific case where the economy was being rebuilt with a lot of investment via the Marshall Plan, and it's not a very useful comparison for him to make.

F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

Re: Slavery

In the case of Germany, a lot of that hard work was done by immigrant labour - particularly Italian and Spanish people from dirt poor rural regions of their home countries.

It was also a completely different kind of work to the sort that Murthy's company generally does. Physical labour, rather than churning out shit code because Murthy has taken all the profits that should have gone into training and decent wages.

Why do IT projects like the UK's scandal-hit Post Office Horizon end in disaster?

F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

Fujitsu bought ICL, who had been the UK government's preferred software supplier for decades. The company was gutted, and most development move to Dublin.

Around that time I worked for a company that had also used ICL extensively, and for a new project the internal development team did a proof of concept with PostgreSQL and some well structured Perl code.

The management were impressed by the presentation, mostly because they were unaware there even was an in house team (we mostly fixed the bodgery of ICL/Fujitsu). The ultimate decision was still to go with a Fujitsu proposal that used a terrible database called ODB2, and a weird dialect of C that had been a ICL proprietary product.

ODB2 barely worked, as it was some Japanese academic project that Fujitsu had bought the rights to. I guess they foisted it on companies like the one I worked for to justify their decision to buy the damned thing, and also as a form of vendor lock in - it didn't even use SQL, but its own bizarre query language.

Biggest Linux kernel release ever welcomes bcachefs file system, jettisons Itanium

F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

Re: Filename limit?

There's also two completely independent sets of file permissions in Windows. The separate teams responsible for the kernel and userland couldn't agree on one set. I assume it's a result of the NT 4.0 development cycle, where the delineation between what was a kernel responsibility and what was a userland one got broken by Gates insisting on performance over stability.

War of the workstations: How the lowest bidders shaped today's tech landscape

F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

"He left behind the amazing rich development environment, where it was objects all the way down."

Not a Jobs fan, but there is a reason he left that bit unimplemented in the Lisa and Mac - the hardware would have been astronomically expensive, just as it was in the Xerox machines. When relatively affordable hardware became available, Jobs oversaw the implementation of just such a rich development environment - NeXTSTEP, with it's Smalltalk inspired Objective-C tooling.

Four in five Apache Struts 2 downloads are for versions featuring critical flaw

F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

Struts is very much a legacy technology in the Java world, so I expect it's being used in old projects where the developers are reluctant to change even a library version for fear of breaking things. The last project I used Struts on was in 2006, at which point it was already falling out of favour thanks to the rise of the Spring framework. Although it could be used with Spring, that framework's own MVC library was much easier to work with. That was also a time when unit testing was still a struggle to enforce on projects - I recall many frustrating meetings with project managers and stakeholders where they saw automated tests as a waste of effort. Classic comment I heard repeatedly was "if you were a competent programmer your code wouldn't need tests".

PLACEHOLDER ONLY Someone please write witty headline here

F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

Re: Here be dragons code

This brought back a suppressed memory. One company I worked at had a single C++ class that contained 30,000 lines of code. It was a horrific monster that displayed a table of data in a Qt table widget, but sadly the original authors has never understood the MVC pattern.

UK will be HQ for high-flying next-gen fighter jet treaty with Italy, Japan

F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

Re: Yeah "Markets"

To be fair to Germany, the world was looking very different when they scaled back their commitment to the Eurofighter project. Russia was an economic mess and not deemed a threat, so a hugely expensive and ridiculously late super jet wasn't seen as a good use of money.

Google Pixel gets privacy mode to keep your selfies safe from prying repair techs

F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

Unless it's possible to enable this mode remotely, then it's not a lot of use if the screen is broken, and I suspect that's why most phones need repairing.

Enterprising techie took the bumpy road to replacing vintage hardware

F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

Re: What is old, is new again

A story I know to be true was Transport For London buying DEC parts from eBay to keep certain London Underground systems going. This was in the 2006 - 2009 timeframe.

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