* Posts by Fifth Horseman

55 publicly visible posts • joined 8 Mar 2022


Microsoft leaves the Office, rebrands everything as 365

Fifth Horseman

Re: But you only traverse half the normal strip.

"Of course, if the strip is cut length-ways it turns into a normal strip of double the length, albeit half the width."

It's actually a little bit more subtle than that... Try it, then cut the resulting strip in half lengthwise again. The end is result is probably not what you would expect.

Crypto exchange Bittrex coughs up $53m to end claims of US sanctions busting

Fifth Horseman


Here's me thinking Bittrex was the nasty tasting purple dye added to methylated spirit to deter Glaswegians from drinking it.

Amazon halts work on ‘Scout’ delivery-bot that delivered parcels no faster than humans

Fifth Horseman

Re: I'll tell you why

In my town both the bot and contents would wind up in Cash Converters. Or for sale for a tenner in the alleyway behind the local Yates's.

Fifth Horseman

Re: Scalability

A great uncle of mine was a drayman for one of the local breweries in the horse-drawn days (Websters, now long gone. Sam Smiths over the border in Tadcaster do still use horse-drawn drays, but mostly for publicity purposes);

Both drayman and horse would have a pint at every pub, and by the end of the round old uncle Edgar was usually pretty plastered. The shire horse, due to weighing in at the best part of a ton, handled his ale a bit better and always found his way back to the brewery mostly upright with Edgar half asleep in the dray. I don't think current health and safety laws would permit these shenanigans. The past, as they say, is a different country.

Physics Nobel Prize in a superposition between three quantum physicists

Fifth Horseman

Re: Measuring a property does not set it...

I've been a bit snarky and down-vote happy with this poster, but perhaps I have been a bit harsh. 'c', defined as being the speed of light *in a vacuum* (as you point out) is a pretty much unassailable constant. If it isn't, the whole of modern physics falls to bits very quickly. The actual speed of light does change depending on the medium it passes through, though, but the constant 'c' never changes, and the observed speed is always lower than this. This gives rise to some interesting phenomenon like Cherenkov radiation, the warm fuzzy blue glow you see around spent nuclear fuel rods in a cooling pool - essentially the light version of a "sonic boom" where some energetic particles are travelling faster than the *local* speed of light. But always below 'c'. Some condensed matter physics experiments have dropped the local speed of light down to a comfortable walking pace...

So, maybe this is where the confusion is coming from. However the rest of the poster's arguments still make little sense, so I think perhaps resitting first year Relativity might not be a bad idea, then reading a good physical cosmology text for the black hole stuff.

Fifth Horseman

Re: 79, 75, 77

Quite. Most physicists (probably Nobel Laureates in other disciplines too) ultimately win the prize for their earliest works, and then ultimately struggle to achieve anything else of note - Einstein being the classic example, and perhaps John Bardeen the classic exception. Shin'ichiro Tomonaga, joint recipient of the 1965 prize - Quantum Electrodynamics - with Richard Feynmann and Julian Schwinger was quite amused that he was the "old man" of the three.

Fifth Horseman

Re: Measuring a property does not set it...

You will be more than happy to provide us with citations of your published and peer-reviewed research then, I assume?

Fifth Horseman

Re: Measuring a property does not set it...

I don't think he/she understands any of it, frankly.

Linux luminaries discuss efforts to bring Rust to the kernel

Fifth Horseman

Re: Rust is desirable simply because of its memory safety

For entertainment value, have a look at XC - stripped down C (no pointers, the horror!) coupled with a message passing system derived from Occam. The target Xcore CPUs are essentially the spiritual heirs of the Transputer, after all...

I stopped seriously evaluating it, and the Xcore, when it started to become apparent that XMOS were no longer interested in the general purpose microcontroller market, but still, it was fun.

The crime against humanity that is the modern OS desktop, and how to kill it

Fifth Horseman

Re: windows 11 makes me cry

And some films were just made to be abused... Ilford HP5 being the classic, but there are others. Nominally rated at 400ASA, but could be pushed out to 3200 with the right developer (Microphen?). Loads of film grain, but *nice* grain.

It worked the other way round, too. I once went out on a road trip using an old (pre-DX coding) Cosina camera using HP5, totally forgetting that I had been using 50ASA Pan F before. The negatives came out as pretty much solid black blocks and really should have gone straight in the bin, but after a lot of faffing in the darkroom I did get some prints. They were 'different', but quite beatiful in their own way.

Man wins competition with AI-generated artwork – and some people aren't happy

Fifth Horseman

Re: Computer-Generated "Art"efacts

A couple of years' back, I went with a mate to a computer generated art exhibition at the Lowry gallery. It was underwhelming, to say the least.

Mate: "This is a right load of bollocks. Lets go across the river to the IWMN, they've got some tanks!"

*The permanent exhibition of L. S. Lowry's work is definitely worth seeing though, much more than "matchstick men and matchstick cats and dogs", much darker than I expected.

Fifth Horseman

Re: Understanding my cat

Same here. I'm convinced those things really do have coke in them, but I've never summoned the courage to try them myself...

California asks people not to charge EVs during heatwave

Fifth Horseman

Re: What about crypto mining and gaming computers?

It is not about standby, the cathode needs to be heated to allow thermionic emission so the valve can function. You are quite right, the heater supply is usually 6.3V, but you occasionally find 12.6V.

Tesla faces Autopilot lawsuit alleging phantom braking

Fifth Horseman

Re: Last week

I'm not sure what the actual laws regarding this in the UK are (I know, I should check... I do know that dog strikes should be reported to the police, but not cats for some reason) but I was specifically told by my driving instructor, many moons ago, that if a smallish animal ran in front of the car, then the safety of other road users was more important than that of the animal.

I did doubt the wisdom of this a little later after hitting an Alsatian with a 1975 Morris Marina, which resulted in a wrecked car, an angry dog, and a nasty bite.

Fifth Horseman

A cousin of mine was a motorcycle Compulsory Basic Training instructor for a good few years. Pretty much the first thing he used to say to each bunch of CBT students was "Assume everyone else on the road is trying to kill you". He wasn't wrong.

Elon Musk 'buying Manchester United' football club

Fifth Horseman

Why the hell have you created a user account simply to post this drivel, then?

BOFH: Who us? Sysadmins? Spend time with other departments?

Fifth Horseman

Re: Won't somebody think of the scientists?

I down-voted you because what you posted, sad as it is, has absolutely nothing to do with the article. I wish I hadn't now.

You are a pretty frequent commenter, and I have watched your posts over the last few months going from being apposite, intelligent and witty to angry, confrontational and a bit incoherent. Throw in your references to suicide, and I worry. If you are struggling, get some help. It *is* out there, although I know asking for it can be hard.

I don't know you from Adam, and if I am speaking out of turn, my apologies, carry on as you were. In thirty plus years of taking part in Usenet groups and forums, I have seen too many good people fall by the wayside.

Scientists unveil a physics-defying curved space robot

Fifth Horseman

Re: Flat out wrong

That was the big thing that got me too. Please tell me these clowns aren't actually real trained, qualified, experienced physicists.

Fifth Horseman


In Yorkshire we have a word for this kind of thing. It probably works in other English speaking territories too. The word is "bollocks".

DoE digs up molten salt nuclear reactor tech, taps Los Alamos to lead the way back

Fifth Horseman

Re: REstart?

Anything involving large volumes of molten chocolate...

A few years back I worked for a specialist haulage contractor that mostly handled nasty chemicals, but also shifted liquid chocolate around Europe for a famous confectionery company. One day a rig came into the yard hauling a tanktainer full of the stuff - with a failed heating system. The heater can keep the load liquid long enough to get it from point A to point B, but no way can it melt it again if it solidifies. That problem was solved essentially by a bloke with a hammer and a chisel, resulting in a downgraded tank and a large pile of chocolate rubble that was free for all takers.

Five tanks full of latex that RENFE shunted into a siding and forgot about didn't fare quite so well.

Tesla Full Self-Driving 'fails' to notice child-sized objects in testing

Fifth Horseman

Re: You're supposed to keep your hands on the wheel and be able to take over at any time.

Absolutely. Air France flight 447 now sadly being the classic textbook example.

WhatsApp boss says no to AI filters policing encrypted chat

Fifth Horseman

Re: Four Horsemen of the Infocalypse

Why? What do they think I have done?

I've been fired, says engineer who claimed Google chatbot was sentient

Fifth Horseman

Back when Google was a new kid on the block and just a search engine - at the time when there were quite a few of them, Lycos, HotBot, AltaVista etc - I was doing some research for an article on Vannevar Bush.

Google didn't find much, but helpfully suggested - Did you mean to search for "big hairy bush"?

This is:

a) Probably a good indicator of what many punters saw as the main use of web 1.0.

b) Slightly ironic, since Vannevar Bush was one of the first people to suggest the idea of "hypertext".

On reflection, I think I preferred the last century.

Boffins release tool to decrypt Intel microcode. Have at it, x86 giant says

Fifth Horseman

As an aside, if you are interested in the development of the Pentium Pro, "The Pentium Chronicles" by Robert Colwell is worth a read. Not "Soul of a New Machine" good, but entertaining and informative enough.

Fifth Horseman

Quite. If you are as old as me, you probably started with a 74181 ALU and worked from there. Good enough for the the first generation of VAX... I think it is something still worth doing today, assuming you can find the parts.

Not so sure about your RISC vs CISC comparison, though. True, the Intel P6/Pentium Pro CISC architecture has roots in the i960 RISC, just as the AMD K5 architecture is derived from the Am29050, but the arguments are much older - dating back to an analysis of IBM 1401 code, I believe - and are probably more about philosophy and ideology than implementation techniques.

Fifth Horseman

Define 'complex'.

You're new to this whole "CPU design" thing, I assume?

Intel tried selling software before. Will it succeed this time?

Fifth Horseman

Re: Too much financial shenanigans, not enough engineering?

Intel were originally a memory manufacturer - DRAM and the UV EPROM are both Intel inventions. By the start of the eighties, they probably controlled fifty percent of the world memory market. Then Hitachi, NEC, Mitsubishi and Toshiba rather enthusiastically joined in the fray, and that particular gravy train ground to a rapid halt.

In that context, the 8086 saved Intel. The iAPX432 was a dismal failure - fascinating architecture but abysmal performance - and the 8080/85 had been displaced by cheaper and faster but largely code-compatible Z80 derivatives. Certainly Intel sold at least ten 8048/51 microcontrollers for each 8086/88, but these are low price, low margin devices.

I think things started to go awry with the Pentium. At this point Intel started to exploit its market position. Second source manufacturing licenses ended, forcing AMD down the route it took and, as you say, it started to make little sense to build anything other than PC architecture products around x86. Intel's attempts to broaden its product portfolio stalled. The i860 was good on paper but much less so in the real world, the less said about Itanium the better. The i960 is/was in fairness fine, but very much a niche market processor.

I think Intel will survive, but it will definitely have to change focus. Their semiconductor processes may be a bit out of sync with everyone else but given the uncertainties and capacity issues in the chip supply chain at the moment, their fabs may well become their biggest asset. If (OK, when) the demand for x86 dries up, I am sure plenty of people will pay to use that manufacturing capacity. VHDL or Verilog are pretty much process agnostic. Intel's purchase of Altera probably won't hurt here either.

As for software, as a few people have already pointed out, the Intel C/C++ compilers are very good...

Engineers on the brink of extinction threaten entire tech ecosystems

Fifth Horseman

Re: real hardware

You are definitely not alone here!

No substitute for the "real feels"....

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

Fifth Horseman

Re: I'm generally a fan of Elon Musk but

That seems a bit harsh on alley cats.

Fifth Horseman

Re: Wonder how many Tesla owners...

Quite. Teslas are decidedly average cars wrapped around an over-priced battery. They have had their time in the sun. In five years every manufacturer from Ford to Ferrari will have a better option, depending on what your priorities are.

FYI: BMW puts heated seats, other features behind paywall

Fifth Horseman

Re: In some markets...

This is true across the board for oscilloscopes these days. I have a cheap(ish) Rigol and a mid-range Rohde & Schwarz - both of these left the factory "fully loaded" but have specific functions - and bandwidth - governed by software license. Tektronix and Keysight scopes are the same, I believe.

Watch a RAID rebuild or go to a Christmas party? Tough choice

Fifth Horseman

Re: IBM Engineer...

For conventional DRAM, the plastic packaging of the chip is radioactive enough to flip the odd bit here and there, hence the use of ECC.

Fifth Horseman

Re: IBM Engineer...

Oh God.

Ultra 2 Low Voltage Differential SCSI. 68-way twisted-pair *insulation displacement cable* with accompanying brain-damaged mini-D connectors. Along with terminators that had to be blessed at a full moon with the blood of a goat to have a chance of working.

The least fun I have ever had inside a computer. Never again.

Even robots have the right to learn from open source

Fifth Horseman

Re: If it's not immoral for humans, how can it be for AIs?

I hear your concerns about licensing, and share them. However, I think there is a more fundamental problem here.

We all start from other people's work to guide and inform our own, that's how we learn. In pre-WWW days we used textbooks: a good fifty percent of what I have done probably had a starting point in "Numerical Recipes" or "The Art of Electronics", aided by numerous manufacturer's application notes. Not intrinsically any more reliable than a random web page, granted, but at least they have been past an editor and a proof-reader first...

Over the last couple of years though, I have seen more and more copy and paste programming, with little effort made to understand how the code works, whether it is really appropriate in the current application, or indeed what it actually does. In hardware, it is sometimes worse - there are some great open source designs out there, but certainly in websites targeted at the maker community, I have seen designs ranging from "won't work under any circumstances" to "will probably kill you".

My concern here is that if the AI (god, I hate that term) algorithm has suggested the solution, there will be much less chance that the naive user will be critical of what is put in front of them. The computer said it is right, and it is better at this than me, so it must be OK? As someone has pointed out earlier, we don't know the signal to noise ration of the GitHub codebase, and neither does the AI bot.

Anyway, just my two pennorth. Feeling even more cynical than usual.

America's chip land has another potential shortage: Electronics engineers

Fifth Horseman

Re: Chip design is hard

To a large extent, a lot of the craft of physics and engineering disciplines can be summed up as "The Art Of Solving Partial Differential Equations". (1).

The problem faced by universities offering first degrees in physics and engineering is that the scope of the maths syllabi at GCSE/O Level and A Level has been pared back hideously over the last half century (2). Students who may undoubtedly have the talent and the aptitude are going into a degree without the breadth of knowledge that they need to tackle the subject in a rigorous way.

One solution would be to add an extra year onto the degree - a first year mathematics foundation course - but given that too many students struggle to pay for a three year course, I can't see that being a popular course of action these days. Some senior academics at my old university were advocating this thirty-plus years ago. Another option is to "just teach it right" and hope the students can fill in the gaps in their knowledge themselves. This will work fine for some, but cause a lot of pain for the rest. Since no department wants high student drop-out numbers, the default position is to simplify the course content, effectively pushing the underlying problem a year or two down the line (or under someone else's carpet, if you prefer).

This is coming from a (former) solid state physicist. My grandson starts his apprenticeship in a couple of month's time - in bricklaying and stone masonry. I couldn't be happier for him. He will no doubt make more money than I ever have done, and more importantly probably have a lot more fun at the same time.

(1) - A bit of a Black Art, at that. Systems of equations can blow up in your face for seemingly no reason, and it can take a lot of mathematical sophistication to understand why. Hamming's Motto - "The purpose of computing is insight, not numbers".

(2) - I can only speak for the UK here, I know too little about the education systems elsewhere. I suspect the problem may be fairly widespread though.

Rufus and ExplorerPatcher: Tools to remove Windows 11 TPM pain and more

Fifth Horseman

Re: Just goes to show..

Don't read them, and don't comment on them, then?

Probably better for your blood pressure.

Original Acorn Arthur project lead explains RISC OS genesis

Fifth Horseman


The memory on the A310 could be upgraded to 4Mb by replacing the DRAM chips on the motherboard - a bit fiddly since they were soldered in rather than in sockets.

Mine had the memory upgrade, a SCSI podule and hard drive, and the I/O podule which replicated the BBC micro ports. I am fairly certain that it would have run RISCiX. If memory serves the hard drive equipped A400s had ST506 controllers, these *may* not have been compatible.

HP pilots paper delivery service for Instant Ink subscribers

Fifth Horseman

Re: having to go buy paper [is] heavy, very painful

I was going to mention this too.

Dave Jones has an entertaining rant about it on his EEVBlog channel. (One of the few things worth watching on YouTube these days.)

France levels up local video game slang with list of French terms to replace foreign words

Fifth Horseman

Re: Now that is a fine example of administrative busybodies

Japanese does it too - 'uisuki' - whiskey. 'takushi' - taxi. My favourite, vaguely self-parodying: 'koinrokka' - coin locker.

Fifth Horseman

Re: Now that is a fine example of administrative busybodies

I came across one of these diktats many years ago when writing technical documentation. Whilst I can vaguely understand the motivation for them, they deny the fact that human languages are fluid, dynamic beasties that evolve over time. Vocabulary, morphology and syntax all change.

This particular edict seemed deliberately obtuse, and had the result that it was side-stepped by writing the documentation in English. Everybody understood the result better, but I doubt the Language Commissioners were best pleased.

BOFH: Where do you think you are going with that toner cartridge?

Fifth Horseman

Re: Too Often...

That is the whole rationale behind the A paper system. For anyone that still lays out drawings by hand, it extends to the ISO standard tip sizes for draughting pens. You can scale a drawing between standard paper sizes, switch to the appropriate tip size, and amend the drawing with a constant line width.

Will this be one of the world's first RISC-V laptops?

Fifth Horseman

Re: Been this way before

Zarch (I think it was called, long time ago...), the full game version of the 'Lander' demo that came with the Archimedes was good too, much better than the ports that were eventually done for the Amiga and the ST.

The ARM in it's initial implementation was an off-the-shelf general purpose CPU, rather than an SoC. It was designed by Acorn, but manufactured and marketed by VLSI Technology (a major player in the early IBM PC clone motherboard chipset game), and went by the catchy name of VL86C010. Three other chips effectively 'made' the Archimedes, it is pretty easy to guess their part numbers.

Up until recently I still had some engineering samples and original manufacturers' documentation, provided by a friendly VLSI distributor for some nerdy project a few of us were planning at University. The project never happened due to the collective discovery of women, alcohol, electric guitars, motorbikes and rock climbing, in no particular order.

The Arch is the one computer I have owned that I regret no longer having.

Apple to replace future iPhone Lightning port with USB-C next year, this guy claims

Fifth Horseman

Re: Apple did not respond to The Register's request for comment. ®

I'm not sure if this is still the case, but IIRC going back a few years, when Lester Haines was still around (RIP), Apple had a policy of refusing to acknowledge any inquiry from El Reg, so a macro here would be a good idea.

This may of course be a Register Urban Legend...

Email domain for NPM lib with 6m downloads a week grabbed by expert to make a point

Fifth Horseman

Re: Sparse arrays

They are used quite a bit in linear algebra / numerical analysis applications.

Which I sincerely hope no-one is attempting in JavaScript.

Ransomware plows through farm machinery giant AGCO

Fifth Horseman

Chickens, meet roost.

Putting aside all the conspiracy theories...

It seems more than just a little ironic that a company such as John Deere, that effectively holds their customers to ransom when it comes to maintaining products, should be hit by 'ransomware'.

Palantir summons specter of nuclear conflict as share price collapses

Fifth Horseman

Whilst it is clearly true that maintenance has not been much of a priority for the Russian armed forces, they have a couple of thousand nuclear warheads. It doesn't make much difference if a lot of them don't work.

It's probably best not to test this theory.

The end of the iPod – last model available 'while supplies last'

Fifth Horseman

Re: iTunes.

SonicStage... Is that the abomination that Sony used to ship with their MP3 players? That is a truly awful piece of software. IIRC though, the Sony players showed up as standard USB storage devices, so fortunately you didn't have to use it.