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I think next winter will be:

Retron Effectively no winter last year, so... (147 comments)

....voted for notably more severe. It was one of the mildest winters in years where I am (SE England). We had around 2 seconds of sleety rain at the back end of a thunderstorm in February and all of 2 air frosts during the whole winter.

Normally there would at least be a couple of days with snow falling and there would be a dozen or more air frosts.

Of course, it *had* to be the first year I'd bought winter tyres for my car! (The previous year had the typical couple of inches of snow causing chaos...)

about a week ago

Valencia Linux School Distro Saves 36 Million Euro

Retron Re:TCO (158 comments)

It's nothing to do with pay, more what managers expect from their staff. Some schools are happy to put up with poor infrastructure and so on, while others, such as the one I work in, pride themselves on offering an up-to-date network for the students. (We skipped Windows 8 though, sticking with Windows 7 x64 - and getting old educational programs working with that was no mean feat!)

You won't have any problems around here recruiting tech support staff for £12 to £14K. I was effectively running the school network on a salary of £17K last year and I wouldn't describe myself as a monkey. Far from it, unless you count administering Exchange, AD, creating build images, SCCM etc as monkey work (which is isn't).

about 2 months ago

Valencia Linux School Distro Saves 36 Million Euro

Retron Re:TCO (158 comments)

It's actually nowhere near that, at least in the UK. (Disclaimer: I work in a school in the IT department).

The actual cost is based on the number of full-time *staff*, not pupils, and the rates are far lower than the $1000/year you quote. This gets you Office, Windows, all the CALs you need, SCCM and lots more besides. You still have to pay for server licences (Windows and SQL), but they're deeply discounted.

I don't know what it's like in the States, but in the UK school sysadmins (or network managers, to give them their more usual titles) will be on salaries of around £16K to £30K - or $27K to $50K, more biased towards the low end rather than the high end of the wage bracket. Or, at least, that's the going rate down here in the far SE of England. In our case, that involves using VMWare products, such as vSphere and ESXi, in addition to the various Windows servers.

NB, I got into this by playing games, as an earlier poster mentioned - it's a common thing to use Windows at home for games, as I did over 20 years ago, then start networking PCs, move on to running a home server or using server products on a home PC and so on. I made the jump with Windows 2000 (when I was at Uni), as Microsoft kindly sent out CDs of their server products to anyone who asked. Yes, they only lasted for 180 days unless you tinkered with registry files, but it was enough to ignite the spark. These days of course pupils and students get the full thing from Dreamspark.

I don't have an MSCE. Never saw the point of them, I prefer academic qualifications as it shows you're capable of learning anything rather than a specific method of one vendor's products. I'd never rule out a move to Linux, but for now our Microsoft-based network is serving us well.

about 2 months ago

Microsoft's CEO Says He Wants to Unify Windows

Retron Re:Best Wishes ! (322 comments)

No evidence of that whatsoever - indeed, the earliest leaked versions of Windows 95 include a great deal more 16-bit code (such as Explorer) when compared to the final version. There are plenty of sites out there with screenshots and details of the early versions of Windows 95 - search for "4.00.58s" to find them.

about 2 months ago

Russia Moves From Summer Time To Standard Time

Retron Re:Hail UTC (158 comments)

Same goes for the clock in my fla.

I'm in the UK and I keep my PCs on GMT (or UTC) all year round - I can't see any point in fooling yourself that it's an hour later than it really is. I adjust times on the fly for work and social purposes. One of my PCs runs a weather station and if that automatically changed time then I'd end up with duplicate or lost observations - not good.

This far north you're always going to have a lack of daylight in winter and too much of it in summer, tinkering with clocks won't change that (in London daylight ranges from just under 8 hours in late December to just over 16 hours in late June, but even at midnight GMT at this time of year there's a faint glow on the northern horizon on a clear night).

Side note: I always used to suffer from a lack of sleep in the summer. Once I stuck to UTC it stopped all that and I now sleep soundly year-round. Of course, as far as everyone else is concerned I'm just going to bed an hour later and getting up an hour later in summer...

about 3 months ago

Windows 9 To Win Over Windows 7 Users, Disables Start Screen For Desktop

Retron Re:And here I'm hoping... (681 comments)

"much like they said a year and change ago."
Citation needed!

No, Microsoft have never said anything about client versions of Windows going 64-bit. Various uninformed people have *speculated* that the x86 version would be dropped, but Microsoft have never confirmed it.

Server versions went x64-only a few years ago, but that has no bearing on the client version.

(And bear in mind too the whole "x86 / 4GB maximum RAM" thing is due to Microsoft licensing rather than any technical reasons... 32-bit versions of Windows can use 64GB of RAM - via PAE - if you fiddle with the kernel to remove the restriction. has more info).

about 3 months ago

How Free-To-Play Is Constricting Mobile Games

Retron Re:Entitlements vs. consumables (115 comments)

Frankly, though, what irks me most is when companies double-dip, or even triple-dip. Some MMOs would not only charge a monthly fee, but also made you purchase the box as well. Then on top of that, they started selling in-store items. Seriously? Thankfully, no one can really get away with that anymore - possibly the only positive thing I can say about the F2P trend.

World of Warcraft is doing pretty well by all accounts - you have to pay monthly for that, buy the base game and expansions as they come out, plus it has an in-game store where you can buy, for example, a flying horse for the "bargain" price of a couple of months' subscription.

EverQuest does the same thing too, but that has far fewer subscribers than WoW.

about 4 months ago

Previously Unknown Warhol Works Recovered From '80s Amiga Disks

Retron Re:Amiga Floppies (171 comments)

22 years ago I was given my first PC - one which my dad's works had thrown out. An original IBM PC, complete with dual floppies and a mono screen (and cassette port around the back). Sadly it was thrown out a couple of years later when we upgraded to a 486, but I kept the keyboard... an IBM Model F which is built like a tank. It can still, in theory, be used with a modern PC if you use a signal converter... which costs a small fortune. Not that I'd want to, though, as the keys are in odd positions (eg control is where caps lock now is).

I'm typing this on an early 90s Model M keyboard which I bought from eBay many years ago. It connects via a PS/2 port and seems indestructible, albeit not quite as nice to type on as that Model F was. It's quieter than the F though, which is handy. The Model M was available back in 1984... hmm, 30 years ago this year!

Side note: due to spending far too much time on that PC as a 12-year-old, I ended up using the numeric keypad for cursor control. It's a hard habit to kick, as I do the same over 20 years later - I very seldom have numlock on, instead using the numbers above the letters for numeric data entry.

about 5 months ago

I expect to retire ...

Retron Re:Frist pots (341 comments)

Yup, although it's being phased out. Traditionally it was 60 for women, 65 for men, but it's being changed to 68 for both. As I won't be able to get a state pension until I'm 68, I've voted for the "75" option - the 65 one being irrelevant as I'll still have 3 years to go.

about 5 months ago

Microsoft Confirms It Is Dropping Windows 8.1 Support

Retron Broke for me... (575 comments)

I installed the update at work - it worked. I installed the update on my old PC - it worked. Tried to install it on my current PC - failed, after taking something like 20 minutes. It then took another half-hour to revert the changes. (On those machines where it worked, it took only 5 minutes or so to install).

Digging around online showed that fiddling around on the command line with dism might help. The online image is corrupted but it's repairable... that is, until you try and use /restorehealth, at which point it moans that there are no sources. Of course there aren't, it was upgraded to 8.1 from 8.0 via the online store.

So, after faffing around and grabbing an install.wim from an old 8.1 iso I had saved at work (not the 8.1 update 1 iso currently on the MS website) I find that dism won't use the image, even after mounting it.

I couldn't then even attempt to reinstall the update, as it failed immediately. Dism was called upon again to remove the update package, then at least it would let me try again... only to fail. Another 45 minutes wasted.

It looks as though the only way to "fix" it is to nuke Windows entirely, then go through the painful 8.0 > 8.1 > 8.1 with Media Center route. Except, of course, to get Media Center reinstalled you have to buy it again - there's no option I can see to re-enter your Meda Center key again because, guess what, when you upgrade to Media Center your Windows product key is changed. And a Windows 8.1 with Media Center key isn't accepted by the 8.1 iso (or at least wasn't when I tried earlier)...

Looks like a long and boring Easter weekend coming up.

On the other hand, I might just reinstall Windows 7 instead.

about 5 months ago

Microsoft Posts Source Code For MS-DOS and Word For Windows

Retron Re:Why are they posting old source code? (224 comments)

x86 versions of Windows 8.1 have the MS-DOS 5 based NTDVM in them. Run command /c ver from a command prompt and you'll see it's MS-DOS 5.0.500. Run command /c dir c:\ and you'll see the MS-DOS 5 directory listing (normally the dir command is handled differently, even if you're running command rather than cmd).

As a bonus, every copy of Windows 8.1 - x86, x64, ARM - comes with MS-DOS8. It's embedded in diskcopy.dll and is used when you format a floppy disk as an MS-DOS startup disk. Why it's on the ARM version I have no idea!

about 6 months ago

VA Tech Experiment: Polar Vortex May Decimate D.C. Stinkbugs In 2014

Retron Whereas a few thousand miles away... (112 comments)

And on the other side of the Atlantic, the strong jetstream (caused by the abnormal cold in the eastern States) has led to one of the mildest and wettest winters on record in England. I was surprised when last weekend I saw swarms of newly-hatched flies buzzing around the fields of Berkshire; you don't normally see those until late March or early April. To see them in mid-February is quite remarkable. We'll be in a for a miserable spring and summer over here as there will be far more insects buzzing around than normal due to the almost complete lack of frost this "winter" (and I use the term loosely, as for millions of us in the south of the UK it's just been an extended autumn this year!)

about 7 months ago

Windows 8.1 Passes Windows Vista In Market Share

Retron Re:Sort of (249 comments)

8.1 also has a load of inconsistent mush. Click the volume control - get a Windows 7-style popup. Click the network icon - get a Metro thing pop up. Open Media Player - see Windows 7 shiny style controls. Icons in Explorer are still from Vista (3D, nicely drawn) whereas the window controls were changed to an 80s-style flat look just before release. Except, that is, in MDI programs which still use the Aero Basic theme from Vista. Oh yes, insert a memory stick and you'll be invited to "tap to choose" what to do with it. Very useful on a traditional desktop PC! Adding some code to say "click" instead of "tap" if no touch input is available must have been too hard to do.

Windows 8 was an utter mess. Windows 8.1 has done little to improve things, it's still a confused bundle of touch, Metro and Vista.

Hopefully Windows 9 next year will get things back to some sort of consistent, polished feel. Until then, if you're on Windows 7 with a traditional PC/laptop I'd say you're better off just sticking with it. Doubtless there'll be some cheap upgrade offers again when 9 comes out.

about 8 months ago

Schiller Says Apple Is the Last PC Maker From the Mac Era, Forgets About HP

Retron Re:!HP (474 comments)

Not really - "died" is traditionally the upper-class way of saying "passed on". As Wiki says, although the original list of U vs non-U English terms is obsolete in some ways, in others it's still a good indication of class (at least in the UK, I'm not sure how much that applies to the US!) has more info for those who are interested.

about 8 months ago

Incandescent Bulbs Get a Reprieve

Retron Re:Greetings from EU (767 comments)

I'm in the UK too and the CFLs I have make the house look like it's an underground car-park - they're horrible things. They're better than they were 15 years ago (when we bought our first one), but they still give out a horrible light compared to incandescents.

Luckily I have a stock of Osram 100W bulbs for the living room, so that at least continues to have a decent, warm quality of lighting. The Chinese-made "rough service" bulbs (which exploit a loophole to get round the rules) are universally terrible, I've gone through a dozen and none lasted more than 2 or 3 weeks.

about 8 months ago

60% of Americans Unaware of Looming Incandescent Bulb Phase Out

Retron Incandescents (944 comments)

Over here in the UK 100W incandescent bulbs were phased out around 4 years ago and 60W bulbs not long after. As a result my house now has a mixture of old incandescents and newer CFLs, as well as a halogen bulb or two. The halogens give a harsh light and the CFLs make the room look like it's lit like a multi-storey carpark - not exactly a "homely" look. The living room still has two 100W incandescent bulbs but due to the ban they're becoming really hard to source; there's a loophole where less-efficient 100W bulbs can be sold (as "rough service") but they only seem to last for a few dozen hours rather than 1000 or so. Whether that's because they're cheap Chinese tat or whether it's because they genuinely aren't made to work indoors I couldn't say.

Thankfully old pre-ban bulbs are still available on eBay etc so I've stocked up with a couple of years' worth... hopefully by the time they run out alternative lighting will finally have caught up with the quality of light you get from an incandescent.

about 9 months ago

UK Retailer Mistakenly Sends PS Vitas, Threatens Legal Action To Get Them Back

Retron Bad PR for Zavvi (617 comments)

It's interesting to see the wide variety of responses to the story. I guess the only way we'll ever know the exact legal situation is if the case makes it to court, but I'd bet that Zavvi will try anything they can to settle out-of-court in order to save themselves the chance of receiving even more bad PR.

It's one of those situations where Zavvi can't win. If they let the person keep the Vita then those who sent them back will be annoyed. If they set the legal eagles loose then it'll just generate more bad PR for them. Zavvi itself had loads of bad PR a few years ago when the original company went bust; it was one of those situations where gift cards weren't honoured during the administration period and the media was full of people moaning about the company. That didn't bother The Hut, though, who bought the rights to the name and then set up a new online shop.

FWIW, my thoughts are that it'd be pretty obvious upon opening the packaging that a Vita+game had been sent rather than just a game. As such, I'd have felt pretty guilty if I'd tried to keep the Vita and I'd hope that I would do the obvious thing and send it back, although it wouldn't be at my expense (a pre-paid Special Delivery label would be my request, as that way the returned package would be insured - sod's law says that it'd go missing on the way back and then you'd have no Vita, no game and would still have the company hounding you for its return!)

The whole sorry mess could have been alleviated by giving a gift voucher upon the return of the Vita, or some other token to say "sorry for messing you around". Doing it the way they did just leaves a bad taste in everyone's mouth!

about 9 months ago

Should companies start using drones for common tasks, like package delivery?

Retron Chavs (378 comments)

All it means in the UK is that chavs will have a new sport, that of stealing people's deliveries.

about 10 months ago

British Operator EE Offers £8 Million Petabyte 4G Data Bundle

Retron Stupidly expensive (53 comments)

Stupidly expensive, which has been the story of EE's 4G in general.

3, for example, offer consumers 7 GB for £25 (=£3.57/GB) on their network - and that's as a PAYG thing. If you're a business and bulk-buying it'd be way cheaper than that. The only snag is that 3 doesn't offer 4G (yet)... when it does, expect EE's pricing to plummet!

about 10 months ago

Microsoft Admits Windows 8.1 Update May Bork Your Mouse, Promises a Fix

Retron Re:MS knew the Win8.1 DPI scaling was messed, yet (326 comments)

Wow, setting it to 150% actually works with SIMS...

Good on MS for deciding to fix the crummy programs which ignore Windows' DPI settings (such as the aforementioned SIMS). The method for doing it does generate fuzziness, but that's because it's resizing everything (effectively lying about the resolution Windows is running in). That's actually *way* better than the way it was before, which means programs like SIMS would enlarge fonts in some areas and not in others, leading to a right old mess.

A toggle switch for XP-8 or 8.1 behaviour would have been a good idea though for those who find the fuzziness of non-DPI aware applications annoying.

about a year ago



British retailer mistakenly sends Vitas, threatens legal action to get them back

Retron Retron writes  |  about 9 months ago

Retron (577778) writes "The BBC brings news that British retailer Zavvi mistakenly sent out PlayStation Vitas to people who had preordered a game called Tearaway. It's now threatening legal action against those who have kept theirs despite a request to return them. It's unclear whether the Distance Selling Act protects consumers who have mistakenly been sent an expensive item and forums such as Eurogamer seem divided on the issue."

Sony closes ex-Psygnosis studio

Retron Retron writes  |  about 2 years ago

Retron (577778) writes "Sony is to close its LIverpool studio, formerly known as Psygnosis. The studio created games such as Lemmings, Shadow of the Beast and Wipeout.

A statement posted on Kotaku said "It has been decided that Liverpool Studio should be closed... by focusing our investment plans on other studios that are currently working on exciting new projects, we would be in a stronger position to offer the best possible content for our consumers.""

Link to Original Source

New nVidia GPU for HPC only

Retron Retron writes  |  more than 2 years ago

Retron (577778) writes "nVidia has at last unveiled the GK110 "full" Kepler graphics module. It's not for gamers though as they're keeping it solely for their HPC cards. The GK110 is what was originally expected to be the GeForce 680, before nVidia decided to rebrand their midrange GK104 as the 670 and 680."
Link to Original Source

Details emerge of the PlayStation 4 - Orbis

Retron Retron writes  |  more than 2 years ago

Retron (577778) writes "Reports are appearing on the Web of the PS3's successor, tipped for a late 2013 release. Backwards compatiblity with the PS3 is said to be non-existant, with the platform being based on an AMD x64 CPU with a Radeon 7xxx "Southern Islands" GPU. Furthermore, it looks like draconian controls will be put on games, all but snuffing out second-hand sales."
Link to Original Source

Windows 8 Consumer Preview released

Retron Retron writes  |  more than 2 years ago

Retron (577778) writes "The Consumer Preview of Windows 8 is now available to download (in both x86 and x64 variants) from Microsoft. The App Store is also open for customers.

If you have MSDN access there's a copy of Windows Server "8" Beta available in x64 form only."

Link to Original Source

Windows 8 Developer Preview to be released later t

Retron Retron writes  |  about 3 years ago

Retron (577778) writes "Although various leaked versions of Windows 8 have been floating around the Net for the past few months, Microsoft will release an official developer preview later today. The options include x86, x64 and x64 with developer tools and sample applications, all in ISO format. Upgrades from Windows 7 aren't supported, so best to use a VM or spare partition."
Link to Original Source

Ice Ace permafrost found in Poland

Retron Retron writes  |  more than 4 years ago

Retron (577778) writes "The AFP reports that geologists got an unexpected result when drilling a borehole in Poland — they came across permafrost buried 350 metres below ground. The permafrost is reckoned to date back to the last ice age."
Link to Original Source


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