2019 Newsletter: 50/66 — PreviousNext — (Attach.)

Sydney Harbour

Hello and Welcome,

Club News:

We are working on producing a new one-page brochure to attract new members and are wondering how to best send out the message.

Two versions (in PDF and Windows Word format) are attached to this Newsletter. Here is a reduced-resolution screen-shot:

A screen-shot of our Club brochure calling for new members
The reduced-resolution brochure
  • Check both attached images and choose the one that looks more like the screen-shot. [ Sometimes the two versions don't appear identical on "Print Preview". ]
  • Would you be able to take a copy to your local Mall, get permission and then pin it up on the Noticeboard?
  • Word-of-mouth will also work. Show it to your circle of friends and/or colleagues.

Thank you.


Meeting This Week:

Penrith Group - Saturday Oct 5th - 2:00 pm - 5:00 pm

The meeting normally starts with a Q&A session around the table to enable members to share problems, advice and computer tips.

The group will then discuss any further technology or computer topics of interest.

Meetings Next Week:

Programming - Tuesday Oct 8th - 5:30 pm (6:00 pm meeting start) - 8:00 pm
Friday Forum - Friday Oct 11th - 9:30 am (10:00 am meeting start) - 12 noon
Communications - Friday Oct 11th - 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm

Current & Upcoming Meetings:

71 2019/10/05 - 14:00-17:00 - 05 Oct, Saturday - Penrith Group
72 2019/10/08 - 17:30-20:30 - 08 Oct, Tuesday - Programming
73 2019/10/11 - 09:30-12:30 - 11 Oct, Friday - Friday Forum
74 2019/10/11 - 12:30-15:30 - 11 Oct, Friday - Communications
75 2019/10/15 - 09:30-12:30 - 15 Oct, Tuesday - Tuesday Forum
76 2019/10/19 - 13:30-16:30 - 19 Oct, Saturday - Web Design
77 2019/10/22 - 17:30-20:30 - 22 Oct, Tuesday - Main Meeting
78 2019/10/25 - 09:30-12:30 - 25 Oct, Friday - Digital Photography


Tech News:

“30iGala — Remembering Internet history:
Peter Coroneos video interviews Alex Zaharov-Reutt”:

See the iTWire article by Alex Zaharov-Reutt | Friday, 20 September 2019 16:04.

In a role reversal, the organiser of the 30th Anniversary of the Internet Gala Dinner on October 31, Peter Coroneos, interviews Alex Zaharov-Reutt about some of his memories of the Net over the past 30+ years, with both also looking at the Internet's future.

Note: Although former CEO and Founder of the Internet Industry Association and 30iGala.com.au organiser Peter Coroneos interviews me in the video below, the words below are mine.

Peter Coroneos interviews Alex Zaharov-Reutt
Alex Zaharov-Reutt interviewed by Peter Coroneos

I first started using a 300bps modem from the Canberra PC User Group's "hardware library" in the days of BBS or Bulletin Board Services in the late 80s, before the Internet as we know it started coming to life in the early 90s.

Modems were expensive back then, but I was hooked to the online life, limited though it was at the time, and before too long, I convinced my parents to let me run a BBS on my PC XT clone, from 9pm at night to 7am in the morning - but it was just a tiny glimpse into the Internet's revolutionary future.

While I used to dream of a 9600bps modem once I heard about them, they were super expensive, so my next modem was 1200bps, then 2400bps, then 14.4k, 28.8k, 36.6k and 56.6k, with all the whistling noises during the dial-up sequence that young kids today would have no idea of, but which was just the way things were way back when.

There was even a time when you could dial-up your ISP and then get a busy signal, because the capacity of your ISPs incoming connections had been exceeded!

Watch the interview with Alex.

Anyone using the Internet in that era remembers how slow it was to load images, and how faster it became with each new modem, how Real Audio started streaming audio before it morphed into Real Video, and how ADSL networks and HFC cable blew past those dial-up speeds — even though 256kbps ADSL1 connections were rightly blasted as fraudband in an age when you could get a 1.5Mbps connection for, from memory, the same monthly cost.

Nowadays, despite the rollercoaster ride the NBN has delivered, where a range of different network technologies see many today on the same kind of VDSL (FTTN) connections that Telstra was trialling back in the mid 2000s, and despite ongoing stories of slow FTTN speeds for some that are barely faster than the ADSL2+ connections they've replaced, we've certainly come a long, long way.

4K streaming to 4K TVs via 4K-capable streaming media devices and platforms is a reality. The Internet is regularly used on pocket-size smartphones that are more powerful and more popular than many desktop and laptop computers, many with bigger storage capacities.

Read more »

“Has MS cleaned up its Win10-update mess? (Spoiler: No!)”:

See the Ask Woody article by Woody Leonhard | ISSUE 16.34.0 | 2019-09-23.

Give Microsoft some credit: it keeps trying to improve patch quality.

But in spite of two significant improvements to the patching infrastructure, it looks to me as though the process is getting worse, not better.

Last week, ZDNet's Ed Bott wrote a provocative article titled "Windows 10: Has Microsoft cleaned up its update mess? (Spoiler: Maybe)." If you haven't read it, I suggest you do so. Ed's theme:

"After its botched release of the Version 1809 update for Windows 10 last year, Microsoft instituted a sweeping series of changes to Windows Update. Don't be fooled by the headlines: A close look at recent issues with Version 1903 suggests those changes are paying off."

Ed then turns to the well-publicized and acknowledged bugs in Win10 1903 that appeared in the past few weeks:

  • Updates to Cortana/SearchUI.exe caused Win10's search to fail and red-lined one CPU core (Computerworld article). As Ed notes, the bug was introduced in the "optional, non-security" patch released on August 30 — and it was apparently fixed in September's cumulative update.
  • Screenshots turn orange. That was a driver problem, pretty obviously, which is why I didn't cover it. By all appearances, the September cumulative update didn't play well with a Lenovo utility. (Ed fingered Lenovo for that one.)
  • Audio, especially in games, went kablooey after installing the September cumulative update (AskWoody post). Microsoft issued a silver-bullet patch for that one. Ed says the issue was solved within 72 hours. As best I can tell, the problem appeared on Patch Tuesday and wasn't fixed until Saturday.
  • The 1903 upgrade (not a cumulative update) clobbered Wi-Fi on some machines (AskWoody). There's an upgrade block in place.
  • Then there was the phantom Start menu/search bug. Microsoft acknowledged a "possible issue" on Patch Tuesday and then, nine or ten days later, effectively stated: "Nothing to see here, folks" (AskWoody). At this point, I don't know whether the bug actually existed.

To me, that laundry list of patch failures doesn't justify the conclusion that Win10 updating is getting better. To the contrary, actually.

  • Before I get deep into the weeds, let me state categorically that Microsoft has rolled out two significant improvements to the updating process in the past few months.
  • Those using Win10 Version 1903 can pause updates quite easily — it takes just a couple of clicks to defer new patches long enough to know whether they have significant problems. (That includes Win10 Home editions.) Microsoft is finally — finally! — documenting known patch bugs on Release Information Status pages (MS Docs).

Those enhancements mark sea changes in the way Microsoft's been handling patches since Win10 hit the ground four years ago.

That said, several severe problems remain:

  • The Win10 1903 Pro pause/deferral settings are largely undocumented. For example, many people report that they can set "feature deferral" and "quality deferral" dates in the Windows Update page — only to have that information disappear. Are those settings obeyed? How can you change them, without using Group Policy?
  • The online Release Information Status pages are often slow to list bugs that are already well documented outside Microsoft. It's not at all uncommon for major bugs to go unlisted in the official Status pages for days.
  • The Status page is Windows-specific; thus, it doesn't list some key bugs triggered by Microsoft patches — for example, the recent Windows Defender problem (AskWoody) or the ongoing issues with Surface devices (Computerworld).

Most important, the attempt to improve the quality of Win10 1903 cumulative updates hasn't gone well. These patches have their own Windows Insider ring, so they should, in theory, be thoroughly tested before they're released. But in some cases, though Microsoft has delayed issuing the second monthly cumulative ("optional") update until the end of the month, the patch still has bugs galore.

If you're curious about patching history, Computerworld keeps an ongoing series of articles on patch problems, updated monthly and going back more than two years.

So no — I don't see any real improvement in Windows patch quality. Am I missing something?

What's our best solution for patching problems? That's easy. Wait! Delay upgrading to the next release of Win10 for six, eight, or even ten months. Those initial days of unpaid beta testing will make all the difference. You'll have a much more stable Windows 10.

Right now, my production machines run Win10 version 1809. (If you need help holding off Microsoft's Version 1903 advances, see my Computerworld article.) Microsoft will support Win10 1809 until May 2020 — by that time I hope Version 1903 (or even 1909) is fully stable. We'll see.

It's been a long and hard battle, but we're close to a usable solution for Win10 updating. It's unlikely that patching Win10 will ever be as straightforward as Win7 or Win8.1, but we're moving in the right direction.

Fun Facts:

“Sum of three cubes for 42 finally solved — using real life planetary computer”:

See the Primeur Magazine article | on 6 Sep 2019 | Bristol.

Hot on the heels of the ground-breaking 'Sum-Of-Three-Cubes' solution for the number 33, a team led by the University of Bristol and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has solved the final piece of the famous 65-year-old maths puzzle with an answer for the most elusive number of all — 42.

The original problem, set in 1954 at the University of Cambridge, looked for Solutions of the Diophantine Equation x3 + y3 + z3 = k, with k being all the numbers from one to 100.

Beyond the easily found small solutions, the problem soon became intractable as the more interesting answers — if indeed they existed — could not possibly be calculated, so vast were the numbers required.

But slowly, over many years, each value of k was eventually solved for (or proved unsolvable), thanks to sophisticated techniques and modern computers — except the last two, the most difficult of all; 33 and 42.

Fast forward to 2019 and Professor Andrew Booker's mathematical ingenuity plus weeks on a university supercomputer finally found an answer for 33, meaning that the last number outstanding in this decades-old conundrum, the toughest nut to crack, was that firm favourite of Douglas Adams fans everywhere.

However, solving 42 was another level of complexity. Professor Booker turned to MIT maths professor Andrew Sutherland, a world record breaker with massively parallel computations, and — as if by further cosmic coincidence — secured the services of a planetary computing platform reminiscent of "Deep Thought", the giant machine which gives the answer 42 in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Professors Booker and Sutherland's solution for 42 would be found by using Charity Engine; a 'worldwide computer' that harnesses idle, unused computing power from over 500,000 home PCs to create a crowd-sourced, super-green platform made entirely from otherwise wasted capacity.

The answer, which took over a million hours of calculating to find, is as follows:

X = -80,538,738,812,075,974
Y = 80,435,758,145,817,515
Z = 12,602,123,297,335,631

[ Numbers of this size can easily be handled by the Windows 7 and Windows 10 Calculators, even with the commas present. Windows 7 echoes the commas as they are typed; Windows 10 accepts them, but doesn't echo them — Ed. ]

Windows 10 Calculator showing the sum of 3 cubes to make 42
Win 10 Calculator — x3 + y3 + z3 = 42

And with these almost infinitely improbable numbers, the famous Solutions of the Diophantine Equation (1954) may finally be laid to rest for every value of k from one to 100 — even 42.

Professor Booker, who is based at the University of Bristol's School of Mathematics, stated: "I feel relieved. In this game it's impossible to be sure that you'll find something. It's a bit like trying to predict earthquakes, in that we have only rough probabilities to go by. So, we might find what we're looking for with a few months of searching, or it might be that the solution isn't found for another century."

Professor Andrew Booker solving the 3-cubes = 42 problem
Professor Andrew Booker. Image credit: University of Bristol.

The study titled "Cracking the problem with 33" is authored by A. Booker and appeared in Research in Number Theory.

Source: University of Bristol

Bob Backstrom
~ Newsletter Editor ~

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