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Scotland

In a matter of mere days, something rather extraordinary is going to happen. A country is going to go to the voting booth to determine if its future is as an independent country, or if its future remains as a functional part of the United Kingdom.
This is being done by politics. By discussion. By voting.

No freedom fighters. No acts of terrorism. No tanks. No loyalists, seperatists, militias, juntas, dictators, crazed presidents and no guns. No shattered lives and blood spilt in vain.

This isn't to say that it is entirely peaceful, mind you. Following one of the most amusing party political broadcasts I have ever seen, Mr. Darling (of the "Better Together" campaign) utterly utterly messed it up. I am not actually certain if Mr. Salmond was getting frustrated at having done his homework and then discovering that Mr. Darling clearly hadn't, or if Mr. Salmond was just obligingly handing Mr. Darling bigger and bigger shovels to dig with. For sure the entire broadcast was, well, not quite what one would have expected for a serious political debate, and that turned some viewers away, suffice to say that in that mere hour, Mr. Darling possibly did more damage to "Better Together" than any one person. He lost it. And, sorry guys, it was hugely entertaining to me, and Mr. Salmond totally walked all over Mr. Darling. So much so, that the audience - apparently carefully selected from a cross section of the public to represent both sides equally - were turning against Mr. Darling. As one member of the audience asked - if things are supposed to be so bloody wonderful with Scotland as a part of the UK....why aren't they now? Good point, and to Mr. Darlings possible demise, he tried to handwave that away and concentrate on the NHS. That too was a mistake.

Personally, I think Mr. Salmond made a huge error when talking about the jobs at the place where the Tridents hang out. Holy Loch? I forget. Anyway, if Scotland goes independent, the plan is to kick out the nukes and be a nuke free country. Obviously a lot of people are fearful of their jobs once the subs go. Well... DUH. If Scotland is an independent country, the Royal Navy and British Army ain't gonna defend it unless it's a NATO defense. Scotland will need to form its own military. And its own navy. And... you get the point. There will be support roles for all of that. Maybe not exactly the same work that the sub workers are used to, but there will be a need for them. Scotland might decide to go the pacifist route and not be a military power. That would be a bit like Japan, and they have the SDF, so... I'm surprised Mr. Salmond missed this. Or maybe he didn't want to raise the issue in case the already clearly agitated Mr. Darling went nuclear. ☺

In my last post on the topic, hagbard said in the comments...

  • If iScotland becomes a country after the referendum then the conditions for entry in the EU are as per the Lisbon Treaty. If the EU wants to fast track iScotland via a derorgation of Lisbon then that will require the assent of all member states and probably referenda in several. [...] After the referendum citizens of iScotland will, on day 1, not be citizens of a member state. [...] This is exactly what happened when Algeria got indepence from France in 1962. They were citizens of an EEC member state one day and not the next. The same thing happened to Greenland in 1985 and Saint-Barthélmy in 2012. Their citizens ceased to be members of EC/EU member states as they got increased autonomy or independence. There is a case for Scottish independence but the way it has been presented is a combination of a pack of lies and wishful thinking. There are whole range of issues where the status quo ante (currency and EU membership) cannot be maintained easily or at all. The dishonest implication that it can by the YES campaign is one of the reasons it's going to fail.
I pointed out that, actually, both Greenland and Saint-Barthélemy remained fully active members of the EU after separation but chose themselves to downgrade their level of EU-ness for reasons specific to each. I asked for a reference of where the EU entry conditions as per the Lisbon treaty would apply, given that Scotland is already an EU country. I asked for a reference of where it states that an independent Scotland will cease to be an EU member state, given that the two examples given continued being member states (indeed, they needed to make a special Greenland treaty back in '85 in order that Greenland leave the EU!). This isn't to say that Scotland would remain an EU member state, as Scotland is a more integral part of the United Kingdom, not an outlying area. The truth is, this situation is unprecedented. Josť Manuel Barroso (EC President) and Mariano Rajoy (Spanish PM) can opine all they want (and they will, lest Catalonia get any ideas) but in reality nobody knows. The existing treaties do not specifically address this.
Indeed, there are some who wonder if - having lost five million people and a huge chunk of its land mass, and no longer exactly being a "united" kingdom any more - if the UK itself would not have to reapply alongside Scotland, if such a thing were to happen.
This would, of course, be the nonsensical approach best depicted as the EU repeatedly shooting itself in the foot. To kick out Scotland would be crazy from a point of view of the contributions that the country makes to the EU. To kick out the rest of the UK when you're busy telling the UK not to vote itself out? Come on...

The reply was interesting...

  • "an existing state splitting into two existing states" This is not what will happen if YES wins the referendum. There is currently a state (United Kingdom) which is, for now but probably not much longer, an EU member. After YES there will still be the United Kingdom which will still be an EU member. There will also be a new state called Scotland which will not be an EU member.
    Now, it can be argued, that in the two or so years between a YES vote and actual independence a way may be found to keep Scotland in the EU - and this may well be the case. However, doing this would mean significantly amending Lisbon. A propspect which doesn't seem that likely or desirable while the EU economy stagnates, its Eastern flank is in flames, a possible British exit and its beset by illegal immigration than the South. Frankly the EU is going to have far more important things to worry about than getting Scotland into the club with the minimum of fuss and delay.
This is, essentially, the same random FUD worded differently. I rather think that the pro-UK opinion here is being presented as a combination of a pack of lies and wishful thinking.

Or, to put it another way:

  • This is not what will happen if YES wins the referendum.
Prove it.

  • There is currently a state (United Kingdom) which is, for now but probably not much longer, an EU member.
...you do realise, don't you, that this is perhaps the quickest way to secure a YES vote? ☺ In all seriousness now - some of the smarter people are starting to understand the writing on the wall, and that this debate isn't just a debate about whether or not Scotland remains a part of the UK or not, but rather it is increasingly looking like Scotland has a choice - to remain a part of the UK or to remain a part of the EU.

  • After YES there will still be the United Kingdom which will still be an EU member.
Prove it.

  • There will also be a new state called Scotland which will not be an EU member.
Prove it.

  • A propspect which doesn't seem that likely or desirable while the EU economy stagnates, its Eastern flank is in flames, a possible British exit and its beset by illegal immigration than the South.
You're joking, right? The EU is a huge hulking monster of beaurocratic inefficiency. I am quite sure that in amongst an economic disaster, Russia stealing random bits and throwing hissy fits if anybody notices, and the swathes of Africans and Asians who want in...... there will be some time to think about potential EU candidates and how to better pack bananas. Hell, we might even wind up with some coherent cohesive EU-wide data privacy laws that actually get enforced rather than poo-pooed by the American corporations responsible.
Amazingly, in these times of utter dispair and crisis, Mayotte became a new EU member state earlier this year. I'm sure most people didn't even notice. And those who did may be the few that can point to Mayotte on a map without Googling it first.

You might find the following link interesting: http://www.europeanlawmonitor.org/latest-eu-news/ - proof that the EU can multitask better than my computer.

  • Frankly the EU is going to have far more important things to worry about than getting Scotland into the club with the minimum of fuss and delay.
The Spanish will hate it with a passion, the Belgians will just hate it, but the smartest thing the EU can do is not kick out a part of the country you are going out of your way to try to talk to staying a part of the EU.
Think about it - the EU is worried (as am I) that Cameron, if he wins the next election with a majority government, is batshit crazy enough to actually hold an In-or-Out referendum. Countries, diplomats, and others are coming up with ways to try to tell the UK that they are a necessary part of the EU. And, in amongst all of this, we're supposed to think that they would turn around and tell Scotland to get lost? There will, for sure, be a lot of negotiations. Perhaps a stack of paperwork the likes of which would make the entire SNP lose the will, but realistically I think the EU would seriously undermine itself if it did kick out Scotland.
And, yes, amazingly, I think the EU is more than capable of dealing with this alongside everything else. To suggest otherwise is, frankly, an insult to the EU.

And, so, FUD aside, the most recent polls have shown that the YES campaign is growing in strength so the current government is starting to make a lot of extra promises. More powers to Scotland, more control over taxation, blah blah. Perhaps right about now Westminster is starting to realise that Devo-Max should have been an option instead of a straight Yes/No. Devo-Max may well have been the winner, for those who want less interference from London, but not to cut ties entirely. Instead the choice is the status quo or a "brave new world". I wonder how much the new promises will affect the Yes voters, for going it alone with so many uncertainties is a scary thing to do. Scotland may be fine, there may be no problem, but the only people saying that are politicians, and how much do we trust a politician with an event that if it goes wrong, you can't say "oops" and have make up sex and the whole union is back together.
All of that said........there is this niggling feeling in the back of my mind that, sooner or later, the UK (or what remains of it) is going to have an EU referendum, and that the sheep citizens who have been lied to so many times (everything is the fault of the EU except the stuff we can blame on the French) will go ahead and vote to leave the EU.

Mr. Salmond, you might need to hand Mr. Darling an even bigger shovel.

 

A new PC

I got myself a new PC for €10 at a vide grenier. It is a black box with a grey front, roughly the same size as an A5000, weighing about 9kg. It is a flat box, not a tower. An HP Compaq DC7100 SFF.
The vendor (a teenage boy, probably upgraded to a better machine) wanted €16 for the computer with monitor and keyboard, but the monitor was a huge old CRT and the keyboard AZERTY, so I asked how much it would be just for the box.

The basic specs are:

  • Intel Pentium 4, 2.8GHz, dual core
  • 1,24 GB RAM (which is 1GB (or 1024MB) annoyingly expressed in base 10 to make it sound like more)
  • 37 GB SATA harddisc
There is some weird Intel graphics chip inside that doesn't seem to want to know about widescreen modes (1440x900 @ 60Hz is apparently too challenging for it).

On the front is a full size CD-ROM drive (really?!? that needs to be a CD/DVD writer) with an integrated floppy drive (!) below it. Below that, nicely, is a mic socket and a headphones socket, plus two USB2 ports. Indicators for power and disc access and an on/off touch button round off the user parts of the front. The entire right is a grill hiding a huge fan.
The back has slots for two mini PCI (2.3) cards, a PCI Express x1 card, and a PCI Express x16 (graphics) card. 10/100/1000 LAN, six USB2 sockets, parallel and serial (!), VGA, PS/2 keyboard and mouse, and audio line in/line out.

The machine is positively begging for you to pull it apart. Press the tab on each side, then the lid/front slides forward and comes right off. It is pretty tight inside.

It is worth taking a closer look at the processor cooling. Attached to the top of the processor is a huge radiator. A large fan mounted by the front of the case blows air into the radiator with the aid of plastic ducting, and another fan mounted to the back of the radiator sucks heat away. Note the copper pipes. These are a really clever innovation in CPU cooling. They are sealed, forming a vacuum, with a small amount of pure water inside. As the processor heats up, the water will vapourise (at a temperature much lower than boiling due to the vacuum). The vapour rises to the cooler parts of the heatsink and condenses there, transferring the heat in the vapour. The condensed water trickles back down to the warm to be vapourised and, the cycle repeats, shifting large amounts of heat away from the processor by clever application of a simple process.

Here is the expansion. Unfortunately it won't accept standard PCI cards (this is an option), but it isn't "critical" since my PCI cards are ancient, if I was going to expand, it would probably make sense to look for newer hardware! I wonder if this machine is fast enough / capable enough to receive from (and record/transcode) satellite streams? You can get PCI cards with DBS/DiSeqC.

The mechanics inside the box are also interesting. Due to the space issues, the power supply can lift up out of the way. The harddisc lies below the power supply, I wonder if heat is an issue here? Thankfully the power supply has its own fan (making three in total). The caddy holding the floppy drive and CD-ROM (legacy PATA) can unclip and slide forward. There is a power connector for a second SATA drive, and a socket for a second SATA cable, but I'm not entirely sure where you could put another harddisc. Possibly attached to the lid to rest over the expansion ports? That only works so long as none of them are in use.

There is no Bluetooth, no media card readers, and no WiFi, but plenty of legacy I/O. I think the machine dates from around 2004, which would explain that.

The processor is a Pentium 4 clocking 2.80GHz, with an 800MHz FSB. This is the lowest spec of the models, so I figure I won't have to worry too much about the processor overheating. Indeed, while running the system to check that it worked, I was not exactly taxing it, but even so, the heatsink remained cool to touch.
The computer supports PC2700 and PC3200 DDR. Currently installed are four 256MB DIMMs, I don't know what type. This is not an officially supported spec, but it works. The four sockets provide two channels. I may, in time, upgrade this to have more RAM onboard. Depends on cost.
The video is an Intel 82915G capable of supporting up to 2048×1536 @ 85Hz, or 3D up to 1600×1200 @ 85Hz. It should certainly be capable of 1440×900 @ 75Hz.
The power supply is 240W, and autoranging to work on anything from 90-264V at 47-63Hz. So no worry about what country it plugs in to. Outputs are +3.33V at up to 19A, +5.08V at up to 14A, +5.08V (aux) at up to 3A, +12V at up to 7.5A (10 sec surge up to 9A), +12V (Vcpu) at up to 12.5A, and -12V at up to 0.15A. That's a lot of amps. Remember this if you wonder why your Raspberry Pi sulks if you feed it less than an amp.

This brings us to the operating system. It is XP. Sort of. It is a version I have not encountered before, called "Dark Lite 2" that looks for all the world like a cobbled-together mish-mash of XP and Vista. I'll tell you what, though. It is quite nippy. Fast to start, quick to shut down. Responsive, in the few tests that I performed.

Dark Lite is in French. Does anybody know if an English language version is available? Failing that, something similar? It seems better use of time to install a modified version of Windows than a standard off-of-CD version followed by gigabytes of updates that install at treacle-pace.

All in all, not bad for €10!

 

 

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The IT Guy, 14th September 2014, 12:42
Kick out the Jocks, the Taffs and the Paddys so we can be our own country without them dragging us down. Said no-one, ever. 
 
Regarding your shiny new PC, at least you have an AGP slot fitted. Yours truly was recently given a couple of Dell Dimension systems from around 2002. They're Pentium 4 2.4GHz with 1GB RAM each (upgraded!) and a 40GB hard disk. 
 
They will run Windows 7 32-bit quite nicely. Except for the on-board Intel 845 graphics chip, which has no Windows 7 driver. This means you need to install the WinXP driver in compatibility mode. Of course this driver doesn't have WDDM support, so Aero Glass is straight off the menu. 
 
No problem, one thinks. Just stick an AGP graphics card in. I have a few Radeon 7000 cards lying around and the generic Radeon driver in Win7 supports WDDM and transparency. 
 
Except... 
 
Open up the machine. And where the AGP slot should be, there's just a bunch of solder pads. 
 
That's right - Dell tracked out the AGP slot on the motherboard but didn't bother fitting the connector. 
 
So the only way to get Aero working is to install a PCI graphics card with a WDDM driver. Such a thing does exist, and it costs £80. The computers are worth £25 each tops, probably less. 
 
I hate Dell sometimes, really, I do.
The IT Guy, 14th September 2014, 20:18
Just re-read your description of the spec. The Intel 915 graphic chip will NOT support Aero Glass effects as it doesn't have a pixel shader. However, install a cheapo ATI Radeon or nVidia AGP card (with DVI output), upgrade the RAM to 2GB and that'll run 32-bit Windows 7 very nicely. 
 
Most motherboards that age have a limit of 2GB RAM in the chipset anyway. Even if they didn't, a 32-bit OS will only support 3GB max (actually 4GB minus the AGP memory, IO memory etc, so probably around 3.2 GB). 
 
You should be able to pick up an AGP card and a pair of suitable 1GB DIMMs (most likely DDR400) for less than 10 euros, and you've got a pretty decent workhorse system for running Win7. (Or XP, if you like obsolete hardware. Not Vista though.)
Nikita Vorontsov, 15th September 2014, 21:19
Hello Rick! 
 
What are your plans for this computer? 

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