Original URL: https://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/05/19/comments/

Aliens, astronauts and Pope partition PC World

Shareholders welcome their new overlords

By Robin Lettice

Posted in Bootnotes, 19th May 2008 13:21 GMT

Comments It's been a while since astronauts were last in the public eye, but recently a bunch of them have been quoted as saying that aliens exist. Well, they should know, having undoubtedly exchanged glances with little green men through the windows of their space station. The government suppressed news of these encounters, naturally. Meanwhile the Vatican says there's no contradiction between the Christian faith and the existence of aliens. As we all know, the church is another big coverer-upper of uncomfortable truths, but it may be that their armour is showing a chink and this is damage control. Or maybe they're just hopping aboard the intergalactic bandwagon. Who knows?

That would spice things up around planet earth. No more Eco blabla, no more fruitless peace talks, just war with aliens.

I will probably die first and probably while sitting on the toilet :-D

Anonymous Coward

If aliens do attack, the Japanese are the best placed to defend us. No one else has such a massive body of research into, for example, giant robots, planet sized spaceships, the techniques needed by zero-G fighters, how to vat grow giant humans that can fight in space and so on.

If aliens attack, I'm heading to Yokohama, since Tokyo will inevitably be destroyed in the initial salvo.

Dominic Kua

Why does everyone assume that aliens would bother attacking? Surely it's far more likely that we'd have a quick look around, then bugger off elsewhere.

Attacking an inhabited planet is just too much like hard work.

If we want metals and other minerals, we just go and smash up asteroids.

If we want slaves, we build robots. They don't rebel, and it's easy to fit them with 'off' switches in case of software problems.

Humans are just too *squishy*. Ugh.

Anonymous Coward

As I've noted before, the only realistic option, should aliens try to attack earth, is to say "Please Mr Alien! We'll do anything you say. Anything! Just stop dropping rocks on our heads!"

For "rocks" read "10-mile-wide asteroids". After the first few cities have been wiped from the face of the Earth, and absolutely nothing you can do about it, compliance seems the only solution.

Stuart Van Onselen

Quoting shuttle astronauts' opinion on ET life is a bit misleading, as it suggest that they are in a better position to judge than us Earth-bound lesser beings. Or worse, it suggests that 'out there' is in the vicinity of the shuttle flights, when it clearly isn't.

Taking astronauts opinion of life in the universe is like asking your work colleague at the next desk their opinion of Iraq, simply because they're 8 feet further east than you.


El Ron told us that we are all descendants of surprisingly humanoid aliens who all looked like 70's porn stars.

They are here, we are not worthy (well, not until we've spent thousands on becoming 'clear').

Elmer Phud

Dixons is biting the bullet and overhauling its chain of stores, as well as halving its shareholder dividend. Always happy to have a grave to dance on, you lot let loose:

"it's even worse than you thought"

I'm sorry? Dixons is worse than I thought? Nope, not possible...!

Mike Crawshaw

The problem is that these stores have become little more than glorified showrooms for a large portion of the populace.

For my own part, if I'm buying a new electrical item, I'll do my research on line, and create a comparison list. Then it's off to the local retail parks, mooching around all the retailers (Comet, Curry's,PC World etc) to get a 'real world' look at the shortlist, then I'll make my selection. Obviously, if I can get it cheaper on line, factoring in delivery cost and convenience, then it'll be an on-line purchase. It's not often that the stores beat the on line pricing. I've even had the experience of quoting their own 'on-line price' in the store and asking them to match it, then being refused. My reaction - I take my money elsewhere. If DSGI want to survive, then the instore pricing has to match up to the on-line pricing AND be competitive at that level.

BTW, I Do Not Want to be offered an 'extended warranty' every time I buy something. By all means send me the offer via snail / email later, but my reaction in-store will always be "no thanks".


I used to work for DSG some years back. Their training was actually pretty good BUT it only focused on sales technique not on product knowledge. Consequently we all got very good at selling their wretched Mastercare Coverplan, but not so good at advising on what to actually buy in the first place. Some sales staff really knew their stuff, but they almost invariably moved on to better paying jobs.

Anonymous Coward

I used to work at PCW too, and left when the "one team" came in.. I was probably one of the rarest PCW Sales staff around, as I actually knew what products were, and how they worked.

Nowadays, it is shocking at the lack of product knowledge the staff posess. I don't think anyone in my local PCW has much knowledge of the latest gadgets, technologies, or anything like that, and only sell what is on the endcap, as it is on offer..

I remember when PCW put up huge 60x40's at the front of stores saying "Our staff don't work on comission".. well maybe it is about time to employ people who know what they sell, are enthusiastic to sell the right product, and have to know to be able to earn money to be able to do so.. !

I'm an anonymous coward too... oh well!

Anonymous Coward

The biggest issue these guys face is that internally, they struggle with having both real world and online stores. They cannot afford to have an online presence that is too effective as it'll eat into store footfall and therefore sales, which given the costs of operating these huge purple barns is something they desperately want to avoid.

Its the reason they introduced this "buy online, pickup at store" nonsense.

They know their staff are majorly rubbish, because just like any mass-market box shifting outfit their margins simply aren't going to be there if they're also having to pay for knowledgable staff who of course will be more expensive than the YTS trainees you encounter at the moment... I'll never forget the moment I was told that USB was the same as Firewire...

They need to massively reduce their physical presence and invest heavily in their online site(s) and fulfillment/delivery service, and simply take the write down financially for doing so and play the long game.

PC World lives, currently, in the dark ages of overpriced mass-market consumer electronics, high pressure warranty and accessory sales, and a general "don't give a stuff once you've paid" mentality.

Chris Walker

The story of the downfall of teen botnet master SoBe had you arguing over where the blame fell and how much went to whom. It got pretty lively:

Another Skiddie bites the dust but the problem remains. As I see it, he's guilty of what he did but partial guilt belongs to those who do not take basic steps to secure their machines and/or exercize common sense. I also hold Microsoft (and to a much lesser extent other software companies) responsible for their atrocious attitude to and track record on security.

A basic flaw, for example, with Windows (until Vista at least) is that by default, on home user systems, a user account has full administrative rights with no challenge dialogs generated when they are used. Worse, an awful lot of software, written by Microsoft as well as others, will not even install or in some cases execute, without such privileges.

This guy was not really talented, not especially intelligent, but he learned that it was relatively easy and financially rewarding to use his skills, such as they were, to compromise poorly protected and/or ineptly used machines, for a bare minimum of effort on his part. It also clearly made him feel 'big' and 'clever', plastering over his poor self esteem. In short: The American Dream (tm).

This skiddie isn't the first and he will not be the last, in fact, until Joe Luser takes some responsibility for the security of his machine and exercizes some common sense and moral judgement (how about not downloading that 'free', i.e. stolen, version of your favourite software? The one loaded with trojans.) this problem will be with us, no matter how hard people work on education of users, removal of the payloads, prosecution of the perpetrators and so on.

John PM Chappell

Actually, a victim can be considered to have supplied provocation or mitigating circumstances, so aye, pretty much.

Where I come from (Scotland) it is a more serious offence to steal from a secured vessel or premises than from one which was not. This is because the law recognizes that when a person takes steps to secure their property (and privacy) those who then commit offences against it have shown a determination to do so not merely stumbled upon it and taken advantage ('opportunity crime'). I think this is directly applicable as an analogy for what happened with these botnets; through ignorance or casual disregard many of the bot hosts failed to secure their machines and were compromised.

It's not fashionable to point this out in the present world of "Teh IntarWeb" and "Web 2.0" but connecting machines to a network is inherently risky unless you control all the machines on that network and/or trust all the users. Connecting your machine to a global network via an 'always on' connection and leaving it powered on for most of the day is quite literally asking for trouble. If you want to do this you need to take some common sense measures, ideally you make sure you are sitting behind a real firewall (software is _not_ a firewall, folks, no matter what MS or MacAfee tell you) with your machine using a non-routable address and that the firewall operates proper port access protocols. This used to require some savvy and a bit of cash but today you can get it for free from an ISP or shell out maybe 40 quid at Tesco.

All that said, you ignored the fact that I clearly said the skiddie's actions were not excused, rather I pointed out how an unremarkable teen can commit these actions easily because of the failings of others, including the user of the compromised machines.

[Penguin because it goes a long way towards stopping this kind of stuff]

John PM Chappell

Mini skirt, prancing, leaving your doors unlocked, passing the blame to Microsoft, blaming the victim in general?

Grow up.

None of that is an excuse for someone. It's as bad as saying "Well, the victim shouldn't have left their house door open while they mowed the lawn, it's their own damn fault that I was able to walk in, steal their TV and Stereo!".

I, for one, hope this little shithead gets ten years in Federal prison.

Personally, I'd like a return to 'justice', Mongolian style. Back in the 13th century, a women could walk, naked and draped in gold chains, from China to Hungary. Anyone touched her, the mongol army would 'discourage' them and make sure that they never, ever, repeated their crime.

Same thing should apply to this kind of idiot, ten years in Federal prison, and a court order to never even touch a computer again, on pain of a life sentence.

Like it or not, 'Joe Luser' on his computer pays the bills. The rest of us whoa re properly educated in being totally and uncompromising paranoid have to live with it.

Mark Bennett

While reading all of the comments, I noticed people are questioning his intelligence because of some of his actions that got him caught. I would argue there is a big difference between acting based on naiveté and acting based on stupidity. He was a kid, and did things that kids do because they do not have the "common sense", "life experience", "street sense", or "life experience" to know not to do certain things. Unless, of course, you are stupid enough to think you really did have life mastered by the age of 18.

From reading the article, it is obvious his naiveté got him caught, not a lack of intelligence. Too bad he could not have met a better mentor to direct his skill and motivation to something more legal and ultimately profitable.


Microsoft has fingered computer makers over the fiasco that was the release of Windows XP Service Pack 3. The software behemoth blamed OEMs loading the wrong "Sysprepped"* XP image on to machines with non-Intel chipsets for causing the problems. You still had harsh words to say about Microsoft:

Typical MS fragility to assume that every file is in exactly the right place and every reg key is set exactly right.

If MS has known about this issue for 4 years, seems like that's enough time to put a fix in for it. Or is it too much to ask for a good customer experience.

Anonymous Coward

This isn't really a MS bash, more an observation, but I would have though MS's internal testing (and betas?) would have tested the SP against common customer configurations?

This sort of configuration sounds common enough to me (subjective I guess given the media talk surrounding it) and they knew about it in 2004, so why not specifically test such a case?

It sounds a bit like MS getting annoyed with OEMs doing that, and so deciding to screw them over. Those who insta-blame MS suddenly look bad temporarily and MS get to blame someone else, so MS look like the heroes here until they mess up the next time... got to love PR.

Anonymous Coward

I put SP3 on my fully patched up to date intel machine. I run it as a trim machine (XP, ha ha) with the minimum of extra software installed and the SP3 installer tells me it can't install SP3 as "As an extra install/update is needed first" but won't tell me what.

Well maybe it's done me a favour, so *Shrug*


Like lots of smart IT-savvy folks have pointed out, this can affect any platform. If you have a *nix system and decide one day you want to plug your HD into a brand-new-to-the-market RAID controller. Your machine will POST fine, and most likely even get to the boot loader OK, since that's typically a lower level INT/BIOS function to get the drive spinning to a point where the system can recognize it. Yet, when the platform loads, it may panic/blue screen since the OS can't find a driver to know how to interpret the controller. Same deal with video cards or processor architecture classes. No matter what your platform or hardware, if the OS doesn't know how to properly access the hardware, you're dead in the water.

Paris, because so many people are clueless and hop on a bandwagon without really knowing anything.

Aaron Guilmette

Microsoft has unveiled World-Wide Telescope, a program that lets you surf the sky and maybe find those aliens the astronauts were babbling about. Or it does if you can get it to work, anyway. We had a little trouble on that front.

In fairness if it did work, it would be breathtakingly unoriginal.

Geoff Mackenzie

And they wonder why people don't find Windows easy to use.

I sometimes wonder why 'older members of my family' can't get to grips with basic computer stuff, and then I see how straightforward it is to install a Microsoft designed app on a Microsoft designed Operating System.

" * Review the System Requirements to ensure that WWT can run on your computer.

* Click Download.

If you don't have Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0, or later, installed on your computer, a message box

displays prompting you to install it. Click Yes to go to the .NET Framework 2.0 SDKs, Redistributables

& Service Packs page.

o On the .NET Framework 2.0 SDKs, Redistributables & Service Packs page, scroll down the page to the .NET Framework Version 2.0 Redistributable Package section, and then click the link for your computer's architecture and operating system.

Note Most computers currently use a 32-bit architecture and operating system and should click the

Download x86 version.

o On the Microsoft .Net Framework Version 2.0 Redistributable Package page, read the system requirements to ensure that your computer has all the necessary software installed, and then click Download.

o In the File Download – Security Warning message box, click Run.

o In the Internet Explorer – Security Warning message box, click Run.

o Follow the software installation instructions.

o After the software has been installed, click the Windows Update link to make sure that you have all the latest service packs and security updates. Click Express to review all recommended software and follow the software installation instructions.

* In the File Download – Security Warning message box, click Run.

* In the Internet Explorer – Security Warning message box, click Run.

* Follow the instructions in the WorldWide Telescope Setup Wizard.

* After WWT installs, double-click the WWT icon on your desktop to open WWT."

...Or in a nutshell: "Click here to install and hope for the best"


I should have read the comments first!! Read the story - downloaded the "software". This machine runs as a restricted user, so I switched into Admin mode to install - no problem. Finished install - went to fire up as a restricted user, and it wanted the .msi file to install something else!! Of course the wonderful M$ install had erased the .msi file that had been extracted from the download. Next step - fire up AppWiz.cpl in Admin mode and remove!

Simon Fowler

Microsoft did the global satelite image project, Terraserver, in the mid 1990s, which predates the Keyhole (Google Earth) software by many years. Keyhole is much nicer, but Microsoft didn't copy the idea from anyone, they were the first.

Same with WWT. Database researcher, Jim Gray, had been working on this sky project for years before Google Sky came out.

Don Mitchell

Well I got lost in space for a whole afternoon in the deep field with Hubble, found the black hole in the middle of Saggitarius and got lost on the earth too. I went to the US, Africa and the south of France. The guided tour of the earth at night is just superb.

Not being a great believer in marketing, I didn't bother reading the sysreqs and it runs sweetly on my

3.20 gigahertz Intel Pentium 4 HT

NVIDIA GeForce 6200 TurboCache

Windows XP Home Edition Service Pack 3

1024 Megabytes Installed Memory

And I had outlook, visio pro, word and three lots of security running at the same time.

This app rocks. Despite Office 2007 and Vista (I get to be 1st line support for gf's machine ugh), I might start to like Micro$oft.


A small telescope (or pair of binoculas) will show the real wonders out there. It may take time to find your way about, but there is a huge amout of data up there! As with PCs there are some issues...

Warning: Only works at night.

Warning: Will not work if cloudy.

Chris Cartledge

Or if you leave the lens cap on. ®