* Posts by Mike Richards

3605 posts • joined 28 Feb 2007

ID cards poster girl laments her £30

Mike Richards

She's a class act

She even gets in the old warhorse:

'Except to say if you were a law abiding citizen you had nothing to lose and everything to gain from something that carried little more information about you than your supermarket loyalty card.'

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Ballmer, black turtlenecks, and Microsoft's next big idea

Mike Richards

Xbox

Xbox was a blinder. Yes they burned money to do it and the 360 had some unforgiveable quality control issues, but Microsoft did a good job here.

Microsoft muscled its way into the game console market up against Sony and Nintendo (and a dying Sega hardware division). They've consistently made Sony look stupid and slow and wooed a deeply sceptical market. Not to mention the 360 is regularly still outperforming Sony's wonder console.

But their stroke of genius was XBox Live. So far they're the only console company which have got online gaming working well, fast and made it easy to use. The Playstation Network is a joke and Nintendo aren't even in the game. And using the Xbox as a trojan horse into the living room has meant that Microsoft can push other services like Netflix and Sky to their users.

As for everything else - I really like the Zune's interface and online store - they're both better than iPod, but the hardware is so m'eh and the marketing so piss poor that I can't work out why Microsoft hasn't closed down the division.

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Rave reviews at robotic robot-roaster raygun rollout

Mike Richards

Spine-chilling

Not the robot, their use of 'thru'.

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Cray-1 resurfaces in pieces on eBay

Mike Richards

Because...

The cooling system projected outwards from the base of the system. Rather than having people tripping over it, Cray turned it into seating.

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Phoenix Mars Lander officially dead

Mike Richards

Except

You'd be writing the score using hydrated calcium fucking sulfate.

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Mike Richards

No

Chalk may well be calcium carbonate - but as any geologist will tell you, it is a very specific type of organic limestone formed from the shells of coccolithophores. To have chalk you first need to have life.

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Mike Richards

Hubble

Is never pointed at the Earth or the Sun since the amount of light hitting its sensors would cause serious damage.

HTH.

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Ten Essential... iPad Apps

Mike Richards

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/bigscreen/

El Reg is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

No need for an iPlayer app

The iPlayer BigScreen works fine in Safari.

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Eurovision website goes titsup, upsets handful of fans

Mike Richards

No escape there

You can watch iPlayer in Safari at:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/bigscreen/

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Blunkett threatens to sue for £30 ID card refund

Mike Richards

New Labour in a nutshell

(with emphasis on the 'nut').

He knows the *cost* of cancelling Blunkettcards in pounds and pence, but doesn't stop to think about the *value* of cancelling them - ie. not living in an Orwellian nanny state.

Like the article says he's probably really pissed off that his ID and DNA consultancies might be drying up real soon now.

But there is one thing Blunkett has taught me - and that's not to automatically feel sorry for blind people.

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Mozilla sidesteps iPhone code ban with Firefox Home

Mike Richards

iPad is different

The iPad is much closer to Jeff Raskin's definition of an 'information appliance' than the PC on your desk. The rules have changed, but it's hardly like Apple didn't announce loud and clear, 'buy an iPad, play by our rules'.

For a huge number of people, the idea of a computer they can pick up and use without worrying about labyrinthine interfaces or bastardly installations or keeping their security up to date is a dream. The iPad overcomes most of the problems of owning a PC - as the slogan goes - it just works. Apple control the hardware and distribution of software so you won't get the range found on a PC; but in exchange you get a generally better level of usability and stability over the mix-and-match install-what-you-like PC.

It's the way of the future, better get used to it. Every manufacturer is looking at the same model - think Gillette's razor blades - they tie you into the platform and then make money selling you disposable extras - except this time Apple have found a way of making the hardware profitable.

As for complaints to the OFT - on what grounds? The introduction of the iPad hasn't resulted in every other computer ceasing to work, you can still go and buy alternative machines.

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X-51 hypersonic scramjet test: Flameout at Mach 5?

Mike Richards

You're thinking right

It was the HOrizontal Take-Off and Landing - HOTOL which brought a bit of Thunderbirds flash to the 1980s before vanishing in a big puff of bureaucracy.

Its designer, Alan Bond now runs Reaction Engines:

http://www.reactionengines.co.uk/

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Copernicus reburied with full Catholic honours

Mike Richards

Oh I can't believe I'm rising to this... but needs must

'It predicted a spherical earth while many people were flat earthers.'

No it doesn't. Young Earthers like pointing to a phrase in Isaiah which uses the word 'circle'. They don't so often mention the mentions of God laying out the Earth with a compass in Job and Proverbs. You can't make a sphere with a compass.

And there were never many flat earthers. The concept of the Earth as a sphere long predates the Bible, it caused few problems for the Ancients or the medieval world. It's 21st Century Kansas that seems to have trouble with the idea of the Earth just being a lump of slowly cooling iron, nickel and silicon hanging around a gloomy part of the Milky Way that's been going gently downhill since the early Caenozoic.

'Genesis states God created light before the sun and stars which is consistent with the Big Bang Theory.'

Well if you mean that there was light before the stars then yes, the Bible is consistent with the Big Bang theory (but then gets understandably side-tracked by the whole begetting bit when it could have been explaining the role of deuterium in the early Universe).

However, your theory falls apart when you actually - ummmm - read the Bible. Doesn't the whole 'Now the earth was [a] formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.' rather suggest that even if the light appeared without stars, it's irrelevant because the water got there first?

And if you do want to discuss creation in Genesis - which one do you want? There are two irreconcilable tellings of the act of creation in Genesis 1 and 2. Either God is even more unknowable than we thought, or there was some sloppy proof-reading going on in early Palestine.

Genesis is myth and epic poetry. It's about as useful at explaining the Universe as a copy of Lord of the Rings with the saving grace that it's out of copyright and there are no crappy songs.

'It describes cities that don't exist (for which it has been criticised), but archaeologists continue to dig them up.'

You're really going to need to explain that, preferably with the aid of diagrams - they don't exist but they get dug up? I'd like to see that on Time Team. If you mean cities that have been lost then that's a different matter; but no one is seriously saying there are no historical events in the Bible - it's just that they've been buried under layer upon layer of badly translated myth.

If Bible says there was a city in a location in a (fairly tiny) part of the world with relatively little habitable space which has been settled for tens of thousands of years - and we dig up human remains - that's hardly astonishing.

If on the other hand we were to find the Ark of the Covenant, some fossilised manna or an eye witness account of the end of Sodom (preferably in the hand of the author who had been pinned down under an easily carbon dateable catamite by a large lump of falling brimstone) - that'd be different.

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Mike Richards

'Science and faith can be reconciled'

No they can't; science won. Get over it and get a job.

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Captain Cyborg sidekick implants virus-infected chip

Mike Richards

Makes you wonder what their interview procedure is like

Do they concentrate on academic output or just media whoredom?

Warwick and friends are the embarrassing relatives to Kurzweil's Singularity.

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Twitter tw*ts ad networks

Mike Richards

Translation

"Twitter is uniquely dependent on and responsible for the long-term health and value of the platform."

becomes

We still haven't made any real money or come up with a business plan for this toy.

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Dell to release first MID on 7 June

Mike Richards

It's the details that count

Dell have done an okay job on this, but as usual they've skimped on the design. Those Home and Back icons are the wrong orientation when you hold the machine in portrait format. It's a little thing, but you just know Steve J wouldn't let that happen. Okay he wouldn't let a machine out the door with THREE buttons on the front...

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Mass Effect movie deal done

Mike Richards

Oooh good

I hope there are REALLY long scenes in a lift - otherwise it won't be anything like the original.

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Atlantis spacewalkers snapped through shuttle windows

Mike Richards

Space pens

Were never a NASA project and the Soviets used felt tips for many years.

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Secret US spaceplane spotted in orbit by hobbyists

Mike Richards

That shroud

Is it really made from Lego?

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Photographers slam British Library's mission creep

Mike Richards

Not sure this is an issue

From the project's press release:

'Along with out-of-copyright material from the newspaper archive - defined in this context as pre-1900 newspaper material - the partnership will also seek to digitise a range of in-copyright material, with the agreement of the relevant rightsholders. '

http://www.bl.uk/news/2010/pressrelease20100519.html

If rights holders don't want their stuff digitised they have an opt out.

I'd prefer someone respectable like the British Library was doing this rather than it not happening at all; or individual piecemeal preservation attempts by with wildly differing standards and technologies and no central repository.

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German boffins develop sharkskin paint for ships, planes

Mike Richards

Fraunhofer-Institut für Fertigungstechnik und Angewandte Materialforschung

Do their business cards come in widescreen?

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2012 Olympic mascots cop a shoeing

Mike Richards

I preferred...

...the suggestion that the Olympics should be represented by something associated with the venue, in this case the East End of London.

So it came down to a toss up between a giant plasticised Barbara Windsor and a cuddly plush Jack the Ripper.

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US boffins synthesize self-replicating bacteria

Mike Richards

Unanswered questions

Did they use lightning and the services of a hunchbacked servant?

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The commercial cuckoo hiding in the BBC's global mission

Mike Richards

Conversely

When the BBC produces something that does badly in the ratings, the likes of the Times and the Mail come out and attack it for spending money on things that no one watches. The BBC can't win either way.

And I have no problem with the BBC making money abroad, the money comes back here and gets invested in new programming. Where does Sky's money go? The company doesn't even pay tax here. As far as I can tell it spunks its money up the wall on football rights and overpaying for TV programmes that have built a faithful audience on terrestrial.

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Clegg promises liberties restoration

Mike Richards

'big bang approach to political reform'

I prefer Guy Fawkes' big bang approach to political reform.

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Blighty to get mobe-download barcode rail tickets

Mike Richards

Booking fee

And what's the betting they'll add yet another £1 charge to the cost on top of their insurance, card fee and booking fees and call it something like a 'convenience fee'?

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The iPad, news saviour? Murdoch may have something here

Mike Richards

Not sure

I think it really depends how loyal people are to their chosen brand of newspaper/magazine. And I think the media companies will be surprised how fickle we are when something is taken away. The Times website is nicely done, the news is solid (the comment less so), but it's not so indispensable that when Rupert's paywall goes up I'll pay for it. I might miss the Times for a couple of days, but then I'll go look elsewhere for the same information.

I can think of precious few publications so wonderful that I'd pay for them to be delivered to my computer and none that will replace paper for anything other than convenience. I'll keep with my paper magazine subscriptions because I want the actual tangible item. National Geographic on a computer screen is nothing compared to the actual magazine which I can hoard, clip or share to my heart's content.

As for the iPad; Early Edition is a great little RSS reader that assembles items into a 'paper like' format - it's the closest implementation of 'The Daily Me' I've seen so far. It still needs a bit of work - being able to assemble feeds into sections would be a nice addition.

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Competitors vie to provide earthquake-proof radios

Mike Richards

Richter 10?

Apart from choosing a particularly shite Arthur C Clarke book title, why did they choose that value? It's debatable whether Magnitude 10 'quakes are even possible because there don't seem to be any faults long enough to generate them.

The best chance of experiencing one will be the next time something the size of Snowdon drops out of the sky.

So they'd better make it asteroid-proof as well.

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Norks 'have answer to humanity's greatest problem'

Mike Richards

Not always

The really big bombs of the 1950s were three-stage devices like you described. More modern warheads dispense with the depleted uranium jacket allowing them to be smaller and also a lot less planet killing.

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Steam rushes from Valve onto Macs

Mike Richards

Not really important

Portal is a free download for the next few days. Get it now.

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US Navy's plane-hurling mass driver in tech hiccup

Mike Richards

Name

When the USS Theodore Roosevelt or the USS Kennedy was steaming your way you knew you were in trouble - I'm not sure the knowledge that the USS Ronald Reagan or the USS Gerald Ford* are en-route will have the same effect. And god only knows the reaction to Dubya sliding down the slipway.

* Who was famously said not to be able to walk and chew gum. Maybe his namesake is a similar underachiever?

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Identity & Passport Service in suicide bid?

Mike Richards

Family only, no flowers

Can the Reg get a quote out of Meg Hillier, who on top of finding herself out of a job, now has a bit of plastic in her wallet that can't even get her out of the country*. Perhaps it'll come in handy if we keep having these frosty mornings.

* Other question. Did she pay for that card, or did we?

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Trident, nuke energy looking poorly under LibCons

Mike Richards

Worth remembering

It was the Conservatives who killed the nuclear industry in this country when they came to the belated realisation that the business of splitting atoms was a bottomless sink for public money.

Nothing in the last 20 years suggests that the financial argument for nuclear power has become any more compelling.

As for the fans of FBRs here; there were many reasons they never took off (metaphorically); fixing the plumbing so that molten sodium didn't keep coming into contact with boiling water was one, but they died a painful death when the economics of reprocessing spent fuel became clear. Regular nuclear power is expensive, reprocessing makes it look like a bargain.

And do we really want to be in a situation arguing why its perfectly acceptable for us to be producing tonne quantities of plutonium, but not energy hungry, fossil-fuel poor countries like Pakistan?

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Mike Richards

Maybe

But we probably don't have the skills to build a warhead.

Ever since MacMillan had his Bermuda holiday with Kennedy, Britain has been more or less dependent on American technology for everything from the warhead design to the missile and guidance systems right down to the tritium that makes a satisfyingly large apocalypse. In return I think we've provided them with some plutonium when they ran short.

Our current city killers are clones of the American W76s with a Union Jack sticker on them.

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Mike Richards

Genius!

The best summary of defence policy ever.

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Waterstone's whips out its pendulous dugs

Mike Richards

Ooooh classy

'BookVendia' - I like it - it's got a streetwise camel case that'll look great on a carrier bag. I hope you've trademarked it for six months time when Waterstone's need yet another rebrand to try and ignore the fact they're a really shite bookstore.

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QinetiQ lends PARIS a helping hand

Mike Richards

So...

...which member of the Reg team will be reporting live (well, at least initially) from inside the chamber?

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Cameron aims to bring LibDems into government

Mike Richards

They've already had one

Blair promised an inquiry into electoral reform before the 1997 election (when he thought he might need the LibDems to secure a Commons majority). Roy Jenkins ran an extremely thorough inquiry and settled on Alternative Vote Plus.

Essentially there would be five-hundred constituencies where voters ranked candidates. If no one got an outright majority on first preference votes, then there would be a recount with the less popular candidates dropping out one by one (least popular first) with their alternate votes being redistributed amongst the remaining candidates until one goes over 50%.

On top of that, there would be county level seats where voters ranked parties. The representatives would be chosen from a list like that used in the European election.

AV+ is a pretty good system it keeps a link with constituencies and it would achieve a much better representation of people's wishes.

Blair went cold on it when he had his landslide.

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Jacqui Smith and Charles Clarke shown the door

Mike Richards

oooh I'd forgotten about Meg...

Meg Hillier (yep, I had to keep checking the name) actually INCREASED her share of the vote! Worse still, an actual majority of voters put their crosses next to her name.

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Germans plan to make 'synthetic natural' gas from CO2

Mike Richards

Parallel infrastructure

Why go to all the bother of distributing hydrogen when we have lovely efficient ways of moving gas and oil around the World? This project could simply push its products into the existing infrastructure.

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Soot, hydrofluorocarbs 'low-hanging fruit' to fight warming

Mike Richards

Soot

There's also a good reason to cut it back - it kills people.

Indoor particulate emissions are a serious health threat to people who rely on wood, dung or charcoal for their primary source of energy; and those of us in the developed world don't get off lightly - the sort of tiny particles pumped out by diesel engines are linked to various cancers.

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Wayward 'zombiesat' poses risk to other satellites

Mike Richards

Not worth it

NASA recovered a couple of satellites from low orbit when the Shuttle was new. The policy never caught on as the cost of refurbishing and decontaminating the satellites was extremely high.

As for geosynchronous orbit, there currently is no way of getting stuff back from high orbit. No one's ever got round to building a space tug and the boosters used to kick satellites out to geosync don't have fuel to bring them closer to home.

This will be an insurance claim.

Mike.

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El Reg PARIS team fires up the GPS tracker

Mike Richards

'El Reg's Iberian Bureau'

It's a shed isn't it?

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US X-37B robot minishuttle: 'Secret space warplane'?

Mike Richards

Shuttle polar orbits

It was the Shuttle's ability to fly polar orbits that really freaked the Kremlin into funding Buran. The Soviet military got it into their minds that a Shuttle carrying a nuclear weapon could lob a warhead at the Soviet Union, avoiding all of their early warning systems and anti-missile networks and still be back in California in time for mai-tais.

Brezhnev not only ordered the horrendously expensive Buran project, but also got the USSR to resume anti-satellite weapon research; both of which were canned right at the collapse of the Soviet Union. They got quite a long way, right up to launching the enormous Polyus satellite; which failed to reach orbit - but looks wonderfully sinister on its Gerry Andersonesque launcher:

http://i.imgur.com/7NefF.jpg

If you want the world to end in a thermonuclear toasting you want it to end because of weapons that look the part.

Getting the Shuttle to fly polar orbits would probably ended in disaster even if the Soviet Union wasn't panicked into lobbing a missile back at the US. The launches would have required extremely light weight solid rocket boosters. These were canned after Challenger exploded because they would have been even more prone to joint failure.

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Johnson: ID cards will pay for themselves

Mike Richards

Errr...

The money spent so far is sunk, lost, gone - whatever you want to call it.

Johnson seems to think that by getting the public to pay for it, the books miraculously balance. But that money isn't magicked out of nowhere - it is taken from other expenditure those people could have made - you know the sort, things that might have kept people employed, or just happy.

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Mystic Met closed Europe with computer model

Mike Richards

Also worth adding

In addition to the Met Office, NATS were getting information from the engine manufacturers who were telling them they could not guarantee their engines' performance under these conditions.

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Flights resume in Scotland - Gatwick and Heathrow still shut

Mike Richards

Andesite

The first ash eruption was mostly driven by the magma being andestic in composition. It was rich in silica and sticky so it exploded rather than flowed out of the vent. This magma had probably been sitting in the volcano since 1821-23 when it last erupted, becoming richer in silica with time. The ice would have added a small amount to the ash eruption, but not much.

The eruption appears to becoming 'strombolian' - small explosions of fluid magma which don't produce much ash at all. But, as you say, if more ice enters the vent that could create 'surtseyan' ash explosions - but they won't go to such an altitude. The people of Skógar and Vík will still be sweeping their roofs though.

This doesn't mean the explosive phase of the eruption is over; during 1821-23 there were two explosive eruptions separated by quite a long period of relative quiet. And of course, everyone is looking towards Katla next door which has been quiet since 1918 - and a quick check at the Icelandic Met Office site suggests its silent today.

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Obama 'deep space' Mars plans in Boeing booster bitchslap

Mike Richards

Not just Constellation

Boeing is a partner in Launch Alliance with its Delta V Heavy rocket. The whole thing has been a disaster as it is much more expensive than non-US rockets and has pretty much only survived thanks to the largesse of the government buying Deltas for space probes and classified missions.

If other American companies come into the marketplace for government launches, Delta V might not be able to compete there either. Which would leave Boeing pretty much out of the space business.

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El Reg PARIS team unboxes some toys

Mike Richards

Correct

They drive in the shade.

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