* Posts by Mike Richards

3579 posts • joined 28 Feb 2007

Kingdom of Sweden dragged into Reg smut-basket

Mike Richards

How the Reg should respond

Is that this site is the main Swedish news outlet in the UK. Never before have the British public been so well informed about the rich variety of Konungariket Sverige - and its seismic cows, faecal lagoons and pineapple mashing.

Meanwhile, in Sweden: 'Swedish docs cleared over misplaced colon' (http://www.thelocal.se/20392/20090701/)

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Home Office ditches compulsory ID card trial

Mike Richards

Bit worried about how readily people will comply

On Saturday I helped at a big event where the public were each given a wristband containing an RFID chip. The organisers wanted to know how people moved around the various venues, how long they spent at each one and so on; so each building had an RFID reader at the entrance to which people could touch their wristbands.

There was no element of compulsion, no prizes to be won by taking part, and you could simply walk past the reader without being scanned. The only thing was a 'it'd be nice if you could...' from the people doing the registrations.

I'd say over 90% of the public happily swiped their wristbands and some actually got upset when the PoS software reading the tags didn't register their presence.

I asked - almost none of them knew why the tags were being used, what the technology behind the tags could be, none of them had asked how long their data would be retained or what data would be recorded and for what purpose. When you told them that this sort of technology could build up a detailed profile of their movements and that it could be read covertly - THEN they started getting worried about the implications.

So as long as the government can keep spinning the 'benefits' of this white elephant there's a good chance most people will sign up for their numbers.

Depressing.

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Ashdown's missile dump security panel puts women to flight

Mike Richards

@Anonymous Coward

'Is it just me or does the idea of an island nation without a navy seem completely idiotic?'

Works for Iceland.

But then they don't go round the World insisting they're a serious military and economic power.

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Japanese airport trials 'personal mobility vehicles'

Mike Richards

Mod time...

Who's going to be first to turn it into a Davros wagon for the Home Secretary. I mean if we're going to be ruled by power-mad dangerous lunatics, they should at least look like power-mad dangerous lunatics.

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Stop ID cards, says Scottish minister

Mike Richards

"the card would produce £6bn net economic benefit to the UK"

That's over 30 years - anyone willing to work out how much money could be accrued in interest if the cost of ID cards was invested?

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Buzz Aldrin weighs into NASA

Mike Richards

@ Mayhem

'Russia went with Earth orbit rendezvous, and focussed on putting up a space station in local orbit before going anywhere else. Funnily enough, Mir lasted twice as long as Skylab, and russian tech is a fairly fundamental part of the ISS, especially since a progress visit costs a fraction of what a shuttle visit does.'

Except they didn't. The USSR originally planned an Earth orbit rendezvous with a 50 tonne payload; but when it was clear the US was moving ahead with its Gemini missions, the Soviet's realised they didn't have enough expertise in EOR and switched to a direct ascent on a bigger rocket which became the N1 L3.

Their space station programme was never part of the Soviet lunar programme and really only got going when it became clear the US would be the first country to put a man on the Moon. Salyut 1 wasn't launched until 1971 and then its size was limited by the amount of mass a Proton could put into orbit. It was far less capable than Skylab. As for Mir lasting longer than Skylab that's only because the US Shuttle programme was so late in making its first flight. A decision had been made in the late 1960s that no more Saturn Ibs would be built, so by the time of Skylab 4 there was only one spare launcher in inventory. The plan had been the Shuttle would be the only way to get Americans into space. There were advanced plans to boost the orbit of Skylab and refurbish it for missions, but in 1979 the station smashed into Australia, two years before the first Shuttle launch.

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Girls Aloud net obscenity case falls at first hurdle

Mike Richards

Our moral guardians

The Daily Star???

Oh FFS, stop the World, I want to get off.

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DARPA: Can we have a one-cabinet petaflop supercomputer?

Mike Richards

Someone's been drinking Kurzweil's Kool-Aid

The assumption that intelligence is just the result of a larger number of FLOPS is a pretty poor one. Still if they're throwing money around I'll be willing to take a swig of the Singularity cult juice.

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Rogue knob could ground space shuttle Atlantis

Mike Richards

Sounds like the problems before Challenger's last flight

If anyone is wondering why they're being so cautious; it's because the Orbiter is incredbly fragile.

The day before Challenger made its final launch in January 1986, NASA had a problem with the orbiter's hatch. When the door closed, a couple of tiny pins should drop into place completing an electrical circuit which confirms the hatch is in place. That day, the pins didn't fall into place. Pressure tests and Mark One eyeball said the hatch was sealed and pressurised, but NASA didn't want to launch without absolute confirmation - they didn't want another Soyuz 11.

So a team was called to the Pad to replace the microswitches, they used a special aluminium tool to hold the hatch in place because they couldn't risk touching the orbiter's protective heatshield. After replacing the microswitches, they tried to remove the tool and found one of the bolts had become jammed. They couldn't use force without damaging the ship, so the only option was to cut the tool away. After a long discussion about potential damage to the orbiter, the risk from stray hydrogen boiling off the ET, they get a drill sent to the pad - the battery is flat from being left in the cold. A replacement was sent and the fix is finally made - but by then winds around the Cape exceeded the threshold for a safe return in the event of a launch failure.

The launch was scrubbed until the next day. The media had a field day that the Shuttle was a dog and made jokes about the staff who'd tried to get it to fly. Meanwhile, that night in Florida was the coldest on record.

So, the failure of one bolt probably lead directly to the explosion that destroyed Challenger.

Which explains why NASA are taking no risks with this one.

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Qantas cancels $3bn Dreamliner order

Mike Richards

@ Andy Barber

'At least it's not a plastic (Aircraft) kit'

If Qantas were to order different planes now, they'd probably go for the A350 which has even more composites than the 787.

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Microsoft's Bing in travel trouble

Mike Richards

Front page looks different, but...

Do a query for flights and the results pages look very similar - especially the selection of gadgets on the left-hand margin - check out the sliders which let you change flight times - odd that two companies would hit on the same solution when a menu is more common.

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Nokia N97

Mike Richards

Design by committee

Oh dear, and this could have been so good.

That keyboard is an atrocity after the ones on the Communicator, but the failitude goes much further, past that pitiful memory, to a place where you wonder if anyone actually bothered to play with the device before sending it to the sweatshops for manufacture.

Include a stylus but don't offer a silo in the phone? That's a lost stylus or one that gets left in the box - so why have a stylus at all?

Why are the icons such a random bunch of shapes, some rounded some not, some bevelled, others flat? It looks like a dogs breakfast even before the whole UI starts going tits up.

And why oh why that strange diagonal button on the bottom left of the front face? Its purpose isn't immediately clear and that stupid shape and orientation makes it harder to find and press.

Like it or loathe it, the iPhone really does show the advantages to having a ruthless approach to every aspect of the design. Sony are finally remembering their design heritage, but Nokia - do they want to go back to making rubber boots?

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Bing zings, but for how long?

Mike Richards

Good for images, bit m'eh otherwise

Is my detailed review.

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Dreamliner first flight delayed yet again

Mike Richards

Could be worse...

Could be DeHavilland Comet bad.

That was out of service for four years between the disasters of the Comet 1 and the roll-out of the incredibly awesome, but far-too-late Comet 4.

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MPs slam 'disgraceful' Type 45 destroyers

Mike Richards

@ Mad Mike

'Over £6b is a lot of money to keep a few Scots in employment!!'

I assume you mean Labour MPs?

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Mike Richards

Why oh why oh why oh why...

...does the BBC... oops sorry wrong rant.

Why don't we just buy some of the scary-as-fuck (that's official Navalese I'll have you know) Visby corvettes from the Swedes? They've got stealth capability and most importantly of all - look awesome*:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visby_class_corvette

* Admittedly my defence procurement policy would be grounded mainly on the 'but does it look cool?' principle, but I still reckon I'd come out ahead of the MoD.

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Prof: Global windfarm could power entire human race

Mike Richards

Ummm...

...has a serious energy plan actually ever suggested that the World becomes wholly dependent on wind? I'm pretty sure not, so this is just a straw dog argument.

The research shows that there is an immense amount of wind energy out there and that we'd be stupid not to incorporate it into our energy future which should include wind, solar, geothermal, wave, tide, nuclear and yes - fossil fuels.

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El Reg commentards offered extra iconography

Mike Richards

@ The Original Ash

'Now, how about an RSS feed which includes everything but Odds and Sods? You know... *I.T.* News...!'

No, no, no - a much better idea would be an RSS feed which only contained the Odds & Sods. You know... interesting stuff.

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Transformers helmsman demolishes English language

Mike Richards

I'd have been more concerned...

...if Michael ('Pearl Harbor') Bay wrote grammatically pure, beautiful prose - and yet still directed cinematic dreck like 'Transformers'.

I actually think he's getting worse - not quite Roland ('Universal Soldier') Emmerich bad, but still buttock-clenchingly dreadful.

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Surveillance response 'inadequate', say Lords

Mike Richards

Well that's the Lords signing their death warrant

Acting independently like this is the best way of persuading New Labour to bring about a 100% elected Lords.

Imagine the horror - this government was voted in by about a quarter of the eligible electorate with a crushing majority in the Commons. Had the Lords been elected at the same time there would have been nothing to stop or moderate their illiberal legislation.

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Punters 'confuse' netbooks with notebooks

Mike Richards

Only thing I've had problems with on my Acer Aspire One

Is that it struggles with high definition MKV files; everything else just works nicely. I've even got used to using it as a RAW converter when I'm out and about with a camera. Sure it can run a little slow when crunching a 14 megapixel image, but that's not such a problem.

Okay for my next one I want more RAM so I can keep more tabs open in the browser, a digital video out and a slightly higher res screen.

Apart from that, keep them small, keep them cheap.

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NASA takes stick over feet and inches

Mike Richards

Hmmm - Mel Gibson does 'Edge of Darkness'

NASA has been quite happily lugging European and Japanese payloads into orbit for many years now and the Shuttle regularly works with the ISS (and previously with Mir). All of which are designed in metric.

So what's the problem?

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People just not that into Blu-ray

Mike Richards

Got both - still prefer HD-DVD

No region coding and all players came with a network port as standard in case a firmware update was needed.

A good number of the budget (hah!) Blu-Ray players out there are old models with the older profile and no network port to update the software. They're also glacially slow to use. Apart from the PS3, even the latest Blu-Ray players are pains to use. One or two minutes to get as far as the first screen seem to be standard. Then that screen is the unskippable 'You thieving bastard' copyright warning. After that, I think Disney hold the record in requiring a further TWELVE button presses to get to the main menu.

As for the movies - yes some of them look amazing in Blu-Ray - especially animation; but for the average brain-dead kickboxing cyborg timetraveller movie that's about the limit of my intellectual capacity these days, DVD will do nicely thank you very much.

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Blade Runner house yours for $15m

Mike Richards

@JonB

'Falling Water had structural issues as well didn't it?'

Yup, some of the reinforcement was left out of the concrete cantilevers and they became deformed. It was also unbelievably noisy until double-glazed. FLW - awesome architect, but never buy a flat roof from him.

Oh and the mighty Reg left out 'The Rocketeer' from the house's list of guest appearances.

Now if only I had a spare $15m lying around.

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Bolivian TV falls for Air France crash hoax

Mike Richards

@ James 85

'I am constantly amazed that, when information is so pervasively, easily and immediately available, people check facts and other information presented to them so infrequently.'

The media are particularly bad at this because they're all terrified of being 'scooped' by a rival if they were to spend time checking the veracity of a story. Better to get it out there, reap the publicity and if it should be wrong, ah well print a retraction in five weeks later headed 'Correction' in 4 point type on Page 97 underneath the tide times.

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So what we do when ID Cards 1.0 finally dies?

Mike Richards

One thing I'd like to see in that article

The option not to take part.

But a nicely written piece.

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The Moon? We're going nowhere, says NASA official

Mike Richards

NASA budget and @Ebeneezer Wanktrollop

It's worth remembering that in the 1960s NASA's share of the Federal Budget peaked at over 5.5% almost all of which was devoted to Apollo, today it gets little over 0.5% to support the Shuttle, the ISS, develop new lunar programmes AND it's unmanned work. In equivalent cash terms, NASA today gets about half of what it was getting during the 1960s.

@ Ebeneezer Wanktrollop (love the name)

'They sent people to the moon 40 odd years ago but can't even replicate the technology they had then using modern manufacturing processes - it's just a bloody rocket! Update the computer systems to current PC spec - not that you need to as it ran fine back then - what's the problem??? It is after all, fuel and plastic and metal plus no R&D because you've already done it once - COPY IT!!!'

If only they had been given that option. Constellation was told to reuse as much Shuttle technology as possible. NASA could easily commission more Saturn Vs - the blueprints are all there; it's that there's no money to set up the production lines once again.

To be fair Constellation is a little more advanced than Apollo as it envisions long-duration lunar visits and repurposing the rockets for most launches rather than the single-purpose Saturn V. In many ways it's the same philosophy the USSR had with their N1 Moon rocket - oh and that didn't work either.

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F-22 may live on: Cheap secondhand Eurofighters on offer

Mike Richards

Saudi Arabia

Just a moment...

'...agree to let the Saudis build more Eurofighters themselves...'

Does Saudi Arabia have any aircraft plants? Can someone explain this please? (Preferably an explanation that doesn't end up saying we've just given the proud hosts of the next violent Islamic revolution the capability to build fighters).

Oh and another thing. What exactly is the Eurofighter obsolete against? I mean apart from the US, France and a little cottage industry in Sweden does anyone make modern fighter aircraft any more?

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NASA unleashes Moon-attack probe

Mike Richards

@ Fragula The Furry @ Ginger

@ Fragula The Furry

Don't worry, it's not the first time we've done this, humans are pretty good at hitting the Moon now.

The Soviet Union started it (so blame them) with Luna 2 in 1959 and continued smashing stuff (sometimes deliberately) into the Moon for about the next ten years.

The US then deliberately crashed the Ranger probes into the Moon - filming all the way - look for the videos on YouTube - they're awesome:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TP3e8ujJfJ8&feature=related

(You can do the Space 1999 theme tune if you like)

During the Apollo missions, the discarded upper stages of the Lunar Modules for Apollo 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16 and 17 were all crashed into the Moon to study the internal structure of the Moon. they would have crashed anyway because it's pretty much impossible to maintain an orbit around the Moon because of its lumpy gravity. Crashing them at a known time allowed the geologists to work out just how much energy was involved.

And just to top that, the SIVB third stage of the Saturn V was crashed into the Moon for Apollos 13 - 17 officially in an attempt to locate the boundary of the Moon's core, but I suspect mainly because it was going to make a really big bang.

@ Ginger.

It's 50cm with good lighting. It's been tasked to return images of all the landing sites - not just Apollo, but also Surveyor and the Soviet Luna/Lunokhod sites.

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Israeli robo-kamikaze selling like hot exploding cakes

Mike Richards

British one looks a bit rubbish to be honest

That looks like it was made on Scrapheap Challenge from an old fizzy drinks bottle and some discarded floorboards. Meanwhile, the Israeli one has a swoopy touch of the Gerry Anderson to it, no wonder it's selling so well. I wonder if it comes with an F.A.B. theme tune?

If we're going to spend all this money on killware can at least some of the funds go towards making it look as good as the stuff that used to feature in 'Eagle' and 'Look and Learn'* like the TSR-2 and the Advanced Passenger Train**?

* Did anyone ever buy 'Look and Learn' or was it only available in your dentist's waiting room?

** Though to be fair, most British weapons *work* as well as the APT, they just don't look as cool.

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Viviane Reding sees talking yoghurt pots

Mike Richards

At last the iPhone killer

A Strawberry Crunch Corner with integrated sat-nav - I love it.

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Reg reader bombarded by 3 sales calls

Mike Richards

WTF?

And the prize for the most hideous new word goes to...

'... upsell...'

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Be broadband denies BitTorrent ban

Mike Richards

Not the biggest problem Be needs to address

After three or four months of absolutely faultless service from Be, I'm now getting three or four messages a week from them saying my Internet service will be unavailable from midnight through to about six am. Each time I am told it's for necessary improvements and this is the last time it will happen. So far these improvements have only be noticeable by their absence.

Any other Be customers getting these interruptions?

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9/11 hero mutt cloned

Mike Richards

Trustt?

I assume that's the traditional spelling.

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PETA pronounces on Obama fly-swat

Mike Richards

David Icke's going to be disappointed

If his theory's correct, Obama should have zapped the bug with a prehensile tongue.

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Koenigsegg e-sportster moves closer to reality

Mike Richards

'fast saloons for dentists and lawyers.'

You left out architects.

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Endeavour launch scrubbed again

Mike Richards

@ Annihilator

'Confused - why is there a potential for needing to remove excess hydrogen? Not possible just to fill 'er up and seal the tank?'

The LH2 in the external tank is at -252C. Despite having four tonnes of mind-buggeringly good insulation on the tanks, the fuel is still warming up and about 1/2 kilo of liquid hydrogen boils off every hour. If this was allowed to accumulate in the tank it would overpressurise and things would get nasty for a small part of coastal Florida.

A small amount of hydrogen gas is used to pressurise the tank so that fuel can flow to the engines, but the excess is released through a valve and back along an umbilical line to where it can be safely discharged. The umbilical is mounted in the intertank area of the ET which is the ribbed section about two thirds of the way from the bottom.

There's a similar system in place for the liquid oxygen tank which makes up the nosecone of the ET. There, excess gas is vented from the very tip of the tank through a device called the Beanie Cap. You can see it swing free of the Shuttle about two minutes before launch.

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Tories don black cap for ID cards

Mike Richards

Contractors way of thinking

Sign contract now - get some immediate cash. If it's scrapped, claim under the cancellation clause. What's to lose?

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Ryanair requires web check-in, shuts down website

Mike Richards

If I were SouthWest I'd sue

RyanAir's business model is based on the Texan airline SouthWest which flies some truly terrifyingly brightly-coloured planes across most of the US. Cheap and cheerful - with an emphasis on the cheerful. Compared to every other domestic airline in the US, SouthWest is a breath of fresh air - nice, clean planes, great staff and reasonable fares.

RyanAir on the other hand...

Oh and another huge thumbs up for Eire O'Flot ;)

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Minority Report command sales system pushes Euro UAV

Mike Richards

The General Atomics Avenger

There's something called the General Atomics Avenger??? I don't know what it does, how much it costs or even what colour it is. I WANT ONE!!!

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Johnson shuffle returns ID cards to the table

Mike Richards

'doesn't plan to make carrying the cards compulsory'

Uh that's not a change of policy. The existing legislation says that it will not be compulsory to carry the card, but it will be compulsory to register with the database. IIRC Charles Clarke proposed that compulsion might be included in the next Labour manifesto, but that hasn't been mentioned since he was kicked out of the Home Office.

So this sounds like spin to me.

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'Alien' lifeform wakened from 120,000 year Arctic slumber

Mike Richards

Oh great...

So it's either 'The Thing' or Tom Baker's Doctor bowel-looseningly scary Krynoid.

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Israeli army develops one-eyed robot trouser snake

Mike Richards

Flashback

I'm sure something very similar menaced Jon Pertwee's Doctor when I was a kid. You can defeat them with a sonic screwdriver.

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NASA working on 'open rotor' green (but loud) jets

Mike Richards

You just know...

...one of those is going to play a prominent part in ending the career of a movie supervillain.

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Imagine! Government to legislate against badness

Mike Richards

Slippery words

Do they mean 'absolute poverty' or 'relative poverty'?

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German lad hit by 30,000 mph meteorite

Mike Richards

Sometimes I wonder if the Reg is entirely accurate

Small meteorites shed almost all their velocity in the upper atmosphere and hit the ground at only a few hundred kilometres an hour maximum - enough to give a nasty whack, but not enough to excite Michael Bay.

And as for the red hot bit - sorry, witness evidence suggests that meteorites are rarely more than warm when they arrive. They've been sitting in the cold of deep space for the last few billion years. The meteorite is protected from the frictional heat by the ablation of the outer layer, so relatively little heat gets to penetrate the rock itself. One scientist who picked up a fresh meteorite compared its temperature to a baked potato - too hot to hold, but not so hot that it would cause a serious burn.

Still, hit by a meteorite eh? That's a good excuse for skipping PE!

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Chinese firm hits back at cyberspy claims

Mike Richards

I'm satisfied with their explanation

Huawei is clearly a good company.

How do I know?

Simple. You showed a photo of their headquarters. If they were evil and hell-bent on global domination they'd be based in a volcano and keep pet sharks.

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Boffins: Bebo interstellar spam aliens don't exist after all

Mike Richards

@ Bounty @ Greg Fleming

'So what is it? Too cold or too hot.'

The answer is - it depends.

On a small planet that cools quickly, or where there isn't enough tidal massaging to keep it turning over; CO2 comes out of volcanoes, reacts with the surface rocks to form carbonates and gets locked away forever. No CO2, no greenhouse effect, the surface of the planet begins to cool, eventually taking water vapour out of the atmosphere - increasing the cooling, and you end up with a Mars.

If the planet gets too hot - from being too close to the sun, there's no chance of surface oceans as it boils into the atmosphere, increasing the greenhouse effect and taking with it one of the big carbon sinks for dissolved CO2. Over a certain temperature, the carbonates in the crust also start to release CO2, the greenhouse effect goes crazy bad and you have Venus.

'Not strictly a prerequisite to organic life. Other solvents (e.g. ammonia) work just as well if you've evolved swimming in them.'

True to an extent, although apart from ammonia being a nasty chemical capable of tearing apart proteins; it's also liquid at such low temperatures that chemical reactions run really slowly - so even if we did meet an alien lifeform that smelt like a blocked toilet, it'd be a painfully slow conversation - a bit like IMing over BT Total Broadband (see I got an IT angle) - the good news is that you could probably run away from it.

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Periodic table adding new element

Mike Richards

@ 'the spectacularly refined chap' @ Anonymous Coward

'Since all those elements are known and they still haven't got around to naming it why is this news all of a sudden? IUPAC have suddenly decided that it is an element when that fact was not in dispute anyway?'

Although the element was actually synthesised in 1996 and repeated in 2000; the results of the decay of the daughter isotope were incompatible with one another. A third experiment in 2004 confirmed the original experiment; since then its been a matter of straightening things out the decay series.

***

'So it's possible to create a new element in laboratory conditions with a miniscule life expectancy. And it gets an entry in the periodic table? It seems outrageously artificial.'

Depends what you mean by 'artificial'; if you mean this element could never naturally exist at any time in any place in the Universe, then it is clearly natural. If you mean 'never observed on Earth before now' then it is artificial.

Nuclear boffins have models for the nuclei of atoms which suggest that superheavy elements way beyond the current periodic table might be much more stable than other 'manmade' elements with half lives that could be hours, days, years or even geological periods. So it's a long slog looking for the Island of Stability which may or may not exist.

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Venezuela spits out Coke Zero

Mike Richards

@ Anonymous Coward

'I always wondered how they take "everything" out ... memories of the chem engineers coming from a lab in which they'd decaffeinated coke. They all vowed never to touch the stuff after seeing how its done - wish they'd elaborated, the mind boggles!!'

They probably used dichloromethane (methylene chloride) which is also used as paint stripper, degreaser or dry cleaning fluid. It's been linked to eye damage, hepatitis and a delightfully wide range of cancers. Ironically it became popular because the previous decaffeinating agent - benzene - was considered too poisonous. Most commercial decaffeination now use hot water in something ominously called 'the Swiss Process', a few outfits use supercritical carbon dioxide which is much less exciting than it sounds.

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