* Posts by Mike Richards

3579 posts • joined 28 Feb 2007

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

Mike Richards

Well colour me awe-struck

'ravening, self-mothered pseudohydrozoan immortal Dr Who jellyfish clone vampire blobomination horror-swarm'

Wow.

Just wow. Possibly the finest use of the English language in history.

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Venezuela spits out Coke Zero

Mike Richards

Fascinating insight into the Reg readership

When it comes to artificial sweeteners, the average Reg reader has a body like a temple. No unnatural substance will pass their lips. If we have a discussion on the banning of smoking in pubs, the average Reg reader must have lungs dripping with coal tar and breath that can knock a camel dead at fifty paces.

To continue our studies; what's the Register audience's consensus view on the yumminess or otherwise of súrsaðir hrútspungar (and don't tell me that's not a bugger to type)? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Þorramatur)

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Mars projected to collide with Earth

Mike Richards

@ Rod MacLean

'Seriously though, how can Mercury's gravitational tug pull Mars towards the Earth? This seems like abject fantasy and needs more explaination. Mercury is tiny (in cosmic terms all the planets are tiny) surely the gravity of the sun will hold it more or less in place...?'

It's all down to orbital resonances - how many times Mercury goes round the Sun compared to other planets. Mercury sits in a very - okay - relatively elliptical orbit, the perihelion (closest approach to the Sun) itself progresses around the Sun. Jupiter has a less elongated orbit, but that too has a progressing perihelion. Left long enough, these perihelions begin to align; Mercury *could* find itself receiving an extra tug from Jupiter at the same point in its orbit, which gradually evolves the orbit into an extreme ellipse taking it out into the region of Venus.

If Mercury's orbit is that disrupted, it begins to create new resonances with Mars' orbit; one scenario being that Mars itself goes into a more elliptical orbit whose perihelion is in the vicinity of Earth.

But as the second poster pointed out, it's hard to see how these calculations can be at all accurate given our limited knowledge of the planets' orbits over the long term.

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US extradition could push McKinnon 'towards suicide'

Mike Richards

According to today's Indy...

McKinnon is supported in his fight by...

David Blunkett

You know, the same tw*t who was the Home Secretary that signed the lop-sided extradition treaty in the first place.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/pentagon-hacker-in-last-bid-to-avoid-extradition-1701101.html

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Japanese lunar orbiter to go out with a bang

Mike Richards

@ Ian Ferguson @ Lionel Baden

'I'm not clear what research benefit this gives over watching a natural meteor crash into the moon.'

Believe it or not, telescopes aren't regularly pointed at the Moon. With a space craft impact you can know the exact time of the impact and point your instruments at it, you know the trajectory and mass of the impactor, so you can work out things like the amount of energy delivered to the lunar surface; and if you then see the crater, you know a lot about the make-up of the lunar surface which allows you to estimate the size of naturally occurring craters. If you're lucky you can also measure the plume and see if it contains any unexpected substances.

Sadly the Apollo era seismic network on the Moon was switched off long ago to save money. That used to provide really useful data about the rate of impacts, the relative size of impactors and the internal structure of the Moon.

'i thought the idea of orbiting something had a little to do with going around an object not trying to go through it'

The probe is at the end of its life and will have probably exhausted any remaining fuel. Lunar gravity is remarkably 'lumpy' and its very hard to keep a ship in a stable low orbit for any length of time. Lunar gravity isn't smooth because of the huge mass concentrations around the large impact basins on the near side. Their precise cause is unclear, in part it is down to the very dense basalt that fills them (making them dark when seen from Earth); but it is also likely that the interface between the light lunar Crust and denser Mantle is closer to the surface below the mascons.

HTH.

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Pirate Party wins seat in European Parliament

Mike Richards

@ Anonymous Coward

'Just remember that Hitler was elected by a free and democratic election...'

And people then said they voted Nazi, not because they agreed with its anti-semitism, but because they agreed with its economic policies, promise of stability and excellent local organisation. Weimar voters may not have voted for the extermination of Jews and other minorities, but by turning a blind eye to the Nazis racism they made it possible.

People may have voted BNP because they promised to make sure the bins were emptied, or like in my area, were the only ones who put leaflets through the door, but they can't possibly claim to be ignorant of the BNP's deeper motives. People who voted BNP actively support racism - let's not make excuses for them.

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Mike Richards

@ Anonymous Coward

'Whereas 7.1% of Swedes are a bunch of freeloaders?'

Careful, now they've remembered their pirate ancestry they'll be stocking up on surströmming, ABBA compilations and pointing their IKEA flatpack long boats towards Britain's East Coast in the hope of going back to Göteborg with a pile of danegeld and some lovely English girls.

What the Swedes don't realise is that they will be facing the only people on earth more blonde, more tanned and with a greater capacity for alcohol than themselves.

Essex Girls.

The poor bastards won't stand a chance.

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Research: Airliners can be more eco-friendly than trains

Mike Richards

Quick skim read

Suggests that 747s are more environmentally friendly for urban transport than little trains. I cannot wait to see one of them rolling down the North Circular.

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Adobe's quarterly patch cycle to commence Tuesday

Mike Richards

Oh this is going to be fun

My experience of Adobe products is that they make perhaps the worst updating software in the World.

Inevitably you need to update the updater. It takes pretty much forever to get the file no matter how fast your connection. You start the updater updater - at which point you have to quit the application you've been trying to use.

It installs. Then you try to run the new version of the updater which lists a dozen different patches. You find the one with the lowest version date, it downloads (slowly), starts running, then complains this update isn't compatible with the existing version of the application.

So you exit the updater, go to the Adobe site, battle your way through layer upon layer of nonsense to get files whose names seem to be plucked from the thin air. Download those - and it's still only an hour since you fired up the original application.

Run the installer which works for a while, the progress bar gets about half way - and then it freezes - for hours. Quit the updater and try to run it again - oh but it can't because the update has been applied!

Too much trouble. I need to do some work. Start the original application again, the updater fires up to say there are patches which need to be applied - including the one you supposedly just installed. At which point you kill the updater and disable it from ever running again figuring that having a broken version of the application vulnerable to attack is much less stressful than trying to do things Adobe's way.

Oh and that's on a Mac, god only knows if it manages to be worse on Windows, but I find it hard to believe Adobe could resist additional laughs by buggering around with the Registry.

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Pioneer Kuro KRL-37V LCD TV

Mike Richards

No more Pioneer plasmas

A real shame, a friend blew £3k on a Kuro plasma and it is just about the most awesome TV ever. It's about the same shape and size as the Monolith from 2001 and its blacks are even blacker. I don't know why they pulled out of the plasma market when they were so far ahead of the opposition.

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Brown to Sugar: 'You're hired'

Mike Richards

Seems apt

A bully who's made his fortune on the back of a crazy property market - Surullen and Brown seem like a good match for one another.

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Great Panjandrum menaces North Devon

Mike Richards

All will be well

Just so long as Pike's crystal set doesn't interfere with the radio signal.

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Robosub prowls Pacific's hadal depths

Mike Richards

Ummmm someone's not been checking their comparisons

'braving pressures greater than 1,000 times that at Earth’s surface, or "crushing forces similar to those on the surface of Venus"'

The pressure at the bottom of the Marianas Trench *IS* about 100 MegaPascals (really big French mathematicians), but the surface pressure on Venus is only (HAH!) 9.3 MegaPascals.

This sort of confusion would be avoided if the World switched to a sensible measure of pressure we could all understand such as the force generated by 1 metric Wales balanced on a double-decker bus.

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Phorm woos browsers with personalised web

Mike Richards

South Korea?

This sort of technology would be much more at home in North Korea.

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Blears is latest to scurry away from Brown's Cabinet

Mike Richards

I like this idea

But rather than a rota can't we just appoint the Moderatrix as Dictator? Tough on crime, tough on the causes of inappropriate postings.

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Sony shows off PS3 motion-control magic wand

Mike Richards

Peripherals

'1) They weren't shipped with the console at launch. No sane developer is going to risk ruining a game's potential appeal to the public at large by making it only playable by those who've purchased a bonus (and potentially expensive) gadget.'

A hard disk wasn't shipped with all XBox 360s, but owning one has become almost compulsory. Those folks who didn't have a drive originally have been picking them up as it becomes clear the 360 is nigh-on useless without them.

Which brings me on to...

Wii Fit has been topping the British charts for months now, it is only now available in-store without pre-ordering. That's a major financial outlay on top of the price of the Wii and it only works with a single game. Yet hundreds of thousands have been sold.

So it does look like people will buy peripherals if they are compelling enough.

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Gordon 'to sacky' Wacky Jacqui

Mike Richards

Also...

Don't overlook that evil witch Beverley Hughes is also stepping down from Parliament for 'personal reasons'. She helped whip up the hysteria over Chris Morris' 'Paedogeddon' programme calling it 'unbelievably sick' and only later admitted that she had not watched the programme and had no intention of doing so. She was a sort of early warning of New Labour's attitude towards anyone who rocked the status quo - we should have paid more attention.

Oh and Tom Watson, co-conspirator in the Drapergate Number 10 email smears is also going. Now is it too much to hope Tony McNulty will do the decent thing and leave us all alone?

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Mike Richards

@ AC

'no matter how bad the next chump is in the position it cannot possibly be worse than this terrible piece of crap. I couldn't be happy with this news.'

NO!

No!

No!

You just don't say those sort of things. It's a bit like steering your copper bottomed boat full of nitroglycerine through a storm off the Scillies seeing the map by the light of a lit match.

If Blunkett's back in the Cabinet on Monday I'll hold you responsible.

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ISPs frosty on Jacqui's comms surveillance plan

Mike Richards

@ Tony Paulazzo

'Let's just hope and pray that whoever replaces her is less Shadow like and more Vorlon.'

You mean unintelligible and dresses in a shower curtain? Is that a cry for Anne 'shackle 'em' Widdecombe to become Home Secretary?

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Level 3 wilts in London sunshine (again)

Mike Richards

@Bod

There are also big plans to build server farms at Keflavik in Iceland.

It's rarely more than 23C outside, so the cooling is minimised; and Landsvirkjun, the Icelandic power company has offered 20 year guarantees on power pricing. (Not to mention all that power is carbon-free). Landsvirkjun have also said that all future big power projects will either be for server farms or for solar silicon production; shifting away from aluminium smelting which has been their biggest customer so far. For the Icelanders that'd be a big benefit since aluminium is a commodity whose price fluctuates crazily with the state of the World economy.

There's also plenty of opportunity to use Iceland's geographic position between the US and Europe as a way of shifting load from one side of the Pond to the other as the day passes.

Shame about the tits-up economy really.

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Microsoft, Asus launch anti-Linuxbook campaign

Mike Richards

Installed Windows on my Linux netbook

I've got the Aspire One and the bundled version of Linux was a nightmare to keep up-to-date. Essential software patches were not available via the official updater MONTHS after they have been released. The only way to keep the machine up-to-date was to hit the command line and do everything by hand (and often finding new incompatibilities as you went).

For Joe Public this is simply too much hassle. Microsoft, after having so much practice, have got a simple way of updating applications.

If the netbook manufacturers had been serious about Linux they would have shipped something that combined Linux's security with a usable update procedure.

And that's my excuse.

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Colour Kindle in development, says Amazon

Mike Richards

An interesting halfway house...

...is the screen being demonstrated by Pixel Qi - makers of the OLPC screen. In full power mode it is a conventional backlit colour LCD; but flip a switch and it turns into monochrome energy frugal electronic paper.

A picture of one of their 10.1" displays in an Aspire One here: http://www.pixelqi.com/blog1/

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Revealed: Full specs on SEAL Team Six multimedia setup

Mike Richards

Bit disappointed

Hollywood has led me to believe that America's finest would settle for nothing less than Ken Adams inspired bunkers with wall displays and touch-screen tables; not something from Dixons.

I just hope they get some of those electric jetskis.

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Wikipedia bans Church of Scientology

Mike Richards

@ Flugal

'Aren't all religions are cults?'

Debatably yes. Though Scientology is the only one that charges you to read its holy books and threatens anyone who disseminates their 'teachings' through unofficial channels.

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Shifty study proclaims Brits a nation of freetards

Mike Richards

David Lammy

Isn't he also a minister for Higher Education? Since he's more concerned about BitTorrent that could explain the state of universities right now.

He talks about 'future sustainability of our copyright industries.'

Easy answer. There isn't a future for copyright. Time for a new model.

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Mike Richards

@ Lionel Baden

'the amount of times ive bought a game and regreted not checking it first !!!!'

Absolutely agree. And don't forget this government is a huge fan of DRM which means under a strict interpretation of the law I can't watch many movies that are region coded. I fail to see how downloading a movie only available in Region 1, or an eBook who's publishers have forbidden it to be sold in the UK, constitutes a lost sale.

Big story yesterday about a blind woman who bought an eBook version of the Bible from Amazon. The publisher had decided it would not work with voice synthesis software so she was unable to use her book. Amazon do not offer refunds on eBooks and the publishers refused to budge. What did she do? She downloaded a cracked version of the Bible that did allow for spoken word.

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Blog homeopathy horror hammers hippy herbalists

Mike Richards

Guardian Group and alternative health

Don't forget this is the same organisation that ran 'The Barefoot Doctor' column in the Observer for years and years. That ended nastily too when he was foolish enough to go online and try to answer questions.

BTW. his advice to coping with everything from male pattern baldness to dying horribly in a bus crash was massaging your kidneys and/or liberal applications of lavender oil.

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Virgin Galactic tests laughing-gas powered rocket motor

Mike Richards

Beardie's got some neck

I actually don't really care about the environmental impact of the suborbital jolly business, but this green spin is laughable. Per passenger, the emissions are about 'a quarter of that for a return trip from London to New York'.

Using one of Virgin's rather lovely airliners to fly the Pond and back takes say 12 hours total. The burn time of SpaceShipOne's engine was - 83 SECONDS. Whatever way you look at it, space junkets are a profligate use of energy.

But that's not the biggest turn off, surely the thought of being trapped in a small cabin with the likes of Beardie and Paris is more than enough to keep me earthbound.

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'Supermodel' glow-in-the-dark pocket monkeys created

Mike Richards

Jellyfish

Can the Cnidarian experts at the Reg's Defence and Ooze desk tell us if these are the much feared IMMORTAL jellyfish?

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Summer debut for Judge Dredd computer smart-rifle

Mike Richards

Needs an improvement

'The XM-25 smartgunner then selects how much nearer or further from that location he thinks the target is - for an enemy behind a normal wall, the soldier would choose +1 metre.'

Hopefully this is interactive and performed with the voice of Bruce Forsyth.

'Oooh so that's five metres. Do you want to go higher or lower? [BANG!] Good game! Good game!'

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BNP pleads for cash after reported DDoS assault

Mike Richards

@ Anonymous Coward

'Now at 78.129.146.137. Anyone got a teenie-weenie botnet spare?'

Try twittering the people at BBC 'Click' last time I heard they had one they needed to get rid of.

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Mike Richards

Clear Channel

Is this the same Clear Channel that pumps right-wing conspiracy lunatics such as Rush Limbaugh from Sea to Shining Sea?

Figures.

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Microsoft announces Zune HD

Mike Richards

Kinda handsome

But I hope that screen's a mock-up or customisable. It's always a good idea to have the whole of your main menu fit on the screen at once.

But having said that, I've found the look and feel of the Zune interface and the Zune Store to be far superior to Apple's offerings.

As a piece of hardware and software this *should* be a big success, but I suspect with another iPhone refresh imminent, Microsoft is going to be lucky to maintain their increasingly irrelevant market share.

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Boffins develop interstellar alien ocean-spotting tool

Mike Richards

@ Andy B

The physical size of the crescent Earth as seen from that distance was smaller than one pixel, the reflected light was bright enough to register across a single pixel.

And El Reg...

If you're going to use the 'pale blue dot' meme, it's worth linking to Carl Sagan's commencement address where he used the phrase for the first time. It's a wonderfully evocative piece of prose:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pale_blue_dot#Reflections_by_Sagan

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Nork nuke quite a lot less powerful than Hiroshima

Mike Richards

@ Anonymous Coward @ Ken Hagan

'Do we really know for a fact they didn't just pile up six thousand tons of TNT in an underground cave and blow it all up at once in order to bluff us?'

That is a possibility with these relatively (and I stress the word RELATIVELY) small yields. It's a fine art to distinguish one of these blasts from an earthquake when you don't know the geology of the region in any detail, let alone the cause.

The previous NK test vented some of its fission products into the atmosphere and they were picked up by the Americans and Japanese, so we know they did detonate a nuke before - we even know a little bit about how it was made and what sort of technology was being used.

So you can bet lots of planes with sticky bits of paper* hanging out of them are flying over the Sea of Japan right now in the hope of picking up something. The USAF has its Constant Phoenix which you can read about here: http://www.af.mil/information/factsheets/factsheet.asp?fsID=192

* Okay, really high tech sticky bits of paper if it makes you happy.

And Ken makes some good points.

'The WW2 weapons were quite possibly over-engineered to make sure they went off. North Korea's are quite possibly under-engineered to conserve their material. As a species, we have learned quite a lot about these bombs in the last 65 years, so it would be naive to assume that scientists in NK know less about these things than the pioneers of the Manhattan project.'

The Little Boy bomb was hugely over-engineered to guarantee that it would explode - it used more than 1 critical mass of uranium to make the big bang and a flash. The US was so confident the uranium cannon would work they didn't test it. The US built about 80 Little Boy type weapons in the immediate aftermath of WW2 until the superior implosion bombs started to be mass produced. The only country to replicate it was South Africa which built a handful of weapons in the 1980s and 90s before dismantling them with the fall of apartheid. SA wanted to avoid an obvious plutonium enrichment program and had plenty of experience with enriching U235 as a cover.

Fat Man was less over-engineered than Little Boy as it used a sub-critical mass of plutonium which was compressed into a super-critical mass by implosion. The US gradually reduced the amount of fissile material in its weapons by levitating the core (giving much more force to the implosion) and boosting the yield with deuterium / tritium. By the late 1950s the US had got a 0.5 kT fission weapon down to 23kg and just 28cm in diameter.

(1950s madness here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Davy_Crockett_(nuclear_device) )

But these were only made possible after a great deal of testing. It seems unlikely that NK could go to a miniaturised warhead so early on its own back. Although the really scary thought is that Pakistan *MIGHT* have provided them with one of their missile warhead designs (in turn obtained from the Chinese).

'Point 2: there has been considerable argument over the actual sizes of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs over the years. Wikipedia says 13kt and 21kt respectively and those are at the bottom end of the scale. Historical estimates have been about double that, so a factor ot two uncertainty for the NK device is no big deal at this stage.'

The Hiroshima blast is the one open to most argument; Nagasaki's yield is pretty locked down as the US did immediate studies of the fireball and the radio isotopes in the plume. The figures for Nagasaki were also cross checked with the near identical data obtained from the Trinity explosion. No such work was done at Hiroshima so the estimated yield was back calculated from casualties and damage on the ground.

HTH.

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Mike Richards

Probably not good news either way

It suggests the North Koreans are fixing their problems with making an implosion weapon, although there's clearly something wrong with their design or their materials.

Pretty much everyone else who's followed the Fat Man design (that'd be the Russians, British, Chinese and French - possibly the Indians and the Pakistanis) set it off and it worked; but not only did it work, but they got AT LEAST 19kT - actually the French did best with 70 kT on their first shot.

So either the North Koreans have some problems with their basic design or they're trying to jump ahead and miniaturise their design without doing the basic testing.

The worst news would have been if they'd produce a yield much more than 19kT - then we'd know we were in trouble.

Of course, he said thinking on the hoof, they might have tried a uranium cannon bomb like Little Boy (and the South African nukes). It's pretty much idiot proof and guaranteed to work, but it's a ridiculously inefficient bomb and produces a much lower yield. Though, whether North Korea has enough U235 to make one is a good question and it'd be militarily useless - too big to go into a missile and NK doesn't have any suitable bombers.

God I miss my nuclear chemistry classes.

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Stolen RAF files are blackmailer's dream

Mike Richards

Can't work out which is more tragic

That thieves can break into an RAF base, or, that the disk wasn't secure.

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Buddy unveils Metro e-car

Mike Richards

You're all being too hard on the designer

One of the things the designer mentioned in his brief for this horrible-looking thing was that it had t be big enough to carry two people and

A CASE OF BEER

This guy is clearly thinking clearly, we should encourage more engineers to work this way. So the next space shuttle must carry 7 astronauts into orbit for seven days, return safely in any weather and be capable of stowing a case of beer. The US Army's next robot must survive dangerous combat conditions and not spill a single bottle of beer...

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E-cars are a dangerous myth, says top boffin

Mike Richards

Bit out of date with his numbers

'Only 36 per cent of energy available in the fuel in a power station is delivered as electricity'

Combined cycle gas stations like those that dominate UK energy production rate at over 60% efficient. Throw in distributed heating systems where they supply local populations with hot water and heating and you can be looking at round about 80% of the energy in the fuel going to useful purposes.

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'Thieving' sperm whale caught on CCTV

Mike Richards

'Do you recognise this sperm whale'

This could really brighten up Alaska's version of CrimeWatch.

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Yahoo! puts webpages in their place

Mike Richards

Yahoo!???

Are you still here?

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ESA chooses British army officer as astronaut

Mike Richards

@Remy Redert

'He might be able to keep the moustache if he has one, but you do understand he'll need to lose the pipe if he's to go up into space. Right?'

But... but... but... Dan Dare had a pipe:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/12220922@N05/2683800114

The pressing need for a zero-G pipe requires the full application of the best of British boffinry. Since we don't have a DARPA to call our own...

Gentlemen! To your sheds and prepare for blast-off.

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Mike Richards

One unanswered question

In order that he meet perceived international stereotypes, does Major Peake have a truly splendid waxed moustache and a pipe?

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More doubts on ID card readers

Mike Richards

Distinctive noise???

Oh god, you just know the government is even now investing in workshops, DVDs and teams of roving ID ambassadors to show and tell security twonks about the 'distinctive noise' made by a genuine ID card.

Fact. If you rap one with your fingernail it sounds like 'BLUNKett'.

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MP expenses leaker may never be found

Mike Richards

"we have looked at the likelihood of a successful prosecution"

There isn't a jury in the land who would convict the person who leaked this data.

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'Air fuelled' battery tech invented in Scotland

Mike Richards

@ Anonymous Coward

'Besides, why bother with this crap when you can just have a fission reactor and be done with it?'

Because reactors need pumps which make noise and make the submarine more vulnerable. Diesel electric submarines such as those deployed by the German and Swedish navies, run rings around nuclear subs.

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Fox terminates The Sarah Connor Chronicles

Mike Richards

One reason for cancellation

Is that the Terminator franchise isn't owned by Fox, so even if the series does well on DVD they don't see much income. Dollhouse is a fully owned property, so strong DVD sales will add to Fox's bottom line.

I've seen both and after a rough start, Dollhouse is the better series (IMHO). I really don't see where people get the impression TSCC had a particularly deep story; it was good on occasion, but rarely anything to write home about.

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DARPA working on inertial-nav 'Smart Boot' tech

Mike Richards

Civilian apps could be awesome

Are we close to the technological breakthrough of a pair of boots that can walk you home from the pub after an all-night bender???

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Atlantis grapples Hubble

Mike Richards

@Remy Redert

The Shuttle doesn't have enough fuel to change orbit from the current HST rendezvous to that of the ISS.

But by the sounds of this the damage looks to be superficial and in an area not especially exposed to very high temperatures during re-entry. It's worth remembering that many, if not most, Shuttle flights have had tile damage; we're only hearing more about it post Columbia.

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Raygun 747 to fight 'one-off' tag with twin '09 missile fryings

Mike Richards

@ Dan Paul

'Iodine is a volatile solid metal'

It's a WHAT?

Iodine is a member of the halogen group and is most definitely NOT a metal. So whilst the rest of us engaged in the age-old ritual of blearily staring at Open University chemistry programmes through an industrial hangover, what were you doing?

500 words on the oxidation states of lanthanum on my desk by this time tomorrow.

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