* Posts by Mike Richards

3608 posts • joined 28 Feb 2007

UK gov announces Road Pricing 2.0 - Managed Motorway

Mike Richards

£6 billion?

Where's this money suddenly come from? The government is flat broke and another huge wodge of cash comes along all of a sudden. It'd be nice to see this sort of money being promised to build the high speed train links we're going to need RSN if the rail network isn't to grind to a complete halt.

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Clay minerals point to vast Martian lakes

Mike Richards

@Anonymous coward

Re: water

The current hypothesis of planetary formation is that the building blocks of the planets really don't much resemble what we see today - instead their bulk composition was probably much more like cometary matter - rich in volatile compounds like water, methane and ammonia. So the proto-Mars would have had much more water present than we see today. When these rocks were being formed, Mars was regularly receiving fresh supplies of water courtesy of the huge cometary impacts which helped carve out the Martian craters.

As for where it went. A good deal would have been converted into hydrated minerals in the Martian crust (like these phyllosilicates), some would have migrated into the subsoil permafrost, but the vast majority has been lost forever because Mars is too small.

Being small, Mars' interior cooled quickly and solidified. As it did so, the Martian magnetic field would have collapsed to the current pitiful strength. The magentic field helps shield the Martian atmosphere from the solar wind, no field and the wind can impact straight on to the atmosphere where sub-atomic particles tear molecules - such as water - apart. The free hydrogen atoms have velocities considerable in excess of Mars' escape velocity and are lost to space, the free oxygen wouldn't have escaped, but would have reacted with rocks and been locked away in the crust.

As the atmosphere was eroded, the liquid phase of water would not be possible on the Martian surface; water only being found in the form of ice or water vapour. Any vapour is vulnerable to being lost to space, so the process continues.

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Tech woes threaten NASA's Moon plan

Mike Richards

Why it's so hard

NASA in the 1960s was receiving twice as much money (adjusted for inflation) as they are now and only had to worry about funding one major project at a time - not the mishmash of projects that they've been tasked with by various Congresses.

If the ISS was abandoned as the useless white elephant it is and the Shuttle immediately retired as being pointless without the ISS, NASA might have the money to begin working on the Orion project.

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Mike Richards
Coat

@ Anonymous Coward

'Incidentally I believe the biggest problem with Ares so far is vertical oscillations (pogoing) caused by the fundamental way a solid rocket motor runs, burning along the whole length of the tube. STS (the shuttle) doesn't suffer from this as there are two boosters tied together by the ET.'

Pogoing was a major problem with the Saturn V which was never entirely resolved. The unmanned Apollo 6 suffered such sever pogo that several pieces came off the rocket and it came close to structural failure. Apollos 11, 12 and 13 all experienced severe vibration during launch. On 13, the rocket very nearly never got into orbit; pogo caused one of the engines to shut down just before it tore loose of its mounting - which would have destroyed the rocket. Later flights used a slightly redesigned Saturn V and were much less rough on their crew.

Unfortunately pogo is one of those things that can't really be simulated on the ground with static tests, you can attempt to eliminate it at the design phase but the only real test is to light the candle - which is expensive and risky.

It's also worth pointing out that the Soviet N1 Moon rocket was destroyed by pogo in its last flight. The rocket was within seconds of completing the first successful burn of its first stage when pogo caused the computer to begin shutting down engines; the rocket tumbled out of control and exploded. With four out of four failures, the N1 was cancelled.

Mine's the hoodie with the gold tinted visor.

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UK boffins roll out video periodic table

Mike Richards

Prior art

The Open University has put a nice clip of one of their old TV programmes on YouTube, featuring the noble gases, a man on the brink and some provocatively chunky knitwear:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QLrofyj6a2s

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Apple has that syncing feeling over MobileMe

Mike Richards

Push, shove, doesn't matter...

...MobileMe is broken.

The introduction has been even more of a fiasco than last week's iPhone 3G launch.

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Hackintosh maker gets legal greeting from Apple

Mike Richards

Perhaps I'm missing something

If Apple spend time and money developing an operating system why *shouldn't* they be able to dictate the conditions on how it's used?

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UK's future super-stealth jumpjet 'rock solid' - Brit test pilot

Mike Richards

@ ShaggyDoggy

Shouldn't that be iPod dock?

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Netflix will stream movies on Xbox 360

Mike Richards

Gets pretty expensive

Even though they won't be charging for streaming movies, the cost of XBox Live and a Netflix subscription is pretty expensive.

If they bundled a basic Netflix subscription into the Gold package that might go some way towards justifying the price of Live. Sony don't charge for their online service, nor do Nintendo, and whilst Live is the best of the online gaming services, it's still pretty expensive for what it offers.

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Criminal record checks could hit over 14 million people

Mike Richards

Final estimate...

...will be about 67 million people.

This will be followed by the incorporation of all voluntary organisations, youth work schemes and schools into a single government regulated body; anyone refusing to join will be imprisoned as a danger to the community as a potential paedophilic terrorist. May I suggest calling it the Brown Shirts? Such a snappy name it's hard to see why they haven't used it already.

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Raptor and Eurofighter go head to head

Mike Richards

And the winner is...

...on stylistic grounds, the F22 - handsome beast. No TSR-2 I grant you, but it doesn't look like it was designed by a committee.

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Homer Simpson's email address hacked

Mike Richards

Re. 555

It's a bit more complex than 555 being a fictional area code.

Only 555-0100 to 555-0199 are reserved for film and television use. The remainder of the 555-xxxx can be used; IIRC 555-1212 is local directory enquiries throughout the US.

There were plans a while back for 555-xxxx to be used for getting hold of local franchises - so 555-APPL might get you the nearest Apple store to your present location, but AFAIK this has not become common.

Now another question - why have British companies never followed the Americans and used handy mnemonics for their telephone numbers?

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Boeing to build combo airship-copter flying cranes

Mike Richards

@ Gianni Straniero

Actually the cause of the Hindenburg burning at Lakehurst is still disputed, analysis of the fire does not support the dope theory as much as its proponents would like to admit.

Hydrogen IS too deadly to use; the Graf Zeppelin is pretty much the only airship to have ever had a long successful career whilst being lifted with hydrogen. If you want examples of other hydrogen-fed disasters, then choose from the British / American R38, the British super-ship the R101, the French record-breaking Dixmude or a terrible number of WW1 Zeppelins that burned in the air - all because of hydrogen and nothing to do with their doping.

Zeppelin themselves recognised the risk from hydrogen and designed the Hindenburg to be inflated with helium; however, the US refused to export the gas to Germany because of Nazi re-armament policies and the fear that it might be diverted into a military airship programme. So Hindenburg was inflated with hydrogen and made a successful first season of travel to the US. Over the winter when it was laid up, the ship's accommodation was expanded to make use of the extra lift provided by hydrogen. The airship never finished that season.

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Malware authors declare start of World War III (again)

Mike Richards

Might have missed it

I was waiting for iTunes to authenticate my iPhone so I was kind of distracted.

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The iPhone 2.0 update - don't do it, kids

Mike Richards

This is shambolic

And this time Apple have to take the blame.

I got the original iPhone back in November and getting that working was less smooth than it should be. I assumed they would have noticed the long delays in getting to iTunes last year and geared up accordingly. But no, today's upgrade to 2.0 is even worse.

@ Ioannis above. Good point I wonder if they'll refund people who can't use their paid-for service because of this shambles.

@ Kenny above. Yup .Mac/Mobile Me/Me is up, down, up, down, up, down. Mail is still working, but nothing else.

Next time guys - stagger these events. Firmware release BEFORE a new product launch to keep existing customers happy. And don't bugger round with a vital service at the same time.

Thank God the Reg is still working, it'd be like the 19th Century here if I didn't know everyone else was watching the iPhones go out one by one.

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Dog off the menu at Olympic restaurants

Mike Richards

Spitting

If the Chinese do solve the problem of voluminous expectoration, can they share the secret so that we can do the same to younger people in this country.

Mine's the one with 'Bah! Humbug' on the back marked out in Werther's Original wrappers.

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O2 buckles under 3G iPhone demand

Mike Richards

Oh to be a fly on the wall at O2

When their MD gets a well-deserved Jobsian bollocking for screwing up one of the highest profile product launches of the year.

Something tells me O2 can forget getting the rights to the next phone. 3 years exclusivity will be out the window when O2 have shown themselves to be manifestly incapable of selling the product.

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Ryanair wins German court victory in screen-scraping injunction

Mike Richards

Must be a first

"It is simply unacceptable that consumers are being misled by these screen-scrapers into paying 'handling charges' for Ryanair’s flights when they can purchase the same flights with no handling charge on www.ryanair.com,"

RyanAir complaining about people having to pay unwarranted charges???

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Blears pitches prize draws and online polls at young votes

Mike Richards

Taking it to the logical Blearsian conclusion

Offer them money if they vote the right way.

Either that or a chance to win a passion-filled night with New Labour's Poison Dwarf.

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Japan to fund creation of 40W, 40in OLED TV

Mike Richards

Great idea...

...now will the Japanese government fund my purchase of a 40W 40" OLED TV?

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Jacqui Smith kick-starts yoof ID debate site, site kick stops

Mike Richards

Bliss

Part of me likes to think that Jacqui Smith is in her office sacking the bright-young-thing who came up with to the idea of this site. But a much larger part of me hopes she remains blissfully unaware for a bit longer.

As spin-doctoring operations go mylifemyid is a John Redwood / Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau moment.

Can we look forward to daily 'best-of's?

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Ryanair begins screen-scraping lawsuit

Mike Richards

@Anonymous Coward

'Ah well, when the oil drought hits aviation fuel a bit harder, Ryanair will be first against the wall -- their target market will be the first to stop flying.'

Sadly, for all sorts of reasons - environmental and moral - RyanAir will be one of the last companies to hit the wall. They've got a modern fleet that sips less fuel, they run at very high load values and they aren't tied into the expensive major hubs so they can switch routes easily enough. Not to mention their scamtastic marketing suckers people into buying flights with them when the final cost is only a little less than flying with an airline which gives a damn* and takes you where you want to go and not a tin shed in the wrong time zone.

The ones that are going to go are the heavily indebted fleets with archaic business practices, protected by anti-competitve legislation, massive pension commitments and total reliance on big airports. Which is pretty much the whole of the American airline industry with the possible exception of SouthWest.

* SAS if you must know - no not the blokes in balaclavas.

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Trust on the slide, Chris Moyles on the up at BBC

Mike Richards

BBC education programming

'For example, a close reading of the production figures shows BBC2 has reduced its education programming by almost half – from 1374 to 785 hours. No doubt this change has some underlying significance.'

A good part of this is because the Open University has lost its late-night BBC2 'Learning Zone' broadcasting slot; instead the BBC switches over to the wondrous rolling car crash of fluffed links, missing captions and wrong clips that is BBC News.

Just think, generations of British youth will no longer discover the wonders of geology, organic chemistry and pure mathematics simply because they've staggered home in the wee small hours and just flicked on the TV - this is a cultural tragedy.

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Hawkeye technology turns tennis into a cartoon

Mike Richards

@Adrian Esdaile

'Combine Tennis, Foxhunting, Waterpolo and Target Shooting and make a sport that is actually worth watching.'

Now that mate - is genius.

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Sony spin-off planning 2009 FED TV launch

Mike Richards
Coat

Forget the TV...

...I want that jacket.

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UK.gov serves up GM food as price hike fix

Mike Richards

Actually...

The simplest way to reduce food costs and supply enough to feed the population is to stop feeding grain and soya to animals in feedlots. The US could support three or four times its current population by switching its grain harvest from animals to humans.

This doesn't mean a veggie world, it means meat becoming relatively more expensive; but the meat we would get would be tastier.

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The Moderatrix will see you now

Mike Richards

@ blackworx

A far more interesting question about tongue is:

'Can it taste you eating it?'

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UK.gov launches data mash-up competition

Mike Richards

Here's one

Plotting MPs' second homes on Google Maps. Then they can use that info to find their nearest John Lewis store.

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Asus readies iMac attack with all-in-one Eee

Mike Richards

Hmmm...

The perspex bit at the bottom is there simply because Asus couldn't be bothered to design a proper stand. It also means I wouldn't be able to tuck my keyboard underneath to retrieve a bit of desk space - something I do like about the iMac / CinemaDisplay monitors.

I like my Eee a lot, but increasingly Asus are looking like headless chickens frantically hoping to strike gold a second time.

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Alan Sugar leaves Amstrad

Mike Richards

Next year's Apprentice

'...they'll be working for no-nonsense entrepreneur Alan Sugar who controls a property empire worth more than £800.'

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Court rules 90s UK.gov wiretaps violated human rights

Mike Richards

@ Mark

Ummmm what would ditching HRA do in this case?

The UK is a founding member of the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights is the ultimate arbiter of that convention. All HRA did was incorporate the majority of the Convention into UK Law meaning that citizens had redress for breaches of their rights in the UK courts rather than having to appeal their case all the way to the court in Strasbourg, a process that cost tens of thousands of Pounds and many years.

Dumping HRA would just make things worse for people whose rights have been infringed, delay justice and allow governments to get away with greater abuses.

If anything HRA needs to be strengthened. It's not possible for a judge to strike down a law that conflicts with the Convention, nor can they refuse to sentence someone who broke such a law. to remain on the statute book, whereas they should be repealed. The strongest action a court can take is to issue a declaration of incompatibility with the Convention, but they cannot fine the government for breaching the Convention. The reason is down to the self-importance of Parliament which considers itself the sole arbiter of UK law. So anyone hoping that ID Cards could be declared illegal under HRA are in for a nasty surprise.

The sooner we have a modern constitution (we could do a whole lot worse than to plagiarise the one written by a bunch of traitors in 1787) the better.

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Who will be the next Doctor?

Mike Richards

There can only be one actor for the role

I speak of Tom Cruise - he talks to real aliens every day.

If David Hasselhoff could do the soundtrack that would be awesome.

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Asda declares baby's arse 'pornographic'

Mike Richards

Tech angle???

Couldn't you at least have told us how much the inkjet cartridges cost to do an entire cake?

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Available to buy: your own frakkin' 7ft Cylon

Mike Richards

@Graham Wood

Sorry, your chemist friend is wrong. (But just think how much fun you can have telling him)

The internationally agreed name for element number 13 is 'aluminium', with 'aluminum' being an acceptable alternative.

The problem goes all the way back to Humphry Davy who made the first attempts at separating the raw metal from pure aluminium oxide - alumina. He called the then hypothetical element 'alumium' at first before settling on 'aluminum' where it remained for a few more years before becoming 'aluminium' to fit in better with the majority of metal names.

However, the Brits didn't get it all their own way, the internationally agreed spelling for element 16 is 'sulfur'. Tragically, it is now also the recommended spelling in the UK according to the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. Presumably the precious little snowflakes in today's schools can't be expected to spell 'sulphur'.

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UK abandons train and tube scanners

Mike Richards

Now I'm confused

It would have cost billions; it would have crushed a few more rights; it'd have employed more people in peaked hats and big boots; it have been hopelessly unreliable, inconvenient and infuriating; and most of all - IT WOULDN'T HAVE WORKED...

...and the government is abandoning it?

What (as they say) gives?

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Family visa sponsors face ID, credit and CRB checks

Mike Richards

Did I say Tony McNulty - I meant Liam Byrne

But the same sentiment applies.

Is it just me, or does Liam Byrne look like he'd get off on any opportunity to wear a black uniform with silver piping, jack boots and wire-frame glasses?

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Mike Richards

Isn't collective punishment illegal?

The closest analogy in existing law is when a suspect is bailed over for a later court appearance. If the bailee fails to answer the bail conditions, the person who put up the assurance isn't jailed they merely lose their money.

So why are perfectly innocent people going to be criminalised if an immigrant does a runner?

The repulsive Tony McNulty really is the lowest of the low in New Labour (and that's up against some pretty stiff competition); by building a career hard man image by picking on the weakest and most disadvantaged in society.

The sooner he and his cronies are thrown out of power the better.

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Xbox 360 owners tougher than PS3 fans - survey

Mike Richards

Makes sense

Most 360 owners have been hardened through multiple bereavements as their precious boxes have RRoDed time after (three and counting) bloody time.

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CERN declares Large Hadron Collider perfectly safe

Mike Richards

Easy way to see if CERN are telling the truth

If they honestly think the LHC is going to spit out all sorts of subatomic weirdness they won't have bought the extended warranty.

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It's time for a close-up look at mobile porn

Mike Richards

I had assumed...

...his users found the iPhone's lack of keyboard made it easier to wipe clean.

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Post Office aims to collect ID card fingerprints?

Mike Richards

Oh terrific

I need to post a letter and the queue in front already contains a family claiming a wheelbarrow load of benefits; a semi-literate teenager completing a passport application at the desk so that he can spend his gap year contracting some of Southern Europe's most exciting sexually-transmitted diseases; a Sun reader changing five billion Vietnamese Dong into Sterling one Dong at a time whilst recounting their nights of bliss at the Hanoi Hilton Happy Slapper LadyBoy Passion Parlour to anyone within earshot; someone whose actually bought one of those 'you've never heard of this movie' DVDs for £1.99 - in copper; three Lottery players trying to pick their almost certainly unlucky numbers, and a Patagonian waiter looking to send a 1/2 tonne box complete with air holes to one of the lesser-travelled parts of the Andes - and now they're going to be scanning people's eyeballs???

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Liberty director threatens to sue Burnham over 'tawdry smear'

Mike Richards

Let's enjoy him squirming

This was an on-the-record interview and he's a former spindoctor, Burnham knew what he was doing when he mentioned Chakrabarti. Bringing her into the conversation was not necessary to make a point, but he did it anyway. he should apologise.

Maybe she shouldn't have risen to the bait, but hell it's an opportunity to embarrass one of the government's more greasy members.

What's especially revealing is that Burnham can't get it into his head that people can agree on some things and not others. Such is the android level of conformity in new Labour he fails to see that it's possible for Liberty and Davis to agree on surveillance and disagree on the death penalty. People like Burnham who have no opinions that haven't been put their by the whips shouldn't be allowed into the House of Commons as they do all of us a disservice.

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Heavyweight physics prof weighs into climate/energy scrap

Mike Richards

Uranium economy

The HUGE problem with nuclear power is political - not the lentil knitters, but international politics. As the report points out, uranium reserves are pretty limited if the World decided that fission was the way forward (and it is increasingly looking that way).

Thorium is in some way an even bigger problem than uranium since it needs to be transmuted into U233 before it can be used as a fuel. The Indians, who have some of the largest thorium reserves, have long experience in doing this. BUT U233 is an excellent material for bomb making. It can be used in a uranium cannon bomb (unlike plutonium), a much simpler, cheaper way of becoming a nuclear power as it doesn't need anything like the same level of expertise - the design of Little Boy dropped on Hiroshima didn't need to be tested and the South Africans assembled a number of similar weapons without ever testing their designs.

The way to extend uranium reserves is through reprocessing and recycling U235 for further use and either blending in Pu239 to make MOX or to embark on a real fast breeder program using Pu239 as the fuel and U238 as the breeding blanket. This would mean a huge commitment to reprocessing - an economic disaster in the UK which is the only country to have ever gone wholeheartedly for the process, and something of an environment nightmare as it means finding repositories for spent actinides. Could any government make such a commitment?

BUT the monster in this is the plutonium economy. Such a programme would require hundreds of tonnes of plutonium, all suitable for bomb making, to be shipped around the World on a continuous basis. It would mean providing countries with whom we have awkward, if not hostile, relationships with plutonium. Bearing in mind the fracas we're currently having with Iran over its uranium program does anyone countenance the US or Israel permitting Iran to receive plutonium shipments?

Okay, we could avoid trans-shipments and say that everyone has a reprocessing program of their own. The technology is from the 1940s and is accessible to anyone with a supply of concrete, kerosene and some 1st year degree chemistry. Is the World ready for 200 odd reprocessing programmes all with the potential to divert plutonium into bomb programs?

Or the US and the rest of the Security Council could say that all new nuclear economies must sign up to receive fuel from their enrichment and processing plants and return spent fuel to them. This hasn't worked too well in the past - India's successful civilian and military programs are a direct protest at trying to impose similar rules through the Non Proliferation Treaty, and Iran's current intransigence is in part down to the fact that under the Treaty every country is permitted to have their own civilian nuclear programs - including a complete fuel cycle. The West demanding that Iran must accept fuel from outside is not grounded in law.

So can the readers of this mighty organ see how to get round these problems?

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Asus Eee Box to debut in UK... minus Linux

Mike Richards

No Linux, no lovely

What's happened to the Eee's curvaceous best friend?

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Do you know how much of your porn is extreme?

Mike Richards

A suggestion

Perhaps the government could have a site where we could see images of what is, and, what is not, legal. Maybe add some forums where we can post images and have senior judges, politicians and members of the public decide if they are eye-wateringly illegal.

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London hospital loses 20,000 unencrypted patient files

Mike Richards

WTF???

"We could not anticipate a determined thief who was prepared to force open a filing cabinet and locked drawers," said Chief Executive David Astley.

OMG! Breaking news from London - locks don't stop thieves!

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Phorm failed to mention 'illegal' trials at Home Office meeting in 2007

Mike Richards

Home Office speak

"The Home Office refused to disclose further details of who was present at the August 2007 meeting with Phorm, how it was arranged, or what was discussed, saying that the information remained the subject of an ongoing FOI inquiry."

At the end of the FOI inquiry the information will not be released because it will be 'commercially confidential', when the appeal is granted, the discussions will be censored on the grounds of national security.

And I'm with the others above. You should name the spokesdroid.

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Gov claims 'password protection' OK for sensitive docs

Mike Richards

Prank

Imagine the hilarity if every El Reg burned a CD filled with random data, labelled it with things like 'For Hazel B - URGENT!' and left them on trains and buses across the nation.

Okay I admit they'd be hard to find amongst copies of the Metro and all the legitimate government CDs that have been left behind, but it'd be amusing to see the PM standing in the Commons trying to work out if the disk called 'Iran Battle Plan' found on the 08:25 to Grimsby was genuine or not.

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Swedish parliament rejects snoop everyone law

Mike Richards

Just think...

...there's a country filled with liberal politicians who value the privacy of the citizen. As a bonus, it's rich, clean and apparently peopled by well-educated, multilingual supermodels.

What a contrast to New Labour's image of Britain.

I really have to learn Swedish...

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Brown pledges annual commons debate on surveillance

Mike Richards

Oooh dear, bad day to say...

'Brown said that citizens were not alarmed by the government's demands for biometric data, saying this was proved by the fact that “many people now have laptops activated by finger-scans.”'

Did Hazel???

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