* Posts by Mike Richards

3615 posts • joined 28 Feb 2007

National Grid computers locked-down in outage cock-up

Mike Richards

To Osama...

...don't bother, we're doing a great job on our own.

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Government announces shortlist for ID card contracts

Mike Richards

@Anonymous Coward

'Democracy, freedom, liberty...?!?! '

Has anyone noticed the Home Office has stopped using their slogan 'Building a Safer, Just and More Tolerant Society'?

Were they afraid of being sued?

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Mike Richards

A much better solution

Alan Sugar could set it as one of the tasks on 'The Apprentice'.

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NASA's Phoenix braces for Sunday touch-down

Mike Richards

@ John B

'Why didn't they implement airbags like they did on the Opportunity/Spirit rovers?'

Phoenix is a much larger and heavier probe than the rovers. If they had redesigned the same probe to use airbags there simply wouldn't have been enough room in the nosecone of the Delta launcher; whilst airbags + probe would have meant sacrificing some of the instrumentation in order to make the Delta's maximum payload.

A Russian Proton could have easily carried an airbag system and the Phoenix, but the Russians haven't had much/any luck with their Martian missions.

Retro-rocket landings have worked in the past, both the Viking landers used the same method to make their successful touch-downs, although they descended from Martian orbit rather than straight after arriving.

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The economy: A big Arab did it and ran away, claims PM

Mike Richards

A better comparison

Would be like a drug user demanding cheaper smack from their dealer.

We are addicted to cheap crude. Much of our society is built on having a ready supply of petroleum - from our housing developments to out of town shopping to pizza delivery. And there is a fundamental limit on how much oil can be hauled out of the ground.

Blaming OPEC is stupid. There are well-understood limits on how much oil can be pumped out of a field and how fast it can be produced. A good petroleum geologist can give you those numbers, and almost any geologist will tell you that the OPEC countries are lifting as much crude as they can without doing irreparable damage to their fields. In fact, some of the World's largest producers have probably already done damage to their fields - largely by depleting gas pressure - by trying to exceed these limits in earlier years.

With the dubious exception of Saudi Arabia, there is no more spare capacity left in the World. Even if the OPEC countries were to start drilling tomorrow, adding secondary and tertiary recovery to their existing fields and improving their infrastructure, it would take 5 to 10 years to get that additional oil to market, by which time there would be even more demand. And outside of OPEC, things are pretty bleak, all of the largest non-OPEC countries are facing declining production figures and the rate at which new reserves are coming on stream is slower than the slowdown in existing production.

And no amount of rhetoric from Brown, Bush and the rest of them can stop peak oil. It might be here, it might be 10 years down the road, but it's almost certainly within spitting distance.

Mind you, the next time you're bitching about the price of petrol, remember that an irreplaceable geological curiosity pumped from kilometres under the one of the coldest, stormiest, most hostile seas in the World, piped through hundreds of kilometres of steel, transformed through a miracle of organic chemisty into a useful product, is only slightly more expensive than milk.

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Teen battles City of London cops over anti-Scientology placard

Mike Richards
Flame

CPS

The plod said: 'Following advice from the Crown Prosecution Service some demonstrators were warned verbally and in writing that their signs breached section five of the Public Order Act 1986.'

Incredible, the CPS can make a judgement on that in minutes; yet 6 months ago one of my neighbours was racially abused in front of witnesses. We brought a complaint to the police who took statements and referred it on to the CPS - they still haven't come to a conclusion whether or not there will be a prosecution.

Guess we should have let Xenu into our lives to guarantee swift justice.

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UK.gov plans central database for all your communications

Mike Richards

Clearly a rebranding is needed

No longer will we have to put up with the old, backward-looking 'United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland', instead welcome to the sleek 'Airstrip 1.0 experience: brought to you by EDS'.

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Mike Richards

Sounds like the Major government all over again

When the Conservatives realised they were going to lose the next election they started ramming through ever more objectional legislation in the knowledge that the next government would never get round to repealing it. Labour realise the game is up for them this time round, so they'll get this on the books and wait to return to power to continue the Blunkettisation of Britain.

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Medion takes aim at Asus' Eee

Mike Richards

Missing one thing

No obvious techno totty to compare to the Asus' beach friend.

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Brown goes YouTube

Mike Richards

Oh god...

It's the Big Conversation (remember that?) meets Web 2.0.

Could be worse - imagine meeting Hazel Blears in Second Life.

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UK Carriers safe: Other war-tech ripe for the chopper

Mike Richards

Why not call Ocean Finance?

Just one telephone call and they'll be able to roll up all those troublesome debts into one easy payment.

(Homeowners only need apply, in the event of war your carriers may go down, 150% APR, your country may be at risk if you do not keep up payments. Apply now and receive this charming carriage clock autographed by June Whitfield)

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Activist coders aim to deafen Phorm with white noise

Mike Richards

@jason bennett

Re: Contract law.

(Not a lawyer but I did do contract law a long time ago)

This is a complex point (sorry). You are entitled to end a contract if there is a substantial change to the terms and conditions under which the contract was originally brought into being. At the moment, BT aren't using Phorm, there has been no change to the T&Cs and so your entitlement to end the contract is not particularly strong.

HOWEVER, BT are planning to amend their T&Cs so that people will be opted in to Webwise/Phorm. Before this happens, all BT customers should be informed that there will be a change to their T&Cs.

If you disagree with the new T&Cs you can refuse to agree to them and argue a substantive change has occurred by BT unilaterally changing the contract to your detriment. At this point you are entitled to ask for the contract to be ended. BT could argue that there has been no change, but its case is weakened by bringing in new T&Cs, so it *SHOULD* (if it has any sense*) let you go.

HTH.

* ah I see the weakness in this plan.

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'Crazy rasberry ants' target Texan tech

Mike Richards

Ants heading for NASA

Hold on, do you think they know something we don't and are planning on hitching a lift on the next mission to Mars?

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Wii controller lawsuit costs Nintendo $21m

Mike Richards

Is it a Texan court by any chance?

IIRC a lot of patent infringement cases are brought before Texan courts which have shown a greater tendency to side with the plaintiff.

Anyone able to confirm this or shall I put it down to false recollection under the influence of eau de meths?

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Government orders data retention by ISPs

Mike Richards

Home Office defence will be...

'We're only doing what Europe told us.'

Which will be lapped up by the likes of the Mail (assuming it can divert itself from the catastrophic effect of falling house prices on Brad and Angelina), ensuring the government takes none of the blame for a massive intrusion on our privacy.

Jacqui Smith won't mention it was her office that instigated of the proposals in the first place.

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Dixons admits 'it's even worse than you thought'

Mike Richards

The one good bit of the Dixons group

Pixmania - I can't fault them. I bought a TV last year from them, not only was the price far lower than anyone else's but the delivery was made on time by competent people.

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'Major' Flash Player beta released

Mike Richards

Mac version?

Any chance the Mac version won't be a huge steaming lump of crap that guzzles all the CPU power?

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European manned spaceflight plan proposed

Mike Richards

Ariane V

Although it was originally intended to put Hermes into orbit, Ariane V is not man-rated and would need a redesign AND some form of emergency abort system.

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Airbus revises A380 delivery schedule

Mike Richards

Not a good time to be choosing a plane

Obviously a major issue for the Reg's many plutocratic readers. Go with the butt ugly and delayed A380 or for the very pretty but extremely delayed Boeing 787.

Ah well, neither of them are as pretty or as fast as a VC10 anyway.

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Weapons, oil prices driving worldwide atom ambitions

Mike Richards

@ John

'When oil prices are so high and you're already selling a gazillion barrels, a day, why up production and let the price fall? '

OPEC and other petroleum producers are trying to play a clever game. In 1973/74 OPEC responded to Israel's victory over the Arabs by imposing an oil blockade on most of the West. The result was spiralling prices - up 400% in a year. The result was a short-term propaganda victory, followed by a Western recession, a nuclear power - errrr - boom, imposition of the 55mph limit on American freeways and Detroit's first small (relatively) cars. High oil prices also meant it was economic to develop deep water fields in the North Sea and Gulf of Mexico, which greatly reduced Western reliance on Arab oil.

Oil prices fell for the remainder of the 1970s as did the revenues to producer states. They spiked again with the Iranian Revolution and drove yet another wave of energy efficiencies in consumers and further exploration in remote areas. The end result was falling prices during which OPEC countries opened the taps to try and grab as much market share as possible - beggaring their neighbours in the process. The 1980s and early 1990s saw the World awash in cheap crude and many OPEC states reduced to basket cases with huge foreign debts.

OPEC has always tried to maintain prices in an area where they maximise incomes without provoking consumers to develop alternative energy supplies. Through the 1970s they were hugely concerned that the US would be able to develop shale oil from Colorado if oil hit $50ppb, so the target was always oil at $30ppb. In the end shale oil was an illusion - there simply isn't enough water out West to make it, but the threat was enough to drive policy.

However, this policy has come unstuck because rising demand is pushing up prices even as OPEC and non-OPEC countries announce they are hitting peak production. They can't open the taps any wider to pour more oil into the market, so the prices keep going up.

But the producers might still come out on top. With no obvious alternatives to oil, we'll keep passing our money to the Persian Gulf so they can buy our businesses. Abu Dhabi is sitting on a sovereign wealth fund equivalent to $1 million per person, and they're on a spending spree right now, with the rest of the Gulf hot on their heels. If you're in the US, it gets even worse, because the money to buy the oil is borrowed from China and has to be paid back at some time in the future.

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Mike Richards

@Anonymous Coward

'After all, if they are unable to produce as much oil, they will be the first to know.'

A good point well made. Many of the OPEC countries consistently upped their reserves throughout the 1980s and 1990s despite little exploration and very high production figures. The reason being that production quotas are allocated on reserves - the more oil you say you have, the more you can pump. Almost none of these countries allow for independent audits of their reserves - one reason why global oil reserve numbers vary so widely, so we really don't know how much oil is down there.

Three years ago, Kuwait finally admitted that it's supergiant Burgan field had peaked and was in steep decline from 2 million barrels per day to around 1.6 million today - and that was being maintained by huge injections of water. As for what is going on in Saudi Arabia, that's anyone's guess - it's probable their Ghawar field (5 million barrels per day - around 6% of global demand) has or is peaking.

Which if that's the case means there is no more spare capacity - all the leaders in the world can ask OPEC to open the taps, but they can't open them any wider. So oil will have to go up in price. Fortunately, (for the Chinese and Indians, less so for the US and the UK) the Chinese and Indians have lots of hard cash to spend on fuel imports. Money which when it isn't greasing the wheels of corruption, gives various Persian Gulf regimes all the more cash to spend on new nuclear plants and armaments.

And we can forget any other countries coming up to fill the gap. Even if the huge new Tupi field off of Brasil turned out to be as productive as hoped, it would only ever supply 110 *DAYS* of the current global demand for oil (just under 30 billion barrels a year).

Fancy a spot of depressing reading? Matthew Simmons, 'Twilight in the Desert' will have you checking property prices in Idaho.

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British Gas sues Accenture

Mike Richards

Here's to the victors...

I really, really, really, REALLY hope m'learned friends bankrupt the pair of them.

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Shuttle astronauts: Aliens are definitely out there

Mike Richards

@ Anonymous John

'If Torchwood can't cope, we nuke Cardiff.'

Can we just nuke Cardiff? You know, for practice.

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Gordon Brown claims a Brit invented the iPod

Mike Richards

New Labour in a nutshell

A total inability to tell the difference between substance and presentation.

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Retailers risk libel nightmare over 'no-work' database

Mike Richards

Better idea

They could share information about the staff they should avoid hiring - you know those who are incompetent; those more interested in talking to their colleagues/friends than the customer; those that can't be bothered to say 'please' or 'thank-you', or even respond to a greeting; those who won't give extra help to disabled customers, the elderly or foreign tourists; those who know nothing about the products; the snooty ones who think they're better than you are (no, I'm on *this* side of the counter because I can afford to shop here) and those who are solely interested in angling for commission.

Such a scheme could kill off Dixons and every perfume counter in the country.

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US: BAE 'could have' pirated our secret Stealth 3.0 tech sauce

Mike Richards

One problem with this theory...

If BAe had funnelled US stealth technology to the UK, I can't think of any manufacturing companies over here that could use it in their products. Not unless Dualit is planning a radar busting toaster.

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EDF circles British nuclear powerplant sites

Mike Richards

Thanks Gordon!

A couple of years ago, New Labour, desperate to raise a spot of cash sold BNFL's Westinghouse division. Westinghouse own the patents on the pressurised water reactor and have been developing new PWRs like the System 80+ and the AP1000. Westinghouse is going to make a fortune in the US in the next few years and now all that money is going to go to Toshiba (which will help offset the cost of closing down HD-DVD).

Now we're going to be buying a French design reactor and none of the cash will end up in this country.

But then, this is a country that hasn't seen fit to preserve Calder Hall as part of our industrial legacy.

Going off to mutter quietly now.

[Mutter Mutter]

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Microsoft orders 65nm Xbox 360 graphics chip

Mike Richards

@Daniel Bennett

Don't get your hopes up about getting a better motherboard if your 360 goes RRoD.

Mine RRoDed most recently in February and it came back with the motherboard replaced - by another one of the original motherboards prone to failing. It also came back with a much louder fan.

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Why Microhoo! is like, so, totally dead

Mike Richards

The reason it doesn't work...

...is because it assumes anyone here reads CNet.

Which lacks the essential Paris and Playmobil coverage of the mighty Register organ.

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ITV fined millions for phone fraud

Mike Richards

What exactly are executive producers?

Ant and Dec are listed as executive producers of their show and yet claim not to know the votes were rigged. Hmmm...

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I want a baby, coos broody Paris Hilton

Mike Richards

Worrying statistic

Even the best contraception is only 95% effective. She can't beat those odds forever.

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NASA confirms manned mission to 10 Petaflops

Mike Richards

@Plankmeister

'...NASA don't do things efficiently. It took them 30 years to realise the Shuttle was the "wrong way around*". Well... that's not true. They *KNEW* it was the wrong way around, but it was a good excuse to pour time, effort and money into some really cool engineering.'

Blaming NASA for the Shuttle is completely wrong. The Shuttle was a compromise between those in the Nixon administration which looking for a follow-on to Apollo, but for a fraction of the cost; and those in the USAF who were looking for a combo orbital bomber and space truck. By the time the Shuttle was approved, the Saturn line had already been closed and there was no alternative way of getting man into space without asking the Soviets.

The original Shuttle plan of the 1960s called for a reusable booster carrying a piggybacked orbiter, all liquid fuelled; to serve a giant space station akin to the one in 2001 which would be in charge of constructing the monstrous Mars missions. The recession of the late 1960s, rampant inflation and the war in Vietnam killed off the Mars mission then the space station. All that was left was the Shuttle, and that on a dramatically reduced budget.

USAF called the shots and dictated the size of the payload bay and the need for a winged glider that could return to base anywhere in the US after making a single polar orbit. Nixon and Congress killed the reusable component by hacking the budget so that the External Tank would be discarded and cheaper reusable solid-rocket boosters substituted for liquid-fuelled boosters.

NASA designed the Shuttle to fit its vastly diminished budget (and blew that as well). It was a botched job - a brilliant botch - but the failure of the Shuttle lies in politics not in the incredible engineering of the machines. It's worth pointing out that no other country has yet replicated many of the Shuttle's features and that the Soviet Buran orbiter was far from finished when it made its single, even more expensive flight.

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Mike Richards

Apollo, slide rules and petaflops

It's worth remembering that these machines won't be flown on the missions, just used to simulate parts of the flight equipment.

The Constellation programme is still much less lavishly funded as a share of GDP than Apollo ever was; it is also far more sophisticated, being partially reusable and intended for far longer duration flights.

There simply isn't the money even in America's budget to try the 'throw everything and see what sticks' approach of the 1960s. It's worth remembering the Saturn V that took man to the Moon wasn't the only program involved - there were also Ranger, Surveyor and Lunar Orbiter doing the reconaissance, Gemini proving most of the techniques needed to fly to the Moon and the Saturn IB launcher as an intermediate technology.

Apollo was rushed, fatally so with the fire of Apollo 1 and the flight of Apollo 8 around the Moon was a huge risk undertaken to avoid the humiliation of a Soviet Zond being the first manned mission to make that journey (Zond itself was canned when its booster cracked). The Saturn V was a beast to fly and nearly shook itself to pieces on early flights and there is always the near disaster of Apollo 13 in the back of NASA's mind. They're not going to take the same risks again.

If anyone is interested in this, I can't recommend 'In the Shadow of the Moon' and 'From the Earth to the Moon' highly enough. The first is a series of interviews with many of the Apollo astronauts, the second dramatic reconstructions of the Apollo missions.

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DARPA wants Matrix style virtual world for cybergeddon

Mike Richards

How do I join???

No, not this half-baked lunacy - I want to join DARPA and be paid obscene amounts of money for coming up with half-baked lunacy of my own.

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Sony details PS3 DVR pricing, launch date

Mike Richards

@Johnny English re: TiVo

The TiVo drive is a piece of piss to replace. Unscrew the box and unplug the old one, or better still, mount the new drive alongside the existing HD. Restart the machine, it'll notice the new drive and guide you through the setup.

Since no one has even come close to TiVo's user interface, season passes or suggested programming yet and Sony are notorious for user interfaces from hell; I'll be hanging on to my trusty TiVo for a bit longer.

And hope that the recent European licencing of TiVo software means we'll soon have a new generation of these awesome boxes.

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Private sector saviours wanted for desperate ID scheme

Mike Richards

@ Eponymous Cowherd re: Tesco

Not forgetting if you join the Tesco scheme but then have second thoughts, you can stop using Clubcard. At which point Tesco has to destroy your data.

Sadly, even being dead won't get you off the Blunkettbase.

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Ofcom plays precog on tomorrow's wireless world

Mike Richards

"A large asteroid impact or regional nuclear war"

Are actually the last two entries left in BT Total Broadband Technical Support's Bumper Book of Excuses as to why my ADSL connection is so shite.

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Air France pilot in white-knuckle near miss

Mike Richards

Kid in the cockpit?

One unanswered question - does this mean Air France still hasn't fitted secure doors to the cockpits, or, are Air France pilots doing a Gallic shrug to basic safety?

Come on El Reg, get your crack investigators on the job. A Playmobil reconstruction of what could have ensued if Naomi Campbell had got into the cockpit wouldn't go amiss either.

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White House admits non-existent email backups

Mike Richards

Easy solution

If anyone sent a message to, or received a message from, the White House between those dates, can they please send a copy of those messages back to the White House?

Say between 13:00 and 14:00 EST today. That shouldn't cause any problems. Well no more problems than simultaneously flushing all the toilets in the Pentagon.

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What did happen to all those London mayoral votes?

Mike Richards

Interesting article

Thanks.

One thing we should introduce over here (as well as PR, fixed term Parliaments, a single written constitution, proper separation of the legislature, executive and judiciary - really I could go on) are transparent ballot boxes. As it stands, voters have no way of knowing if the box they're putting their ballot into has been pre-stuffed. After the various postal voting scandals of the last few years the electorate cannot be expected to trust the politicians and the electoral authorities further than they can spit.

Oh and getting rid of numbered ballots that can be tracked back to individual voters would be a major step forward for British democracy.

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Franco robbed Sir Cliff of Eurovision win

Mike Richards

Confused now...

...does this denial of Cliff mean that there are some positive aspects to fascism?

Still this year is looking like a class bit of Eurovision - what with Dunstin:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1lIdd3VDBs

Mike.

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Freesat launches in UK

Mike Richards

Most pressing question

Is when Price Drop TV HD will be launched?

That alone will make HD worthwhile. 24 hours 7 days a week of unmentionable tat being flogged with the same desperate enthusiasm seen in Hitler's Bunker around May Day 1945.

And you know it's coming...

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Sun stock goes degenerate dwarf

Mike Richards

Next SGI?

One for the experts here. Is Sun just following SGI down the path to irrelevance? Both companies prospered when they could dominate a market with specialised hardware and software, but the commodity Intel boxes have pretty much eaten the market. Does Sun have a future in the hardware market?

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Phorm in phormulaic logo phorm storm

Mike Richards

Trademark law in a nutshell

Good Phorm have taken the trouble to register their trademark and have used the little R symbol. This gives them quite a lot of protection under the law - with one proviso (see below)

Bad Phorm have chosen to use the weaker TM on their logo. Anyone who wants to assert a trademark can include the TM. It does not need to be registered and no money changes hands. HOWEVER in exchange for being cheap, courts are unlikely to be sympathetic when that trademark comes into conflict with a registered mark.

There's an obvious risk of confusion - 'Phorm' is not a word in the dictionary (which is one defence out of the window - you could start a company called Apple and still be protected) and both companies are in the Internet business (which would be a problem if your Apple startup was a computer company).

If I was Good Phorm, I'd love to know how Bad Phorm can claim to have independently hit upon their logo design - right down to the font. That takes coincidence too far.

So the name and the logo of Bad Phorm could, and should, be seen as a case of 'passing off'.

Actually Good Phorm *MUST* defend their trademark. If they choose not to do so in this case, their mark is in danger of become genericised, in which case *anyone* can use it. Good Phorm need to talk to their lawyers as a matter of urgency and get them issue a cease and desist order against Bad Phorm ordering them withdraw their logo and cease trading under that name.

Bad Phorm can claim an innocent error, even blame their designers who may be liable for any costs of infringement. In any case it'd make sense for them to withdraw the logo and the name as they'd almost certainly lose in court.

And if Good Phorm they need money, I'm willing to throw in a £20 to the Register defence fund.

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Blu-ray-for-Xbox 360 rumours restoked

Mike Richards

Isn't it a bit late?

The 360 is just starting to make a profit. However, it is coming up to 3 years old and is starting to show its limitations in turns of pop-up and texturing. There is probably more to be squeezed out of it, but somewhere in Microsoft they must be looking at a third generation XBox.

Adding Blu-ray to 360 will increase costs, decrease profits and divert resources from the replacement whilst doing nothing to address the real issues of the 360 - it's going to look increasingly antiquated as developers get to grips with the PS3.

Finally, would anyone want to watch a Blu-ray movie with the 360 bellowing away? Mine came back from being fixed for the RRoD and it is noticeably noisier, so much so that it is impossible to watch a HD-DVD that hasn't been made by Michael Bay.

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Is the earth getting warmer, or cooler?

Mike Richards

Deep Time climate change

Yes folks, the Earth has been much warmer and much colder in the past. BUT the climate change concerns are not so much about absolute temperatures - after all we're a long way away from the subtropical Arctic of the Mesozoic - but the speed of change which *IS* abnormal. Typically, the geological record shows gradual swings between hot and cold, not the recent surge which appears be without a geological foundation.

And for those who point out the very warm periods of the past, at those times there was easy access to the polar regions for warm water currents bringing equatorial warmth to high latitudes. Since Antarctica slipped under the South Pole and the effective closure of the Arctic Ocean this is no longer the case. Our polar regions and the deep oceans are colder than at almost any time in geological history.

Finally, re: Gore's appointment of Dr. Hansen. If you were making appointments to scientific posts and not as ignorant as the current incumbent, wouldn't you appoint the most highly-regarded people in the field?

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Virgin Media distances itself from Phorm 'adoption' claims

Mike Richards

And BT remains quiet

Phorm reminds me of Br'er Fox's tar baby; everything it touches just gets dirty.

So that's TalkTalk and Virgin backing away from Phorm's phragrant offering, leaving just one of the big three still officially onboard. Does anyone think BT can or will extricate themselves from this fiasco?

BT have cashed the cheque for my Data Protection request, so I'm looking forward to their excuse for being unable to tell me if I've been pimped.

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School crossing guards join CCTV panlollycon

Mike Richards

Next step...

Give lollypop ladies rocket launchers.

YouTube hilarity to follow.

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Vultures crash out of the Indian skyscape

Mike Richards

Other problems

Because vultures are so swift and efficient at disposing of carrion there was almost no opportunity for dead animals to rot, attract vermin and contaminate water supplies. Now with fewer vultures, the carcasses are real health hazard and are attracting large numbers of rats and feral dogs - both of which carry seriously nasty diseases like plague and rabies. So the vulture might take a good number of people with it.

Any chance the Reg and its readers could help sponsor some of the work to save the vultures?

Which are much nicer animals than you might think. Surprisingly clean and elegant. (I can only speak first hand about the vultures, I'm much less sure about members of the Register's staff)

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Astroboffins moot massive Moon-mirror heliograph

Mike Richards

Back to the Future

There was a plan in the early 19th Century to do similar things to attract the attention of any Martians who might be watching. Huge heliographs, trenches laid out in geometrical formations and filled with burning oil, planting the desert in patterns.

Mr. Wells' book probably didn't help sell those schemes.

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