* Posts by Mike Richards

3595 posts • joined 28 Feb 2007

Commodore goes titsup (again)

Mike Richards

Cursed I tell you! Cursed!

Does this company come with its own mummy's curse? Everything touched by the name Commodore or Amiga turns to crap.

We really should suggest they take over Phorm's operations.

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DARPA in search for five-year-mission solar wingship

Mike Richards

Video

I really, really like the overdue addition of music to the promotional video - before I heard the soundtrack I doubted the Vulture*, but now - I'm sold.

Do you think the final version will come with the huge spotlight shown in the video? It'll be really useful for when I come home late at night and I've forgotten a flashlight.

* Not you guys obviously.

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US gov may forbid BAE Eurofighter sale to Saudis

Mike Richards

Hmmm...

...would it be too low for American politicians to scupper the BAe turkey deal and then offer the Saudis a deal on F35s or F22s?

Yeah, yeah I know, rhetorical question.

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El Reg celebrates 10th birthday

Mike Richards

Disappointed...

I was expecting it in Playmobilivision

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This DVD will self-destruct in 48 hours

Mike Richards

Hmmm

There's a handy rule of thumb that the speed of a chemical reaction doubles for every ten degree increase in temperature. So it'll be interesting to see if people in Alicante are complaining their disks have gone tits-up before the 48 hours expires, and if the frozen inhabitants of Kiruna are smugly watching their disks for a week.

In any case - 48 hours is a lot longer than it takes to rip a copy.

Choose piracy; the ecological choice.

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BT's secret Phorm trials open door to corporate eavesdropping

Mike Richards

Sell! Sell! Sell!

Phorm's share price is a delight to behold. Whilst the FTSE 100 has pretty much moved sideways in the last few months, Phorm is now trading at about 1/3 of where it was in early March. Clearly investors don't have much faith in the brave new world of Webwise.

Long URL approaching:

http://www.iii.co.uk/investment/detail?type=&display=chart&code=cotn%3APHRM.L&it=le&timeframe=6m&index=li%3Acotn%3AUKX.L&versus=&linetype=line&Go=Plot+&overlay=&overlay2=&overlay3=&overlay4=&indicator=&indicator2=&indicator3=&indicator4=&chartwidth=500

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Oldham murders owl with whalesong

Mike Richards

Not trying hard enough

No lower case? No sans-serif font?

Amateurs.

I'd have done it properly for twice as much.

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Brit tourist blags his way onto Iron Man set

Mike Richards

Brit accent

Uh oh...

If a British accent in America can get you through the tightest security (and I can confirm it can get you a long long way) it can't be long before all al Qaeda operatives are sporting the finest Dick van Dyke accents.

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US law makers seek ban on in-flight calls

Mike Richards

@Anonymous Coward

'If their flight was delayed and their wife was waiting for them at the airport are they still OK with that?'

Spookily, all the airports I've ever used possess strange devices called 'Arrivals Boards' which tell the cognisenti the estimated times a plane will land and even say if the flight has been delayed.

From experience, the people on board a plane are usually the last to know if their flight is going to be late.

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Women love chocolate more than password security

Mike Richards

Another survey

Has anyone thought of running the same survey to see if men are more willing to divulge their password for beer?

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X-48B mini flying-wing drone prototype resumes testing

Mike Richards

First blended wing

Like most things aeronautical, it was German. May I introduce the pre-war Junkers G38:

http://www.return2style.de/swingaring/amig38.htm

A passenger aircraft which could carry passengers inside the thick wings as well as the fuselage.

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Sony posts PS3 firmware 2.30

Mike Richards

Have both

But I'm using the PS3 more for a couple of reasons.

Noise - the 360 is just so intrusive, there is no comparison between the two of them when watching a movie or playing a game that doesn't have shooting. The PS3 is very rarely audible, the 360 roars. Put a HD-DVD in the 360's add-on drive and depending on the phases of the Moon the machine might just bellow for two hours so it's almost impossible to hear the dialogue.

Secondly, it's the reliability. My 360 has already been serviced once by Microsoft after the RRoD and they've replaced the inherently faulty motherboard with another one of the same model - so I suspect it'll fail again in short order. The machine's fan is already sounding rough after only a couple of weeks, so I wouldn't be surprised if the whole thing went bang. If I get a choice of platforms I buy the game for PS3 because I'm pretty sure it'll be working this time next week.

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Schoolboy's asteroid-strike sums are wrong

Mike Richards

Don't panic Mr. Mainwaring!

I think I can clear up the confusion....

Geosynchronous satellites form a ring around the Earth's equator. (There are theoretically other geosynchronous orbits but these require the satellite to remain under some form of thrust such as that from a solar sail).

At closest approach the asteroid will be closer to the Earth than this orbit so if you draw it on a piece of paper it looks like there are two points where the satellite could crash into a satellite - one approaching Earth and one leaving.

HOWEVER, the 2D view is misleading. The asteroid's orbit is inclined with respect to that of the plane of the Earth's orbit, so those crossing points actually sit above or below the plane of the geosynchronous satellites - so no risk of collision.

Even if the asteroid did crash into the Astra satellite, tragically depriving millions of Ross Kemp and the new Gladiators, it'd have about as much impact (ahem) on the rock as the one-off interaction between a hedgehog and a Mondeo.

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Wii can conduct an orchestra too

Mike Richards

Sounds familiar (ahem)

Wasn't a virtual orchestra one of the Wii tech demos at E3 back in 2006?

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Terror on an Olympian scale

Mike Richards

And now the terror forecast

'The public should be kept permanently aware of the level of threat faced by the UK of terrorist attacks.'

'The outlook at midnight tonight. Politically oppressive with waves of extremism sweeping in from the Middle East here - and here. Generally there's a slight chance of ricin or caesium in the South East, so best take a gas mask and don't forget your identity card. And now the shitting forecast:

'Blunkett, scary becoming terrifying soon...'

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BT's 'illegal' 2007 Phorm trial profiled tens of thousands

Mike Richards
Flame

Liars

'BT has claimed that it has no way of telling which of its customers it Phorm profiled and served targeted advertising to.'

Clearly bollocks.

BT must have had some way of identifying users who were unwitting subjects of these trials. Suppose BT customers started complaining about the service, (okay, started complaining the service was worse than usual), BT would have needed to know if these problems were down to Phorm technology or to some unrelated issue, otherwise their engineers couldn't have solved the problem and they'd have no way of making comparison with un-Phormed users.

My DP request is with BT right now asking if I was part of their trial. I look forward to their response; especially if they say they've no idea whether I was press-gang-banged into their trials.

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Mike Richards

@ Matthew Hepburn

Unless you're using a very naive bank (in which case I have some friends in Nigeria who would love to meet you), all your bank transactions will be encrypted with https. Phorm can look at the packets all it likes, but it will only see garbage.

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Local council uses snooping laws to spy on three-year-old

Mike Richards

@Alex

'What exactly then is a council suppost to do then if it suspects fraud? Ignore it? Sit on their arses?'

'Suggestions please?'

Oooh I dunno, have someone from the education authority call the parents in for a nice chat/interview during which their address is discussed and they are reminded about the rules over catchment areas?

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Met police plans to track cops by GPS

Mike Richards

GPS???

Should work well just so long as London doesn't have any cars and buildings or a large subterranean railway network.

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Sony, MS want control of PS3, Xbox iPlayer, Beeb boss claims

Mike Richards

@Andy Turner

'“If you want to get [iPlayer] on the PlayStation or Xbox, they want control of the look, the feel and the experience. They want it done within their shop, and their shop only,” Huggers claimed"

'Seems fair enough to me.'

Clearly you haven't used the sluggish, buggy, unintuitive abomination that is the PS3 shop.

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US will sky spy-sat to eye spy-sats

Mike Richards

Might be a good thing...

...if it could also track debris clouds from exploded satellites and spent boosters which are the real threat to satellites.

I'm not sure about the claim in the article about needing to keep track of geosynchronous satellites - it's very unusual for a geosync satellite to ever move out of its destination slot, and when they're there, they stay put relative to the ground, so not much tracking needed.

Possibly the US is interested in satellites such as those that hang around in high, or the extremely elliptical Molniya orbits which are used by communication and reconnaissance satellites as well as the Russian Oko early warning satellites.

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Biologists track down elusive lungless frog

Mike Richards

James Bond

Now what would happen if you cover its skin with gold?

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Minister: Waste wood is 'huge potential resource'

Mike Richards

@Anonymous coward

Wood does decay naturally, but decay produces a good amount of methane which is a much more potent greenhouse gas than CO2.

Burning wood turns it into CO2 which can be captured by the next generation of trees.

Actually, the world's forests are currently largely being felled to provide land for soya and oil palm. So I prefer to blame deforestation on ecohippies and their biodiesel VW Beetles. ;)

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US Army cyber colonel in call to network arms

Mike Richards

Sounds like lyrics from an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical

"There was a day when we were operating at foot speed,"

"Now we're moving at cyber speed."

Think Tron on rollerskates.

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Ofcom reins in TV psychics and adult chat

Mike Richards

@Anonymous Coward

Get thee to eBay and find yourself a TiVo - the one true PVR.

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Information Commissioner: Phorm must be opt-in only

Mike Richards
Happy

@Sam

'What was the share high? I want to gloat at the difference, and you want to post it, admit it!'

Guilty!

You can keep track of Phorm's tanking shares here - it looks like the Matterhorn:

http://www.iii.co.uk/investment/detail%3Fcode%3Dcotn:PHRM.L&it%3Dle

It peaked £35.06 in mid-February, since then it's been downhill all the way with Phorm now trading at its lowest price in six months.

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Japan turning itself into Cyberman machine civilisation

Mike Richards

@ Anonymous Coward

'Look at Iceland they've had very low immigration over the last 1000 years and have a very 'clean' Viking gene pool but have a 'very' healthy population.'

Actually you couldn't have chosen a worse example. Iceland has a disproportionate rate of genetically determined mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and alcoholism precisely because of the limited gene pool of the original settlers. Conditions that would normally have been 'bred out' by a constant flow of new immigrants and the interchange of people have persisted in the gene pool simply because of Iceland's remoteness.

The relative health of the Icelandic population is a recent occurrence as their country moved from a pastoral/fishing society. Reports as recently as the 19th Century talk of how the Icelanders had a marginal existence. Cheap energy, access to global markets and the post-war Scandinavian social model of government are responsible for the modern healthy Icelander.

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UK child database is 'not fit for purpose'

Mike Richards

The reason they press on despite the evidence

It's a trend which really began under the crumbling Major administration, but which was turned into an artform under Blair. If a minister can show they stood up to a select committee / pressure group / Today programme it gives them serious kudos with the sheep on the backbenches. If they can do it by snarling and bullying all the better, it shows a vigorous government in action.

A minister who's seen to bend to any external interest is clearly not strong enough for the job and needs to be replaced by a more loyal member of the Politburo.

And if their policy turns out to be screaming disaster, it doesn't matter, a successful minister will have been promoted out of that portfolio and will be busy screwing up something else entirely. There's no better example than John Reid who was woeful in every job he did, pissed off everyone he ever met and left a trail of wreckage behind him - but didn't stop him being considered as PM material.

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Is Europe's war on Islamist terror running out of terrorists?

Mike Richards

Problem in the UK

Is that the government has drawn the definition of 'terrorism' so broadly that anything much beyond dropping a crisp bag is going to fall foul of one or another pieces of terror legislation.

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Scientology threatens Wikileaks with injunction

Mike Richards

@JonB

'Please don't think I'm one of them - I'm very definitely an atheist. Hubbard wrote it in '65ish I think. Which means the copyright is due to expire and then it's quite rightly a free for all, we can all grab a copy and set up our own whacky cults.'

'Dianetics' was first published in 1950, but it's copyright will belong to L Ron who went to meet Xenu in 1986. Under US copyright law, it will expire in 1986 + 70 = 2056. Unless of course a powerful, rich, well-connected organisation can persuade Congress to extend copyright again. Ah...

On an unrelated note, is there any chance we can get amanfrommars in a conversation with a Scientologist, or would that break the universe at a fundamentally weird level?

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Defra moves to protect UK honeybees

Mike Richards

The power of RTD

Vanishing bees get mentioned on Doctor Who on a Saturday, and a government taskforce (presumably complete with helicopters, thrilling logo and fully-reclinable secretaries) is on the case by Tuesday.

Now that's impressive!

If he puts a line about global warming into the next episode, we should have that licked by next Thursday.

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Apprentice contestant to offer Zeppelin trips above London

Mike Richards

@Ian Ferguson

Yup, Zeppelins were used to bomb the UK, France and Belgium between 1915 and 1918.

They were a huge propaganda success - the thought of Germans attacking the enemy capital was wildly popular in Germany and produced near panic in the UK. But the raids were little more than a nuisance in terms of the damage they did - about 500 people were killed in Britain by Zeppelins throughout the war.

The biggest problem for the Germans was their navigation, they rarely found their intended targets and even when the did, precision bombing was impossible. The Zeppelins were soon outclassed by improved planes with incendiary bullets, forcing them to fly even higher which made them even less useful.

Perhaps surprisingly, by the end of the war bomb loads were in the tonnes - far higher than the aircraft of the time. But the cost of the Zeppelins and their fragility made them obsolete as the Germans, including the Zeppelin company, developed long-range multi-engined bomber planes.

Zeppelins did do a bit of reconnaissance for the German fleet and for the army over the Western front, but incredibly no one seems to have thought of using them in association with U-boats to find Allied convoys and direct attacks.

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London Olympics drives dash for terrestrial HDTV

Mike Richards

"People are used to buying new boxes now"

Says it all doesn't it? Bugger upgradability, people will buy a new box.

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Plugs pulled on satellite paedo tracking after pilot flops

Mike Richards

@Ian

"I wrote to my MP when the ludicrous proposal was first made, and got a patronising ``experts say it'll work'' response from the hilariously named Paul Goggins. Nice to see I was right and they were wrong."

Go on, write again asking if he'll apologise for misleading you.

Writing to MPs is the last legal type of bear-baiting allowed in this country. Enjoy it before it's banned.

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Global-warming scientist: It's worse than I thought

Mike Richards

@Kevin Patrick Crowley

'Check out the Bakken Oil Reserves'

Yup lots of oil in the Bakken formation, it's already producing oil in South Saskachewan. Sadly the porosity of the Bakken rock is generally very low - good oil fields have very high porosities which allow oil to accumulate between rock grains and move through the rock. The lower the porosity, the lower the amount of recoverable oil. Highly productive fields generally have porosities in the 20 - 25%. The exceptional Ghawar field in Saudi Arabia has 35% porosity; by contrast Bakken in down around 3 - 4%.

The numbers about Bakken are derived from mathematical models with only isolated drill logs and production figures. It's hard to say how much of the oil that could have been formed in Bakken has migrated into traps where it can be exploited; how much remains locked up in useless non-interconnected pores and how much has been lost through faulting or pyrolisis. Oil geologists are very wary about citing figures like these because there is a long and fabulous history of new elephant fields proving to be entirely dry.

The conservative industry figures for recoverable oil in Bakken, add about 10% to the known US reserves. These figures might be improved with horizontal drilling and hydrofracturing, but they would not come anywhere near the headline figure of 413 billion barrels.

There's far more recoverable energy in Montana's enormous coal fields, though exploiting them would be an ecological catastrophe for the American west and the rest of the World.

Mine's the one with the Silva compass and the geological hammer in the pocket.

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EU sets cellphone users loose in aircraft

Mike Richards

Simple solution

If the spokesdroid really thinks "In-flight mobile phone services can be a very interesting new service especially for those business travellers who need to be ready to communicate wherever they are, wherever they go."

Then put the picocell in £20K wanker-class and a nice thick bulkhead between those tossers and the rest of us travelling as veal.

(Unless of course I'm one day invited to turn left on entering the plane, in which case I want the upgrade to be accompanied by the sort of Zen-like calm needed to answer questions like 'what is the sound of one mobe being rammed up an EU commissioner?')

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FIPR: ICO gives BT 'green light for law breaking' with Phorm

Mike Richards

Not a lawyer - but...

BT says the trials in 2006 and 2007 were legaland were not in breach of RIPA or the DPA, as a consequence they did not need to inform the customers nor amend the terms and conditions of the service.

HOWEVER, before WebWank goes live, BT says it must amend the terms and conditions of the service. Presumably to protect themselves from the wrath (hah!) of the DPA and RIPA.

So which is it? Legal or illegal?

Well my DPA request is in the post to BT. I'm awaiting their response with interest.

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Top cop: e-crime is the new drugs

Mike Richards
Coat

Clarification needed

"Some [UK police] forces don't have a high-tech crime unit at all," he said. "Those that do spend 90 per cent of their time on child pornography."

Investigating or downloading?

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BT: 'We did not let anyone down over Phorm... it was not illegal'

Mike Richards

Pro-forma to BT for anyone wanting to make a DPA request

If any of you are BT customers, feel free to adapt this to your own purposes.

I'm not a lawyer, I'm sure others could do better, but if you're wondering how to start a DPA request here's a start.

It'll help if you have your BT account code. And don't forget you'll need to write a cheque for £10 to cover processing costs.

I'm secretly hoping they say they can't tell me any of the information because then questions are raised how they recruited and kept track of those people in the trial and where that information has gone. All of which should interest the Information Commissioner greatly

Data Protection Manager,

Box 17,

BT Centre,

81 Newgate Street,

London.

EC1A 7AJ

Dear Sir / Madam,

I am a customer of BT Total Broadband and I am gravely concerned by the revelation that your company may have been illegally intercepting my communications. During 2006 and 2007, BT and a third party, Phorm, held secret trials of targeted advertising software involving many thousands of BT customers.

Please send me the information which I am entitled to under section 7(1) of the Data Protection Act 1998, informing me:

• if I have been unknowingly involved in any trials of Phorm software during 2006 and 2007

• the dates of any trials to which I was subscribed without my permission;

• what data was intercepted during those trials, and;

• to whom this data was transmitted.

Please would you also advise me of the logic involved in any automated decisions taken by you about me pursuant to section 7(1) (d) of the Data Protection Act 1998.

If you are unable to provide the information requested above, I will refer this failure to the Office of the Information Commissioner, so that they may investigate further.

As required under the Data Protection Act I have enclosed a cheque for £10 to cover any processing charges. This should enable you to complete this request within the stated period of 40 days.

If you do not normally handle these requests for your organisation, please pass this letter to the Data Protection Officer for BT Total Broadband or another appropriate officer.

Yours faithfully

[YOUR NAME HERE]

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Mike Richards

Just filed a DPA request...

...asking BT to disclose all information they have regarding my involvement (or otherwise) in the Phorm trials.

The following paragraph mentions I won't be satisfied if they say they don't have that information, in which case I will make a formal complaint to the DP Registrar.

The one after that tells them that if they confirm I was in the trial I will consider all legal options under RIPA 2000.

So anyone else DPAing BT's ass?

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Blu-ray Xbox 360 to be sold at a loss?

Mike Richards

Money better spent...

...would be for Microsoft to invest some serious money in raising the build quality of this wretched console.

Mine's just back from the all-to-familiar RRoD repair and it's already developed a rattle like a fan is improperly seated or is sticking. So I guess in a few weeks it'll die on me, then it's back to the repair shop.

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Child protection project hit by delays

Mike Richards
Coat

Simpler solution

Get all the kids to put all their information on Facebook. They want to do it and they'll tell you everything you want - and so much more. That's the sharing bit of the equation and the government hasn't had to spend a penny.

But it gets better!

When they get the inevitable 'do you want to see some puppies' IM, the precious little snowflakes can call the Home Office approved paedosquad number at the top of the screen - so that's the child protection bit taken care of, *AND* it shows joined-up government in action!

Mine's the one with £10 million of consultancy fees in the pockets.

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UK.gov demands 999 ads on social networking sites

Mike Richards

Okay did this get held over from yesterday?

'It also found that 34 per cent of 16 to 24-year-olds were happy to give out sensitive personal details including their mobile number and, or, email addresses.'

So the New Labour Net Nanny is appalled that millions of people are sending personal information to unaccountable organisations where that data might be misused, lost or stolen?

Imagine Jacqui Smith's reaction if someone suggested that it would soon be compulsory for people to hand personal information to an unaccountable organisation where that data might be misused, lost or stolen!

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Fixing the UK's DAB disaster

Mike Richards

Graph lies

The graph does *not* show a failing format; it shows a slowing rate of adoption - sales are continuing to grow but at a slower rate. There are a number of reasons, it could have been a technology that matured relatively rapidly and can't grow into a mass-market because the cost of receivers is noticeably higher than that for analogue sets, or it could be failing in the sense no one wants DAB at any price. But that graph proves nothing.

I have plenty of other problems with DAB, but to claim evidence based on that graph is misleading on a scale Alistair Campbell would be proud of.

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Blighty's Museum of Computing forced to go mobile

Mike Richards
Flame

Funding...

You just know if this had been a third-rate Italian knock-off sculpture of a sub-par Roman interpretation of a lost Greek original picked up by the syphilitic elder son of an 18th Century nobleman during a wine, poetry and all-you-can-eat shagging tour of Europe [deep breath]; then the know-nothing likes of Tessa Jowell and the great-and-the-good kleptocracy at the top of the arts world would have willingly blown ten million quid of public money to preserve 'an essential bedrock of British culture'.

Perhaps if we can show that a *BRITISH* BBC Micro was used to formulate the first foetid nugget of totalitarian policy at the Home Office, they'd consider computers to be 'an essential bedrock of British culture'?

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Assyrian clay tablet points to 'Sodom and Gomorrah' asteroid

Mike Richards

Sodom and Gomorrah

I love the fact a complete lack of archaeological evidence for either city ever having existed, doesn't get in the way of a media-friendly theory about their destruction. A shame they didn't go so far as to explain the halification of Lot's wife, but perhaps that's a follow up paper.

BTW. We all know about what was meant to be happening in Sodom, but what the hell was going on in Gomorrah?

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Jules Verne creeps up on ISS

Mike Richards

Jules Verne?

One of the greatest imaginations ever and his name is given to a cargo truck?

Couldn't we call it the L Ron Hubbard and celebrate each time it's consigned to fiery oblivion?

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Get your German interior minister's fingerprint here

Mike Richards

Don't count a victory just yet

Because if this does defeat current fingerprint readers, the companies will simply wail loudly and apply for more money from the public teat. Biometrics have become so much of an article of faith with the UK government that they can't be seen to lose face - bottomless amounts of taxpayer pounds will be made available to any multibillion pound company who needs the cash.

The security lobby is today's military-industrial complex - not that that's gone away. Hmmmmm Perhaps it's more accurate to say that the security lobby is the bastard child of the military-industrial complex and David Blunkett.

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Want to get into 10 Downing Street? Get a Lithuanian ID card

Mike Richards

Of course this would never have happened...

...if we had ID cards - oh hold on, something's wrong there.

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Botanist sues to stop CERN hurling Earth into parallel universe

Mike Richards

Credit where credit's due

An American has noticed what can be colloquially called 'the rest of the World'.

And it's thrilling to see commaed geography back in action 'Generva, Switzerland' - bless. The latest in a veritable Whicker of glamorous destinations, 'Paris, France', 'Venice, Italy' and everyone's favourite 'London, England'. Though it really needs a bit of stock footage for full effect - possibly a cuckoo clock or a vault filled with Nazi gold*.

*That's for Generva, Switzerland obviously; not Paris, France or London, England**.

** which can only be summed up by a consumptive Julie Andrews in a bowler hat.

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