* Posts by Mike Richards

3605 posts • joined 28 Feb 2007

The 'green' car tax grabs that don't add up

Mike Richards
Flame

Folks - it's there in the byline

' He is a Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute.'

Maybe not a name familiar to our younger readers, but these are the fine folks who brought us the poll tax, the internal market in the NHS and - you're going to love this - rail privatisation. Not content with those great ideas, ASI have also proposed privatising Royal Mail, ending free libraries and scrapping arts subsidies. Generally if something is a basic bedrock of decent society, Adam Smith is in favour of either eliminating it as a sign of socialism or flogging it off at a discount to the highest (Conservative voting) bidder.

So an article from Adam Smith proposing a tax cut for the richer part of society - how very unusual.

One question, why is El Reg suddenly posting so many - shall we be kind? - counter-arguments - against anthropogenic global warming? It'd help if any of them were posted by (oooh let's be radical) meteorologists, climatologists or geologists, but instead we get dreadful pieces authored by ex-Navy divers and people who think they know about the price of gold.

If this is now editorial policy for the Reg, may I, as a geologist, offer to op-ed a compulsive article about the next Milan fashion show?

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Wikileaks exposes Scientology's zeal to 'clean up rotten spots of society'

Mike Richards
Coat

Should that be

'One BILLION years! Mwahahahahah!'

Mine's the one with 'Xenu for President' on the back thanks.

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Northrop: battlefield rayguns to demo this year

Mike Richards

Needs a tank :(

So still no chance of fitting it to a shark?

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Wider London c-charge mooted as road pricing bounces back

Mike Richards

@ Jamie

'I have heard that there is currently talks about getting a C-Charge type zone put in place in Reading and Slough.'

Wouldn't it make more sense to charge people for avoiding Reading and Slough?

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Top security firm: Phorm is adware

Mike Richards

Stonewalled by BT

Has *anyone* had a response from BT about Phorm/scumsuckers/WebWise?

I asked a week ago on their 'it'll all be lovely and won't someone think of the children' page and have yet to have a response. Likewise a question to their laughable technical support address has gone unanswered.

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Minister wants more mashups

Mike Richards

"We need to build stuff small, test it, then iterate, iterate, iterate,"

Oooh I'm getting flashbacks to 'Developers! Developers! Developers!'

So he's Minister for Transformation is he? I want him to turn into a giant crime-fighting bendy bus.

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Dear ISP, I am not a target market

Mike Richards

Phorm shares now down 30%+

If this keeps on sinking, we'll be able to club together and buy the interpimps.

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ThruVision camera shows weapons, not bodies

Mike Richards

Excellent - sustainable surveillance

The Home Office can start publicising they are spying on the nation's groins using natural radiation generated from sustainable bodyheat and won't need to irradiate our gonads with radium after all (apart from on special occasions).

So should I stock up on tinfoil undies?

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UK presses car ferry to ship powdered plutonium

Mike Richards

Not so worried about the plutonium

It's been rendered into the oxide which is pretty much insoluble, but I can't see why BNFL aren't using one of their two double-hulled, heavily armed ships designed specifically for transporting fuel. This smacks of a false economy which is just crying out for someone to attack - if not our fundamentalist friends, then the lentil-wearers at Greenpeace.

Plutonium isn't, despite Ralph Nader's assertions, the most toxic substance on the planet - but it is incredibly dangerous stuff. If it fell into the wrong hands, it *COULD* be used to make a bomb - there is no difference between reactor-grade and bomb-grade plutonium when it comes to going bang - one just goes bang more consistently than the other. The only way to persuade the public that nuclear power is safe and well managed is for every part of the fuel cycle to be conducted with the highest levels of security. This is clearly not the case here.

Of course, the reason we're shipping plutonium at all is because BNFL's Mox plant at Sellafield has just been declared unsalvageably crap and will never produce the fuel it is contracted to supply to energy generators. So we're sending recovered plutonium to the French Cogema plant where it will be made into usable fuel elements.

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Ten years old: the world's first MP3 player

Mike Richards

@Glenn

Sony were late because they're not a monolithic company. Sony Electronics were more than willing to get into the player market, but Sony Records were not keen on the idea unless they could find a technological solution to copying (good luck guys) - which is why we've had to put up with SonicStage.

Apple, has no such split personality and jumped into the gaping hole that said 'make something for the average person' which had traditionally been Sony's preserve.

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'Boil a frog' ID card rollout to continue until 2012

Mike Richards

@ Paul Fleetwood

Agree with you over Liam Byrne, in a bunch of odious careerist politicians he's one that stands out for being able to make my skin crawl just by appearing on-screen.

Isn't he the minister who's currently planning on sending a gay man back to Iran where there's a very real prospect of execution?

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/a-life-or-death-decision-792058.html

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Government set to 'destroy' UK radio astronomy

Mike Richards
Flame

@Fraser

Depressingly, John Denham, the minister in charge of science funding at DIUS, is a chemist by training.

The rest of his dog's-dinner department seem to be the usual bunch of third-rate lawyers and straight-out-of-university political science graduates, who'd get more of a kick out of an episode of 'Money Box' than they would out of 'Cosmos'.

Denham's building quite a legacy isn't he? Not content with effectively gutting the Open University, he's about to shut down British science.

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Mike Richards

And a couple of weeks ago...

...the government was getting all warm and gooey at the thought of sending a Brit into space - possibly the quickest way to flush money down the toilet ever invented.

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Has your shifty foreign neighbour got 16 mobes?

Mike Richards
Flame

The Home Office: Be Safe. Be Suspicious

Thousands of people phoning in because the guy on the bus next to them has two phones / took a photo containing a CCTV camera (try and find a place in London where there isn't one) / was very interested in an official building / looked a bit shifty / was one or two shades too cappuccino to be an honest citizen / for the hell of it.

As Clarkson might say, 'What could possibly go wrong?'

Oooh hold on, I've got to call the police, I don't like the look of my colleague's Sony MP3 player - he's clearly a dangerous subversive and needs to be tortured immediately.

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US Air Force: Looking for a few good cyber warriors

Mike Richards

Cyberwarrior

Does this mean I'd get a natty outfit like Tron?

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Biometrics plan for London Olympic builders

Mike Richards

500,000 cameras???

That's almost one camera per Starbucks!

How many people will they need to monitor half a million cameras? Ahhhh now I see how Nu Labour are going to massage the unemployment figures - everyone on incapacity benefits will become a 'trainee community surveillance operative'.

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Nokia N810 internet tablet

Mike Richards

Connecting it...

Does the N810 still require access to a Windows machine to perform software upgrades and the like? Nokia's lack of a cross-platform desktop app for their open-source doohicky put me off the N800.

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Airport staff to be first with compulsory ID cards, say Tories

Mike Richards

Ah very clever...

...the Home Office says ID cards are going to be compulsory for people employed in sensitive areas such as airports; all they need to do then is embrace and extend the definition of 'sensitive'.

Work with children? What could be more important than our children? So you'll need an ID card. Work in a hospital? We need to check you aren't a psychopath (there'll be a check-box on the ID card application form where you can say if you're mad). Work in Starbucks? Have you thought of the damage a terrorist could unleash with a poisoned hazelnut latte? ID card please.

Soon the only people who won't need to account for each and every movement will be MPs.

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BT targets 10,000 data pimping guinea pigs

Mike Richards

Terms of Service getout?

I'm contracted with BT Total Broadband for a while yet. If they amend their ToS to Phorm's benefit am I within my rights to end the contract without penalty?

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Greenies give IT industry a black eye

Mike Richards

Time for Greenpeace to show how it's done

When the back-to-the-13th-Century eco-hippies produce a useful computer built from knitted lentils and powered by recycled Guardian social worker job supplements maybe THEN we'll pay attention to their press releases.

In the meantime, mine's the dolphin skin coat with mahogany toggles.

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Data pimping: surveillance expert raises illegal wiretap worries

Mike Richards
Flame

Phorm and paedophiles

I'm a bit confused here.

BT and other ISPs claim they are common carriers and can't intercept the bits of customers to actively hunt out illegal activities such as the trafficking of paedophile images. Instead, they insist the police get warrants to tap specific data.

But along comes Phorm and all of a sudden common carrier be buggered, BT say it's perfectly possible to intercept data in order to earn money.

If I was in the Home Office, I might be asking questions why BT and other ISPs aren't willing to help crack down on serious crime when they clearly have the tools to intercept paedophile data in real time.

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Mike Richards

Channel 4 site

Yay! and they're even using the correct Registerese - 'data pimping'. Let's make sure that Phorm, BT and 'data pimping' become part of daily conversation:

http://www.channel4.com/news/articles/science_technology/concerns+over+data+pimping+deal/1703547

Now I wonder if they'll run the story on the television news?

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How Phorm plans to tap your internet connection

Mike Richards

HTTPS should be okay

HTTPS uses SSL which uses two forms of encryption to guarantee speed and security. Public key cryptography gives lots of protection from the problems of key distribution, whilst symmetric cryptography - nice and fast - encrypts most of the data.

When you start an HTTPS session your machine requests a copy of an asymmetric public key held by the remote server. Your computer then generates a unique symmetric session key, a copy of which is then encrypted with the server's public key and dispatched across the net. When the server receives the encrypted session key, it uses its private key to decrypt the session key. From then on all transactions are encrypted with the session key.

Phorm could intercept the public key - but can't decrypt messages encrypted with that key. It could also intercept the encrypted session key - but again it doesn't have a decryption key. The bulk traffic of the exchange can also be intercepted, but Phorm won't have a copy of that key.

So HTTPS is safe, but there is plenty of information slopping over the Internet that could cause you lots of damage - from your emails, to just the profile that could be built from watching one of your sessions.

I am with BT and demanded a full explanation of their plans and how I can possibly trust them again. I'm also threatening them with the DPA, RIPA and Ofcom. I don't expect I'll get a useful response, so I'll be switching ISP RSN.

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DoH IT projects overshoot budgets by £247,000

Mike Richards

ArgH!

'Lotus Notes 7 email system'

Lotus Notes email - the most evil program ever written. It's so bad it makes the rest of Notes look good.

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Polish builder sacked for humping hoover

Mike Richards

Oh dear I can't believe I'm going to write this...

...but in the UK, the word 'hoover' is a genericised trademark.

Hoover failed to sufficiently defend their trademark on vacuum cleaners in the UK, as a consequence the word now refers to any brand of vacuum cleaner or the act of using a vacuum cleaner. Hoover aren't alone - aspirin, petrol and sellotape all used to be trademarks in the UK, but are now used when discussing any comparable brand.

Oooh I feel all dirty now.

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Swedes demand return of heraldic lion's todger

Mike Richards

It *IS* Ireland

Iceland doesn't have a military. Ireland contributes 80 or so people to the Nordic Battlegroup, the UK is also involved in various C&C roles.

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Elon Musk delays SpaceX launch until 2009

Mike Richards

@ lglethal

There's never really been any competition for cheap rockets in the past. The US expendable rockets could be expensive because the bulk of their launches went to the military who'd pay almost anything. The only serious attempt to cut costs was the original plan to turn the Shuttle into a space truck, but the Shuttle proved to be about the most expensive way imaginable of putting stuff into orbit and the commercial launches were all suspended anyway after the Challenger explosion.

The Russians did produce cheap rockets because they needed to launch several hundred rockets EVERY year in the most appalling conditions. So their Soyuz family of rockets was built on an assembly line out of cheap components with fairly loose tolerances. However, Soyuz has had trouble getting into the commercial business because of concerns over technology transfer to the Russians and the lack of an equatorial launch site which limits the amount of payload that can be fired into the most valuable geostationary orbits.

Soyuz is by far the best cheap launcher at the moment, but it's worth remembering it is based on half century old technology - all those small thrust chambers and strap-on boosters make it inherently less effective than a rocket designed today with more advanced materials and engines. So there is a market for a competitor, but the Soyuz IS going to be a tough act to follow.

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Mike Richards

@Timbo

That weight includes the re-entry systems you need to bring astronauts back without being char-broiled.

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NASA reveals Moon's rugged south pole

Mike Richards

@Tim @Michael

Tim.

You'll be glad to know that the Americans previously imaged the surface of Venus with Earth-based during the early 1980s. These maps were superseded by data retrieved by the orbiters Pioneer Venus, Magellan and Veneras 15 and 16.

More recently they've used the Goldstone telescope to examine the Martian surface and done several surveys of Earth-crossing asteroids. The resolution is usually pretty low (Mars maps were in the tens of kilometres per pixel level), but they can reveal large geological features and the relative roughness of the surface. IIRC as long ago as the 1970s radar surveys of Mars were used to identify areas of the surface where the Viking landers could touch down safely.

Michael.

Lunar altitudes are calculated as differences from the centre of the Moon. The most up to date figure for the mean lunar surface is 1,737,988 metres from the centre, with spot heights being given as +/- that number. IIRC the highest points on the Moon are something like 4,700 metres above the mean surface. Calculating altitude is not as easy as it sounds since the Moon is noticeably aspherical with a considerably thicker crust on the far side than the hemisphere we see from Earth.

HTH.

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Apple unearths Time Capsule

Mike Richards

Pretty good value

I'm guessing 'server grade' means a drive with an exception MTBF - we'll find out as soon as someone gets their hot little hands on one and cracks it open. If it is a good drive then Apple's pricing seems reasonable.

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Terminator Salvation is go for May 2009 release

Mike Richards
Paris Hilton

Need a new Terminator...

Sort of plasticky, monosyllabic and regularly naked.

The icon says it all.

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Asus Eee PC gives Sony the willies

Mike Richards

Alternatively

Sony, Apple and the rest could start advertising their laptops using similar scantily-clad loveliness.

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Gov boffins to carry out simulated London dirty bombing

Mike Richards

McNulty

(Currently about the third most odious NuLabour minister)

They may not kill you, but perfluorocarbons ARE potent greenhouse gases - has McNulty done an environmental assessment of releasing these chemicals? And how many hippies will we have to plant to offset this test?

And to go back in the thread, some basic chemistry.

Argon wouldn't be a very good gas to use as a tracer in the atmosphere, since there's already about 0.8% of the stuff floating around

And no, you shouldn't swallow U238, not only because its toxic, but because its an alpha emitter and could do various nasties to your GI tract as it worked its way through.

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Hotmail dies on both sides of the Atlantic

Mike Richards

Ah that explains it...

My spam filter hasn't had much work today - now I know why.

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ICO tells Cabinet Office to release Iraq docs

Mike Richards

Want to bet

That not one of Blair's Cabinet colleagues dared speak up against the proposal for war?

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Blunkett gets another job

Mike Richards

'with' or 'by'?

'Banged up with Blunkett' - a series in which liberals are incarcerated with New Labour's own mad, bad and dangerous to know bearded demagogue would qualify as cruel and unusual punishment in any book. Grown men have been known to beg to go to Guantanamo Bay rather than share the Today programme with our big-budget Mullah Omar.

Meanwhile, that positively engorged bonkbuster 'Banged up by Blunkett' a the racy story of American millionairesses, their third world nannies, our deliciously stern ex-Home Secretary and a dog - must be deemed too disturbing for sensitive viewers.

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HMRC pays criminal for 'tax dodger' discs

Mike Richards

An economy built on tax fraud and dentures

is all I know about Liechtenstein.

On second thoughts, does Liechtenstein actually exist? Has anyone ever been there? Has anyone ever met a Liechtensteinian? Real country or a cartographic rounding error?

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China plans 'deep-sea base project'

Mike Richards

@ Ru

'I'm not about to cast aspersions on the Chinese, but it might be nice if someone could give examples of interesting things they've created in the last 1000 years or so? Or better yet, the last 100?'

Ziyi Zhang???

Well *I* find her interesting ;)

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Mike Richards

Mwahahahah!

Presumably it'll flit between picking up bits of lightly barbecued spy satellite and snipping ocean cables?

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UK rattles 'three strikes' filesharing sabre (again)

Mike Richards

And if ISPs finger the wrong person?

Will the record companies be willing to share the fines imposed by the court? Or will they be busy buying another archipelago for Cliff Richard.

(slightly offtopic, but what is it that makes Andy Burnham quite so inherently slappable?)

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Google encourages 10 teams to rocket to the moon

Mike Richards

Micro-space

'"I want to thank the lord Jesus Christ for this opportunity," said team leader Richard Speck at the press event, holding up a piece of paper with a cross printed on it.'

Is it so *VERY* wrong to hope this one goes tits-up in a thrillingly telegenic coast-to-coast tribute-to-Gerry-Anderson launch pad explosion?

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Turkmen prez sacks 30 for TV news cockroach outrage

Mike Richards

Cockroach +1

And I thought it was only Channel 4 who decided it makes sense to repeat the news.

And who doesn't think a cockroach would do a better job of the news than GMTV?

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Virgin biofuel jumbo trials won't use algae

Mike Richards

@Dunstan

No, there's no need for biocides. The algae would be cooked in a fermenter to produce a liquor containing either ethanol or butanol. That's recovered using distillation to make a near pure product.

I assume Virgin aren't going to try scumjet because Branson's worried about burning close relatives?

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Deloitte flags risks of UK child database

Mike Richards

What you forgot to mention...

...is that the government is refusing to publish the detailed findings of the Deloitte report on the grounds that if they did so people might use that information to target the database.

Clearly someone in Whitehall thinks that security through obscurity is still a reasonable argument.

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Gears of War 2 scheduled for November release

Mike Richards

GoW

Was it just me and everyone I know with a 360 who thought that GoW was just far too hard to control, too difficult to get into and too muddy?

Thought so.

And as for the list of upcoming 360 exclusives - 'Too Human' is ALWAYS on the upcoming lists, it was upcoming for N64, for PS1, PS2...

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Missing: 80GB PS3. Last seen: Sony's website

Mike Richards

Upgrading HDDs

Since a couple of folks here have already done it - is there any way of transferring data from the old PS3 disk to the new one?

Thanks.

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US cruiser nails crippled spy-sat on first shot

Mike Richards

Good day for Chinese missile scientists

The Americans have shown their seaborne anti-missile missile works perfectly given enough space to play with. So any Chinese military scientists looking for a cool billion or ten to build a submarine-launched solid-fuelled MIRVed missile will be to buy that Porsche after all.

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Report into MP bugging: MP was bugged, no laws broken

Mike Richards

Mandarin clears government and police outrage - shock horror!

I'm so surprised by this finding I might need to lie down for a while in a dimly lit room.

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Aliens seize control of Daily Telegraph

Mike Richards

Answer

In a surprising move, people at the Telegraph don't actually worship Thatcher, but are actually Cthulu followers who admire his small-government, low-tax and death to mankind policies.

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Unseen 'Marilyn Monroe' nude snap wows US expert

Mike Richards

So that makes two...

...people who think Madonna ever looked anything like Marilyn Monroe; this twonk and Mrs. Ritchie herself.

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