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* Posts by Pete

486 posts • joined 9 Mar 2007

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Indian outsourcers prepare for US trade war

Pete
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Say one thing, but do another back

While "the people" might whinge and moan about the lost jobs, they are very happy to accept the lower prices that using cheap foreign products and labour allows. It seems to me that there are very few american companies who have succeeded with the advertising line

"Yes, our products cost three times as much, but at least it will be an american, who keeps you on hold for half an hour"

Actions (and shareholders) speak louder than words.

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Engineers are troublesome 'expert loners', says prof

Pete
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Sounds like this Prof. watches too much TV

Maybe if this guy actually got out into the real world, he'd realise that most companies that employ engineers successfully manage them to produce useful, reliable results - whether they work individually or co-operatively. it's not about the people - it's about how they're managed.

For example, just taking a group of people with similar skills and assigning them to the same manager does not make a team. To qualify as a team, the individuals must share a common goal and be able to contribute, more or less equally, towards it. They must also expect to share in the rewards and benefits of that success. Contrast that with the setup in most companies today: individuals are given their own assignments - which do not form any sort of coherent whole. They are assessed "competitively" i.e. there's only a certain amount of reward available and it's apportioned by a manager who is not involved in the assignments, nor is able to judge the quality of, nor effort that went ito producing the result - all they see is whether it was on time or not.

As it is, teamwork is vastly overrated. It loses a great deal of peoples' time spent communicating with other team members, ensuring that what they've done will work with what you've done, Waiting while a slow worker holds up the whole team, or for someone who is off sick to recover and get back on the job. Just look at a pyramid structure: it's only the poor saps at the bottom of the pyramid who contribute actual progress, everyone else is overhead. Plus, as the pyramid gets larger, the proportion of dead-weight increases faster than the ability of the workers to get things done.

Remember the two basic tenets of teamwork:

- If you want a job done right, do it yourself

- He travels fastest who travels alone.

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Computer-related injuries in US 'increase sevenfold'

Pete
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rise in injuries follows decrease in IQ?

Even when the increase in user numbers is taken into account, the rate per 1000 users seems to have doubled - in one country, at least. I can't help thinking that, if properly located and simply left alone, a PC is pretty benign. It's only when inexperienced people, who don't know what they're doing (and includes but is not restricted to children) start sticking things where they shouldn't ought to be stuck - or moving things that they are ill-equipped to move, that bad things happen.

Since you can't account for all the stupid things that dumb people will do, I'm quite relaxed about this statistic. Yes, there will always be accidents and you can't mitigate against every, single possibility but sometimes dropping a monitor on your foot, or getting cut by the sharp edge of a cheap and tinny chassis serves as a gentle reminder to STOP DOING THAT. Having done both of these - although only once, I can attest to the efficiency of the learning process.

And for those who don't learn the lessons, well just think of it as evolution in action.

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Note to employers: Better sex = happier workers

Pete
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which is the horse?

and which is the cart?

All this study "proves" is that there exists a correlation. It doesn't have the ability to say which situation is the cause and which is the effect. You could equally interpret it as saying that a less stressed work environment leads to a better (or more frequent, as that's what blokes seem to want) sex life.

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Poor management hampers gov IT

Pete
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Are charge codes ITs biggest problem?

Consider two companies: BigCo has a turnover of a billion a year. It employs thousands of staff and has an IT department that adheres rigourously to "best practices". On the other hand, LittleCo is run from a single building, has a handful of IT people and an open-door policy.

Try to get something done in BigCo and you have to fill in an intraweb based work request, citing what, when and who to charge the work to. At some point in the future - defined by the ITIL time frame for responding, you'll get an email back to say "we'll do X for you. It'll take Y person days and we'll charge you Z for it". Even if the entire IT staff is sitting around surfing for pr0n - sorry, that should say: testing internet security filters. You can tell that BigCo takes security very seriously - just look at how much time they charge to it every year.

In LittleCo, however it's a different story. Someone sticks their head around the door and says "Can I borrow you for half an hour? I'd like your opinion on this new project." "Yes, sure is the reply - I've just got to finish this Exchange problem and I'll pop over".

We find that LittleCo, while getting the work done, is universally panned by in the IT surveys for not having any quality control processes, procedures, cost-control or standards of service. Whereas BigCo can proudly point to the fact that last year it completed 97.1% of it's IT projects on-time and with 96.3% customer satisfaction. (BTW, 88% of those projects were security audits.)

Management by numbers is the accountants favourite game. It gives the (wrong) impression that things are

a.) under control

b.) managed

c.) quantifiable

d.) indicate where improvements can be made.

Although, as we all know none of the above are in fact, true. Unless BigCo has the ability of contracting out work, if the internal price is too high, it's merely "funny money" and has no bearing on anything - especially what the implication of overspending would be. The more "control" a company puts in place, the more processes, reviews, procedures and methodologies - the larger the number of opportunities it gives to indolent staff to not do any work: "I'd love to help you, but you haven't performed a quality review", "certainly - but you need sign-off from the change committee first". and all the other lines that rattle round Dilbert-esque workplaces on a daily basis.

So it is with government IT. All their numbers tell them is that they are not producing results. However, since the numbers are the root-cause of the problem, they cannot self-implicate their own inefficiencies as the reason why stuff doesn't get done. It must be poor management, skills shortages, unclear objectives or changing policies. None of which are tangible or actionable - except by introducing more process and control to prevent them happening int he future.

Personally, I prefer having a head appear around a door anytime. The "head" quickly realises who gets the job done and who's dead-weight - and therefore destined for the next round of redundancies, if they don't move into a government job first.

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Royal Navy trials 'paging system' for submarines

Pete
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can't tell if they received the message

It's a one-way system. You can only send to the sub, so there's no way of knowing if they received the message uncorrupted - or understood it - or are willing (or able) to comply. Or even if they think it was a spoof.

You might be lucky and they get the "return to base" message, or the one that says "on no account fire any nukes" or "start operation blue-meanie", but you can never know for sure, unless the intended result takes place. If it doesn't you're basically helpless.

As it is, the best message to send to a nuclear sub is:

"don't launch your missiles if inverted"

but hopefully they teach that at sub-mariner school.

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BCS writes data Highway Code

Pete
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speeding

we know it's wrong, but we still do it.

the same principle aplpies to data protection. No matter how many self-appointed or government-appointed bodies, or legally enforcable rules, codes or "best practices" are laid down by anyone who thinks their opinions matter - we'll still continue to break them.

The reasons are many-fold, from the "It'll never happen to me", through "well I only did it once" to the old favourite "but it was an emergency" and finally "Really, officer ..... did I?"

So far as protecting data goes, it's just too inconvenient. All those security procedures take time and effort to comply with. Whether it means signing something out, encrypting data before travelling, not using paper copies, validating users before allowing access or banning thumb-drives and other removable storage, all of these require people to take the longer route - rather than the simple, straightforward plain copy of sensitive information. Given that people are frequently under pressure to deliver (or simply too damn lazy) it's little wonder that they take short cuts.

As it is, the only way data can be truely secured is either to prevent anyone, anywhere from accessing it (which gives rise to an existential debate: if no-one can access the data, does it really exist?) or to make the necessary security measures both the default and invisible to the users. Maybe that means keeping everything encrypted, everywhere, all the time or making biometric access ubiquitous I don't know. All I can say is that if organisations rely on rules or procedures or safeguards, they must expect them to be broken and ignored.

My personal favourite security method would be the IT equivalent of invisible ink: - data that fades away gradually over time. Should save a fortune on backups, too.

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Turkish hackers breach US Army servers, says report

Pete
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turkish - so what?

The fact that these hackers apparently hail from (or at least have been tracked to) Turkey seems to be a rather prominent part of this story - as reported by El Reg and most other places I've seen it.

This seems to have prompted quite a xenophobic backlash amongst the redneck brigade. I've even seen one (frequently balanced and sane) webcast Buzz-ing out loud about 'they' hacked 'us', shouldn't 'we' hack 'them' back?

Face it. Hackers are hackers. Unless someone is suggesting this was state-sponsored (which even the most rabid yee-ha! types aren't - yet) then the nationality of the hackers is irrelevant, as would be their gender, religious inclinations, sexual preferences, eye colour or politics.

However, what's worse is that a lot of otherwise technically competent people still haven't got it. Hacking (with the above exception of state sponsored, or industrial / commercial espionage) is an asymmetrical activity: those who have, get hacked by those who haven't. So the whole idea of retribution makes no sense. How exactly would the american military exact revenge - apart from a grossly misguided attempt to enforce military brutality? Maybe find these guys' parents and have their pocket money stopped?

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World's first electric jet ski surfaces

Pete
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just what you need when you're out for a swim

a "100% silent" chunk of plastic bearing down on you at "up to 50 mph"

Tasteless comments about dead pop-singers aside, this is one thing I don't need on my holidays, especially on those dark, skinny-dipping, nights

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Blog homeopathy horror hammers hippy herbalists

Pete
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The real benefit of "alternative" remedies

is merely to have someone say "ahhh, poor dear".

And it seems some people are prepared to pay a lot of money, many times over for a bit of faux sympathy from unqualified shop-assistants, who are only interested in getting their cash as quickly as they can.

Now, I'm not against silly people being separated from their cash, just so long as it's done in an up-front and honest way (that would be the "ethical" part). Maybe it's time for a website that offers platitudes each time the user clicks the "pay now" button. (Hmmmm .... )

The thing that hacks me off is the mystical mumbo-jumbo that all these alternatives to remedies use to mask the total ineffectiveness of their prettily wrapped placebos.

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NASA marks 50th anniversary of monkey spaceflight

Pete
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Now part of the animal kingdom

What no-one realises is that while they were up there, the monkeys claimed all of outer space for their species. Sadly as the monkeys didn't speak american and very few 'merkins speak Rhesus (and those who do are generally considered insane), the claim was never acknowledged.

I'm sure that in years to come when the monkeys achieve sentience, one of the first actions their lawyers will take is to reaffirm this stake - thus making them the dominant species on the planet

Dominance means being at the top of the gravity well, not the top of the food chain.

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Twitter suffering chronic banality, diagnoses Dr House

Pete
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Simples

> I don't understand the purpose of it

It exists to massage the egos of individuals who haven't yet realised no one cares what they think or do (provided they don't have a gun).

The small number of characters it imposes allows messages to be typed and read without exceeding the attention span of (well, nearly all of) it's membership.

So far, it's the closest thing the internet has to a write-only medium.

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Getting real about Linux on the desktop

Pete
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A pretty damning conclusion

> The view was that the relatively light and predictable requirements of [professional and transaction] users such as these ...

So according to this article, desktop Linux is only suitable for intelligent / experienced people (would that be because it's too hard for the rest) and those who don't use it much anyway.That seems to be to be pretty much who uses desktop Linux today, anyway - so there are no surprises there. In fact if that really is the case, you've got to wonder what the future for desktop Linux is (although we've already beaten this topic to death).

However, earlier in the article, it talks about internet delivery of applications and services. In which case all you need is a browser. There is already an initiative to burn a Linux kernel into a PC's BIOS, so the box effectively boots Linux off it's own hardware - rather than needing a disk with an O/S installed. Maybe this is the future: to turn Linux into a firmware product and PCs into embedded devices with no local storage (or just an SSD with a database on it, to preserve state information across reboots).

Will this be the death of operating systems?

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Water utility auditor resigns, transfers $9m offshore

Pete
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Sounds like a sucess story to me

> It would appear that Abdi's plan may not have succeeded

His wire transfers failed - isn't that what safeguards and IT security are supposed to produce.

Really the headline for this story should be "IT security and anti-fraud procedures work as designed", but of course that sort of good-news story wouldn't sucker-in the readership, so instead we get a headline that makes us think someone got away with it - when in fact they didn't.

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Hacks and IT workers boozing themselves silly

Pete
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So which pub did they do this survey in?

Anyway, maybe if IT people are piss-heads, the drinks industry should start to address our specific needs, as we're such good customers. How about pubs with VPNs to the local businesses - so we can work and drink at the same time (without contravening the "no alcohol on the premises" rules?). Wifi connected fruit machines, whiteboards (without pens, naturally) in the snug and charging stations for laptops - plus of course cubicles for lone drinkers.

I'm sure they could come up with a few IT themed beers, too. How about renaming "6X" as "0x6"?

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Who wants a giant poster of the history of Unix?

Pete
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@Don Mitchell

> just how bad Multics was, apparently so inefficient on two people could use it at once

You're badly misinformed, my friend. When I was at university, we had a Multics installation to serve the whole campus. It worked fine, supporting the whole student body and staff. I personally saw dozens / maybe a hundred people all using these new-fangled VDUs (at 600 Baud!!!!) all running quite happily - though the "cookie monster" would occasionally get one of them.

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Pete
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Only if I'm on it

> 1,000 versions of 150 different types of Unix

And that goes a long way to explaining why we have a MS dominated world today.

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Boston dorm computer raid ruled illegal

Pete
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Why not take his microwave and TV, too?

This is the modern day equivalent of shoot first, ask questions later.

One embittered individual makes an accusation and suddenly all your stuff is gone. I get the distinct impression that in cases like these, the punishment is in the confiscation of your assets - and the inconvenience and financial losses you suffer as a result. That nothing has to be proven for this sanction to be applied, nor any "due process" undertaken (except possibly handing out a receipt) by the police makes me think that they have effectively turned themselves into judge, jury and executioner, while the oversight and standards people snooze quietly.

If all it takes is an uncorroborated whisper from someone you don't like, to have all your high-value electronics removed for an unlimited time, then we're all screwed.

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If they can break the law, why can't we?

Pete
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public malleability

Right now, the public is being told what a load of thieving, fraudulent bastards our politicians are (as we didn't know already). This has taken over from swine flu as the biggest thing on the news horizon - even though only a few weeks ago we were being told that the whole planet is doomed and we'll all have to stuff hankies up our noses if we want to make to to the newsagents without dying a grotesque and horrible death. No doubt in a couple of weeks time, the MPs expenses thing will have been forgotten, just as the row about bankers pay before that, and the "epidemic" of teenage stabbings in London, before that.

By this time next year - when we'll have to have an election, if there hasn't already been one by then, most people will remember the expenses row and think "Oh, yeah .... bunch of tossers".However, by then the wind-up for the 2010 world cup will be monopolising the meeja and all these revelations will seem as distant and unimportant as Tony Blair is today.

The thing is, most people don't care - about anything that doesn't affect them, personally. Yes they love to grumble in the pub and on the high street and a few might actually get off their arses and grumble on the internet - but ultimately it's like moaning about the weather: something we do as a nation, but not in the expectation that we can change it.

As it is, there are only a handful of people who's opinions matter in the UK. These are the individuals who set the news agenda: a few foreign newspaper owners and a couple of anonymous (and so "right-on" and artsy it makes you sick) news editors on 24 hour news channels. Since these people decide what we will be told - and what political slant it will be presented with, they effectively decide what we all shall whinge about next (and to a large extent, which of our two identical parties will form the next indiscernable-from-the-last government).

So what of the expenses row? Just like every previous case of political corruption and every one to come; nothing. It'll cause a few snouts to withdraw from the trough - to be replaced by new and more devious ones. It'll give rise to some procedural changes in a place that almost no-one has ever been to and the historians will write about it. So far as having any lasting effect on real peoples' lives - forget it. It's already yesterday's news.

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E-cars are a dangerous myth, says top boffin

Pete
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Waiter! These grapes are sour

The rather irrelevant comparison between the money his lot get for research and the amount the government is prepared to "waste" on electric cars is a basically a rant. Even if the govt. cancelled the electric car scheme his scientist chums still wouldn't get any more cash - as it's been assigned to a different department of the government.

A better approach would be for the chemists out there to start thinking along the lines of "batteries use chemicals to store power ........ maybe we should propose some research initiatives to improve their efficiency and capacity?" rather than sitting in a corner grumbling about how all these other groups are much better at lobbying than they are.

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When rip and replace is not an option

Pete
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So which do you think is cheaper?

> Unification, consolidation, simplification – it sounds attractive. But not when you take the real world into account

On the one hand, we have buying in bulk from a couple of preferred vendors (obviously, not going with a single supplier - that would be utterly insane, for so many well-known reasons) where you can play one off against the other. With the discounts that come from buying significant amounts of "stuff" and with the leverage to extract cheap or free support with the tacit threat that you'll drop them instantly if they fail to deliver.

On the other we have every designer or project choosing their own hardware, O/S and applications based on what glossy they got through the post that morning, or which vendor's sales lady (or gent) is prettiest, or even what course they did at secondary school. Ending up with a mix of Dell, HP, Sun (ok, that was a joke), various flavours of Linux, W/Server 200x, Unix, Oracle, SAP, and a dozen others. All needing specialised support staff on site, all needing their own upgrade schedules, test environments (ok, that was the other joke), backups, DR, patches, bug-fixes and support contracts. None of which amount to a sizable enough stake for any particular vendor to hand out special terms and with third party support which, likewise, involves hanging on the phone for a slow-reading voice to ask if you've tried rebooting.

While this first option may well tie you in to a particular regime, the costs involved in being able to deploy cheap, generic hardware - that can be swapped around, reallocated and load-balanced in next to no time, and cheap generic support staff who will line up outside your head office at the merest hint of a vacancy,, is hugely attractive. Especially when you consider that the average engagement time of an IT director is measured in a few years, so they'll reap the rewards of the cost savings without making the mistake of sticking around to clean the **it off the fan - and you can see why data centres look more like a stockroom for blade servers, than the diverse environment of a computer fairground.

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IR35 tax is a huge failure

Pete
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If you want to stimulate the british economy ...

... a simple way to do it would be to roll back the penalties involved in buying and using a company car.

Contractors are (to all intents and purposes) not allowed to buy a car and then claim back the tax - either VAT, or taxes their companies incur from the purchase. This has basically killed off the whole area of small companies having company cars.

If the govt. wanted to, and I mean _really_ wanted to, kick start the british car market, a simple way to do it would be to roll the clock back 20-odd years. Allow the cost of a CC to be set against contractors' company's costs, just like buying a computer, training course or packet of envelopes is seen as a legitimate expense.

You never know, the added incentive might even prompt a few people to get off the dole and start up their own little entrepreneurial enterprise.

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Geeks make least selfish lovers: Official

Pete
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Although, the big question is:

> Geeks make the most considerate lovers

Just what do the geeks make these lovers out of?

possible answers include:

- Sticky-back plastic and foam rubber

- Their imagination

- Other geeks

- FOSS code

As for the rest of the article, it's a survey. People tells lies in surveys. Believe it at your peril

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Worldwide GPS may die in 2010, say US gov

Pete
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Would that mean the end to war?

Given that GPS is primarily (some might say "only") a military system, designed to accurately rain down death and destruction on wherever their faulty intelligence tells them to. If the GPS system was allowed to fail, does this mean that the americans aren't planning any more foreign wars for the near future.

If so, then maybe the entertainment value of not having clueless drivers slavishly following a robotic voice up a countryside dead-end is a worthwhile sacrifice for universal peace?

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Pete
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Everyone lives a bad news story

But on the other hand, the GPS system may not die next year. However if you used that topic for a story, no-one would read it. Imagine the headline: "GPS. Still working, no problems expected" Who would waste their time reading a story like that?

It's only when our dumb, fat and happy existence is threatened, or our over-consuming and technologically dependent lifestyles come under a shadow that we perk up and take notice. Whether it's oil, bird-flu, climate change, swine flu, economic meltdown, a slightly upset tummy, repressive surveillance, inflation, deflation, rocketing house prices, slumping house prices, governmental corruption, extremism, foreign wars, domestic violence, nothing on TV, traffic congestion or eurovision - we love reading about misfortune: especially someone else's.

I can't help but wonder if the secret to a happy and contented life is to eschew newspapers and TV news and just stick to watching Big Brother and Reality TV - maybe letting your brain rot and have it dribble out of your ears isn't such a high price after all?

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Missing: 1TB of Clinton White House data

Pete
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It'll turn up

A terabyte of "sensitive" Clinton data lost?

No need to worry, I'm sure it'll get posted to a porno group on Usenet soon.

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Another 0.03% of Blighty goes wind powered

Pete
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@pointlessly negative

The very first thing to consider is that this article is not being negative - it's being realistic. On the basis that govt. figures say "such and such a scheme will power X number of houses", then it would be easy to say OK, therefore we just need Y more schemes like this.

However every hard problem has a solution that's simple, elegant and wrong. Hard problems have difficult solutions. The basic point is that saying an average house consumes 1kW*Hr and therefore a 1000kW generator can supply 1000 houses is criminally simplistic - but does make a nice, trite headline. If the govt. was to simply privide enough MWattage capacity to fill average consumptions, there's no chance ot could deal with peak loads, let alone supply businesses that only need power 9-5, 5 days a week. It's not averages that matter - but peaks.

On your other point, you seem to have forgotten that heating oil and gas are fossil fuels too. When the gas that fuels the majority of britain's power stations runs out - guess what? The gas to heat people's houses runs out too! In that case the inhabitants will be forced to change to electric heating as there won't be any other kind (ok, wood burners, for the tiny majority of people with access to the necessary acres to sustainably provide heat).

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Pete
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Stop

Bet this doesn't take electric vehicles into account

When these figures are bandied about regarding the number of home that any given scheme can power, they alway assume average loadings, not the peak loads that occur when the electric cooker is on full-blaze cooking the dinner AND all the PCs, video games, power-showers, kettles, electric heaters and lights are on - such as early evening on a weekday in winter. Reckon on 10 - 20kW sucked out of the grid during these times and the number of houses supported drops rapidly - well below the 35,000 that LP calculates.

If you add into that load all the electric cars we are told to expect, all coming home from a commute and all being plugged in for a recharge at exactly the same time then you can predict the lights going dim over wide areas, even if the wind does do us a favour and blows hard every day from 5pm - 8pm.

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Fox terminates The Sarah Connor Chronicles

Pete
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@Youngdog

> discover the joy of being insulted by an illiterate teenager

You don't have to sign up to a particular site for that - pretty much anywhere on the internet will do.

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Pete
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was it the acting or the writing?

Having watched this, the story of the Parson's egg comes to mind. Some episodes were very good (though, apart from the last ones, I'd be hard-pressed to name them) and others were pretty dire. I couldn't help feeling that whoever sold these series had worked out the beginning and the end, but didn't really have much idea how to fill in all the episodes in the middle.

To that end, there was much irrelevant stuff, lots of samey relentless persuits in series #1, dead-end stories and (frankly) filler episodes. I got the distinct impression that the writers were being given "turns" at coming up with stories - and that some were so self-indulgent that they played no part in the story as a whole.

Having said that, there was not much in the acting that made the series stand out. Although Arnie could carry off the "wooden" approach, some of these guys took the style to new lows. Strangely, it was the robots who appeared most human at times, and also (by design or talent, or simply by accident - who can say) came up with some of the best lines.

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Europeans go ga-ga over virtual servers

Pete
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A partial solution

> IT managers are under to cut costs and drive up the utilization

One place I worked set an (arbitrary) target for server utilisation. The IT director flipped out when he was told that server utilisation averaged 19%[1] so we wrote an infinite loop and ran it on the servers - one process per CPU. Utilisation went up, but boy, did the users scream!

[1] 19% isn't actually all that bad when you consider: Most systems only ran 9-5, 5 days a week. That's 40 hours out of 168, so you're already down below 25%. Add in that every (yes, every) server had a D.R. box and your utilisation is halved.

p.s. only kidding about the infinite loop, but it was suggested. The thing is, for interactive servers, utilisation is the opposite of responsiveness. If you want one, you can't have too much of the other. Generally, as idle time of your performance-limiting resource halves, response times double. And that's true no matter how many VMs you run on a piece of hardware.

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UK.gov international net clean-up plan gathers dust

Pete
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language barrier

So this guy's "working with" the 'merkins and expects someone there to listen to him.

I feel he has misunderstood what the yanks mean when they say "working with". To the US adminstration this phrase generally means "doing what we tell you to", rather than implying a partnership - as in the rest of the world. If this politician expects someone from Washington to "invite" (summon) him to a "meeting" (distribution of pre-decided tasks) to "listen" (so long as he says 'yes sir - how high?') to his "opinions" (the list faxed over from the US embassy) then he'll have a long wait.Better he should just spend his time working out how he can fiddle even more from his expenses for the trip.

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Herschel and Planck safely away

Pete
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First blog entry

> The spacecraft have associated mission blogs,

#1 bloody 'ell it's cold up here

#2 why haven't I got any friends?

#3 this twitter thing really sucks

#4 it's full of stars!

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Judges rap police over raid on paedo expert

Pete
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desired result still acheived

A bystander could be forgiven for thinking that the police knew this search would not lead to any charges and that it's only real goal was to punish the victims through harassment.

So a DI might get their wrist tapped lightly for signing a warrant that he/she/it knew had no real cause - big deal. I'm sure nothing will come of that. Similarly, that the cops on the raid exceeded their remit and took a load more stuff than they had a right to? Again, nothing will happen to them.

What did happen was that a couple of people, acting within the law, had their lives upset hugely on the say-so of a minor official who had taken a dislike to them. Again, this sort of thing happens every day (although doesn't make the news, as it's so common) and the officers involved continue to be employed - as they know they can reign down this sort of punishment on members of the public, with impunity.Hell, we know they can even kill people without having to say "oops, sorry".

The police have evolved their own methods of punishing people - completely outside the law, and with zero oversight or comeback. Obviously it's not called punishment, but whether it involves having all your business computers confiscated, getting arrested and held - then released without charge, or getting nicked for an "on the spot" fine, that would cost far too much to contest - the result is the same: arbitrary "justice" that is impossible to rectify or address as the cost of contesting it is far too high for a normal member of the public to afford.

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Ofcom works out why Wi-Fi doesn't work

Pete
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So: is an unregulated system the best way?

It seems that the key phrase for the 2.4GHz WiFi instances is that they operate in an unregulated part of the spectrum. We discovered long ago that once a service is deregulated (or was never regulated in the first place) you effectively get something akin to the wild-west. Just look at how bus deregulation "improved" transport services.

While I am not a fan of pointless controls, laws and restrictions there is a place for laying down some rules about what can and cannot share a scare resource, or even for standardising on methods of access (or even the sizes of things: look at the benefits of everyone using the same mains voltage, or A[0-6] sized paper, for example)

Fortunately, with WiFi there is an obvious and easy solution - switching to 5GHz 802.11tg, albeit at a higher cost and reduced range. Although that in itself helps in reducing the amount of overhead traffic.

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Apple brands UK tabloid 'obscene'

Pete
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The real reason ...

... for not having a Sun reading app, is that the Sun should be obscene and not heard (groan).

Really, it does publish a lot of obscenities - such as it's version of the truth. However, nudity is a long way from obscenity unless you're from a prudish, intolerant country where the uninformed rants of the vocal few have completely overridden the mature and unspoken attitudes of the overwhelming majority.

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Google name 'worth $100 billion,' says Strategy Boutique

Pete
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and you can have my share for $100

Let's see.

The top 10 (listed) come to a total value of just over $660Bn. With 6Bn people on the planet, that means the value of these brands is worth $110 for each person. So here's my offer: I will sell you my interest in these brands (using them, reading their adverts, talking about them, visiting their websites etc.) at a 10% discount.

Not interested? OK, how about $10 ...... $5 .......... $1 ......... $0.000001

Yup, thought so. The brands themselves aren't worth a penny between them. All we have here are party tricks for accountants.

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Home Office 'ring of steel' fails the pig plague test

Pete
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1700 arrests - means nothing.

OK, a little OT, but it needs to be said,

The number of arrests that a programme produces is irrelevant. Being arrested is not an indication that a person is a criminal, or even that they've done anything wrong. For that to be the case, you have to be charged with something, and then FOUND GUILTY. All it means to be arrested at an airport is that some over-zealous oik has taken a dislike to you and you've missed your flight.

Similarly with all the powers, resources, time, money, experts, surveillance and forensics available to them, the governments record on actually finding terrorists, charging them and gaining convictions is so low as to constitute harassment - somewhere around 2% of people arrested for terrorism related offences are actually charged (and then usually for some unrelated offence, such as searches of their house/computer, revealing smut or drugs crimes) and even fewer convicted.

However, big numbers sound impressive - and give the false illusion that progress is being made. What would be nice, but will never happen, is for some enterprising journo to take a step back, stop passively regurgitating government figures, and ask some probing questions such as "that's all very well minister, but how many actual convictions have been made?" We can only hope ...

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Satellite to offer 10Mbit broadband to entire UK

Pete
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what's the cap?

When I was investigating satellite broadband a couple of years ago the three things that killed the prospect were the cost of entry, the pitifully slow connection speeds and the miserly monthly cap on data volumes. A recent re-visit to the market showed me that nothing much had changed - except there are much more viable alternatives, such as 3G broadband.

Now these guys have a new product, and el Reg's article shows they have come some way to addressing the first two show-stoppers. However, as the third leg of this particular bar-stool hasn't been mentioned, I must presume that the amount of stuff you can download is still too low (albeit, you can reach your monthly limit much, much faster) to be of any real use.

From a strategic point of view, it's hard to see where these guys are going to get any long-term business from. Any terrestrial solution (3G, WiMax - sorry, I couldn't help myself) will beat a space-bound one hands down. Not just in terms of latency: having to wait hundreds of milliseconds for the signal to bounce off a geostationary sat. but in infrastructure costs, too. Just like satellite phones didn't take off, except in a literal way on the pointy end of a rocket, I think that more modern solutions means that progress will eat these guys' lunch. I'm out.

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Pig plague and Twitter: The terrifying truth

Pete
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@Jamie Hylton

Personally, I'd never get a 'flu jab. What I want is an *anti* flu jab

(credit: a Dilbert cartoon from some years ago)

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Pete
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The main result of better communications

... is a vastly increased level of fear and misunderstanding.

Putting aside this latest example (Q: are people who twitter, "twits"?) we've seen this all over the internet. Stories that are years old reappear as each new generation of web-users discovers them and assumes, in their ignorance and arrogance that they are the first to ever see them and therefore repost them yet again. Stories that started live as near-fiction get embellished and twisted far from their original content - and conclusion.

What twitter has done is to take these half-truths, poorly understood (yet endlessly circulated) irrelevancies and utter lies and speed them up. Rather than having to wait in the bus queue for the latest gossip, to re-tell later to work colleagues, complete with exaggerations of your own for extra interest, we now get them at the speed of light from twitter, forums, websites and news-services.

It would help if some of the suppposedly responsible news agencies checked their facts once in a while. However, the race against the competition to be first "on the street" with a story made this impracitcal years ago. Therefore all we have now is news-tickers, tweets, rumours and "breaking news" from unsubstantiated sources. Luckily, none of these has any lasting importance or consequences, and is as quickly forgotten as last nights dinner.

Maybe it's time to stop believing anything (and everything) that doesn't come with an acknowledgement and source of the actual person the news item happened to.

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UK graduates face bleak future as teachers

Pete
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There are degrees of degree

OK, this won't be news to anyone - but it's still true.

Sadly, not all degree subjects are equal. Some are more job-worthy than others (and some are really just a three year long party). However, the rot starts long before going to university - with the choice of A level subjects. It seems that a lot of children are encouraged to select subjects they enjoy. For example: geography, religious studies and french - rather than a mix that would form a coherent basis for further study, and dare I say it, a job at the end of it all.

Once they start applying to universities with such a mish-mash of qualifications (and again, being encouraged to select university courses they like - rather than ones which have job prospects to back them up), the choice ranges from the useless (erm, philosophy) through the criminally pointless (classics) to possibly even worse: media studies.

In practice, a lot of kids simply drift into a university course either through lack of direction from their schools - who like to promote tertiary education, as it helps their results look good, or parental pressure, or just because they don't fancy the idea of starting on the 9 to 5, even if they could get a job.

If this situation makes children re-think the idea of going to university and racking up enough debt to see them financially crippled for years to come, and just as (un)employable as if they'd got a job at age 18 then maybe it has some, small, benefits.

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Jackalope gets jaunty with Ubuntu nip and tuck

Pete
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superficial

A few different colours in the desktop and newer versions of the existing applications.

All this version (and I've run the beta in a VM - until I decided it wasn't worth the disk space and deleted it). gives is a few small, and largely unnoticable, changes to the existing set of tools.

If you are primarily interested in GETTING STUFF DONE, rather than cooing about having various themes and different coloured boxes, then this release (just like most of the ones before it) offers no incentive to upgrade.

I found that this release did not give me the ability to actually achieve anything that I couldn't do with earlier releases. Nor did it make anything else significantly easier, faster or better.

It's nice, if you're planning to install Ubuntu for the first time, but I feel that the time spent upgrading to v9 from v8 would be largely wasted.

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How gov scapegoats systems for man-made errors

Pete
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soundbite reporting

What the media want is two things:

someone (or thing) to apportion blame to, and

a short, not too technical, explanation - preferably in 4 words or less.

Now so far as the media is concerned, large corporations are BAD (the bigger, the badder). Schools are all staffed by either saints or child-molesters - there's nothing in-between. Any mention of science, technology, maths or politics loses readership/audience. Long or technical sounding words (i.e. anything more than a slow eleven-year-old, or your great granny would use) alienate readers

So given these parameters, it's not hard to see how a long, detailed, technically correct and accurate explanation - complete with diagrams, listings, screen captures and 3 pages of text could be sub-edited down to "computer error". Even better if a big, bad corporation (preferably foreign, even better if funded or working for the E.U.) can be associated with the issue. Slap in a few pictures of grieving kids/relatives and some pointless reporting from outside the establishment - even though it adds nothing to the sum of human knowledge and what have you got?

The perfect anti-technology story. Feed enough of these through and you end up with a anti-technology readership, who have been brainwashed into the idea that science is hard, nasty, socially unworthy and that change. or progress, is to be avoided. The drip-drip effect of all of these is to create a climate where people don't "do" science - and are proud of the fact. Where children learn "cool" subjects: such as wikipedia, football and meeja studies and all our technology is outsourced to cheap-labour countries where having a GCSE in physics is a major boost to your job prospects, rather than something you keep quiet about, if you don't want disapproving looks from the other shelf-stackers in ASDA.

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Carbon capture would create fizzy underground oceans

Pete
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@Atlantic + Mentos

But it might be a good way to alter the planet's orbit in case of impending asteroid impacts.

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Most undergraduates 'show fear when asked to do maths'

Pete
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maybe they don't like stupid experiments

According to the article, 47% of men and 62% of women at this spanish university "showed symptoms such as .... impatience, confusion, fear and mental block".

Personally, I'd get these symptoms too, if someone put me in a lab and started experimenting on me - whether it was about maths, or beer or anything else. I can particularly relate to the impatience thing - "when can I get out of here?"

So having performed this work and reported their results, what now? Presumably the people who are expected to read the report are similarly fearsome, impatient or fearful, so they'll ignore or misunderstand the numerical results it presents.

File under: 87% of statistics are irrelevant or useless.

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Playboy TV offers 'Jacq off' special package

Pete
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dose of her own medicine

Let's talk about surveillance. Given that the urban population of the UK is under nearly constant scrutiny from the moment they leave the safety of their own homes and the CCTV cameras zoom in on them, like vultures watching a dying cow. it's nice to see that our wacky friend, who's department is responsible for prying into all our private lives, gets some intrusion into her own private life. I wonder if she'll ever make the connection between the way we all get hacked off when observed and the way she feels when the spotlight is turned on her.

Maybe what we need is a little more investigation in to the private goings-on of our politicians. How about starting by publishing, in the original unexpurgated form, all their expenses submissions. We could continue with websites listing every trip they make - whether it's to their constituency, the kebab shop (complete with armed guard), or a late night tryst. Finally we could put all their phone conversations on youtube, so that we can really get to know them and maybe vote on them, too.. Afterall if we're paying for all these things through their limitless expense accounts, isn't it just fair and proper that we can see where our money's going. You never know, it might even cut down some of the more blatant abuses.

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Leeds council cuts contractor rates

Pete
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pay down, but council tax up

If Leeds council is anything like mine, even after forcing a pay-cut, they still manage to put up council tax bills by *far* more than the rate of inflation - by whichever measurement you use.

I wish I could run a business the same way councils run their (sorry, OUR) affairs.

No competition,

the ability to charge whatever you choose,

no discounts for early payers (pay once per year, the rate is still the same as if you pay monthly),

no ability for "customers" to opt-out - even from services thet don't get or want,

no shareholders to answer to,

more than inflation increases every year - even if services stay the same or get cut,

get your existing customers to pay for ex-employees pensions,

answerable to no-one,

legal enforcement for non/late payers.

Given a regime like that, I could be making more than Microsoft within a couple of years.

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Germans announce: Revenge is inefficient

Pete
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inefficient? doubt it!

Far from being inefficient, it looks like all the german shrinks have demonstrated is that socially isolated, vindictive people like to take revenge. On top of that, they've made a slew of value judgements about what kind of lifestyle is "better" (or possibly closer to some sort of cliched ideal), without having any way of measuring the efficiency of one approach over another.

Given that "efficiency" can be thought of as achieving your goats with the minimum expenditure of (your) energy, then if revenge, or the possibility that you'll go postal on them, puts the fear of god up your adversaries - or workmates - often the same people - then it can be an extremely efficient way of getting your objectives met.

To quote the originator of management "how to" books, Machiavelli: It's better to be feared than loved, if you can't be both.

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WiReD UK: ET found in 19 years

Pete
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the talking dog effect

It's not so much what it says, as that it can talk at all.

I suspect that if/when we discover ET (or ET discovers us) that there'll be headlines all over the world - expect maybe the Vatican. However once the hype dies down, the next question will be:

OK, we're not alone - so what?

In the same way that a dog might converse about bones, fleas, sniffing other dogs (cooo - doggie porn!) and the relative merits of various different dogfoods, what meaningful conversation could we have with blue rocks (or whatever ET turns out to be) orbiting a star 10,000 LY away. Likewise, why would they feel any affinity for us?

One of the disservices that Star Trek and it's ilk have done is to give the impression that aliens will be like us: i,e. about the size, shape and weight of an average Hollywood actor.

Personally, my money's on X-Files black oil, Hoyle's black cloud or possible whatever the hell the thing in 2001 was. Of course it would be far more interesting if our first experience of ET was to dig up a discarded artifact, like a used alien cigarette end.

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