* Posts by Robert Sneddon

263 posts • joined 14 Dec 2007

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Japan's 'White Stork' soars heavenwards to ISS

Robert Sneddon

Re: That treaty is a two way street and The US has been doing Navy Exercises with them Lately

Yokosuka naval base south of Tokyo is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the United States Navy. It usually has a CVBG parked there i.e about 10% of the US' capital ship fleet. Time was the Yokosuka carrier was the Kittyhawk since it was the last conventionally-powered fleet carrier the USN had but it's now gone to the great razor-blade factory and the carrier parked there is currently the Reagan or maybe the Washington, both nuclear-powered of course.

A lot of the Japanese fleet is based on US designs like the Aegis cruisers in part so they can interoperate with the Americans. They've been carrying out exercises with the USN for decades.

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Robert Sneddon

Re: Wait, what?

"If the Japanese are launching orbital payloads on all-solid rockets, then you've got reasons to send weapon inspectors for a look."

You mean like the Japanese Epsilon satellite launcher?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epsilon_%28rocket%29

It doesn't have the lift capacity of the JAXA H2A or the H2B (the ISS resupply launcher) but it could certainly put a small-ball Bucket of Instant Sunshine pretty much anywhere on the planet in less time than it takes you to get a Deliveroo pizza delivered to the wrong door on a different street.

They've test-fired it once, it worked, they don't seem in much of a hurry to launch another one.

ESA has the Vega (aka Berlusconi's Bottle Rocket), same principle although it's been launched a few times now unlike the Epsilon.

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If Microsoft made laptops, it'd make this: HP Spectre x360

Robert Sneddon

Maximum video output

Will the mini-DP connector drive an external 4k monitor (3840x2160) at 60Hz? Can it drive multiple monitors with pass-through?

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SpaceX's blast shock delays world's MOST POWERFUL ROCKET

Robert Sneddon

Re: Let's replace "1970s-era hydrogen technology"...

LH2 is a sixth the density of RP-1 kerosene, not a tenth. It's still bulky and difficult to produce, handle on the launchpad and burn in a rocket motor but it produces much better performance than LOX/RP-1 during most of the flight once it's out of of the atmosphere as the jet velocity is a lot higher. At low altitudes rockets aren't travelling very fast so drag isn't that important and by the time they're going fast they're almost out of the atmosphere and drag is again not an important factor.

The most advanced liquid fuelled engines are LOX/LH2 -- the Ariane V Vulcain 2, the Japanese H2 series engines and the RS-68 that powers the largest launcher currently available today, the Delta 4 Heavy which is a pure LOX/LH2 launcher whereas the others use solid boosters as an assist during the early part of the flight.

Even SpaceX want to move forward from RP-1, developing the Raptor engine burning liquid methane (which is less dense than RP-1 necessitating larger tanks and with theoretically similar performance to LH2 without its deep cryogenic problems). However others have tried liquid methane before and abandoned it. I've heard there's a problem with coking up of the injectors and damage to the turbopumps using methane due to decomposition of the fuel.

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Did speeding American manhole cover beat Sputnik into space? Top boffin speaks to El Reg

Robert Sneddon
Flame

Numbers, man, numbers!

I ran the numbers on this event a while back during a discussion about it in an email bounce...

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Working the numbers as I go along while poking Dickipedia with a long stick... specific heat of steel averages 620J/kg per deg C. The steel lid is about 600 cubic inches if the size you give is correct, that's about 10,000 ccs in volume. Typical steel density is 7.9 g/cc so the lid weighed 790kg. Melting point of steel is about 1500 deg C so it would take 620 x 1500 x 790 Joules or about 750 MJ for complete slagging of the plate. I am ignoring any radiation heating from the explosion (X-rays, neutrons, gamma flux etc.) as I assume the cap was a last-defence thing and not directly coupled to the Device which was Exploding (i.e. it was not line-of-sight to the device).

Assuming the 50km/sec figure at ground level is correct and that is a SWAG at best -- explosive-gas-driven devices such as artillery shells top out at about 2 km/sec and light-gas guns using hydrogen or similar low-mass gasses are not that much faster -- then its kinetic energy on "takeoff" was 1/2 M x V^2 = 1/2 x 790 x 50 x 50 x 10^6 = 1TJ or over a thousand times as much energy as required to melt it completely. The Pascal-B shot only yielded about 300 tonnes equivalent, or about 1.25TJ which would mean the explosion would have to have expended 80% of its energy in driving the plate to that speed.

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There are other factors which also indicate the manhole cover never reached anything like escape velocity -- the shaft to the Pascal-B device was 150 metres deep and about 1 metre square assuming the size of the cap so there's another 180kg of air to be accelerated up to at least 50km/s before it hits the underside of the cover. There's also friction with the walls of the shaft, energy losses in compressing and heating that much gas etc.

Pity.

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Mathematician: SUNSPOT DROUGHT will mean mini ICE AGE from 2030

Robert Sneddon

Re: Poison?

Actually no. Scientists did SCIENCE! on it and discovered higher levels of CO2 in the atmosphere don't improve plant growth. Pity about that.

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Robert Sneddon

Re: This good be good news or bad news.....

Places like Canada (Cigar Lake) and Australia (Olympic Dam)?

Uranium is mined all over the place, it's not particularly scarce or very expensive. It can even be extracted in useful quantities from seawater although that's not as cheap as digging it up, extracting it from mine spoil heaps or underground leaching.

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Migrating from WS2003 to *nix in a month? It ain't happening, folks

Robert Sneddon

Re: viabilty

Not a problem. Just go to the board and tell them you need a few million quid to hire a team of upper-level coders and system analysts and put together a test setup to prepare the company for something that's going to happen in five years time. It will involve various parts of the company acting as guinea pigs, messing with their established IT setups as parts of it are rolled out and getting in the way of them doing their jobs. Large parts of it might not work anyway and need even more investment in new software, new systems and further training for users.

I'd keep your CV up to date while you do this, but don't mention any of this on it. Say you left the company to explore new opportunities or some other bullshit instead.

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Why SpaceX will sort out Sunday's snafu faster than NASA ever could

Robert Sneddon

Re: Saturns I, IB, & V

There are also the ESA Vega launchers with five successful launches and counting and the Japanese HII-B launchers, four cargo flights to the ISS and no failures.

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Robert Sneddon

NASA is not in the rocket business, it's in the space business

Nice bit of flim-flam about how lean mean SpaceX will fix the problem real quick once they figure out what happened not like stodgy old NASA who are, you know, the people paying SpaceX to fly the CRS missions to the ISS.

NASA doesn't build or fly rockets, it buys launches from manufacturers like ULA (Boeing and Lockheed) and SpaceX. The big kerfuffle about the Shuttle disasters was that people were killed and determining exactly what went wrong in the operational sense was what took the time -- the true causes were known a day or two after they happened.

This failure is going to put a crimp on man-rating the Falcon design which was otherwise moving along smoothly and it's also going to make the US DoD and No Such Agency a bit more wary of offering SpaceX contracts to fly their pricey military and spy hardware, just after Elon managed to wedge his way onto that gravy train.

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Japan showcases really, really fast … whoa, WTF was that?!

Robert Sneddon

Mobes on shinkansens

The entry/exit door areas at the end of shinkansen carriages are where folks go to to make and receive calls on their mobiles. There's a sliding door between that area and the rest of the carriage to keep the noise down. Loud ringtones get the Silent Walk Of Shame treatment as the offending salaryman scuttles off to the end of the car to deal with his call.

The really weird thing in some shinkansen trains is the smoker's aquarium room, a glassed-off compartment filled with grey smoke and (presumably, it's difficult to make out sometimes) people puffing away on their cancer sticks.

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Robert Sneddon

Re: Fast, but not that fast

The French steel-wheel speed record was achieved with a special "racecar" train set and it ripped up the track ballast and damaged the overhead as it passed. In comparison the Japanese maglev record train was unmodified from the trains that have been carrying out test runs for the past few years and it didn't damage the track while carrying over fifty passengers.

The same train raised the record from 581 km/h to just over 590 km/h last week, this week it got over 600 km/h. It looks like the maglev people are planning to raise the train's speed in 10 km/h steps until they can't go any further for some reason -- aerodynamics, instability, whatever. I've seen claims that they want to get up to 900 km/h eventually but I take that with a pinch of salt. The planned top speed for commercial service beginning in 2027 is 500km/h to start with.

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Grandmaster FLUSH: Chess champ booted for allegedly cheating with iPod app in the loo

Robert Sneddon

Endgames

The end-game in Go has many fewer legal moves as much of the board is occupied by placed stones, safe areas which can't be invaded and areas already given up as lost by one side. This is a lot simpler to analyse forward to a winning position than the mid-game position. It's also very useful for evaluating the result of ko fights and the number of points each fight accrues to the players.

Crazy Stone and other computer Go programs like Zen aren't a serious threat to the professional ranks, yet. Pros have lost games to programs, yes but only when offering large handicaps -- 4 stones is equivalent to forty points head start. In chess that would be like spotting the other player a queen and a bishop.

The KGS 5 dan rating that Crazy Stone has been assigned is not a pro ranking, I've seen folks say that the KGS amateur ranks are about +4 over real pros so Crazy Stone is maybe as good as a shodan (1 dan) pro. Maybe.

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An uncomplicated Buffalo in SOHO: The LinkStation 441D 4-bay NAS box

Robert Sneddon

Re: finger trouble.

It's more like the cleaner or someone in the office decides one evening their home 'puter could do with a nice big media hard drive upgrade and next day the NAS falls over with a "drive missing" error.

My old toolkit for desktop support in offices included a box of tamper-proof screws and the requisite screwdriver bits to secure machines. It didn't stop memory and HDs going walkies (and even a CPU in one instance) completely but it slowed the tealeafs down a tad.

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Intel offers ingenious piece of 10TB 3D NAND chippery

Robert Sneddon

Re: How is this "3D NAND" any different from stacked dies?

This 3D NAND process isn't stacking individual lumps of silicon, it appears to involve layering insulating material and new semiconductor substrate on top of a previous layer, etching and metallising that substrate, providing interconnecting vias through down into the previous layer and then doing it again as many times as they can get away with for decent device yields.

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Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers

Robert Sneddon

Why thorium?

Why switch to non-fissile thorium when uranium is cheap and abundant, now and for at least the next fifty years and we already have a lot of experience using it to fuel existing reactors and their replacements currently under construction? Of course at the end of that time we can reprocess the spent fuel that's in store and fuel another generation of uranium reactors for fifty years and more from the "waste". If all else fails there are proven techniques to extract uranium from seawater, cost estimated to be about USD 300 per kilogram.

Thorium is difficult to use as a nuclear fuel. It's not fissile, it needs to be converted in a high-temperature high-neutron-flux breeder cycle into U-233 to make it into a fuel that can produce energy by being fissioned. The theory, and it is only a theory, is that this can be done in a continuous process. Further theory suggest it can be done in a molten-salt stream but it's never been achieved in the real world, just in Powerpoint slides and at TED talks.

No, the molten-salt test reactors that were run at ORNL and elsewhere fifty years ago didn't use thorium, they used U-233 and later U-235. Some reactors have used thorium, usually pebble-bed designs which were not a great success (see the German HTHR-300 for an example) and they were mostly fuelled by U-235 and in some case Pu-239/240 with a little added thorium to season for taste.

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Robert Sneddon

PRISM = Powerpoint

There's a lot of paper exercises, grad student TED talks and general blue-sky bullshit around in the nuclear biz. PRISM and all the other wonderful Great Ideas all suffer from one fatal flaw though; nobody's building any of them. There's research money around, a few million dollars here and there, enough to fund some computer modelling or materials testing and pay for some PhDs but no-one is bending metal and pouring concrete on the GE PRISM or any of the other glossy-brochure reactors in the public eye.

What IS getting built right now around the world is nearly all light-water reactors, GenIIa and GenIII designs based on fifty years and more of operation of hundreds of GenII reactors because the operators aren't interesting in advancing the technology but in generating cheap electricity. There are a few, a very very few experimental power reactors being built or commissioned like the Russian BN-800 fast spectrum reactor and the Chinese quasi-modular HTR-PM pebble-bed design but Russia and China are stamping out cookie-cutter LWRs by the dozen, the Soviet-derived VVER family and the Chinese CPR-1000, a home-grown version of the Westinghouse AP-1000 because they and their customers need the electricity.

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Robert Sneddon

Re: Thorium Nuclear Reactors

That's great, 500lbs of plutonium from a LWR in a year! Problem is it's a mix of Pu-239, the good bomb-making isotope and Pu-240 which is not fissile and which prevents a bomb going off "right". It's also intensely radioactive and self-heating to point where a bomb core would be at a temperature of several hundred degrees, not quite a dull red. It also takes a big expensive processing plant to get the plutonium out of spent fuel, lots of power and special chemicals, technicians and engineers. It's easier to make a few hundred kilos of pure Pu-239 for a small nuclear arsenal using a dedicated breeder reactor the way, well, everybody with any sense ever did (I except the North Koreans from this august assemblage).

The US has about a hundred tonnes of weapons-grade plutonium in storage at the moment, Britain about 70 tonnes, Russia lots and lots. The nuclear weapons states don't want or need more bomb-grade plutonium as they've got nothing they can use the surplus for but they've still got to keep it safe which costs money and effort. The non-nuclear states such as Vietnam tend to buy in their nuclear installations as turnkey operations where the reactor builders (in Vietnam's case, Rosatom) will supply the fresh fuel and take away the spent fuel afterwards.

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Pixel mania: Apple 27-inch iMac with 5K Retina display

Robert Sneddon

Re: Value for money?

The 5K display in the iMac has nearly twice as many pixels as the 4K Dell monitor you've just purchased, it's not a small step up in resolution.

The iMac looks like a nice piece of kit but for me and my ageing eyes a 27" display is a little bit small. I'd like a 5K display with a 30"-plus diagonal but I'll probably settle for the Dell 31.5" 4K display as a Xmas present to myself. It helps that the display I've got my eye on has an IPS panel with a good colour gamut, the smaller 28" Dell 4K display is TN.

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Top 10 SSDs: Price, performance and capacity

Robert Sneddon

Re: but where are the 2TB Drives

You can buy spinning-rust 2TB HDDs in a 2.5" form factor but they tend to be thicker than conventional drives and might not physically fit in your laptop. A 2TB SSD would require twice the number of flash chips as the existing 1TB SSD offerings and getting all those chips into a normal thickness chassis (7mm or 9.5mm) seems to be a problem the manufacturers haven't solved yet. There's also heat dissipation to worry about.

Once the chips get denser then you can expect 2TB and larger 2.5" format SSD drives to hit the market. I'm still surprised no-one's released a 3.5" SSD with, say, 16 TB capacity to beat the spinning-rust record holders if nothing else.

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BT claims almost-gigabit connections over COPPER WIRE

Robert Sneddon

Re: 80% within 66m?

I live in a terraced flat in a city centre. A 66m (actually 200 feet in old money) radius from the fibre box near our front door would cover thirty or forty "households", many of them shared flats with four or five students or single folk all of whom hammer the internet day after day as well as shops, guest houses etc. That fibre box isn't the only one in our street, of course. Lots of people in the UK live in high-population-density areas like this.

That 80% coverage figure by BT sounds about right and they've got the maps and infrastructure details to back up their claim. You've got, what, a feeling? Voices in your head? that makes you sure it's bullshit. I'll go with BT in this case.

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Love XKCD? Love science? You'll love a book about science from Randall Munroe

Robert Sneddon

From this strip

http://xkcd.com/345/

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Robert Sneddon

Spent fuel pool depth

Spent fuel pools in light-water reactor buildings are usually a little over twice as deep as the length of the fuel rod assemblies used in the reactor. When refuelling is taking place the reactor is flooded and a "gate" is opened to connect the flooded top of the reactor with the adjacent pool. The fuel assemblies are withdrawn from the reactor one at a time and kept under the surface of the water until they are dropped into a slot in the racks in the bottom of the pool. Later after they have cooled down for a time they are transferred, still underwater into a storage or transfer cask which is sealed and then lifted out of the pool.

It doesn't take much water to block the radiation from a spent fuel assembly after a day or two have passed since the reactor was shut down, a few centimetres will do a decent job of blocking most of it.

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Brit Sci-Fi author Alastair Reynolds says MS Word 'drives me to distraction'

Robert Sneddon

Re: So they force him to use Word hmm?

Most publishers want Word documents since that's what their office staffs are used to working with. Same with the writer's agents, copyeditors etc. That doesn't mean the writer has to compose their text in Word, just that there needs to be some kind of output TO Word format at the end of the composition process. That format could be as simple as .txt though or even .rtf as long as Word can swallow it.

Classically manuscripts on paper were submitted in a publisher-specified format, large margins and double-spaced lines for pencil editing notes and corrections, monospaced font such as 10-pt Courier to make word count easy, author name and book title on each page in case the loose paper got floor-sorted, that sort of thing. Old habits die hard in the publishing industry.

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Google's mysterious floating techno barge SOLD FOR SCRAP

Robert Sneddon

Re: Meanwhile, halfway around the world

What's wrong with getting a regular non-white cat and overriding its colour to #ffffff in the CSS?

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EU probe into Apple's taxes: It's NOT to do with double-Dutch-Irish anything sandwiches

Robert Sneddon

Apple retail markups

The story I heard from a middleman supplier of Apple kit a long while back was that they frowned on deep discounting or even shallow discounting by suppliers to consumers. Discount too much, too deeply or too often and supplies would dry up and contracts would be difficult to renegotiate. This was before Apple direct sales really took off with the internet and high street iAquariums though.

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UK govt preps World War 2 energy rationing to keep the lights on

Robert Sneddon

Storage costs money

Liquid air, flywheels, capacitors, hamsters in wheels, they all cost money to build and run, they waste electricity in conversion and reconversion losses and they don't add any new generating capacity, just make the fluctuations and sudden peaks in demand a little smoother. Consumers are already up in arms about the bottom-line cost of energy, making it more expensive per kWh isn't going to be looked on favourably.

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Robert Sneddon

Waste

Sorry but the Juno probe wasn't going to be powered by "nuclear waste". Pu238 is the preferred fuel for radioisotope thermal generators (RTGs) for a lot of reasons and it's not found in other than trace quantities in spent nuclear fuel. It's actually manufactured by a complex and expensive process involving exotic chemical processing of spent fuel to extract neptunium-237 and exposing that in specialised research-style nuclear reactors to breed it into Pu238. The problem is that the research reactors in question are being shut down as they age and/or fall foul of tighter operating restrictions such as not using highly enriched uranium fuel, and nobody wants to cough up the money to build new ones to modern safety standards. This is also affecting the nuclear medicine supply chain.

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Robert Sneddon

Storage costs money

Assuming you have the right kind of geography with high and low reservoirs close to each other and lots and lots of water available, pumped storage costs about £200 million per GWh to build, a few million a year to run and it doesn't generate any electricity in itself so it's on top of the cost of renewables, not a replacement or an offset. It makes intermittent renewables more useful, their energy can be stored and released on demand rather than use it or lose it but storage also wastes a lot of that energy in the store and release cycle.

Dinorwig can store about 8GWh, the other big pumped storage station at Cruachan in Scotland is about the same. Together they can supply about 2GW maximum for a few hours or about 10% of our lowest consumption (midsummer night time). During the winter our demand peaks at about 50GW so we'd really need at least a dozen more Dinorwigs to make a dent in the supply situation for those times, or freeze to death in the dark.

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Robert Sneddon

Swinging reactors

Modern designs of nuclear reactors like the ones licenced to be built in the UK can all reduce output ("swing") quite readily if they, for some weird reason, produce "too much" power. Would that we were facing the problem of "too much" power...

As it is the existing British reactors are pumping out maximum base load power as much of the time as possible since the fuel cost is mind-bogglingly low and the grid is topped up with gas and coal with wind adding a small amount on top when the conditions are favourable.

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PCIe hard drives? You read that right, says WD

Robert Sneddon

Samsung on Youtube

Samsung put a Youtube ad up several years ago where their engineers RAIDded 24 SSDs (probably SATA-2 devices) and got 2 GB/s sustained throughput.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eULFf6F5Ri8

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The hoarder's dilemma: 'Why can't I throw anything away?'

Robert Sneddon

Oldest floppy?

I have a Bernoulli 10MB drive on the sideboard, complete with a couple of cartridges. It'll come in useful someday.

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Robert Sneddon

Palm PDAs

I have an old Palm E running Coreplayer pumping out ambient "seashore" noise to a pair of cheap speakers at the head of my bed. Helps me get off to sleep at night.

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Tech that we want (but they never seem to give us)

Robert Sneddon

EMP briefcase

Walk up to the doofdoof-car stopped at the lights, press the conveniently-located button on your briefcase when adjacent to the boot of the car and blow out the amplifier. Walk a little further and you can get the idiot's fuel injection computer too.

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Robert Sneddon

Yellow ink

The reason it won't print B/W if it's out of yellow ink is probably because of the forensic yellow dots code printed on each page, courtesy (we think) of the US Government. The pattern of yellow dots encrypts information like time and date and a serial number of the printer according to the EFF.

https://www.eff.org/pages/list-printers-which-do-or-do-not-display-tracking-dots

I wonder if printing a faint yellow background on each page would defeat this coding scheme?

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Why are Fujitsu and Toshiba growing lettuce in semiconductor plants?

Robert Sneddon

Pricey fruit and veg

Japanese specialist fruit and vegetable growers already charge eye-watering prices for premium produce like bunches of grapes for £40 a kilo and individually-packed peaches costing more than £4 each. They're not run-of-the-mill items but luxury gifts, unblemished and visually perfect. Most cheap fruit and veggies are imported and sold in Japanese supermarkets at almost-reasonable prices.

Folks who buy organic produce pay three times the "normal" price anyway and that's big business in the Western world. This sort of production qualifies as organic, no pesticides and herbicides required since it is literally a clean-room operation so the actual price is not unreasonable. I've seen reports of similar operations being launched in California and elsewhere based on sealed greenhouses fed with filtered air and water rather than repurposed clean-rooms.

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Britain'll look like rural Albania without fracking – House of Lords report

Robert Sneddon

German nukes

Much of Germany's nuclear fleet is still in operation, actually. Some of the oldest plants were shut down promptly after 2011/03/11, the rest are on schedule to close over the next few years with the last one, if I remember correctly, closing in 2023. They're a convenient cash cow for the German government who tax refuelling operations, part of a deal/bribe made pre-Fukushima to allow the nuclear plants to keep operating in the face of Green opposition. The money raised with this extra fuel tax goes towards funding renewables and coal-fired plants which can be classed as "renewable" as long as they can also burn biomass.

The result of the fuelling tax is that at least one nuclear plant is shutting down early as it would only be allowed to operate for a part of its next fuel cycle before it reached its legal "end of life" and the extra tax costs make that uneconomic.

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Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully

Robert Sneddon

Re: Isn't it funny...

The launch vehicle is chosen to match the payload. I think the NRO has been the only customer for the full-fat Delta IV Heavy capable of putting about 25 tonnes into low earth orbit. The Atlas V mod 541 used for this launch is good for about 18 tonnes.

As for "new" engines, design and development has plateaued out with little extra performance to be gained from existing fuels. The aim now is simplicity, lower weight and manufacturing cost hence the development of the RS68/RS68A as used on the Delta IV, cheaper and simpler than the RS25 used on the Space Shuttle.

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Boss at 'Microsoft' scam support biz told to cough £000s in comp

Robert Sneddon

Re: My preferred route

If you get THEIR credit card number then you're golden.

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Robert Sneddon

The Scores on the Doors

I managed to get the supervisor after less than ten minutes of failing to type the Teamviewer URL correctly no matter how carefully they spelled it out for me, and I kept him on the hook for at least three or four minutes after that before he hung up on me. It only counts if they hang up, of course.

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Sticky Tahr-fy pudding: Ubuntu 14.04 slickest Linux desktop ever

Robert Sneddon

Re: What's the point exactly?

I resize windows by click-and-drag and release when the window looks right, for example when editing images. A wireframe won't show me the final view when I release the mouse whereas a render-during-resize will. I'd have to resize several times to get the window "right" with only a wireframe to go by.

As for "perf-sapping" I've not noticed any spike in CPU usage or even the graphics card breathing heavily when I manipulate windows on screen. Does this actually happen under Linux? I'm running Windows.

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5 Eyes in the Sky: The TRUTH about Flight MH370 and SPOOKSATS

Robert Sneddon

Keyholes

The KH-11 family of NRO satellites, the last series of big spy satellites we the public know much about have a camera mirror about eight feet across. On a good day they can image down to about 8cm per pixel at ground level, not quite able to read newspaper headlines but not far off. They can't be shot down by the Bad Guys and under international treaties it's OK to fly them over other people's countries without starting a war and they can cover everything from coast to coast in multiple passes and they're always operating.

The SR-71 could never get than a couple of hundred kilometres across foreign borders to take pictures of places of interest (usually ports and naval airbases) using small cameras from 20km up, assuming the weather co-operated, before they had to turn around and head back out to sea again. They were fuel hogs, a typical 12-hour mission involving several recon penetrations of the Bad Guys borders required as many as eight specialist air-to-air refuelling tankers orbiting safely in international airspace to keep the SR-71 flying. Eventually the Bad Guys developed SAMs that could in fact knock down an SR-71 even at altitude and speed and they stopped being viable aircraft for reconnaissance in enemy airspace except in the minds of starstruck nerds and military geeks.

As for the satellite images of sea debris we've seen being released, they're probably not degraded much if at all for public consumption. Image quality from satellites depends critically on the camera mirror size but it takes a big satellite like the KH-11 to get decent pictures and commercial observation satellites just aren't in that class.

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Report: Apple flushes 12.9-inch MaxiPad plan down the drain

Robert Sneddon

Panasonic

have a 20" diagonal tablet for sale if you think you're person enough to handle it.

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Dell thuds down low-cost lap workstation for cheap frugal creatives or engineers

Robert Sneddon

Re: As a lesser mortal...

I saw a posting on a blog by someone running server hardware as a workstation with 512GB of RAM installed. He did high-end music composition and kept over 300GB of music and sound samples in RAM to speed things up. I *think* he was running Windows 8 Pro.

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Why can’t I walk past Maplin without buying stuff I don’t need?

Robert Sneddon

M and B Radio

Anyone from Leeds remember that place when they had the M2 machine gun set up as an anti-shoplifting precaution? I don't know if it's still in business, I've not been in Leeds city centre for a few years now.

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Icahn and I will: Carl's war on eBay goes NUCLEAR over Skype

Robert Sneddon

Didn't something happen...

...between 2005 and 2009? Knocked a few points off the Dow Jones, caused a mild worry among the international finance set, I seem to recall some events or other that might just have taken the shine off the dollar value of a tech business, now what could it have been...

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Satya Nadella shakes up Microsoft, appoints 'Scroogled' man Mark Penn as strategy chief

Robert Sneddon

Titanic

The blundering incompetence of Mark Penn's organisation during the 2008 American quarter-finals was a major factor in costing Hillary Clinton her anointed place as the Democratic Party's hereditary nominee for the Presidential election that year. I assumed that after that debacle he had slunk off to find a big enough rock to crawl under and was lost to History and civilised company forever with only the millions of bucks he had charged her campaign in the process of sinking it to console himself with.

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Microsoft dangles carrot at SMEs, eases Windows 8 Enterprise licensing

Robert Sneddon

Ah, Larry Ellison's next boat

I thought Oracle's latest roadmap looked a bit, um, people-intensive...

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4f/Olympias.1.JPG

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Fukushima radioactivity a complete non-issue on West Coast: Also for Fukushima locals, in fact

Robert Sneddon

Science!

The folks tracking fallout from Fukushima in the Pacific take samples at various depths, not just the surface. There's a gradient due to upwelling and mixing between layers being somewhat limited but a lot of the Cs-134 (halflife 2 years) that's obviously from Fukushima is in very deep water (hundreds of metres down). Fukushima-derived Cs-137 (halflife 30 years) measurement is more difficult as there's still a lot of it hanging around from the 150MT total of US thermonuclear test explosions carried out in the 1950s mid-Pacific and it's well-mixed by now after sixty years or so.

As for swimming in seawater naturally-occurring potassium-40 produces about 10,000 Bq/m3, 90% beta particles and the rest quite energetic gammas. The 2Bq/m3 resulting from Cs-134 and -137 measured a few kilometres offshore from the Fukushima Daiichi plant is barely noticeable in that regard.

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Apple Mac Pro: It's a death star, not a nappy bin, OK?

Robert Sneddon

Re: £1040 for an extra 52gb of ram???

The new Mac Pro only has two memory sockets IIRC, very limited in memory capacity for dealing with stuff like 4k video. The older Mac Pros could take up to 128GB of RAM although I've heard it said that OS/X limits out at 96GB, don't know if that's true.

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