* Posts by AJames

148 posts • joined 4 Feb 2008

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Galaxy Note 7 flameout: 2 in 5 Samsung fans say they'll never buy from the Korean giant again

AJames

I respect Samsung more now

Every company has product screwups. You judge them by their reaction. Personally I have considered Samsung and the other Korean companies very weak on service and support in the past, but in this case they did the right thing and halted shipment of a defective product. I respect them more now, not less. I am more likely to buy a Samsung product in the future than I was before.

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Calgary uni pays ransomware criminals $20k for its files back

AJames

Backups?

The question I always want to ask when I hear about a ransomware hit like this is: where are the backups? Surely a professional IT department of a major institution should have multiple levels of secure backups that would thwart any ransomware attempts? And if not, why hasn't the head of department been fired yet?

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Boffins' gravitational wave detection hat trick blows open astronomy

AJames

Re: Curious how they eliminate one potential source of error

Yes, I understand that they did a lot of work to reduce and nearly eliminate local sources of vibration in what must be one of the most sensitive vibration detectors on earth. But the fact that they spent so much time and effort working on it shows that it's not easy, and there's no single clean solution to it. The argument that vibration transmitted through the earth from a site equidistant from both detectors wouldn't be strong enough to travel that far without being detected by other sensors is plausible, but I'd like to see data supporting that. However, I've just finished reading the paper and I see that in section IV they wrote specifically about this topic and state that the environmental sensors should be sensitive enough to detect any vibration in the same magnitude range as their gravity wave signal, and in fact the level of noise detected by the environmental sensors at that time amounted to no more than 6% of their signal magnitude.

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AJames

Re: So . . . . .

Gravity waves spread out in all directions following a standard inverse-square law for power dissipation. By the time it reaches us after 1.3 billion years traveling at the speed of light it has spread to such a vast sphere that it's a very tiny signal. Working backwards they can determine that the wave was created with a burst of energy 50 times greater than the entire rest of the visible universe was producing at that instant. It basically consumed 3 x our sun's mass in an instant, converted to energy using E=mc2.

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AJames

Curious how they eliminate one potential source of error

I understand that the wide physical separation eliminates local sources when they see the same signal at almost the same time in both detectors, but how do they eliminate the possibility that the vibration originated deep in the earth at a point nearly equidistant from both detectors? After all, we're talking about very, very tiny signal. Surely the earth produces its own wide range of grumbles at depths all the way down to the core. Maybe one of those just happened to look like a merging-black-holes "chirp". Probably the reason they used the word "chirp" to describe the signal is that it's a familiar pattern produced by many phenomena.

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Skype now translates in real-time into seven languages

AJames

Shame about how well it works in one language

At one time I used Skype a lot to speak with family and friends, but then Microsoft took over and thoroughly broke it. Now it needs constant updates to work at all, and I can never call anyone or receive calls using Skype because it no longer rings or beeps for incoming calls or messages on Android or iOS for any of us. Skype ignores questions about this issue this in their support forums, apparently thinking that the solution is for everyone to use Windows phones. Pretty much everyone in my circle has moved on to other apps like WhatsApp. Most of them no longer have Skype installed.

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TPP: 'Scary' US-Pacific trade deal published – you're going to freak out when you read it

AJames

Re: Downloading legal in Canada? You must mean the other Canada, because it's not legal in this one.

You are referring to the so-called "notice and notice" system introduced by the Canadian government's recent Copyright Modernization Act. ISPs are required to forward copyright violation notices to customers who are identified only by an IP address. They are further required to keep the customer IP address assignment on file for at least 6 months. If the copyright complainant chooses to launch a lawsuit, the ISP is required to turn over their customer's identity in response to a court order. As always, it's up to the courts to decide guilt or innocence and set the damages within the range allowed by the law. As nobody has yet been sued for downloading, it may be a long time before any of the legal issues surrounding it are decided in a court of law. Currently copyright enforcers have sued only torrenters, since their IP address is known and they can be shown to be distributing copyrighted material by participating in the torrent. As I said, low-hanging fruit.

Perhaps you'd care to point to France as a model of enforcing copyright on the internet via a government agency? Here are the numbers from France in their first 5 years of enforcement:

37,000,000 complaints received by the agency (they say they only have resources to look at about half of them)

5,400,000 first warning notices issued

504,000 second warning notices issued

2900 third strike notices issued

2336 referred for investigation

400 referred for prosecution (only the most serious repeat offenders)

The fine can range up to 1500 euros, but so far the maximum fine issued has been 500 euros to a few who failed to respond to the prosecution notice. The highest fine issued to those who admitted guilt for repeat uploading was 300 euros.

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AJames

Downloading legal in Canada? You must mean the other Canada, because it's not legal in this one.

"There is no requirement to take the material down, since Canadian law says that it is only illegal to upload, and not download, copyrighted material."

Good grief, please take the time to check statements like this for accuracy before publishing them

Copyright law says the same thing in Canada that it says everywhere else. It's illegal to make a copy of any copyrighted material without permission of the copyright holder, except in specifically designated "fair use" circumstances.

You are probably misinterpreting two things:

1. It's much more difficult to catch those downloading illegal copies from the internet because their IP address is not publicly visible the way it is when uploading or torrenting, so copyright enforcers are currently going for the low-hanging fruit. That doesn't mean that anyone should think downloading an unauthorized copy is legal. Try admitting to it publicly and see what happens.

2. It's currently a legal grey area to be determined by the courts in some future case as to whether viewing a stream without making a local copy is equivalent to "making a copy" in copyright law. There are arguments both ways.

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Fancy a mile-high EARJOB? We've had five!

AJames

Appreciate the review, but it would have been nice to see a few specs or measurements as well.

Also, several inaccuracies on the first page gave me doubts:

1. Noise canceling headphones are always the active kind. Passive "noise-islolating" headphones may attenuate noise, but they do not in any way "cancel" noise. Please correct your terminology.

2. Noise canceling headphones do not make you "think" that you do not hear the noise, they actually apply energy to cancel the sound wave so that it isn't there any more.

3. You do not have to be out of your mind to wear noise-canceling earbuds during a flight. While most earbuds may be less comfortable for long-term wear, there are some well-designed ones that that can be reasonably comfortable. They can do an excellent job of passive noise isolation in addition to the active noise canceling, and they have the added advantage that on many flights you are allowed to wear earbuds during the takeoff and landing phases of flight (the noisiest) while you are not allowed to wear headphones.

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Dead device walking: Apple iPod Touch 6th generation

AJames

Cheapest entry level to iOS

If there's one good reason to keep the iPod Touch around, it's because it's the cheapest entry-level iOS device. If you want to be able to use all those great iOS apps without paying for an iPhone or iPad, this is the way.

Of course there are a few significant drawbacks: the battery lifespan sucks: it will be practically dead in 2 years, and it's non-replaceable. And contrary to the comments made in this article, the sound quality of the iPod Touch also sucks (all recent models). It is distinctly worse than classic iPod models and the few remaining competing music players. I'm no snob about barely-audible differences in audio quality, but the iPod Touch is worse than it should be.

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'It's better to burn out, than to fade away on worst audio in history'

AJames

Nothing new for Neil Young

He's been ranting for years about the sound quality of compressed music. The current battle over streaming quality is just his latest opportunity to go public about it again. I'm sure he's sincere, but a lot of people sincerely believe things that are wrong. Could he pass this test?: http://www.npr.org/sections/therecord/2015/06/02/411473508/how-well-can-you-hear-audio-quality

(note that a Neil Young track is included in the test suite)

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Bloke called Rod struck by lightning for second time

AJames

Presumably the odds of being struck twice in a lifetime are 1 in 3000 squared, or 1 in 9 million. That would mean that it will probably happen to around 30 Americans.

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Super Cali goes ballistic – Uber says it's bogus (even though its contract is something quite atrocious)

AJames

No surprise

When I was working as a morning newspaper delivery boy 30 years ago, a group challenged the newspaper over their poor treatment of the delivery boys under employment law. The newspaper claimed that they were independent contractors, but the judge ruled that the newspaper could not call them independent and still control the end price of the newspaper to customers and the delivery terms and conditions. Welcome to the law, Uber.

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Spaniard sues eBay over right to sell the Sun

AJames
Alien

Prior claim

Her claim is completely invalid. I own the Milky Way Galaxy, and she hasn't been paying me rent.

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Last flying Avro Vulcan, XH558, prepares for her swan song

AJames

Starring role in Thunderball

Don't forget the Vulcan's most famous on-screen role as the nuclear bomber hijacked by SPECTRE and ditched in the Caribbean for James Bond to discover in the original Thunderball.

http://www.urbanghostsmedia.com/2012/06/rare-photographs-avro-vulcan-bomber-mock-up-thunderball-bond/

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Look out, law abiding folk: UK’s Counter-Extremism Bill slithers into view

AJames

All good citizens should conform to the norm!

Oh wait, isn't that communism? What's the one I mean, the one where the secret police round up dissenters and throw them prison?

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Hated smart meters likely to be 'a costly failure' – MPs

AJames

Missing a major source of savings

Here in British Columbia, Canada the local electrical utility BC Hydro told the public that they would offset part the cost of their $1 billion smart meter program by catching and shutting down more marijuana grow operations that were stealing power. They failed to explain how smart meters would help catch these illegal operators known for bypassing their electrical meters to steal power directly from the grid. Sadly their plan doesn't seem to have worked, and instead we are facing huge increases in electrical rates to pay for the smart meters.

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ALIENS are surely AMONG US: Average star has TWO potentially Earth-like worlds

AJames

What aliens would say to us if they could

Among the many theories proposed as to why aliens aren't communicating with us, one of the most disturbing is that if they could, what they would say to us is:

"Shut up, you fools!"

We're like a lost fawn bleating in the forest for its mother. We're likely to attract the attention of whatever it is that has everyone else staying quiet and hiding. That's why there has been some criticism of certain experiments attempting to broadcast from earth to other potentially-inhabited star systems. Is it worth taking the chance? Do you want someone else taking that chance on behalf of all of us?

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Go Canada: Now ILLEGAL to auto-update software without 'consent'

AJames

Re: Not bad

The problem is that it's worse than just futile. The last time they tried this sort of thing (i.e., their anti-spam legislation that required companies to obtain explicit consent to communicate with customers), all Canadian companies had to waste a vast amount of effort and money sending out emails seeking permission to continue communicating with their customers. People were overwhelmed with the volume of messages (hmmm, sounds a lot like the problem they were trying to solve in the first place), and probably missed responding to some that they should have. Of course real spam volumes were unaffected because almost all of it comes from spammers outside the country who don't care about Canadian legislation. It was pointless political posturing that ended up being worse than the problem it purported to solve, as usual. I suspect this latest legislation will be the same.

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Mr President, is this a war on hackers – or a war on people stopping hackers?

AJames

With friends like these...

I have to say that Mr. Obama has been a huge disappointment to his small-d democratic constituency in the United States and internationally. Not only has he failed to deliver on almost every front that he promised, he has frankly shown a worrying expediency in accommodating lobbyists and a lack of commitment to the ideals he espouses in his speeches. Let this been a lesson for big-D Democrats next time they vote: ignore the speechifying and take a closer look at the man and his track record.

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Australia tries to ban crypto research – by ACCIDENT

AJames

Necessary sacrifices

We must all be prepared to make personal sacrifices in the name of security for all, especially in view of <most recent public outrage>. If you are not in favour of <draconian human-rights-trampling security measure>, then you stand with the <terrorists/child molesters/witches/infidels/blasphemers/devil-worshipers>.

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Tides of Maritinia: The spy who jumped into a sci-fi water world

AJames

I thought those photos looked familiar

For a moment I wondered if the book had already been made into a movie. :)

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What a pity: Rollout of hated UK smart meters delayed again

AJames

Not effective

We've had them here in our city in Canada for 4 years now.

Result:

- no energy savings

- utility plans 60% increase in electricity bills to pay down the debt they incurred (and hid with accounting tricks)

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EU-Canada airline passenger data-sharing is not a done deal

AJames

The voice of reason

It's nice to see someone try to restrain the rush to implement a global police state. Certainly the Harper government here in Canada used the sad incident of violence by a single mentally-disturbed individual as an excuse to press its agenda of increased secret surveillance.

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Trips to Mars may be OFF: The SUN has changed in a way we've NEVER SEEN

AJames

Not the best wording

"a 3 per cent risk of an astronaut dying due to radiation exposure during a mission is seen as the acceptable limit"

Yikes!

Perhaps "a 3 per cent risk of an astronaut eventually dying due to radiation exposure received during a mission is seen as the acceptable limit" might be better.

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Yahoo! dumps! thing! that! made! it! Yahoo! and! told! to! bed! AOL!

AJames

Yahoo does have value

I've used Yahoo's email, calendar, contacts, and groups for many years, both at home and at work, and I've always been pretty happy to have all that functionality for free. Yes, Google and Microsoft have improved their offerings in recent years, and like everyone else I'm forced to use Google for some things, but I stick with Yahoo as my go-to choice. If they started charging a fee for business services, I would pay it. I just wish they would quit fiddling with the interface design. They keep breaking things while they are re-arranging them to no apparent purpose.

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SanDisk Extreme Pro SSD – courting speed freaks and gamers

AJames

But can you rely on SanDisk's support

I have a SanDisk SSD on the system I'm using, which I bought because of the great performance specs. Only to find a few months later that performance was deteriorating rapidly because of a firmware bug in the Sandforce controller. It turned out that every SSD manufacturer was aware of this bug and had agreed not to mention while awaiting a fix from Sandforce. When the bug was reported publicly, every SSD manufacturer other than SanDisk acknowledged the problem, apologized to customers, and released the fix as promptly as possible. SanDisk stonewalled customers, refusing to respond. Eventually they caved in and release a bug fix for their product, months after all the other manufacturers. I suspect that they would have quietly let it slide if the issue hadn't become public. Draw your own conclusions, but I'm avoiding SanDisk products in future.

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iPhone 6: Advanced features? Pah! Nexus 4 had most of them in 2012

AJames

Now if only Google could make Android work right!

I have both iOS and Android devices, and it's pretty clear that iOS is still the champ when it comes to usability and reliability. My latest phone uses Android 4.4.4, and I often have the urge to bash it against the wall until there's nothing left buy tiny bits! Not the phone's fault, it's all Android and Google to blame. It's much less reliable than my oldest tablet that uses Android 4.1.2,

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What could possibly go wrong? Banks could provide ID assurance for Gov.UK – report

AJames

Re: Meh

Canada too. When I want to access many types of government business or personal service sites, I have a choice of signing in with my banking ID from certain approved private bank partners, or applying for a separate government web ID that takes several steps and several months to obtain (and no, it's not universal, various other government services require dozens of other unique IDs). I use the bank partner ID, but I'm not happy about it. The government leaks private information like a sieve if the history of the last few years is any indication.

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Banking apps: Handy, can grab all your money... and RIDDLED with coding flaws

AJames

Not surprising

I don't think anyone is surprised by this. You could choose any random group of software applications and find the same thing. We could hope that mobile banking apps would be better tested than most, but I think we all suspect that they aren't.

From my own perspective of decades of experience as a software developer, product manager, and software business owner, I know it's really about the money, but I'd also like to point the finger of blame at two technical issues:

1. The C language and its derivatives. Biggest mistake in the history of computers. Every time you hear about a buffer overflow error in software, realize that it's due to a fundamental design flaw in the C language that leads to the same error repeated over and over. If civil engineers had used building techniques as flawed as the C language, our civilization would lie in ruins today.

2. The preferred modern software development method of "code and test incrementally until it doesn't crash any more". Naturally produces poorly tested software riddled with bugs. Reminds me of the early history of constructing railroad bridges: no need for detailed analysis, if it falls down we'll double the strength and try again.

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Americans to be guinea pigs in vast chip-and-PIN security experiment

AJames

Americans are so funny

Yes, by all means let's have a vast chip-and-PIN experiment. Except that the rest of the world has been on chip-and-PIN for years. Next you'll be telling us about a radical experiment with a brand-new system of decimal measurements!

In any case, it's not so much about security as it is about liability. Concurrent with the switch to a chip-and-PIN card, you will get a nice little change of service agreement from your bank with lots of fine print which basically says that you are deemed 100% liable for any card transactions which they claim have used your PIN.

No more of those messy fraud investigations, the customer is responsible! Never mind those pesky cases where the customer claims that he was half a world away and has never shared his PIN with anyone. Never mind those cases where the it turns out that the bank lied when they claimed that the PIN was used. Minor incidents, nothing to get in the way of a great innovation in liabilityxxxxx I mean of course security.

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NSA man: 'Tell me about your Turkish connections'

AJames

When your tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail

If you want to know why the plods and the spooks are so obsessed with metadata, blame British company i2 (now owned by IBM) for producing the #1 tool used by intelligence analysts worldwide: http://www-03.ibm.com/software/products/en/analysts-notebook

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Presto! After Supreme Court loss, Aereo says it's a cable company now

AJames

Disingenuous

The broadcast network lawyers are astonished that Aereo would offer a defence that appears to contradict their initial contention that they aren't a cable company? What law school did they attend where they didn't learn about "argument in the alternative"? Even I've seen that routine legal strategy in small claims court, as in "it wasn't me driving that car that hit you, but if it was, then it wasn't my fault".

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Google kills its successful social network. Yes, we mean Orkut

AJames

Re: Well, that's annoying

I turned one of my Gmail accounts into a Google+ account, and I see that Google actually is smart enough to tell you which of your Orkut friends already have Google+ accounts, and it lets you link up automatically.

I had a moment's pause though when the Google+ setup asked me to agree that "I understand the changes that this will make to my Picasa Web Albums". Those changes turn out to be that your web photo albums that you shared with specific friends will now be shared with everyone on Google+ unless you restrict them.

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AJames

Well, that's annoying

I have many friends in Brazil who I have stayed in touch with over the years using Orkut. Now I'll have to track them all down individually and get linked up to them on another service before September. I can see why Google can't simply transfer these links automatically - few people are going to have a Google+ account, and Google wouldn't have permission to set up Facebook links. But if they were smarter they could have provided some sort of automatic global notification, e.g., send out a message to all contacts saying "Your friend X is now on Google+, click here if you want to link up on Google+ [Create account]".

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Redmond reinstates infosec mailing list after Canadian law panic

AJames

Another dumb idea

Another dumb idea brought to you by politicians who want to appear to be doing something.

Predictably it hasn't had any effect on spam, since almost all of the sources are outside of Canada have never heard of this legislation, and wouldn't care if they did. As noted in the article, most small businesses in Canada were unaware of it until recently, and have no idea how it would affect them.

The reason why everyone is aware of it now is that our mailboxes have been flooded with requests from legitimate businesses to confirm that we still want to receive important emails from them. In view of the confusing wording of the law, they all felt it was best to confirm compliance. As a result businesses across the country are spending millions of dollars going through a compliance process or just responding to all these requests. Another own goal by our politicians!

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New MH370 search zone picked using just seven satellite 'handshakes'

AJames

Satellite data is all they have to go on

There was some doubt about the satellite data early on because Inmarsat wasn't releasing any details, and the aircraft flight path that it indicated was so unlikely that it was hard to believe without any corroborating information or any good theory of how it could have happened.

There is still no corroborating information, and still no good theory about what happened, but enough experts have gone over the satellite data in detail now to confirm that the flight path is almost certain to be approximately correct. It's not impossible to find other flight paths that could produce the same readings, but they are very unlikely. The problem is that there are enough unresolvable uncertainties in the calculation that the area of ocean to be covered is still huge.

We'll probably never know what happened until the wreckage is found - and even then it might still be difficult. Shattered debris from a high-speed crash into the ocean, scoured by currents for months or years, black boxes that would have recycled every 2 hours during the flight even if they can be found - they might not tell enough of the story. Unfortunately the best chance to figure out what went wrong would be if there's a similar initial incident on another 777.

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AJames

Re: Ughh... bad news

He means floating debris. It took a long time to locate the actual wreckage of the Air France plane on the bottom of the Atlantic, but they found floating debris to confirm the crash area within days.

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SpaceX billionaire claims Air Force official 'likely' made job-for-spy-sat-contract deal

AJames

Understanding how the game is played

To understand this you need to know how the defence procurement game is played. Filing a protest and making Twitter comments is not done lightly, it's part of a carefully evaluated corporate strategy. Almost all major procurement contracts are ultimately decided by uncompetitive backroom deals that are years in the making, and a whole lot of people get paid off with favours to make it happen. It's understood that everybody eventually gets their turn at the next contract if not this one, as long as they avoid messy public protests. But once in a while things go a little too far, and it's time to make a big, messy protest. There is zero chance that the protest will be successful, and it's understood that the protesting company will be punished for it. But it's intended to give notice that the government side needs to rein things in and play fair in the future, or else their normally-tame bidder will blow them all up. For established companies it has to be done about once every 10 years, or they'll think the company is a pushover that can safely be ignored when they're doling out the procurements. For a new player like Space-X, they have to be more aggressive to muscle their way to the table.

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Inmarsat: Doppler effect helped 'locate' MH370

AJames

Re: Truly astonishing amount of information stored

It looks like those first 3 data points after 2am local time are from a single ping message where the velocity changed rapidly throughout the ping, giving them 3 separate readings. They think it's because the aircraft was turning. How long does a ping take?

If that's the case, the Malaysians are correct in saying that there were 6 pings, and everyone has been wrong in assuming the pings were hourly. The interval appears to be slightly longer on average and slightly random.

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AJames

I don't see how that would work. Knowing the satellite wobble can only tell you about the motion of the satellite, not the motion of the aircraft.

Perhaps it's more to do with the fact that if the aircraft flies to the south it crosses over the equator, so initially it is pointing slightly more toward the satellite as it approaches the equator and then slightly more away after it crosses the equator. Whereas on the northern route it starts out north of the equator and continues north.

But looking at the geometry here, two things stand out:

There are several key assumptions required about what the aircraft actually did in order to correlate this analysis with a real world path. One can imagine other alternative aircraft paths that could fit the data equally well if it didn't actually fly north or south.

There are few data points, and the random motion of the aircraft in the air has got to be almost on par with the small velocity differences that InMarSat is trying to read. Where are the error bars on this chart? Where is the statistical analysis of likely this fit is?

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AJames

Re: Truly astonishing amount of information stored

Finally, some real information in the link from the article! Too bad it's still a pretty long chain from InMarSat through 2 other agencies to a Facebook page. I assume the Annex referred to is just the 3 diagrams?

But the chart raises several questions:

Why does the Malaysian release say that 6 pings were received after the aircraft disappeared, while the chart shows 7 (not counting the final partial ping)?

Why does the chart show measured data points that are clearly not hourly when all sources until now have said that the pings were on a regular hourly schedule at 11 minutes after the hour?

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Reg tries out Google's Chromecast: Yep, we even tested smut sites

AJames

Tab-casting versus handover

When you tab-cast anything from your Chrome browser, your PC is indeed doing the heavy lifting. It has to transcode the incoming video stream to a compatible format and re-transmit it to the Chromecast. The Google Cast extension in Chrome that does this is not very efficient, and the video stutters, quite badly on slower computers. The WiFi connection doesn't really enter into it.

When you cast from the BBC iPlayer app on Android, it instead hands over streaming to the Chromecast itself. You can shut down your Android device entirely if you wish after starting playback on the Chromecast. In this mode you will find that the BBC iPlayer video streams smoothly.

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Planes fail to find 'credible' candidate for flight MH370 wreckage

AJames

There are a lot of limitations to satellite surveillance that you wouldn't necessarily be aware of. The satellites follow a polar orbit that only brings them over a given point on the earth's surface every few days typically. There aren't ground stations everywhere to receive a real-time downlink, recorders are limited and unreliable, and orbital relay systems not available in most cases. There's a hard bandwidth limit that means you can have detail or broad coverage, but not both. There's a limited power budget which means the satellite may not be able to transmit all the time. That's especially true for Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellites, and the Australian images are clearly SAR (probably Radarsat). Considerable post-processing is required for SAR, so you aren't going to get images right away - hence the delay of days on the Australian images.

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AJames

Re: BUT...

The ACARS on MH370 only transmitted data every 30 minutes. Somebody misunderstood that initially and started the whole "suspiciously disabled before the last radio transmission" theory. Malaysian authorities later realized the mistake and retracted the whole thing, but the damage was done. It lingers in people's minds that there was something suspicious about how the onboard systems were turned off that confirms it was an intentional disappearance.

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MH370 airliner MYSTERY: The El Reg Pub/Dinner-party Guide

AJames

Re: The simplest explanation and confirmation bias

To be clear, the article we are writing is about the psychology of the investigation rather than the technical details, so we aren't attempting to decide which is the correct explanation based on the limited and often inaccurate information that has been published so far. However we obviously need to understand the technical evidence in order to understand how it has influenced the investigation.

I discount the military radar data because I am familiar with such radar data and I have a good idea what it does or doesn't show. For those who aren't personally familiar, I suggest you read the accounts of the incident where the U.S.S. Vincennes shot down an Iranian airliner by mistake. Although equipped with a very advanced AEGIS phased array radar system, they identified the Airbus airliner as an F14 fighter and thought it was descending toward the ship when it was actually climbing to cruising altitude. It was only 9 miles away when they decided to fire missiles at it. Does that tell you enough about the ability of military radars to identify unknown targets under ideal conditions of close range and no terrain clutter?

I have no doubt that the InMarSat engineers are very competent and are working diligently to clarify and verify their data. I also note that InMarSat has said nothing much officially since their initial hasty comments to the press. Why would I doubt their abilities? Here's a couple of things to think about:

1. I doubt that InMarSat's satellite ping data is identified as "Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370". It probably has a transmitter number assigned to Malaysian Airlines, and they are relying on Malaysian Airlines to give them the correct number from their records. Of course the aircraft itself is no longer available to verify that they have the right number...

2. Do you remember when NASA's Mars Climate Orbiter crashed into Mars and was lost because an engineer confused metric and imperial units? Engineers make mistakes, even basic dumb mistakes. Maybe like not converting time zones correctly when analyzing data in a way they have never been asked to do before?

I'm not saying that it's definitely a mistake. Just that we don't know until it's verified very carefully, and it's a lot to hang a very expensive investigation on. You would want to be really, really sure.

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AJames

The simplest explanation and confirmation bias

The simplest explanation is that MH370 crashed into the sea near where it disappeared, and the rest of the shaky evidence and wild speculation is simply wrong (as much of it has already proven to be).

I'm working on an article to that effect with an associate who specializes in the psychology of investigators and the ways that investigations can go wrong (we don't expect the missing flight to be found before the article is published). This case is a classic, with all the signs. My associate doesn't know how to evaluate the technical details in the reporting, so I'm helping out as an engineer who knows a lot about air traffic control systems and satellite systems. While there is certainly some technical evidence of a flight diversion, I have to say that it has been very poorly reported, and I consider it at least as questionable as other evidence that has already proven false.

Most people don't seem to understand the need to evaluate individual bits of evidence independently in the early stages of an investigation to avoid "confirmation bias". One bit of questionable evidence leads to a theory, and suddenly everyone is trying to confirm that theory, adding more questionable evidence that isn't independent while ignoring other evidence that doesn't fit the theory.

There is certainly some evidence that the flight was diverted, and I wouldn't rule out that it might well prove to have been in the end. But extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and so far there are only two bits of evidence that amount to anything in my view:

1. The wreckage hasn't been found in the area of disappearance. In every previous case of an airliner crashing at sea, floating debris and bodies were found within days. There are possible explanations, but I still think it's a key point.

2. The supposed InMarSat data. The problem with this is that the news reports are extremely vague and often inaccurate. It may consist of a single data point, and having never looked for such data before, InMarSat officials probably have no idea how accurate or error-prone it may be. Any number of possible errors could render it meaningless, such as a mis-identification of the transmitter number, incorrect conversion of the time stamp, or incomplete data stuck in a buffer being flushed out hours later.

The military radar data is nonsense.

It's not much on which to base a lengthy and extremely expensive search effort when common sense suggests that the original search area is more likely to be correct. Since it's no longer an emergency, the investigators should sit back, clear their heads, and go over the evidence again with fresh eyes and more in-depth analysis.

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Bugger the jetpack, where's my 21st-century Psion?

AJames

I wanted one so badly!

I really wanted one of those early Psion pocket PCs, but I could never find one at a reasonable price in Canada. I almost bought one in Singapore, but I had already exceeded my duty-free allowance. :(

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Netflix coughs up to cruise on Comcast

AJames

Old news?

It may be no more than the continuation of the Open Connect peering initiative: http://www.engadget.com/2012/06/04/netflix-introduces-its-own-cdn-open-connect-network/

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Report: Prez Obama kicks Healthcare.gov contractor to curb for web disaster

AJames

Looks to me like CGI Federal did a great job

CGI Federal have fulfilled their most important purpose - to take the blame for the screwup, leaving the government managers ultimately in charge of delivering healthcare.gov to hide in the shadows. I bet they all moved on to other posts up the chain before it hit the fan, and their replacements are able to say it's not their fault.

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