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* Posts by Burbage

25 posts • joined 7 Feb 2008

SCIENCE and RELIGION AGREE! LIFE and Man ARE from CLAY

Burbage

Re: Life formed in clay?

Although it''s not a new idea this paper does provide a little more evidence in favour of it. Moreover, it suggests that things more probably kicked off (as popularly suspected) with strings of nucleotides, rather than, say, strings of amino acids, or life-forms from other stars. Whether it's worth taking an interest in the subject is a different question, given it's far too late to do anything about it now. But each to their own.

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Bloke in shed starts own DAB radio station - with Ofcom's blessing

Burbage

Next week....

Lady in attic starts own telegram service.

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Our week with Soylent: Don't chuck out your vintage food quite yet

Burbage

FYI

Idiots with $770,000 in the bank can thoroughly enjoy parties. You are, however, right to suggest that parties aren't the prime motivatation for getting all 'technological & shit'.

I cannot, obviously, speak for others, but my own 'technological & shit' career has featured little in the way of parties, dollars or, for that matter, fun. So I can speak from experience when asserting that being able to cook is an admirable skill but significantly less important than being able to put food on the table.

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Gov report: Actually, evil City traders DIDN'T cause the banking crash

Burbage

Not sure about the conclusion

The conclusion suggest that, as many suspected, the right thing to have done would have been to let RBS, Northern Rock etc. go to the wall. That would certainly be the right thing in any ordinary market. But banks aren't part of an ordinary market. The deposits they safeguard, or fail to safeguard, aren't safeguarded by them at all. They're underwritten, at least to an extent that matters, by the taxpayer. So we had to bail them out.

The failure of Lehman's, and the need for a wider bail-out, was a largely separate matter. But that was at least partly triggered by unsustainable lending, albeit elsewhere, and gambling on the derivatives based on them. That might not have brought HBOS itself down, but that doesn't make it a good thing. Especially where there's a lack of regulation and especially in markets where retail and investment banks can be the same thing. To claim that this report suggests banking reform is unnecessary is like claiming that, because some people die of drowning, we shouldn't worry about malaria.

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NASA chief: Earth is DOOMED if we spot a big asteroid at short notice

Burbage

Doomed

"If it's coming in three weeks ... pray," Bolden replied. "The reason I can't do anything in the next three weeks is because for decades we have put it off."

Decades? It's been at least three thousand years and, if the evolutionists are right, nearer three million. The last strike of any consequence might arguably have wiped out all the dinosaurs, but nobody can seriously argue that had any significant deleterious effect, economic or otherwise. Yet, in the meantime, human populations have been decimated by successive plagues and famines and, just within the last century, we've managed to flatten a few cities with no help from outer space.

If the US really wants to save the world, its money would be better spent on surgical masks, instant noodles and better weapons.

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Customer service rep fired for writing game that mocks callers

Burbage

Re: Load the lawyers!

I wouldn't bother. The official arse-covering response (civil servants being much the same everywhere), is irrelevant. As, in all probability, is the game. They'll almost certainly have him for mentioning his job to a newspaper without written clearance, and with public-sector redundancies being something of a sport almost everywhere, the opportunity to save a redundancy payment will have been just too good to miss.

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Police use 24/7 power grid recordings to spot doctored audio

Burbage

Re: Isn't this only for recordings made by AC powered devices?

Well, possibly, though the way it's being sold is that it would work even if you were using a clockwork recorder on a train.

What matters with this sort of wheeze is not whether the technique is infallible or even moderately well-proven. What matters is how readily the courts accept it. The lesson of low-copy-number DNA 'matching', accepted instantly by the courts before anyone bothered to question whether it was reliable, made any statistical sense, or was properly understood by the judiciary might have been a useful one, but there's no sign that it's been learnt, and I strongly doubt this technique will be queried much, either. I suspect the first consequences will be that any recorded evidence supplied by defendants will be swifty declared iffy and that the Met will make a small killing for the privilege of doing so.

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Adobe demands 7,000 years a day from humankind

Burbage

Much ado about nothing

The real purpose of a EULA is about limiting liability. If, for example, a bug in Acrobat leads to a formula rendering improperly and, as a consequence, a nuclear power station explodes, Adobe, quite rightly, would want to have something in writing absolving them of responsibility, if only to save them having to argue the toss in a court.

EULAs aren't really there to waste your time or force you to be dishonest. They are an evil, but a necessary one. Partly they're to enable revenue protection activities, but mostly they're there to deter those silly chancers who seem tempted to sue every company they've ever heard of for every misfortune they've ever suffered, not all of whom are too poor to win. I won't mention names, but when the world's got a plutocrat in it who's happy to threaten suits against governments, beauty pageants and even their own law firm, it's as well to take precautions.

A EULA may take some minutes to read, but what about the 57 articles of the Montreal convention, the 21 pages you agree to when posting a letter, the 31 pages when buying a rail ticket, or the turgid screeds that accompany (or are deemed to accompany) every insurance policy, pension plan, taxi ride, utility provider, courier service or retailer?. The only reason you're not complaining about them is because, I guess, you've never been clearly given the option to read them. I don't see how that makes them better.

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Petraeus appeal: STOP BUBBA the Love Sponge FRYING a KORAN

Burbage

Not even 'reportedly'?

At the risk of being overly pedantic, the emails from Kelley to Buckthorn may give the impression that Petraeus et al wanted to stop the frying stunt, but it's the only evidence so far that they did.

In other words, we only have Kelley's word for it that anyone in the military was at all concerned, and there is considerable doubt as to whether Kelley wasn't, on occasion, susceptible to stretching the truth.

That you've reported Petraeus's interest as fact, but the content of the published emails as 'reported' is odd. Unless you're angling for a job at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

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Files aren’t property, says US government

Burbage

It makes sense to me

They're not saying they files aren't property, but that Goodwin has no interest in it, as per the Megaupload T&Cs, and on account of the files containing other people's copyrighted material. Moreover, according to the first footnote in the filing, the government holds "images of certain servers the government seized as evidence" which seems to mean that rather than physically taking the servers, they just copied the content. Passing any of that content back to people who don't own the copyright and don't have a property interest would amount to piracy, so it's hardly surprising the government is reluctant to stumble into that trap.

This may, indeed, have a 'chilling' effect on the cloud. But it's about time something did. The cloud is all very nice, but nobody in their right mind would entrust mission-critical data to a pan-jurisdictional coagulation of agreements that are, at best, opaque to the end user. The cloud is not an adequate replacement for proper, physical backups, or an acceptable substitute for internal IT systems or skills. While people think it is, we need annoying stories like this to carry on beating the sanity drum.

The EFF are very lovely people, but they really shouldn't be encouraging people to send personal data, or anything of any sensitivity, cloudwards. Not because we don't have a perfectly defendable right to do so if we wish, but because it's bloody stupid.

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Nobody knows what to call Microsoft's ex-Metro UI

Burbage

Crazy?

The number doesn't look right to me, but I'm not a corporate accountant. Perhaps there's a good reason to spend a sum equivalent to an entire year's profit on 'research and development'.

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MULTICOLOURED TARANTULAS found UP TREES in Brazil

Burbage

Re: genuine question

Funny you should ask that. The answer is yes, and, unusually, they can exude it from their feet.

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/13382903 for details (warning, spider pics)

Spider silk isn't just used for predatory webs. It's used to make homes (funnels and tunnels and trapdoors), to protect young (the nursery spiders make little tents full of spiderlings), to constrain prey, to package up eggs and for transport - both for the traditional dangly stuff and, if they're not too heavy, for 'parachuting' on the wind from one place to another. Some insects, particularly moths, can use silk in some of these ways, but only spiders have such a wide range of uses, and only spiders, as far as I know, can vary the structure of their silk according to what they are doing.

That said, I'm still terrified of the bastards.

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Steve Jobs' Apple-powered yacht makes belated first trip

Burbage

Re: Yuks

That was called "A Room for London", and I can see no similaries at all.

This, on the other hand, is a very lovely boat.. Though, given what can happen to aluminium bicycle frames, especially if the council's put salt on the roads, I'd give it three years.

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Yahoo! will! ignore! 'Do! Not! Track!' from! IE10!

Burbage

Almost...

The letter of the EU directive is not the same thing as the law. In the case of the UK, the Information Commissioner changed their guidelines, a year after the law was supposed to have come into force, to the effect that their new idea of 'explicit consent' would be anyone else's 'assumed consent', following a unexpectedly productive set of discussions with Google and the like, after which 'analytical' cookies were deemed exempt, even when set by an advertising network, and the aim turned from protecting individuals from the intrusions of 'legitimate business' to a valiant fight on behalf of an ignorant and vulnerable population against the burgeoning menace of spyware. It was creative solution to a tricky legal problem, and I expect they got a nice lunch out of it.

But, before you start wondering whether there's any point to democracy, or having any laws given that the wealthy can have them so swiftly bent to any shape they desire, it's worth remembering that cookies were a bit rubbish in any case and, whether you consent to them or not (assuming they're hosted in the EU), there's no shortage of direct and indirect tracking mechanisms that remain gratifyingly saleable even if their accuracy might be questioned (happily, there are plenty of media agencies devoted to not questioning it. Or, for that matter, making any distinction between statistical analysis and gouging optimism). Especially given the rapidity with which shared authentication has taken off with publishers, who just happen to rely on certain networks to deliver their ads and/or content. The upshot is that, even if you behave with appropriate paranoia toward the cookie menace, you'd be hard pushed to limit your behavioural spillage, especially if you've fallen for the tricksy charms of mobile devices.

Admittedly, the risks are fairly small. You are, after all, a tiny and nearly worthless fraction of humanity. There are bots earning more than you do, with probably better prospects and almost certainly a better quality of life. The only thing about you that matters is your money and that, if you haven't discovered it already, won't stay yours for long. So, on balance, there's no reason not to look on the bright side.

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Microsoft: Just swallow this tablet ... the rest will take care of itself

Burbage

Are we sure?

It looks very much to me that putting RT on a tablet means they're aiming not so much at the hardware or the software, but as acting as a controlling retail channel. That's where the money is. That and subscription models. If, for comparatively little effort, you can lock in customers to an ecosystem and take a cut of everything they do in it, you can mine the hardware/software dependence without ever having to do anything new. Very much like Apple did with the graphic design community and their frightfully expensive font libraries.

Ten years ago, that would have seemed laughably arrogant, and wouldn't have stood a chance in the retail environment. After the collapse of so many content empires, music stores and the DRM ruckus, expecting people to cede control over their own computers just so they could be more efficiently fleeced would have been as insane an idea as selling "thin clients" to consumers. Or 'push media', for that matter. Back then, computers were tools for enabling creativity and innovation as much as for flogging it. Linux was offering a genuinely open, in all senses, alternative to the proprietary restrictions of monopolists, and a new generation was growing up with computers, unfazed by complexity and jargon, who would engineer innovative solutions, turn data into knowledge and forge a bold, new, meritocratic economy.

It hasn't turned out like that, sadly. Instead, it's turned into a meretricious, ad-spattered, proprietary soup of electronic soma, served up via pointlessly expensive, and mostly useless, devices. Walk through any public space, and you'll see a huddled mass of shuffling humanoids, like an ADHD version of Second Life, tweeting gibberish to the void, waiting for some Shoreditch flack to rediscover the knowledge economy.

Perhaps I'm getting old, but if this is the future, I think I'd rather be dead.

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

Burbage

Re: Agonizing over my TV

That seems by far the best strategy. However tidy we would like to be, entropy is bound to catch up with us. There's no escaping it, and very little point putting much effort into the attempt.

Besides, computer cases, old cardboard boxes, lumps of polystyrene, piles of manuals and crackling Fergusons or Pyes act very well as insulation and cut down on draughts, which helps us discharge our obligations to the wider environment. In that sense, hoarding is a duty rather than a problem.

It's also our right. We're all paying council tax, or the equivalent, and a swift house clearance at the end of it is part of the deal, whether someone off the telly likes it or not. Does it really matter if we or our possessions get recycled now or in a few years' time? In the great scheme of things, it's unlikely.

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Facebook says it's LOSING money in the UK ... pays hardly any tax

Burbage

Yeah, right...

"The massive £15m share based payment is understood to be related to income tax and national insurance"

That's fine, then. As long as scribblers will eagerly swallow a potentially-plausible theory, it doesn't really matter that no clear reason is given for a massive payment being paid, to a parent company in a more tax-efficient regime, that just happens to reduce the UK tax liability to an entirely unsuspicious nothing.

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Serenading mice can sing along if you hum a few bars

Burbage

Re: Question for neuro "boffins"

I'm no boffin, but the point of this was to find out if the songs of mice were innate and unchangeable, or involved forms of thinking and learning.

The new science is that we now know the songs of mice aren't entirely innate or instinctive, and that mice can change their songs according to what they hear, which amounts to learning. That's the 'new science'

The ramifications of this are clearly valuable, and open the way to addressing more intractable scientific challenges. It's now possible to imagine, for example, that within a lifetime we'll be able to teach a guinea pig to sing.

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Perth porkfest crowned ULTIMATE BACON SARNIE

Burbage

Re: Bacon

The "chewy, stringy stuff" is rind. Rind, when cooked properly, adds a crunchy counterpoint to the soft and salty melody of the flesh. But, when cooked improperly, it's fit only for the birds. Most bacon sold now is 'rindless', because enterprising butchers found they could put a premium on 'rindless' bacon, and then use those rinds to make pork scratchings, thus charging twice for something people claimed they didn't want. As a direct result of this, the British Bacon Sandwich declined, losing its peppery zip for a flaccid squelch redolent of butchery greed and Danish piggery, and becoming inedible without the addition of brown sauce, a substance formerly used for polishing brass and punishing children.

The "fatty bacon" of legend is, in fact, 'streaky' bacon, a largely disposable item used in the roasting of game. It can be used in the same way as proper bacon, but only by miserable cheapskates. It can be stringy and chewy, but does improve if you cook it.

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Apple: Thanks for the iPhone 5s, China, now get to the BACK of the queue

Burbage
Headmaster

Caché?

Cachet, surely.

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Are you an ECO POET? Climate science needs YOU

Burbage

"The idea of climate change is so plastic, it can be deployed across many of our human projects and can serve many of our psychological, ethical, and spiritual needs."

Did he deliberately omit "financial"?

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Rebekah Brooks quits - Murdoch accepts this time

Burbage
IT Angle

Hm

Mrs Brooks' value as a human shield to the Murdochs seems to have plummeted since they got their parliamentary summonses. She'll be worth much more as a scapegoat.

There's a lesson in that for most of us, I suspect.

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Ad industry OKs climate porn

Burbage
Go

Branding

'to make Act on CO2 "the premier government-backed behaviour change brand"'

I Can't Believe It's Not Al-Quaida?

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Labour minister says 14 year olds should get ID cards

Burbage

Why?

"Gordon Brown wanted to roll the scheme out “quicker than it was possible.”"

And therefore condemned it to join the list of postponed achievements which currently includes a slimmed-down civil service, electoral reform, a more equal society, internet for everyone, a big conversation, a wired-up NHS, an ethical foreign policy, an elected second chamber, joined-up government, fairer taxation, three sorts of Britishness, proper icons and a stable economy.

I know he wants to get in the history books, but you'd think Terminal 5 and a windfarm would be enough to do the trick.

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Scottish government drafts Cat Welfare Code

Burbage

Catfalls

It's the seventh storey. The reason seems to be that cats normally fall paws-downward. For short falls, under six storeys, their legs can, most of the time, damp the shock of impact. However, once they have reached a certain speed, they change strategy and stick their paws out sideways to limit their rate of descent. In a fall of seven storeys, this change of strategy coincides with impact, suggesting it's a reflex behaviour rather than conscious.

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