* Posts by John Thomas

5 posts • joined 22 Feb 2008

'You can't use Google' - EU Parliament

John Thomas
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Well, which is it?

It seems some serious allegations of prejudiced reporting have been made against Mr Worstall by some posters who claim to know what they're talking about.

Either they're right or Mr Worstall's right, both cannot be telling the truth.

The longer we see no follow-up defense from Mr Worstall, the more readers will their draw conclusions from his silence.

The credibility of the Register is becoming increasingly suspect with articles like this along with its apparent sign up to blind-faith climate-change denial.

If the rot continues, will we even be able to trust its authority on core technology issues?

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John Glenn blasts Moonbase-to-Mars NASA roadmap

John Thomas
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It's not as simple as technology

Who am I to disagree with someone of the experience of John Glenn?

Someone with no professional experience of space technology certainly.

But I do have a lot of professional experience of complex technological innovation.

That experience, if it applies to space technology, says John Glenn is wrong.

He's completely correct in pure energy terms of course. But in my experience solid infrastructure takes far more time and resources than the planners can imagine.

I haven't worked on safety critical infrastructure either. A Mars mission system has to support the entire life support, communications, navigation and propulsion for anything up to three years beyond help from Earth.

A program of testing that involves evolving similar systems for a journey to a body three days away is not just a nice thing to have, it's a necessary precursor. (Presuming that by the time Orion is heading for the moon, they have one or two craft far enough along the pipeline for a rescue launch at a moments notice. ) Even if there are launch systems the US government has kept from the world, I suspect it is very unlikely they have anything that could currently head for Mars in time to make any difference to a stricken vehicle using today's technological infrastructure.

It was technically possible to launch a mission to Mars forty years ago, maybe even further back. But technically possible does not equate to enough mobile phone masts to make a viable national network. It was probably also technically possible to build a business application system that could support all business operations in a multi-national company in a user-friendly fashion. But it would have cost more than the entire GDP of all the countries in the world to equip one large company at that time. And some of the concepts necessary had not even been thought of at the time.

Once upon a time, some of our fellow humans' ancestors crossed the vast Pacific successfully to populate new island paradises in not much more than large canoes with a sail. We have no record of how many of those "missions" were complete failures. Probably a very large number given the limited life support they could carry, the lack of navigational capabilities and propulsion by wind and oar.

But it is unlikely that any public, let alone the American public, would today accept Mars missions launched where there was say a 1 in 100 chance of the highly skilled, highly trained, probably well-rounded human beings involved coming back home alive.

FWIW I don't like agreeing with GWB on anything. But some of his advisers may have got the puppet to say this one right.

Just a pity us Brits can't show you how you're not the invincible nation you think you are by getting there first...

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Gates' last act: frees IE 8 and Silverlight second betas

John Thomas

Gates today hosted .... after 38 years with Microsoft.

I doubt it. Microsoft couldn't have started before the invention of the microprocessor, now could it?

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Six months on from HMRC, data losses still rising, says ICO

John Thomas
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ICO not toothless

I have a letter in front of me from Ken MacDonald, Assistant Commissioner, Scotland of the ICO threatening criminal sanctions against Scottish Community Councils.

There are 1200 of these organizations run entirely by volunteers. Many have annual budgets of just £250 for stationery and the like.

The councils generally discuss local community matters - particularly planning matters, public transport and policing - representing the community interest to the local council and other bodies.

The ICO noticed recently that these councils, which are statutory bodies, were not registered with his office. As this process involves payment of £35 and the filling in of many page forms each year, its perhaps not surprising that volunteers were not storming his door down with application forms.

Also when it's understood that Community Councils do not in general process personal information. When personal information is processed it is generally no more than the names and possibly email addresses of members of the councils. Information that is generally publicly available anyway.

Community Councils generally do not even have computer equipment - any communication is done via members computers and phones.

This process was apparently triggered when a community council published a local child's name in minutes. The fact that the ICO stood to gain £42,000 in annual fees was of course not a factor.

The fact that Community Council registration under the DP Act would mean those CCs or a representative of those CCs had signed up to "the Data Protection principles" and thereby promised not to be naughty again will, as far as I can tell, make no difference to the likelihood of an incident similar to the "Orkneys incident" happening again.

So when it comes to attacking local groups made up of volunteers giving their time in an effort to benefit their local community, the ICO has plenty of teeth.

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Ofcom auctions off high frequencies

John Thomas
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The UK Government has the right to sell anything that doesn't already belong to someone

The Trustee Savings Bank (anyone remember that?), tidal harmonics and therefore the orbital mechanics of the moon (see UK Hydrographic Office), map data gathered at UK taxpayers expense (see Ordnance Survey).

Ben Elton was mostly right. All we have to wait for now is the establishment of OFAIR.

In future legitimate UK citizens can buy their right to breathe from it when they obtain their ID card renewal.

Anyone persistently refusing to buy a license will eventually face the suffocation officer who will of course have a legal right of forced entry to your home. Anyone obstructing the officers duty to hold a pillow over your face until you stop breathing will be committing a criminal act.

To defray the cost of appointing suffocation officers, they will be accompanied by organ extraction technicians, who will be entitled to remove any usable organs from the former illegal breather, and entitled to request specific organs from any other member of the household who happens to have any useful bits.

Meanwhile the rest of the world will have got so far ahead of us by letting people do stuff without the government collecting its shilling every time someone coughs, we'll be back in the dark ages while the Indians explore Mars.

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