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* Posts by Chris Miller

2431 posts • joined 6 Apr 2007

LOHAN packs bags for SPACEPORT AMERICA!

Chris Miller
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Re: A very rude man from the Ministry of Obstruction

I agree, Lester, but (let's face it) it ain't going to happen any time soon - think what it would do to (already sky-high) unemployment. A lot of Spain is quite close to the old Soviet system of "we pretend to work, and they pretend to pay us". Shame, when the country and people are so lovely.

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Chris Miller
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Re: A very rude man from the Ministry of Obstruction

An admirable desire to stick to your Anglo-Saxon guns, Lester, but do you ever succeed in getting anything done through the local bureaucrats (particularly out in the wilds of Gredos)? To be fair to our Spanish friends, the pay for a lot of their government jobs isn't great and kind of assumes that earnings will be topped up with 'tips' - rather like waiters in the UK.

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Chris Miller
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Re: A very rude man from the Ministry of Obstruction

How long have you lived in Spain, Lester? Did you remember to accompany your bureaucratic request with a bottle of Carlos Primero? Well, did you?

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BAT-GOBBLING urban SPIDER QUEENS swell to ENORMOUS SIZE

Chris Miller
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Spider size

is limited by their respiratory system. Spiders have 'book lungs' (and insects have tracheae) that are not capable of delivering oxygen to interior tissues if the body size becomes too large. So the biggest spiders and insects we see today are about as large as such creatures can get (which is quite large enough, thanks). Sea-dwelling arthropods, such as crabs and lobsters, are less constrained and hundreds of millions of years ago could grow to a couple of metres in length.

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Munich considers dumping Linux for ... GULP ... Windows!

Chris Miller
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Re: An amazing piece of work?

"One of the most common things I do when receiving a message that looks a bit suspicious is to [...] inspect the content and headers"

Yup, that's what I do, too*. Using Outlook. But please don't let your inability to spend a few seconds reading a help file or use a search engine interfere with your apparent urge to dis all things MS.

The number of people who've set up Eudora for their grannie and think it's therefore the ideal choice for a 10,000 seat workflow driven system continues to amaze me.

* Though it's not what your typical end user will do.

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Ad regulator pulls down Branson-backed magic undies

Chris Miller
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It used to be women

targeted by these flimflam merchants. Anyone remember the lead-lined aprons sold in the 90s to 'protect' workers (especially pregnant women) from 'harmful' emissions emerging from VDU screens?

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Who needs hackers? 'Password1' opens a third of all biz doors

Chris Miller
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@David L. Webb

Interesting article, and thanks for the link, but I don't entirely agree. The critical bit is:

If any of the other attack methods succeed, the password needs to be changed immediately to be protected—a periodic change is likely to be too late to effectively protect the target system.

There's some truth to this, but the biggest problem with passwords as opposed to more secure (and more expensive) methods of authentication is that you can 'lose' it without knowing that you've lost it. Periodic password changes are a long stop to catch such cases. I would argue that if your security requirements are such that immediate action is vital, passwords alone are the wrong authentication method.

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Chris Miller
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@J.G.Harston

The reason for the limitation on Visa (and other) operators is that they use the 'verified by Visa' system that asks you for the 2nd, 7th and 10th character of your password, with the actual ordinals changing randomly each time. They go up to a maximum of 12*. It's intended to make life more difficult for key loggers, shoulder surfers etc.

More generally, the reason for forcing passwords to change regularly is to limit the damage when (not if) one of them 'leaks'.

* not an unreasonable limit. If you allowed (say) 30 character passwords, the chances of most people being able to correctly identify which is the 23rd character of their password is slim.

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The internet just BROKE under its own weight – we explain how

Chris Miller
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Re: Name and er, shame?

I think most BGP routers that can't handle more than 512K routes are to be found in science museums. The problem is all the ones that can handle more than 512K routes, but haven't had their config files updated.

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Stanford boffin is first woman to bag 'math Nobel Prize'

Chris Miller
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Winning a Fields is much more difficult than getting a Nobel - they're only awarded every 4 years with a maximum of 4 awarded each time. You have to be under 40, so if you're like Andrew Wiles and crack Fermat's Last Theorem at the age of 41, you're out of luck. And the prize money of C$15,000 (Fields was a Canuck) is a bit pitiful by modern standards.

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Lawsuit claims SpaceX laid off hundreds without proper notice, pay

Chris Miller
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@mike2R

True. But unless my memory's faulty it pre-dates Machiavelli by a millennium or so.

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Chris Miller
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Re: one trick my employer does.

There's an old Chinese* story of how to deal with a famine that's affecting two provinces. You identify which province has been more loyal to the emperor (and if their record is about equal you can just flip a coin). Confiscate all food in the 'bad' province (cf Ukraine 1931) and give it to the 'good' province. The people of the good province will be even more loyal to the emperor, because you've just saved them and their families from famine. And the people of the bad province don't matter, because they're all dead,.

* I think (from memory) - apologies if I'm unfairly stigmatising the Chinese.

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Chris Miller
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Re: equivalence

IANAL (and have never worked there) but I don't think California is a pure 'at-will' state. There are implied contract (of employment) fairness rulings that apply.

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World's only flyable WWII Lancaster bombers meet in Lincs

Chris Miller
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Re: error!

And it's RAF Halton not Holton (though that's how it's pronounced).

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Stalwart hatchback gets a plug-in: Volkswagen e-Golf

Chris Miller
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Re: How long is the battery warranty

I imagine the guarantee is for 160,000 km. Someone has taken that number and turned it into miles using 1.61 km = 1 mile, rounded it down to get 99,360 and then someone else has converted it back to km using the exact factor of 1.609344.

The batteries have an eight-year or 99,360 mile (159,904km) guarantee.

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Surprise! Government mega-infrastructure project cocked up

Chris Miller
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UK still leads the way in ripping off the taxpayer

At least down under they managed to build a new railway from Alice to Darwin (1,000 km) for under a billion Aussie Dollars. Compare the cost of HS2 - £50 billion (and rising) for a few hundred miles. I accept that the Ghan fits no-one's definition of high-speed rail and there aren't many tunnels, but then HS2 doesn't have to cross deserts and croc-infested rain forest (although some bits of Cheshire are a bit dodgy, I'll admit). And two bloody orders of magnitude! WTF?

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Cut price Android on steroids: OnePlus One – should we look gift horse in the gob?

Chris Miller
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I'm sure there will be lots of "it hasn't got a removable battery/SD card slot, so I won't buy it" comments. Sure, it's not a high-end phone, but battery life has become a real issue for me (and, I expect, others).

Every new release of Android places greater demands on the phone (no surprise there for anyone who's been involved in computers for more than a few years) to the point where I really don't feel comfortable going out for the day with my Galaxy S3 unless I take a spare battery. With no option to replace the battery, 'range anxiety' would be a serious problem.

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HUMAN RACE PERIL: Not nukes, it'll be AI that kills us off, warns Musk

Chris Miller
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Newsflash

Famous entrepreneur reads book - Tweets opinion.

Film at 11.

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NASA tests crazytech flying saucer thruster, could reach Mars in days

Chris Miller
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@Machdiamond

I'll show you the back of my envelope for getting to Mars in 23 days (ignoring gravitational wells along the way):

Mass = 10 tonnes = 10^4 kg (Apollo CM+SM+LEM was ~5 tonnes, but a lot of that was fuel)

Time = 10^6 s (11.5 days)

Distance = 200 million km = 2x10^11 m

We want to get half way (10^11 m) at constant acceleration and then turnover and start slowing down, which gives an acceleration of 0.2 m/s^2 (0.02g) (s = a.t^2/2)

Peak velocity = a.t = 2x10^5 m/s (450,000 mph!)

Kinetic energy is m.v^2/2 = 2 x10^14 Joules

Dividing by time (10^6 secs) gives us a power consumption of 200MW (and, of course, you wouldn't get anywhere near 100% efficiency).

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Cisco patches OSPF bug that sends traffic into black holes

Chris Miller
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OSPF was (historically, at least) a poor relation on Cisco kit. Cisco preferred their proprietary (E)IGRP, which gave better customer lock-in.

Factoid: the Open in OSPF is an adjective, not a verb.

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NASA boffin: RIDDLE of odd BULGE FOUND on MOON is SOLVED

Chris Miller
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Re: "Volcanic activity."

Not for billions of years. But the mare (mainly basalts) are believed to have been created by volcanic activity.

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Scotland's BIG question: Will independence cost me my broadband?

Chris Miller
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Re: Genuine question

True, Graeme, but I'm struggling to think of an example that Scotland might wish to emulate.

If there is a 'Yes' vote in September, I think Salmond's first reaction might well be: "Oh shit, what have I done?"

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Chris Miller
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Genuine question

What happens to the SNP in the event of a 'Yes' vote? Surely it serves no purpose in an independent Scotland. I think Farage has promised that he would wind up UKIP if the UK ever leaves the EU.

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Chris Miller
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Re: Realism

And it should be obvious that an independent Scottish postal service is bound to cost more, simply because there's a greater proportion of remote locations than for the UK as a whole. I'm sure the same must be true for telephone and broadband services as well.

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China in MONOPOLY PROBE into Microsoft: Do not pass GO, do not collect 200 yuan

Chris Miller
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What Microsoft are accused of

Not paying sufficient bribes to members of The Party.

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Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins

Chris Miller
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Genuine question

If a massive super-volcano in Siberia/the Deccan/Jellystone Park were reasonably close to letting go (within a few million years), wouldn't a massive asteroid strike (even on the other side of the planet) be the sort of thing that could trigger it? I've wondered for a while whether the "it was an asteroid", "no, it was a super-volcano" argument about mass extinctions was a true dichotomy.

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Stick a 4K in them: Super high-res TVs are DONE

Chris Miller
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Re: During the meanwhile ...

Only in America ...

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Bring back error correction, say Danish 'net boffins

Chris Miller
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Endless fun for researchers, but chances of being implemented in the real world roughly nil. If you doubt this, IPv6 offers significant performance enhancements over IPv4 (big packets, better routing, etc.) and many other benefits - how long has it taken us to implement it on 1% of Internet connections (answers in decades, please)?

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DAYS from end of life as we know it: Boffins tell of solar storm near-miss

Chris Miller
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Re: power grid

The biggest effect of such an event was to cause a 9-hour blackout in Quebec in March 1989. Though a lengthy power outage during a Canadian winter is no fun, there was no catastrophe and the time to recover was almost entirely explained by the need to reset huge numbers of circuit breakers that did their job and protected the underlying system. It's claimed that the local geology exacerbated the effects.

The Carrington event was orders of magnitude larger, but the fact that we haven't experienced any significant impact from solar storms for 25 years strongly suggests that either the effects are less than predicted or that such events are actually quite rare.

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Feel free to BONK on the TUBE, says Transport for London

Chris Miller
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Happy

lemon-soaked paper napkins

+1 for H2G2 reference.

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METRE-LONG DINOSAUR POO going under the hammer

Chris Miller
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During the 19th century there was a significant coprolite mining industry in (mainly) Cambridgeshire and Suffolk, to provide phosphate for fertiliser. The discovery of guano islands killed it off, but it was revived for munitions during WW1.

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White? Male? You work in tech? Let us guess ... Twitter? We KNEW it!

Chris Miller
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In a lifetime of working in IT, I'm struggling to think of any UK operations that would get anywhere near 30% female participation, most of them are more like 10%. This certainly includes the ones I was responsible for, even though the only recruitment criterion I used was to find the best person for the job. Women were relatively over-represented in my management teams, because in my experience [WARNING: sexist statement, nervous readers should look away now] women tend to make better managers.

The most extreme example I came across was doing some consultancy at a large German tech company. When I got back to my hotel, something was nagging at the back of my mind. I realised that during the day, I'd met 3 women, two PAs who joined out table for lunch, and one seconded from the UK head office. And I'm sure all the males I'd met would have vehemently denied being sexist.

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HP, Microsoft prove it again: Big Business doesn't create jobs

Chris Miller
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Everyone should read Parkinson's Law, Up the Organisation, and The Peter Principle. But if you only have time (or inclination) to read one, it should be Up the Organisation. The other two make a single key point in a humorous style, but Robert Townsend tells you how to run and improve a vast operation. The fact that it's still entirely relevant after 35 years should tell you all you need to know about the quality of modern management (despite all the millions of newly-minted MBAs).

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NAO slaps down Cabinet Office gov-IT savings claims AGAIN

Chris Miller
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Re: 91 whole £m.

If only someone had stopped the NHS backbone from taking place, that would have saved us a few billion. Now if they'd just take a look at HS2 ...

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

Chris Miller
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I strongly recommend reading the report. I've been following the news on this quite closely, but I didn't realise they now have the flight on primary (active) radar for an hour after it initially 'disappeared' (see map on p3 of the ATSB(AU) report - apologies if I've simply missed this, I admit I've tuned out a lot of crap in the MSM). It clearly shows that the flight wasn't following a simple route, it rather looks (to my untrained eye) like it was steering a course over water to make detection more difficult.

This definitely rules out theories along the lines of: "they had an emergency and turned back to try to land at the nearest airstrip, but the pilots were overcome and the plane continued on autopilot for a further 7 hours until fuel exhaustion".

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TIME TRAVEL TEST finds black holes needed to make photons flit

Chris Miller
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@Grikath

If we're considering a super-massive (galactic) black hole, of up to a few billion solar masses, the tidal effects of approaching the event horizon aren't all that great. Since they follow an inverse cube law (essentially because tidal effects are the result of the rate of change in the gravitational field) and the event horizon is several AUs in size, you don't have to worry about spaghettification. There are a few other minor practical concerns, however ...

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Chris Miller
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If you accept multiverse interpretations of quantum physics

... the grandfather paradox goes away. You can (if you can reach the environment of a rapidly rotating black hole) travel back in time, but you will be in a different instantiation of the quantum state, one in which your grandfather is killed and so the original 'you' won't exist.

Simples?

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Coulson GUILTY of conspiring to hack phones between 2000 and 2006

Chris Miller
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Re: So if the others are innocent

The ones that have already been found guilty, including the Royal Correspondent, Clive Goodman.

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Facebook goes TITSUP across WORLD! Who will look at your cousin's baby NOW?

Chris Miller
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Small earthquake on Internet

Not many dead.

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Finding the formula for the travelling salesman problem

Chris Miller
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"Which are the good, fast roads to use and how well do they connect the stops on the route?"

That's simply dealt with by choosing the correct metric - you could use minutes of travel instead of miles, for instance (or some more complex combination).

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Today's get-rich-quick scheme: Build your own bank

Chris Miller
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@Ledswinger

I'd be happy to use such a bank. I haven't had a personal loan for 40 years, and I'd never consider getting a mortgage from a bank. You're right that there would have to be a fee - I'd suggest a small fixed charge (a few quid a month) and a few pence per transaction. Sounds a better deal than 'free' banking that bombards you with requests for loans you clearly don't need or want and charges you £25 for a snot-o-gram if you go overdrawn by a few pence.

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Tesla, Nissan, BMW mull all-for-plug, plug-for-all electrocar charger plan

Chris Miller
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@Joe 35

A full electric 'tank' is about 1/4 of a petrol tank (in terms of range). Overnight top-up is fine for the daily commute (for most people, which in a petrol car would require a weekly refill), but a reasonable journey will demand a refill halfway. I think the number is more like 50-75% not your 5-10%. We'll see, if we one day get to a largely electric powered vehicle fleet. But for this and numerous reasons that others have noted, I'm very doubtful this will ever happen.

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Chris Miller
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@Steve

Thanks for doing the heavy lifting, which confirms my back of the envelope guesswork. There's no point in trying to produce a detailed demand curve, which would vary day to day and location to location in any case. But whatever it is, to make this idea work you'd need to provide substantially more batteries than cars. And that's a huge cost in both financial and environmental terms (batteries aren't very ecofriendly either to manufacture or dispose of).

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Chris Miller
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@Terry

Obviously you won't get 1,000 cars a day on the first day. But if the aim is that one day most cars will be all electric, those are the type of numbers you need to deal with. OTTOMH I don't think the absolute numbers affect the argument too much - in fact, with smaller numbers you might need an even higher proportion of 'spare' batteries to cope with peak demand.

Unless I'm about to set off on a long journey, I don't generally fill the tank until the fuel warning comes on. Why would you? But I suppose battery power might lead you to want to 'top up' more frequently.

The bottom line - it doesn't matter if you 'only' need to provide 50% more batteries than cars to make battery swapping a practical proposition or if the 'real answer turns out to be 200% - the cost (whether borne by the manufacturers or the motorist) will kill the idea stone dead.

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Chris Miller
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Re: Industry not thinking things through - whatever next?

Let's say a medium-sized petrol filling station handles 1,000 cars a day - 80% of them between 0700-1900. Recharging all these 40kWh batteries in a day requires a 2MW supply. If it takes an hour to recharge each battery (as it does on a Tesla 120kW super-charger) you're going to fall behind the flow of cars with the aim of catching up overnight (when electricity's cheaper), so you'll need a good few hundred batteries in reserve to last the peak period. You can reduce the problem by charging faster (though I'm not sure how practical that is), but then your power supply requirements increase, and you can't make use of off-peak electricity. And this is assuming the very best (most expensive) technology available - most cars take much longer than a Tesla to recharge.

It's not rocket science, is it?

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Chris Miller
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Industry not thinking things through - whatever next?

Battery swapping may persuade people to buy electric cars, thinking they'll be able to 'fill the tank' in a time comparable with a petrol vehicle. But what happens to the 'flat' batteries? Presumably they'll be recharged on site, since getting a charged set delivered every day would be problematic (they're heavy items).

Doing a back of the envelope calculation about recharge times and the number of 'customers' seeking charged batteries every day, you end up with a need for (being highly optimistic) 50-100% more batteries than you have electric vehicles. Being pessimistic (or perhaps realistic) you'd need 3-4x as many. Given that the battery pack is a substantial part of the cost of any electric vehicle, someone's going to have to invest massive amounts to make this possible. (The recharging unit would also need a power supply equivalent to the output from a small power station, but that's almost a secondary consideration.)

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How practical is an electric car in London?

Chris Miller
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@ecofeco

The end of the ICE in 20 years is most unlikely. In the absence of some unforeseeable brand new energy storage technology, neither physics (ultracapacitors) nor chemistry (batteries) can get within an order of magnitude of the energy density of petrochemicals. If you're seeking something with minimal CO2 emissions, technology to produce petrochemicals (or simply methane) using electricity is a much more probable scenario.

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Virtual Africa is the logical target for IP address colonists

Chris Miller
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Re: Not surprised

Some of the 'big' companies who own class As do the same - in the very early days of IP, the assumption was that every system would be publicly addressable. It's not normal today, of course, but once in place the cost of changing is significant, while the cost of owning a class A (once you've got one) is almost zero.

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CIA rendition jet was waiting in Europe to SNATCH SNOWDEN

Chris Miller
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Re: Impressive amateur tracking work...

Unsurprisingly, there are few amateur radio receivers in the middle of the Indian Ocean :)

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BOFH: On the contrary, we LOVE rebranding here at the IT dept

Chris Miller
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A pedant writes

Gougères are not really scones, more like cheese puffs, or cheese-flavoured profiteroles without the chocolate sauce.

Still, a new BOFH is always a great start to God's own day.

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