* Posts by Chris Miller

2735 posts • joined 6 Apr 2007

'I thought we were pals!' Belgium, Netherlands demand answers from Germany in spy bust-up

Chris Miller
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For heavens sake, Benelux, the existence of the BND is hardly secret. Neither is their budget (> €0.5 billion), presumably no-one thought they were spending it entirely on cream doughnuts. I imagine all these countries have their own intelligence services. What do they do?

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The 'echo chamber' effect misleading people on climate change

Chris Miller
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@Palpy

There are legitimate doubts about GR - we know, because of conflicts with quantum observations, that it must break down at some suitably tiny scale; and there are serious cosmologists investigating modified gravitational theories, since there's still no sign of a suitable candidate to constitute 'dark matter'. But no-one believes that it could be replaced by some theory following an inverse cube law - any modification must be infinitesimal on most human scales to avoid conflict with day-to-day experience.

Similarly, despite your straw man, no-one seriously doubts that increased CO2 emissions will tend to cause global temperatures to rise. But the legitimate questions this raises are "rise by how much?" and "what are the effects of that?" - and no-one has any solid answers to these questions. So before we commit to actions which will significantly diminish developed economies and condemn many millions in developing economies to a continuing miserable existence, it's reasonable to question the scientific consensus.

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Stranded Brussels airport passengers told to check Facebook

Chris Miller
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Re: Errrr..

It sounds like* they had a massive power surge that tripped the generators and/or the switch gear. I expect they have redundant systems out the wazoo, but if you've no power coming through, you're on air for only as long as the UPS batteries last (and if your power distribution system is fried, not even that long).

* Disclaimer: I have no knowledge of Belgium air traffic systems or the circumstances of this particular problem.

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Shuttleworth delivers death blow in Umbongoland dispute

Chris Miller
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Creationist: The Flintstones was an accurate portrayal of Dino-human coexistence

Chris Miller
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Re: Derr.....

There are very few Catholics in the young earthers. They're too busy arguing about transubstantiation.

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Pavegen: The Company that can't make energy out of crowds tries to make money out of them

Chris Miller
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Re: North Korea use case..

Treadmills were widely used in English prisons during the 19th century. Mainly for punishment, but in some cases they were used to supplement windmills.

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Windows and OS X are malware, claims Richard Stallman

Chris Miller
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It's a purely British joke, taken from the satirical magazine Private Eye and celebrating the number of misprints for which the Grauniad was noted.

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World loses John Nash, the 'Beautiful Mind'

Chris Miller
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Peculiar and unlikely?

Not if my experience of taxi drivers in the greater NY area is typical. Many (most?) of them appear to have arrived in the country only recently, passed their driving test in some third world location, and have no local knowledge (I had to direct one to Newark airport).

The contrast with a London 'black cab' could hardly be greater.

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NEVER MIND the B*LLOCKS Osbo peddles, deficits don't really matter

Chris Miller
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Final salary pensions

Happy though I am to blame Brown for anything and everything (since most of it, as you point out, was actually his fault) and the changes to taxation of pension funds certainly didn't help, speaking as a (lapsed) actuary, the demise of final salary schemes was already assured.

Basically, defined benefits schemes (their proper name) only really work if you can (expect to) remain a member for at least 20, preferably 30 years. And the number of jobs where that's a realistic expectation is vanishingly small (maybe teachers or the NHS, but very few in private enterprise). If (as the great majority of people now do) you change employers every few years, you don't have time to build up significant benefits with any of them, and while (in theory) you could transfer accrued benefits from one scheme to another, the two sets of actuaries tend to take contrary views of the values* involved, so you end up with far less in benefits than you might expect.

* That's their job - they're paid to protect the benefits of the people already in the schemes, not to facilitate transfers between them.

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Chris Miller
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Re: An excellent example ...

States may not go bankrupt, but currently hospitals in Athens are running out of painkillers and money to pay nurses. We may be about to see how close they can get to bankruptcy.

Sadly for Syriza, promising the electorate that 2+2=5 doesn't alter the rules of (financial) arithmetic.

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Chris Miller
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Accumulated debt

But isn't that skewed by all the 'debt' hidden in Brown's beloved PFI contracts, and hence off balance sheet? While it may not technically be debt, the country is committed to paying fixed amounts for long periods (often decades) into the future, which smells an awful lot like debt to me.

Lump all that in with the 'real' debt and we're getting perilously close to that 120%.

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Post-pub nosh neckfiller: Bog-standard boxty

Chris Miller
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Omit the grated potato and milk, then add an egg and you've got potato cakes, an equally(?) good way of using up left over mash.

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Is your career lacking growth? Become a porn inspector! Hint: It sucks

Chris Miller
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What's New Pussycat?

Michael James (Peter O'Toole): Did you find a job?

Victor Skakapopolis (Woody Allen): Yeah, I got something at the striptease. I help the girls dress and undress.

Michael: Nice job.

Victor: Twenty francs a week.

Michael: Not very much.

Victor: It's all I can afford.

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UK data watchdog: Massive fines won't keep data safe

Chris Miller
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Fining corporates bodies is pointless (unless the fines have 10 digits), particularly publicly-owned bodies. Make the directors personally liable. A few cases of bailiffs towing away Bentleys and confiscating the title deeds to the agreeable villa in Tuscany might persuade some of them to start taking security seriously.

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Singapore to trial 10Gbps home broadband

Chris Miller
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Re: Just one question

And that's assuming you can find a site* willing and able to provide a download stream at 10Gbps.

* Maybe you could do it using torrents within Singapore, but if more than a few dozen people did that at once, there's going to be a central switch taking a hell of a hammering.

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Google Maps gets hit with racist White House listing

Chris Miller
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@P. Lee

Since the only person requesting the change was a member of an Exclusive Brethren church (bloody good analyst, though), I think it's safe to say that it was religiously motivated.

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Chris Miller
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Childcatcher

That reminds me

Long, long ago, (in a galaxy far, far away) I was setting up the first userid/password system for our mainframe. Certain religious elements were concerned that people might use 'naughty' words as their password, even though (in principle) only the individual user would ever know what their password was. I undertook that if they gave me a list of all the words they thought objectionable, I could arrange to screen them out. Never heard any more about it.

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Are we looking at the first domain name meme? Neigh

Chris Miller
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I'm off to register

trojan.horse

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Oracle releases antidote for VENOM vulnerability

Chris Miller
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The accompanying pic is of a Burmese Python, so not VENOMous (though probably an agile coder). Lifted from WikiP

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You can't put a price on LOVE, says Apple after court's Samsung payout slash

Chris Miller
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Another win for the blood-sucking lawyers. Yay!

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So why the hell do we bail banks out?

Chris Miller
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Re: Why not nationalise all the banks?

There are four ways in which you can spend money.

You can spend your own money on yourself. When you do that, why then you really watch out what you’re doing, and you try to get the most for your money.

Then you can spend your own money on somebody else. For example, I buy a birthday present for someone. Well, then I’m not so careful about the present, but I’m very careful about the cost.

Then, I can spend somebody else’s money on myself. And if I spend somebody else’s money on myself, then I’m sure going to have a good lunch!

Finally, I can spend somebody else’s money on somebody else. And if I spend somebody else’s money on somebody else, I’m not concerned about how much it is, and I’m not concerned about what I get. And that’s government. And that’s close to 40% of our national income.

Milton Friedman (1912-2006)

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Chris Miller
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@Tim

A commercial fixed rate mortgage has to include horrendous penalties for early repayment. Otherwise it becomes a one-way bet - if rates rise, the borrower is quids in; if rates fall, they can just refinance. I don't know how the FNMA and FHLMC manage this problem.

[I suspect you're completely aware of this, Tim - I just thought I should spell it out.]

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Chris Miller
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Headmaster

Re: gosh

I think you man "systemically".

(Blame autocorrect - I always do.)

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Chris Miller
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Pensions holidays

A lot of companies were required by HMRC to take pensions holidays, because the taxman thought that businesses were reducing their tax liability by overpaying into the funds.

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Chris Miller
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@Tim

Could a case not be made that they were trading while insolvent, and that the directors should therefore have unlimited liability for the debts? A friend of mine resigned as Investment Director of a UK insurance company for precisely this reason (it was taken over as a 'rescue', and I don't think the facts ever came out).

I'm not going to join in the cry for hanging and flogging, popularly attractive though it may be, but I think there's too much sheltering behind limited liability. Directors of large companies are very well paid and should assume their share of the risks, just as directors of small businesses have to (by necessity).

What sticks in the craw is the Fred Goodwins driving perfectly good businesses into the ground and then walking away with their pensions and (historic) multi-million pound 'bonuses' intact. If they had the bailiffs around repossessing their Bentleys and their agreeable chateaux in Provence, it might focus a few minds.

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Turkey president: Nuts to 4G networks, we're cutting straight to 5G

Chris Miller
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I see your 5G

and raise you 6G.

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Adjustments will be needed to manage the Macs piling up in your business

Chris Miller
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Who pays for this support?

If I'm running a shop that has Windows on the desktop, and a department (usually Marketing, for some inexplicable reason) comes to me and insists they must have Macs (or Linux), my first thought is not a technical one, but a financial one. If I'm going to support them, I'm going to have to replicate many of the costs involved. If I don't support them ("they're Macs, we can support them ourselves"), who's going to be in the line of the shitstorm when something (inevitably, it will be something 'business critical') goes wrong?

My solution - sure you can have a Mac (or a Nexus), but you're connecting to the corporate network through a VPN and running a virtual desktop (which will look and feel an awful lot like Windows). Have a nice day.

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Hacker 3D prints device that can crack a combo lock in 30 seconds

Chris Miller
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Re: Analog Security

For most people, a lock (or other security system) that is a deterrent is sufficient security - a casual attacker will move on to an easier target. If you own a Picasso, stronger measures may be advisable.

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CSI GALAXY: Cause of death = STRANGULATION

Chris Miller
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@Grikath

A typical lifespan for a human red blood cell is around 30 days. If you lost the ability to produce new cells, that would be your lifespan too.

Back on topic, if a galaxy stops producing new stars, it will lose all its bright stars within a few million years and all its main sequence stars within a few billion. After that it will be left with only red dwarfs and be a dim ember of its former self.

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Chris Miller
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Re: 'Ere - he says he's not dead!

If your body stopped being able to produce new cells, you wouldn't die instantly, but you wouldn't be alive very long either.

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Scot Nationalists' march on Westminster may be GOOD for UK IT

Chris Miller
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Leaving the EU

It doesn't matter "who you talk to", all those in a position to influence the decision, from the EU President downwards, agree that a newly independent Scotland would have to reapply to join the EU (the fact that Salmond's only response was to stick his fingers in his ears and shout "la, la, I'm not listening" doesn't change anything). And since there are several nations in the EU with fissiparous tendencies (Spain, France, Belgium and Italy are obvious examples, but I'm sure there are others) who would not wish to set a precedent, and it only takes one to veto any new entrant ..

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Swedish Supreme Court keeps AssangeTM in Little Ecuador

Chris Miller
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Rough guess

Say you need 5 plods to guard the embassy (assuming there's more than one entrance/exit). Mounting that guard 24x365 would require 30 bodies plus a few 'chiefs' to manage the 'indians'. Cost of those bodies is over £3 million a year* (not just salary, you need to include all their kit, pensions funding etc).

* Met police current budget £3.7bn pa for 37,000 pairs of boots on the ground.

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Lies, damn lies and election polls: Why GE2015 pundits fluffed the numbers so badly

Chris Miller
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3% margin of error

Is correct for each individual poll, but if you take a 'poll of polls' average of 9 (allegedly) independent polls, you should be able to get a result with 95% confidence of being within 1%. The fact that the poll of polls was still badly wrong strongly suggests that some kind of systematic error is taking place. Indeed, one pollster (Survation) have already apologised, because their poll on the day before the election gave almost the correct result, but they suppressed it because they thought it must be wrong, as it didn't agree with everyone else!

It's not the case that 'First Past The Post' renders opinion polls irrelevant, they just require to be applied with care (under the assumption that any swing will be roughly consistent at a national level).

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So what would the economic effect of leaving the EU be?

Chris Miller
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Re: Hmmm

Why do eurofanatics always feel compelled to adopt such a sneering, superior tone and refer to anyone who disagrees about the virtues of the EU as a "little englander (sic)"? FWIW I've worked in 15 EU countries, speak fluent French and can get by in a few other languages and manage "hello" and "thank you" in most of them (even Hungarian :). I imagine Tim could say the same, or even more so.

I'm sure there are quite a few racists and fruitcakes who are members of UKIP, just as there are in Labour and the SNP and practically every political party. But it would do your cause a lot more good if you could achieve a rational argument, rather than resort to name-calling.

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Chris Miller
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There are valid arguments for remaining in the EU, however "it may be corrupt and incompetent, but at least it has given us 6 decades of peace" is not one of them. The idea that it is only the presence of 30,000 fonctionnaires in the Berlaymont that prevents the Bundeswehr panzers once again rolling down the Champs Élysées is ludicrous. I suspect the presence of 50,000 US and UK (and French) troops along the Rhine may have had more to do with it.

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Chris Miller
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The economic argument has always been the minor one, possibly a few basis points either way. As Tim points out, the real threat to any economy is politicians doing stupid things. At least outside the EU, we have democratic process that allows us to get rid of politicians who do this. How do I get rid of stupid fonctionnaires in Brussels who decide these matters for the EU?

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Going up hills past blokes with coke-bottle legs: The Smart E-bike

Chris Miller
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It's 200W added to the power you're supplying yourself, so 400W flat out.

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Chris Miller
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Re: Electric Moped

He means a motorbike licence.

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Facebook echo chamber: Or, the British media and the election

Chris Miller
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Many Labour spokespeople are (unconsciously?) echoing the words of Bertolt Brecht's The Solution:

After the uprising of the 17th June

The Secretary of the Writers Union

Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee

Stating that the people

Had forfeited the confidence of the government

And could win it back only

By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier

In that case for the government

To dissolve the people

And elect another?

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Italian ISS trekkie sips first zero-G cup of espresso in SPAAAACE

Chris Miller
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Re: Next is to have Earl Grey tea...

Don't forget to specify 'Hot' for the benefit of USians who might want to adulterate it with ice.

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Bruce Schneier's Data and Goliath – solution or part of the problem?

Chris Miller
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Re: Someone didn't do their research

Culturally, Germany* is a Protestant Western country. Just because the majority of the current populace don't identify themselves as Christian, doesn't change that.

* Actually, Germany has been a nation for less than 150 years, and individual Länder differ significantly. Bavaria is (arguably) culturally Catholic, for example.

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Meet the man who inspired Elon Musk’s fear of the robot uprising

Chris Miller
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Re: Some seriously flawed thinking there...

I agree. On the virtual happiness problem, this was tackled in a rather good 'Golden Age' novel by James Gunn: The Joy Makers (and latterly in The Matrix, of course). But, I actually think many people would rush to plug into a completely flawless VR world that could grant their every wish - look how much time folks already spend playing computer games that are far less immersive,

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Boeing 787 software bug can shut down planes' generators IN FLIGHT

Chris Miller
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Even worse, the pilots had bang seats, but the rest of the crew did not.

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Chris Miller
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Not just planes

A few years ago I was on a brand new TGV returning from Strasbourg. Suddenly we started to slow down and coasted to a halt. We sat there for about 20 minutes and then all the lights and aircon went out. Five minutes later the power came back on and we resumed our journey without incident.

I always assumed the SNCF helpdesk asked: "Have you tried turning it off and then back on again?".

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Eco-loons hack Thirty Meter Telescope website to help the 'natives'

Chris Miller
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Facepalm

What do ecoloons and ISIS have in common?

They're both seeking to return the world to a mythical 7th century state of paradise.

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EMC's curate's egg sees revenues waiting for new product take-offs

Chris Miller
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Headmaster

A pedant writes:

The point of the 'Curate's egg' joke is that it's impossible to have a bad egg that's 'good in parts' - a bad egg is entirely inedible. So the analogy should really only be used to describe situations where one thing going wrong causes the whole to fail.

Here endeth the lesson.

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Radio 4 and Dr K on programming languages: Full of Java Kool-Aid

Chris Miller
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Indeed

And that's because you are required to pay in order to watch BBC telly in the UK, whereas radio is free.

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

Chris Miller
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Re: I'm confused (yet again)

Thanks Martin. I'm now less confused!

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Chris Miller
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I'm confused (yet again)

Is there a chess program for a smartphone that would be able to beat a grandmaster? (I doubt it.) So was someone sending him suggested moves? (Which might not even have required the use of a chess computer.)

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Kia Soul EV: Nifty Korean 'leccy hatchback has heart and Seoul

Chris Miller
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So, it costs twice as much as a basic Kia Soul and I can drive it for 90 miles before parking it up for 10 hours to recharge - great, where do I sign?

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