Feeds

* Posts by Chris Miller

2402 posts • joined 6 Apr 2007

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

Chris Miller
Silver badge
Happy

lemon-soaked paper napkins

+1 for H2G2 reference.

2
0

METRE-LONG DINOSAUR POO going under the hammer

Chris Miller
Silver badge

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.

1
0

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

Chris Miller
Silver badge

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.

1
1

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

Chris Miller
Silver badge

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).

4
0

NAO slaps down Cabinet Office gov-IT savings claims AGAIN

Chris Miller
Silver badge

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 ...

0
0

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

Chris Miller
Silver badge

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".

4
0

TIME TRAVEL TEST finds black holes needed to make photons flit

Chris Miller
Silver badge

@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 ...

0
0
Chris Miller
Silver badge

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?

4
0

Coulson GUILTY of conspiring to hack phones between 2000 and 2006

Chris Miller
Silver badge

Re: So if the others are innocent

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

1
1

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

Chris Miller
Silver badge

Small earthquake on Internet

Not many dead.

10
0

Finding the formula for the travelling salesman problem

Chris Miller
Silver badge

"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).

3
0

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

Chris Miller
Silver badge

@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.

14
1

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

Chris Miller
Silver badge

@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.

0
0
Chris Miller
Silver badge

@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).

1
0
Chris Miller
Silver badge

@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.

0
0
Chris Miller
Silver badge

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?

6
1
Chris Miller
Silver badge

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.)

6
1

How practical is an electric car in London?

Chris Miller
Silver badge

@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.

20
5

Virtual Africa is the logical target for IP address colonists

Chris Miller
Silver badge

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.

4
0

CIA rendition jet was waiting in Europe to SNATCH SNOWDEN

Chris Miller
Silver badge
Happy

Re: Impressive amateur tracking work...

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

18
1

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

Chris Miller
Silver badge

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.

4
0

UK govt preps World War 2 energy rationing to keep the lights on

Chris Miller
Silver badge

@Gordon 11

I'm not clear what distinction you're aiming to draw. Parliamentary democracy as specifically practised in the UK is restricted to the UK and some Commonwealth countries plus some European constitutional monarchies. The US model, though still based on elected representatives, insists on a much stricter segregation of powers between the executive and legislative branches of government.

If you mean to distinguish between representative democracies and direct democracies (as practised, for example, in classical Athens - albeit with a highly restrictive definition of eligibility) I'm not sure there are many working examples - the big problem being how to stop everyone voting in higher benefits and lower taxes, look at California if you want to see what happens next.

0
0
Chris Miller
Silver badge

@Arnaut

The system (democracy) demands that politicians think and act in the short term. I've no reason to believe that, as individuals, politicians are any less concerned about future generations than the average member of the voting populace. Which is to say, not very concerned as against the need for access to water, food, power, health care, etc. today. Politicians who say "you need to put up with some extra pain today in order to benefit generations yet unborn" don't tend to get elected.

Autocracies are actually much better at thinking long term (in the same way that family businesses are better at it than public companies, which inevitably focus on next quarter's results). But, while there are examples of benevolent autocracies, no-one has yet cracked the problem of how to ensure that they remain benevolent.

9
1
Chris Miller
Silver badge

Careful, Oor Nonny-Muss

Ballots are not anonymous, they're all individually numbered and the Poll Clerks [PDF] write the number of your ballot against your name on the electoral register, and these documents are held securely for a period and then destroyed (we are assured). So if there's any complaint about the conduct of the election, it's very easy for the returning officer to find out who voted what.

I'm sure it's very unlikely that someone would take offence at what you may have drawn or written on your ballot paper, but in theory they could.

1
0

World first: ANIMATED GIF of Mercurian SUN ZOOM from MARS

Chris Miller
Silver badge

Re: Newtonian to Einsteinian physics ?

Technically, it was the precession of the perihelion of Mercury that was one of the confirmations of General Relativity. Like the deflection of starlight passing close to the Sun, some precession was predicted by Newtonian physics, but the observed magnitude disagreed with the prediction (causing some 19th century astronomers to predict the existence of 'Vulcan' inside the orbit of Mercury).

2
0

Everyone can and should learn to code? RUBBISH, says Torvalds

Chris Miller
Silver badge

Depends what you mean by 'code'

I don't think everyone could or should learn how to write kernel code, but the ability to write something very simple using Python or even Basic shouldn't be beyond most people. Being able to parse some simple HTML wouldn't hurt, either.

6
3

Look inside ELON MUSK'S CAR! Tesla S wundervehicle has voom

Chris Miller
Silver badge

Battery swapping

A clever idea, but there are some major stumbling blocks:

1. Assuming it takes many hours to recharge (and if it didn't you'd do the recharging in place), you need a lot more (50-100% depending on assumptions) batteries than cars. Someone will have to pay for all these extra batteries, which are a big part of the cost of an electric car. Which brings us to ...

2. You've just bought a shiny new electric BMW. After you've driven it a couple of hundred miles, how happy will you be for the battery (~50% of the value of the car) to be swapped for one from a 10-year-old rust-bucket Toyota?

3. You need to get all manufacturers to agree on a standard battery (or maybe two). This is not just an issue for an international standards committee (though anyone who's ever been involved with one knows how intractable they can be), but the form-factor of the battery determines the car shape to a great extent, and manufacturers like to differentiate their models.

2
0
Chris Miller
Silver badge

Re: Still waiting to see where the power's coming from

Current UK power consumption on ground transport equates to about 25% of the national grid (allowing for greater efficiency of pure electric drive). Of course, it will be a long time before we get anywhere near that, and will require some huge technological leaps to eliminate the obvious limitations of electric vehicles. It will almost certainly be more effective to develop a way of converting electricity into petrol (or some equivalently energy-dense liquid fuel).

2
1

High power computing and awesome Chinese food? Sign me up!

Chris Miller
Silver badge

Re: Video made me laugh

A few years ago, I was travelling by train to Debrecen in Hungary and found myself opposite a Norwegian medical student who was studying there. I asked how his Hungarian was (his English was, of course, excellent) - he replied that he hardly spoke any, as all his classes were in English. He told me: "My professor says that in 100 years, there will only be one language in the world - Bad English".

4
0

Tech talk bloke compares girlfriend to irritating Java tool – did he deserve flames?

Chris Miller
Silver badge

IT has a problem with fair treatment of women

Does it? What's your evidence? I'm sure that some male IT workers have problems with women, but that would appear to be the case for many other areas of work.

It's true that women are under-represented in IT, but there could be many reasons for that. Men are under-represented in some areas of work, like midwifery to take a random example, to no-one's great surprise.

For the avoidance of doubt, I've worked with women throughout my career in IT. Most of them were competent workers and some of them were very good indeed (some of them were crap, of course - but then so were some of the men I worked with).

20
1

Cisco COO: 'I actually thank God that we had a crisis'...

Chris Miller
Silver badge

Re: I notice he didn't lose his job

He needs to open the first envelope.

5
0

'THERE'S BEEN A MURRRDER!' Plod probe Street View 'slaying'

Chris Miller
Silver badge

Re: Taggart

Aye. Rebus territory.

0
0

SCIENCE explains why you LOVE the smell of BACON

Chris Miller
Silver badge

I see no problem

British (or, at a push, Canadian) bacon in a sandwich for lunch. US bacon on top of pancakes with maple syrup for breakfast. Easy.

3
0

100% driverless Wonka-wagon toy cars? Oh Google, you're having a laugh

Chris Miller
Silver badge

Re: Things can only get better ®

Statutes and case law depend largely on who can afford to buy the best lawyers (and the worst politicians). Google wins.

Always remember: What's good for Google is good for the country.

0
0
Chris Miller
Silver badge

Things can only get better ®

Yes, at the moment it's only a clever toy. And it will be many years/decades before they're a regular sight on ordinary road. But you do sound a bit like the chap at Kitty Hawk who said of the Wright Flyer: "this thing can only go a hundred yards at a few miles an hour - there's clearly no future in it".

24
2

About to make a big bet? Don't crash out, cash in with the power of maths

Chris Miller
Silver badge

@Martin

Me too. It's possible that the 'RAND' function being used is less than perfect - producing a good random number generator on a deterministic computer system is a hard problem, proving that it's a good random number generator is even tougher. But if that were the case, I'd expect to see as many overshoots as undershoots of the expected value.

So I'll go with programmer error :)

0
0
Chris Miller
Silver badge

Re: I'm a bit intrigued...

Because, on average, each single step in a random direction will tend to end up with you further away from your starting point, though the effect diminishes as you go on.

Think of it this way - after the first step, you're one unit from your origin. If you take a second step in a random direction, you'll end up farther away unless your chosen direction lies within ±60° of the origin, so there's a 2/3 chance that you'll increase your distance.

8
0

Tesla's TOP SECRET gigafactories: Lithium to power world's vehicles? Let's do the sums

Chris Miller
Silver badge

Battery recycling

According to Dilbert.

5
0

After the cyberpunks, prepare to fight a new wave of nasties

Chris Miller
Silver badge

Re: Millennium bug

You're right in theory, and we did that for some programs. In practice, we had a lot of logic that tested based on month/day = current month/day, which required unpacking the binary date into YYYYMMDD and that would have increased CPU utilisation (also very expensive in those dim and distant days).

3
0
Chris Miller
Silver badge

Millennium bug

There were two Y2k problems;

a) the real one - lots of (mainly Cobol) programs held the year part of dates with two digit values* and would return incorrect results for dates after 31/12/1999. This required a lot of programming work to correct, but was almost entirely successful and few real-world problems occurred on 1/1/2000.

b) the hyped one - lots of PCs (it was claimed) would fail to boot after 31/12/1999. In reality, if there were any such systems they would have been many years old and in need of replacement anyway. Most PCs, if they had a problem at all, needed the date to be reset manually once and would be fine thereafter. Nevertheless, many snake-oil vendors flogged millions of small programs to clueless PHBs in order to 'fix' the problem.

* The youth of today may wonder why we didn't just use 4-digit years throughout. I was a DBA at a large financial services organisation in the 80s. We needed to distinguish centuries anyway (because dates of birth and maturity dates weren't always in the 1900s), but by using a single digit code rather than two digits, the saving in storage costs was nearly a million quid, in the days when that was serious money. (And we avoided much of the Y2k panic, though we still had to check every program.)

5
1

Apple plots HOME INVASION at WWDC

Chris Miller
Silver badge

Your home in Cupertino

Surely that should be Pasadena?

1
0

Chuh. Heavy, dude: HP ZBook 17 mobile workstation

Chris Miller
Silver badge

Re: ARGH!

Desktops aren't much better. While there are plenty of 1920x1200 screens, 2560x1600 are few and seem to be very expensive. 2560x1440 is much more popular - why? Do they think we're going to spend all our time watching interpolated movies?

4
0
Chris Miller
Silver badge

As I understand it

(and since I don't spend much time playing Blu-ray disks on my PC, I haven't looked into it recently) there's no good, free Blu-ray player for Win 7 (because of codec licensing issues). Win 8 can play them using standard WMP. So with Win 7 you're dependent on buying one or hoping the manufacturer bundled one (such as PowerDVD).

But I bet some other readers have more knowledge than I do ...

4
0

You know all those resources we're about to run out of? No, we aren't

Chris Miller
Silver badge

But if they weren't rare, it's probable that they'd come to be seen as common or vulgar, and something else would come to be seen as beautiful and desirable.

«Réjouissez-vous, chère amie, disais-je un jour à madame de Ville-Plaine; on vient de présenter à la Société d'encouragement un métier au moyen duquel on fera de la dentelle superbe, et qui ne coûtera presque rien.--Eh! me répondit cette belle avec un regard de souveraine indifférence, si la dentelle était à bon marché, croyez-vous qu'on voudrait porter de semblables guenilles?»

‘Rejoice, my dear,’ I said one day to Madame de Ville-Plain ‘a loom has just been shown to the Society for Encouragement on which it will be possible to manufacture superb lace for practically nothing.’ ‘Why’, the lady replied, with an air of supreme indifference, ‘if lace were cheap, do you think anyone would want to wear such rubbish?’

Physiologie du goût - Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826)

1
0
Chris Miller
Silver badge

Re: Shock, horror, Scargill was right - minerals no use without miners!

Oh for heaven's sake. Mrs T was not the primary cause of deep mining effectively ceasing in the UK. The cause was the development of efficient surface transport technology (mainly shipping) that allowed open cast coal from the US and Australia to be delivered to Europe at a price well below that of deep mined coal. If you want to persist in your belief that 'Fatcha dunnit' you need to explain why deep mining ceased in Germany (for example) at exactly the same time.

5
0

John Chambers sold millions of shares on first day of Cisco Live!

Chris Miller
Silver badge

Exactly. The interesting question is: when did his option to buy at $17.86 expire?

2
0

Son of ACTA pours fuel on IP trade fire

Chris Miller
Silver badge

Re: I guess the UK would have to have a law prohibiting fracked gas from export to get low prices

Unlike the US, the UK is already connected to the European (and beyond) gas network. So the price of UK gas (including any locally fracked component) is set by the international market.

1
0

FINGERS CROSSED: Apple and Samsung said to be hammering out settlement

Chris Miller
Silver badge

That'll be a small army of lawyers out of work (if it happens). They'll either be crying into their Petrus, or else selecting a small Caribbean island to purchase with their accumulated fees.

1
0

How exec snatched $6m budget from his infosec team because he couldn't see ROI

Chris Miller
Silver badge

So what's the ROI on your fire insurance? It's either zero (if you didn't have a fire) or something humongous.

0
0