* Posts by Martin Gregorie

643 posts • joined 10 Apr 2007

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Information on smart meters? Yep. They're great. That works, right? – UK.gov

Martin Gregorie

Re: Honest

Len, you've got that wrong, I'm afraid.

If there are no benefits to the user of a new product but installing and using it will result in a financial loss, then keeping quiet about this isn't being honest.

The correct terms are "being economical with the truth" or "hiding the facts".

Which one you choose depends on whether you want to be polite to the product's sponsor or to say what's really going on.

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India added 240m phones/year build capacity in just one year

Martin Gregorie

Currently India is well on the way to repeating the Chinese experience. I was in northern India recently: the air quality was not good and visibility was frequently poor throughout Rajasthan and across into Utttar Pradesh. The Indians blame diesel vehicles for the pollution, but I'm certain there's a little more helping things along. Certainly the generally calm conditions you get across the Thar Desert and the Gangetic Plain don't help.

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Passengers ride free on SF Muni subway after ransomware infects network, demands $73k

Martin Gregorie

Re: Sign of the times

I remember that story from the early 70s amidst rumours of fully automated airliners soon to fly without pilots.

However, autopilots were around and in regular use in aircraft before WW2. Many WW2 bombers had them: every bomber carrying a Norden bombsight had an autopilot that was linked to the bombsight during the run into the target: during the run in the bombsight managed the autopilot's inputs to fly the bomber to the precise bomb release point.

By 1945, even DC-3 (C-47) troop transports were all fitted with autopilots.

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'Data saturation' helped to crash the Schiaparelli Mars probe

Martin Gregorie

Yeah, didn't we see something similar with Ariane 5?

The problem with the Apollo 11 LM's onboard computer looks like a better match.

There, leaving a docking radar on overloaded the computer's interrupt handler when they got near the lunar surface, but fortunately there was an astronaut on board who was able to manually fly the landing.

Here, violent gyrations as the parachute opened seem to have overloaded the IMU and caused it to output garbage which upset the computer that managed the landing.

A faster IMU and improved garbage detection and rejection would both seem like a good idea.

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Hey techbros, make an airplane mode but for driving for your apps – US traffic watchdog

Martin Gregorie

Re: Texting while driving banned in 46 states

I think you'll find the remaining 14 states, along with DC and assorted offshore US possessions, have banned the use of hand-held phones by drivers.

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BT Yahoo! customers: Why! can't! we! grrr! delete! our! webmail! accounts!?

Martin Gregorie

Re: A reminder to...

Of course you can take your email and website addresses with you. Just buy a domain name and use a domain hosting service to support it, configuring its e-mail and http redirection services to point to whatever ISP provides your e-mail and webhosting services. Job done, and for not much money: domain name hosting and redirection services cost me under a tenner a year.

Want to switch ISP? Easy. Just reconfigure the domain host's redirection services to point to your new ISP, which takes 10 minutes or so. I've been using this set-up for nearly 15 years now and am currently on my third email and webhosting ISP, but still using the same domain host. My e-mail and web addresses haven't changed either.

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Eric Raymond revisits his biggest mistake, updates 'Pilot' language after 20 years

Martin Gregorie

Re: Software luminary?

Noted. Thanks - didn't realise there are two Eric S Raymonds.

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Martin Gregorie

Re: Software luminary?

Apart from writing "The Cathedral and The Bazaar", he has two claims to fame that I'm aware of:

- he wrote fetchmail, which lets you retrieve mail from an external server. This is a useful tool if you run a local mailserver but don't want to punch holes in your firewall to let it receive mail. Unfortunately, fetchmail has long-standing, wont-fix bugs. As a result many/most of its users, including myself, have switched to getmail, which does the same job but without the bugs.

- he designed, built and flies the Sunseeker series of solar-powered, self-launching aircraft.

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BT Openreach boss wants you to know that deep down, they care

Martin Gregorie

Re: 10 Mb/s

That will be a 250% speed increase I'm due, then, and it would be really nice if latency (actual as opposed to the Sam Knows fiction) didn't go sky-high most evenings.

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Google's become an obsessive stalker and you can't get a restraining order

Martin Gregorie

Re: The thing is...

Even so I'm thoroughly pissed off with their repeated attempts to inveigle me into Amazon Prime.

They're far too bloody sneaky about trying that on: have an up-vote for that.

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BBC vans are coming for you

Martin Gregorie

Re: Regressive tax

I really wish there was a BBC radio license, along the same lines as the NPR subscription on the US of A.

Why?

Because it would give us listeners a financial handle on the way radio programs are commissioned and produced and it would give BBC Radio some leverage against the TV juggernaut. It might even get the quality of Radio 4 drama and Radio 3 music production somewhat nearer the standard it reached in the '80s.

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Don't want to vote for Clinton or Trump? How about this woman who says Wi-Fi melts kids' brains?

Martin Gregorie

She's not wrong

Kids would be much better off interacting with each other, doing stuff outdoors and developing dexterity by making stuff[*] than sitting in front of a BoobTube,web browser or smartphone.

[*] and I DON'T mean assembling the pathetic snap-together so-called 'kitsets' sold by Toys R Us and similar purveyors of dumbed-down junk. They should be using real, sharp tools to shape parts and nails, screws and glues to assemble them. Or riding bikes/building trolleys and learning not to fall off them. After all, if you're older than 40 that's what you used to do, so why on earth would you want to deprive present day kids of the fun of gaining those hands-on skills? Don't give them a kite: show them how to make their own so they can feel the thrill of having something they made fly and fly well.

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Australian spooks' email guide banishes MS Word macros, JavaScript

Martin Gregorie

Re: ...but it would be nice if ..

I'm a coder, and working off site

Why are you using e-mail to transfer "code snippets, scripts and patches" in this day and age? Doing that via e-mail is so last-century.

Your project(s) should be using version control (git or even CVS) and a central code repository to hold patches and enhancements to permanent source code and ftp or sftp to make temporary stuff such as 'code snippets' and throw-away scripts available to the rest of the project via a common disk storage area.

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Windows 10 pain: Reg man has 75 per cent upgrade failure rate

Martin Gregorie

Re: Linux system upgrade may not be much better

It's dead easy to upgrade/reinstall if you put / and /home on separate partitions to start with.

Indeed. Did that a long time ago. One of the machines I did that on is - TA DAH - a 10 year old Lenovo R61i laptop, currently running Fedora 23 with an XFCE desktop because I prefer it to Gnome. The only enhancement was to add a 2GB RAM card (so 3GB total) which made it noticeably quicker, so its a reasonable development box for C and Java.

Its still using the original disk drive, though its screen, fan and keyboard have been replaced.

Now RedHat have introduced in-situ version upgrades for Fedora, moving from F22 to F23 was no harder than moving my RPi from Raspbian wheezy to jessie, i.e. start the process, wait until its done, then reboot.

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Airbus doesn't just make aircraft – now it designs drone killers

Martin Gregorie

...the jamming system uses only the frequency used by commercial drones for communication.

This is the widely used 2.6 GHz wifi band. Drones, like all other wifi users, scan for an unused channel in that band when they establish the link, so its difficult to know how any such 'drone jammer' can positively and uniquely identify which channel a specific drone is using. Thing is, potential collateral damage can not be ruled out each time this, or any other, 'drone jammer' terminates a drone flight unless it can reliably identify the channel the targeted drone is using. If its relying on activating the drone's 'return home on loss of signal' capability then the jammer could be on for quite a while to stop the link from re-establishing itself.

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Nope, we can't find dark matter either, says LUX team

Martin Gregorie

Re: Where you see dark matter mentioned

We can test for the existence of God using exactly the same tests that they used, and get exactly the same results....

Not exactly the same, no.

First we need a falsifiable God theory that makes testable predictions and I don't think we currently have one of those. Once we have that, and only then, we can run God tests.

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From Watson Jr to Watson AI: IBM's changed, and Papa Watson wouldn't approve

Martin Gregorie

Re: IBM gear was never particularly good...

Much as it pains me to say so (as a non-IBMer I strongly dislike the company and its ethos), its QA and hardware build quality used to be second to none.

I've used S/88, S/38 and AS/400 systems and, despite myself, been impressed by the reliability of their hardware and software. OK, stuff like RPG stinks from almost any elegance and usability criteria, but it did what it said on the tin and 'just worked'. Judged from the viewpoints of usability and consistency the OS/400 operating system is one of the greats, up there with UNIX, VMS and VME/B despite its too short file/command names (9 characters fer Chrissakes) and flat, non-hiearchic filing system.

I was a developer/sysadmin on an AS/400, running under OS/400, for 18 months and don't remember a single hardware fail or system software bug. There's no other system I've used that I can say that about.

Unfortunately.

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Space Data dudes say Google lifted Loon balloon tune

Martin Gregorie

Re: I thought you were being a bit sarcastic, but

@Mongo: Points 5 and 6 are prior art anyway: the claimants in this case should never have been given a patent.

In 1783 Jacques Charles made flights in a hydrogen balloon during which he valved off gas to descend (claim 5) and dropped sand to increase his height (claim 6).

I'm truly amazed how often the US Patent Office screws up by not checking prior art. Does anybody there have even two brain cells to rub together?

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In obesity fight, UK’s heavy-handed soda tax beats US' watered-down warning

Martin Gregorie

Re: "the obesity epidemic"

Who says "overweight" should be re-classed as normal? Not the Cola/MacDarnolds/CandyFloss consortium by any chance?

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Software snafu let EU citizens get referendum vote, says Electoral Commission

Martin Gregorie

Re: Requirements, we've heard of them...

The problem is they are not telling us the real reason.

Easy: the reason is that system was written by newly minted, hence cheap, code-monkeys led by the PHB who designed it. And his boss was an MBA who decided that system testing was an expensive way to reduce productivity. Since this would look bad on his CV he declared it unnecessary.

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Jaxa's litany of errors spun Hitomi to pieces

Martin Gregorie

Re: So-

So this was basically a failure of the operations team from start to finish.

...sounds like the result of having a team managed by a bunch of MBAs.

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US computer-science classes churn out cut-n-paste slackers – and yes, that's a bad thing

Martin Gregorie

Been that way fror a long time in the US of A

Back in the mid '70s I was working in NYC with an bright American guy with a relatively recent BSc in Computer Science. It turned out that they'd taught him COBOL and, err, not a lot else apart from some elementary system design.

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Half of EU members sidle up to EC: About the data-sharing rules. C'mon. Chill out

Martin Gregorie

Re: More barriers please

Stop the bandits making off with my private information, using their "innovative business models".

Exactly so. Try this on for size:

  • You (this means governments, quangos, government agencies, businesses and non-proifits) can only retain information specific to an individual or that identifies an individual if all copies of it are securely encrypted wherever it is stored or in transit within your organisation.
  • You will ensure that this information is only available to members of your organisation with a demonstrated task-related need to access it.
  • You may not pass this information to a third party without the explicit permission of the individual it describes. The list of these authorisations must be available to the individual.
  • You may not pass this information to a third party who cannot meet the safeguards given above and it must be securely encrypted during any such authorised transfer.

I think that about covers it. I don't think that this set of rules can harm any legitimate business since it is really just a description of best privacy practise. Admittedly it would be bad news to the Googles and FBs of this world, but who cares: you can make a good case that the way they (mis)use personal data is indistinguishable from data theft.

If they want to stay in business they can always move to a subscription model: I'd be willing to pay for use of Google Earth and possibly for their search engine (since its behind IXquick) and YouTube but nothing else they, FB and friends do has the slightest value to me.

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Kill Flash now? Chrome may be about to do just that

Martin Gregorie

Re: Google catches up to Apple, while Microsoft trails the pack

Google could most usefully show leadership by making sure that all the videos on Youtube are available as HTML5, and should preferably remove the Flash version each time they convert a video to HTML5. A quick check of four or five old favourites showed that all of them are still Flash, so YouTube have got work to do.

On the web browser front, Firefox is in the lead: it canned Flash many releases ago, yet strangely El Reg didn't mention that.

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Blocking ads? Smaller digital publishers are smacked the hardest

Martin Gregorie

Re: My heart bleeds

I agree with your list of restrictions, but it also needs this addition:

4. Scan all adverts you publish for malware as they leave the serve or limit yourself to publishing pure HTML ads of < 1Kb with no external CSS scripts or images.

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Transfer techies at SWIFT tell Bangladesh Bank: Don't shift blame for $81m cyberheist

Martin Gregorie

Depends how the printed reports were handled.

If "SWIFT printed reports" are sent to the bank over the SWIFT network and then printed locally, its quite possible that a piece of malware on the bank's computers intercepted and altered the report before it was printed. If that is what happened then the falsified report is nothing to do with SWIFT.

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Tabby's Star's twinkle probably the boring business of calibration

Martin Gregorie

Re: But why would it show a consistent decline over 100 years?

I take your point about variation with time, but can't most of the sources of variable magnitude you mention be eliminated by choosing at least one other star of similar magnitude that appears on most of the plates and measuring that too? If all measured stars show similar variation, then the variability is due to the equipment and observation techniques.

I'd assume that this or a similar technique was SOP when comparing archived plates or film and, if not, would like to know why not.

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'Apple ate my music!' Streaming jukebox wipes 122GB – including muso's original tracks

Martin Gregorie

Re: What do you do when your live copy breaks?

Anyone recommend a good music sync app for macos?

Forget all that sync app wank.

Try using a local NAS box containing at least two RAIDed disks. Use rsync (because its fast) to make regular backups to it. If you're properly paranoid, add at least two USB drives as an offline backup cycle. Each disk must be capable of holding a complete mirror of what's on the NAS box. Use rsync to back up the NAS box to the least recently written USB drive and keep all of the USB drives offline[1] except when making a backup (or recovering lost files).

[1] The USB drives should be kept either offsite, in a firesafe or offsite in a fire safe. This way, at least one copy of your stuff is proof against both hacking and destruction from power spikes and from destruction of the building where your computers live. Protect your data this way and who gives a flying fart about the evil empires of Apple, Google, et al.

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Stop resetting your passwords, says UK govt's spy network

Martin Gregorie

We use it to sign in to just about everything, often including systems where we have privileged access.

If your employer's passwords are regarded as so corplife-threatening as to need such an elaborate vetting process, why not ditch them altogether and switch to a 2FA system? Much more secure.

Its not as if the 2FA tokens are all that expensive (if they were, the banks wouldn't hand them out like candy) or even that new: the GMP were using 2FA logins back in the late '80s, so if plod can handle 2FA then any PHB should be able to get his head round it too.

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Google AI gains access to 1.2m confidential NHS patient records

Martin Gregorie

Re: Is there an opt out?

@David 164: Where've you been sleeping so soundly for the last several years that you missed Care.data's attempt to sell everybody else's data?

There a form you and everyone else would have signed somewhere

Yes, except that its was an OPT-OUT that about a million of us signed. Twice, because the Care.data crew 'lost' the first set of opt-outs. It wasn't as simple as giving the opt-out to your GP either. As well as that copy, you also had to submit one to any hospital you'd ever been treated at, very evidently to make opting out as hard as possible.

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Meet the malware that screwed a Bangladeshi bank out of $81m

Martin Gregorie

IIRC the SWIFT terminal (supplied by SWIFT and acting as the endpoint of the SWIFT network) is pretty much a locked box, but a SWIFT member organisation is responsible for writing and implementing the code (local terminal) on their system that exchanges messages with the SWIFT terminal.

SWIFT supply a test suite that verifies that the member's software has correctly implemented their side of the link to the SWIFT terminal. The member won't be allowed to connect to the SWIFT terminal until it gets a pass from the test suite.

Apart from that, the security of the member's local terminal is, like the rest of their financial system, 100% their responsibility.

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'Impossible' EmDrive flying saucer thruster may herald new theory of inertia

Martin Gregorie

Here's a link...

...to a much fuller analysis that I read last night:

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/601299/the-curious-link-between-the-fly-by-anomaly-and-the-impossible-emdrive-thruster/#/set/id/601302/

The link was on Jerry Pournelle's 'Chaos Manor' blog and is well worth a read.

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Apple pulled 2,204lbs of gold out of old tech gear

Martin Gregorie

Re: Does the report say how much they lose?

In the US, Apples 22M pounds of scrap steel would fetch about $1M.

The more interesting questions have been left unanswered:

  • how does that price compare with the cost of the same basket of materials when bought fresh from the end of the mining and refining chain?
  • how does the amount of energy used for recycling that basket of materials compare with the energy needed to mine and refine it?

Both questions need answers before even starting to consider whether Apple's recycling is either useful or sensible.

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Surprise! Tech giants dominate global tax-dodging list of shame

Martin Gregorie

US tax rate?

The average US tax rate of 31.5% sounds a bit low judging from what my US friends have told me over the years. So, is that just the federal rate, i.e. it doesn't include state and city taxes?

0
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Nest kills Revolv

Martin Gregorie

Re: Google's attention deficit disorder

I'm just waiting until nowtv dies before buying a roku to use plex with

Personally I wouldn't touch any Roku product with a barge pole after experiencing their *cough* wonderful long-term support *cough* for the Soundbridge, the internet radio tuner they used to sell.

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Ever wondered what the worst TV show in the world would be? Apple just commissioned it

Martin Gregorie

Re: Any show about developers

The answer's obvious.....

...... BOFH, the movie.

26
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Flying Scotsman attacked by drone

Martin Gregorie

Re: It's science!

Coanda effect applies only if water sticks to the rod.

Nope. Coanda applies wherever there's a shear in a moving, compressible fluid. The water column is dragging air, whose other side is sticking to the rod, past it. The shear occurring in that air layer as its dragged past the rod is what deflects the water. Air is a compressible fluid, so the combination of viscosity and shear reduces the pressure in the air mass as it passes the rod and, as a result, the water is deflected toward the low pressure region. If the water stream touches the rod then all the shear is in the water stream. Since water is more viscous than air, of course the deflection is much greater.

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Martin Gregorie

Re: It's science!

The Bernoulli Effect has nothing to do with electrical charges. It is the principle that an object traveling though air or water (or a similar fluid medium) creates lift (Vacuum or a decrease in pressure) when one path of the fluid (the top of the wing) is longer than the other path (bottom of the wing).

Two points:

(1) the air is always separated. There are many wind tunnel pictures using smoke puffs to show that the air flowing over the wing DOES NOT meet up with the air passing under the wing and, doubly unfortunately for the numpties drawing diagrams showing it rejoining and for those who believe them, the air passing over the wing goes much faster than the air on the underside, so the top-side smoke puff is long gone by the time the bottom-side smoke puff gets to the trailing edge.

(2) If a wing really works because air passing along the longer side sucks while air passing the shorter side doesn't, then by your logic:

- no aircraft can fly inverted, yet aerobatic planes do it all the time

- a flat plate wing can't fly at all, yet any sheet balsa toy glider shows this is untrue

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Martin Gregorie

Re: It's science!

...except that Bernoulli has nothing to do with it. The Bernoulli equations are only applicable to flows of an incompressible fluid, i.e. water, and are not applicable compressible fluids such as air or other gasses. In other words they are a good description of the behaviour or water flowing through a pipe, a venturi, or out through a hole in a tank, but not to an air-stream.

The Coanda Effect, which describes the way a fluid flowing past a convex solid surface will tend to stick to it, is applicable here because it applies to any fluid, compressible or incompressible, flowing past a convex solid surface. Similarly, its Coanda that describes airflow over the convex top of a wing, not Bernoulli.

Check the definitions for yourself: even Wikipedia has got this right.

8
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Airbus' Mars plane precursor survives pressure test

Martin Gregorie

Re: Noah called, he wants his units back.

In gliding, the units used are metric. (Probably something to do with the fact that gliding was developed as a sport mainly in Germany).

Not true everywhere: the units used in gliding depend on where you are and its quite messy.

European gliding uses metric units.

In the USA they use feet, knots, nautical miles and pounds weight. Their airspeed indicators are upside down: zero at the top, cruising speeds at the bottom and some older aircraft still use mph rather than knots. I have no idea why they do this when speedometers in road vehicles are the right way up. Everywhere else I've flown the ASI has zero at the bottom and normal climbing and cruising speeds at the top.

In the UK its quite a mixture. Gliders airframes are metric for length, weight and wing area, instruments are ICAO (knots for speed and rate of climb, altitudes in feet), but distance is a mess. We use statute miles when talking to ATC but, because the badge scheme and racing tasks are metric, we think in kilometers for all cross-country flights and related distances.

BTW, until shortly after WW2, all European aircraft had metric instruments, but some time, in the 50s IIRC, all powered civil aircraft throughout the Western world adopted ICAO navigational units (knots, feet, statute miles) along along with their air traffic control systems.

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Brits still not happy about commercial companies using their healthcare data

Martin Gregorie

Sharing medical data for medical research should be compulsory but the data should never be sold to anyone else.

I hope you meant that: "Sharing medical data for medical research should be compulsory but possession of the the data by anybody outside the NHS will attract a mandatory custodial sentence."

2
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Linode: Major cuts to several submarine cables to Singapore

Martin Gregorie

Re: Seismic activity or...

Its a bit too shallow for them to be really happy sniffing about for cables.

1
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NASA's Orion: 100,000 parts riding 8 million pounds of thrust

Martin Gregorie

..and for me too, but on this Friday.

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Easter Islanders didn't commit 'ecocide' after all, says archaeologist

Martin Gregorie

Rats...

Rats are omnivorous and, like all rodents, they eat seeds and fruit. They reproduce like mad in suitable conditions. Given enough of them, they'll eat seeds fast enough to prevent the forest regrowth which would normally replace the trees felled by people to build houses and canoes or for firewood.

6
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China 'evacuates' 9,000 around monster radio 'scope

Martin Gregorie

Re: China is horrid with property rights

Was there at least a payout? Probably nothing of value...

Well, the article did say that each family was getting the equivalent of $US1300 as compensation. The bit the story skipped was to find out what $US1300 would be worth to one of the families being 'evacuated' from the 5km exclusion zone.

That amount would be bugger all to us in comparison with the costs of moving to a new area and then finding replacement housing and a new job, but what would it be worth to a Chinese village farmer? How far would it go to get them set up in a similar house and with a similar plot of land and/or business premises? Could it provide the same standard of living they are used to? Since there was no mention of rehousing them some place else we can only assume that the kindly Chinese Government wasn't about to do that for the 'evacuees' and the $1300 bung is all they're going to get.

0
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Coding is more important than Shakespeare, says VC living in self-contained universe

Martin Gregorie

Re: Shakespeare? who is he anyway?

The plays are not incomprehensible - watch Baz Lurman's film "Shakespeares Romeo and Juliet" and tell me you don't understand it.

Better yet, go back into the archives and watch Zeffirelli's "The Taming Of The Shrew" or "Romeo and Juliet".

9
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Alphabetti spaghetti: What Wall Street isn't telling you about Google

Martin Gregorie

Re: Botnet armies generate clicks

Human viewers employ ad-blockers.

...because ads that jiggle, flash and obscure text are annoying and because of MSAA (Malware Served As Ads). Get rid of both and you might see fewer people running ad-blockers. Do nothing and the ad-blocker kill ratio will surely grow.

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For sale: One 236-bed nuclear bunker

Martin Gregorie

One obvious drawback

I visited the nuclear bunker in Ongar, Essex a year or two back, one May. One of my main memories was that it was rather cold inside, so I think it would be a safe bet that the heating bills for this one, or any other underground nuclear bunker for that matter, would be astronomical.

1
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Lawyers cast fishing nets in class-action Seagate seas

Martin Gregorie

Numpty is as numpty does

So, Mr Nelson made a 'backup' and then deleted the files from his main drive?

Obviously that is what he did, or he'd still have a perfectly good copy of the lost files on his main drive. In my books that makes him 100% responsible for the data loss because the act of deleting the originals converted his backup into the prime copy but he didn't back up the now prime copy onto another disk and store that offline in a place that protected it from fire or other damage.

No data can be considered safe unless at all times there is a copy that cannot be damaged by mains spikes, fire, etc. This means that you have a minimum of two backup copies so that at least one copy is guaranteed to be safely stored offline at all times. Paranoid, moi? Yes, and a firm believer in Murphy when it comes to protecting data you value.

9
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Why a detachable cabin probably won’t save your life in a plane crash

Martin Gregorie

Re: detachable cabin system

Its also worth remembering that a cabin ejection is probably only survivable if it happens at altitude, and that that the majority of airliner disasters that weren't take-off or landing accidents have involved collisions, anti-aircraft missiles, cabin decompression or on-board bombs. In all these cases most of the pax would be dead before they hit the ground regardless of whether the cabin was ejected or not.

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