* Posts by John Sager

281 posts • joined 28 Apr 2008

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LIGO boffins set to reveal grav-wave corker

John Sager

Re: Is it a test?

I doubt they would open the envelope in front of the world, and with the paper already printed in Nature, just to find "that was a test". I suspect the envelope-opening ceremony happened in private at a LIGO meeting some weeks ago, given the time that rumours have been circulating.

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Cops hate encryption but the NSA loves it when you use PGP

John Sager

Re: Privacy

At the time he wrote that, the Internet was very much smaller & most people on it were geeks of one sort or another. So it was not exactly a dumb statement then. However AOL was connected about that time & the 'net started a long descent to what we see today, though there have been compensations along the way (Altavista & descendants, http, etc). PGP has always required some intelligent deployment. Enigmail might be just a plug-in but the real work is setting up & managing the public key infrastructure required to use it effectively as a day-to-day tool. Amongst a small circle of friends, acquaintances & colleagues that is manageable, but otherwise, forget it. And although there is now a halfway decent CA infrastructure for website certificates, that's still too hard to deploy universally for personal e-mail signing & encryption.

So non-TLS encryption is going to stick out like a sore thumb for a long long time, even TLS used in unusual contexts (not web, not IMAP etc).

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Eight-billion-dollar Irish tax bill looms over Apple

John Sager

Penalties?

Have Apple actually done wrong here? They were offered a deal by the Belgian govt, which the EU have now said is illegal state aid. So if anything it's the Belgian govt which is in the wrong. Apple can easily say they accepted the offer in good faith. No doubt the devil is in the details though.

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BBC News website takes New Year's Eve break

John Sager

Re: Erratic

news.bbc.co.uk - I get RST

www.bbc.co.uk/news works OK for me. (@ 10:55 31/12/15)

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Flare-well, 2015 – solar storm to light up skies on New Year's Eve

John Sager

Re: Never mind the US

http://www.aurora-service.eu/aurora-forecast/

According to that site it all happened last night (around midnight weds & the early hours thurs). Anyone see it? Lots of rain here & we're too far south for most of them. In the 30-odd years I've lived here (S Suffolk), I've only seen three.

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Launch embiggens Galileo satnav fleet

John Sager

Re: The US military has announced that if ...

My phone (Nexus 5, Snapdragon 800 SoC) will pick up both GPS and GLONASS sats, but I've only ever seen it use two GLONASS in the solution. I don't think the Snapdragon 800 will do Galileo, though I think the 810 will. Has anyone ever seen a Galileo in the sat list that some of the satnav phone apps have?

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Ofcom retreats from 4G spectrum auction after legal threat from Three, O2

John Sager

Re: Hmmmmm

There is 10MHz between the top of the 2.3GHz band and the bottom of 2.4GHz wifi band. Any self-respecting filter should be able to sort that out, and it's not like wifi is below the noise threshold like GPS is, so no, it's not Lightsquared again.

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Broadband's frequency hunters denied Freeview patch – for now

John Sager

HEVC

Better to move the HD channels to HEVC and/or VP9 in a few years, and migrate SD to H.264 with an eventual move to HEVC. If that became a statement of intent, then it would speed the introduction of HEVC onto HD sets as well as it now appearing in 4K sets.

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Paris, jihadis, tech giants ... What is David Cameron's speechwriter banging on about now?

John Sager

If this was politically inspired, then it's backfired spectacularly

The sample of comments in the Crappygraph's article, plus another demolition job on it in Techdirt will get wider circulation than the original article, I expect. Not to mention all the blowback on Twitter. The riposte will be complete if she gets this:

CF: Hello, I'm Clare Foges

A.N.Other: Ah yes, the clueless idiot. Can I interest you in a copy of 'Cryptography for Dummies'?

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Yesterday: Openreach boss quits. Today: BT network goes TITSUP

John Sager

Re: Just use your own.

I used to run a DNS server like that, but I found that the NS servers for some domains didn't like queries from ISP end user address ranges. It might be better now but I still have my local DNS server forwarding to my ISP's servers to avoid that.

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UK.gov finally promises legally binding broadband service obligation – by 2020

John Sager

Still waiting in our village

Although our county (Suffolk) struck a deal with BT to supply 'Rural Broadband', colour me surprised when BT promptly upgraded the rest of the cabinets in the local towns & big villages that had previously been deemed to have 'no business case for upgrade'. Of course, it's not a picnic for them to add the extra infrastructure to make sure all lines in the sticks are <1km from a FTTC cabinet, but wasn't that what the taxpayers' shilling via BDUK was for?

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How to build a city fit for 50℃ heatwaves

John Sager

Underground

You do what you need to do. Coober Pedy (AU) already has a lot of underground accommodation for that reason. I don't think the CAGWpocalypse is going to be anything like as bad as predicted, but even a degree or so rise in average temps is going to mean several degrees in peak temps in some places.

South facing windows? I don't think so in the Northern hemisphere!

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'T-shaped' developers are the new normal

John Sager
FAIL

Is this a preview of the Pageless (and Worstall-less) era of ElReg?

If so, I'm outta here. Any suggestions where to go now gratefully accepted.

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US Military enlists radio hams to simulate fight with THE SUN

John Sager

What would actually happen

A CME is a large (for very large values of large) flux of charged particles, mainly protons, moving at high speed. This causes radiation damage to electronics outside the atmosphere, hence potentially killing satellites. When it hits the atmosphere it causes all sorts of mayhem in the ionosphere, hence auroras, and stuffs up its reflectivity for HF radio. The large currents created in the ionosphere induce similar large currents in long-distance cable systems. Those (DC) currents in electrical transmission systems can saturate the magnetic cores in the transformers, reducing their inductance so that the combined overload can kll them if the circuit breakers don't work fast enough. In any case the electrical network shuts down (cf Quebec March 89).

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EU urged to ignore net neutrality delusions, choose science instead

John Sager

Re: Someone is ill-informed - and it may be me

I have no use for skype so why should my email be slowed down because some one is using skype?

But do you not use Netflix, or iPlayer? The same argument applies. Some types of traffic need timely delivery (on the scale of milliseconds or even microseconds) whereas others could be delayed by seconds or even longer. Some kind of QoS-based delivery goals would be good. But how should that be policed so that customers & networks don't cheat?

As an example, I have a femtocell gateway to provide mobile phone coverage in the house (we live in a hole). It sends the mobile data over the Internet to our mobile provider in an IPSec tunnel. I did think about using my firewall to mark outgoing packets of that stream with an appropriate QoS category, but talking to my previous ISP they said they took no notice of such markings. I ran some tests to other endpoints on other ISPs and the markings often got set back to 'best effort' anyway.

As others have said, the system should be allowed to classify traffic with different flow characteristics and treat them appropriately but not to differentially favour traffic in the same flow classes for competitive advantage.

Set the rules properly and the engineers can come up with effective solutions.

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So what's the internet community doing about the NSA cracking VPN, HTTPS encryption?

John Sager

A little clarification

The recent issue with Diffie-Hellman is that the standards, and a lot of implementations, use one specific 1024-bit prime known as 'Oakley Group 2'. The conjectured hack is to calculate a lot of specific data from this prime which can then be used to rapidly break any shared keys generated by D-H using this particular prime if the D-H message exchange is observed. The counter is not to use that particular prime. More modern implementations tend to use Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC) which, as far as is known publicly, is secure with large enough fields over which the calculation is done. For example, OpenSSH has for a while used in preference an elliptic curve algorithm called Curvep25519, which is supposed to be as hard to break as 128-bit AES, i.e. impractical currently.

Note: Although thethere has been a recent debacle over the NIST Dual_EC_DRBG random number generator which uses elliptic curves in a specific, and conjecture to be hacked, way, this has no bearing on the general security of ECC.

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O2 joins Virgin Media as member of weak crypto software club

John Sager

Surprising (or perhaps not) how common this still is

I found the same issue recently with a phone app from a financial organisation who shall remain nameless. It was a server-side issue. Credit to them, they fixed it pretty quickly in comparison to the usual big org timescales after I alerted them. Since the app has been around for a while I was surprised no-one else had found it before I decided to use it.

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Beard transplants up 600% for men 'lacking length elsewhere'

John Sager

Re: I have an occasional beard...

Now I'm old, lazy & cantankerous, I only shave every couple of days or so, so I've mostly got the 'hobo look'. My wife isn't impressed but no-one else seems to care. When my daughters were little I grew a beard a couple of times as both my brothers-in-law were bearded & the girls didn't react to that too well. It was OK in the winter but it had to come off in the spring - too itchy by half!

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Bletchley Park remembers 'forgotten genius' Gordon Welchman

John Sager

Re: "The Hut Six Story" [BBC programme]

Many copies of The Hut Six Story are available for sale at very reasonable prices in the shop at Bletchley Park

Bowdlerised?

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John Sager

BBC programme

That was most interesting. I had read about JTIDS years ago but I didn't realise Welchman was instrumental in its development. They interviewed John Scarlett and as you might expect he was still pushing the GCHQ line. That seems to be a major problem with history of this stuff. Scarlett's view was "we know whether this stuff is still sensitive or not, so we should make the decision to declassify". He has a point, but it does seem hard for them to rationally appraise secret stuff to decide the balance of risk/benefit of declassification. You can see that with the whole story of BP - the history of WWII looks a lot different now in the light of those activities.

As for Welchman's book, 'The Hut Six Story' was withdawn by its publishers and copies are now like gold dust - look at the prices on Amazon!

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Official: North America COMPLETELY OUT of new IPv4 addresses

John Sager

Re: All those who claim transition to IPv6 is easy

And what good will that do, since those hosts don't speak v6 and so won't be able to communicate end-to-end with v6 hosts on the network?

The point is that the v4->v6 in the home router works in tandem with the proxy at the ISP to go v6->v4 again. The ISP could, of course, hand the v6->v4 function off to a third pary if they are themselves a v6-only ISP (more and more likely in the future).

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John Sager

Re: All those who claim transition to IPv6 is easy

At some point ISPs will have no more v4 addresses to hand out, either fixed or dynamic. At that point new customers will *have* to have a v6 prefix. The way I see that working to support legacy v4, both in the home and in the Internet is two bits of kit.

1) In the home, the router supports an internal v4 rfc1918 network that NATs to a specific v6 external addresses in the prefix range, so v4-only hosts can connect out. radvd or dhcp6 will identify v6-capable hosts internally that can just pass through the router/firewall. Although the v6 hosts would also get an internal v4 address from the router, DNS64 would make all their external traffic go via v6, and they would only use v4 to connect to internal v4-only hosts.

2) At the ISP, run proxies with a mix of DNS64, NAT64 & 464XLAT to manage the connection from v6 hosts in the home to v4 hosts on the Internet via temporary v6 addresses allocated at the proxy.

There are probably edge cases that don't fit this model but that happened with v4 NAT and handlers got built into the NAT gateway code. Similarly this will get solved here.

Unfortunately I have a suspicion that some ISPs will instead go the v4 carrier-NAT route (mobile operators have already done this, at least in the UK), which at this point is rather more mature:(

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John Sager

v4 and v6 are most likely segregated at the link layer - separate MPLS or Ethernet paths. That means they can be traffic-engineered independently. It wouldn't surprise me if v6 pipes are over-provided currently, though perhaps not by very much.

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John Sager

Any ISP that has to allocate IPv6 prefixes to its customers will almost certainly have to offer a suitable router with pre-loaded firewall rules. Should be no problem with NICs - all OSs going back to Vista - even XP? - should support IPv6 out of the box.

I've run v6 for years but with a homebrew router. I was not impressed when my new TP link WA901 access point a couple of years ago had bugs with v6 on alternate SSIDs. Loading OpenWRT solved that problem. I think the day when the hardware manufacturers will have to provide and properly test v6 capability is now not too far off.

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Brown kid with Arab name arrested for bringing home-made clock to school

John Sager

It's just Texas

Only beaten in the unclue stakes by Florida? There probably are smart people in Texas, but they don't join the local police, or it seems, the teaching staff...

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Galileo, Galileo, Galileo good to go!

John Sager

When can we use the system?

The GPS app on my phone (Nexus 5) shows GPS and GLONASS sats, and it even uses a couple of GLONASS sats in the fix, but no sign of Galileo sats yet. I'm assuming that modern correlators can be set up to lock onto the Galileo signals & 'it's just software'.

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Boffins clock MONSTER BLACK HOLES inside quasar-hosting galaxy near Earth

John Sager

Gravitational Radiation

Presumably the GR flux from this is below detection threshold, but the config should enable the boffins to calculate the expected flux?

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Perhaps middle-aged blokes SHOULDN'T try 34-hour-long road trips

John Sager

Lane merging

AFAIR NZ has slow merge to fast, i.e. merge to the right. I don't remember many hills in the bit of Oz we drove - It's pretty flat travelling North in Queensland, hence all the Road Open/Closed boards on the A1 - not for snow but for floods!

UK is fast merge to slow pretty much everywhere I think.

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EFF's Privacy Badger will block snooping ads and invisible trackers

John Sager

Just trying it

Running it on Firefox. It sees way more stuff than Ghostery but some of that is probably just off-site support stuff that a lot of websites use. It learns as it goes. Mine currently has a list of 155 from the relatively few websites I've visited so far (BBC, slashdot, Dilbert, Telegraph etc), but a lot of those are marked 'green', i.e. OK. Quite a few red ones too, including Google Analytics on this site!

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Google, Oracle's endless Java copyright battle extended to ... 2016

John Sager

Needs to be litigated anyway

This needs to be resolved for everyone, not just an agreement between Oracle & Google. There are lots of legacy APIs out there that everyone has implicitly assumed are free to use. Going forward, new APIs could have an explicit licence (free to use for any purpose, or with specific restrictions), and the restrictive ones would find their niche or just die. However developers need some certainty about the legal landscape to continue using all the old ones with no explicit licence.

Another point - this is all kerfuffle in the US, but I wonder how this affects the use of these APIs in Europe & elsewhere?

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UK.gov wants to stop teenagers looking at tits online. No, really

John Sager

Re: Hang on

Back in the day, people who felt like that emigrated to America, though they would probably think twice about that destination now. There is a large empty continent a ways south of here that might suit? If it's true what we keep being told it might even become inhabitable. Alternatively we could offer to build them the B-Ark.

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So what the BLINKING BONKERS has gone wrong in the eurozone?

John Sager

Be careful what you wish for

The Europeans haven't really thought through all the implications of what they are trying to do, and perhaps they are now coming to a realisation. All this Eurozone austerity is because Germany doesn't want to be on the hook indefinitely for Southern European debt - make the buggers realise what you have to do to live & work in Europe. It won't work, of course. I'm not even sure that a Friedmanite Bundesbank would have been able to sort things - I believe the German Constitution has drawn some red lines.

The Private Eye thing is just the Eye being itself. Why shouldn't diferent things work in different economic conditions? I'm sure George Osborne thanks whatever deity he holds dear every morning that the UK isn't in the Eurozone. We have a similar situation in microcosm. The richer South funds the poorer North & Scotland on a continuing basis but we just get on & do it, unlike the Germans. We even try to even it up a bit ("Northern Powerhouse", anyone?), with variable success.

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Here's why Whittingdale kicked a subscription BBC into the future

John Sager

Re: I assumed it's been widely hacked "since 1997"

Common Interface is just that - an interface between a conditional access device and the TV set. All the security stuff is in the module, with none in the TV. It was designed that way deliberately (I was one of the designers) so that conditional access provision could be independent from TV/Set-top box manufacture. Sky, in their infinite business wisdom, decided to do it their way rather than joining the party. Lots of arguments at meetings in Geneva as I recall!

There is an upgraded specification, CI Plus, which adds encryption between module & TV using a standardised system to placate some of the content owners. That is independent of the over-air crypto & customer management provided by the module.

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Reg reader casts call centre spell with a SECRET WORD

John Sager

UK broadband support

A lot of broadband in the UK is supplied over copper pairs (and often an IP backhaul network) run by BT. Now, if I report a line fault with voice service, they send a guy out and the fault is actually with my phone or internal wiring, then I'm on the hook for the cost of the callout. If, however, I report a broadband fault to my ISP, they call out BT and it turns out not to be BT's fault, then the ISP is on the hook for the call-out. Guess what, ISPs are reluctant to declare broadband faults to BT if there is not an associated voice service fault. Been there, done that, over a period of a couple of years until my current ISP did eventually agree to call out BT, they sent an on-the-ball Openreach guy & he eventually found the fault in an underground cable section (after well over an hour of lifting footway boxes & testing).

I guess it did help that my ISP doesn't have a foreign call centre & it's easy to talk to a tech person when they realise that you understand this stuff.

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Citizenfour director Laura Poitras sues US for years of border security harassment

John Sager

Re: Seems to be way more than just SSSS

Last time I was in the US (on holiday), I bought internal flight tickets whilst still in the UK. I don't remember any hassles with security, though TSA did open our case (and damage it in the process) on the way out of the US (at SEA or ORD). Previously I've been to the US countless times, mostly on business, with no hassle. I can imagine though that a SSSS notification on your record could be more or less impossible to remove once you acquire it with the current institutional paranoia level.

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Mathematician: SUNSPOT DROUGHT will mean mini ICE AGE from 2030

John Sager

Old news

This has been doing the rounds for days in the dead tree media, even to the extent of suggesting the Thames freezing again (probably not as it's mostly channeled now). The author did a Principle Component Analysis on magnetic observations from 3 sunspot cycles and came up with some insights into the magnetic behaviour of the sun. Presumably she only used 3 cycles as the observations only go that far back. TBH I would want a longer series to analyse but you have what you have. It'll be interesting to see how the predictions match reality over the next cycle but I'm not holding my breath for a 'Maunder Minimum' in the 2030s.

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Attention dunderheads: Taxpayers are NOT giving businesses £93bn

John Sager

Residual value

The other thing that's missing is that plant usually has a residual value even when it's depreciated to zero. Though Rodney trashed the gearbox after 4 years, a new gearbox is a few grand and even unrepaired, the lorry could be sold for £50k perhaps. That comes straight back to the company as income to be added to profits & therefore taxed. So Farnsworth's argument holds even less water.

When I stopped being a self-employed consultant, I had to look at the kit I had bought - server, UPS, laptop, etc - and written off in the first year under capital allowances. It still had residual value so I had to nominally pay myself the value of it and that went into the business accounts as income to go into the tax calculations.

Of course, as Tim says, the "£93Bn subsidy to business" is now a Lefty article of faith, and won't readily be dislodged by rational exposition from Tim or anyone else:(

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PLUTO: The FINAL FRONTIER – best image yet of remote, icy dwarf planet REVEALED

John Sager

Re: Oh dear-

Nah, it'll be a copy of Graceland with Elvis still living there.

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Facebook casts a hex with self-referential IPv6

John Sager

Well, they own the use of the addresses

I noticed this a while back when trying to analyse some traffic anomalies on my home network. If they want to use some of the host part of their v6 addresses in that way then why not? Nice of them to label their addresses like that so we don't need to do reverse lookups. Of course, bad boys could emulate to mislead, but only geeks & network engineers look at v6 addresses anyway.

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'The server broke and so did my back on the flight to fix it'

John Sager
FAIL

Re: That is a really idiotic design choice.

It's obviously Apple following the Microsoft dictum of making stupid choices for the unwary. Though they would cast it as being user-friendly for the complete newbie (new to this? Ok, we'll format the disk & then you can load up OS-X from the DVD you have in your hot little hand).

Quite why you would want a server to behave this way is beyond me though.

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Teaching people to speak English? You just need Chatroulette without the dick pics

John Sager

Re: why english?

Despite being spoken by a large population, Mandarin is going to struggle against English as a global language. The written language is hard to learn, the spoken language is tonal and the semantics leave a lot to context - no tenses as such. Those last two may not be a killer barrier but IMHO the first one is. The simplicity of alphabets or the syllables in syllabic languages gives them a major advantage in learning, especially as an adult.

English as a global lingua franca is where it is because of history and the barrier to entry now of any other language is high, probably requiring global conquest and dictatorial imposition. At least for now.

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Supreme Court ignores Google's whinging in Java copyright suit

John Sager

I wonder if the Supreme Court understood the issue?

Presumably they thought it couldn't be construed as a constitutional issue. IANAL so I dunno, though it's obviously important to clarify the situation. If custom & practice in the software industry for the past half century or so is to be sacrificed on the altar of Larry Ellison's greed then we're really up shit creek for a long time. I suppose in the end, certain APIs will be explicitly free to use by licence & others not, and the 'not' ones will get progressively ostracised. Shades of Unisys & GIF in the 90s.

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Why OH WHY did Blighty privatise EVERYTHING?

John Sager

Re: More balance please

Oversupply of unnecessary items? If they were 'unnecessary', then the company making them would not be able to sell them and would go bust. Indeed, companies go bust all the time, but it's not generally because the market disappears (except for the odd hansom cab maker), it's because some other company can do it better, by whatever definition of 'better' works at that point, and captures the previous company's market.

There is this persistent view in some quarters that competition and the variety of products it produces is somehow 'inefficent' or 'wasteful'. Why not just have the No 1 Tractor Works make all the tractors the State functionary said we would need in the next 5 years?. It works a hell of a lot better with John Deere, Massey Ferguson, Claas etc all busy making essentially the same range of products, and trying hard to make a better stab at what the customer really wants. But then Tim has been banging on about this for aeons with, sadly, zero to minimal lightbulbs going off in minds it would be very helpful to illuminate.

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Tower of BT Bubbly: Fancy nibbling atop a strategic data hub?

John Sager

I went up there many years ago on a company do for our collaborators on a project I was associated with. It is a good view of London, but TBH I preferred the view from the Sky Tower restaurant in Auckland. Pity it's 12k miles away, but then the view would change if it were nearer...

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BT: G.fast is fast and we want it FASTER

John Sager

Yet more RFI further up the spectrum

And they're *still* trying to sweat ancient copper (and Al) assets. Now we're down pretty much to the overhead drop from the DP. Why not just bite the bullet & run PON fibre from there?

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Paper driving licence death day: DVLA website is still TITSUP

John Sager

Re: Eggs in one basket

They could have anticipated the early overload. No doubt the site is dimensioned for 'normal' loads. If I had been project manager, I would just hire 2 or 3 times the server load capacity for a month or so - plenty of providers of that service. I suspect though that the security requirements and the cost of the risk assessment put the kibosh on that approach.

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Tim Worstall: Metals, mining and my heavyweight book

John Sager

Re: Would like to come but ...

Likewise, look forward to the video. I would have liked to come but it's my parents' 70th wedding anniversary do in Devon the day after, so I guess I have an excuse...

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The rare metals debate: Only trace elements of sanity found

John Sager

Re: Tim Worstal ...

Can't you get TPTP at ElReg to correct their database for you, after all you are now quite a celeb around here? Or is that a fixup too far that would black-hole ElReg for aeons.

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NASA hands Boeing first commercial crew contract for SPAAAACE

John Sager

Re: There is a way to meet the deadlines

I would be surprised if SpaceX don't do lots of up-front design analysis as well. If they hadn't the engines & Falcon systems wouldn't have worked as well as they did in the prototype phase. If Boeing are relying on getting it right first time based on simulation then my guess is they'll be in for an unpleasant surprise come the day.

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NASA's Jupiter moon mission becomes acronymathon

John Sager

Re: Sadly no Europa orbit

"Wouldn't the destabilizing factors be Io and Ganymede, not Jupiter?"

Although Io & Ganymede (and Callisto) will have some small effect, the major influence on orbit stability is the enormous mass ratio between Jupiter & Europa. The Lagrange points L1 & L2 are very close to Europa and even orbits inside those can be unstable unless you are deep down in Europa's gravity well.

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