* Posts by John Sager

255 posts • joined 28 Apr 2008

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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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John Sager

Sadly no Europa orbit

I guess the delta-V to get it into Europa orbit from Jupiter orbit is too large to be practical. Also the proximity of Jupiter would probably make Europa orbits quite unstable too. A GMAT simulation would be cool, but so far I've only used that for Earth orbit sims (trying to understand a SpaceX GTO launch).

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The 'echo chamber' effect misleading people on climate change

John Sager

Re: Echo chambers

"Any field in which one prominent scientist publicly calls another prominent scientist a "denier" is bound to have major problems"

Scientific arguments can get very vicious, especially when the protagonists feel their reputation is at stake. Dawkins relates an anecdote about a conference where, after one presentation, a respected scientist stood up and, to paraphrase, thanked the presenter for showing how he had been wrong all these years. So everyone applauded mightily. That's how scientific discourse should be, but I suspect that it doesn't happen very often. I've also heard it said that paradigm change only happens when the supporters of the old thinking die off.

There will be a lot of egg on face for many in the 'Climate Consensus' if things turn out to be nowhere near as bad as has been predicted.

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

John Sager

Re: Impulsive voting

@John Woods: Your implicit assumption, from your last sentence, seems to be that a 'centrist' position is in some sense optimal, i.e. if you have some arbitrary mix of 'small-state' and 'big-state' policies that a coalition government can find agreement on, then it will be better than either of the two 'pure' positions. This sounds awfully much like the sort of compromises that masqerade as policies from Brussels. Personally, I'm happy that we've got a Conservative government without the pains of trying to find common ground in a coalition. The small majority will ameliorate the worst excesses, though that might not stop Theresa May (yet another Home Sec captured by the system). Labour were never going to get an overall majority anyway so we would have had all the hassles of a coalition with, almost certainly, lots more internal fractiousness than ever the ConLibs had.

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John Sager

Re: Super!

'Given that North Korea may be doing exactly that ("super"dollars), what's to stop Greece printing "supereuros"?'

I think that would lead to that Wehrmacht paratroops thing again.

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After #Election2015: How can we save Big Data?

John Sager

I doubt Nate is worried

I saw that programme and it looked like a nice jolly for Nate Silver, paid out of our licence fee, that didn't really mean very much. He chucked in a few caveats regarding the info available here compared with the data he uses in the US, but he was definitely out of his comfort zone.

However I shall certainly be looking at fivethirtyeight.com as the contest hots up over there.

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Messerschmitts, Sinclairs and a '50s living room: The Bubblecar Museum

John Sager

Re: Memories...

I remember at school in the 60s, one of our teachers had an Isetta. We thought he was a bit strange, as they weren't too common on the streets there (Rossendale). A schoolmate's dad had one of those blue invalid carriages - hideous & unsafe, I thought, but there were quite a lot about. I dunno what make it was but I went with a friend to see a lad who had just acquired one of those 3-wheeler sports cars - single wheel at the back. We though that was quite cool, but it did seem he had rather a lot of trouble getting it to go and then to stay running!

Off topic a bit, our next-door neighbour then had *two* Armstrong-Siddley Sapphires. Sadly he died and the one with the preselector gearbox was sold quickly. However the other (automatic) sat outside the back of their house for a year or so, until his widow let me see if I could get it going. Even though the battery had by this time lost one cell, I eventually got it going (it had a starting handle), and drove it up & down the moorland lane we lived on. She offered it to my dad for £50 but he wasn't prepared to pay - he couldn't drive, didn't want to learn, and I was only 14. She sold it to some other guy who I helped to get it street-legal again. An opportunity missed:(

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SOD TABLETS, if you want to get anything done travelling get a ... yes, a LAPTOP

John Sager

Wrong tablet

You chose an iPad. Locked in a straitjacket there! We managed blogging off an Android tablet on an Antipodean holiday. True, I would have preferred my laptop but weight & size precluded that. True also it was for fun, not for earning money but it can be done, if rather inefficiently.

The workflow was, my wife took the photos, and then she wrote the text later. I put the camera micro-SD card in the tablet, copied the photos, fixed, cropped & scaled them for upload, then uploaded text & pics using the blog (Tumblr) app when we next had wifi. I played with a few apps before we left. A file manager is essential, and I found a decent photo-mangling app. Not up to Gimp or Photoshop but it sufficed. If I had been writing I would have soon bought a bluetooth keyboard but my wife got along with the screen.

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Volkswagen Passat GT 2.0-litre TDI SCR 190 PS 6spd DSG

John Sager

Rubbish in-car satnavs

I don't get it either. Having just bought a 2012 Audi A4, the satnav in that is antediluvian compared with even the 6-year old Tom-Tom I had in the previous car. The data was even on a DVD for heaven's sake, blocking the CD/DVD slot. At least the car has two SD slots so the satnav data is now copied to a SD. If I want to update the maps it's about £200 from the dealer, I think. Other built-in satnavs I've seen are just as rubbish.

Surely the companies who supply the satnav features to the car manufacturers can see that this is something that needs to be updated on a regular basis at a reasonable price. In fact, the same goes for all in-car electronics - the renewal cycle these days is much shorter than the average life of the car, and has been for years.

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Singapore's prime minister releases source code for his hand-coded Sudoku-solver

John Sager

Re: Not bad

I've always done that - declare before use has been a paradigm of many languages I've programmed in over the decades. I know C++ has 'for (int i=0;...' and many C compilers will support that (is it a formal C language feature now?), but I guess old habits die hard.

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John Sager

Re: personally

+1. I'm not personally interested in Sudoku (though my wife is), but I wrote a Sudoku solver as a way of playing with Knuth's 'Dancing Links'. Then I modded it to find all the solutions to a puzzle called the Bedlam Cube - a 3D pentominoes puzzle. That was a far more interesting challenge than solving any number of Sudoku puzzles. I did puzzle my wife by printing out some 4,5, and 6 squared Sudoku puzzles though:)

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From Manchester to Microsoft – missing mum :-(

John Sager

Re: Weekend

All sorts. We have friends in Redmond (not Softies), and went all over. Mt St Helens is about 5 hours down I-5. Mt Rainier (pronounced 'reneer') has skiing, mountain climbing. Go over Snoqualmie Pass on I-90 to the skiing up there in winter, and the semi-desert terrain along the Columbia River (beware Rattlesnake signs! but we didn't see one). Lots of boatie-type stuff to do on Puget Sound & Lake Washington. I could go on, but Google for yourself.

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

John Sager

Re: refuel...

Doubt it. Even if there is no ground power, big aircraft like that have an Auxiliary Power Unit - a small jet engine in the tail connected to an alternator. So quite a few bits of aircraft electronics probably stay powered up for months. Having said that it's probably not as long as 248 days though.

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DRONE ALONE: US Navy secretary gives up on manned fighters

John Sager

Re: All will be well then...

The bigger drones will need some kind of carrier, though probably not a Nimitz-class beast.

However, I don't think he's got enough clout to kill the bureaucratic fiefdoms. That would take a raft of Executive Orders, and even then the buggers could probably shout 'Unconstitutional!' in the Supreme Court. Bureaucrats are the nearest real thing to the Zombie Apocalypse that we've got.

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SPY FRY: Smart meters EXPLODE in Californian power surge

John Sager

Re: Distribution architecture vulnerability

Lots of LV overhead around here (rural Suffolk), plus lots of 11kV overhead and even 33kV. Our supply is slightly odd as we have a big transformer surrounded by a wooden fence, and the 11kV comes underground from the 33kV transformer about 2 miles away. The LV is then overhead for us but underground for some other properties that were upgraded 15 or so years ago. The rest of the village has overhead LV fed by 11kV transformers on poles from at least 2 other overhead 11kV feeds. It's all a bit of a dog's breakfast really.

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John Sager

Re: Distribution architecture vulnerability

These days Protective Multiple Earthing should obviate that. The path to earth via the neutral from the fault should have low enough resistance to stop the neutral from rising too much before the LV fuse blows on the faulty phase at the transformer.

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John Sager
FAIL

Distribution architecture vulnerability

Putting the medium voltage (several kV) distribution on the same pole (and above) as the LV distribution is common in the US and, I notice, in Oz too. Probably many other countries as well. I've even seen three voltages on the same pole, one over the other. This is very uncommon in the UK where 11kV and 33kV stuff is run separately to the local LV distribution.

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Nuclear waste spill: How a pro-organic push sparked $240m blunder

John Sager

Re: Fast Integral Reactor.

@Symon: The reason it's buried is political, not technical. If the Eco-loons & disarmers (including Monbiot AFAIR) didn't complain so much about reprocessing, then it would get recycled into new nuclear reactors. But there aren't any of those due to said Eco-loons. You still need a repository as the recycling isn't 100% efficient and there is always low level radioactive stuff that it isn't practical or economic to make safe. Even the high-level activity stuff out of the reprocessing plant can be cycled through certain designs of reactor to make it safer.

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Guardian: 'Oil reserves will soon be worth NOTHING!' (A bit like their stock tips, really)

John Sager

Re: There will be a need for Carbon stuff in the Economy

If we're talking about keeping all the carbon in the ground, then the energy we use has to come from somewhere. This - http://www.withouthotair.com - is a very good analysis of the options. Worstall's slim volume, 'Chasing Rainbows' is worth a read too. Unless we all go back to pre-industrial-revolution energy use with all that entails in terms of reduced population, disease, starvation et al.

Personally I don't see certain forms of carbon use disappearing at all. If we carry on flying then kerosene is going to be very hard to replace. I don't see the energy density of hydrogen or electrical energy storage approaching kero any time soon if ever. Same thing for container ships & bunker oil/diesel. Plenty of people have tried to build upscaled sailing ships but we don't see them around in more than prototypes.

Of course we could make kero/diesel from atmospheric CO2 but that needs a lot of hectares of sunshine, even if we have an optimised natural or artificial photosynthesis process - see the ref above.

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Watchdog slaps American Apparel's youthful naked arse

John Sager

AA scores again

AA now have the measure of the ASA. And they can get Dacre's rag to give them lots more publicity off the back of it. Sounds like an optimised marketing strategy to me.

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Scotland to get National ID system 'by the backdoor', campaigners mull challenge

John Sager

And why should HMRC be concerned about people avoiding tax, which is prefectly legal? Unfortunately the 'the answer to everything is tax' brigade have sufficiently managed to conflate aviodance & evasion in the public mind that perfectly legal strategies for arranging one's tax affairs are seen as evil plots.

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Reckon YOU can write better headlines than us? Great – apply within

John Sager

Re: Pay?

Green Card? I like SF (see previous article), but I'm not moving there (too old anyway). Other Brits (or other non-USians) might want to though.

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The finest weird people in the world live here, and we're proud of it

John Sager

My favourite US city

I've been on business trips to Silicon Valley on numerous occasions and I always made time to visit SF. We also started a longish US holiday there a couple of years ago. Agree about Sausalito. There was a farmers' market there when we went with the most delicious strawberrys on offer! Alcatraz may be a tourist thing but it really is worth a visit to see how the cons lived. I don't think the US penal system has moved on much either from those days so his warnings about illegal behaviour are to be noted. Go up onto Marin Heights - an excellent view over the Bridge back to the city. SF is also a good base for visits to Santa Cruz (seal watching off the pier), Monterey and, if you're down there, just go look at Carmel.

One trip I motored up to the Lick Observatory from San Jose, which is worth a visit if you're into astronomy.

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At the third beep, the Atomic Clock will be 60 ... imprecisely

John Sager

The good bits became Agilent, which still has a good rep in test & lab eqipment, I think.

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John Sager

10^10 - I can't be bothered trying superscripts as the original article got the html wrong too. An Ångström unit is 0.1 nanometres.

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Ofcom can prise my telly spectrum from my COLD, DEAD... er, aerial

John Sager

Re: "Broadcast is efficient"

ITV Player quality has been truly dire on the few times we've had to use it. However even the 'high quality' stream of BBC iPlayer is nothing like as good as even SD broadcast. Ofcom are playing their usual game of giving low priority to service user requirements over service provider requirements.

IP delivery of broadcast services will only work with at least tens-of-megabits broadband delivery to the population coverage requirements the broadcasters must meet. Commercial realities mean that is never going to happen by copper, fibre or RF. Also, satellite is a single point of failure. With a big enough solar flare, all the sats, including the spares, will fail, and the replacement cycle will be long, with sat broadcasting probably not near the top of the build & launch priority list.

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2015: The year of MAD TV science, but who can keep up?

John Sager

Re: Content content content....

Streaming of 4k content is going to be a real challenge for content providers until multicast is in mainstream use, and consumer network kit will recognise its routing protocols. Even with that, real-time may be a struggle. Given the prevalence of recording devices, increasingly with terabit hard disks (or SSDs soon?), I would think that offline download would become more attractive as a distribution method.

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