100 posts • joined Friday 16th May 2008 14:02 GMT
Actually, rather than stick sensors all over the place in lightbulbs and so on, there is a case for centralising the sensors into one unit, and simply moving that unit around as needed. So, you start off with the basic kit of a house computer & server, plus wifi, plus some sort of robotic pet. All the sensors you need, you stick into what will probably end up looking like a rotund robotic kitten.
That way you have a platform to move the sensors around the place, combined with something that people actually quite like to interact with, and which can double up as a night-time fire sensor and watch-dog of sorts (with most of the smart processing being done over wifi by the base computer as the kitten sits on its wireless charge-pad acting more or less like a webcam).
Re: build your own!
We do not need to go "build our own" flying car; this has already been done. Gyrocopters are the closest thing you're ever going to see to a flying car, without huge expense, and they are a niche toy at best. This is even with the facts that they fly in autorotation all the time making them easier to control than a helicopter and much harder to stall than a conventional aircraft, have a maintainence footprint much lower than an equivalent helicopter, and have short take-off and landing capability.
In short, a relatively unskilled person can be trained to become a gyrocopter pilot, and gyrocopters can be flown relatively cheaply and easily. Yet, this doesn't happen. Why not? The simple answer is, we do not need flying cars.
Google self-driving cars are a much better idea.
Re: Couple of points
The anti-sports rant is, in my opinion, entirely justified. Games teachers have a well-deserved reputation for stupidity, and it is my experience that this took the form of never troubling to explain the rules of any game "taught" to us pupils. Rugby especially was never taught or explained, and thus in any given rugby game at school consisted largely of the few people who actually knew what was happening running around, lackadaisically pursued by the majority who hadn't a clue, and would much rather opt out of the entire mess.
First, obtain your roach
Not as easy as you might imagine. The one pictured is not a European species; common house cockroaches do not grow that big. To obtain one that big you'd have to buy it from a specialist supplier (who might well balk at selling animals for what is at best unskilled experimentation).
Then you have the fact that the procedure is going to be a tricky one to perform. You're not going to get this right first time on the first roach you get, this is going to need practice, and practice means lots of live victims which won't be alive after you're done. With the average child, factor in boredom too as the procedure is going to be extremely fiddly to perform. This won't mean just a few roaches killed, but a couple of dozen perhaps.
So, after you've learned how to freeze-anaesthetise the insects properly (killing a few, drowning others), you have to learn how long to freeze them for, and how hard you may grip a feebly struggling and quite slippery insect to sandpaper its head. Once you've had a bit of practice, and wiped cockroach guts off your hands a few times, you'll be ready for a spot of antenna-snipping.
This won't be easy either, nor will lining up the hole in the antenna with the fine wire. This is really a job for a binocular microscope, but you're not going to have either the excellent Wild microscope I had in one place I worked, nor even the crappier East German Zeiss I used later elsewhere. No, you're stuck with a single magnifying glass. Best of luck, you'll need it.
Inserting the ground into the thorax after this won't present much of a problem, and you'll overcome cross-talk with RF interference making the roach walk in random directions quite quickly, though not perhaps as quickly as the cockroach dies of dehydration (remember, this is a shop-bought tropical cockroach, and likely a leaf litter detrivore and not the dehydration-resistant pests we are familiar with).
At the end of this blood-bath (well, haemolymph-bath) of an experiment, you briefly have a remote control cockroach which will occupy a child for all of five minutes.
Was it worth it?
Re: You've got to wonder
You do have to wonder why the NSA, with a multi-billion dollar budget and access to some of the best minds in the business, are not using two-factor logins of some description. Snowden would have fallen at the first hurdle were a random number fob or a fingerprint (or both) needed to get into machines; certainly an override system would have had to have been present also, but such an override would be very heavily audited indeed.
Perhaps there will be some openings in the NSA for people who know about basic security...?
Re: News from the trenches
Competition with the local ADSL is actually EXACTLY what you want. As soon as someone starts competing with Brutish Telecom then said company has to up its game or lose trade, and it usually isn't smart enough to realise that a local company is just that, local, and not a national threat.
Re: Disinformation is their secret weapon
To be honest here, what we're currently using encryption for is vermin control, and it really doesn't take all that much encryption to keep modern crooks out of, say, a banking system. Most of the time we don't need to keep the NSA out, because the average person bumbles along not doing very much of interest to a major spying agency at all. About the most that the average punter gets up to is a spot of marital infidelity or low-level larceny; annoying on a personal level but profoundly uninteresting to the NSA.
The mistake here is to imagine that shoddily-executed, vermin control encryption is going to keep the big boys' noses out of your data. It isn't; only the sheer banality and uninterestingness keeps them off your back. The only time to start worrying significantly is if or when the NSA starts routinely leaking the data it has sniffed out to other agencies or even commercial companies; as soon as it does this, it joins the ranks of internet vermin.
Once on the vermin list, I doubt the NSA would ever get off it, and once the world realises that shonky encryption won't do the job, geeks everywhere will start trying to up their game and lock the NSA out. The actual terrorists already do this; face to face meetings and lone-wolf attacks are almost impossible to spot online.
A short, sharp shower of...
Every so often, students in new halls of residence (or old halls that they don't like very much) come up with a Cunning Plan to test out the pressure-resistance of the sewage arrangements. This is actually very easy to do, by simply flushing every lavatory in the building as nearly simultaneously as possible, and because most sanitary engineers don't bother to build the pipework to the massively over-engineered level needed to survive this sort of pressure, the results are predictably messy.
Normally the pipes in the basement burst and overflow, or the ground-floor toilets overflow massively.
The RSPCA have a reputation among horse owners of being purely prosecution-orientated to the extent that they will let horses starve almost to death to enhance a case against an owner, rather than chuck a bale of hay into the field every week or so to aleviate the suffering of starving animals. They also have a known habit of taking extreme care when "policing" events like the Appleby Horse Fair never to actually witness any cruelty for fear of actually having to do something about it. Granted this is pure survival tactics, as gypsies tend to distrust people in uniform and tend to band together if threatened and threaten right back, but if they take the time and money to go to the events then they could at least do something.
Their stance on the measures taken to eradicate zoonotic TB are nothing short of hypocrisy and knuckle-dragging stupidity; we know that simply ignoring a wildlife reservoir of TB in badgers and culling just infected cows doesn't work, because that is what we've been doing for the last decade and a half. Over this time, TB has gone from a mere handful of cases in very isolated pockets to a rampantly spreading epidemic costing the lives of hundreds of thousands of cows per year; the RSPCA stance of "Cute little badgers, protect the cute little badgers at all costs" is horribly counter-productive. It doesn't even help badgers at all, as an infected brock takes about a year to slowly and painfully die of TB, at the end of which it simultaneously starves and dies of asphyxia from ruined lungs.
As a result, the RSPCA is taking a stance which actively leads to thousands of badgers dying horribly per year, and many tens of thousands of cattle being rather more humanely destroyed over the same year; this is not promoting animal rights, or preventing animal cruelty but instead is actively causing more animal cruelty!
What it does do is pull in donations from the hard of thinking, which the RSPCA uses to promote a political stance all of its own. This abuse needs to be stopped, as does the RSPCA's abuse of court process and abuse of police information.
TB and how not to control it
Apologies for derailing the topic, but current practice with TB in Britain at least could be likened to a lesson in how not to do things. The first problem with TB is to realise that to get rid of it, you need to get rid of any and all carriers of the disease. The second problem is to convince politicians that no, this is not an optional policy and that no, this problem is not going to go away if they ignore it. The final problem is that most environmental campaigners are quite startlingly stupid, extremely noisy and not a bit shy about parading blithering ignorance to the world in general; politicians mistake noisy morons for valuable votes.
Bovine tuberculosis is a zoonotic; it will infect almost any mammal species. It also has a trick of secreting a waxy coating, which makes it very resistant to normal immune system antibodies; the only thing that does stop it is an inflammatory response but only animal species that have co-evolved with it do this response. Cows do it, humans do it, badgers do NOT do it. So, once TB gets into the badger population it spreads like crazy and turns badgers into mobile TB factories. Vaccines do not work on badgers; they get TB just as easily as before, but live a little bit longer due to being a bit more resistant; vaccinating badgers is an expensive way to annoy brocks and possibly make the problem worse (heavily infected badgers die relatively quickly, less infected but still infectious ones get to do a Typhoid Mary impression for much longer).
So now we have a perfect storm: daft politicians listening to clueless lusers and dithering gormlessly whilst a bad situation gets worse.
There's a direct parallel here with the situation with UK electrical generation capacity; we're in a mess because our politicians are a bunch of weak-willed vapid arses without any moral fibre, sense of urgency or ability to do their jobs. The bovine TB crisis will be solved only when most of the badger setts of southern England get a short, toxic visit from some nice DEFRA chappies and their portable carbon monoxide generator; the power crisis will similarly be solved only when someone tells the EU to go do one, and invests in lots of small LFTR molten thorium salt reactors.
And the one key thing to remember is this: DO NOT LISTEN TO THE GREAT UNCLUED! We don't do it with complex technical stuff, we don't do it with engineering, computers or anything except public policy that the public are equally clueless about.
Re: Gesture politics at its worst
This is why Google et al are being so horribly threatened at present; Google now uses https by default. Since the UK government would be told to stick their request where the sun don't shine if they asked for copies of the keys so that a man-in-the-middle attack could be perpetrated against Google, this is about all they can do. The NSA routinely sniffs and stores encrypted traffic, just in case technology for decrypting it suddenly appears in future, but then the NSA has money to burn at present; the UK government does not.
So, most of this huffing and puffing is just hot air; the UK government cannot routinely block https traffic, nor can it determine the contents, nor is it legally permitted to send nastygrams to everyone it suspects of illegal activity. Such activity would be futile at best and counterproductive in the extreme, and would merely underline how utterl moronic the idea actually is.
Re: Better get busy
Once the filter is in place, the town of Scunthorpe will cease to have any presence at all on the internet. Which is a pity, as the town is really quite pleasant.
MI5 howls of outrage
At this point, I can almost hear the howls of outrage from MI5. Effectively, what the Government are doing is teaching the entire intelligent population of the country how to communicate with the outside world in ways which are impossible to sniff. Doing this throws a gigantic spanner in the works for tricks like metadata sniffing, especially if someone with serious marketing power starts up a combined VPN and email service based in Switzerland.
At that point the spooks might as well give up and go take up chicken farming, since very little metadata are going to be leaked from such a set-up; this also does a neat end-run around any local filtering system. Block it, and big business will scream blue murder. Leave it, and politicians look like complete numpties (not for the first time, either).
Cameron's best option right now is to try to force some sort of ISP-subsidised router-level filtering and leave it at that, retreating gracefully whilst trumpeting loudly about having solved the problem without treading on precious civil liberties. It ain't a perfect solution, indeed doing so is pretty much admitting defeat, but it works better than any other course of action.
Re: indulgences are back ?
Cast your eyes to the East, grasshopper. The Chinese do not believe in your strange religion of denial, and are pumping out enormous volumes of CO2. The Russians, Americans and lots of other small nations don't believe either, but are willing to make a show and dance if some bunch of morons are handing out money in return for good acting.
In the light of this, ALL of this carbon credits malarkey is useless. All it does is drives heavy industry out of the country and makes whizzkid traders rich; it does not achieve the stated aim. In the light of this most startling of revelations, let us abandon such mummery and pretense, and save ourselves a packet.
Now there's something I can comment on, what with having a PhD in pheromones.
Actually, from our perspective, a pest which has an alarm pheromone is actually a really easily-defeated pest; all you do is synthesise either the exact alarm pheromone, or preferably something that is even more effective. Then you simply spray the pests with the alarm pheromone, which alarms them a very great deal. The alarm response is hard-coded; they can't not respond to it, and they cannot get bored and go away; while ever there is alarm pheromone present the ants HAVE to be alarmed.
Whilst they're alarmed, they can't really do much else; no feeding, looking after young, cleaning the nest and whatever; they will simply run round like crazy looking to attack stuff. Repeat dosing of alarm pheromone, then putting out alarm pheromone-doped flypaper ought to sort the sods out; that and putting out bait laced with juvenile hormone synthetics.
Juvenile hormone is a lovely, lovely thing. Insects normally have a larval or non-adult phase, followed by an adult phase. While in the juvenile phase, the juvenile hormone keeps them from developing adult characteristics. Spray an area with persistent synthetic juvenile hormone (or better yet, put out ant-bait laced with the stuff) and the colonies then suffer ant developmental problems, including an inability to breed; this has already been demonstrated agains Pharaoh's Ants. I should add here that juvenile hormone has absolutely no effect on humans or indeed any vertebrate at all.
Not necessarily a bad idea
The thing with ID cards is that they are not necessarily a bad idea, especially if implemented under the restrictions currently enforced under current (i.e. post-World War 2) Germany. Under these restrictions, a very strict separation in records between government departments is enforced, and race, religion and ethnicity questions are forbidden. So, to get a German ID card involves a lot of running about between different ministry's buildings with paperwork; inefficient but actually designed to be this way.
The document thus produced is mostly standalone; the card its self is the ID, not the back-end database which mostly does not exist. This is the correct way to produce effective ID documents; it limits the information the government holds on the citizens to only what is absolutely necessary for each department, and it absolutely prohibits sharing of information. The end result is a useful bit of plastic which says that this person is quite probably who they say they are.
The UK Labour version, by contrast, aimed to create one back-end database that was an accurate picture of who everyone in the country was, right down to (varyingly useless) forms of biometrics. It was an Orwellian nightmare as designed, and a fraudster's charter given the many ways it could have been abused with the cooperation of the Authorities. For instance, foreign passports were acceptable ID, so if faked properly these could be used to enrol a new citizen into the system, together with carefully forged fake biometrics.
With a bit of luck and a complicit employer one high-paid worker could morph into several part-timers, each with their own separate tax records and separate tax allowances. No longer would failed politicians need to get their wives to take speeding points; an alternate identity could be set up to take the rap, and so on, ad nauseam.
As the original poster put it, democracy usually ends up with correct solutions; the problem is that it gets there by visiting almost every wrong answer along the way.
Re: In a survey
You can bias surveys any which way you like if you know what you're doing. Supermarkets have for instance found that if shoppers are ambushed by a clipboard-wielding surveyer then most will earnestly agree that organically-farmed food is best, and that they really, really would buy this premium-priced grub over the bog-standard stuff if it is stocked.
Try stocking organically farmed produce, and it is a whole different story when you look at the actual sales figures. Supermarket shoppers do not choose organic produce over standard stuff if it is much dearer, and it doesn't take much of a price differential to make them avoid the expensive stuff.
What people say and what people do are two very different things, and only a complete moron would base their predictions on a survey instead of real-world data. Interestingly this is what the Government and the EU are doing here, probably because it isn't their money they're wantonly throwing around here, but ours.
Suppose two terrorists wanted to talk to each other...
Quickest and easiest way is how the 9/11 terrorists did it. They pre-shared a password to an online email account, and wrote messages to each other and saved them as drafts (i.e. never actually sent the message). The drafts folder thus acted as a classic dead drop, one which everyone in on the plot could get at, and which would not be monitored by this method.
Second method is to trust modern twin-key encryption to do what it claims to do and simply post encrypted messages from one cell member to another on a usenet binaries group. For added giggles, do so on a regular basis interspersing actual messages with random gibberish so not even the frequency of messages from one member to another varies.
Third method is for the cell members to phone each other up via telephone boxes, lots of different ones, using a pre-shared list of times for communication.
There's three methods of dodging this legislation off the top of my head right now. The first method has actually been used successfully, and was not spotted by the authorities (and indeed wouldn't be spotted even now). Dodging this sort of silliness is remarkably easy, even without resorting to overseas email hosting and VPN software. Precisely why is is being enacted? Hasn't the government got enough lame-duck pseudo-terrorists to lock up, and wants to trawl for some more morons?
Biodiesel: be careful!
What this article doesn't make clear is that biodiesel already has by law to be blended in with normal diesel oil, and the proportion of biodiesel will increase to 5%. We know what will happen then because most supermarket diesel already has much higher proportions of cheap biodiesel in it already, which the supermarket suppliers source and use in the cheapest way possible.
This is why, if you use supermarket diesel regularly, you'll occasionally get a bad batch. I had this problem with my car last year; it would smoke and run roughly in the mornings after being left overnight, but this problem didn't occur at any other time. I thought it was down to a failed glowplug, or another cryptic engine fault and took the car to a main dealer. After working through the usual set of rip-off charges (£60 just to look at the car? £40 to check the computer? Kerching!) they concluded that there was no mechanical fault, and handed me a huge bill and a bottle of diesel detergent.
The detergent emulsified any remaining water in the diesel, and killed out the remaining bacterial infestation in the diesel; the problem disappeared in a few days. Since then I have avoided supermarket diesel like the plague it sometimes is.
Interestingly about that time last year, Miller's Oils brought out a new range of diesel additives aimed at commercial hauliers; these included a bacteriostatic additive to prevent bacterial growth in stored fuel, and a bacteriacidal product to kill out existing infections. The supermarkets basically do not care about occasional bad, bacterially-contaminated batches of diesel and will not care until weight of complaints and bad publicity hits their sales. In the mean time until legislation forces antibacterial additives to be used, stay away from supermarket fuels.
Perhaps you've not heard of Gamma-assisted Cherenkov glow detectors?
You have a gamma ray generator at one point, and on the opposite side of the target a Cherenkov Glow detector. Any chunk of fissile material which passes between these two devices produces a positive detection. This is how nukes in containers may be detected, without opening the containers or even seeming to inspect them in any way at all.
Re: Of course, then there's this...
No, China did not supply North Korea with an orbital nuclear weapons platform, partly because these don't exist but mostly because the Chinese aren't stupid enough to give their loony neighbours anything that might be used to threaten them. This does not of course preclude the Chinese having sold them something that could plausibly be claimed to be an orbital nuke carrier but which is in fact a very large eggbox.
It IS rocket science...
What you have to remember here is that whilst rocket science for established, large players like Russia and America does seem relatively easy and reliable, it only got that way through exhaustive, repetitive testing with a large element of trial and error. Rocket engines are very energy-dense structures; any slight mistake can turn a few million quid's worth of finely-tuned machine into a very big firework. The major players' systems are reliable only because they were very heavily tested, both on static rigs and as near-finished machines on missile testing ranges.
North Korea, on the other hand, is taking supposedly fully tested systems and is then pratting about with them. Bundling four engines into close proximity does not produce a unit four times as powerful; unless they have tested for little things like vibrational resonances caused by four units on the same chassis (safe for one, but four? who knows?), extra heating on rocket exhausts that on the original one was safely radiated away but cannot be now because of 3 other engines close by and other similar sorts of gotchas.
North Korea is strapped for cash. It can afford to keep a few pampered officials and of course the Great Leader in clover indefinitely (whilst the bulk of the population starves), but it cannot afford the sorts of extensive testing that is needed to go from a part-finished rocket system to a finished, polished product. It is a wonder that it has even managed to develop a vaguely-working nuclear weapon, even if the last few tests have either been fizzles or frauds based on conventional high explosives packed into tunnels.
It is therefore extremely unlikely that any of the North Korean show-piece rockets are capable of anything save sit on a launcher vehicle, empty of fuel and completely unarmed, as a threat credible only to the hard of thinking. Even if these morons do manage to get a warhead of some sort to hit American soil, what on earth do they think the reaction to this will be? One fairly spectacular terrorist event was sufficient to launch America into a long, and frankly extremely bloody war (bloody on the part of the Taliban anyway; the one thing they seem good at is dying for their cause), and this was just terrorism. An actual act of war perpetrated against one of the most belligerant nations on the planet and certainly the most militarily capable is outright suicide.
The only thing to really consider here is this: are the North Koreans really that stupid?
Re: @AC: 0851 (was: Detest the evil things - try a catapult)
I had one which got into the habit of pissing in my backyard. Dousing the yard in Jeyes Fluid didn't work, nor did supposedly repellent garlic essence (repelled me pretty effectively, though). A cat training device which consists of a can of compressed gas, linked to a valve with a passive infrared trigger did work, and worked very well.
The moron moggy in question always jumped down into the yard at the same spot. A bit of trial and error allowed me to put the spraycan device right next to the favoured landing spot; I now have a video of cat walking along wall looking into yard, cat jumping down into yard, cat getting faceful of compressed gas, cat reacting in great fear and jumping out again. Said cat managed a standing 7' jump straight upwards at this point.
I haven't seen the little sod in the back yard since (and neither has my CCTV), and with it not pissing in there, the other local felines have also concluded that pissing there isn't useful, either; the entire episode had mostly consisted of a territorial dispute conducted mostly through scent. Nasty evil scientist with a PhD in pheromones that I am, the next stage would have consisted of trying to lie to cats with pheromones; the Silent Roar product (sold as fertiliser because they cannot sell it as anything else) does just this, as it consists of lion droppings. If there's one thing cats fear (apart from home-made autoguns) it is bigger cats.
In the absence of a pheromonal repellent, some sort of autogun is the way to go. Actual lethal devices aren't necessary; all you have to do is convince the local cats that your garden contains a mysterious invisible waterpistol-carrying maniac who cannot be seen, heard or smelled but has uncannily good aim. Cats are not particularly smart animals at the best of times; they do learn, albeit slowly, but outwitting them isn't difficult.
Re: That's USA, right? potential environmental ..
Yes, well if you will source your drinking water from a borehole which taps directly into an old coalmine, then you're going to get methane in the water, aren't you?
If you're referring to the Gaslands film, you might like to know that this "methane in the tapwater" thing was happening BEFORE the fracking operation began, for the aforementioned reason.
Re: That's USA, right?@Mad Mike
The basic problem with trying to fight climate change is that right from the start, you're on a hiding to nothing. To limit CO2 output, you have to get every single major emitter on-side and cooperating. Since China, the USA, Russia, the Ukraine, India, pretty much most of Africa and so on all refuse to thus cooperate, then this sort of limitation is not going to work from the word go.
Doing as Britain has done and putting into law a raft of frankly moronic limits without having a way to compel obedience from anyone else, and without having alternative power sources that actually work for base-load output (do note this bit), all the UK climate change bill is going to do is make whichever government tries to follow it extremely unpopular.
Britain is a democracy. Democracies work on votes, cast by voters. If several parties have as their electoral platform "Vote for us, we'll tax hell out of you in pursuit of a daydream" and one does not, then guess who gets elected?
Re: I for one
Given that the likely responses of America, Russia and anyone else with a lot of plutonium knocking about will be to dust off the plans for Project Orion and proceed to build one or more in ever so much of a hurry, I for one would really rather they didn't bother. A partial mass extinction from a relatively clean asteroid hit is one thing, but the fall-out from several ground-launched spacecraft propelled by letting off H-bombs behind them is not a nice prospect.
Much better to concentrate our efforts now on making super-strong carbon nanotubes, to build a ground to geostationary beanstalk. Once that is done, getting a kilo of anything from ground to orbit goes from £10 000 down to £100. At this point, we can start thinking about simply sending over something with an ion drive to nudge the asteroid off its collision course, and do all this without polluting the biosphere with more radioactivity.
Had they been intent on simply putting something in orbit, then a simple sphere would have been best as it would be almost impossible to detect if such a shape was stable or tumbling. For added giggles, putting a simple battery-powered transmitter into this sphere to transmit back some heavily edited downloaded satellite images would have heightened the sham, by giving the impression that the thing was actually functional.
As it is, they tried to put a strongly asymetrical device into orbit, which suggests that they were trying to go the whole hog all at once and put a functional system in place first time out. This would have greatly boosted the saleability of the whole rocket system (selling the tech to other undeveloped nations is the whole point here), as it is they merely have a working ICBM.
Re: Capitalism, aye?
Of all the most gibberingly idiotic notions ever mooted regarding tax, this is the second worst. The worst of all is a retrospective windfall tax.
Both of these notions teach multinationals that the nation which levies them cannot be trusted to play by the rules that it imposes. The retrospective tax on oil revenues is the reason why oil companies aren't bothering to try to reach the tight oil reserves in the North Sea's British waters; if they do find a miraculous way to get this oil out, then the UK government has form for dreaming up retrospective taxes to glom onto profits. The same is true in Russia, which is why capitalism and foreign investment there is so lacking; there's plenty of hard-to-extract minerals in Russia, but there're also rapacious government-sanctioned thieves and contract-breakers.
Both of these notions are theft, pure and simple. Thievery of this nature by governments is a very good way to teach multinationals to never show a profit in these juresdictions and to exploit every single loophole going to try to show a loss. Granted, the government gets a smallish windfall lump sum and kudos from the hard of thinking for a while, but long-term such actions scare off investors and land the hapless politicians even deeper in the smelly than they were initially.
Re: In other news...
Were I one of those implicated by stolen data, I'd be very likely to try to bluff it out. After all, the prosecutors are trying to build a case using data of the worst possible provenance, which they cannot prove to be genuine and which the originator will say absolutely nothing about either way.
That then comes down to "prove beyond reasonable doubt", which with the sole evidence being of such dubious quality is going to fail, surely?
Re: Will Godfrey
Cleaning up a system after some scumbag has broken in via a zero-day exploit or by finding the one vulnerable script in a rabbit-warren of twisty little PHP scripts is one thing. Cleaning up after someone has accessed a system that had ABSOLUTELY NO SECURITY ON IT WHATSOEVER is quite another thing, since it could quite reasonably be argued that a complete lack of security on a system is asking for trouble; it might even be argued that it is impossible to "break into" a system if there is no access control on it at all and thus nothing to break to get in.
Quite simply, the Americans were made to look like incompetent idiots, and have probably reaped the whirlwind ever since, as nothing attracts script kiddies better than a reputation for being really, really easy to break into together with the kudos of being a military site. Had Blunkett not carried on a grand old Labour tradition of implementing ridiculously draconian and ill-considered law, this whole mess would have been dealt with by a UK court. McKinnon would have had his court-sanctioned slap on the wrist and had they asked nicely, the Americans might even have got the entire debacle slapped with a D-notice or some similar reporting restrictions, thus drawing a veil over some unashamedly abysmal security standards.
Instead, they've repeatedly demonstrated that the Streisand Effect is real.
Re: A wise check to make
This is VERY good advice. Employment agents never, ever lose an email address and they never, ever give up spamming an email address once given, no matter how out-of-date it is, or how little the recipient wants to hear from them.
Twenty-odd years ago I uploaded CVs with skills like SAS and general lab chemistry and so on to assorted job-hunting sites. I still occasionally get plaintive requests from employment pimps that I might want to update the CV, and that they have some really great opportunities for me...
Use disposable email addresses when dealing with employment agents.
Secondly, never, ever expect anything even remotely resembling intelligence from employment agents. They don't read instructions, they don't learn from experience, and they never, ever try to make life simple. Many's the time I've spent talking to one, slowly and painfully determining that the jobs on offer were not in fact vaguely near to Manchester where I lived except in the cosmological sense.
Re: So much nonsense
No all nonsense; alcohol-water mixtures do things which a simple mixture will not do. For a start, mixing water and alcohol actually gets the mixture slightly warm, and the volume shrinks slightly as the alcohol forces the water molecules to reduce the amount of hydrogen bonding they exhibit, and form a denser liquid. This may be important for flavour, especially around and just below zero celcius (adding an alcohol to water depresses the freezing point); water is densest at four celcius and as it cools below this starts to become more ordered, more crystaline and less dense whilst still being a liquid.
Ice crystals form differently in even weak solutions of alcohol in water than they do in pure water; when preparing an aqueous sample for freeze drying, the normal procedure was to add some alcohol to it (about 5% or thereabouts) then leave it overnight in the -80 freezer. Try that with pure water, and you have a broken glass bottle next morning. Use alcohol, and the crystal structure changes, and the mix freezes differently and doesn't break the bottle.
Another thing that adding an alcohol to water does is it forces any dissolved gas in the water and in the alcohol to come out of solution. When you are (as I was) mixing alcohol-water solutions for use in HPLC chromatographs, you want the solvent to be as gas-free as possible, or you'll see gas bubbles forming as the separated chemicals come off the column and exit through the absorbance meter. This causes annoying spikes in the output trace, completely ruining the results, so I always used to degas my solvents before use; I doubt a bar would do this, so gasses and volatiles being forced out of solution by the addition of water from ice in a cocktail might well alter the flavour significantly.
Finally, it is wise to remember just what drinking a cocktail actually entails. What you're doing when you take a sip of the liquid is introducing a mixture of water, alcohols and organic compounds that is currently at about zero celcius to an environment with quite a bit of water in it (saliva and so on) which is at thirty seven celcius. This will rapidly warm the cocktail liquid up, changing the molecular arrangement of water and alcohol molecules and causing a lot of the organics to rapidly boil off. The dilution of the mixture in saliva will make the mix a much less good solvent for hydrophobic organic molecules such as fruit oils and so on, which will come out of solution and either sit there as oils or boil off.
The primary sensing system that contributes to our sense of taste is not actually water-phase tasting at all, but gas-phase smell in our noses. So, the amount of volatiles that vapourise when a cocktail is sipped determine a lot of the flavour we perceive; in turn this is determined by the temperature, alcohol concentration and initial strength of the cocktail as a solvent. pH also plays a part; if the flavoursome molecules are weak organic acids or bases, then if the cocktail is more or less neutral pH then these will exist in solution in both the associated molecular state and the dissassociated state. In chromatography this sort of state causes band-spreading so the pH is normally modified with an acid such as a weak solution of phosphoric acid, or an ionisation supressor like trifluoroacetic acid or similar mixtures.
If the person's mouth is a different pH to the cocktail, this will obviously also affect the flavour.
Oh dear, I see a logical progression from Anonymous and viruses
Imagine if you as a government are stupid enough to start running a huge anti-terrorist snoopernet. This will flood you with data to the extent that after a very short while, you only go after absolutely bleedin' obvious cases.
Then, a short while later, you get absolutely bombarded with these really obvious terrorists. People looking up how to make acetone peroxide (a high explosive so sensitive it explodes spontaneously), HMTD, gunpowder, ANFO and the like. People searching for online sources of quarrying detonators. People apparently browsing Jihadi forums immediately before making those searches, and immediately after looking at Google Streetview for certain places in Central London.
Really incredibly obvious terrorists, is what I'm saying.
When investigated, these users all have a few things in common. Things like owning unpatched old copies of Windows, on machines with obsolete or no anti-virus running. Oh, and the users themselves being so non-terrorist that they practically have top-level security clearance.
Welcome to the brave new world of the Anonymous Spoofware Virus. A very simple piece of code, it merely checks in either with its peers or a central server, then goes looking for keywords in specific places together with specific behaviours. So, on receiving the command " 'Islamic Jihad' #browse-50" it googles the keywords then browses around in a random hit for 50 minutes or so, in a vaguely-human-like manner.
After prosecuting several hundred completely innocent grannies, chavs, and the like the courts deem the system to be useless and cease pursuing prosecutions based on this evidence. Following this, the government mostly dismantles the system.
I wonder how rigorously the ANPR cameras are watched?
Imagine this scenario: Firstly, you go and discover the number plate of a high-ranking Council officer; the major or chief exec, say.
Secondly, you get a showplate of this number made up in legal font and spacing.
Thirdly, you walk into the car park (walk, mind you, not drive a car in) displaying the plate to the ANPR cameras, then stick the plate under your coat and walk out again.
I am guessing that the car parks are going to be operated by the usual breed of car parking attendants, for whom anything more complex than a biro is incomprehensible black magic. Thus, if "The Computer Says This" then it will be held to be true, come what may.
A few times round the block getting Council Chief execs, Chief Constables and similar worthies issued with bogus fines ought to force the parking people to significantly up their game, or get out of the business entirely.
Re: The March of technology, the creep of the surveillance state.
This was widely reported as being likely to happen with the advent of DNA technology, but has not in fact happened. This is because criminals are not all as unutterably dim as the police would like to suppose. Thus it has become common for the more forward-thinking of burglars to lurk around the seedier pubs and collect discarded cigarette ends, storing these in plastic bags.
When out burgling houses, they then discard these pre-smoked cigarette ends in and around the property being burgled, to give investigating police officers some obvious suspects to link to the crime. Eventually most burglars get caught, but use of this trick significantly delays this capture.
RFIDs would seem to be a similar panacea, until one realises that they can be degaussed using a suitably large Helmholtz coil, and that they can also be readily duplicated (and if the authorities insist on using them for tracking, they WILL be readily duplicated). In a city, the easiest way of running interference against any pervasive RFID tracking would be to feed RFIDs disguised as birdseed to pigeons, thus giving police a multiplicity of objects to track which are not the wanted item.
Re: I thought..
Vaccinating already-infected badgers is useless; at best does nothing, at worst wakes up a latent infection. Vaccinating uninfected badgers has been tried by DEFRA with truly dismal results.
Even when it does work, the vaccination's protection wears off after a year or two. The vaccine is a live, attenuated form of bTB, so is about as effective as can be made already.
Bovine TB exists in a number of distinct forms, called spoligotypes. These are inherited, and don't spontaneously change over time, so a population of cows or badgers that is infected with spoligotype 1 will not generate another spoligotype unless a different strain of bTB comes in.
If the transmission was primarily cow to cow, you would expect the geographical pattern of spoligotypes to be an ever-changing mosaic, which did not stay static for any length of time.
If the transmission was initially cow to badger, then subsequently badger to badger/cow then since badgers do not migrate very far or very quickly, you would expect that firstly the geographical pattern of spoligotypes would be fairly stable over time, and secondly that the spoligotype infecting cows would be the same as that seen in the local badgers.
The latter scenario is what is exclusively observed in Britain.
The reason for this is simple: cows have co-evolved with bTB for many thousands of years, and are actually quite good at resisting it. Infected cows show definite antibodies against bTB long before the infection is advanced enough to make the cow infectious. As long as there is a testing regime in place, an infected cow gets picked up and culled long before it is infectious to other cows.
Badgers, on the other hand, haven't co-evolved with bTB. They are pretty hopeless at resisting it and after infection turn into ambulatory bTB factories from then onwards until they die a few months later. There is no doubt that badgers are the primary wildlife reservoir for bTB in Britain at the moment.
There is also no doubt that the proposed cull and vaccination work will not have much effect. Badgers are very poor subjects for vaccination against bTB; even animals that are good subjects like humans and cows tend not to retain vaccine-induced protection for more than a couple of years max. Recent DEFRA experiments on captive badgers clearly demonstrate that vaccination of badgers is a non-starter, and vaccinating cows won't do the job either, as the wildlife reservoir of disease would be left untouched to slowly spread over the country.
The only culling technique that will remove bTB from badger populations is a repeat of the old "Clear Ring" strategy where all badger setts were fumigated within a mile or so of an outbreak of bTB. Implementing this now would result in locally extincting badgers across much of the UK, which is why the Government is resisting this, but this will eventually come. It is the only way forwards.
Re: Words of ignorance
The basic problem here is a severe lack of cojones on the part of Government, and the regrettable tendency of much of the public to yap noisily and incessantly about things which they know nothing about. AGW is a case in point; every time the current research is thoroughly examined, the "threat" of AGW diminishes and the effects from the projected warming reduce in scope and recede into the far-distant future.
Yet, the topic attracts comment from huge numbers of pseudo-greenies who seem to wish to impose a very real sack-cloth & ashes on the country whilst retaining the "right" to cheap air travel and pervasive cheap energy. Added to this are a horde more neo-Luddites who see rolling brown-outs as a good thing; such supply incompetence hits heavy industry extremely hard, forcing existing factories to expensively install their own gensets and strongly discouraging other prospective industrials from investing in new industrial plant. In simple terms, if you make running a factory here expensive, people won't build them here.
A final problem is that a huge swathe of the population is not only stupid, ill-informed and vocal but actually sees remaining ill-informed and stupid as a virtue. An example here is the current sweeping epizootic of bovine tuberculosis; all the epidemiological science on this matter focusses around clobbering disease reservoirs as effectively as possible (as was done most successfully in New Zealand). Not doing this condemns the animals of this wildlife reservoir to infection and slow, unpleasant death from this infection, yet the general public steadfastly refuses to think and consider this.
As I said at the top, modern governments lack the balls to simply turn round to the general public and say "You think this, you are wrong. We will do what is right, not what you want. No go away and watch Eastenders or whatever othe brain-rotting tripe you normally indulge in". We need nuclear power stations, we need then very soon, and most of all we need to tell the morons to shut up.
Re: Probably not such a great idea
All that happens here is that people work out how to forge the all-important council markings if the charge is set too high. People already pay swingingly high Council Tax charges to local government which are supposed to cover this sort of thing; adding more tax on top is unlikely to be at all popular.
Charging by weight is also unlikely to be useful as people simply fly-tip heavy stuff in this case.
The main problem with this article is that it misses out on a couple of very major factors where power generation is concerned. The first major factor is expense; wind-generated power is expensive in and of its self, and as the wind doesn't blow steadily in most places a back-up system such as pumped storage or massively large-area high voltage interconnectors is required. These factors combine to raise the cost of wind power from "expensive" to "outrageously high".
The second major factor is public tolerence for wind turbines, which is generally low as the low-frequency sonics tend to cause quite a few nasty health side-effects, not least of which is crashing the value of nearby properties. As people tend to see property as an investment, doing anything which causes the value to dramatically decrease is deeply unpopular with the people concerned. Continuing to try to force the building of wind turbines can only lead to local unofficial turbine demolition attempts.
When suitable alternatives such as the many forms of nuclear power exist and are widely known by the populace, then the question "Why do we have to have these poxy horrible turbines and these heinously high power bills when a few nuclear stations would supply several times as much power at a fraction of the cost?" gets asked.
Britain is a democracy, with fairly low barriers to standing as a member of parliament. Should the mainstream parties not take notice of this question, I would wager that many an independent MP would be elected on the platform of "Build nukes, not turbines" to the extent of being able to manipulate government policy on the matter.
What we're seeing here is an exact parallel of the beginnings of the War on Drugs. Initially a moral panic fanned by moronic media, and instituted by a Government too stupid to tie its own shoelaces best out of three. If Net censorship is instituted, then we will pretty quickly move along to the current situation with drugs.
As things stand with drugs, a bewildering array of chemicals are banned, including fungi which grow wild in the UK. Huge amounts of money are spent on trying to enforce the ban, whilst the nation's youth circumvent the ban with contemptuous ease whenever they feel the need to do so.
A ban on assorted things on the Internet will result in exactly the same end situation: much money being spent to try to enforce a ban which is treated with the contempt it deserves by all and sundry, and especially the technically literate youth whom it was meant to protect.
Let's simply not go there.
Let's save ourselves the money and hassle and just not bother with the censorship/ban/pointless moral outrage.
Still missing the huge unvoiced assumption
As my PhD tutors always taught, when proposing any hypothesis you must always list the assumptions you have made before starting on the hypothesis. In climate change "science", this is almost never done. So, to help out the climate change wonks a little, here goes:
1) The radiation output and heating effects of the sun have remained constant over the last few million years.
2) The varying strength, composition and density of the solar wind does not affect global climate.
3) The amount and composition of cosmic rays either doesn't change, or is irrelevent.
4) The CPU-saving hacks done in climate models only simplify the models and do not completely compromise their accuracy.
5) The re-normalising "fiddle factors" used to allow for urban heat-island effects and similar things when applied to raw data are better than 99.9% accurate (remember, these fiddle factors are as much as 10 degree shifts to take the raw data to assumed-accurate output; the warming that is supposed to be detected is a few tenths of a degree).
These are all factors that need taking into account, or explaining. Given that many people reading this will have at least skimmed parts of the HARRY_README climategate leak file, you will appreciate just how shonky, unreliable and downright crap the coding skills were with at least one climate research group's software; this particular group was apparently highly respected in the field of climate science.
This leads me to suspect that both the East Anglia bunch were highly accomplished liars and the standards of coding throughout the field are abysmally low, even when compared to the stultifying depths of Microsoft's worst ever efforts. I remain highly unconvinced of the standards of research done by virtually all climate change researchers; the refusal of all of these groups to submit to impartial code reviews similarly does not inspire confidence.
You're ALL missing the interesting bit of the research...
The researchers found that only a third of cats actively hunt. Two thirds don't hunt, or are so crap at it that they don't catch anything. What I'm guessing is going on here is based on how most predators actually develop hunting skills. Most predators, especially ones with complex hunting strategies, do not have innate hunting abilities as such but are taught by their parents how to hunt, and more importantly what to hunt.
This is why a lot of cats bring back live prey to their owners: the cat thinks that its owners don't know how to hunt, and need teaching, hence the live prey brought into a closed space where it cannot get away and the "kittens" can hunt it down for themselves, making as many mistakes as they need to do.
I'm guessing that the developmental window for learning how to hunt is fairly short, and that the majority of cats which don't hunt, or which hunt only insects, were kept indoors during this period and neither they nor their mother had access to the outdoors to bring in examples of what to hunt for them. This really needs checking out; if this is the reason, then we can drastically reduce the toll on the country's birdlife by selectively depriving kittens of the lessons needed to hunt birds.
Re: Big Brother fail
The 9/11 terrorists would not have been caught out by this sort of snooping technique, because they were using a webmail service effectively as a dead drop, saving messages to each other in a Drafts section and never actually sending any messages over email at all.
A slightly more sophisticated method is to use public-private key encryption and put the messages out on public usenet groups; everyone gets to see that the sender has sent something, but only the holder of the correct private key can decrypt it. The technology to render this sort of ham-fisted surveillance attempt already exists, you see.
Moving on, VPNs and out-of-country webmail is also a good way to go; especially if the webmail is located in a non-EU country that isn't keen on helping incompetent pseudo-Stasi states spy on their citizenry.
Effectively what this bill will do is provide police and councils with a way of spying on the unwary, the stupid and the innocent whilst the guilty, the dodgy and the merely prudent use technological means to protect themselves from our dozy spies. On the plus side, repealing this mess gives the next government something to promise the proles so that they can get elected.
Think of the physical security implications here
Let us assume that the spooks have a working DPI black box which logs data contained in SSL to its hard disk. As soon as this is done, the disk of the black box turns into a shiny little gold-mine of sensitive information including banking details and the like. The following non-inclusive list of people would definitely want to get their hands on it:
1) Script kiddies, who will already be honing their tools (read, downloading different lame bash scripts) to try to break into these devices. They likely won't get in, but will cause a security problem in trying to do so.
2) Corrupt Indian techies. The service will likely be outsourced to save on costs, and given the paucity of cheap talent in India, it will be easy for a crook over there to get hired for a sensitive job where he/she can get at the data and sell it on.
3) Corrupt civil servants. The civil service is chronically underpaid, and comically bad at IT. A good IT techie is almost impossible to find on those wages, so a decent mole ought to be able to infiltrate the systems very easily indeed.
4) Burglars. If you can't get hold of the data by electronic or bureaucratic means, just break into the ISP's buildings and physically steal it. Most ISPs are secure enough to defeat Joe Random Chav, but if a local Mr Big gets involved then a raid involving simultaneous power supply sabotage, firearms and heavy plant machinery is entirely possible.
5) Corrupt ISP staff. The black box hard drive is very easily stolen, if you know where to look and have access.
6) Smart terrorists. Admittedly smart terrorists are rarer than incorruptible bankers or sane politicians, but one might eventually turn up and have a bright idea: steal a black box, and make a demand with the threat that the black box data will be revealed if the demand isn't met.
7) Smart pranksters. Claim to have downloaded the contents of a black box and put up an encrypted container of the supposed contents on bit torrent. Warn all customers of the ISP that on a certain date the key will be revealed, so they'd better amend their banking details, etc.
Logging sensitive data is a bad idea. Logging it to local disks in an ISP is a spectacularly idiotic idea that will cause no end of trouble, both for the ISP and for the Government, and won't actually catch any criminals since there are many ways around the thing.
The other thing to remember with pretty much all dinosaurs was that they had bird-like breathing systems, involving air sacs. This meant that the volume of the animal that was air would have been far greater than it is on a comparably sized mammal, which further reduces the weight. Birds usually have hollow, air-filled bones and indeed evidence of air cavities in the bones of dinosaurs including sauropods has also been found, even extending to the spinal column as well as the major limb bones.
If you do the lung volume estimations, an air-sac based breathing system is the only way something the size of a sauropod could muster enough tidal volume to be able to breathe efficiently enough to survive, so they absolutely must have been using this system.
Finally, although sauropods had brain volumes right on the reptile brain to body size ratio, they were assuredly not "cold blooded". In fact, they probably had more problem keeping their body temperature down rather than keeping it up, as a herbivore that size would have several tonnes of fermenting plant material in its gut, which tends to generate a sizeable amount of heat. This BTW is why you very seldom see cows shivering; their gut fermentation processes generate more than enough heat to keep them warm. The gut fermentation is also why big bovids always keep on looking for food right through extremely cold winters; the animal its self isn't getting much nutrition off the forage, but it needs to keep on feeding the bacterial colonies throughout its gut to keep everything in good order.
Re: genetically modified wheat?
We have been genetically modifying wheat for at least the last twelve thousand years. Wheat is a grass, but it is most emphatically NOT natural in any shape or form. For a start, it is hexaploid. Most plants and animals are diploid, and run with effectively two copies of their genome (one from mother, one from father) in each cell. Wheat and barley have six whole genomes in each cell; the plant originated as three different grasses that got combined over hundreds of generations and propagated on.
What the Rothamsted scientists have done is a step on from what I was looking at during my PhD work (which was partly at Rothamsted, part at Aberystwyth). I was looking at the sex pheromones of a nematode parasite of potatoes; I largely came to the conclusion that trying to use the sex pheromone as a control method to prevent males finding females was a hiding to nothing due to the small scale involved with soil pests.
Insect pests are a whole different ball game, and aphids actually make a very, very good target for this sort of approach. Aphids have a weird life cycle; most of the year they are all female, pumping out clones of each other. All the aphids on one plant are thus very close relations, so it is genetically favourable for alarm phermones to be used; one aphid gets killed and eaten by a rampaging ladybird, but in dying raises the alarm and lets the rest of its family know that trouble is on the way.
Spraying crops with synthetic alarm pheromone works and works well, but as the stuff is very volatile, it evaporates quickly. Slow-release formulations work better, but best of all is having the plant release the alarm pheromone its self. The great thing about this is that it only affects a few species of aphids, it doesn't contaminate the environment or lead to pesticide/herbicide resistence elsewhere, and it isn't toxic to humans. The crop is also going to be much friendlier to people on account of having had far fewer doses of insecticide applied to it.
These activists are basically Luddite idiots. With GM crops as with any other crop breeding innovation, copyright applies. As soon as the crop goes out of copyright, the cost goes down. It won't go down all the way to normal, as the producers will probably have engineered it as an F1 hybrid (save the seed and you don't get nearly as many resistent plants), but nonetheless this innovation does effectively get put into the public domain eventually.
Someone prod MI5, please.
If someone has used this once now, then that might well be a dry run for later on. Imagine if you will the following scenario: Take a city with a lot more tourists driving about than normal due, say, to a large sporting event of some sort. Next, using several of these spoofers, send out faked notices of road closures with the message "OLYMPIC CLOSURE" on them.
Someone from outside London would almost certainly believe such a message, and do as the sat-nav told them to do; if they knew where they were, they'd not be using a sat-nav. If done carefully, then hundreds of lost drivers could be funnelled onto just a few roads, to create instant and long-lasting gridlock.
The police would likely respond to this as if it were a terrorist attack, especially if something else was coordinated to happen about the same time. Even a flash-mob of people dressed as kittens would likely do the trick; ANY unusual things would be treated as enemy action. Once alerted and sobered up, our politicians would definitely feel the need to contribute, and given what a complete shower most are, this would make matters infinitely worse.
The best remedy: jam all RDS signals and hope that drivers have enough common sense to avoid road accidents and the like.
Common Carrier Immunity?
At the moment ISPs enjoy Common Carrier Immunity, whereby they are not responsible for what the end user sees or receives from the Internet. If this heavy-handed censorship is implemented, it is very hard from my non-lawyer perspective to see how this immunity could be maintained; the Government is overtly forcing the ISPs to implement the censorship that the Government deems will protect kids from seeing pornography, therefore it could be argued that if a kid does see pornography whilst this censorship system is in place, then someone is liable for the breach.
At this point it would become a mad game of pass-the-ticking-timebomb as the ISP, Government, censorware-supplier and pretty much everyone else would immediately try not to be the person left liable for the failure. This is not a hypothetical situation; this WILL happen at some point if the censorware is implemented. At that point someone's going to land in court and get sued.
Odds are the person who ends up liable is going to be the censorware supplier, and if a muggins such as I can see this, the legal departments of all the prospective suppliers will also be very, very aware of this possibility. Therefore before taking up the contract, they are going to make certain that the Prime Minister himself signs a legal indemnity to prevent them being liable for any such damages, and as this would prove very damaging for the Government, I doubt it would get signed.
This alone would doom the project, I think.
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