129 posts • joined 16 May 2008
Re: Much as I loved the article
On a regular commute of about 40 miles motorway, 20 miles of city driving per day in a 2 litre Avensis diesel, I get about 48 mpg. My normal motorway driving technique is to get the vehicle to 70 and stick on the cruise control at 70, then endeavour to maintain this speed. I do NOT hang about, and yet still get quite passable fuel milage. Of course, slipstreaming a big truck all the way to work will return an mpg of around 60 mpg (which I have done in real life; I am not making this up) but it is boring and time-consuming.
Re: Mr ChriZ Advanced Motoring
The numbers of drivers with poor vision are, in my experience, dwarfed by the numbers of drivers who are just plain stupid. A dearth of police patrol cars (especially unmarked ones) to remove such morons from the roads is also a contributary factor here; in times past bad driving habits such as aggressive tailgating at speed would have been spotted and punished; these days the idiots simply get away with it.
Re: Trolling for suckers
That reminds me of a not-very-subtle but still quite funny troll I once saw on the Usenet group rec.pyrotecnics. To understand this, you must realise that pyrotecnicians make pretty lights by burning chemicals, and think that just making something go bang is prostituting their art.
Thus a fellow who styled himself "Stumpy", asking if someone would be good enough to send him a bomb recipe in Braille, and preferably a not-very-dangerous one that wouldn't go off prematurely like his last effort had, caused ructions. It would appear that Americans are also a little more literal-minded than are Brits, hence there was a distinct Atlantic split to the responses to this chap. Truly a noble trolling effort, done by catering to the prejudices of the group and not insulting anyone along the way; that's how you troll correctly.
Usenet used to be quite good for that sort of thing. It occasionally descended into farce, too, when a group's resident flamer messed up his comment threading and gave a hearty roasting to a previous poster which turned out to be himself, then got all embarrassed when said mistake was pointed out.
Nah, I'd trot out a variant of BR's favourite excuse, and ascribe it to the wrong sort of vodka.
Re: Islam needs to mature
The real problem here is actually oil. Oil is difficult to extract and process, so hardly anybody can just set up an oil well in their back garden; in the Middle East what happens is that whoever is in charge ends up with this magic money tree which they alone control, and nobody else has anything much.
The ruling system in these states thus tends to end up something like a Mafia family, and if you don't subscribe to the peculiarly narrow brand of lunacy of the rulers, you don't get much of anything. Politics in these countries thus ends up at a dictatorship, and in the interests of a quiet life the dictators ruthlessly kill off dissenters.
Us Westerners marching in and topping the dictators merely opens the field for all manner of would-be dictators to take the field and try to substitute in a different brand of lunacy instead. There seems to be no end of different flavours of bloody stupid to choose from over there, so perhaps the best option would be to sit back and let them slug it out until the most violent ones have decimated each other. It also appears like most of these different factions hate the sight of each other and only ever unite in the face of a much bigger threat, i.e. the USA.
So, best to sit this one out. If our politicians fancy being useful for a change, then a very useful ploy that would benefit everyone including themselves would be a spot of intelligent economic warfare. Oil is useful portable energy, because it is so easy to use. Investing in cheap nuclear power would rapidly make electricity a lot cheaper, and investing in research into battery and supercapacitor technologies would make these work better as well.
If we suddenly can fuel our cars on cheap electricity stored in very fast-charging batteries, then the utility of oil suddenly will decline, and the price (and thus the profitability) of it also drops. Less money going into the oil states ought to calm them all down a fair bit.
Re: Red Plenty...
As an example of how bloody crap the Soviet system was, there were several instances where Stalin was forced as the guy at the top of that society to step into disputes and simply dictate answers as simple as "move factory machine A into building B, then import a second unit".
The basic reason was that the system could deadlock far too easily, and did.
Re: "Mega Corp" proves command and control can work!
This is a point well made, and one which politicians would do well to remember. Economic growth is driven primarily by small businesses forming and becoming slightly larger small businesses; big corporations rarely grow other than by mergers once they hit a certain size.
Because of this, a country's tax and regulatory system must not act in such a way that it inhibits small businesses forming and thriving. In this matter Britain is something of a flop; such insanities as tax on account (i.e. getting businesses to pay what HMRC thinks they will owe before they actually produce the runover to owe the tax) are responsible for killing many a small business at the end of its first year, and, I dare say, forcing many owners into a phoenix-like death and resurrection of businesses annually.
Similarly the EU's demand that any company using any chemical must each demonstrate its safety and the safety of the final product is similarly a small business killer. Repeatedly demonstrating that dihydrogen monoxide is safe isn't in anyone's interest, save for big manufacturers who can absorb the cost and like this bar to new competition forming.
Re: I call bollocks.
Manchester University Computer Science department has known this for years. They specifically go out of their way to present their students with deliberately different computer interfaces, including making all Linux kit start up in runlevel 3, in order to ram home the message that the fancy front end is NOT the actual computer (and there's nothing like forcing students onto a nineties-vintage window manager written in-house, where the most useful application is a terminal, to really force students to start thinking).
Surveys like this merely test how good the user is at interacting with the shiny top layer, and that is all.
Re: I wonder what constitutes 'may be'
A feature of some torrent trackers is that they include not only the actual people sharing a file, but also a random selection of pseudorandomly chosen IPs as well. As all these random IPs ever see is torrent clients politely asking if they'd like to share, then ignoring them when nothing happens, the actual IPs thus used don't know what's happening.
If they do get warnings sent, then we can merely assume that this is down to reading info off torrent sites. The probable backlash from this ought to be educational.
Plot? What's that?
Plot in the Star Wars series is a bit like the wild giant panda; everyone's heard of it, people claim to have seen one, but it is always a friend of a friend.
The upcoming movie will therefore have an extended spacecraft battle to sell the space flightsim game, several hand to hand lightsabre duels to sell the FPS fighting game, several big battle scenes to sell the associated MMORPG and one or two planet-side fast moving scenes to sell the racing game.
Several different alien species will have walk-on roles; the bigger the role the closer the alien will conform to the "fluffy, large-head, large cute eyes" trope to sell plush toys. A suitably craggy hero will be present to keep the mothers of the expected hordes of pre-teen kids awake; said hero will be complemented by a suitably pneumatic female lead role to keep the young-teenage males awake and *ahem* interested.
A large variety of weapons systems, both robotic and stormtrooper-wielded will be seen. All will share the characteristic of being so inaccurate that the wielder has next to no chance of hitting a large barn with one, even if standing inside with the doors closed (several stormtroopers will perpetuate the "really crap aim" standing joke). No truly effective large-scale weapons or tactics will be used, similarly hacking, infowar and similar technologies will be entirely absent.
Once all the above has been slotted into the film, approximately four minutes and thirtyseven seconds will be left for a plot. The rolling titles at the start and finish will cut this by half.
OK, let's see how well this would work in past situations...
Take the 9/11 terrorists. They didn't ever send any emails, merely edited a draft email and used a shared email account as a remote-accessible dead letter drop. This metadata retention law would not have caught them.
Consider the London bombers. They didn't send each other emails either; everything was face to face, word of mouth. Again, no luck.
Consider every would-be internet jihadi. They send shedloads of emails, rant away like nutters on Facebook, and generally talk a bloody good terrorist campaign, yet are about as likely to kick off World War 3 as the England team are to beat, well, pretty much any other football team in the universe.
NSA-style data trawls catch loudmouthed plonkers (of which there is no shortage), but miss actual terrorists (who are fortunately vanishingly rare). This entire law is basically security theatre at its shoddiest, most ineffectual depths.
Actually, this is a solved problem.
PIR-controlled sprinklers are already available on certain online retailers (no plugs here), and PIR noise-makers are also fairly readily available. If there's nothing really attracting a cat into your garden, a PIR-controlled ultrasonic noisemaker is going to deter most cats. One thing, though; if the device is in a public place, beware of small boys stealing the devices. Small boys seem to have next to no inhibitions in this regard, especially if they have not had prior experience of CCTV and burglar paint.
Alternatives to the electronics are garlic essence, Jeyes Fluid and sticky materials of various sorts.
You know, I think I see a potential market here; waxwork dummy security men to put outside your doorway, as a mark of status. Hell, were I living in proximity to Tony, I'd hire a couple of Star Wars stormtroopers to stand in front of my door, just to upstage him!
Re: The very idea...
Modern encryption renders this argument completely invalid.
Say we have a widely-dispersed cell of terrorists. They want to talk, but they would prefer not to let GCHQ in on their plans. So, each member publishes a public key, keeping their private keys secret. Whenever each fancies a chat, he creates a document, encrypts it with the public key and publishes it on Usenet in a binaries group. He doesn't send it to anyone specifically, only the entire world including GCHQ, but only the intended recipient will be able to decrypt it.
Our hypothetical terrorists will be a chatty bunch of criminals, limiting themselves to one document out per day, but burbling on about this and that even if they've got nothing of great import to say. This stops GCHQ spotting an upsurge in comms traffic and inferring anything from it. Nor would GCHQ be able to infer anything from who talks to whom, as they do not see any addressing info at all, merely encrypted gobbledegook that makes sense only to the recipient.
This sort of trick is probably already happening even as I write these words. It is a simple way of avoiding leaking metadata; leak the comms to the whole damn world including the spooks (who can already snoop it) but rely on strong encryption to limit who actually understands it. As far as is known, strong encryption does not have any holes in it, so absent quantum supercomputers, encryption is secure.
No, think bigger there
What you want to do is build on the Brott series of grasscutters. These were small paddock mowers, and the best way to describe one is to think of a bastard cross between a Harley Davidson and a silage harvester, as built by a slightly insane bucolic Hells Angel.
It was a ride-on flail mower, which collected its grass clippings as it went. Standard practice using one was to put it in bottom gear, and run the engine at maximum revs; this produced a deep drone from the flail mower combined with a howl from the engine. These mowers would cut pretty much anything, from grass to wood to molehills and so on. Cats and dogs getting in the way was not a problem; anything with a brain headed for the horizon if it heard one coming; anything without a brain got pulverised.
This would be an ideal platform to build into a mower-bot.
Re: Dead end.
Most of the time, an electric-only vehicle will do just fine as long as there are charging facilities at both ends of the journey. When there aren't or when the driver is going further, then the electric-only vehicles will not work.
If you are dead-set on building a vehicle that is carbon-neutral etc etc, then a mostly electric vehicle with a fuel motor to extend or recharge the electric batteries is the only option. Apart from carbon-based fuels, the only sane alternative would be ammonia as this can be liquified and kept liquid at reasonable temperatures and pressures, isn't wildly explosive or dangerous and isn't stupidly energy-poor.
So has anybody who has looked at the webcache of even a small ISP. Honestly, you really, seriously do not want to look at the jpegs in an ISP webcache; they've got nothing on goatse.cx at all.
Re: Straight from the BOFH bible...
The standard reply I give when asked what PC/Laptop to buy is "Anything made by Apple"; this normally elicits protestations about the heinous cost of the kit. When I merely say "Quality costs", they normally shut up and go away. Seriously persistent people get told all about the marvellous qualities of secondhand Sun kit; they rarely bother me twice.
Re: 14 years? @Jumbo crash
I've had the experience of some stupid bastard trying this on me, whilst I was driving a car. In my case, it was a low-powered red laser, the moron was a good few hundred yards away and had really crap aim and was to one side of me, so he only got one eye very briefly.
However, it is blindingly bright. You literally cannot see a bloody thing except the laser, and had it not been a nice straight section of the A56 near Accrington on a quiet evening, the temptation would have been to jump on the brakes simply to slow down to a safe speed.
In an aircraft, with dark-adapted eyes, with a green laser (a colour to which human eyes are much more sensitive) probably of illegally-high power, the effect must be devastating.
Poor policing there...
If you actually visit that bit of the google maps and look back at the scene then as the google car leaves, you can see the "murder victim" first move to stand up, then in the next shot the corpse is standing, striding away back to the workshop.
Funny the police couldn't do that as well, isn't it?
Re: Use case
This is basically how these cars will take over. Most of the time, people just want to get from home to work, or the supermarket, or whatever with the minimum of hassle and as the bulk of commuting is the hassle of interacting with hundreds of other barely-functioning monkeys in metal boxes, automation of this will be very welcome indeed.
Motorways will be the first bits to be automated. Imagine a set-up where you engage the autodrive as you get close to a motorway, with a destination programmed into the machine. As you get onto the motorway the robot negotiates with the motorway sub-systems and joins you up with a line of cars all closely-tailgating behind a big lorry (whose driver is likely half-asleep, as his vehicle is also running on autopilot). This is called platooning, and cuts the fuel use of the vehicles dramatically.
You get from home to work a bit slower than you might otherwise do, being restricted to the 56 MPH of the big truck, but as a bonus you've only used half as much energy and most of that came out of the batteries of the plug-in hybrid you now have.
As you come off the motorway, the car hands back most of the control to you, but also talks to the city computer net and works out a path through the rush-hour traffic for you, avoiding hold-ups as it does so. It also suggests an optimum speed, so you hit traffic lights only at green.
Re: Synthetic LPG
Propane is as far as you really need to go on this sort of polymerisation chain. As soon as you get to propane, you have an alkane that can be liquified trivially and which does not need insanely high pressure or low temperature to keep it contained, plus the engines burning it usually run efficiently without generating much pollution.
Probably the best way to use propane is a hybrid engine design, using solid oxide fuel cells as the primary burner, and running the exhaust from the cells through a Stirling Cycle engine to recover some energy from the waste heat. You then have two good sources of electricity, plus a heat exhaust which can be used to feed into the vehicle's heating system by way of a heat exchanger.
A company in Illinois recently developed the lead-acid battery a little further, by replacing much of the lead in it with graphite. This makes their lead-acid cells lighter, more durable and less fragile than normal lead-acid cells. These sorts of batteries could be used as the temporary storage section of this hybrid electric vehicle.
Possibly the last chance to fleece the mugs
As things are going now, Google and quite a few others including the open streetmap project are also sorting out their own versions of the PAF. The open streetmap project's one is completely free, too, and Google can be persuaded to let you look at data fairly cheaply. The result here is that any big outfit that wants their own mostly-accurate free version of the PAF can get it now, and as these free versions are being continually updated and corrected, they're only going to get better over time.
As the free versions of the PAF get better, the advantage gained by paying for the proper PAF diminishes, so the monetary value of the proper PAF also diminishes. The decision to sell it off now was probably the right one, as this was probably the last moment in which anyone would bother to pay good money as opposed to rely on the free versions.
Involve the cops pronto
Get the police involved, then agree to pay the money. Sort out some means of paying that is trivially traceable, and set Plod off to sniff down the blackmailers; pretty soon, exit crminial numpties stage left.
Re: Were people really stupid enough to use MtGox as a bitcoin wallet
Yes, it would appear that indeed they were. Bitcoins are cryptographically secure, but only if you are holding them. If some other entity is holding them on your behalf then you'd better hope that said organisation isn't run by stunned muppets who're still amazed that this moneymaker has landed in their laps.
"Mt.GOX" actually stands for "Magic: The Gathering Online Exchange". The site started out as a PHP page bodged together by some spotty herbert who wanted to try to make a percentage off trading playing cards in some poxy role-playing game. The key thing to remember is this: the site was PHP, written by an amateur and never needed to be audited in the early days as the money flows were peanuts; this was a site so insignificant that not even the tax men took much interest.
When said operator switched to bitcoins, once again the cash flows were peanuts because bitcoins were worth next to nothing. The site got away with abysmal security and a complete lack of auditing because it was too small a minnow for anyone to be bothered with, and bitcoins were not considered to be money as such.
Just because nobody has broken into a site does not mean that it is secure. It might be completely insecure, but even script kiddies do have standards. Very low ones, it must be said, but pulling a heist for a few hundred worthless coins is not the stuff that online crime legends are made of. As soon as bitcoins came to be worth something, then the sharks moved in and it would appear that the MtGox operators were so dumb that they never spotted that they were being swindled blind.
The lesson here is simple: don't trust idiots with money, or shiny money-like stuff.
Lead pollution is the cause of quite a lot of crime, and we have the USA to thank for proving this. Lead in petrol (tetra ethyl lead as a fuel enhancer) was phased out by different states of the USA at different times, and at differing rates. Interestingly the rate of reduction of crime in the young male population fairly closely mirrors the decrease in exposure to lead very early in life.
It seems that men are much more sensitive to pollution than are women (or merely lack brain redundancy to cope with minor brain damage) and are also much, much more likely to turn criminal as a result of minor damage caused by pollution. Lead is the chief cause here, as it is a neurotoxin, and the damage seems to happen in the first year or so of life.
Now that we've phased out lead and are getting much, much more savvy about other environmental pollutants such as phthalates and the like, we can expect crime to reduce further. Every improvement has about a fifteen year lag between the improvement and the crime reduction, hence this correlation has hitherto been missed, but it is there and is measurable.
Re: Why does anything identifiable need to leave the GP?
Nothing identifiable needs to leave the GP, but this assumes that whoever is processing the data has basic competence and at least marginal clue. Past experience with the civil service disproves this assumption. Examples here include:
Encrypting data, putting it on CDs and writing the decryption password on the CDs
Dumping out entire databases including sensitive identifying data onto USB sticks, and losing them.
Losing sensitive data about criminal informants where this may be found by those they are informing on.
Put simply, the government and civil service are too incompetent even to run a bath best out of three. They suffer from the inverse Midas effect. A recent example is kowtowing to the EU so much that dredging of flood-prone rivers was ceased, making it a matter of time before catastrophic flooding occurred and this stupidity was discovered and the mistake traced back to the miscreants. These people are too stupid even to guard their own backs.
Don't trust idiots with sensitive data!
To be honest, actually encouraging as much feature creep as possible is entirely the right thing to do, since this will force Joe Public to learn all about how to get around said filters and how the government are a bunch of techno-illiterate numpties. So, bring on the Orwellian censorship, bring on the mumsnet-inspired wuckfittery, and bring on the "for the childrun!!1!" smothering censorship.
The population needs a lesson on why getting what you asked for is a bad thing.
Always carry a torch
Far, far back in the mists of time, when I was a PhD student working at a very respectable research establishment in Hertfordshire (hint: used to belong to John Lawes), I suffered an unfortunate accident involving a door that ought to have been cordoned off, a lack of lighting and an open manhole. To add insult to injury, falsified security records got me a bollocking off my head of department afterwards.
Subsequently I obtained a pocket-sized torch and ever since have made a strict habit of always carrying some form of small light source with me wherever I go. Fenix make some very nice ones these days, tiny but durable to survive in a pocket together with one's small change. Such devices are also useful for drawing attention when walking down unlit roads by night.
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.
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