* Posts by Dr Dan Holdsworth

162 posts • joined 16 May 2008

Page:

BOFH: Don't go changing on Friday evenings, I don't wanna work that hard

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Its a small change!

No, the ONLY time you make a small change on a Friday afternoon is when that Friday is the last day you will ever work for that company. Any other Friday, the mess you make on a Friday is the mess you'll get to clean up the following Monday, only it'll have had two whole days to fester and ferment and get nicely vile and ever so much more difficult to clean up.

No System Changes On A Friday.

Ever.

Without exceptions.

6
0

The insidious danger of the lone wolf control freak sysadmin

Dr Dan Holdsworth
FAIL

Re: Management Fail

Yes, I've seen this as well. My experience of this was in a hell-hole of a now happily-defunct ISP that was an offshoot of a now also happily-defunct PC box-shifter. The management in this ISP was dire, bullying and utterly incompetent. Planning was a dirty word.

I was appointed in the second wave of techies recruited, the first wave including a number of genuine wizards, and some extremely bright but only half smart ones. One of the latter we shall call "Johnny Random", a soubriquet earned by his habit of randomly altering system-critical stuff last thing on a Friday afternoon.

Johnny Random was a brilliant Perl coder, self-taught with a background in Assembler coding. He had to be brilliant to be able to work with the god-awful Perl bodges he created by way of scripts; hideous layout, no code indenting, no usable commenting, and every variable being world-viewable and very frequently re-used throughout the code for different things.

I got given the task of sorting out one of his hideous botch jobs, and it took me days to separate out the worthwhile bits from the dross, apply a decent code style and re-write it to take account of the many optimisations built into Perl for memory management and so on. My end product ran faster, worked more cleanly and was infinitely more maintainable than the original dross. It didn't get me a raise, however; it wasn't that sort of company. I left soon afterwards, vowing never again to work for such utter arseholes.

10
0

Noshing moth menaces misled into male-on-male mating

Dr Dan Holdsworth
Boffin

Re: Bit of an odd one this

UV insect traps are mostly useless. Most of what they catch are confused but harmless insects; they don't cut the numbers of clothes moths very much, and they are useless for killing mosquitoes and midges.

Where insecticides are concerned, the bad news is that most insecticides on the market aren't going to be much use as they are too volatile to remain on anything for very long. The good news is that for insects like clothes moths, woodworm and the like, you do not actually need to use neurotoxic poisons at all. What works much better is a borax dissolved in a mixture of water and propylene glycol.

This works selectively on just the larvae of the moths, and then usually only when they have just hatched. A hatching lepidopteran caterpillar starts by eating the shell of the egg it just crawled out of, then it eats the substrate the egg was laid on. It has to, as it hasn't got much energy to roam around and look for anything tastier. If the substrate is saturated with a stomach poison like borax, adsorbed into it along with a solvent, then that first meal is going to be the larva's last one.

That works very well on woodworm and on clothes moths. Dusting with silica dusts like Kieselguhr is also effective on insects, as it scratches the waxy coating on their bodies and causes them to dehydrate. For a clothes moth, a normal house is a desert without water, and if their water-conservation physiological tricks are compromised, they die.

Neither of these tricks will work with museum specimens, and the other old standby for keeping preserved collections of insects safe, which is strategic containers of napthalene, is discouraged these days not least because napthalene is a suspect carcinogen. It also doesn't work on stuffed specimens, as they have to be out in the open so cannot be surrounded by a vapour-phase insecticide.

Permeating the area with sex pheromone will work, and is a standby for organic pest control, but insect sex pheromones are volatile long-chain alcohols and the like, and need to be present in very specific ratios to be perceived as a sex pheromone (I have a PhD in sex pheromones). This does not of course apply for mammal sex pheromones, or for water/soil living animals for obvious reasons.

Pheromone traps containing encapsulated sex pheromone in powder form is, however, a very, very neat trick indeed. The only thing vaguely similar I have seen is to use pheromone traps containing entomopathogenic fungal spores to control carrot flies.

6
0

Cops turn Download Festival into an ORWELLIAN SPY PARADISE

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: So Download Festival are trying to go bankrupt?

When considering a new system that involves money, think not how it would work, but how it could go wrong.

This system is an absolute dream come true for the small-time fraudster and grifter. All they need is a small RFID sniffer, an RFID programmer and a supply of RFID tags that look a bit like the ones the organisers have.

Once in the festival, the grifter gets his RFID sniffer going then goes looking for people who look a bit richer than normal festival goers; designer clothing and so on, and walks past them. His RFID sniffer grabs the codes, which in the privacy of his tent he puts onto some more RFID tags, which he sells to willing stooges to try out. When he finds one that is loaded with cash and is an access-most-areas tag, he duplicates lots of them and sells 'em for lots of cash (cash will of course still be present, so people can buy drugs).

Pretty soon the guy who had his tag sniffed finds he ain't rich any more and the festival organisers want to have a quiet word with him, along with all of his clones...

This is how this system will break, mark my words.

1
0

Cinnamon 2.6 – a Linux desktop for Windows XP refugees

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: I'll stick with my MATE

Gnome Metacity Flashback is a decent alternative to XFCE, I find. It runs with a much, much smaller memory footprint than does Compiz, and as it is only a 2D system, uses a lot less memory.

I find that I do not miss 3D desktop effects one little bit; most of what I do involves what is in each window, be it Firefox, a terminal or whatever and I use the window manager to, well, manage these windows and manage the virtual desktops. Gnome Metacity Flashback does this perfectly. It works, works well and does so consuming minimal resources.

1
0

Your servers are underwater? Chill OUT, baby – liquid's cool

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Heat pipes may offer a better solution

If you connect all the components that generate heat to a simple aluminium heat exchanger at the back of the server unit, and run water through that block, then you get almost the same level of cooling without all the messiness of soaking everything in oils, or the vulnerability and fiddliness of running liquid cooling pipes to each component.

You would need a second loop to dissipate the heat as the water mix circulating in the pipes would need to be purified water with antibacterial additives, but this isn't really a problem. The second loop could be a simple cooling pond external to the datacentre, or even set up as a moat around the data centre complex. Such a set-up gives the site a nice rustic sort of look, whilst limiting the options of local scallies looking to raid the place.

0
0

Couple sues estate agent who sold them her mum's snake-infested house

Dr Dan Holdsworth

If there are so many snakes, what are they eating?

Black snakes are predators and eat vermin, mice and rats mostly. If the house was infested then there must have been a more than adequate food supply; this means that the area had to have had a sizeable rodent population.

Eliminating the snakes would still leave you with a rodent problem, and a bigger one than you had before. A most sensible buyer would look at this, and see if the rodent problem couldn't be sorted out somehow. Remove what the snakes are eating, and they'll go elsewhere or starve.

12
1
Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Inspections dont work in the UK

That is very much my experience as well. The inspection I paid for burbled incoherently about damp on one wall which subsequently turned out to be a false alarm. The inspector obviously didn't do simple checks like look in the airing cupboard, or else the previous owner's feckless bungled soldering (leaving large burns on the woodwork) would have revealed a badly damaged central heating system.

Similarly a look at the exterior doors would have revealed the hand of the bungling DIY muppet at work (it it doesn't fit, remove parts of the locking mechanism and bodge it!).

A final look at the legal ownership would have revealed that whilst the house was leasehold under one owner, the garden was also leasehold but under a different lease. Both paid off so no rent to pay, but technically I cannot prove ownership of my garden.

All in all, money wasted.

4
0

The 'echo chamber' effect misleading people on climate change

Dr Dan Holdsworth

If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck...

To date, most of the reports on climate change seem to be of the form:

Alarmist headline

Unfounded series of assertions.

Complicated waffle involving computers, and appeals to authority

Solution which involves me giving someone else lots of money.

Almost unheard of is the concept of simply improving technology to the point at which we are using low-carbon technologies and emitting less fossil carbon than is locked up by natural processes. Also seldom heard is the point that much of the trouble stems from there being so many humans on the planet, and that the solution is to raise everyone's living standards so breeding like rabbits no longer looks like such a good idea.

No, mostly what we hear is doom-saying, together with rent-seeking and assorted magical thinking. Oh, and attempted raids on one's wallet.

14
1

BONKERS apocalyptic WAR WAGONS circle Vulture South

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Enquiringminds want to know

This is a weird post-apocalyptic Australia which seems to have had several bulk freighters-worth of American big-block V8 cars imported, and all the myriads of Toyota landcruisers and Hilux pickups mysteriously disposed of. It also uses liquid hydrocarbons exclusively, which seeing as Australia doesn't have oil reserves worth speaking of is pretty bloody weird as well.

Much more realistic would be a horde of Toyota pickups, with producer gas units strapped onto the back of them burning wood to make a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide gas. This burns remarkably well in internal combustion engines, and lets you use them without relying on crude oil.

Granted, a sort of Max meets Steampunk look would be rather weird and you wouldn't expect the flashier vehicles to use this system, only the crummier workhorses of the fleet, but it would at least look a bit more realistic.

6
0

Attack of the possibly-Nazi clone parakeet invaders

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Time for biocontrol

If these birds are all very similar, genetically speaking, then any parasite which is perfectly adapted to them will do very well indeed, as it will be perfectly adapted to every single parakeet it gets to.

What needs to be done is to research these birds in their native habitat, and try to find out what parasites and diseases attack them there. Then simply import these biocontrols and release them into the near-clonal populations here, and let the parasite do the population control for us.

0
3

Be your own Big Brother: Monitoring your manor, the easy way

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Outages

Power the broadband via a simple time switch, which turns off for fifteen minutes every day. That will reboot the router for you, and if you do what I do and save only the motion videos output from your security system into a Dropbox folder on a low-power NAS box, then this will solve the problem completely, as the router will be regularly rebooted and everything will auto-sync when the networking comes back after an outage.

0
0

Top Spanish minister shows citizens are thick as tortillas de ballenas

Dr Dan Holdsworth
Boffin

Re: Pedanting...

No, as far as can now be told, homeothermy looks to have been an ancestral trait for dinosaurs, with heterothermy evolving later. Feather-like structures have been found in all dinosaur groups except for sauropods (the adults of which were likely too big to need them). Dinosaurs look to have been physiologically and behaviourally different from reptiles, even if they were superficially similar in their skeletons.

Theropods merely took the pre-existing dinosaurian traits and amplified them a bit; as predominantly fairly small dinosaurs, theropods would have tended more to the homeothermic end of the scale anyway and birds merely take this to an extreme.

4
0

SEX: Naughty female stegosauruses offered it on a PLATE

Dr Dan Holdsworth
Paris Hilton

Some questions still remain

Dinosaurs had more or less the same sort of genital arrangement as do birds, namely a common orifice for urine, faeces and genital systems; this set-up is common to birds, reptiles and marsupials. Only eutherian mammals (the group we're in) evolved away from this arrangement.

In reptiles, this makes mating a fairly delicate operation; the male has to get it just right although having not one but a pair of penises probably assists somewhat here. In birds, a couple of different techniques are used; the majority use a penis-less sperm transfer, and ducks, geese and ratites use various penis-like structures of varying but occasionally rather improbable dimensions (two feet for Argentinian Lake ducks).

Dinosaurs presumably used penis-like structures and some seem to have slightly more robust pelvic bones that presumably acted as support. However even this arrangement still looks improbable for animals like Stegosaurus; the dorsal plates would seem to preclude the male getting very close to the female. Stegosaurs also had particularly small brains, even for herbivorous dinosaurs, so whatever they did must not have required much thinking to achieve.

The only problem is that behaviour and soft tissue structures don't fossilise. So, any suggestions as to what went on?

4
0

Lib Dem manifesto: Spook slapdown, ban on teen-repelling Mosquitos

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Why bother with actual torture when psychological tricks work better?

Frank Sinartra's greatest hits, plus some light folk and maybe a spot of Enya to be going on with together with nice, comfortable seats and a fairly high ambient light level and maybe even a coffee shop. That will make that particular shopping mall a hit with the older generation, and a place where pensioners love to gather, read the paper, have a chat and so on is a place like one of the circles of hell to a teenager.

Do that and the teenagers will turn up, shop and scarper as fast as their legs can carry them, whilst the oldsters (who are mostly unthreatening and non-criminal) will linger and spend money.

3
0

Struggling through the Crystal Maze in our hunt for a spare CAT5

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Waiting for the quiet war?

This is more or less part of the world-building scenario of the sci-fi author Neal Asher; once AIs were built, then they slowly took over. At some point, they realised that they were much better at this running things malarkey than were humans, and simply obsoleted out the human politicians entirely.

The human politicians revolted, but rapidly found that the human populations they had been counting on to rise up against AI oppression did not do so, because the AIs were not oppressive, merely a hell of a lot better at running a fair and equitable society. This became known as the Quiet War, mostly because it consisted largely of politicians being told to put a sock in it and go get a proper job.

5
0

Bone-tastic boffins' breakthrough BRINGS BACK BRONTOSAURUS

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Biological accuracy

Of all the pictures you could have dredged up to illustrate that story, did you have to find an aquatic brontosaurus one? Sauropods were most emphatically NOT aquatic in any sense of the word; they would have done their best to avoid water, since they were strongly adapted towards walking on land.

3
0

UK.gov: We want Britannia's mobe-enabled cars to rule the roads

Dr Dan Holdsworth

A better idiot?

The more nannying, and idiot-proofing you try to add to anything, the more the idiots of this world try to break these features.

Look on the front forks of modern mountain bikes; the drop-outs have little lugs on them. This was added when some utter moron put his bike wheel back on and forgot to tighten the quick release, then rode off and pulled a wheelie. The front wheel dropped off, and said moron crashed and hurt himself quite badly. He then sued the bike manufacturer for not having included a feature on the bike to protect idiots like himself from being, well, idiots.

As long as a product isn't actively dangerous or unpredictably dangerous, then it is OK. Cars do not need automated handbrakes; bog standard manual handbrakes will do the job perfectly reasonably and in my experience, they do not go wrong, whereas an automated servo system takes control away from the driver and tends to cause abnormal levels of clutch wear.

3
1

Here we are now, entertain us: Caltech team designs micro, high-res 3D imager

Dr Dan Holdsworth

This is a neat archaeological tool

One thing that people have done for many centuries is make marks on rocks, usually straight incised markings. Quite often, these aren't visible until a LIDAR system images them and enhances them. LIDAR has always been expensive; an inexpensive system would let you pull tricks such as imaging drystone walls looking for Roman incised stone fragments, say.

Mooching about looking in drystone walls is actually a valuable archaeological technique; people really hate carrying stone about, so a drystone wall is always a good representative sample of what was lying about on the ground surface in the immediate vicinity. Drystone wallers are no respecters of culture; a lump of Roman altar is just a nicely-fitting rock to them and into the wall it goes; ditto a five thousand year old Neolithic quern. Being able to easily spot these would be useful.

2
0

Bloodborne: An immersively thick cut above its gaming rivals

Dr Dan Holdsworth

A small point of order here...

Hyenas are not canines. They're not even remotely related to canids, but are slightly closer to cats and mustelids than they are to dogs.

6
0

Boffins baffled by the glowing 'plumes' of MARS

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Let's see now...

So, our initial Mars landers were all solar powered, and nothing happened. Now we've sent a plutonium thermal power source over to that planet, and things are happening now.

Cherenkov glow detectors setting off an ancient weapons system?

Let's just hope the system was inactive and didn't see where the lander originated from, eh?

5
0

Great Firewall of China blasts DDoS attacks at random IP addresses

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Oh look, a glibc bug that can be exploited through gethostbyname()

This may be a silly thing to say, but I am struck by the coincidence between a sudden onset of DNS-based problems in the Great Firewall of China, and the emergence of a buffer overflow that can best be exploited via gethostbyname().

Might this problem not actually be anything to do with the GFoC admins or (in)competence thereof, but might it be related to some person or group inside China trying to break the firewall in some way, and succeeding in merely crippling its functionality in strange and annoying ways?

0
0

Buggy? Angry? LET IT ALL OUT says Linus Torvalds

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: So he admits it

Actually, he is simply being brutally honest about himself, and is giving fair notice about who he is and what his personality type is. I also sympathise with his stance, because I would think he has tried the quiet, solftly-softly approach in the past, and found that it doesn't work.

If you have a product out in the world, then it can be examined, decompiled, analysed and scrutinised. Thousands of people are doing just this. If the product has a security hole, then this hole will be found, eventually. The OpenSSL flaw was likely known about for a very long time; any protocol where the code is a horrible mess is automatically suspect as messy code is much harder to debug than is simple, efficient, neatly-written code; messy code is often buggier than neat code.

The OpenSSL flaws were nasty, and disclosing them when discovered was the correct thing to do, and in a broader sense rapid disclosure is also the right thing to do as it forces a rapid fix. If you don't disclose flaws, they don't get fixed and while the swarms of brain-dead script kiddies don't get to hear of these flaws and thus there isn't a huge rush of witless knuckle-draggers trying to exploit them, this does not mean that they are not being quietly exploited for other, much more nefarious things.

11
0

'Turn to nuclear power to save planetary ecology from renewable BLIGHT'

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Centralisation?

Nuclear reactors are heat engines. If you're using small, local reactor units, then the cold end of the heat engine need not be a cooling system, but instead can be district heating of some sort.

1
0
Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: All electric?

Actually, you don't need to fret nearly so much about vehicle fuels. Whilst hydrogen is pretty useless as a vehicle fuel (poor energy density, hard to store etc) ammonia is much easier to store, and can be catalytically decomposed into hydrogen and nitrogen quite easily.

Ammonia is relatively easy to store, doesn't need cryogenic temperatures, and is easily synthesised using the Haber Process. It contains no carbon, and if generated using nuclear power, is as near to carbon neutral as anything is likely to get. Finally, all this can be done with existing technology, no near-future magic required.

2
0
Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Dunno about warming

The basic problem with a lot of historical temperature records is not the recording instrument accuracy, but the renormalisation of the records. As an example, take the weather thermometer at what is now Heathrow Airport.

The records there began in 1930 or thereabouts, when it was a grass strip in open countryside. It is now situated in the middle of a huge expanse of concrete, in the Greater London heat island. To get an accurate record of temperatures, you clearly need a fiddle-factor to take the temperatures of each time and transpose them back to what they would be if the site was a grassy field in the middle of nowhere.

It is therefore dead easy to slip in a little nudge so the renormalised figures go the "right" way by playing with the renormalisation formula.

This is the fault with almost all long-term man-made temperature records, and quite a few supposedly accurate natural ones.

13
5

Review mass-snoop laws regularly, says RIPA daddy Blunkett

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Time for a spot of code review

The basic problem here is that it is obscenely easy for the government to enact new laws, and rather difficult to obsolete out old, or unused ones. As an earlier comment wisely pointed out, after a couple of thousand years of civilisation in Britain, you'd think we would have the legal structure we need pretty well sussed.

Actually, we do have a fairly well sussed corpus of laws. Most of the law is Common Law (as in what judges have decided in the past) and Contract Law, as in what is and is not fair to agree to, and which rights cannot be signed away. Most of how to handle criminals is also fairly well sussed, which is why laws like RIPA are so damaging; they throw a spanner in the known-working legal structures that already exist and also serve to highlight the fact that our politicians do not understand cryptography, and do not understand what "This is effectively impossible" means.

Thus, we are effectively letting deranged monkeys with sledgehammers loose in a watch factory if we let politicians prat about with fundamental legal principles like this.

16
0

Brit smut slingers shafted by UK censors' stiff new stance

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: hardly difficult to get around

This happened in Australia with internet gambling. The government there made it illegal, so the gaming sites simply migrated offshore to south-east Asia (in the case of the smart ones, using virtual hosting, this took mere millisecnds of downtime).

When the sites went, the tax money went as well, but aussies carried on gambling on the same sites just like before. Apparently nobody had told that government what was about to happen, so it all came as rather a shock to them.

Since not very much UK porn is actually hosted in the UK, and most of the rest is now hosted on https sites, I dare say the Government won't actually make much difference to anyone with this legalistic masturbation. Not that enacting unenforcible and frankly idiotic law seems to bother governments any more; it is now illegal, for instance, to detonate nuclear weapons in the UK.

3
0

SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Sometimes the filming is entirely justified, honest!

Many, many years ago I was doing a PhD on the sex pheromones of some plant parasitic nematodes. The easiest way to tell if a male nematode thinks is chemical is sexy is to make a very thin layer of plain agar gel on a petri dish, put some of the chemical in the middle, wait a bit for a chemical gradient to form and then see if the male nematode moves towards it.

Now, there are several problems here. You have to know how long to wait for the pheromone chemical to form a gradient, and you also want to know how long it takes for the gradient to completely smooth out so that all it does is makes the nematode move about a bit faster, but completely aimlessly. The way to resolve this is by filming the responses of these nematodes.

This isn't easy. You're talking about a one millimeter long animal, which is almost transparent, moving in the film of water on a thin layer of gel, which you also do not want to dry out at all during filming. So, you build a box and put the petri dish on a small platform (with a dark background) and surround it with water, put a thin glass sheet over this (waterproofed with anti-mist spray or it'll mist up) and illuminate from the side with a cooled light source.

I did all this, and am proud to say that I solved the problem of how to set up a working sex pheromone test system. I also filmed the world's most boring sex-related videos in the history of the world which didn't actually feature any sex at all, but which had to be watched on fast-forward to see any movement at all.

You will be glad to know that these are now lost to posterity.

2
0

My HOUSE used to be a PUB: How to save the UK high street

Dr Dan Holdsworth

A few minor changes in law are in order here

As things stand, parking fines and soon some other minor traffic fines will go straight to local councils when someone is fined. I would argue that this is putting temptation in the way of organisations which have already demonstrated that they will exploit such situations. So, remit all fines directly to central government, and let us see how local councils manage then.

In theory, as the parking restrictions were revenue-neutral this ought to have no effect.

In practice, this will force councils to cease relying on fines as revenue, and to find new ways to extract money from people. Motorists would still make a fine target; simply build a number of very big multi-storey car parks in and around city centres, and hey presto the cash cow can still be milked fairly easily, and at the same time people have an opportunity to go shopping back in city centres.

4
3

OnePlus One cut-price Android phone on sale to all... for 1 HOUR

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Too late

Yes, I agree. Then there's the fact that the Nexus 6 is coming out, and though it costs a lot more, you do get a much better product for the money. Waterproofing, for a start, and then there's the fact that Google will not permit anything to sully their good name.

OnePlus One, on the other hand, have kept on with the invite nonsense entirely too long. A little chase to try get an invite, yes, OK. Pratting me about for weeks with seemingly no chance of getting a phone; sod the lot of 'em!

Then there's the fact that they are using the known-vulnerable CyanogenMod image on the phone. We know there is one vulnerability on there, oh and this is a Chinese-made phone with a Chinese-modified OS on it as well. Feeling scared yet? The thing almost certainly has some sort of spyware on it, even if this is not activated by default or even at all. To add to the risk, the units are too cheap.

0
0

Trips to Mars may be OFF: The SUN has changed in a way we've NEVER SEEN

Dr Dan Holdsworth

What a timid bunch you lot are!

If you want to use nuclear propulsion of a spacecraft, all you do is re-activate the Orion Project. That used the most mass-efficient nuclear propulsion system yet developed: fusion bombs. The vehicle consisted of little but a huge and very well damped blash shield, a store of nuclear bombs, and (as far away from the blasts as possible) a shielded crew compartment.

Journey time from Earth to Mars with such a vehicle is weeks or months, depending on distance and acceleration.

2
0

Computer misuse: Brits could face LIFE IN PRISON for serious hacking offences

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Corruptissima re publica plurimae leges

To be honest we really do need a damn good clear-out of most of this cruft. An automatic sunset clause would probably do the trick nicely. So, if a law has languished unused for more than one calendar year, then it automatically gets repealed, unless a free majority vote of Parliament rescues it for another year.

That would either make Parliament run round like a headless chicken continually voting to rescue unused and unloved laws (which would preclude their enacting any more), or it would rapidly reduce the number of laws on the statute books to a workable minimum.

Added to this, there needs to be a stringent limit on the amount of secondary legislation permitted. This is things such as those regulations permitted by such acts as the European Communities Act, an enabler which permits laws to be brought into force without going through Parliament. As this is bypassing the regulatory chambers we have, it is introducing an awful lot of complete gibberish onto the statute books unseen and unread by Parliament.

9
0

Want a more fuel efficient car? Then redesign it – here's how

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Much as I loved the article

Same here.

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.

0
0
Dr Dan Holdsworth

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.

2
0

Trolls have DARK TETRAD of personality defects, say trickcyclists

Dr Dan Holdsworth

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.

14
0

Software bug caught Galileo sats in landslide, no escape from reality

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Soyuz

Nah, I'd trot out a variant of BR's favourite excuse, and ascribe it to the wrong sort of vodka.

2
0

True fact: 1 in 4 Brits are now TERRORISTS

Dr Dan Holdsworth

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.

0
0

Govt control? Hah! It's IMPOSSIBLE to have a successful command economy

Dr Dan Holdsworth

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.

2
0
Dr Dan Holdsworth

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.

8
0

Brit kids match 45-year-old fogies' tech skill level by the age of 6

Dr Dan Holdsworth

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.

30
1

You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary

Dr Dan Holdsworth

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.

10
0

New Star Wars movie plot details leak, violate common sense and laws of physics

Dr Dan Holdsworth

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.

Any questions?

5
0

UK's emergency data slurp: IT giants panicked over 'legal uncertainty'

Dr Dan Holdsworth

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.

5
0

Reg reader fires up Pi-powered anti-cat garden sprinkler system

Dr Dan Holdsworth

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.

0
0

Brit celebs' homes VANISH from Google's Street View

Dr Dan Holdsworth

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!

7
0

Super-snoop bid: UK government hits panic button on EU data retention ruling

Dr Dan Holdsworth
Black Helicopters

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.

0
0

Who needs a ride-on mower when a ROBOT will cut your grass

Dr Dan Holdsworth

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.

11
0

How practical is an electric car in London?

Dr Dan Holdsworth

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.

3
1

I am NOT a PC repair man. I will NOT get your iPad working

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Porn

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.

1
0

Page:

Forums