* Posts by Alan Brown

4638 posts • joined 8 Feb 2008

Pioneer slaps 80s LASERS on cars for driverless push

Alan Brown
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Re: Air France Flight 447 accident

"The computer was in control until it got conflicting readings from the sensors and gave up control."

What amazes me is that Airbus pitots don't have automatic sensors to turn on the heaters under icing conditions.

Or that it didn't use inertial/GPS nav input as well as the mechanical airspeed inputs (there are a number of ways of estimating speed sans pitots and pilots are taught them. This should be part of the flight control program too)

The biggest bug is that programmers didn't anticipate something like this and make allowances for it. There are a number of cases of crashes caused by programmers working on the basis that "a pilot would never do this in real world conditions", only to find out that pilots DO. The same issue will happen with cars, but you have to factor in the wildcard of erratically controlled vehicles/pedestrians in the immediate vicinity. I do tend to wonder when the first instance of road rage against an automated vehicle will occur.

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Alan Brown
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Re: @Pascal Monett - "irrational human fear from loss of control"

"Complete inability to observe 100 meters ahead or anticipate is common"

"3 second drivers" are extremely common - that's 3 seconds on the throttle, 3 seconds off - which means they're not controlling their speed properly or anticipating more than 2-3 seconds ahead, which in turn means a lot more braking than should be necessary.

There's a 20-30% fuel consumption penalty for this kind of driving so improving that pays dividends.

Almost all drivers believe they're "better than average". This kind of self-delusion is why there will be a lot of resistance to automated vehicles, but insurance companies will overrule them. Do you think £2000/year premiums on small cheap cars will stay restricted to the under-25s?

What gets even more interesting is when automated vehicles start tracking and reporting badly driven meatsack vehicles. If you think that data won't end up in the hands of the insurance industry you're naive. Everyone cocks up - regularly - and if every event starts being reported you can expect to find things getting costly.

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Alan Brown
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Re: "irrational human fear from loss of control"

"For me to get in one, or be comfortable having my family in one, it has to drive itself properly and more securely than me."

Your insurance company will beg to differ.

Seriously. The driving force behind vehicle automation will be insurance premiums.

As for your misplaced confidence in your abilities: Not being involved in any crashes does not make you a "good" driver. The rules of the road mean that someone has to be pretty spectacularly _bad_ to get into a crash and there are plenty of bad drivers who cause other people to crash but get away scot-free.

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Alan Brown
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Re: "irrational human fear from loss of control"

"given how everything computer-controlled has demonstrated a marked ability to go haywire"

Usually in less spectacular ways than human controlled systems.

Computers don't have to drive cars perfectly, just better than meatsacks. Fortunately for computers, this isn't very hard.

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Alan Brown
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Re: Signal to noise and interference

"Is LiDAR affected by rain?"

Not that I've noticed (Adaptive cruise control), although the car maker has erred on the side of paranoia and hands control back to the meatsack if the wipers go continuous for more than 12 seconds.

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Jeff Bezos trousers $8m Florida rocket sweetener package

Alan Brown
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Re: Pedant incoming...

"Wasn't it a firwork display (singular)?"

More like a damp squib. The flamey bits which weren't intended to come out of the rocket happened quite a while after the damage had been done (which was more like a dry ice bomb than anything else) and were normal range safety charges being fired.

It really is too bad that SpaceX hadn't setup the capsule recovery stuff "just in case" as they could have verified functionality in the best possible way.

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Damn well knew it! Seagate has helium drives in its labs

Alan Brown
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MOFCOM

"Seagate believes it is likely that China's MOFCOM will permit the integration of Western Digital (WD) and HGST."

Whilst that is probably true long term, I'm pretty damned sure that MOFCOM will only allow it once SSD vs HDD inflection point has been reached in the larger sizes.

We all know that merger will result in HGST quality going down to that of WD, not the other way around and there are market problems in having a functional duopoly (toshiba don't produce enough spinning rust to be a major contender) that's already slashed warranties across the board.

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Alan Brown
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Helium drives are filled at atmospheric pressure, so "leaking out" is a misnomer.

There's some leakage but not much (look at a helium - filled balloon. Whilst they deflate a lot to start with they eventually reach a point where any further leakage takes _years_)

Yes, it'll get out any gaps but it does have trouble getting out through proper metal seals. The result is that the amount of helium in the drive doesn't change enough to be noticeable over the lifetime of the device (5 years)

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Popcorn time at Popcorn Time: More vid slurpers hauled into court

Alan Brown
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Re: Case dismissed?

"Looks like the MPAA is having a Goebbels moment "

the MPAA and RIAA have stepped back a long way from these cases having realised that it damages their business in the long-term.

dietrolldie and fightcopyrighttrolls have much better coverage and analysis of this kind of thing than the Register's breathless regurgitation of litigator press releases.

It will be interesting to see how these pan out, but the short version is that downloading is by-and-large not illegal, so I can't see this case having many legs to stand on let alone run with - the cases that the trolls pursue are all based around going after people for _uploading_ and have been undermined by revelations that trolls have variously been the primary seeders (prenda law) or have been bringing cases to court with no intention of pursuing them to conclusion (virtually everyone) - aka vexatious ligitiation.

What's also been coming out is that the business model of these cases is to make more money from pursuing copyright infringement than from sales the actual copyright article itself. Judges have been taking an _extremely_ dim view of this kind of shenanigan when it's come to light as its an egrerious abuse of copyright laws and probably illegal in a lot of countries.

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Sorry, Californians, you can't have this: Asus to build WATER COOLED notebook

Alan Brown
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Re: Not necessarily as silly as it sounds.

"2) My work laptop spends almost all of it's powered on time in a docking station at work connected to multiple external monitors. It does however get undocked most evenings in case there is a need to work from home the next day."

We recently had a complaint from one our users with such a setup.

He'd left his laptop at home and was complaining loudly that the docking station wouldn't boot up.

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Alan Brown
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Re: So it's a scorcher, then ?

" I can't believe that performance is not going to take a hit for that"

Why? If the docking connector has a PCIe x16 in it then there's nothing to take a hit on.

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Alan Brown
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Re: Only PURE water is an insulator...

"pure water doesn't stay that way for long because it's an excellent solvent and only gets better as the temperature goes up."

Which is the primary reason why using it as the primary coolant/moderator in nuclear reactors is a spectacularly bad idea. You'll find the others once it finishes dissolving things - like pipework.

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Alan Brown
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"A major limiting factor in laptop heat dissipation is the volume of air that you can force over the radiator fins and the size of the fins themselves."

And the tendency of said fins to catch dust particles.

I've had to deal with a sizable number of overheating laptops over the years which when dismantled appeared to have a block of felt between the fan and the heatsink fins - which wasn't there when shipped from the factory.

When you find out how felt is made (or used to be at any rate), the similarity shouldn't be overly surprising.

The Sandia cooler can't come to market soon enough.

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Alan Brown
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Until it doesn't work properly through some design flaw and then ASUS will studiously ignore you and even resort to deleting forums if there are too many user complaints.

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Stench of confiscated dope overwhelms Catalan cop shop

Alan Brown
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Re: Easy to solve..

Never heard of "Space Bags" ? (google is your friend)

They work pretty well at stuffing large bulky things into and minimising storage requirements. Just watch out for sharp edges.

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Alan Brown
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>> "They are not brought on by cannabis "

> Err yes, some of them are.

I've known quite a few people with mental health issues over the years and many of those from a relatively young age (grew up with some of them). Every single one who smokes cannabis and blames it on their mental health issues _already_ had issues before they started smoking the stuff.

"Cannabis psychosis" only occurs in those who are vulnerable to such things in the first place and a lot of the time there's a family history of mental illness with or without psychoactive chemicals being involved.

On a related note: 95+% of those who try heroin (or other opiates) _don't_ get addicted and can take it or leave it. The interesting thing is that most addicts seem to suffer a particularly bad reaction to it (allergy style) in the first encounter and also that most addicts are bouncing along a long path of addiction to _something_ through their lives (gambling, drugs, religion, etc - the behaviour tends to be the same obsessive thing)

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Anonymous UK 'leader' fined for revealing ID of rape complainant

Alan Brown
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Re: Presumably

"He was later exonerated of all the charges, and his accuser was found guilty of attempting to pervert the course of justice, and jailed. A just punishment, I'm sure all will agree. However, in the process, his life was pretty much ruined, and this was largely because the identities of those accused are made a matter of public record, and reported on in the press."

There is a good case for victims of such false accusations to be able to go after massive damages claims from the accuser, press and CPS/Police. I see he got £38k, which is a desultory amount for destroying his life using the legal system.

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Alan Brown
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Re: Presumably

"Meanwhile, in the real world, rape cases fail to get convictions"

Mainly because the victim is known to the assailant and as such won't even get it to the complaint stage in the first instance. Incest levels in particular are probably 100 times higher than commonly reported because even when anonymised people won't admit to it.

That said, this one sounds like a disgruntled groupie - and such cases are extremely damaging to the credibility of _real_ rape victims.

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Alan Brown
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Re: Presumably

"One objection to giving anonymity to people accused of rape is that it makes it much harder to build a case against them. "

Anonymity is the norm in New Zealand and the problems described are exactly those which occur (although in the cases of Clifford, Harris et al, New Zealand courts would have granted permanent name suppression to the convicted person too)

The thing is, with the advent of t'internet it's harder and harder for gagging orders to stay effective - and after having to defend a rape accusation (even when not guilty) the expense is such that an extra £400 might well be seen as worthwhile paying to get his accuser's name out in the open.

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Alan Brown
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Re: Presumably

If there is a false rape accusation and the accused is found not guilty, then surely he's in a good position to go after the complainant in a civil case.

It's not just the crown who are entitled to prosecute false complainants.

As for the case in question: It does sound suspiciously similar to claims made against someone who's currently residing in a london embassy.

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Australian court slaps down Hollywood's speculative invoices

Alan Brown
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Re: if you got one of these letters, how do you defend the claim?

"Given the time scale between the threat letter and any possible action, it would be unfortunate for the prosecution if your machine was replaced due to age, or had a virus and was securely wiped and re-installed before it came to seizure"

This has happened. The trolls have gone for charges of "evidence tampering" or "contempt of court" - and managed to get the judge to agree in some (but by no means all) cases.

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Alan Brown
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Re: if you got one of these letters, how do you defend the claim?

"Most countries do not make the bill payer responsible for other using the connection unless they have actual knowledge of misuse. A bit like you can't be prosecuted for your car being stolen and used in a bank robbery, but you can if you offered it knowing it would be used in such a crime."

You might think so, but there's a guy who's been in a Florida jail for the last 11 years under almost exactly this scenario (loaned car to flatmate, flatmate used it in execution of crime in which someone got killed. Car owner was in bed asleep at the time. Prosecution accepted that he had no knowledge of what the flatmate planned, but car owner got life for accessory to murder.)

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Alan Brown
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Re: HA!

"and has also ordered that any future preliminary discovery cases of this kind be brought before him"

Based on the experience of similar orders in the USA, these trolls are quite likely to ignore the judge and try shopping around anyway.

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Alan Brown
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" wasn't this the firm that was seeding torrents with their film? "

I think you're confusing this mob with Prenda Law.

If there's any evidence that the litigants were the seeders there would be a universe of hurt descending on their collective heads.

dietrolldie and fightcopyrighttrolls have both been tracking things and provide pretty good analyses of the playing field - they're so good that the litigants have sought to have them barred from the evidence pool as they show how vexatious the trolls really are.

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Alan Brown
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Re: I think a pig just flew by

"The very same Australia that STILL manufactures region 4 DVDs"

Perhaps, but region-locked players were effectively made illegal by the decision.

This may well change with TPP.

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Self-driving CARS? BORING. We want self driving, LIZARD dodging GOLF CARTS

Alan Brown
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Re: GAU-8 and a Golf Course??

"Why not just put in a set of rails on the path"

(Yes, I know this is a sarcastic question)

Because people trip over them - and if you flush-fit the things then they're both a hazard to cyclists and prone to getting full of various crap which will derail them so your maintenance load is higher.

There's a lot to be said for self-driving golf carts as an urban transportation mode.

Enough seats (3 in a pinch) for 90% of purposes, cargo tray on the back for shopping, lightweight (low energy requirements, fast braking), low speed but "fast enough" for urban canyons and based on the ones I've driven, surprisingly nimble.

Helloooooo JohnnyCab.

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OH DEAR, WHSmith: Sensitive customer data spaffed to world+dog

Alan Brown
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Re: Slightly disappointed by the ICO

...the ICO is _deliberately_ both under-armed and under-resourced...

There, FTFY.

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Alan Brown
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Re: Another one...

"It's time the ICO grew a pair and hit them hard."

Hopefully the factor of attempting to claim it's not a breach instead of owning up to it, will result in them whacking a bit harder.

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Alan Brown
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Devil

" I do not understand how organisations are allowed to get away with making such statements."

Who says they will? :)

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West's only rare earth mine closes. Yet Chinese monopoly fears are baseless

Alan Brown
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Re: Mothballing a mine

"This week there was a ban on using domestic well water from wells in the Animas river floodplain"

Gold mining uses a _lot_ of cyanide and mercuric compounds thanks to the metal's famous inertness and these materials were so cheap that miners never bothered recycling until forced to. One small mine can produce a staggering amount of pollution.

RE mining is several orders of magnitude less toxic than gold mining. The issues in China come from the scale of the operations and are compounded by the wastefulness of the extraction methods (the famous toxic lakes are still very high in REs and constitute a resource all in themselves), plus the massive coal powered plants providing the energy to do it all.

Cleaner, cheaper energy sources (electricity and heat) would make a big difference. There's a lot of secondary extraction (reprocessing) which can be done and it'd make recyling the acids used a lot more feasible. Time will tell if this can be done.

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Alan Brown
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Re: Spot price doesnt answer the exam question

" The problem is that most rare earths are only selling in the low thousands of tonnes a year, if that."

The bigger problem is the amount of waste that RE mines produce - particularly that pesky thorium stuff.

There's a barrier to using more REs, in that they are relatively expensive even at the prices Tim's quoting and a lot of that comes down to the cost of waste disposal/sequestering, not the processing cost of the REs.

The workaround is that if Thorium MSRs can be made practical, ubiquitous and cheap then the REs are effectively much cheaper as the biggest waste product from the mines becomes their primary production product and the REs are a minor output.

Once that happens, uses start showing up that we either haven't thought of yet, or which are simply far too expensive to even consider at the moment.

The economics of RE mining have been discussed here in Tim's past articles, but it boils down to chinese mined REs being so cheap because there's effectively no environmental legislation to drive up waste handling costs - with a result that a chinese RE mine is one of those places you don't want to live near (but it's still nowhere near as bad as living downstream of a chinese Photovoltiac manufacturing plant)

It wouldn't surprise me if the chinese govt started hoovering up thorium output in the event of environmental rules being toughened. It would be a sound long-term strategic move and there is plenty of sparsely inhabited, geologically stable space even in China to put it out of the way until needed.

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Watch out, Tokyo! Samsung readies a 15 TERABYTE SSD

Alan Brown
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> HDD usually give the click of death on the way out.

Not always and usually with only 5 minutes before they're dead, Jim.

> No such warning with SSD.

Au contraire. Not that users take any notice of impending disaster warnings.

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Jeep Cherokee 2.2: Capable, comfortable ... but just not very Jeep

Alan Brown
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Pwnage

"FCA tells us that European models have a different modem and that it's safe from that sort of knavery."

They would say that, wouldn't they?

Who's going to let some hackers test it out to ensure that they're not telling porkies?

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Alan Brown
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Re: A modern Defender isn't a real Landy either.

It was the kidney issue which pretty much made my employer dump all the landies and replace 'em with landcruisers back in the late 70s.

That and the landies' annoying habit of conking out on mountaintops. If you're working in a hilltop microwave or landmobile station and there's a blizzard or electrical storm coming down the ridge, you want to be OFF THIS HILL - NOW!

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In redneck heaven, internet outages are the American Way

Alan Brown
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Re: It's a sport....

" bored hunters who decide some target practice is needed and use the insulators on the poles"

What goes up must come down.

_ANYONE_ who fires a shot without knowing where the bullet will land up should be flayed and delivered home in a bag made of their own skin.

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Alan Brown
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Not just the USA

“Someone had fired a shotgun straight up in the air into a 16-count fibre optic cable,”

A long time ago, on the other side of the world, in another life as a telco tech, we'd routinely run into problems traceable to water ingress on aerial cables caused by shotguns. Even if they don't sever the fibres/wires, damaging the jacket is often enough to cause long-term problems.

Dickheads are dickheads the world over. If road signs have shotgun damage then they're unlikely to be the only thing in the area that got targetted.

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So, was it really the Commies that caused the early 20th Century inequality collapse?

Alan Brown
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Re: Hmmm

"the management of large corporations, with the combination of power and access to money, is a natural career goal for psychopaths."

It's worse than that. Companies by their very legal nature and directives ("maximise value for the shareholders") are inherently psychopathic.

It's only natural that psychopaths end up at the helm - until they decide to maximise value for themselves and screw the shareholders.

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Alan Brown
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Re: Scarcity of resource

"at least not at the current standard of living everyone expects"

Western industry and technology has largely been built on the back of cheap (carbon sourced) energy.

You're quite right that 75% of the population being poor is revolution fodder. One of the answers is to ensure better access to cheap energy resources.

Unfortunately.... that can't be done by burning carbon-based fuels, unless you want to poison the world's oceans (this will happen far sooner than global warming does us in, there are already indications of a spreading global anoxia event, so it may be too late) and subsequently do most of the land-based species on the planet in too.

The answer (for better or worse) can only be nuclear power, preferably thorium based - which will keep Tim happy - and the only sustainable choice is to pretty much give it away to developing countries in order to avoid a carbon apocolypse.

Interestingly, the solution to global human overpopulation is also contained in this energy solution: Put simply, poor people have more children and around the world the trend is very clear that as people become better off, they have fewer of them. In countries without meaningful welfare systems you need your kids to look after you in old age and if there's a chance that some won't survive (ie, you don't have access to healthcare and clean water, etc) then you'll have enough to ensure some do.

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Alan Brown
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Re: A bit simplistic

"To see the socialist ways as a genuine growth path is self-deluding at best."

It's not socialism which is the problem.

It's bureaucracy. Governments (of whatever stripe) and civil services in particular will keep growing unless ruthlessly culled.

Unbridled capitalism (mercantilism) has been tried and doesn't work - it leads to inefficient monopolies operated by bloated private interests.

Communism doesn't work either - it leads to much the same thing, only it's bloated government.

Even if you avoid both of those paths, history shows that bureaucracy will always expand unless you periodically declare open season on the civil service.

There's a need for a middle economic path. There's nothing wrong with embracing some socialist and some capitalist principles. The "free" market is nothing of the sort, because it takes government intervention to keep it free (of distortions and monopolies), but a market free of government intervention would cease being competitive in a short period of time - history has proven that several times over.

The hard part is keeping within reasonable limits and finding where the distortions from corruption are buried (there is _always_ corruption - even if it's just politicians avoiding alienating their voting base) in order to ensure it can't spread.

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Alan Brown
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Re: A bit simplistic

"much of it in the late 20th century was mere R&D willy-waggling"

and into the 21st.

It was trying to respond to the willy waggling which sank the Soviet Union, and it's the continued willy waggling which may well result in chunks of the US economy tanking - there are large parts of the country whose entire economy is geared around the war machine (North Dakota being a classic example) to the point that they would be third world countries if not part of the USA.

"Superior" Military tacticians and planners have always planned for the next war using what worked in the last one. The problem is the enemy may not cooperate and the increasing use of asymetric warfare means that a bunch of guys with cheap weaponry and hit-n-run tactics can keep a larger bunch of guys with extremely expensive weaponry busy for a very long time until they run out of money.

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India, Myanmar lead the way as mobile bandwidth consumption mushrooms

Alan Brown
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Myanmar

It's not hard for mobile data to mushroom in Myanmar - until recently it was heavily throttled (largely still is) and access is still charged at a hefty by-the-minute rate with most customers experiencing lousy performance (ie, what you'd have expected if you were using a 2400bps dialup modem in 1993 in the west)

The best performance is obtained by buying a coffee for $5 in a 5 star hotel foyer and using the free internet there. Bear in mind that the average pay is $3/day

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Baltimore lawyers vow to review 2,000 FBI Stingray snoop cases

Alan Brown
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Be aware....

Contrary to the official line that IMEI catches only exist for 2G, 3G and 4G units are openly on sale on Alibaba

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Google robo-car suffers brain freeze after seeing hipster cyclist

Alan Brown
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Re: "Europe only moved to the right side when Napolean Bonaparte decreed it."

"traffic regulations were necessary on a Florentine bridge and that the traffic lanes were on the right."

I'm aware of that. Given the normal position of a coach or carriage driver of the period, it's logical to go to the right on a narrow passageway such as a bridge. You need to be able to see how close your wheels are to the edge as this is more critical than possibly bumping the other coach.

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Alan Brown
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Re: As Mythbusters demonstrated...

"They like to place them in areas where they don't foresee the traffic ever reaching a volume where lights become necessary,"

Lights slow traffic down more than roundabouts. The difference is that when roundabouts gridlock they do so _hard_.

Lights in combination with roundabouts are common in a number of locations. They are often only activated during peak periods.

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Alan Brown
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"And we use the left in the UK for the same reason we mount our horses from the left,"

Virtually the entire world used the left side (for much the same reasons as elaborated)

Europe only moved to the right side when Napolean Bonaparte decreed it and sidedness tended to go with colonial expansion. (It only became important once motor vehicles were common).

Interestingly, there are stats which show that the crash rate is generally lower in countries which drive on the left as people are more likely to steer out of head on crashes.

Heavy carts tended to have the driver sitting curbside as that way he could see more easily when manouvering for deliveries. There are a few places in the world where the handedness of the driving is changed from the norm for similar reasons (Benmore dam access tunnel in New Zealand is one example, so that tour bus drivers can accurately assess their distance from the rather unforgiving tunnel wall.)

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Alan Brown
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Re: Maybe you "Entitled" cyclists....

"Vehicle Excise Duty brings in approx £5bn per year (to central taxation). The road building program was approx £15bn last year, so cyclists are subsidising drivers."

How much income did the UK govt take from motor fuel excise duty? Convenient of you to miss that out.

I'll save you the trouble of looking it up: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motoring_taxation_in_the_United_Kingdom

"VED and fuel tax raised approximately £32 billion in 2009, a further £4 billion was raised from the value added tax on fuel purchases. Motoring-related taxes for fiscal year 2011/12, including fuel duties and VED, are estimated that will amount to more than £38 billion, representing almost 7% of total UK taxation."

Who's subsidising whom?

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Alan Brown
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"For example, if four cars arrive at the junctions of a four-way mini-roundabout at exactly the same time, the law says that everyone has to give way to someone and no-one actually has right of way."

The same way you do collision avoidance in Ethernet - random delays before making the next decision to move.

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Alan Brown
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Re: It does seem somewhat ridiculous to have one's feet fixed to the pedals...

"Fixed wheels?"

Shouldn't be road-legal, for all the reasons everyone has gone into.

End of.

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Alan Brown
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Re: @LucreLout - This situation would happen anyway

"SMIDSY is a consequence of the driver not looking and the rider not allowing them space & time to make a mistake."

Doesn't help if you're on a country lane doing under 20 and a cyclist comes round a bend going hell-for-leather on the wrong side of the road.

That happens regularly around here. Apparently the road rule about only going fast enough that you can stop in the clear viewing distance of the road ahead (half is there's no centreline) doesn't apply to them and nor does "keep left" or "use extra care on blind bends" (The posted speed limit is an upper limit. You can be ticketed for speeding at any velocity if the cop feels it was unsafe for prevailing conditions)

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Honor 7 – heir apparent to the mid-range Android crown

Alan Brown
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Re: aluminium case = BAD

"You would have to use a protective case if you didn't want it looking a mess after a few months."

If the phone looks good then use a clear gel case.

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