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* Posts by Neil Barnes

1708 posts • joined 18 Apr 2007

Nice computers don’t need to go to the toilet, says Barclays

Neil Barnes
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automated checkout machines

Pah. An abomination unto Nuggan; the designers should have been strangled at birth.

"Wouldn't you like to use the automated system, sir?"

"No thank you, I'd rather talk to a human, and incidentally, provide some suggestion that he/she ought to be kept in a job."

On the other hand, it's kinda fun when you're forced onto one to see how far you can deviate from its programming and still get out of the shop without the security bod chasing you. Got the Tesco one down to exactly zero button presses, if I have sufficient coins.

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Recording lawsuit targets Ford, GM in-car CD recorders

Neil Barnes
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Re: "Obviously they are designed to copy CDs already owned by the driver."

Yes, but that's because no-one who ever gave me a lift had any musical taste.

http://store.dieselsweeties.com/products/elitism

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Neil Barnes
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Re: Hmmmm

Depends where your garage is...

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Sneaker-maker Reebok cooks up performance-enhancing BACON

Neil Barnes
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Bacon is a vitamin [tm]

But if it doesn't have nitrates or nitrites (or both) introduced at some stage in its creation, it's not bacon - it's just dried pig.

And what's the point of that?

Fake bacon is probably the sort of thing that hides my screwdrivers.

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Thirteen Astonishing True Facts You Never Knew About SCREWS

Neil Barnes
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Re: Don'cha love...

PO#1 and PO#2 - the world's best screwdrivers, in spite (because?) of their cylindricity.

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Neil Barnes
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WTF?

Re: What I would like to know is....

The circuit board from which I am regularly - every few minutes - prying an IC using a small screwdriver is on my left. That's where the wires go; it has no choice.

When I remove the IC, I place the screwdriver next to the circuit board, on my left.

And yet here it is, snuggling up to the soldering iron on my right.

How does it do that?

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SOULLESS machine-intelligence ROBOT cars to hit Blighty in 2015

Neil Barnes
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Will these night time trucking lorries

have special software in them to accommodate the need to pass other lorries in an overtaking manoeuvre that lasts at least ten minutes?

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British Lords: Euro 'right to be forgotten' ruling 'unreasonable and unworkable'

Neil Barnes
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This was always kind of obvious, no?

Dear Google, that embarrassing post I made in 1995, I'd like to recall it please. Riiiight... tell me again why we should do that? Got a court order?

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Adam Afriyie MP: Smart meters are NOT so smart

Neil Barnes
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Re: Here's an idea.@Neil Barnes

Read my second paragraph, Ledswinger. I believe the site lacks a sarcasm icon...

No problem at all with a meter which can be read remotely by the supplier - provided it can be read by no-one else, and all the obvious fraud channels are closed. That's a sensible use of the technology. This is stuff that could and should have happened years ago. There is in truth no need for a man in a hat hammering on the door - save that it will always be necessary to inspect from time to time to see who's bypassed the unit or stuck a nail through it, as you point out happens currently.

An all-singing all-dancing happy smiley touchy feelie application that is there primarily so that politicians can pretend that people are 'in control' and 'have choice' and that this will significantly change their behaviour? That's pointless gimcrackery.

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Neil Barnes
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I wonder how many meter readers for how long you get for your eleven billion?

Don't forget to factor in the redundancy payments...

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Neil Barnes
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Here's an idea.

We have some sort of meter on the wall that tots up the kWhrs we use. Once every three months, say, a chap comes round and looks at the number, and calculates a bill based on that amount. This bill is written on a piece of paper which drops on the doormat a few days later; the householder instructs his bank to make a payment.

The onus should be on the supplier to measure the usage. Not estimate it; measure it. Requiring the householder to measure it, whether it's by looking at the meter or by using a smartphone application (hmm, wonder how many security holes will be baked in?) is the wrong approach entirely.

Do away with smart meters. They're a waste of space, time, and money.

If people can't work out that leaving the oven or the heating or twenty-seven halogen lights on is costing them a fortune, they're not going to make any changes just because a little light tells them to.

This is an overcomplicated solution to a problem that doesn't exist.

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Swell. Apple buys 'Pandora-for-talk-radio' app... for $30 meeellion

Neil Barnes
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Re: we're pretty sure the Beeb won't ever sell itself to Apple

Indeed. I worked there a long long time and I have an extremely high regard for what it used to be; less so now.

Tens of billions? Probably - though I doubt hundreds - and as we are told Apple is sitting on a hundred and fifty billion or so...

Fortunately, it's not likely to happen. Unless the Chancellor gets hungry.

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Neil Barnes
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Holmes

we're pretty sure the Beeb won't ever sell itself to Apple

How sure? Given the most recent illogical pronouncement from Lord Tony - that the BBC should be allowed to buy in 100% of its material, while making quality programmes for other people - I wouldn't be at all surprised at the suggestion.

After all, the Beeb's not worth anything like all those spare dollars in Apple's coffers.

(Although Apple might still be a bit sore about iPlayer...)

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Russia sends SEX-CRAZED GECKOS to SPAAAAACE!

Neil Barnes
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Stop

I blame David Icke.

That's all.

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Bose says today is F*** With Dre Day: Beats sued in patent battle

Neil Barnes
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I have a dream

That one day I will hear something pleasant - nay, tolerable - on a Bose system.

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NSA man: 'Tell me about your Turkish connections'

Neil Barnes
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Re: Yeah? Just try to leave Israel!

Heh. One of my colleagues failed to mention ten grand's worth of spares he was carrying into Delhi. Got to enjoy a cell overnight and an invitation never to return...

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Neil Barnes
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Re: US Immigration

The other question that used to confuse us on the old visa waiver form was the one that said "are you a Nazi or have you or your family ever been involved with them' (or something to that effect).

Since my partner is descended from the five percent of her family that got out of Germany in the thirties - the rest remain in Dachau and Auschwitz - the answer was obviously 'yes'.

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Neil Barnes
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Re: We know, you know.

@ Bob Wheeler

At the other end of the world, I entered Russia for the first time a few years ago. Got to immigration, and a nice lady in a big green hat peered down at me from a lectern-type thingy.

"Passport."

I hand it over. Nice lady riffles through it, looks at me, riffles through again.

"Do you spik Russian?"

"No."

"Excellent. Welcome to Moscow."

And that was it. The passport was full of visas and worrying entry stamps - north and south America, most of the -istans, India, Middle East, Far East... I got around a bit for the Beeb in those days.

On another occasion, at the Tajikistan/Uzbekistan border at three in the morning, I recall the taxi driver arguing with the border guard about whether the bribe for entry should be one or two dollars. I was carrying fifty thousand dollars in cash... actually, that was quite fun since I had declared it all properly on arriving at Tashkent, and the customs guy had asked to touch it. He said he'd never seen so much money in one place.

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Neil Barnes
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Do you suppose it's suspicious...

That for years I was in and out of the States every other week or so, up to and around 9/11, but haven't been back since 2001... and I have a native Navajo uncle?

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Beancounters tell NASA it's too poor to fly planned mega-rocket

Neil Barnes
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Boffin

On Mars, on time, on budget.

Pick any two.

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METRE-LONG DINOSAUR POO going under the hammer

Neil Barnes
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Nah... if it had been dumped from the air

it would have splattered.

Mind you, I've known a few people whose desks would only have been enhanced by a large pile of splattered dinosaur poo - the fresher, the better.

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Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov

Neil Barnes
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Re: Time for the EU

Fair compensation is *not* sufficient. I may object strenuously to a particular company, or political party, or advertising campaign (etc.) using my image, irrespective of payment.

Permission *must* be obtained.

If you cannot find the rights holder for an image, and you cannot reach an equitable agreement with him, then tough. You don't use it. Hire a photographer.

It's not difficult.

(With regard to hammarbtyp's hobby above - I feel there is scope for safe harbour provisions where it is impossible to locate the rights holder and a non-commercial use is envisaged. (Indeed, I have scanned a number of 1880's stereograms purely to preserve them.) But commercial use of these should be prohibited.)

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Neil Barnes
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They really don't get it, do they?

Whether I take the image for personal use or for sale; whether I put it on the interwebs or not; it's *mine* and you use it without permission at your peril. Note: payment does *not* imply permission.

Anyone want to quote a photo of my cameras for sale?

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eBay impulse buyers STAY AWAY: Holy Grail Superman comic book to fetch $2m+

Neil Barnes
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Two million bucks...

and you only get half a story? I want my money back...

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Apple fanbois SCREAM as update BRICKS their Macbook Airs

Neil Barnes
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Re: Warranty

It would be an interesting question as to whether a fault caused by an update was present at point of sale...

I realise Lord Lien's case was different, but...

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Reg Latin scholars scrap over LOHAN's stirring motto

Neil Barnes
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Caliganote

Oh, bravo, Lester.

Or possibly even Ave!

So ave one on me.

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Major problems beset UK ISP filth filters: But it's OK, nobody uses them

Neil Barnes
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WTF?

Virgin...

kindly emailed to suggest that if I implemented their ISP censorship, it would improve the safety of browsing for my children.

Since one is in Berlin, and the other in Rio (which made for an entertaining world cup!) I am at a loss as to how this will help.

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Lawyer reviewing terror laws and special powers: Definition of 'terrorism' is too broad

Neil Barnes
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Re: I have argued for many years

@The Right Hand of Volund

Most electronic hobbyists and pretty much anyone with an electronics engineering degree

Indeed.

I make robots that work at the bottom end of an oil drill, three miles underground. Want to bet I can't build a timer/igniter that would work up to a couple of years in advance, with a precision of a couple of minutes?

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Neil Barnes
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I have argued for many years

That there should be *no* laws which specifically target terrorism.

A number of reasons:

- it's too broad: for example 'possession of material likely to help a terrorist'... a map of the London Underground? A recipe for gunpowder? Lunch?

- it does away with the need for evidence: suspicion is apparently sufficient.

- it does away with the normal checks and balances of a justice system: house arrests? Inability to see a lawyer? Lawyers (and you) unable to see the evidence against you? Extended periods of incarceration without trial? And more...

- it gives a false legitimacy to the terrorist: he is treated as if he is a legitimate member of a political party, and not (in the case, say, of a bomber) as a psychopath intent only on maiming and death.

- all the terrorist crimes are already illegal under existing law: murder, assault, conspiracy to cause an explosion, possession of arms and explosives...

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Plucky Rockall podule man back on (proper) dry land

Neil Barnes
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The exact location of Rockall

You mean it's been behind my screen all this time? Amazing!

Pints all round for Mr Hancock, who has had somewhat more than his eponymous half hour.

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BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled

Neil Barnes
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We warned 'em before we were sold, like barrels of herring on the quayside.

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Financial wizardess joins Apple board, air of coolness noticeably diminishes

Neil Barnes
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Re: I'm guessing she's there because of the fiasco that is...

Easy. Give all shareholders a day-ticket to the tax-haven of your choice, and give them all a suitcase of dallars to take home.

Oh? That doesn't work? Oh well, back to the drawing board... how about *paying something into your country*, you freeloaders?

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That stirring LOHAN motto: Anyone know a native Latin speaker?

Neil Barnes
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Re: Ab hoc possum videre domum tuum

and incidentally my paragliding motto!

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Neil Barnes
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Headmaster

Veni vidi volarit

I came, I saw, I flew.

(I was kicked out of Latin after two weeks in 1972)

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Cops nab suspect using CREEPY facial recog system

Neil Barnes
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Re: Sorry about this..

as long as the subject agrees == provided the subject agrees?

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Ex-despot Noriega sues: How dare Call of Duty make me look like, like...

Neil Barnes
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"a kidnapper, murderer and enemy of the state"

What's Noriega's complaint? Did they forget something?

Anyway, it's been scientifically proven that there's probably more than one of him:

Church, K. W. (2000). Empirical estimates of adaptation: the chance of two Noriegas is closer to p/2 than p^2. Proceedings of the 18th conference on Computational Linguistics, pages 180 - 186.

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Brit Rockall adventurer poised to quit islet

Neil Barnes
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Well done Nick!

Any word on whether he's worked out how to get his podule home? It'd be a shame to be done for littering!

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Gust catches Amazon's skirt, reveals glimpse of 'Netflix for books'

Neil Barnes
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"will automatically bill your credit card"

Checks Kobo[1]: 1 purchased book, 800 scanned epubs.

I guess I'm not their target market...

Kindle, Kobo and the others are, I suspect, not really in the business of selling books at all. They're in the business of locating permanent income streams and locking people in (or hoping they forget to cancel). Far better an income stream than an occasional splurge.

[1] Yes, I know. But I have a Kobo, and I don't have a Kindle, *because* the Kobo is open format. And really rather nice.

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Microsoft: You NEED bad passwords and should re-use them a lot

Neil Barnes
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Re: Unique Passwords

Six or more characters and numbers?

"Henry the fifth part 1" ?

"Three Charlies in search of an author" lacks the requisite number of characters, of course.

The one with 'Time Out' in the pocket, thanks.

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Neil Barnes
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Re: Unique Passwords

Vince, from memory, I don't *think* it told me beforehand, though when it rejected the password there was an explanation at the top of the screen (miles from the password entry field) which *may* have been there and simply not noticed the first time.

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Neil Barnes
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Re: Unique Passwords

I just had to change my eBay password.

Which required me to get a token from my disposable email.

Which required me to change that email password.

Which sent the 'click here' to a different email.

And having got back through the tracks to eBay, it refused to allow my new password on the grounds that certain non-alpha characters, with which it had been perfectly happy before, were no longer allowed...

I don't understand why password systems *insist* on capitals, numbers, non-alphas, etc instead of just *allowing* them - it reduces the possibilities, I think (ok, has to be eight characters, has to have a number, haven't had a number yet...) though perhaps not as severely as not allowing particular characters in the password. One credential checker refused to accept my place of birth - required - because two of the characters in it are adjacent on the keyboard. Ridiculous.

Or is there something subtle with input sanitisation that I don't understand, and it's the little Bobby Tables problem all over again?

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WiGag war: Tiny low-power chip promises mobes 4.6Gbps Wi-Fi

Neil Barnes
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60mm sqa?

That's a bloody big chip, for a phone only 70mm wide... did you mean 60sq mm?

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UK data watchdog broke data law, says UK data watchdog

Neil Barnes
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Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Oh wait, that would be them.

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Can it be true? That I hold here, in my mortal hand, a nugget of PUREST ... BLACK?

Neil Barnes
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Re: Old News

And correctly identified that you could be observed by occulting stars.

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Neil Barnes
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Isn't that photograph

Underexposed?

The one with Hasluck's 'The Book of Photography' in the pocket, thanks.

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Diary note: Pluto's close-up is a year from … now!

Neil Barnes
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Excellent Work, NASA

See title.

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Airbus promises Wi-Fi – yay – and 3D movies (meh) in new A330

Neil Barnes
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Re: It's all very wonderful

@Simon,

Can't argue about the wonder of the ability to travel... but as another poster has said, any flight longer than a few hours and if at all possible I'm sitting at the front. There are damn good reasons even to pick the seat you want - and pay extra - on the discount, and even the mainstream planes.

Got family in Rio - that flight is so much more sensible with BA's flat business class (and occasionally cheaper than peasant plus, oddly enough). Though even the flat beds aren't long enough for me; I stick out the end... even in business class there's a knack to picking the best seats and they're not always the obvious.

But then, transport is always designed to stuff people in like cattle; doesn't matter whether it's planes, buses, trains... the people that design them don't ride in them. Or they wouldn't design them like that.

Don't want toys. Want space.

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Neil Barnes
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Mushroom

It's all very wonderful

But did a flying customer *ever* get the chance to select an aircraft to fly in based on anything other than 'that's the one that's flying today'?

This sells it to the airlines, who use it in their publicity about how wonderful their aircraft are, and then squeeze in the seats on a 29" pitch fit for neither man nor beast.

Time was, air travel was a luxury. These days, if you're not sat at the front, it's a pain.

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Read the proposed US ASTEROIDS Act to green-light mining IN SPAAAACE

Neil Barnes
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Re: As pointed out above

We may have to agree to differ here. A dinosaur killer won't leave the sea bottoms alone.

But I don't understand your 'living in boats' argument: I'm not suggesting that we should. We should be using the boats to get to other islands - things of which the asteroid belt appears to be plentifully supplied. There are other islands: Jupiter's leading and trailing Trojans, or some of the moons around Jupiter and Titan. Consider giving icebergs in the rings of Saturn a nudge so that they land on Mars - a few hundred thousand might give an atmosphere that's of some use, in time.

I'm not thinking next thursday - I'm thinking decades and centuries. But we should have started thirty years ago.

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Neil Barnes
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As pointed out above

There is no great reason - or indeed need - to search for any other than extremely rare and extremely important minerals in the asteroids and ship them home; it's economically unviable.

There *may* be reasons why it's worthwhile doing refining[1] of more common metals in earth orbit rather than on the surface and shipping the results to ground, but there are still a lot of reasons why not.

There are eight billion reasons, on the other hand, why we should be out there mining, refining, and building ships and places to live - we have all those eight billion eggs in one basket at present. A dinosaur killer only has to be lucky once.

However... like it or not, the writ of the US does not and cannot extend beyond this planet. There is no sense, no point, in writing laws which cannot be enforced; any exploitation of the asteroids is going to be a free-for-all which will make the California gold rush look like an afternoon stroll in the park - simply because there are too many people for whom the attitude is 'see it, grab it' irrespective of prior claims or rights.

Nonetheless, I do believe that the sheer size of the asteroid resource is beneficial; things are a long way apart and even a thorough freeloading pirate has to do an estimate of whether the dv to get somewhere outweighs the benefit he can expect upon arrival. I think also, as happened in California and other gold-rush locations, that the citizenry will act together against bandits and organise rules and regulations which work for them - but they won't be controlled by anyone on earth. (Alternatively, the bandits control everything and then discover that if they want to benefit from this control they have to become governments in an of themselves - look at the drug lords in South/Central America for examples.)

It annoys the hell out of me that forty-five years (almost to the week) since Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, we're not already all over the asteroid belt, the rings of Saturn (all those lovely volatiles!), the surface of Mars and the Jovian moons. Make no mistake - the USA has no right to be ruling on what is possible out there (nor the UK - the only country ever to have abandoned a working space technology - how embarrassing is that?).

[1] a post earlier suggested there was no known way refining metals using just energy. There are no deep-space *tested* methods... but here's one thought: find a small metal target, spin it gently, if it's not doing it already, build a large mylar or similar reflector, leave the target at the focus of the reflector and wait until it melts. The heavy stuff ends up in the middle.

A favourite way of getting refined metal to the ground from orbit involves a similar process: make a hole in the middle of the refined metal, fill it with ice, and heat again until the metal softens and the ice melts and flashes to steam. This leaves you with a nice big bubble of metal. Now let the water out and seal some vacuum in (you don't want to waste the water) and if you got your sums right, you have a lighter-than-air (at some height to be determined) vessel that's strong enough to survive the trip to earth. A nice gentle float as you let air back in... sounds like a job for the SPB!

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