* Posts by Michael H.F. Wilkinson

3148 posts • joined 24 Apr 2007

Visiting America? US border agents want your Twitter, Facebook URLs

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Would I be accused of lying if I said I didn't have any?

The onus of proof is wherever they feel like putting it.

So guess .....

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: What a load of cobblers

Simply use the "cunning plan" (doffs hat to Baldric) of opening an account with next to nothing on it.

The proposal is really, really stupid, the usual practice of adding more hay in order to find more needles, instead of getting a bigger magnet.

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Florida man sues Apple for $10bn, claims iPod, iPhone was his idea

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Newsflash: Nebuchadnezzar cliams prior art on rounded corners!!

I am really baffled why anyone would want to bang on about the rounded corners bit. Functionality and general form-factor (easily hand-held/pocketable) make sense, but the rounded corners bit is already ancient. Clay tablets could be used to record things (OK, cuneiform rather than mp3), and certainly had rounded corners. Playback is a little cumbersome, granted, but the rounded corners bit is not the bit I would personally focus on when claiming novelty.

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Those Xbox Fitness vids you 'bought'? Look up the meaning of the word 'rent'

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Refund? ... as a service?

If they don't refund, disappointed customers might want to use this service

I particularly like the

/shakespeare/:name/:from

entry

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Hillary Clinton: My promises to America's tech industry

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Re: Pfffttt!!!!!

I always prefer a trebuchet, for that extra kick.

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

...or what OS the IRS should run when they try to modernize their operations.

I thought everybody knew they were upgrading to CP/M 2.0

Sorry, couldn't resist

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You know how that data breach happened? Three words: eBay, hard drives

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Mushroom

Re: Has it been six months already?

Nuke'em from space, it's the only way to be sure!

Sorry, couldn't resist.

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The best way to find oxygen on Mars? Friggin LASERS, of course

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Pint

Nice work by the Curiosity team!

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Countdown to Jupiter: Juno just seven days from orbit

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Very interesting project

Will follow this with interest, as Jupiter is receding from view in my 8" scope. No doubt a lot will be learned. A pint to all the engineers and scientists who have made this possible

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Holy Crap! Bloke finishes hand-built CPU project!

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Hydraulic valves, I trust?

Not thermionic. The world needs a CPU that doesn't rely on this new fangled electricity.

Real valves? Just ask Hubert.

And Igor, of course

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Utah sheriffs blow $10,000 on smut-sniffing Labrador

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Bag of chips?

So would the dog be able to tell the difference between a bag full of assorted logic chips, cpus etc, and a working USB drive?

Did they train the dog on legacy storage devices (for "vintage porn"?) such as the old 8" floppy disk still somewhere in my office (granted, not much you can store in the way of smut on 128 kB and still store CP/M 2.0 on it).

Can it detect bubble memory? Magnetic tapes? Punched cards?

Enquiring minds need to know

As an aside, my estimate is that you would need 228 metric tonnes of punched cards to store a DVD (smut-filled or otherwise) full of data, so that might be a tad inefficient.

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Happy Mappiversary, Ordnance Survey

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Pint

Re: Happy days

Great fan of OS maps too. Whenever I am on holidays in a part of Britain I haven't been before, the first course of action is to get a good set of local OS maps (Exlporer or Landranger, as a rule).Wouldn't go hiking without one

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Late night smartphone use makes women go blind

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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This sounds very similar to what astronomers experience when they look at the moon. One eye is exposed to a sunlit moonscape, the other is in relative darkness. When you turn away from the eyepiece, the eye that was just exposed to moonlight seems practically blind. The effect is especially strong when using large telescopes at relatively low magnification. It wears off, of course.

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Supermassive black hole devours star and becomes X-ray flashlight

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Very interesting

One minor point: tidal disruption (objects being ripped apart by a black hole) also occurs outside the event horizon (which is why we can observe it), due to the huge differential in gravitational pull between parts of an object closest to, and furthest from the black hole. It may well occur inside the event horizon, but we have no way of knowing it.

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Astroboffins find first 'wind nebula' around rare 'magnetar' star

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Fascinating stuff!

Given we only know 29 magnetars, I am not too surprised one of them behaves oddly. That doesn't mean we shouldn't find out why, of course.

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Re: Turtle

As long as you don't claim to see four elephants as well, I am not too worried

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Air-gapping SCADA systems won't help you, says man who knows

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Air gapping won't help you because.....a non airgapped system is insecure

So how do you control a complex power network fully automatically, without connecting SCADA systems to the internet, at least indirectly? This is near impossible, especially considering there will be rapidly varying demand, wildly fluctuating supply from solar panels in various homes, wind turbines on various hills, and a host of power stations needing to adapt their output on the fly, and loads of smart meters trying to get the best deal on that energy market. Do you have people furiously tapping in commands and SCADA control stations all day and all night? However much you wish to isolate critical systems, these critical systems must get data from the real world to control their behaviour. Entering the data in real time can really only be done through some network connection.

I have no easy answer on the security side (security is hard, so pay for it), but a layered approach of some sort seems a likely way to go. I get that Lakhani is a salesman, but that in itself does not mean he is wrong.

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Pressure mounts against Rule 41 – the FBI's power to hack Tor, VPN users on sight

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Or Rule One, for that matter

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Fedora 24 is here. Go ahead – dive in

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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May well give this a spin

Sounds like a distro worth looking into. Ubuntu had a sad tendency to lock my older laptop so frequently that I reverted to OpenSUSE, but Fedora's astro spin in particular seems interesting

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Not smiling for the camera? Adobe's Creative Cloud suite can fix that

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Coat

Still in the cloud only?

Then count me out. I would have happily paid for a good piece of software (which PS certainly is) to own (OK, own the license), and upgrade when I feel the need. I do not like walking around, somewhere out of internet reach (try quite large bits of Uganda), and have my software tell me:

"Sorry, I can't do that for you Dave."

Because it cannot reach the Adobe servers to verify I have paid my subscription

...

And I am not even called Dave.

...

Mine is the one with the developer stains in it

Mutters retreating to the proper dark room to develop some proper prints

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Cats understand the laws of physics, researchers claim

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Re: Hmm...

'I think the real answer where food in tins and cats are concerned, is that cats are telepathic and this is what they should have been testing, rather than whether gravity is affected by electromagnets. Our cat can be sound asleep in the most distant part of the house, and you only have to have the passing thought of "should I open the beef terrine or the fish in jelly for his next meal" and you find he has instantly teleported himself to his bowl and is making the special meow that means "give me my food now, and don't make those puny excuses about having to open the tin first"'

Alternatively, this is a quantum effect (all cats are Schrödinger cats, after all), and the cat tunnels to a convenient location, often right under your feet (convenient as in convenient for the cat), once the wave-function describing its brain has picked up the wave-function of the contents of the tin/whatever container the food is in. Maybe I could get some ERC funding for that

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Kremlin wants to shoot the Messenger, and WhatsApp to boot

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Just a few thoughts

suppose I encrypt some message with a one-time pad, or just as a form of "conceptual art" pack a load of noise bits into a PNG file (probably more aesthetically pleasing than some things I have seen being passed of as art). I then send this through an end-to-end encrypted messenger app. If the FSB wants the author of the app to encrypt it, and noise comes out, wouldn't that land the author in a load of hot water?

Alternatively, I would expect Putin has the power to veto a law he doesn't like (cannot imagine him NOT having that power). He sets up some people with porridge for brains to put in an unreasonable amendment, so he can veto it and appear as at least one of the more reasonable people in Russia, with which we can do business.

OK, where is that tinfoil hat

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Astroboffins discover rapid 'electric winds' blowing on Venus

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

So is Venus

the ultimate BOFH planet? After all, its atmosphere is acidic enough and hot enough to dispose of bodies, and it seems like a planetary cattle prod: >KZZEERRT<

More seriously, excellent astro-boffinry!

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Watch as SpaceX's latest Falcon rocket burns then crashes

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Engines and SSTO

Basically the more people we can get up in the upper reaches of the atmosphere, the closer we get to sending a FlatEarther up sufficiently high that they go 'Shit, there isn't a domelike firmament' and 'I can see a curve' and we quash those conspiracy nuts and literal scripture types back into to a tiny part of the internet where even birthers and 9/11 truthers laugh at them.

The problem is that flat-earthers simply won't believe their eyes, and claim it is just an optical illusion caused by the spherical nature of the lenses in their eyes. I have literally heard them use that argument. I was tempted to explain the difference between illusions and delusions, but ultimately found it a waste of time. None are so deaf as those who do not want to hear.

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YouTube sharecroppers start world’s most useless trade union

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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But ...

Has this guild been recognized by Lord Vetinari?

Inquiring minds need to know

We need a Discworld icon, we really do...

Mine is the one with "The Fifth Elephant" in the pocket

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BOFH: Follow the paper trail

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Reminds me of some "academic leadership" courses ...

foisted upon some (senior) staff members here. These guys also want us to use "SMART" goals in our agreements with PhD students, as if you can design a conveyor belt for production of scientific papers. I swear I will come up with a backronym for DUMB one day. They also insist on a good PDCA cycle. They did not like my version:

Procrastinate

Dither

Clash

Abscond

Can't think why

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Google Research opens machine intelligence base in Zurich

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Re: Actually...

Not sure about Switzerland, but in Krautistan "großer Käse" is slang for "this is crap".

The more I learn, the more appropriate the phrase sounds :D

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Zürich is an expensive place to be, I have found earlier this year, but no doubt Google should be able to afford it.

I do note that given the language most used in Zürich, "großer Käse" would be more appropriate than "gros fromage" in the subtitle.

</grammar nazi>

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Lester Haines: RIP

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Pint

Very sad news indeed

Way too young indeed! I always thoroughly enjoyed his writing, and all the special projects he was involved in. My condolences to all his loved ones and colleagues. Will raise a glass of my best whisky this evening. I suggest the first new crazy balloon launched missile or plane be dubbed the "Lester Haines" in his honour, better still, name the SPB after him (assuming it will carry on his good work).

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Astroboffins' discovery gives search for early life a left hand. Or right

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

50-50?

More likely a million to one.

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The Microsoft-LinkedIn hookup will be the END of DAYS, I tell you

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Re: Behind the curve

And the breakfast will be at Milliways, I trust

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Microsoft and LinkedIn: What the CEOs are planning

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Re: Does Satya Nadella know about...

I rather prefer:

Embrace, Extend, <Dalek voice>EXTERMINATE</Dalek voice>

Just because I am a fan of the Doctor

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TWELVE YEARS of US Air Force complaints lost in database crash

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

The Register speculates “aggressively leveraging” the vendor's capabilities conceivably covers things like yelling at various veeps, using lots of capital letters in e-mails, and sending copies of contracts off to lawyers.

You forgot big sticks with nails in it, and, if a BOFH is involved, "augmented" cattle prods.

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I spy with my little fibre, ten MEELLION or so galaxies

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Boffin

Ten million galaxies is nice, but it is all about spectra

The Sloan Digital Sky Survey release 12 has far more objects: 208,478,448 galaxies to be precise. It only contains spectra for 2,401,952 galaxies and 477,161 quasars, so DESI becomes particularly interesting because it captures spectra of so many objects.

Pointing an optical fibre directly at the sky is of course pointless, as the aperture is pathetically small. The trick is to get a big mirror (4 m in this case), which gathers a lot of photons, and use fibre optics to guide the light to (multiple) spectroscopes. The more usual trick is to use a slit, which captures spectra from a little stripe across the image plane. By using carefully placed fibre optics, the project (as I read it) wants to tap into more of the optical plane, to record spectra of far more objects simultaneously. The robots pick out the right bits of the image from which to obtain spectra. Sounds very interesting

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Java API judge tells Oracle to suck it up, quit whining about the jury

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

On the resemblance between court cases and vampires

Both can seem to have eternal (un)life. You might think they are long dead, and all that is left is dust along the wayside or in the courtroom as the case may be, but all it takes is a drop of blood (or money) in the right place, and...

LOOK WHO'S BACK!!

I really wonder when we will see a stake driven home properly

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Chinese space station 'out of control', will do best firework impression

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Re: LMGTFY

A white Persian cat, no doubt

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Grim-faced 'naut Malenchenko prepares to return home

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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But then Yuri Gagarin's smile is famous, so it is possible for a Russian cosmonaut to smile

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Startup Knupath offers world a new CPU architecture

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Very interesting development

Many problems in image analysis (and physics) can be cast into sparse matrix form, so I will certainly take a look, especially for the gigapixel and terapixel images we are getting. I also wonder whether many graph-based methods could benefit, especially if the average number of edges per vertex is low. Many of those algorithms may well be suitable for this sparse-matrix architecture.

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Rogue Somerset vulture lands at Royal Navy airbase

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Looking on the bright side

Certainly better than the experimental bat bombs in which a bomb casing held bats which in turn carried little bombs. One of those "what could possibly go wrong" ideas

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Astroboffins create music from SPAAAAAAAAAAACE

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Thumb Up

For my MSc thesis I worked on part of the design of an asteroseismometer, which used Doppler shifting of absorption lines in stellar spectra. In those days that approach produces a much stronger signal than a photometric approach (measuring the slight brightness fluctuations caused by the changes in temperature) used in the this study. Interesting to see the advances in precision in current instruments (I gather the data used were from the Keppler mission). Great work from those astroboffins

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Microsoft thinks it's fixed Windows Server mess its last fix 'fixed'

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Windows management tool started to go down the sink...

Good point about the coding skills. The danger of not needing good coding skills means that people with poor programming skills think they can do it. As I always tell my students coding means you can cast a logical solution to a problem into the correct syntax for a given language, programming means you can actually derive the logical solution to the problem in the first place. I suspect many more problems in code derive from sloppy thinking than from the odd syntax error.

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Latin-quoting Linus Torvalds plays God by not abusing mortals

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Quia ego sic dico

as Lord Vetinari would say

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BOFH: What's your point, caller?

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Re: 48 hour SLA?

LUXURY

When I were a lad we had to solve every problem before the ticket was logged

</Yorkshire accent>

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Smartwatches: I hate to say ‘I told you so’. But I told you so.

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: There is *something* somewhere ...

Wrist-attached Automatic Time CHecker might be a a bit of a mouthful, in full, but as acronym it may work. Might be taken though, should check

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King Tut's iron dagger of extraterrestrial origin

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Re: Cruelty to meteorites?

What? Crucify them as well?

...

Crucifixion?

Good. Out of the door, line on the left, one cross each

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Coat

Cruelty to meteorites?

Wouldn't a living meteorite object to being hewn?

Sorry, couldn't resist, I'll get me coat

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Science Museum maths gallery to offer the perfect pint

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Pint

High on the list of must-see museums for me, even without the perfect pint!

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The underbelly of simulation science: replicating the results

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Boffin

Re: Often modelling simply adds rigour to thought experiments

Trust me, I have read more on chaos theory than most (though there are certainly deeper thinkers on the topic), I even gave a lecture or two, and have written a paper or two about the subject. Gleick's book is nicely accessible, but there are more rigorous works (Ott, Sauer, and Yorke, Coping with Chaos (1994) contains a good collection of papers, I found, but that is a bit outdated now, perhaps).

One of the first things to do in any system of non-linear equations is to see if positive Lyapunov exponents are expected (sometimes in a simplified version of the full set), and the system might therefore be expected to be chaotic. In the case of my intestinal micro-flora simulations the (simplified) system showed no chaotic behaviour whatsoever. That makes life a lot easier.

The problems with floating point inaccuracies coupled to chaotic behaviour is well-known to any scientist worthy of using HPC systems for numerical simulation (and, yes, there are many that aren't worthy). The Shadowing Lemma has a thing or two to say about this, in particular, that you may not be tracking the path form the initial state, but there exists a path close enough to the simulation run for an arbitrary length of time, starting from some (unknown) perturbed version of the initial state. The simulation trajectory "shadows" a trajectory of the true system. Having said that, a true chaotic system with one or more positive Lyapunov exponents cannot safely be simulated with just one run. Typically you have to run a huge ensemble of runs with different starting points for each set of parameter settings before you can say anything about the model system's behaviour. Only then can you start making sensible comparisons with experimental results, or real life. Should real life observations differ from the model significantly, your understanding of the problem as captured in the model is inadequate, or the simulation method is flawed.

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ARM Cortex-A73: How a top-end mobe CPU was designed from scratch

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

We do live in interesting times (in a good way)

if a CPU this powerful needs less than a square mm.

Hats off (mine is the Tilley, today) to all scientists and engineers who have allowed us to come from Colossus all the way to this tiny CPU

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US computer-science classes churn out cut-n-paste slackers – and yes, that's a bad thing

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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It is indeed important to separate the situation at schools from the situation at universities. Our CS curriculum contains many courses where the foundations of computer science are taught, including the maths behind it, such as discrete structures, languages and automata, program correctness, besides courses in imperative programming, object-oriented programming, functional programming, parallel programming, software engineering, networks and computer architecture. etc. The emphasis is very much on what is happening under the hood. Prospective students often ask us what programming languages we teach, and we invariably answer that that is really unimportant. We teach programming paradigms, and the ability to learn new languages. Once you know how to program in one structured imperative language, learning another is largely a matter of learning syntax. What is far more important is learning how to cast a problem into imperative-programming (or OO, or functional) terms.

Many schools here in the Netherlands do not teach CS, and those that do, often struggle to find good, qualified teachers. We also find that for those students who did follow CS at school, their maths grade is a far better predictor of success in CS at university than their CS grade at school. The CS taught at school does not really prepare them for CS at university. This is why we organise outreach events for school kids, to show them what CS is really all about. We recently had a contest for school children in which they had to solve a series of problems (such as cracking a Caesar Shift code) by designing Turing machines for the task. This levelled the playing field, because none had ever done this, and they cannot cut and paste solutions from anywhere. It also teaches them a structured approach to solving problems. The day was a great success, and they thoroughly enjoyed the challenge. We will make the course material and web-tools available to schools, and are looking into other ideas.

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