* Posts by Michael H.F. Wilkinson

3010 posts • joined 24 Apr 2007

Three MEELLION satellite snaps now free for all

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Nice!

Me, and many other scientists can really use a huge database of images to test our algorithms for seriously big images. We are now moving from "mere" gigapixel images to tens and hundreds of gigapixel (per image), and hope to breach the terapixel level soon. More (free) data to test stuff is very, very welcome.

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French mobe repair shop chaps trash customer's phone

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Facepalm

Re: Doh

Not quite Darwin Award material. We might want to create the "Double Facepalm Award" for cases like these.

Imagine the acceptance speeches (extreme rarity in the case of the Darwin Award):

"I would first like to thank my complete lack of self control ....."

Icon, because, well, there is no double facepalm icon

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Your pointy-haired boss 'bought a cloud' with his credit card. Now what?

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Re: (Unnamed Body)

Hi Simon

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'Planet nine' theory boosted by Kuiper Belt Object with odd orbit

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Coat

Re: Given the Pluto/P.anet 9 problem...

Alternatively, if you want to call it a "dwarf planet" give it a proper dwarf name.

Like Glod

OK, OK, I should be going. The one with "Thud" in the pocket, please

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: The problem with trowing things at a dart board...

As ever, we need more data. Finding a couple of KBOs with an orbit suggesting some large object is "shepherding" them is interesting, but not proof. Finding another object in an orbit that might be consistent with it is also interesting, but not proof. What it does mean is that we have reason to look for more data. At some point we might get a sufficient excess of KBOs in compatible orbits to prove it is unlikely that it is caused by chance. Finding the planet itself would of course clinch it.

Time will tell (soon I hope)

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Furious English villagers force council climbdown over Satan's stone booty

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Coat

Did the driver claim ...

"The devil made me do it"

Alternatively, he was "on a mission from God" (or Glod, of course)

I'll get me coat

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Oz uni in right royal 'indigenous' lingo rumpus

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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TV programmes on bush tucker would be very different

"lightly sauté the grubs with some garlick...."

I doubt the seafood could be improved by the French, however. The seafood I had down-under was every bit as good as anything I have had in France, Italy, or Greece.

Doffs hat (the roo-leather Barmah most appropriately today) to Aussie cuisine

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Lord Vetinari insists

we call Captain Cook a "trespasser", in the best traditions of Ankh-Morpork's Trespassers' Society

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Microsoft's bigoted teen bot flirts with illegali-Tay in brief comeback

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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GPP feature?

has perhaps developed a pain in all the diodes down its left side?

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Here's a great idea: Let's make a gun that looks like a mobile phone

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Just a few facts

BTW, the above suggestion would not solve the problem of the horrendous death toll due to gun violence any time soon. Too many illegal firearms are out there. Criminals would find ways to acquire arms illegally. However, preventing known criminals and psychiatric cases from acquiring guns legally should not prevent responsible adults getting the guns they might need if there are indeed many criminals about with firearms. So in that sense nothing changes, both sides get guns.

What does change is that a licensing scheme means that criminals can be jailed without needing to prove they shot somebody with the gun, and that manufacturers may no longer sell their product legally to criminals. Why does that worry the NRA?

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Just a few facts

Good points. There is an arms race going on in the US, where people carry guns because criminals carry guns, whereupon criminals get more guns, etc. There is another point too: The police in the UK (or here in the Netherlands) do not have to prove you committed any crime other than carrying the illegal firearm. You can simply go to jail for owning it. If criminals could be put in jail simply for carrying an unlicensed one in the US, maybe the deadly arms race could be reversed.

One point I also do not quite get is that, given the NRA mantra of "the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun", why they oppose any measure merely designed to prevent bad guys getting guns. Surely the requirement that you can have a gun legally only if you do not have a criminal record and are not psychologically unstable makes sense. The vast majority of the people in the US see the sense in it. This should not infringe the right of good guys to carry guns.

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ExoMars probe narrowly avoids death, still in peril after rocket snafu

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Ouch!

How many people will be having their fingers crossed for 7 months? Let's hope for the best.

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Error checks? Eh? What could go wrong, really? (DoSing a US govt site)

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Moral on the -1 passed as array index?

Incidentally, I am reminded of a coding problem a student of mine encountered, when trying to implement a method found in a scientific article. The first part dealt with image representation using particular polynomials, the second with image or object recognition with the same type of polynomials.

This was a good student who first coded the first part, and when that worked well, coded the second bit using the same code for the polynomials as before. Result: Crashing code. He worked on this for several days, trying to find the bug. When I came to look, I suddenly noted an odd thing: In the pseudo-code in the paper, the first part indexed the arrays containing the polynomials from 0 to N-1, and the second part used a different convention: 1..N. Accessing element N caused the crashes. Ouch! Easy to sort, but really frustrating!

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Moral on the -1 passed as array index?

An array index of -1 can certainly be used, in languages like Pascal, or even Fortan, or, with care and documentation in languages like C(++). For some arrays it is natural to have an index range of e.g. -N to N. In Pascal-like language you just declare the array that way. It is not that difficult to get it right in C(++).

It seems to me that the key problem is the silent coercion of a signed int to an unsigned int. Strong typing would have trapped this error, I feel. If I already have element numbers 0, 1, and 2, and add element number -1 to a dynamically allocated array, I can do that by allocating a 4 element array, incrementing the pointer, and copying the data to the right elements. Of course, when freeing the array, you must first decrement the pointer accordingly. Writing a class to do this safely is not that hard, although there is every chance people get it wrong.

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Electronic Superhighway 2016-1966 – a retro: Texts, ar*se and ASCII rolls

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Re: Under-16s free

"I thought showing a naked woman's anything to a child now resulted in a mandatory 5 year prison sentence and life on the sex-offenders register?"

Bit hard to avoid when breastfeeding a baby

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Microsoft will rest its jackboot on Windows 7, 8.1's throat on new Intel CPUs in 2018 – not 2017

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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I run several machines on different OSs, and just use whatever runs the tools I need. Linux for most of the work stuff, but Win 7 or 8.1 for some data acquisition and processing programs for which I haven't (yet) found a solution under Linux. The kids and missus also work with the Win 7 or 8.1 boxes.

My only gripes with Win 10 have been the nagware and the spyware. The nagware (probably?) ceases when you install it, but the spyware then becomes an issue. If there is an easy solution to block that I might well install win 10. If I cannot find a solution, I will not upgrade. I know alternatives for the few Windows programs I need are currently being developed, so this is a viable option in a few years time. If a subscription-only revenue model for an OS is introduced, that OS is out.

MS is free to choose its revenue model. I am free to choose an alternative

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Too Naked for the Nazis streaks to literary glory

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Lovely!

Brightened up a dull Friday afternoon as we approach beer o'clock. The book titles mentioned do remind me of some classic papers found in Annals of Improbable Research, such as:

Feline Reactions to Bearded Men

The Influence of Peanut Butter on the Earth's Rotation

or my own humble offering

A Quantum-mechanical Interpretation of Homeopathy

A preprint of the latter can be found here

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Web ads are reading my keystrokes and I can’t even spel propperlie

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Re: Private Eye

Malgorithms

Love that word. Sheer brilliance. I will include it in my mandatory reading material for the course "Introduction to Computing Science" I teach immediately

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Your 30 second guide to the past three months on Planet Adobe: Talk about sitting on cloud 9

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: The joyless world of subscription services

Absolutely. I was considering purchasing Photoshop, just as it moved from the last CS version to the CC subscription model. Much as I like free software, I am quite willing to pay for a good package (which Photoshop undoubtedly is). However, by the time I wanted to press the purchase button, the only option available was the CC subscription model. I do not like the idea of a subscription, and I like the idea of my stuff being in the cloud even less. I am frequently in places where I do not have a good (or even any) internet connection. I do not want my photo editing suite tell me "Sorry Dave, I can't do that for you" (and I am not even called Dave). Yes, you can work off-line, but if I am out of internet contact for a longer period, things will go pear shaped at some point.

Adobe is of course free to choose their revenue model, and there are millions of users for which this apparently works well. Likewise, I am free to look elsewhere for a product that suits my needs better.

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Mighty Soyuz stands proud at Baikonur

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Pint

Never ceases to impress, these spacecraft. I was at a Space Museum in Samara in 2013, where they have a full scale Soyuz outside the entrance (you walk in under the engines). Very, very impressive indeed.

Where's that glass of vodka to raise?

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Bloody Danes top world happiness league

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Meh

<voice of Droopy>

You know what?

I am feeling very happy

</voice of Droopy>

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'Just give me any old date and I'll make it work' ... said the VB script to the coder

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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The case of the 16 bit signed ints reminds me of something horrible

I was trying out the AMD C compiler on some parallel code on our 64-core Opteron server to see if it would optimize more than gcc. Indeed, on some of our smaller images (1 Gpixel or so) it worked well, optaining some 10% more speed, which is nice. However, on a 3.6 Gpixel it crashed. Compiling the same code in gcc worked fine. I checked the code (designed to work up to 4Gpixel which is the maximum for GeoTIFF images anyway) and found we were correctly using a type "Pixel" defined as a 32 bit unsigned integer. A counter of type Pixel was used to traverse the (1D) array of pixels in each for loop. On a hunch I created a 2Gpixel image, and ran the AMD compiled code. It worked. Create an image 1 pixel larger and it crashed. Somehow the optimizer turned the 32 bit unsigned integer into a signed counterpart, causing havoc. AARGH. I then changed the definition of Pixel to 64 bit signed integer, and it still crashed at the 2Gpixel + 1 barrier. Turning off various optimizations might have solved the problem but would defeat the very purpose of using the AMD compiler. We decided to stick with gcc.

Note that this was quite an old AMD compiler, and new versions might have solved the issue.

BTW

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Who'd be mad enough to start a 'large-scale fire' in a spaceship?

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: So, the next time you see a falling star ..

And anyway, wishing on a star is astronomically stupid,

as I always say

which may or may not stem of the late, great Terry Pratchett's " A Hat Full of Sky"

<doffs hat (black fedora at the moment) to the memory of TP>

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Why should you care about Google's AI winning a board game?

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

We will know it is Real AI ....

if it invents slood before we do

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Mars to get comms upgrade with ExoMars mission

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: The Red Planet's satellite network ..

Just wait: Deimos is moving slowly outwards, and Phobos is slowly spiralling inwards. It may take a while to clear the Areostationary orbit, but what's a few million years in astronomy

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Watch six tiny robo-ants weighing 100g in total pull a 1,769-kg family car

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Thumb Up

Re: says:

And before it zooms off you hear: "Yan, tan, tethera!"

CRIVENS!!

FEEGLEBOTS!

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ExoMars mission thunders aloft from Baikonur

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Pint

Fingers crossed for a succesful mission

I'll raise a glass to the mission, and of course to celebrate the succesful launch

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Don't snoop on staff via wearables, says Dutch privacy agency

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: I would

Better still: any migratory bird.

An Arctic tern would maximise bafflement, but it might not be able to carry it.

No doubt an African swallow could carry it, but then it doesn't migrate

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Alice, Bob and Verity, too. Yeah, everybody's got a story, pal

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Big Brother

Re: Don't forget the rest of the staff

And don't forget Simon. NOTHING is safe from Simon. Simon is watching you. Even when he is at the pub

I feel there is an icon missing

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Alien studs on dwarf's erection baffle boffins

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: A space mine

Slood?

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Locky ransomware is spreading like the clap

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Enabled Macros?

I will remind the kids ONCE MORE, that if they get odd documents sent to them, they should NEVER open them unless they have consulted me, and I will add that MACROS ARE BAD, and anyone enabling them without my consent shall be ousted from all computers in the house, and will have to hand in their smart phones for at least a week (now that REALLY hurts them).

They have been very good so far, but a reminder is in order.

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Google human-like robot brushes off beating by puny human – this is how Skynet starts

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Does this robot now have...

a pain in all the diodes down its left side?

At least the robot was allowed to open doors, imagine its chagrin if the doors all had a sunny disposition, and opened automatically just after generating an intolerable air of smugness.

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Don't take a Leaf out of this book: Nissan electric car app has ZERO authentication

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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They almost certainly have heard of the word. The meaning is another matter, it seems

Double facepalm time again

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Hackers aren't so interested in your credit card data these days. That's bad news

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Maybe I should get myself ...

a couple of spare identities, just in case the original one gets stolen.

Albert Spangler sounds good

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Intel shows budget Android phone powering big-screen Linux

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: "Low-end == 2 Gb"

As Niklaus Wirth said:

"Software is getting slower faster than hardware is getting faster."

We now need the equivalent of a Cray Y-MP to run an office application. I used to have MS-Office running happily on a 80386 at 25MHz with 4 (later 8) MB of RAM.

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Eurovision Song Contest uncorks 1975 vote shocker: No 'Nul point'!

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Somehow

I do not think this will change my many decades long habit of ignoring the event

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Brits unveil 'revolutionary' hydrogen-powered car

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Why not sell it to you ?

"The design: to me looks like the child of a VW beetle and a Citroën 2CV"

with a helping of early Saabs thrown in for good measure

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Patch ASAP: Tons of Linux apps can be hijacked by evil DNS servers, man-in-the-middle miscreants

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Pint

Re: Whoops-a-daisy...

Seconded!

All operating systems I have worked on (including RSX-11, CDC NOS, CP/M in various flavours, VMS, Xenix, IRIX, AIX, MS-DOS, Windows in various flavours, Linux, MacOSX) have had their share of SERIOUS errors, growing more hazardous over the years as they become more complex, and machines become more interconnected. An OS for me is a tool, and I will pick such tools as work best for me given the application. I will also realize all have their hidden flaws because they were made by a bunch of ape-descended life forms who are so amazing primitive they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea (just like me ;-)). Our eyes evolved to pick out juicy fruit and crunchy beetles from foliage, not to find bugs in code.

Thus I do not worship an OS, just as I do not worship a hammer. I will say "OUCH" when any OS I use goes wrong in this manner, just as I say "OUCH" when I hit my thumb with my hammer.

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'Hobbit' heads aren't human says bone boffin

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Homo Trumpus?

Unless they evolved from slime moulds in the recent past

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Coat

Pity no soft tissue survived

or they could simply look at the hairy feet to see if they were hobbits. Any round windows or doors in the cave would also be good hints

All right, I should be going. The one with a ring in the pocketses

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Coding is more important than Shakespeare, says VC living in self-contained universe

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Literature

I enjoy language, literature, history and art, which enhances my understanding of fellow humans. I admire the poet's skill in going to the heart of the matter in very few words.

I enjoy mathematics, science, technology, and coding. These expand my skills in logical reasoning and thinking in more than a mere 3 dimensions. They also teach me more about how the physical world may work. I admire the coder's skill to go to the heart of the problem in a few statements.

I am not a good enough writer to make a living that way, but I am a good enough coder to teach others its joys.

I still need both coding and literature to feel remotely complete.

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Send tortuous stand-up ‘nine-thirty’ meetings back to the dark ages

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: "giant aquarium"

well, you can get the feeling you are slowly drowning, so aquarium may be appropriate

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SCO's last arguments in 'Who owns Linux?' case vs. IBM knocked out

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Why...

Because it's a vampire?

And definitely not a black ribbonner

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CSI: Let's get out of the lab, interview the suspect, then do a warrantless search

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: You complain about CSI ?

That's not limited to cartoons any more. Many an action movie suggests a nine stone woman can kick a 20 stone gorilla of a man through a wall without any recoil.

The sound-in-vacuum technology present in most SF films is much more puzzling than the faster-than-light stuff

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US Congress locks and loads three anti-encryption bullets

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Given this further evidence, "Senate Intelligence Committee" seems like a contradiction in terms.

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This is why copy'n'paste should be banned from developers' IDEs

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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In a desert-like piece of Pascal code, devoid of any real oases of comments, with single-letter variable names throughout, and naturally lacking any proper documentation, I came across a lonely comment

(* Wulf *)

And no, that wasn't the culprit's name. If he is reading this column, he will know I am talking about him. Having said all this, I could by dint of quite some effort make sense of his code (which algorithm-wise and structurally was fine), but I can still recognize those bits of code I contributed to that system after decoding his work: My variable names grew longer, my comments more detailed, my documentation actually existed!

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NASA charges up 18-prop electric X-plane

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Pint

I do want to compliment these boffins

both with the creativity of their research, and their creativity in cooking up acronyms

BRains Invent Lasting Legacy In Artistic Names for Technology (BRILLIANT)

Raises pint and doffs hat (the black Mayser Trekking today)

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Don't you see these simple facts? Destroy Facebook and restore human Liberty

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Diatribe ...

might be a better word than rant, as it is indeed rather too coherent and even well-crafted for a true, foaming at the mouth rant.

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What took you so long, Twitter? Micro blogging site takes on the trolls

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Enter the Piecemaker

I persnally tink it is discrimnation against us Trolls!

Sgt. Detritus

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Who would code a self-destruct feature into their own web browser? Oh, hello, Apple

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Ah, Netscape Navigator

Still remember that, and Mosaic (which still supported gopher)

There were of course so few websites in the days of Mosaic that you could conceivably test your browser on all of them

Now I tend to use Firefox under Linux and Windows, and Chrome on Android. Works for me.

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