* Posts by Michael H.F. Wilkinson

3142 posts • joined 24 Apr 2007

Irish data cops kick Max Schrems' latest Facebook complaint up to EU Court

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Thumb Up

Another thumbs up to Max!

Bit like a terrier, that man. Good for him. In the mean time, I am breaking open a new packet of popcorn.

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Password reuse bot steals creds from weak sites, logs in to banks

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: If you use Online Banking you get what you deserve

If my bank used username/password authentication I would take my money elsewhere. I d reuse passwords, but only on sites that are not important

Like the Reg

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Microsoft bans common passwords that appear in breach lists

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Simples

L1anfairpw11gwyngy11g0gerychwyrndr0bw1111antysili0g0g0g0ch

Alternatively use:

"The Spanish Inquisition!!"

Because nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!!

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Pepper robot acts like real teenager, gets job at Pizza Hut

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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I was just waiting for it to say

"Share and Enjoy!!"

I personally would much rather be served by a human than a humanoid robot which generates an intolerable air of smugness whenever it is about to sell you something.

A human would (OK: might) know when to be chirpy and cheerful, and when just to be businesslike. There are situation when chirpy and cheerful might earn a robot a reprogramming with a big axe it will never forget

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Boffins blow up water with LASERS, to watch explosions in slow-mo

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Mushroom

I'll applaud

ANY science that goes BOOM!!

From little droplets exploding in slow-mo right up to the big bang

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LinkedIn mass hack reveals ... yup, you're all still crap at passwords

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Re: The worst social network

Just reply to the recruitment firms you are a headhunter .....

A real one .....

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Asteroid-sampling spacecraft prepped for September launch

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Pint

We live in interesting times

But in this case, in a good way.

I'll raise a glass to OSIRIS-REx, and the team behind it

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The underbelly of simulation science: replicating the results

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Often modelling simply adds rigour to thought experiments

Results from computer models should always be scrutinized carefully (just like any other result in science, really). It is essential that all source code (including version information), parameters, and hardware information should be made public.

In many cases, I find that failure of simulations is often the most interesting part. People postulate a mechanism to explain some phenomenon, and might leave it at that: a just-so story. By drawing up a computer simulation you can test ideas more rigorously, and you sometimes find that the proposed mechanism cannot produce the observed effect. Once you have ruled out numerical instability or just programming errors, you can then safely state that the proposed mechanism does not explain observed behaviour, and that therefore the theory requires some adaptation.

Likewise, leaving out parts of a system because they are too hard to model, or you first want to start with a simple model, and add complexity later (always a good approach) can also give important information. I have done some modelling of bacterial communities in the intestine (insert "your model is shit" joke here), and found that quite a few properties can be modelled well enough fairly simply. For example, even without modelling an immune system, ratios of aerobic vs anaerobic bacteria could be reproduced very well simply from decent estimates of the amounts of nutrients and oxygen entering the system. Practically no other parameter had ANY impact on that ratio (ODE/PDE solvers used, hardware used, time steps used etc.). Not that surprising to biologists perhaps, but medical researchers had assumed the immune system controlled the intestinal microflora. It might do so, but apparently it is not necessary to control the aerobe/anaerobe ratio.

By contrast, if your simulation explains things nicely, you have not learnt that much, only that your mechanism is plausible. Proof requires a lot more than mere simulation

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Shakes on a plane: How dangerous is turbulence?

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

My father tended to smile during "turbulence" in airliners

He flew as a navigator in Lockheed Venturas over Africa. He experienced some real turbulence during that time, with the plane lurching or dropping like a brick suddenly as they were flying a much lighter plane than any Boeing or Airbus you care to mention through the weather, rather than over most of it.

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Airbus to build plane that's even uglier than the A380

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Re: But can you talk to God on one?

of course you can talk to whatever $DEITY you please. Whether he/she/they/it will listen, let alone answer is quite another matter

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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A minor matter of zoology

Beluga whales are far from ungainly, they are actually very graceful in motion, if not quite as acrobatic as dolphins (their distant cousins). Their vocalizations earned them the name "sea canaries"

Regarding the sexiest plane ever? People have proposed some great contenders (XB70, TSR2, SR71, Vulcan, Spitfire and Me262 are all in the super-model category), but I do have a particular soft spot for the Wooden Wonder: the De Havilland Mosquito.

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'Acts of war in a combat zone are not covered by your laptop warranty'

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Mushroom

The story somehow reminds me of the time I spent reading the small print of the insurance policy my parents took out on a small sailing dinghy (a 12 foot affair hardly counts as a yacht) they had bought. I was rather amused to see that the insurance explicitly stated that if the craft was used in acts of war, they would not cover any resulting damage. I immediately had this mental image of the little craft capsizing under the weight of 21" torpedo tube installed anywhere on deck.

Nuclear explosions (even if the little dinghy wasn't actively involved in military actions) were also not covered.

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The Sons of Kahn and the Witch of Wookey

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: And lo...

But all should heed the commandment that all hype on the internet of things shall be repeated threefold!

And there shall be a great rejoicing!

(Armouries chapter 6, verse 66)

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Congress presents plan to tighten reins on FBI hacking

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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A step in the right direction that might actually pass through Congress. Strange days indeed. I am tempted to look out for airborne bacon, much as I applaud the initiative.

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You wanted innovation? We gave you Clippy the Paperclip in your IM client

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Easy - wave a magnet near it, if it interacts then it's irony, otherwise it's sarcasm.

Sounds very much like my old mate Glod Glodson. Never very good at quaffing (too much beer hit the mouth), but forges a mean dwarf bread

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NASA's stadium-sized sandwich bag overflies Oz

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: spiffy!

Yummy, I'll have one with smoked salmon

Darn, I'm hungry now

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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And what about the kangaroos?

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Boffins achieve 'breakthrough' in random number generation

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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The reason we often do not want truly random numbers is that we want to be able to generate the same sequence again with the same seed (or set of seeds). If we have truly random bits, and want to use that for encryption, we must pass the whole sequence to the receiver through a secure channel (i.e. we are using a one-time pad). Very secure if we can pass the pad safely to the receiver.

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Not new at all...

In the past linear congruential RNGs (shudder) were often combined (it's even Numerical Recipes) by taking the "better" higher order bytes of two different ones and concatenating them, because the lower order bits were not very random at all (the least significant goes 0,1,0,1,0,1,0,1,0,1,0,1,0,1,.... if you have got it right, otherwise it goes 0,0,0,0,0,... or 1,1,1,1,1,...). This shows that the basic idea is certainly not new, and for certain (toy) problems it may well suffice. What apparently is new is a proof of method to combine two reliably (still have to read the paper properly). Proof is a thing that carries rather more weight in science than just a nice (and plausible, or even obvious) idea.

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Vostochny cosmodrome caught on Soyuz rocketcam

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Pint

Hey, they got it up

Well done those engineers. Of course we knew they could do it, they have done it many times before, but an inaugural launch must mean lots more than usual can go wrong. I do not doubt some glasses of vodka were raised afterwards, and justly so!

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5% of drivers want Nigel Farage to be their in-car robo butler

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Megaphone

I gather John Cleese was an option at one stage:

"Right! Now turn left!"

I bet he could handle swearing back at the driver as well. Battery sergeant major 'Shut up' Williams could do that nicely too:

"I'll make you turn left so fast YOUR FEET WON'T TOUCH THE GROUND!!!"

Megaphone not really needed, I suppose

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The Windows 10 future: Imagine a boot stamping on an upgrade treadmill forever

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: "Makes Windows 10 seem like an infection. Quite apt"

I didn't get that pop-up. Looks like GWX control panel is working.

Win 10 may be better on various fronts, but I resent the way they are trying to force feed us the OS, as much as I resent the data slurping and forced upgrades embedded in it. I have several data capture applications that work under Win 7 and 8.X. When capturing a long sequence of data (like the 176 GB from the Mercury transit), I do not want this interrupted by some upgrade MS foists upon me. I do tend to keep my system updated, but I also do want some degree of control.

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NASA 'Kilo-Kitty' Super Pressure Balloon goes aloft at last

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Joke

In the interest of the environment

Couldn't we make an even bigger balloon by filling it with all the hot gases produced by politicians of all nations?

On the other hand, maybe it wouldn't get off the ground, just as most ideas vented by said politicians.

More seriously: good work from NASA getting the balloon launched after all.

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'Knucklehead' Kansas bloke shoots self in foot

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Joke

Re: 1,2 , few?

No, no, no!

It's "One, two, many, LOTS"

Didn't you listen to sgt. Detritus?

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Boffins flip the unflippable: Meet the latest storage extender contender

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Coat

If you have a PhD in spintronics...

does that make you a spin doctor?

Sorry, couldn't resist.

OK, time to go. My hat (genuine Panama) and coat please

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Laser-zapping scientists will save the Earth from meteorite destruction

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Ah! Frickin' lasers!

All we need now is sharks to mount them

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Skygazers: Brace yourselves for a kick in the Aquarids

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Miraculously

the forecast is clear over here in the north of the Netherlands! What next, flying pigs?

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Ex-HP boss Carly Fiorina sacked one week into new job

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Re: Good news !

Of, course, the more Ecksian approach is to send anyone who gets elected straight to jail, on the practical basis that this saves time

Doffs hat (panama today) to the memory of the late, great Terry Pratchett

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Re: Good news !

Staying with the HHG theme: this just proves that those people who most want to rule people are ipso facto those least suited for the job. So maybe the president's job is to distract people from where the actual power is. Donald Trump could be as successful as Zaphod Beeblebrox in that case.

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I am Craig Wright, inventor of Craig Wright

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Coat

Kilroy was here

Or wasn't he?

I know, I know, I know my hair's on fire.

Your face is melting....

Did you know that?

(Doffs hat (Tilley today) to Loudon Wainwright III, and is outahere)

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F-35s failed 'scramble test' because of buggy software

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Joke

Re: five nines...

Unless it's "Nein! Nein! Nein! Nein! Nein!!!"

I think they have reached that point

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Quad-core coffee table trumped by dual-Mac garden furniture

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Re: Trump

Is this Turing complete?

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It's 2016 and now your internet-connected bathroom scales can be hacked

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

I think you ought to know I'm feeling very depressed

Here's another of those self-satisfied doors. I can tell it's going to open by the intolerable air of smugness it suddenly generates

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Or simply: "Ook!"

Darn, no UU librarian icon

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Must listen: We've found the real Bastard Operator From Hell

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Pint

That is bloody brilliant! It has thoroughly cheered me up. It is almost as bad as the "Share and Enjoy" song sung by robots with their voice boxes exactly one flattened fifth out of tune. I'll certainly raise a glass to this

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Europe's Earth-watching sat beams back icy first pic

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Stunning images

Well done those engineers!

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SpaceX is go for US military GPS sat launch, smashes ULA monopoly

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Thumb Up

Hey, market forces alive and kicking in the USA, and in government procurement, no less!

Big thumbs up to the SpaceX guys for making it happen

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Black Helicopters

Re: Well not quite pork

Pork pies feature in there somewhere, I am sure

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Your mother has a smooth forehead, Klingon language lovers roar at Paramount

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Initially?

"In fact, at least one child was initially raised as a native speaker of Klingon."

Does the "initially" mean that some child-care agency stepped in, or did the parents come to their senses? I am quite a Lord of the Rings (the books), and Discworld fan, but I didn't name my kids Frodo, Galadriel, Havelock, Carrot, or Glod, nor did I teach them Quenya, Sindarin or Adunaic. I certainly wouldn't dream of teaching those as their first language.

I prefer to just stick a fish in their ear. Works for me and my friend Ford Prefect

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CERN publishes massive data set

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Nice!

We are currently working on new fast particle tracking and track reconstruction software for a different detector, but I might well check out these data to see if we can apply our algorithms to this work as well.Should keep a couple of students out of mischief

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Europe's Earth-watching sat rides Soyuz to orbit

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Pint

Every time I see a rocket lauch

it reminds me of the Apollo era of my youth, and puts a smile on my face. Wonderful really to see a Soyuz lift off a western satellite. It shows that despite the troubles we still have, differences can be overcome.

You could of course argue that free market forces simply made the Soyuz the best bang (or actually, "not bang", the last thing they want to see is a rocket go bang) for your buck. However, in 1969, as I sat watching the moon landing WAY past my normal bedtime, these free market forces weren't allowed to work.

So, I'll raise a pint to the successful launch, and further collaboration (there are worse causes).

À votre santé!

and

Поехали!

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Planning to throw capacity at an IT problem? Read this first

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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ONLY throwing capacity at any problem might not be optimal, but with the sheer volume of data processed in many applications, capacity is certainly needed. At the risk of winning a prize for pointing out the bleedin' obvious: you need to find the right tools first, and then assess how much compute power you need, given the optimal tools. Big data really requires you to think hard about tooling. I have seen people throw weeks of compute power of a large section of a Blue Gene machine at a problem that the right algorithm could solve in a couple of hours on a desktop PC. This wasn't even a big data problem, but it really demonstrated the difference in performance between O(N2) and O(N) algorithms.

Of course, in many cases you must also wonder whether you really need all that big data. Bigger isn't necessarily better

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Romania suffers Eurovision premature ejection

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Eurovision is way more than a cheesy competition

It is indeed no worse than the X-factor or The Voice of <Insert Name Here>, and those DO drag on for months. I am fine with people watching those programmes as long as they do not expect me to.

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NASA saves Kepler space 'scope by turning it off and on again

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Pint

Well done those engineers

You certainly earned your pint!

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Dutch students serve up world's first 'drone café'

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Pint

"Oh dear.

I work in IT end even I'm not that sad. Anyway, it can't lift a pint, so is disqualified straight out the gate."

My thoughts exactly. These students may be too young to remember Sirius Cybernetics "Your plastic pall who's fun to be with" definition of a robot, i.e. they do not know their classics, and will probably be the first against the wall when the revolution comes, as a consequence.

The drone might be able to lift the miserly little glasses they sell beer in here in the Netherlands, however. Fortunately I have found a pub where they sell good beer in proper glasses (see icon).

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How IT are you? Find out now in our HILARIOUS quiz!

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Re: How IT are you?

Maybe he mean 443 Hurts (SI unit for cattle prods and tazers) rather than Hertz

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Re: I went to university down in Brighton...

I once had a scientologist wanting to inflict a questionnaire on me, so, being a good sport, I went along with it. Answering all the loaded questions in slowly increasing psychopath mode wasn't the only thing that got to him. I think it was the combination of my slightly too bright smile, the way I kept staring fixedly at his right ear, and developing a slight twitch in my left eye that really did it. I was careful not to overdo it, I just subtly built it up. He bolted at the end.

I had just been rehearsing a part as an insane Columbian taxi driver in a student play, so I could keep the act up all day, if needed

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BOFH: Thermo-electric funeral

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Lovely episode. I must say the line:

"Well the only way we can cool it down quickly will be to bring it into contact with something cool with a dense thermal mass I guess,"

had me expecting the boss ending up with burn marks on his forehead. The word "dense" must have triggered that mental image, but I suppose the world "cool" would argue against it.

I do like the notion of a cooling hammer, and my 2.7 lb lump hammer I have lying around the office for demonstration purposes during certain computer vision lectures might be assigned a new role

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Re: as if owning IT antiquity was one of those positive character traits

Antique? I have still got an 8" floppy disk lying around, with a whole 128 kB of storage (CP/M 2.0 from Digital Research is on it, according to the label).

128MB USB stick antique! Youth these days

Erm, .... has anybody got an 8" floppy drive with USB interface lying around?

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Storage with the speed of memory? XPoint, XPoint, that's our plan

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Re: NVDIMM

If 3D XPOINT is a lot cheaper than the DRAM + NAND backup solution it does become interesting, even if its speed isn't quite as high. Not sure it is, however.

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