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* Posts by Michael H.F. Wilkinson

2527 posts • joined 24 Apr 2007

A sysadmin always comes prepared: Grasp those essential tools

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

What? No cattleprod!!

Indispensable, I would say

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Planes fail to find 'credible' candidate for flight MH370 wreckage

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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To summarise

We still do not know.

Frustrating for us commentards, but agonizing for the relatives of those on board. Fingers crossed for more information. The sooner the better.

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Bing accused of out-censoring the Great Firewall

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: I just hope...

Nothing specific to Microsoft. Many if not most businesses when faced with the choice of conforming to local laws or not doing business don't chose the "not doing business" option.

Nothing personal, it's just business, they say.

Sad, perhaps, but true.

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Monkey steals iPod touch, loses interest in minutes

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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OOK!

I think the monkey in question would as easily lose interest in "War and Peace", which to many humans is absolutely riveting.

I asked, the only simian I know who appreciates books, and he said "OOK" so there!

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Keep your quinoa, hipsters: Boffins back healthy slabs of choc

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Pint

Great news

I'll break open those bars off extra-dark chocolate my kids gave me for my birthday to celebrate in style

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So. Farewell then Steelie Neelie: You were WORSE than USELESS

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Once upon a time

Neelie deserved the "Steelie". Maybe she should have clung on to the competition portfolio. I always felt the "digital agenda" portfolio had "FAD" printed over it in large friendly letters

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Blighty goes retro with 12-sided pound coin

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Brings back memories

I must have an old threepence lying around somewhere, along with a few ha'pence.

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Surf's up near Saturn as boffins spot waves on Titan

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Interesting news, but

It's a bit nippy for surfing, I would say, at −179.2 °C.

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Imagination brings real-time hyper-realistic ray tracing to mobile kit

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Interesting, but...

What about the power draw? Important constraint for a mobile device

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Grav waves: Moment when 'father of Big Bang inflation' learns he was RIGHT ALL ALONG

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Thumb Up

I suppose he didn't say

"I love it when a plan comes together!"

Great work, and well-deserved bottle of bubbly

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Byzantine Generals co-boffin Lamport bags CompSci's 'Nobel prize'

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Pint

Well deserved!!

I'll raise a glass to him tonight, most likely a more distilled versio

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WTF is … the multiverse?

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

And somewhere in the multiverse

there is a giant star turtle, with four elephants on its back, ....

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Shuttleworth: Firmware is the universal Trojan

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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It's not just the "regular" firmware

What about all the microcode in most, if not all CISC processors (not sure about modern RISC machines)? In principle it could be doing all sorts of things beyond performing the instruction requested by the given op-code.

Opening up the code for inspection might work, but then you would still need to check the actual product shipped to ensure it adheres to the open specifications.

The problem with paranoia is choosing an appropriate point to stop suspicions, and start trusting. I have no easy answer for that.

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This record-smashing robot solves a Rubik's Cube in 3.253 seconds

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Thumb Up

Nice project

This kind of project is great to get kids enthusiastic for computer science at an early age.

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Think drone delivery is hot air? A BREWERY just proved you wrong

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Nice advert. However, ...

Light beer indeed, maybe with Helium as replacement for CO2

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GRAV WAVE TSUNAMI boffinry BONANZA – the aftershock of the universe's Big Bang

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Nah, it read: "We apologise for the inconvenience"

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French novel falls foul of Apple's breast inspectors

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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19th-century attitude

They still have not read "Pornography and Obscenity" by D.H. Lawrence, which he wrote as a response to the outrage he had caused with Lady Chatterley's Lover. Lawrence would never classify the "offending" (to Apple) image as pornography. In his words

"Pornography is the attempt to insult sex, to do dirt on it",

which this image, curiously juxtaposing the female body with a knife blade clearly does not do.

The USA apparently have some catching up to do on these issues.

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iOS 7's weak random number generator stuns kernel security – claim

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: SIlly question but...

I would use the Mersenne Twister now, in particular because loads of implementations exist (R, matlab, PHP, Python, GNU Scientific Library, etc). When I implemented the additive (or subtractive) generator (1989) it did not exist, and most if not all languages used the LCG. Knuth's one is a variant of the Lagged Fibonacci generator. Apart from being a better generator than the LCG, if initialized properly, it is much faster, because I only have to do one subtraction, and a conditional addition (if the result of the subtraction is negative, which is a cheap test), as opposed to a multiplication, modulus, and addition for the LCG. Numerical Recipes in C has an implementation (ugly code, but it works). The speed difference on an 8 MHz 80286 (used for image processing) was massive.

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: SIlly question but...

That's one solution. I also like the least significant bits of the output of a covered webcam with gain at maximum. Really random bits are easily obtained from noise in the outside world if your device has inputs like cameras and microphones.

For quick and dirty work NOT involving security (but e.g. for Monte-Carlo simulations) I used to use the additive PRNG from Knuth (with 2^55-1 period). This needs 55 seeds in my case, and webcam noise or similar is fine for that. With the development of the Mersenne Twister this subtractive generator is a bit out of date. I gather it is faster (and also faster than the LCG), however.

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Daring danger-drone dives into VOLCANIC eruption – what happens next has to be seen

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Best use of a drone I have seen for a long time

Well done!

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Don't stare: SHRUNKEN Mercury lost 7km, but only 'cos it's COOLING

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Coat

I thought it looked a bit small through my scope

Sorry, time to go home, it appears. Mine is the one with "Turn Left at Orion" in the pocket

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Malaysia Airlines mystery: Click here for the TRUTH

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Joke

Re: The Most Bonkers Explanation award goes to...

Or was it really a Boeing 666

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Wackadoo DIYers scissor-kick beatboxer

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Won't someone think of the children!

The horror, the horror,....

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Childcatcher

Won't someone think of the children!

</offended mode>

If "death spiral" had been present in the Middle English, I shudder to think what sort of instrument of torture it might have been

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ZEPPELINS to replace Goodyear blimps in American skies

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Coat

Zeppelin NT?

Will there be an XP version later

Sorry, couldn't resist

Oh, deary me, looks like it's time to go home already

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Earth's night-side gets different kinds of neutrinos from day-side

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Thumb Up

Re: how many

One of the better whatif.xkcd pages. Thanks for that

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Flying Toaster screen savers return on GitHub

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Re: here's a challenge:

"There must be a way to keep CPU and GPU load up during idle periods even in this day and age."

There are many indeed. Many have the general form of *@home

Like the idea of the reflections in the toaster too.

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Amazon wants me to WEAR NAPPIES?! But I'm a 40-something MAN

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Coffee/keyboard

Sung like someone gargling brick-dust

Nice one, really nice one.

Put me in mind of a fellow student living in the same student house as I did, and he was into punk musing of the type in which it sounded like somebody was vomiting violently into a microphone, and somebody else had hung a fireproof mike in an operational afterburner of a jet fighter.

He used to study quietly and conscientiously till midnight, and then put his music on at roughly 120 dB. As he did not hear our complaints I yanked out the appropriate fuse. He complained that that could damage his records; I retorted that that was peanuts to the damage my 5 lb sledgehammer would do next time. I suggested he had a perfectly serviceable set of headphones so he could listen to his music any time without disturbing us. He said the sound quality would suffer. He did not understand why we howled with laughter at that.

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Punch and Judy face Blofeld in LOHAN doomsday box test

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Instead of the piranha pool, you could simply get one of those shoes with the built-in poisoned dagger also favoured by SPECTRE (in From Russia with Love, as I recall).

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Behold, the TITCHY T-REX that prowled the warm Arctic of long ago

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Happy

Drop bears? That wasn't Australia

it was just a place that is very, very, ..... well, ... Australian, except that it had few snakes because they were almost all killed by the spiders (according to Dangerous Mammals, Reptiles, Amphibians, Birds, Fish, Jellyfish, Insects, Spiders, Crustaceans, Grasses, Trees, Mosses and Lichens of Terror Incognita, Volume 29c, Part III).

Nice bar though in Didjabringabeeralong, and I like the way they jailed every prime minister the moment he got himself elected (saves time).

Still, no worries, she'll be right!

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'Amazon has destroyed the unicorn factory' ... How clouds are making sysadmins extinct

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Joke

Beware of sysadmins bearing cattleprods

"So you think you can get rid of me, and replace all our kit in the cloud, do you?

Enjoy that elevator ride, mr. CFO"

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O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! Friday is Pi Day

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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What, nothing for e?

2.7182818...........?

That does not seem right

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Bill Gates-backed SOLAR POO RAYGUN COMMODE unveiled

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Joke

Next

They'll make carbon fibre or graphene from biochar. Holding that carbon fibre fishing rod suddenly feels different

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Shift up, Ballmer: Microsoft expands board, makes room for activist investor

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Happy

Mason Morfit?

Does he have a white Persian cat? And a headquarters in a volcano?

With a name like that and loads of money, he just has to be bond villain. Of course, Elon Musk has a similar predicament, and he even builds rockets (and other seriously cool stuff that fits straight into a Bond plot).

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What did you see, Elder Galaxies? What made you age so quickly?

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Joke

I blame bureaucracy

It makes everybody age prematurely.

According to the standard bureaucracy model of the universe, red shift is caused by red tape. Photons lose energy by having to fill out progress reports every 10,000 light years, and quality assurance questionnaires every 10 million light years. Galaxies need planning permissions at a galactic scale. If it is bad enough getting permission for three quarters of a shed, imagine how bad it is going to be to get permission to merge a nascent galaxy with the next-door dwarf.

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Nipper rolls up at nursery with 48 wraps of HEROIN

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Joke

Parents never listen

He said he wanted a kite, he didn't want to be high as a kite.

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Boffins demo FIVE MICRON internal combustion engine

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Joke

And over in the US

They are prepping the Indiana 500 x 10^-9

On a more serious note: well done those boffins. Even if it finally does not become practical, sometimes you have to build things just because you can

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166 days later: Space Station astronauts return to Earth

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Pint

Welcome back to earth!

Bet they would like a quick vodka to warm up in those chilly temperatures.

I spotted the ISS passing over last Saturday during an outreach activity of the university's observatory, and it never ceases to amaze me to think that there are people on that man-made dot in space.

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Samsung narrows counter-claim against Apple in US

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Joke

Re: Judge Lucy Koh

At least it is easy to remain impartial if you feel both parties are tiresome into the extreme

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NASA to programmers: Save the Earth and fatten your wallet

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Interesting announcement

I think I might set up a team of students here.

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SACRILEGE! Hitchhiker's Guide game's back ... and it TWEETS at you

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Joke

Re: A nice cuppa

No, it will be a cup filled with a liquid which is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.

Thank you the marketing department of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation

Share and Enjoy!

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Bletchley Park board member quits amid TNMOC split-off spat

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Mushroom

This lack of colaboration is a disgrace

Pure and simple.

I really feel somebody needs to bang some heads together and tell both trusts to act in the interest of the public, not in the interests of overinflated egos. I am not laying blame on any particular side (as I do not know enough of the details), but they should sort things out in a grown-up manner and get on with the work of preserving and presenting an essential part of both British and computing history

</rant>

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Boffins say dark matter found with X-ray

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Pint

Interesting observation

And as so often, it leads to a cry of "bring on better instruments" (and rightly so). This might be something radically new, this might be a different version of something old, it might be a glitch in the instrument (after all, both reports rely on the same instrument). That's science in progress for you.

Fortunately, the Japanese mission is not too far away in the future (certainly no astronomically speaking). I'll raise a glass to the progress made

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Security: It's knowing what you don't know

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Coat

I object ...

to the title on the same grounds as I have always objected to the entry in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy on page seven-thousand-and-twenty-three: "Expect the unexpected" on the grounds that it is

a) glib

and

b) a contradiction in terms

Sorry, couldn't resist, where's that coat with the cassette tapes of the HHGTTG radio plays

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Why can’t I walk past Maplin without buying stuff I don’t need?

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Happy

"which only the French get right by making it last twice as long"

Taking less than an hour over what the French consider a good lunch is a crime against culinary art. Simply relaxing under the Provencal sunshine whilst savouring first class food is an excellent way to relax and unwind (I realize that it can rain in France as well ;-) ).

Mind you, they are clueless about breakfast. For breakfast, bring on the British! Bring on the bacon, sausage, fried bread, eggs, baked beans ... THE WORKS!!

Maybe the French need their extensive lunch because they eat a tiny bit of bread and jam for breakfast, so when lunchtime arrives they are half starved. The British, being fortified at breakfast with a much bigger meal can survive off the odd sarnie for lunch.

Darn, I'm hungry now!

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Very fabric of space-time RIPPED apart in latest Hubble pic

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Coat

Reminds me of the Galaxy song

Just remember that you're standing on a planet that's evolving,

revolving at nine hundred miles an hour.....

....

..

So remember when you're feeling very small and insecure,

How amazingly unlikely is your birth!

And pray that there's intelligent life somewhere up in space

because there's bugger all down here on Earth!

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Dell charges £16 TO INSTALL FIREFOX on PCs – Mozilla is miffed

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Pint

Re: Sounds about right

Single Islay Malts are more to my taste, but a decent beer is welcome too.

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Dark matter killed the dinosaurs, boffins suggest

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Boffin

Re: Dark Matter?

If I truly understood dark matter I would probably have an (Ig) Nobel prize (It's the surname that counts ;-) ). I must say as a scientist I am sceptical, but there have been instances when we needed hypothetical particles to explain certain effects. Neutrinos are the prime example. They were needed to explain the apparent lack of conservation of angular momentum and energy in beta decay. They were subsequently found. Anti-matter is weirder yet: the positron was postulated purely from mathematics as a possibility by Dirac, and subsequently it was found (in fact, it had been seen before, but misinterpreted as an electron moving in the opposite direction). The aether on the other hand was postulated but rather wrecked by the Michelson-Morley experiment.

It is hard to reconcile observations with theories without dark matter, and there are ways of observing its influence on matter and light, so there is circumstantial evidence for it. However, most cosmologists I have spoken to do acknowledge that a thorough re-write of our understanding of physics may be an alternative solution. It is just that we do not know how to.

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Aargh! My EYEBALLS are MELLLTING! Curse this DEVIL LAPTOP

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Boffin

100W bulb vs 13" screen

Physics would suggest the irradiance on the retina (W/m^2) as a function of wavelength would be the deciding factor for disease. A 100W bulb at at 30cm covers a much smaller solid angle in the field of view than my laptop screen at normal distance (some ten times smaller according to my BotE (back of the envelope) calculations. Assuming an incandescent light bulb, and assuming LEDs are ten times more efficient than an incandescent light, this suggests the power draw of the screen would need to be 100W to deliver the same irradiance on the retina (albeit over a larger surface area). Given the 58 Wh capacity of my old laptop battery, I would drain it in roughly 35 minutes assuming the processor, memory and disk have no power draw at all.

I think I can safely say the irradiance on the retina is at least one, if not two orders of magnitude lower, as I know too well after replacing a 100W equivalent lamp, and it turned out some joker had flipped the switch to the "on" position while I was doing it. Having such a bright light popping on at about 10" from your face is not fun at all. Watching my laptop screen is not a problem at all.

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Ever get the impression a telesales op was being held prisoner?

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Joke

Interestingly, I always thought

telemarketeers calling me deserved a prison sentence

Apparently, some already have got one

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