Feeds

* Posts by Michael H.F. Wilkinson

2514 posts • joined 24 Apr 2007

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

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Thumb Up

Nice project

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

1
0

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

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Re: Nice advert. However, ...

Light beer indeed, maybe with Helium as replacement for CO2

0
0

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

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Happy

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

2
0

French novel falls foul of Apple's breast inspectors

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

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.

4
1

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

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

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.

0
0
Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

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.

1
0

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

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Best use of a drone I have seen for a long time

Well done!

3
0

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

1
1

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

1
0

Wackadoo DIYers scissor-kick beatboxer

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Re: Won't someone think of the children!

The horror, the horror,....

1
0
Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
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

0
0

ZEPPELINS to replace Goodyear blimps in American skies

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
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

10
1

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

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Thumb Up

Re: how many

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

1
0

Flying Toaster screen savers return on GitHub

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
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.

2
0

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.

2
0

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).

0
0

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!

0
0

'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"

0
0

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

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

What, nothing for e?

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

That does not seem right

2
0

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

1
0

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).

1
0

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.

2
0

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.

3
0

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

2
0

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.

2
0

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

2
0

NASA to programmers: Save the Earth and fatten your wallet

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Interesting announcement

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

0
0

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!

23
0

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>

28
0

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

0
0

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

1
1

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!

4
0

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!

7
0

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

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Pint

Re: Sounds about right

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

8
0

Dark matter killed the dinosaurs, boffins suggest

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
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.

6
0

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.

0
1

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

4
0

Massive new AIRSHIP to enter commercial service at British dirigible base

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Coat

Re: Not interested unless....

or Tibetan bicycle repair man for that matter

"Bicycle Repair Man? But HOW???"

Sorry, couldn't resist. Mine is the one with "The Long War" book and the Monty Python DVD in the pockets

3
0

NHS care.data leaflet shovage: Like a 'notice for Earth's demolition' posted to Alpha Centauri

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Coat

That reminds me, I have to put up an announcement for the students

Where's that sign "Beware of the Leopard"?

2
0

European Space Agency: PLATO will seek out 'ADVANCED LIFE forms'... 'SLIME'

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Thumb Up

Aliens will be impressed by this mission

"Not bad at all for a species that hasn't invented slood yet"

Seriously though, great to see the ESA do these projects!

5
0

Chihuahua TERROR: Packs of TINY hounds menace Arizona

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

If a chihuahua tried to chase me

I I would step on it

the dog that is, not the accellerator (gas-pedal for those on the other side of the pond).

A healthy kick (conversion, rugby style) would also be on the cards

5
0

Doomed Cassiopeia star was sloshed just before deadly supernova blast

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Boffin

Re: Pauli Exclusion principle

1/2, so it is a fermion. It's existence was postulated because in beta decay, a proton (fermion) split into a neutron and an electron (both fermions). This violates conservation of angular momentum. Postulating the simultaneous creation of a third particle to carry the surplus spin (or minus the missing spin) solved the problem

2
0
Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Very interesting research

Well timed too with a supernova going off in Messier 82, in reach of small telescopes

2
0

Tired of arguing with suits? Get ready to argue with engineers!

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Pint

<KZZZEEEERT>, <SLAM>, <CLUNK>, <CRUNCH>

This development could lead to a whole new series of BOFH plots. Remote access to heavy kit and power stations yield many new opportunities of <KZZZEEEERT>, <CRUNCH>, <SLAM>, and <CLUNK>, effects, after the usual <clickety, clickety>

Beer, coz Simon and the PFY are off to the pub

2
0

Reg readers fret over misty-eyed LOHAN

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Flame

I suddenly had this image of a microflame miniature blow-torch solution for the heating problem. If you want to go down in flames, that's one way of doing it properly ;-)

On a more serious note: love the LOHAN project, and indeed, it should be shown in schools.

Icon, because, well, obvious innit?

0
0

SPACE VID: Watch JUMBO ASTEROID 2000 EM26 buzzing Earth

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Needs hefty telescope indeed

My 8" can do mag 14 under good conditions, mag 16 is about 6.25 times fainter, so requires 2.5 times more aperture at least, or a massive 20" scope, and that would be borderline. Roll on that 32" Dobsonian (when serious men build telescopes, they don't mess about).

0
0

New password system lets planet Earth do the hard work

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Coat

But

will it allow me to draw a contour around 10^8th Astral Crescent, Zoovroozlechester, Betelgeuse V?

Sorry, time to get me coat, it appears. The one with the extra sleeve please

4
0

My smelly Valentine: Europe's perfumers wake to V-Day nightmare

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Re: I can see the point

Same here. If I walk past perfume stores like the Douglas store close to my favourite book store, I have to hold my breath. I once had to buy a present there, and I really should have been wearing a gas mask. Next time, should it be unavoidable, I am sorely tempted to wear one (do designer gas masks exist?)

Worse, some department stores place their cosmetics department on the ground floor, near the entrance. I try to avoid these places, and if I have to enter, I walk through it swiftly and without inhaling. Entering a department store with a gas mask is probably an ill-advised manoeuvre, and might lead to overreaction from security bods.

6
2
Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Re: Alternatives are available

I also prefer my Talisker down the throat. The odd Islay malt is welcome too

0
0

DON'T PANIC! No credit card details lost after hackers crack world's largest casino group

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Happy

Should this headline not

be written in large, friendly letters?

And no, I am not panicking, as I do not gamble. In fact, I only ever bet on anything if I am 100% sure that I am right, and the other is wrong on some point of fact. For example, in my student days, some friends were adamant that the first castle approached by King Arthur in Monty Python and the Holy Grail (the one with the swallows) was French, whereas I claimed it was not (it was of course the one assaulted with the wooden rabbit that was French). They were prepared to bet a bottle of whisky on this, and I happily accepted the bet. We rented the video, each of us brought a bottle, and the loser had to open his bottle and share it with those present.

When that bottle ran out, I did of course open mine as well

0
0