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* Posts by Michael H.F. Wilkinson

2514 posts • joined 24 Apr 2007

Dr Hurricane unleashes FUSION POWER at Livermore nuke lab

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Well I'm blessed

I did a project on nuclear fusion at secondary school (1978 or so), and was fascinated by the images of SHIVA and the like as shown in the National Geographic magazine. I equally eagerly poured over reports on JET and the like. Many stories told how scientific break-even (as much energy into the reaction as out) was one or two decades away. Clearly development has not been as nearly as fast as anticipated, but I am well pleased to hear of this progress.

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IT'S ALIVE! China's Jade Rabbit rover RETURNS from the DEAD

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Pint

Good news

Looking forward to this rabbit's further progress.

I'll raise a glass to its success

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China confirms Jade Rabbit lunar rover has conked out

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Coat

Re: It's baaaaack!

Was it spotted carrying a card "I ATEN'T DEAD!"?

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Pint

I have said it before, I will say it again

If you have successfully placed a rover on the moon and you have made it last longer than Jade Rabbit, then you have a right to knock the Chinese effort.

They launched and landed successfully, they gathered data and images, had the thing working for quite a while, and now it has broken. Not bad at all in my book.

I will be happy to raise a glass of Tsingtao beer in the engineers' honour this evening (although I might have to resort to another brand). I have several pieces of excellent Chinese optical kit, and know they can built excellent stuff when they "build up to a spec, rather than down to a price" as a friend of mine likes to say.

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You’re NOT fired: The story of Amstrad’s amazing CPC 464

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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I remember those 3" Floppy disks

Nothing wrong with them per se, but when Amstrad came to the Netherlands (quite a bit later than the UK launch), the 3" floppy disks really hurt their sales, because by that time 3.5" was clearly the winner in the format wars. I seem to remember even some later more-or-less IBM-PC compatible ones also sported that odd format, but I might be wrong. I definitely remember advising people NOT to buy the Amstrads with these disks, because they would have a hard time exchanging data with everyone else.

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It's a scientific FACT: Online comment trolls are SADISTS

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Troll types

How many types of troll?

LOTS

as in "one, two, many, LOTS"

Ok, I'm going. At ease Sgt Detritus

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'No, I CAN'T write code myself,' admits woman in charge of teaching our kids to code

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Mushroom

"a skill as vital as reading writing and maths - and could be learned in a day"

Coding learned in a day? Such a statement clearly shows she hasn't got a clue about coding. Anyway, how can you claim that a skill can be learned in a day when you yourself haven't?

She clearly doesn't even know what an ID10T error is (or PEBCAK situation, for that matter).

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Thumb Up

Re: Go for it?

Very good point. When teaching "Introduction to Computing Science" which runs in parallel to "Imperative Programming" in the first term of our CS programme, I always point our students to Peter Norvig's excellent page Teach yourself programming in ten years. Really top-notch programming is a skill that requires years of dedication to master. This is thoroughly underestimated by many.

This is also illustrated by our some of staff members regularly stunning students with our ability to find bugs near instantly in code that has been baffling them for hours or even days. This even happens to MSc students who have four or five years of course work under their belt. I then remind them that I have been making that kind of programming mistake (we all do) for 25 years at a professional level, so of course I can find them more easily.

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Open MPI hits milestone with FORTRAN-ready 1.7.4 release

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Fortran, indeed

I used Fortran for scientific programming because of the libraries available (one from NAG in particular, got an "Impossible error message" from it by running multiple copies of the same routine in parallel in a shared-memory Cray: multiple copies were using the same named common block, instead of using private copies). This was at the end of the nineties beginning of the noughties. Currently there are many other libraries in many languages available. and anyway, I can always call Fortran routines from C if I REALLY want to. Besides, not all scientific programming needs the kind of numerical algorithms for which many Fortran libraries exist. I do most of my scientific work in C(++) now.

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Fortran, indeed

it's just that I always start to shout. Cannot help myself. And of course, the old CDC 7600 HAD A 64-ENTRY CHARACTER SET WHICH SUPPORTED UPPER CASE ONLY, SO IT AUTOMATICALLY BECAME FORTRAN. Luckily, we had a PDP-11 front end to the monster machine, which did allow your code to have a more restrained appearance (that AND we used Pascal for our initial practicals)

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Just have to say

In all my years of FORTRAN coding for HPC, I really, really, really got to loathe that language. OK, F90 and F95 were improvements, but my association with F77 did so much damage that I never really got over it. Implied do loops in read statements and common blocks really did me in.

</rant>

Breathe deep, relax, let blood pressure go down.

....

There, I'm OK again

On a serious note: thumbs up to that team. You may hate FORTRAN, but it is important, as is MPI. Giving more choice in free MPI implementations is always going to be good news (yes we have used MPICH as well as Cray's implementation of MPI). MPI is the de-facto standard for development of distributed memory algorithms.

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Qipp debuts 'Clippy for your STUFF' app

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Coat

It may remind me to install a back-up personality in all the doors with a GPP feature. I am getting sick of their cheerful and sunny disposition and the intolerable air of smugness they generate when they are about to open.

OK, time for me coat it seems

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El Reg talks beer and binaries with a boffin named Boffin

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Pint

A salute to all Boffinry!

And dr Henri Boffin in particular

Here's that beer then.

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SkyMapper turns up oldest star ever found

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Mushroom

Very interesting indeed

The "wimpyness" of early supernovae is of course relative. They still would make simultaneously setting off the entire nuclear arsenal on earth look like an ant sneezing. Having just observed a "bog standard" Type 1a supernova shine nearly as brightly as an entire galaxy (SN2014J in M82), I am always staggered by the sheer scale and violence of these events.

Icon, because that's a seriously wimpy explosion

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BOFH: Attractive person is attractive. Um, why are your eyes bulging?

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Re: Bad answers.

Whenever I am quizzed about which shoes/dress/blouse/[insert obscure item for which she wants approval here] I never say the first one is OK. That would be suicidal. I always carefully compare the first option with the second, internally flip a coin, and follow the simple algorithm

if (coin.heads()){

cout << "I prefer the second" << endl;

} else {

cout << "No, the first one was better after all" << endl;

}

So far, I survive.

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Nice one

Don't make me CRAZY, you wouldn't like me when I'm CRAZY

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Mars rover Curiosity snaps 'pale blue dot' image of Earth, Moon

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Coat

Size is relative

A combined alien battle fleet of the Vl'hurghs and G'gugvuntts was swallowed by a small dog accidentally.

Sorry, time for me coat. The one with the Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy cassette tapes in the pocket

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Awe-inspiring

It does make me wonder whether some politicians who want to cut research budgets for this kind of work do so because they do not like being reminded how insignificant all of us are.

I rather like looking up at the stars and realizing that on the one hand all our worries are not that significant, and on the other hand, that I am a bit of star-dust, a tiny supernova remnant that has woken up and wonders about the stars. Physically we might be small, but in terms of imagination we can be great indeed. Unfortunately, the same can hold for our egos.

I hope I can take some snaps of Mars as it approaches opposition next time round. I might not be able to see Curiosity, but I hope to improve on an earlier attempt

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JavaScript is everywhere. So are we all OK with that?

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Getting started in programming

“If I was just getting started in programming, and I didn't know what language to pick, I would pick JavaScript,"

I think that would depend on what you want. If you want to learn a programming language that is used a lot, and in many contexts, and allows you to do some nice stuff quickly, JS is fine, I suppose. If you want to learn to programme, I am not sure JS is the obvious choice. We prefer to teach imperative programming first, and then proceed to OO and functional languages (and of course parallel programming). Other curricula start out at the OO level immediately. Whatever the order, once you understand the principles, learning any language that implements these principles is comparatively easy. Many of our students use JS without ever having taken an official course. We flatter ourselves that this may have to do with us teaching them the fundamentals.

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Google admits 'garbage in, garbage out' translation problem

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: www.myhovercraftisfullofeels.com

I will not buy this record; it is scratched!!

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Greenland glacier QUADRUPLES speed, swells seas

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Some things I know, many things I don't

I honestly do not know (meaning with scientific certainty) where the climate is heading, and what is causing such changes as are observed (and data can be confusing). I do know that climate was very much different in the past, both much warmer (for much of the fossil record), and much colder (pleistocene, anybody?). I know that solar activity plays a role, and I know that many other factors including greenhouse gasses and water vapour are important. I do not know all the precise mechanisms or which factors are most important (let alone which weight to assign to each factor). This is actually why this field of science is scientifically interesting. Unknowns are interesting, knowns are comparatively boring.

Despite all this uncertainty about the degree to which mankind may be contributing to change, I do know one simple fact: it is foolish to squander limited resources. Using up fossil fuels in wasteful ways, when oil and the like are also needed to manufacture more durable products, is not tenable in the long run. I agree we cannot suddenly all go back to the caves and shiver in the cold, but we can and should find alternatives, not so much to reduce pollution or CO2 emission (which in itself may make sense), but simply because at some point fossil fuels will run out. As these fuels become more expensive, it just makes (very selfish, perhaps) economic sense to be less wasteful.

I am open to suggestions about what the best alternatives are, and where we can make savings in use

Just my tuppence worth

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Boffins say D-Wave machine could be a classic*

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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It appears

to be a quantum computer depending on who looks at it.

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EU warns United States: SHAPE UP on data protection OR ELSE

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Legislation through Congress before summer?

Now there's an optimist speaking.

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Boffins build electronic tongue that can distinguish between BEERS

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Pint

Re: American beer?

Haven't had American beer for quite a while so cannot comment on latest developments (had some fairly decent stuff in a bar in San Diego in 2008). It is not readily available here, due to its horrible reputation. I must say the last time I tasted American Budweiser (1996 or so) it did not compare favourably with the original Czech Budweiser from Budvar. When next I am in the US, I will be quite happy to change my mind over US beer (though I will need to have a statistically significantly large sample ;-), all in the interest of fairness ).

Belgian Trapist beers are far more popular here, and for good reason. Friends from the US thought beer with 5% alcohol by volume was strong. One Westmalle Tripel (9.5% alcohol) later they new better

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Google Glassholes, GET OFF our ROADS, thunder lawmakers in seven US states

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Hmm,

This depends on the optics used. HUD and similar systems can produce images at infinity. HUD are considered safer than using the dashboard in Mach 2 fighters, it should be safer on the road, in principle. The Google glass display is well inside the 20-25cm near focus of most people, so it must use a similar "focus at infinity" optical solution as well.

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Hmm,

Fair enough, there should be strong safeguards.

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Hmm,

I could imagine making computerized goggles (google-goggles? (sorry)) which include night-vision, and which might assist the driver in paying better attention to dangers. It would be a shame to oust those. A HUD could be used for this as well, of course.

Banning ALL wearable computers sound a bit knee-jerk to me.

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This tool demands access to YOUR ENTIRE DIGITAL LIFE. Is it from GCHQ? No - it's by IKEA

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Coat

Schrödinger's needle?

The needle is only there when they observe it consciously, before that, the needles' waveform is spread out over all possible haystacks.

Sorry, couldn't resist. Mine is the one with the original manuscript "Towards a Quantum Mechanical Interpretation of Homeopathy" in the pocket

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Big Data? Yeah, nice buzzword. Give us the nuts and bolts this time

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Interesting piece

At the moment we are using a small group of 64-core Opteron compute servers just to develop new algorithms for big images, we also have a 3280 code cluster we use for testing distributed memory algorithms. This is our research side, production computing will be done elsewhere.

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Interesting piece

We also run into problems of processing the data rapidly once they are in the processing nodes. Our big data typically consists of fewer HUGE chunks (gigapixel and even terapixel images), compared to many applications where the number of chunks is huge, but each chunk is fairly modest. In all cases there are big issues in feeding the data efficiently to the processing nodes, but in our case there is an additional problem parallellizing the actual processing, once it gets there. Fun problem, really.

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Interesting piece

Sounds like an interesting event. I have been a bit tired of the "big data" and "data mining will solve all your problems" hype. A more realistic discussion on aims, possibilities, difficulties, and limitations, that is very good news.

We have been doing some fairly big data work (in astronomical data sets and remote sensing), but until now did not use the term "big data". If people start using the term sensibly, I might start using it.

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Volunteers slam plans to turn Bletchley Park into 'geeky Disneyland'

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

World class attraction

That phrase immediately sets of alarms. If you have a world class historical site, WHY do so many idiots feel the need to foist their vision of "a world-class attraction" on it. Sure, you can add meaningful entertainment to historical sites without spoiling it (I remember a castle in France which had installed a series of games in the courtyard, all either old, or meaningfully linked to the history of the place (like a simple game with toy crossbows, or an old variant of skittles). Really good sites allow at least a degree of exploration, allowing you to make up your own mind, and don't force one particular vision and one particular style down a visitor's throat. Why should Bletchley Park have problems with the different approach and attitude of the museum.

Someones ego needs deflation

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Stephen Fry rewrites computer history again: This time it's serious

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Somebody put it far better than I could...

Is Stephen Fry an AI?

He is, if AI stands for Amiable Idiot

(at least when it comes to many things technical)

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Behold the world's first full-colour 3D printer

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Coat

So can they print rainbow ice-hockey helmets

In time for the Winter Olympics?

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China's Jade Rabbit moon rover might have DIED in the NIGHT after 'abnormality'

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Re: In the words of Arnold J. Rimmer

Quagaars!!

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Pint

I ATEN'T DEAD!

Yutu might recover, lets keep our fingers crossed. A few comments to those trashing the Chinese effort:

1. I personally have yet to put anything on the moon, so therefore, I feel I am in no position to criticise their effort.

2. If you have achieved anything similar, and you know what the reason for the failure is, then I am sure you have something interesting to contribute, please do so!

3. "Simply copying" technology is rather harder than people think. Many think it is as easy as the copy-paste method of writing essays many students try (and all too frequently get away with).

4. Lunar dust is very, very nasty stuff. I have seen how very fine desert sand can get into anything and foul up even very well-built camera equipment. Lunar dust is worse.

5. The mission has been a pretty decent success so far: they landed successfully, they managed to get the lander working well in a very hostile environment, and they got good data and some nice images to boot. I'll drink to that any time

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Elderly Bletchley Park volunteer sacked for showing Colossus exhibit to visitors

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Appalling!

I feel like banging some heads together to make them see sense. Stop squabbling, stop acting like 5-year-old kids in a playground, and be of service to the community. Colossus and the H-blocks are an essential part of world history. They should be open to the public, they should be part and parcel of computing history as well.

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Altcoins will DESTROY the IT industry and spawn an infosec NIGHTMARE

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Coat

Re: This one will run and run....

Tulip? Where's mister Pin then?

Where's my -ing coat, the one with "The Truth" in the pocket?

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A real life Romulan-Klingon alliance: Google, Samsung sign global patent pact

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Coat

Warp and cloak?

I prefer SEP field and bistromathics alternatives

Mine is the one with "Life, the Universe, and Everything" in the pocket

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Facebook debunks Princeton's STUDY OF DOOM in epic comeback

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Precisely. If the method of a scientific paper is shown to be wrong, the paper is wrong, i.e. its conclusions are flawed or unfounded. Once you have shown a conclusion is unfounded, you can safely ignore it, because it has been demoted from conclusion based on scientific method to opinion. The opinion could be right, of course, but without scientific backing it is just that, an opinion.

Attacking poor methodology is good practice in science. Much as I hate to come to the defence of anything Facebook, the data scientists are correct in attacking the method

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Snowden speaks: NSA spies create 'databases of ruin' on innocent folks

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

@ Charles Manning

I always tell my students when they have to do pattern recognition that adding hay does not make finding needles easier. Instead, use a magnet.

In almost all machine learning (or data mining if you will) good features that give a good (wide margin) boundary in the first place are what you should aim for. A few good (targeted) features in a simple machine learning tool generally give far superior results to poor features combined with more advanced machine learning methods. One key problem in this particular case is that you do not want (m)any false positives, (i.e. false accusations or suspicions), not just because of the risk of jailing or at least harassing innocent people, but also to prevent loads of unnecessary work for people following up on these false leads.

Thus any way in which you can reduce the probability of false positives is welcome. The simplest is to reduce the number of people under investigation in the first place. Using methods equivalent to the much reviled "wall-of-death" fishing methods, the risk of "collateral damage" as they might euphemistically call this is very real indeed.

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NASA's Opportunity rover celebrates 10 years on Mars with a FILTHY selfie

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Pint

Poor dusty rover

But what a tough little fella!! Next solar powered rover should be equipped with a shower (or blower or vacuum cleaner).

I'll celebrate its tenth anniversary in style this evening

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MPAA spots a Google Glass guy in cinema, calls HOMELAND SECURITY

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Coat

Overreaction indeed

They should simply have called the fashion police

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

No not the Armani one, the cheap one next to it please

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Mystery 'doughnut' materializes in front of Mars rover: 'OH MY GOD! It wasn't there before!'

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Alien

Re: If it moves again....

Moving would not necessarily be mysterious. If something took a bite out of it that would have people running for the hills (or rather, have Opportunity slowly trundling up the nearest slope).

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Pint

10 years ...

Out of a planned 3 months. Hats off to the engineers!

(the Barmah again)

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CERN boffins fire ANTI-HYDROGEN BEAM

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Alien

Re: Antimatter information that is newsworthy:

True, but you MUST reverse the polarity of the neutron flux!! Otherwise the described method is dangerous, and could lead to the end of the universe (again, sigh)

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Botnet PC armies gulp down 16 MILLION logins from around the web: Find out if you're a victim

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Überprüfen ist sehr einfach!

Ich hab es schon gemacht. Alles ist klar. *

But then I was taught German at school (mandatory subject here in the Netherlands).

The fact that the German government encourages use of PGP does not surprise me. Sceptics (or realists if you like) might argue this just means they can crack that, but the German government's attitude to privacy appears to be better than some others.

*= Checking is very easy. I have done it. All is clear.

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HP sticks thumb in Microsoft's eye, extends Windows 7 option for new machines

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Coffee/keyboard

Re: I'll wait for Windows 9

Could I have a dry keyboard please?

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Pint-glass-flashing FISHNAPPERS strike at Firefox daddy Mozilla

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Coat

Re: Taken for a Ride?

Not if they're large enough to bake.

I prefer poaching in white wine or a good fish stock

Mine is the one with Rick Stein's "Seafood" in the pocket

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Lenovo Yoga 10: Mediocre tech, yes, but beautifully fondleable

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Nice idea indeed. I still get by nicely on my Transformer pad with 1280x800. Higher res is nice, but not essential for most of my needs. I would miss the keyboard of the ASUS if I switched to this tablet, however.

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