* Posts by Francis Vaughan

330 posts • joined 28 Apr 2007

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We read Hewlett Packard Enterprise's 316-page post-split blueprint so you don't have to

Francis Vaughan

Back to the future

Called HPE, perhaps sometime later they can rename it to its original. DEC.

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Windows and OS X are malware, claims Richard Stallman

Francis Vaughan

Re: I want that hat!

For those that are too young, it is a disk platter. Probably out of an RM02 or similar. It is too big to have come out of an old 12 inch stack. Given RMS has been doing this gig for decades it is probably looking a bit battered by now.

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Epson joins Microsoft in underwhelming 3D glasses

Francis Vaughan

A quick look at NGrain's web page suggests they need to get their act together a little.

They advertise multiple platform support for their core Ngrain SDK. Where multi-platform is defined as Vista, Windows 7 or Windows 8. Hmmm.

Then one notices that the web page prominently features what is clearly a MacBook Pro - albeit in mirror image, running Vergence. Guess what - Vista, Windows 7 or Windows 8 only as well. Sure, you can run those in a Mac, but it isn't a good look. (The Mac is clearly a mirror image - they keyboard layout is mirrored as well as the ports.)

In fairness they do seem to have a neat high performance 3D volume renderer that is perfect for augmented reality. However usually these tools are used with much more capable devices than low end glasses and iPads. Motion tracking being a key capability for a start.

There have been immersive 3D tools around for 20 odd years. Cartia, and Pro Mechanica's Windchill come to mind (or whatever they are called now - it has been a long time.)

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Apple Watch fanbois suffer PAINFUL RASH after sweaty wristjob action

Francis Vaughan

Watch newbies?

Is is just possible that we have an entire generation of users for whom the Apple Watch is the first device they have ever worn on their wrists - and they need to be taught how to wear a watch?

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Australia cracks tech giants' tax dodge code

Francis Vaughan

It isn't about efficiency.

You are assuming that Singapore levies the same tax rate on all companies.

Apple/Google/et al simply go shopping for a low tax rate. The offer is simple - we will pay you some peppercorn amount of money - not really related to our turnover, or we will go somewhere else. You choose: some money, or none. So there are a range of countries who are quite happy to accept a pittance to provide the legal framework that allows the big international to claim to pay tax there.

It isn't just the high-tech companies. BHP Billiton paid about $100,000 tax on over $2billion income declared in Singapore. It isn't clear what relationship Singapore has to do with mining, or what government services or infrastructure the Singapore government provides to help with mining, but that is where the tax is paid. If you are the government of a country where the miners are crying poor and asking for all sorts of concessions, this sort of thing makes serious government support with things like infrastructure ring hollow.

The question to ask is however close. Why are we taxing companies at all? Should we not be taxing the shareholders when they get a dividend - as the low taxes get turned into greater value to the shareholder eventually. They are the ultimate beneficiary. Which gets you to the next big problem. The US has a tax structure that punishes shareholders of companies that pay dividends, and makes it significantly advantageous to simply increase company value (ie Apples' hundreds of billions in cash) and thus make the shares themselves more valuable.

In Oz we have the notion of franked dividends - dividends upon which the tax has been paid, and which the shareholder does not pay further tax. But the US has almost exactly the opposite notion. Don't forget - the beneficiary of all these tax tricks isn't the company - but the shareholders. Many of which may include mere mortals such as ourselves - via the various mutuals and superannuation funds. These issues make the entire world of tax and national boundaries unclear.

But whilst the tax treaties allow it, and there are countries who are willing to prostitute themselves by accepting only notional tax rates from companies that they have essentially no relation to, and are no burden on that countries government, whilst our countries provide the infrastructure and social support allowing these companies to operate, you will have a problem.

0
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Boeing 787 software bug can shut down planes' generators IN FLIGHT

Francis Vaughan

More lessons - Arianne 5

I'm still going to bet the problem isn't a simple coding error.

People are assuming that the GCU was coded from scratch. It probably wasn't. The real time control executive was quite possibly an off the shelf, ready flight qualified and certified system. A great thing to use. But again - who was responsible for the requirements - and especially understanding that the aircraft systems might need to stay powered up for nearly a year?

In a real time control system you have a constraint of CPU cycles. You don't burn them without reason. It may be perfectly reasonably, and well reasoned that the timer will be coded with no wrap. What do you do if it does wrap? It is difficult, to say the least, to cope with time that goes backwards. So as Hugo Tyson notes above - you have more, not less, problems.

In a hard real time control system you can't simply throw an exception. Who catches it, and what does it mean? Indeed - everyone is assuming that the clock wrap wasn't caught - it could easily have been caught and it was the catching of the clock wrapping that caused the shutdown.

This is where it gets messy. And brings us to the first ever flight of Arianne 5. The flight control software was derived from the Arianne 4, and was a known solid bit of code. But it needed modification to cope with the changes in design. A piece of effectively dead (unneeded) code, that was otherwise benign, was driven into an unusual state by higher than expected winds, and threw an exception. Nobody caught it. Exit $400m worth of rocket in a very spectacular failure. The failure was in a perfectly good piece of code that the changed requirements didn't pick up needed addressing and testing - because it was not needed for the new vehicle.

Writing error free code is easy. It is getting the precise requirements and integration of that code that is really hard. The idea that not picking up the clock could wrap is the error isn't the hard part. It is very unlikely that the clock wrapping wasn't known. It is very likely that a clear understanding of the environment the code would see itself in was not fully addressed along the chain of requirements analysis from the early design briefs of the plane, all the way down to the contractor responsible for coding it. This chain can fail in many many ways, and is a vastly harder thing to manage and get right than simply coding a counter, or indeed even a quite complex bit of software.

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Francis Vaughan

Patriot and requirements

As noted earlier, the bug has a great deal in common with the Patriot Missile failure. What is important is to note that the Patriot software wasn't in error. (It wasn't a clock counter wrap, but rather accumulating error in the clock.) The mistake was way back in the system requirements, where the specifications called for an agile system that could be rapidly deployed and moved as needed. The requirements called for a system that could remain stable for about four days. Nobody though that there would be semi-permanent emplacements set up to protect military bases. So nobody added a time span to the requirements.

So, how far back in the system requirements analysis for the GCU was there an explicit expectation for how long the system would stay powered up for? These are the places where issues slip between the cracks, not some poor programmer who was asleep at the wheel. With Boeing outsourcing so much of the systems, it isn't hard to see how hard it is to keep things like this under control. As the 787 is the first airliner to have such a massive reliance on electrical control, it isn't hard to see how traditional expectations of system up-time would influence the analysis done by many engineers.

I bet an analysis of how this bug came into existence has vastly more to do with the difficulties of requirements across many contractors, and much less to do with "obvious" coding errors.

1
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Apple Watch RIPPED APART, its GUTS EXPOSED to hungry Vultures

Francis Vaughan

It isn't a watch.

Seriously, it is no more a watch than an iPhone is a mobile phone. Sure, an iPhone can make calls, and an Apple Watch can tell the time, but neither are their respective primary functions. Nor does the device dissected cost £10,000, it costs £300.

The peanut gallery's constant desire to compare it to a Rolex is simply stupid. The device that iFixIt dissected costs less than a great many people spend on a watch that does only tell the time. And its purpose isn't to tell the time. Just imagine that Apple had decided not to release the silly gold version, and had called it something other than a watch. The vast majority of the pointless comments would have been stillborn. Perhaps then commentators might have focussed on what it is actually good for, and not what it isn't.

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BOFH: Never mind that old brick, look at this ink-stained BEAUTY

Francis Vaughan

Re: Oh Crap

I own a drum, amongst all the other bits in my garage. That makes me the hoarder, or maybe Simon.

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Guardian: 'Oil reserves will soon be worth NOTHING!' (A bit like their stock tips, really)

Francis Vaughan

Critical point missed.

Oil companies (and mining companies for that matter) do not throw effort at keeping their book value up with reserves. In fact they do the opposite. (Somehow. perhaps the idea that modern CEOs are best served by a high share price is translated into companies keeping the value of reserves high - but this is a thin argument).

Resources are subject to the three Ps - not two. proven, probable, possible (with a fourth as producing).

Not only do you need to be able to show that the oil or gas is there, but that you have a viable way of getting it. Actually currently producing is even better.

But, the economics of how oil and gas (and minerals) does not favour aggressive exploration for probable reserves. The way the system works is geared to effectively limit exploration to provide for just about the right speed of exploration to meet projected needs.

Oil companies do not get to explore for oil for free. Countries auction off exploration rights, and they do this is a highly controlled manner, in order to maximise the amount paid for these rights. Rights to explore time out. There is no value in buying them if you don't intend exploring. Indeed, usually you will forfeit the rights if you don't actively explore. Exploration isn't cheap. This is especially true now that the easy oil and gas has been found. 3D seismic can be astoundingly expensive. Many millions. Sometime a great many millions. Exploratory wells, especially in deep water are silly money. A deep sea exploration rig costs about $1million a day to run. The moment you purchase an exploration lease you are committed to your exploration programme.

Now, what if you find oil or gas? Well then you need to buy a production lease. And these are not going to be cheap. Secondly, the lease will involve a percentage cut for the country you are working in. Since this is a serious money making effort for the country, they are not interested in you sitting on your production lease. Once you have bought it you must start producing, or you may forfeit the lease.

The bottom line is that it is a significant liability to a company to have leases that they are not currently in the process of exploiting. The industries (both oil and gas, and minerals) have always operated this way. All the other economic arguments are a waste of oxygen. The bottom line is that the proven reserves that a company controls via its leases and the prospective reserves that are controlled via its exploration leases are balanced to address the expected demand within the lifetime of those reserves. To add new reserves that will not be added to this pipeline, but are somehow just a book asset is a significant and unwelcome cost, and all companies avoid it.

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Timeout, Time Lords: ICANN says there is only one kind of doctor

Francis Vaughan

Sadly the wrong answer.

The domain will almost certainly become debased, as charlatans of every ilk sneak past the implementation. As soon as the chiropractors weasel past (and they will) the domain will become a cesspit, as all the other pile in. It would be better to leave it totally open from the outset, and even encourage the crystal twirlers and purveyors of quack cancer cures to infest the domain. This would achieve the desired effect much better. Anyone registered with a .doctor URL would be thus instantly known as a fraud.

Those with the need to be seen as a "doctor" are exactly those that are not.

(I have a PhD - thus I have a doctorate, can be addressed as "doctor", but I am emphatically not a Doctor.)

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$17,000 Apple Watch: Pointless bling, right? HA! You're WRONG

Francis Vaughan

Re: Not intended for you

Exactly.

I remain somewhat bemused by all the comments that for the most part totally miss this. You won't see a gold Apple Watch in most western countries from one month to the next. They will sell out in China.

Indeed the Apple Watch has been noted to be much more suited to Asian use patterns - and will probably generally sell better there.

The question no-one seems to have asked. Is the watch upgradable? There is no reason why the case should not be capable of taking the version 2 electronics. It looks very much as if the external interfaces are intended to be consistent for a very long time, so there should be no good reason why it can be upgraded. Upgrade might cost about the same as a new base version, but why would you care?

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UK.gov in pre-election 'Google tax' blitz against internet firms

Francis Vaughan

It's started

Despite the cynicism above, it is clear that governments of all colours, and in most countries are now tired of the evasion tactics being used by these companies. It represents a significant amount of money simply vanishing out of the the country. (There is always going to be a difference between supporting low taxes on local companies - where the money stays in the country - and low taxes on companies that simply export the money.)

This represents the first shot in what is likely to be a protracted war. Ultimately what is going to happen is that the mutual taxation treaties will come undone. But that may take a decade or more.

Here we have the alternative. The tax officials get to deem what is a reasonable company structure versus one that is designed for the purpose of evading tax, and to then apply a tax estimate that assumes a reasonable company structure. So then it goes to court, and the courts decide what is a construct, and what is a reasonable structure. At the moment we have constructs such as local companies paying the parent* 50% of their revenue as a licence fee simply to be allowed to use the company brand name. Indeed a licence fee that just so happens to vacuum up all the profit.

* Where the global parent company isn't the one in California where it all happens, which you might expect, but strangely one registered in a tax haven with an office of a few dozen people.

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NBN Co says TWO broadband connections are better than one

Francis Vaughan

Did you read the blog right to the end?

Seriously, this article reads as if the author only read the first paragraph. The blog explicitly notes that Singapore is a different market - even uses WT... when describing the offering, and nowhere at all does it suggest that the model has relevance to Australia except to act to reinforce the notion that HFC is still of some value. There is certainly no suggestion that NBN Co is interested in following the model - so why suggest that it did?

1
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C’mon Lenovo. Superfish hooked, but Pokki Start Menu still roaming free

Francis Vaughan

Re: Blank box

"These days, crapware can more than pay for the minimum Windows license."

Hold it right there.

There is a fundamentally unethical problem right here. Microsoft has created a system whereby they are allowing crapware to essentially pay them. Cost neutral to the manufacturer to install Windows - so long as MS continues to allow them to install the crud. Thus the windows tax is now being paid, not in dollars, but in punters being sold systems riddled with bloatware and potentially worse. And no-one sees a problem here?

Seems there is a market for a simple cheap product that any punter can use to wipe and reinstall. Perhaps a read only USB stick that you insert, boot from, all it does is ask you to type in your code, and away it goes. Or perhaps all the local friendly corner computer shops should start promoting reinstall as as it as a service as well as a really good idea.

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Apple Watch 'didn't work on HAIRY FANBOIS, was stripped of sensor tech'

Francis Vaughan

Reading comprehension

"Tim Cook implied that the new Apple Watch could help prevent cancer.

In his keynote address at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference, he said: "Some doctors now think that sitting down for long periods is the new cancer,"

Seriously, we know el-Reg doesn't get on with Apple, but if you are going to take swipes at them, you might do a bit better than this bit of primary school level misquoting and lack of comprehension. It is so obviously contrived that it jars as one reads it. It isn't exactly subtle.

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Hola HoloLens: Reg man gets face time with Microsoft's holographic headset

Francis Vaughan

CAVE

As far as the applications go - from exploring landscapes, architecture, design, and porn, this is over 20 years late to the party. What MS have done is very neat, making it AR rather than VR, (not new) and suggesting that there might be an affordable version on day (seriously big). Putting the work into an integrated system and leveraging modern silicon is great, but don't kid yourselves that they invented this stuff. What they are doing is making it available. Like the Kinect make motion tracking affordable, this may make VR/AR affordable. Like the Kinect this is likely to be a winner.

Really, all this hype and drooling over technology and ideas that really is 20 years old - kids of today. Sure, back then you paid Silicon Graphics insane money for a few reality engines, and then Electrohome (now Christie) or Barco ridiculous money for a bank of projectors, or bought a silly expensive set of VR goggles, and finally Ascension for a motion tracking system, but you got a fully immersive virtual reality system that did all this. The API is CAVElib, and there is lots of software that uses it.

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Just WHY is the FBI so sure North Korea hacked Sony? NSA: *BLUSH*

Francis Vaughan

Four possibilities

There are four possibilities here. The cross product of:

NSA has broken/not broken the NK's net.

The NKs hacked/didn't hack Sony.

The North Koreans know if they hacked Sony or not. If they did, and the NSA have let it be known that they watched them, there is no real news.

The only really interesting possibility is that the North Koreans didn't hack Sony, and the NSA are saying that they have cracked the North Korean's network, and saw them do it. Clearly the North Koreans should conclude that the NSA are lying, and the NSA has not cracked their network. Or maybe they are bluffing...

Maybe the NSA has cracked the network, and knows the North Koreans didn't hack Sony... Maybe the North Koreans did hack Sony but the NSA are lying about knowing....

Sending mutually contradictory information to the enemy intelligence agencies is just what traditional intelligence work is about. Keeping their heads in a spin, and obfuscating any real intel that they have with noise is exactly what it is about.

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Tesla S P85+: Smiling all the way to the next charging point

Francis Vaughan

Re: A few downsides

"There's no need for the extreme hyper-car like acceleration - would be interesting to know just how much the range could be extended if this were to be curtailed."

As a good first approximation - zero.

The extreme acceleration is a feature of electric motors - they deliver maximum torque when stalled. The battery can deliver the same power no matter how fast or slow the car is travelling. Basically all the notions you have about power, acceleration, and efficiency based upon internal combustion engines don't apply.

Fitting smaller electric motors would get you a minor weight saving and nothing more. The four wheel drive Tesla adds a motor, and actually gets slightly better efficiency, not worse, and its acceleration is even more insane.

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Snapper's decisions: Whatever happened to REAL photography?

Francis Vaughan

Awesome

As someone with a massive amount of Mamiya kit in the cupboard (including the 50mm shift) I am most impressed. Care to share some more info about the mods done to the camera body? I assume it makes it impossible to use a film back again.

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Vertigan hands Turnbull a knife, Turnbull carves Vertigan report

Francis Vaughan

Same old same old

"these 'reports' just seem to provide a (varying) degree of justification. Or they get completely ignored."

Which has been the case from the beginning of time. This report seems to have been an exercise is political lowballing. It provides such an insane and incompetent commentary that no matter what you do, it looks better than what the report recommended. The opposite would have been much harder to cope with politically.

I can just imagine a Yes Minister episode based around this - where Sir Humphrey recommends a couple of barking mad panel members to ensure that the report is so extreme that Jim Hacker cannot do anything but look good by ignoring it.

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Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight

Francis Vaughan

Aerogel and space blanket.

Trying not to harp on this too much - but the physics should not be too hard.

The dominant heat loss mechanism will be radiative. Wrapping the battery pack in a loose layer of space blanket material may well be enough. Whilst, as noted above, the inherent self heating from the internal resistance of the batteries will be small, it will be a contributor. Between them, radiative insulation and self heating could do the trick.

And to reiterate the point. Space blanket only works when it is not touching anything else. If it is covered by some other layer it ceases to work. This is why all the spacecraft you see are covered in wrinkly blanket, or the insides of them are so covered. The wrinkles mean that almost all the blanket isn't touching anything on either side.

A proper aerogel could be used to kill off any remaining convective losses. At the air pressures involved when the air gets cold the mean free path of the air molecules is long enough that an aerogel will essentially have zero thermal conduction. Even a thin wrapping of aerogel, and then a loose layer of space blanket would get you to a point where over the time period of the mission the batteries might simply stay warm all by themselves.

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Vote NOW for LOHAN's arboreal avoidance algorithm acronym

Francis Vaughan

Totally past any entry deadline, but based upon the article subheading, this doubly self referential thought came to me.

Special

Projects

Alliterative

Arboreal

Avoidance

Algorithm

Acronym

Competition

Entry

1
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Jony Ive: Apple iWatch will SCREW UP Switzerland's economy

Francis Vaughan

Not clear

Most Swiss watches sold are not Rolexes. They are the much cheaper watches. TAG Heur sells a massive number of watches, and their sub $1000 line sells best of all. SMH is the dominant Swiss watch house, with brands including Swatch, Omega, Longines, and Tissot, plus owning ETA and Valjoux - the main watch mechanism makers. Many of the watches sold by these brands are quartz, not mechanical, and they are not expensive. All the brands have a wide price range, not just very expensive mechanical watches. They want your money, no matter how much you have.

No doubt, the high end, luxury brands will continue. But a big question may be whether the large number of entry price (say $500 to $1000) Swiss watches will remain a solid seller in the face of smart watches. It isn't just the iWatch, that is this year's question. But in the longer term, we can be sure smart watch technology will bridge the existing technical problems that limit their utility, and acceptance in the market may mean they wipe out the entry level quality watches.

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Your Bitcoins aren't money – but it is barter, so we'll tax it, ta ... says Australia's taxman

Francis Vaughan

Re: It's all good

Taxing something of value doesn't really make any statement about its legitimacy or not. Bitcoin isn't illegal, and it does (currently) have value, thus any countries' tax departments will be taking an interest. No different to them taxing you on capital gains, or income paid in kind.

What may be fun is when the next Bitcoin crash comes, whether people will be deducting the loss in value from their taxable income. If your efforts with Bitcoin are viewed as a bona-fide attempt to make money as a business, then they will. Just as they will expect a cut of what is made on rising value when monetised.

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Francis Vaughan

Re: A fair cop

The ATO is pretty clear, you can be paid in a mix of money and benefits. You could be a fruit picker and take some of your wages as fruit. Work in a brewery and take some of your wages as beer. However, the ATO stance is clear, you pay the tax on the money you are paid, your employer pays the tax on anything that is a fringe benefit. One way or the other the ATO gets a slice of what you earn.

When FBT was first introduced it attracted a lower rate of tax, and it was a great way for some people to get higher incomes at no cost to their employer. However, now it is paid at a rate that makes it unattractive to use fringe benefits for all but the higher income earners, and even then it is marginal.

Bitcoin does not pass the duck test for being money, therefore it is barter, and thence payment is taxed as FBT. That is the start and end of the logic.

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Francis Vaughan

Re: A fair cop

Bitcoin payments are assessed as a fringe benefit. Just like company cars. This means the tax paid is not paid at the individual's marginal tax rate, but at the designated FBT rate - which is currently 46.5% That is what makes it hard to pay people in Bitcoin.

The ATO got it exactly right.

6
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Speed of light slower than we thought? Probably not

Francis Vaughan

Re: speed of light...

One suspects you mean classical force fields.

For a classical field you only have light and gravity, and these propagate at c. But if you include quantum theory fields it all gets vastly messier.

The weak force is mediated by the W and Z boson. These have mass. The strrong force is mediated by mesons, and they have mass, although the residual strong force is arguably more to the point and mediated by the massless gluon.

A field is just some property you measure in 3D space. Pressure is a perfectly good field. Albeit not one that measures one of the fundamental forces. It propagates at the speed of sound. You can have a perfectly good quantum field theory for sound. The sound particles are phonons, and they mediate the pressure field, and travel at the speed of sound in the material - which need not be isotropic.

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Francis Vaughan

Re: speed of light...

"because that is the mechanism for the propagation of fields."

Ugh. Light isn't the mechanism for propagation of fields. Photons are the manifestation of the propagation of the EM field. The other force fields propagate by other force carriers. Not all of them travel at c - only the massless carriers. A field is nothing special - simply something that can be measured throughout 3 dimensional space. The fields that defined the fundamental forces are a bit special, but again, only the EM field involves photons.

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Francis Vaughan

Speed of light != c

There is no contradiction, just a surprise if this pans out.

Einstein said that there was a fundamental speed - c -. As it turns out, a massless particle is constrained to travel at c. So photons should travel at c. However if there are interesting second order effects that make the effective path travelled a little longer, well the measured speed over a large distance (one that can't see these effects) will see a slightly slower speed.

The big problem for casual reading of all this is that for most people, c and the speed of light are thought of as synonymous. They are not. c is the fundamental. It may be that c is indeed a very very tiny fraction faster than we see photons travel, at those scales we are able measure over. No big deal here at all. Sort of a neat result, nothing more. Indeed, the current understanding of why the measured speed at macro scale might be different requires that Einstein still be perfectly correct. What we gain is understanding of just how weird the vacuum is.

Back when Einstein worked out the physics, only light was known to travel at c, so there was no reason to differentiate the fundamental from the speed of light as an exemplar. Neutrinos have been assumed to be another massless particle, and so should also travel at c. Although their mass is currently an open question. We don't talk about the speed of neutrinos as a metric. Yet why we should talk about the speed of photons as a metric is no less specific. It is simply an accident of history that we use light as a surrogate for c. That there might turn out to be a curious feature of the QED and the nature of the vacuum that makes the measure of a photon's speed on a macro scale slightly slower, is just a nice result.

3
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New MH370 search zone picked using just seven satellite 'handshakes'

Francis Vaughan

Solving most aviation accidents is a matter of painstaking puzzle solving. It isn't unlike finding a nasty bug in your code. Once you find it, all the weird behaviour makes sense, but before then, it is bewildering, with perhaps some ideas, most leading to wrong conclusions.

Conspiracy theories are like blaming a compiler bug for your program's weird behaviour. Sure, they happen, but 999 times out of 1000 the bug is your fault.

9
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Malarial vaccine firm seeks crowdfunding for robo-saliva surgeon

Francis Vaughan

Holy grail

You can assume that many years of effort have gone into thinking about just this. The trouble is that the Malaria parasite needs something vastly more complex. For a vaccine you need a source of sporozoites - which are what are injected into a human by the mosquito. But sporozoites don't reproduce into more sporozoites. They need to go through a human, and back to a mosquito, via a dozen different life stages, transiting through liver cells, blood cells, and various parts of the mosquito. A sugary gloop is not even vaguely in the hunt. The only way we know to manufacture sporozoites is in a mosquito that has feasted on infected blood. http://www.malariavaccine.org/malvac-lifecycle.php

The life cycle of the Malaria parasite makes that of the Alien look tame.

The story of Florey and Chain and the effort to work out how to grow penicillin (a vastly easier problem, given the mould grows happily on bread) was a major undertaking, for which they shared the Nobel.

8
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Red-faced LOHAN team 'fesses up in blown SPEARS fuse fiasco

Francis Vaughan

"the responsibility for checking the fuse wasn't specifically his"

Your problem right there. Unless everything is specifically one and only one person's ultimate responsibility these things always slip past.

0
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Reg LOHAN spaceplane: Punch and Judy show in comedy non-explosive climax

Francis Vaughan

Don't overlook the possibility that you were actually saved from a nasty accident during the launch by the fuse. It may have done its job. Fault trees are your friend here.

That said, I concur with that above - temperature rating of the fuse for low temperatures is important. First question - is the fuse blown or failed?

0
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Eco-friendly fluid keeps SGI supercomputer cool and moist

Francis Vaughan

Aesthetics

All that is left is to put the entire thing into a glass tower, and put the power supplies around the outside, maybe set up like a nice set of seats in a circle.

3
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Returning a laptop to PC World ruined this bloke's credit score. Today the Supreme Court ended his 15-year nightmare

Francis Vaughan

Greed.

Sorry, he turned down £166,000 ??? I think the "financial nightmare" is as much of his own making as anything else.

8
12

Final LOHAN test flights codenamed 'Punch' and 'Judy'

Francis Vaughan

Bravo for these tests. I think they are pretty crucial.

I do still worry that the motor will have problems at altitude, simply because there is so little air pressure that it may not be able to get motor up to operating pressure in time with what small amount of combusting material you have.

The problem is that the rate of burn of the motor is linearly dependant upon the pressure. The nozzle provides a restriction that causes the motor pressure to rise - reaching a steady state when the motor is a at full thrust. But if there is almost no pressure to start with, the initial rate of of burn may be too low to climb onto the rising pressure curve, and instead simply peter out. Ignition with one atmosphere pressure is a big step onto this curve. This is why suggestions about some form of rupturing or pop-off cover for the nozzle are suggested. Such a cover can hold the pressure of the combustion products of the igniter inside the motor and you get a nice high pressure startup of the motor. Of course you then have the issue of designing a suitable cover.

The point? Well if the test succeeds, you are fine. If it fails, this is almost certainly the solution. What you could consider is a dual trial. Think seriously about the design of a suitable cover, and maybe fly two motors. If the initial test fizzles, set it up to try igniting the second one.

0
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Open MPI hits milestone with FORTRAN-ready 1.7.4 release

Francis Vaughan

MPICH?

"The MPI standard first got turned into Open-MPI by Squyers and Graham in a project that began in 2004 and shipped its first code in 2005."

Whilst Open MPI is are really good thing, it seems disingenuous to totally ignore MPICH, which is another open source MPI that first shipped code in 1992, and is still going.

3
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Got a TorMail account to avoid Uncle Sam's web snoops? About that...

Francis Vaughan

Re: Anyone..

It was in France.

Anyone who is naive enough to think that any sort of dark network will provide unassailable protection deserves what they get. Like any secure system there are many points of attack, many of them not technical. If a government agency wants to find you, they can muster forces that you can only guess at. Such a touching trust in a technological solution must gladden the hearts of spooks everywhere.

It isn't impossible that Tor is, end to end, an intergovernment security honeypot.

19
2

Scientists discover supervolcano trigger that could herald humanity's doom

Francis Vaughan

Probability

"But there's no need to panic just yet – as far as the scientist can tell the Earth suffers a supervolcano blast roughly every 100,000 years or so and the last one, the Oruanui eruption, blew off just 26,500 years ago"

I think I should introduce you to my friend Andrey. Andrey Markov that is. He had a few words to say about processes like this. Logic such as the above only works in movies.

As to "without warning" you do need to remember you are talking to geologists, and they tend to think in slightly different time scales to the rest of us.

7
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NBN Co to test basement fibre for offices, apartments

Francis Vaughan

Re: Ziggy the Seer

He probably does. Heck I want an Aston Martin. I doubt he is going to give me one of those either.

There is a difference between: want, need, can afford. Its a bit like Christmas really.

The NBN isn't free, getting the average taxpayer to subsidise your torrenting habits to the tune of a few thousand dollars each is lunacy. If I could personally pay a few thousand and get FTTH on top of an existing FTTN offering I would be very happy. I would love the bandwidth, and I use it for my work. Some of my clients would dearly love serious bandwidth too. I sincerely hope that the new NBN gets a serious business focus, and instead of running fibre out to the bogans so they can stream HD reality TV, we can get the SMEs up to speed. That is where FTTO is needed.

3
2

Turnbull appoints Simon Hackett, Justin Milne and Patrick Flannigan to NBN Co board

Francis Vaughan

Re: They are there for show

Of course they are "non-executive" - there can only be one executive director - for the NBN that is Ziggy. There is nothing special about this, all boards work this way. The executive director is the person who executes the work. The non-executive directors are there to direct, they do not work for NBNco, and thus and are not executives.

1
0

How the W3C met its Waterloo at the Do Not Track vote showdown

Francis Vaughan

105

Hang on here - the Tracking Preference Expression working group has been working for two years and has 105 members? Just to provide a standard on Do Not Track? It sounds as if the W3C has more problems than a bit of dissent.

Seriously, someone let the politics and vested interests get the better of the process way early in the effort. If this is how W3C is operating it is already long past its use by date. People pointed at the ITU as the benchmark of paralysis in progress, and as the reason why the internet needed something new. Seems history repeats itself all to quickly.

9
0

That time when an NSA bloke's son borked the ENTIRE INTERNET...

Francis Vaughan

Coming of age

I remember when it hit too.

There were some really nice things that went on as it spread and was contained. But the thing that most sticks in my mind is the warning message that was sent around in the first day. It contained a couple of very interesting sentiments.

Paraphrasing, as it has been a long time, and I don't have a copy of the that message anymore. (Although I would love a copy.)

"We all knew that it was possible to write something like this" "We just didn't think anyone would be dumb enough"

It ended with: "This is bad news."

The bad news was the loss of innocence. This was the moment when the mutual trust ethos died.

1
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Indestructible, badass rootkit BadBIOS: Is this tech world's Loch Ness Monster? VOTE NOW

Francis Vaughan
Headmaster

Nyquist and Shannon

There is a significant issue with ultrasonic communication that has been touched on earlier, but seems a lot less understood than it needs to be.

I just checked on my Macbook Pro, and as I expected that internal audio (ie that one available to the internal mic and speakers) is 44.1kHz (ie CD) sample rate. This places an absolute hard limit of 22kHz on the highest frequency is it possible to generate or detect. In fact the need to have a realisable (as opposed to theoretically perfect) anti-alias filter requires a frequency limit that is lower than this, and for all useful purposes means that the audio is limited to 20kHz - ie the top end of a young person's hearing. Whilst Macs and PCs have long supported higher sample rates in the OS and over connections to sound gear, that does not mean the on board basic sound chips do.

Any computer trying to converse with ultrasonic sounds would drive any pets in the room wild.

On the other hand, the idea that you could have a clandestine channel to an air gapped machine does have merit. So long as you are prepared to put up with a low bit rate there are quite realisable ways of doing it with the on board audio. Ultrasonics is simply naive. There is more than enough horsepower in a modem machine to use sub-noise techniques that would be robust enough, and essentially undetectable, to be quite useful here. Again, it is Shannon that shows you how.

2
0

A $17.3bn fine, you say? Samsung begs for five-year patent war truce

Francis Vaughan

Re: Prediction

Precisely the incentive that was supposed to be there and agreed to when the company participated in the standards process in the first place. Turning around after the event, once the standards are set, and demanding extortionate fees, or refusing to license at all, is breaking the entire model of standards.

A company is free not to participate in a standard, in which case the standard will likely be set without their IP. At which point they can try to make what use of their IP they may wish, without it being part of the standard. However, if they want to reap the rewards of a much larger market, as tends to be established by a new standard, they have to play by the rules, and in joining the standard they agree not to gouge.

There is nothing new here, and no change in incentive about joining standards. Just an enforcing of well accepted and usually uncontentious rules.

1
2

Wheels literally FALL OFF solar race contender

Francis Vaughan

It's spring here, which means lovely average temperatures. The trouble is, Adelaide in spring uses PWM for the weather. It was 31 here today. 19 tomorrow. Average of 25 - lovely only if you are a statistician or meteorologist.

2
0

BOFH: Welcome to Helldesk, ma'am, may I take your bags?

Francis Vaughan

Re: Separate CV's into 2 piles arbitrarily

I think the fact they are applying for a helpdesk position answers the luck question already.

The lucky ones went in the bin.

24
0

EXPLICIT VID: Man filmed trying to bang brand new 'budget iPhone'

Francis Vaughan

Ceramic?

It is just possible even the cheap coloured iPhone might boast a ceramic case. Or one with a ceramic coating. Pretty high tech, but vastly nicer than a simple plastic. That might account for the scratch resistance. (Titanium Nitride is technically also ceramic, and is the nice gold colour you see on some drill bits. On the higher priced iPhone that could be worth having, even if it is gold.)

The device in the video had an Apple and iPhone branding, I don't think Apple are exactly pleased if these appear on third party products, even cases for iPhones.

0
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iPhone 5S: 64-bit A7, 128GB storage, flashy ƒ/2.0 camera, and...

Francis Vaughan

Directly addressed flash?

I doubt this, but it is worth mentioning.

Since Apple do control the hardware and OS, and have a significant hand in the design of the CPU itself, it isn't impossible for them to start to exploring less conventional architectures. Nuking the filesystem and replacing it with a persistent object store that is managed by directly addressing it contents would be a great thing to do. That would require 64 bit addressing now. They did have a system that worked a bit like this once - it was called the Newton.

Like I said, I very much doubt it, but I continue to nurture the hope that with the huge ecosystem of hardware and software design now under the Apple banner, they will start to innovate past the current typical architectures.

3
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