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* Posts by Francis Vaughan

306 posts • joined 28 Apr 2007

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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'But we like 1 Direction!' Rock gods The Who fend off teen Twitter hate mob

Francis Vaughan

Homage

Baba O'Riley of course owes a clearly acknowledged debt to A Rainbow in Curved Air by Terry Riley, whihc is echoed in the opening synthesiser riff, and to Meher Baba, who Pete Townsend was significantly influenced by. It is a deep song, and goes well past "teenage wasteland".

And, I just wasted five minutes of my life I won't get back again, and listened to the new song. The opening is quite clearly Baba O'Riley, it isn't a coincidence, in even has a hint of the Terry Riley atonal synthesiser riff in the background. It is only a few bars, and if anything I would say that it is a homage to The Who more than anything else. Whoever wrote it knew exactly what they were doing. The rest of the song is mostly a ripoff of the 80's big hair band anthemic songs.

What it might do is get a few yoof of today listening to The Who, ones that had never heard them before. That can't be bad thing.

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Oracle Team USA sailors admit breaking America's Cup rules

Francis Vaughan

Clarity

Just to be clear - the modified boats are AC45 class - and the contest they sail in is NOT the Americas Cup. They do however have a very close relationship with the cup, and were designed, and the series they sail in pushed, by Oracle as a support act for the main game. What is at stake is both the reputation of Oracle Racing, and a much more critical and currently open threat.

Offences under rules 60 of the AC and 69 of the rules of sailing are under consideration. A rule 69 offence is not trivial. It would be heard by the ISAF, and could in principle, involve a ban of the offending people. In the worst case Oracle racing could be handed a multi-year ban on racing. (I don't think anyone realistically expects this, but the possibility is open.) That would implicitly cause them to lose the cup. So, whereas the lead weights are on an AC45, the consequences could cascade to the main game.

The usual questions are open - who knew and when. Prior to the race series the weights were found in, the boats were sailed by the key Oracle sailors. If they received a ban it would cripple the Oracle team.

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Francis Vaughan

No, Oracle capsized with no loss of crew, but essentially total loss of the boat. It was Artemis that broke a beam and broke up, trapping Andrew Simpson underneath.

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Francis Vaughan

Won't work. The deed of gift gives the challengers quite enough leeway to drag you through the courts (of New York) and make you run the event in the sea. Indeed the New York courts are the effective custodian of the cup and final arbiter on how it is run.

This little debacle is going to be interesting.

http://tvnz.co.nz/americas-cup-video/luna-rossa-wins-water-oracle-accused-cheating-off-5530822

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US federal judge: Yes, Bitcoin IS MONEY

Francis Vaughan

Two edged

Bitcoin fanatics should realise that this is a two edged issue.

1. Come use Bitcoin, it isn't money, isn't taxable, and isn't subject to any government's law. Oh yeah, because of that, if you get defrauded, or otherwise ripped off, you have no legal protection. You won't see your (not) money again.

2. Come and use Bitcoin. It is safe, because if you get ripped off or defrauded, the perp can go to gaol. Oh, yeah, that same government that sends him to gaol wants to have word about tax.

There is no government on the planet that will not assume, right now, that they don't have a say in Bitcoin use. Just because it is so low level that it isn't worth the effort does not mean Bitcoin is somehow home free. As evidenced by this little fraud case, there is usually no new legislation needed anyway. Money, tax, and fraud have a very very long and inglorious history. Any idea that Bitcoin is somehow brilliantly novel enough to get past this is sadly naive. (It is about on the same level as teenagers who somehow think they invented sex, and no-one was ever doing it before.)

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USA reverses iPhone, iPad sales ban

Francis Vaughan

Correct descision, even if the taint lingers

Although the taint of local favouritism will be impossible to extinguish, and if it were Apple attempting to ban Samsung imports many would suspect the same decision would not have been reached, the actual decision is the right one.

There is a tiny spark of sanity here. Any reform of the current lunacy in the patents system is a good thing, and nixing the thermonuclear options is a good start. It sets a good precedent. Next time it might be Samsung battling against Apple banning their products.

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JPL wants to fire a laser at MARS!

Francis Vaughan

The absolute distance doesn't matter - what matters are the changes over time. So long as the unit on Mars doesn't move it doesn't matter if it is on a rock or a mountain. Mars rotates, so the transponder on its surface will be moving at quite significant rate, as is the earthbound end as the Earth rotates. Lots of fun compensating for all of that. But all manageable, and in the end you get to measure the precise orbital mechanics, and possibly a number of the relativistic influences. Which is probably the main point.

The whole shebang is not that far off how GPS works now.

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Internet cafés declared 'illegal businesses' in Ohio

Francis Vaughan

Re: IT angle?

Upvote from me. Exactly the point. Seems half of the above commentators have trouble with reading comprehension. This isn't exactly helped by the bizarre way the article is written.

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Readers, we need you... for LOHAN ignition failsafe brainwaves

Francis Vaughan

Re: MMA7361

Why?

And what constitutes electronics? You have a battery and and a switch, which is already electrical. Some sort of arbitrary dislike of semiconductors? The item most likely to fail is the battery, followed by mechanical devices freezing.

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Microsoft Dell deal would restore PC makers' confidence

Francis Vaughan

Going to end badly

I can't see that this is a good idea for either Dell or MS. MS will get a seat on the board, which is enough to have real influence. History has shown that companies where MS gets serious influence make bad decisions on the promise, and get shafted in the future when the decisions turn out badly. MS have a very bad reputation for keeping faith.

MS can't offer anything to Dell that makes this attractive. Early access to technology for MS isn't exactly going to be of earth shattering importance, MS have done very little new or innovative for a very long time. But such access has the threat of stifling innovation and business agility at Dell. The downside for MS is that they are again getting into the position of starting to compete with their customers. A cosy relationship with Dell will almost certainly add to the perception of all the other PC manufactures that, whilst they can't do much about the need to purchase Windows for PCs, they probably want to actively consider every possible option for any other product they make. And right now that means Android. Maybe MS thinks that they simply can't fight Android in the mass market and will be content with a only couple of big manufacturers (Dell and Nokia). This puts MS on a trajectory to buy these two and to compete with Apple head to head in this space. This could end as badly as iPod versus Zune, and if I were a betting man, that is where I would put my money.

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Space Shuttle Columbia disaster remembered 10 years on

Francis Vaughan

And this was where? The National Enquirer? World Weekly News?

NASA isn't a person, it doesn't make decisions like this, mostly because it can't. It is a huge, bureaucratic, risk averse, political machine, with 18,000 employees, and up to 300,000 including contractors. (Which would include contractors like United Space Alliance - who were largely responsible for shuttle operations.) You don't keep the lid on a cynical, strange, and stupid idea like this in a structure like NASA.

The rule of conspiracies applies. Never ascribe to conspiracy that which can adequately be explained by incompetence. NASA had more than enough managerial incompetence to cover disaster conspiracies many times over. Sad truth is that they simply didn't have a clue there was a problem. There had been foam strikes before, they had already made a decision long before to degrade the issue to one that was not flight critical, and they thought that given they had seen it all before, and got away with it, things would be no different this time. So they went home for the weekend.

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Francis Vaughan

Re: Not just the foam strike

Not that I know of.

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Francis Vaughan

Re: In reality nothing could have been done

The investigation panel showed how if the damage was taken seriously it would have been possible to have put an astronaut in a position to see the damage and to access it. There would have been time to do this. At this point there would have been an unequivocal need for drastic action. They suggested that stuffing the hole with a selection of on-board materials and changing the entry profile may have been enough to save the crew, it not the orbiter.

Whilst there is some truth that NASA is very politically directed, they would know that loss of the orbiter would inevitably lead to a congressional investigation where every email, phone call, and every tiny bit of physical evidence and documentation would have been worked through. Once the foam struck the die was cast. They were going to lose the shuttle programme if they lost the orbiter. Senior mangers would have known this. In part, where NASA failed is that senior management didn't know there was even the slightest hint of a problem. The internal culture simply didn't allow for there to be one.

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Francis Vaughan

Not just the foam strike

There were a great many lessons in the Columbia disaster. Whilst el Reg provides a nice write up the basic reason, taking time to look at why it could happen, as well as the what happened would be worthwhile.

The investigation uncovered a huge number of flaws in management of the shuttle programme. It wasn't just that NASA lost a second shuttle that set in motion the retirement of the fleet, but that NASA manifestly was not able to show that it was up to the task of managing the programme. It was clear that NASA would never be able to get the shuttle programme past losing one in every 50 flights. Some of this stemmed from inherent defects in the shuttle's design, many of which were inflicted on NASA due to the politics and budget cuts in the 70's, but a great deal from issues in NASA's internal culture.

Mission rules required that the ground control team provided constant oversight of the mission. Yet there was so little concern about the state of pay that the mission controller gave the team the weekend off. Both violating mission rules, and evidencing the total lack of interest in the foam strike.

Whilst the foam strike was always the prime suspect in the loss of the orbiter, there were other very serious engineering flaws uncovered. The investigation spent some time specifically looking at NASA's processes, and specifically criticised it's "broken safety culture." The external tank manufacture had been so tightened up financially that the position of manager of a particular part of manufacture, and the position of safety and quality control for the same part was occupied buy the same person. Yet no-one seemed to realise the fundamental conflict and inevitable loss of safety this would bring. Ultimately NASA was shown to have not learnt any lessons from the loss of the Challenger. The same hubris, and culture of "we got away with it last time" that doomed that craft, also doomed Columbia. The issue of foam strike was degraded from a flight critical one - where in the original rules for the orbiter this was a non-negotiable flaw that would have led to instant grounding of the fleet until resolved. It was let slide to the point that it was considered a regular "problem" that they would ultimately sort out, and not considered a serious enough to impact flight. An identical mindset as they had for the SRB O-ring seals that doomed Challenger.

The report on the disaster is worth reading from cover to cover. Whilst there is nice story of forensic engineering, the real story is in the surrounding culture, and the question of just how and why it was allowed to happen.

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Michael Dell to buy himself on Monday?

Francis Vaughan
Trollface

History

"I’d shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders."

Half way there.

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Gillard makes tech key part of re-election bid

Francis Vaughan

Re: She can promise anything

"possibly the only thing that would get her re-elected is....actually I can't think of anything."

I can. He is called Tony Abbot. We have the absurd situation where the single biggest electoral asset that Julia has is Tony, and his biggest asset is Julia. Both are probably scared stupid that the other party has a leadership spill. Perhaps the politicians we get we deserve, but what desperate mortal sin are we guilty of to deserve this mob of idiots?

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Oz astronomical observatory survives firestorm

Francis Vaughan

Re: You'd think there would be a vegetation free zone around this expensive sensitive equipment

If you look at the satellite pics there is a reasonable amount of space around most of the the instruments, all except the AAT which does get a bit close to the trees. However a lot of the support buildings do not have much of a gap, and it seems from the news that they have lost a lot of these buildings.

I tend to support the original sentiment - there wasn't enough clear ground. The site is right on the top of the hill, so a clear area that doesn't bring the fire front right to the doorstep of the facility is possible. And for the main cluster of instruments was both done, and worked. It is the fire front that does the damage. There is always the risk that blown embers will ignite a building, but the telescope facilities are mostly metal domes, and won't catch fire easily. A full force fire front however will melt them in place. In this respect distance is the only hope. It is quite possible that it was a simple ember that took out the support buildings anyway. It is a very common way to lose a building, and will take out a building sometimes well after the fire front has past.

I have both been to Siding Springs, and have experienced Oz bushfires first hand. When I vistied it was very different, I have a pic of the UK Schmidt telescope dome enveloped in cloud.

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US military nails 'best ever' Microsoft deal, brags size does matter

Francis Vaughan

Wrong metric

The Microsoft guys negotiating the deal really don't care in the slightest about the level of discount that can be calculated against a per seat price. It was a given that they were going to sell an all of department license. The only question was what the maximum amount of money they could extract from the DoD was. That number was probably not too hard to discover. Then all they do is work on convincing the DoD to hand it over.

The DoD's job is to muddy the waters and convince MS that the DoD really have much less money to spend, and get MS to latch onto a goal price that is actually lower than it is. Given the number of ex-DoD consultants that MS could engage to help, I suspect the whip hand is actually Microsoft's, and not the DoD's. But it always good to let the loser save face. A press release from the DoD making themselves look good is a small price for MS to pay for extracting that last 100 million from the DoD.

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University of Western Sydney hands out 11k iPads

Francis Vaughan

Predictable but important

If this was a few years ago and the university announced laptops running Windows all round, there would have been hardly an eyeblink. For better or worse, the default platform for tablets is iOS. Perhaps hard for the hardcore Apple fanboi and anti-fanboi equally to stomach, but Apple/iOS is the Microsoft/Windows of the tablet world. TCO of a single OS, single hardware platform, plus the existing tools for content creation (nobody mentioned iBooks Author, yet it is certain to be a key part of the case for iPad) is going to make a very compelling case for rolling out iPad. The real questions are much much harder than deciding to go with iPad.

There is a very clear tsunami rolling across the oceans of higher education right now. Most universities know it is coming, but I doubt anyone actually understands what will really happen, or what the right answer is. But the traditional university teaching modes of lectures, tutorials and practicals, plus exams is obsolete. What nobody knows is what the right replacement is. Access to very high quality teaching material from the likes of MIT, free on the internet, plus access to a wealth of other information that previously would have required hours a day in the library clearly outpaces the current model. But we should be able to do vastly better than this. Whether this means universities cynically reducing costs whilst maintaining a bare minimum education standard, or driving towards real improvements in outcomes and maintaining the current funding, that is a political matter. But not pushing for change is derelict.

I do however suspect that the UWS rollout is probably ill conceived. Content creation is not going to happen overnight. Indeed I would consider that there should have been a two year lead time for the training of lecturers in creation, and time to actually create the content, review it, rework it and then only roll it out to the first wave of students in the third year of the programme. Expecting the academics to be fully embracing the tools in time for a first semester delivery to the students is going to yield nothing more than Powerpoint slides of last years lectures available on-line. Something that will provide exactly zero improvement on the current regime. Freed of the need to actually listen in lectures students will spend the hours idly viewing Facebook and messaging their friends across the lecture theatre. It can, and should be, much better; but I bet it won't be.

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Microsoft's Steve Ballmer named 'most improved tech CEO'

Francis Vaughan

Low base

If it takes a 17 point improvement to win the category, it would seem that Balmer could win it four times in a row and still not make the top ranking for actually doing a good job, rather than just a better one. That really is starting from a low base.

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Ready for ANOTHER patent war? Apple 'invents' wireless charging

Francis Vaughan

Re: Total bollocks from el Reg

Sadly true. Seven thumbs down and counting. One assumes that the down-voters also lack the technical ability to understand what I wrote. I have come to the conclusion that there is a core group that will down-vote any comment that does not actually slam Apple, and even comments that are neutral to Apple will attract their down-vote. The stream of comments to this article that suggest that many see it as simply a forum for Apple bashing, and nothing more rather reinforces this view. It is becoming no better than YouTube comments.

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Francis Vaughan

Total bollocks from el Reg

Seriously, we get two articles on this patent in one day on el Reg, and it appears that in neither case have the authors actually bothered to read the patent, or if they have, they lack the technical competence to understand it. What we do get is the now very tired Apple bashing fest that is fast making technical commentary from el Reg on anything to do with Apple essentially worthless. This is sad, there was a time where el Reg was actually worth reading for such commentary. It no longer is.

1. The patent does not attempt to patent near field charging. Got that? Really it doesn't. The title alone should be a give away: "Wireless power utilization in a local computing environment" Note the bit about "utilization." It is a patent on how to use wireless power in an innovative manner.

2. The innovative bit about the patent is the re-radiating of power from one device to another, and a protocol for controlling this. Go down to the claims section and have a look. The claims is where the actual meat of what is patented is. The stuff earlier is explanation, it isn't what is claimed for patent cover. Indeed the rules of patents require that you cover any earlier contributing technology. If you see something in a patent that you have heard before, it is there, not because of some nefarious attempt to re-patent existing technology, but due to a requirement to place the new work in the context of what has gone before. Not doing this can cause the patent application to fail. Note that you can't be expected to cite provisional applications from competitors - they are secret until the patent is approved.

Seriously, this article is so bad it should be deleted. It is an embarrassment to both el Reg and the author.

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Warming up the thruster that will ram LOHAN to glorious heights

Francis Vaughan

Some physics

There are a couple of fundamental errors in the design and assumptions here. Sadly they pretty much nullify what has been done.

There are three sources of heat loss - radiation, conduction, convention. The design and tests have not addressed these correctly.

Radiative losses are independent of atmosphere - they remain essentially identical in a vacuum or at sea level (for those wavelengths that the atmosphere is transparent to - which are those that matter here.) Heat loss due to radiation won't be noticeably less at altitude.

Heat losses by conduction through air are independent of pressure until the mean free path is longer than the distance between objects. For the dimensions and pressures of this project you can assume that conduction remains about the same. Use of an aerogel insulator would help significantly here.

Convention might matter. Even at 0.01 of sea level pressure, the air can move, and thus can convey heat from the motor to the body of the aircraft and thus to the outside. However the vastly lower pressure reduces the heat capacity of the air equivalently, so the energy moved reduces considerably. You may need to consider how to prevent convection cells of air forming. Making sure the cells of air are small (where small is a few mm) is the way to do this. Aerogel is good here too.

The critical one is radiation. Space blanket only provides useful insulation against radiative losses. It does this in two ways: it reflects radiation back to the source, and being a highly reflective material, it radiates heat very badly, and so does not lose heat by itself radiating energy. In order to work it must not be in contact with anything - it must have a clear space around it. Sandwiching it between two layers nullifies its entire function.

To use space blanket you must wrap the outside of the assembly very loosely - possibly in more than one layer, with a minimum of contact points between the rocket motor and the blanket, and if more than one layer minimal contact points between the layers. If you want an example of how it is done, look at a picture of the Apollo Lunar lander's legs. Indeed check out any picture of spacecraft and observe how the blanket is arrayed. Multiple loose layers of blanket will trap small cells of air, and thus also effect a reduction of convection.

As mentioned above, you won't know how well the system performs until you test it properly, and this means into the baro-chamber and packed with dry ice for an extended soak. It is worth applying a bit of basic physics here too. You know the energy drain of the heater - power = volts time amps. You can work out the thermal coefficient of the motor - (so many grams of aluminium, so many grams of propellant - or use a surrogate of similar known material) thus you know how the temperature of the motor should rise with time when the heater is energised. You can compare the observed temperature with the ideal case, and work out the thermal losses. You may discover that a carefully insulated motor will not require a heater, or if it does, you can work out the minimum heater current required, and appropriately size the power source.

A layer of aerogel then a couple of loose layers of space blanket and I very much doubt a heater would be needed. Insulating the system batteries would similarly benefit - enough that with internal losses naturally heating the batteries you may obviate any thermal problems in the batteries.

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Peak Apple: Forstall was 'closest thing to Jobs they had left'

Francis Vaughan

Missing the point

The idea that Apple must find a Steve clone, and that even an arsehole clone is better than no clone is fundamentally flawed. Steve is gone. There is nothing that can be done to change that. All great companies have great leadership, but the nature of that leadership changes fundamentally with changes in the leader. An attempt to maintain the past by emulating a few external attributes of the now gone leader is no better than a cargo cult. Building replicas of planes out of straw does not make the real planes arrive, and being an arsehole does not a visionary make.

Apple's senior management have a seriously difficult task ahead of them. There will never be another Steve. One reason Steve got away with being who he was, was that he was one of the planets most wealthy people. He didn't need to do the job. He wasn't a career executive coveting the CEO position and its pay-cheque. He founded the company, and still owned a goodly slice of it. The only answer is to recognise this. Apple can't succeed by trying to emulate Steve's management. They do need to take serious note of what was good that he brought to Apple, and try to distil it, and ensure it remains in the company DNA, and then find managers that recognise what it is that makes Apple Apple, and who will continue it. The huge dangers are that they become paralysed, or succumb to ego driven infighting. Guiding the company down this path is Tim Cook's job. A successful Apple will not be the same Apple as when Steve ran it. It may be better, but it can't ever be the same, and attempts to keep it so will doom it.

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