* Posts by Duncan Macdonald

215 posts • joined 20 Mar 2009

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IEEE's prescription for med-tech crowd: preventing hacks is better than a cure

Duncan Macdonald
Mushroom

So of course they will do the reverse

Expect to see a pacemaker using XOR encryption, a hard coded password of PACEMAKER, coded in C++ (coding offshored to India), running with full root access and no security log.

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So why the hell do we bail banks out?

Duncan Macdonald

Make directors bear losses

If a bank needs to be bailed out (insolvency not insufficient liquid cash) then the directors should be required to forfeit all their income from the bank over the previous 5 years (salary, bonuses, stock options, pension contributions etc). Making this change to the banking laws would make them far more careful about getting into the positions that could make a bank fail.

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Why Joe Hockey's Oz tax proposals only get five out of 10

Duncan Macdonald

Abolishing a treaty is easy

Either party to a two way treaty can abolish it without need for cooperation from the other party (renegotiating it to change the terms however IS more difficult).

If the bilateral treaties were abolished then the taxation position would be determined solely by local law.

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Chill, luvvies. The ‘unsustainable’ BBC Telly Tax stays – for now

Duncan Macdonald

The BBC helps keep program standards up

As the BBC is free to watch (and listen to) and does not carry outside advertising, it puts some limits on how bad a pay-TV channel can be. If the program quality is too bad or the advertisments too intrusive then people will watch the BBC instead. The presence of the BBC stops many channels from being as bad as the US ones (40 minutes of advertising in a 60 minute program).

The BBC also carries good quality regional programs that would probably never be produced in a pay-TV system.

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Relax, it's just Ubuntu 15.04. AARGH! IT'S FULL OF SYSTEMD!!!

Duncan Macdonald

No thanks

Having seen some of the garbage from the systemd developers - I will choose a distro without systemd (and if possible without pulseaudio as well).

Systemd seems to have been designed by people trained in the Microsoft tradition of "Embrace, Extend Extinguish".

The one of the biggest problems with systemd is its reliance on binary databases that are far more difficult to analyse and repair than plain text files. Init files can be manipulated by any text editor and can easily be corrected by booting from an alternative device (eg a USB stick) if damaged so badly that even a single user boot fails. If a systemd database is corrupted then to repair it requires either a recent backup or the rescue system needs a compatible version of systemd to allow the damaged database(s) to be recreated.

I wonder if any group will produce a distro based on the most widely used linux system - the linux in Android.

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Australia cracks tech giants' tax dodge code

Duncan Macdonald

Use the initial pricing

For items like an iPhone that are produced by third parties, deem the maximum price that can be transferred out of the country as twice the cost paid to the third parties (to allow for R&D and other overheads).

For an iPhone 5s the BOM cost is estimated to be $199, Foxconn probably gets about $20 per phone in profit giving a price (from the third party) of $219. Doubling this gives a maximum allowable price of $438. The retail price before taxes less that $438 is taken as the profit (and is taxable at the local rate).

If a company refuses to reveal the price it pays to third parties then it is taken as ZERO resulting in profit tax on the whole price of the item. (Payments to related companies e.g. from Apple Australia to Apple Ireland are completely ignored.)

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Tesla reveals Powerwall battery packs for homes, Powerpacks for cities

Duncan Macdonald
Flame

Fires

These Lithium batteries are sufficiently large that they should not be kept inside the house - if a battery fails and goes into thermal runaway then goodbye house. The Heathrow 787 showed what a much smaller Lithium battery can do. For safety these batteries should be kept in an external brick or concrete structure far enough away from other buildings for safety.

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Rand Paul is trying to murder net neutrality. Is there a US presidential election, or something?

Duncan Macdonald
Thumb Down

No alternative ISP

The big ISPs (which are against net neutrality) have managed to buy laws that prevent many of their proposed competitors from starting or expanding. (The city owned local ISPs have been constrained by laws bought by the big ISPs.)

In much of the US there is only 1 or 2 ISPs - all of which are against net neutrality.

The ISPs should act like roads or railroads which allow anyones cargo to travel, instead the ISPs want to act like a protection racket - if your data comes from firm X then it will be allowed through but if it comes from firm Y then it will be blocked or delayed.

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NINETY PER CENT of Java black hats migrate to footling Flash

Duncan Macdonald

Basic Flash player

Much of the problem with Flash is due to its complexity and scripting capabilities. If a basic Flash player was produced that could only play videos (no scripting or ability to perform other functions) this would meet the needs of most users and be far more secure.

(The same is true with PDF viewers but thankfully there are good non-scriptable alternatives to the Adobe Acrobat Reader - Sumatra (Windows) , Evince (Linux) and a partially scriptable alternative Foxit (Windows).)

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So how should we tax these BASTARD COMPANIES, then?

Duncan Macdonald

Tax assets instead of profits

As it is too easy to manipulate the profits (as stated in the article), instead tax the gross assets at a rate of about 1%. (For a licensed deposit taking institution (banks, building societies etc) the deposits would be deducted from the gross assets before the tax was calculated.) Use the gross assets instead of the net assets as they are less easy to manipulate.

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SUPERVOLCANIC MAGMA reservoir BUBBLING under Yellowstone Park

Duncan Macdonald

Re: It's the end of the world as we know it...

However it would take a megaton range nuke - a few tens of tons of TNT would not be large enough to have any effect on either Yellowstone or La Palma.

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Google versus the EU: Sigh. You can't exploit a contestable monopoly

Duncan Macdonald

Most meta content tags are ignored

There used to be a lot of sites with invalid data in the meta content fields (an old spamming trick). It got so bad that search engines ignore or give a low weighting to most (if not all) of the meta content fields not backed up by visible text.

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Green your data centre – without ending up in the Job Centre

Duncan Macdonald

Use a big UPS

Having a small UPS in each server is not normally a good idea

1) Large UPS systems tend to have better power efficiency than a lot of small ones

2) Large UPS systems normally allow the batteries to be changed while still maintaining output - this does NOT apply to most small systems.

3) Batteries are much more temperature sensitive than modern computers - if you have the batteries close to the servers then the temperature of the servers will need to be much lower (with a rise in cooling cost)

4) Batteries are limited lifespan components - it is far easier to replace the batteries in one large UPS than in hundreds of small UPS systems.

One further point - make sure that the backup generator (if present) is tested frequently - and make sure that it gets up to full output in less time than it takes for the UPS batteries to drain.

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Want to go green like Apple, but don't have billions in the bank?

Duncan Macdonald

Low density data center

For many businesses the data center does not need to be packed like sardines. Using a larger building for the equipment can allow unchilled air cooling. If the power density is low enough then fan cooling alone can suffice. (Obviously this does not work for most mega data centers but for the size of data center in 5000 employee and smaller companies this can work.)

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You! GOOGLE! HAND OVER the special SAUCE, says Senate (of France)

Duncan Macdonald

Google's real crime

It is not paying as much in bribes as its would be competitor (M$).

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Chrome version 42 will pour your Java coffee down the drain: Plugin blocked by default

Duncan Macdonald

Goodbye Chrome

It only takes a few important (to the user) sites not working with a browser for users to switch to a different browser. The "We know best and you will do as we say" attitude of the Chrome developers is likely to kill Chrome (and Chromebooks if they do not have another browser loaded).

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Why are enterprises being irresistibly drawn towards SSDs?

Duncan Macdonald

Re: @Duncan Macdonald

If there is one or more seconds from motherboard powerdown to SSD powerdown then a very simple algorithm on the SSD could suffice - after 100ms idle flush all pending writes. This would still allow write combining for frequent small write requests and for infrequent small write requests the write amplification does not matter as the rate of page writes is low.

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Duncan Macdonald

Re: @Duncan Macdonald

One question that I have never seen mentioned yet alone answered - when the power to a computer fails - which happens first - loss of the power good signal on the motherboard shutting down the motherboard or loss of the 3.3v supply to the SSDs ? Also what is the time difference between the two ? Will the SSD power hold up long enough to flush pending writes ?

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Duncan Macdonald

Write buffering and coalescing can be done without supercaps

For example the Samsung 840 EVO and 850 EVO SSDs use part of the array in SLC mode which allows writes to be combined reducing the write amplification for the main TLC array.

Also a number of SSD controllers combine writes by initially buffering them in the controller RAM even without supercaps. (A major investigation into SSD power fault handling proves that this happens - see https://www.usenix.org/system/files/conference/fast13/fast13-final80.pdf for more details)

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Extensive 3D NAND drives very expensive to make

Duncan Macdonald

Is the yield very low ?

Looking at the steps in the diagrams - the only extra ones are the layer deposits - these are whole wafer deposits which should make the process fairly simple (in semiconductor fab terms!!). As flash memory can handle a number of defects (unlike a CPU) the yield of usable dies should not be too bad.

Also the fact that the more relaxed 30-40nm geometry is used instead of the ~ 15nm geometry for non-3D NAND should increase yields (as well as the number of P/E cycles).

Some evidence can be gained from current retail prices - a 1TB Samsung 850 EVO can be had for £295, a 1TB Seagate Barracuda can be had for £40 - a ratio of just under 7.5. If the yields were very low as the article suggested then the price would be much higher (as in the earlier days of SSDs).

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Can you recover your data if disaster strikes? Sure?

Duncan Macdonald

Second server room

For a company large enough to be in 2 buildings - put a file server room in each building. (With modern kit even a garage can house a fairy large backup file server without needing air conditioning.) Use a dedicated high speed link between the main server room and the backup file server. The cost of the backup file server and link will be far smaller than the cost of a cloud backup by the time that the network costs to the cloud provider are taken into consideration.

Examples:- Low end - 4TB effective storage - PC with 5 1TB SSDs in RAID5 and a 1Gb ethernet link - change from £3000. Medium level 20TB effective storage - Server with 28 1TB SSDs (25 in a 20TB RAID5 group and 3 spares to hot swap a failed SSD) and a 10GB fiber link - change from £20k. High end - dedicated building holding as many PB as you need - price HIGH!!

Use SSDs for the small and medium cases as they have better survivability (heat, water, vibration) and higher lifespans than most HDDs (e.g. 5 year warranty on Samsung 850 EVO)

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SPY FRY: Smart meters EXPLODE in Californian power surge

Duncan Macdonald

Re: Distribution architecture vulnerability

The UK network was mainly constructed by a government owned industry. It did not have to contend with penny pinching management and its engineering staff was good. Putting multiple voltages on the same pole was avoided (except for the case of a pole mounted transformer) as a matter of good engineering practice. Also in the UK most of the low voltage lines (240v/440v) are underground not the ugly overhead line jungle that you find in third world countries and the US.

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Snakes on a backplane: Server-room cabling horrors

Duncan Macdonald
FAIL

Underfloor can be much worse!!!

Where I used to work there was a computer room that had been in use for over 20 years holding different mainframes with their peripherals. When the room was finally emptied the cables were over 2 feet thick in the underfloor void. (Whenever a new bit of kit was installed, its cables went over the previous cables and whenever a bit of kit was removed its cables were buried under so many live cables that they could not be removed.)

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Bye bye, booth babes. IT security catwalk RSA nixes sexy outfits

Duncan Macdonald

Not worth going then

At all too many trade shows, the booth babes are the only things worth looking at. The collection of "me too" items, items that are well past their sell by date, horribly overpriced items and items that are not ready for production use makes many trade shows a boring waste of time.

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FAA speeds up drone flight approvals for firms that don't need them

Duncan Macdonald

Still sufficient for many inspection jobs

200 ft limit still allows inspection of most roofs, transmission towers and also allows easy crop inspection for farmers.

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Dark matter surveys turn up new satellites … orbiting the Milky Way

Duncan Macdonald

If dark matter exists

If the MOND theory is correct then dark matter need not exist.

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Google Chrome suffers brain freeze on Android Ice Cream Sandwich

Duncan Macdonald

Another good reason to use Firefox instead of Chrome

A large number of phones are stuck on 4.2 or earlier - thankfully Firefox supports 2.3 and later.

(In my opinion it is also a better browser.)

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Linux clockpocalypse in 2038 is looming and there's no 'serious plan'

Duncan Macdonald
FAIL

Testing is too expensive !!!

At least that is typical management thinking. Given the number of idiots in management and the amount of code that is produced by the lowest (initial) cost by cheap third-world coding shops, I expect to see code with this problem still being produced in early Jan 2038.

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Boffin finds formula for four-year-five-nines disk arrays

Duncan Macdonald

On site support

If you have a large data centre then the cost of one person on site who can swap disks is not going to add much to the costs. (That person could even double as one of the security guards - a high level of ability is not needed to swap disk drives.)

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Fedora 21: Linux fans will LOVE it - after the install woes

Duncan Macdonald
FAIL

As Gnome 3 requires systemd - NO THANKS

As long as there is a reasonable Linux distribution without systemd I will not use systemd.

The systemd/Gnome3 mess looks to me like a successful M$ attempt to sabotage Linux.

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'Turn to nuclear power to save planetary ecology from renewable BLIGHT'

Duncan Macdonald

Fukushima

The plant at was hit by a tidal wave almost twice the design worst case.

If the Japanese government had the slightest competence then the plant could still have been rescued after the tsunami. There was a window of about 12 hours in which if they had flown in (via helicopter) a 1MW generator then the plant could have been saved.

Even with the problems - the death toll at the Fukushima plant - 3 - 2 people were drowned and one was knocked off a ladder. Observed radiation deaths - zero.

The radiation level 1km from the plant is lower than the normal background level in Cornwall (where the average radiation dose is 7.8 mSv/year).

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Solar sandwich cooks at 40 per cent efficiency

Duncan Macdonald
FAIL

Re: Photovoltaics is a one time, one way molecular erosion PARLOR TRICK ! -IDIOT

The electrons leave the cell on one terminal and then re-enter on the other terminal - the thing called an electric current is a flow of electrons. It takes under a microsecond for an expelled electron to be replaced.

Even low grade solar cells can manage over 10 watts per square foot in direct sunlight.

Commercial solar PV installations in suitable locations produce far more electrical energy over their lifespan than was needed for their construction.

Try reading websites where the contributors have an average IQ above 50.

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US govt tells ICANN: No accountability, no keys to the internet

Duncan Macdonald

Is ICANN even needed ?

How to remove the need for ICANN

Effectively all the IPv4 addresses have already been assigned. Allocated IPv4 addresses would become the property of their current owners and could be traded (or sold as assets in a bankruptcy).

IPv6 has so many addresses that assigning a 2^64 address space to each country (over 4000000000 times the size of the total IPv4 address space) would barely touch the total. These assignments would be permanent. If new countries are formed then a new 2^64 address space would be allocated to the new country.

Assign the country designators (e.g .uk for the United Kingdom) to their governments to assign.

The existing non-country designators (e.g. .hotel) would become the property of their current owners (or registrars).

Requests for new non-country designators could be handled by a small subgroup of the ITU. Once assigned then the designator (e.g. .space_hotel) becomes the property of the owner - no longer the responsibility of the ITU.

If the above was done then there would be no further need for ICANN

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Right to be forgotten should apply to Google.com too: EU

Duncan Macdonald
Thumb Down

First Amendment ?

How does the EU law trump the US constitution for a website located in and operated by a US company ?

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Google bags OBSCENELY LARGE Times Square ad space for New Year's

Duncan Macdonald

Very cheap

If Google got this for $2.5million for 4 weeks then they got a bargain. I would have thought that a huge animated display in Times Square for 4 weeks in a very busy shopping period would have cost far more. (This is less than the rate for a 30 second commercial during the Superbowl.)

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Multi-petabyte open sorcery: Spell-binding storage

Duncan Macdonald

Cost of SSD seems overestimated

You can currently get 1TB SSDs for about £300 each so each petabyte of storage should cost about £400,000 (allowing 33% extra for RAID) (this excludes the cost of the controllers, enclosures etc).

All flash is perfectly possible for a cost that is likely so be small compared to the value of the data.

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We come bearing internet: Google sends up Project Loon balloons in second test

Duncan Macdonald

Why use Helium ?

Given the operational altitude, there would be no hazard from using hydrogen which is cheaper and far more plentiful.

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Lights OUT for Philae BUT slumbering probot could phone home again as comet nears Sun

Duncan Macdonald

Re: Question: - Very Slow

The escape velocity is around 1 meter/sec so the orbital velocity will be even lower - a few centimeters/sec.

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UN takeover of internet postponed indefinitely

Duncan Macdonald

What is the difference (at least in the US)

In the US the government is a wholly owned lapdog of the big corporations. The cost of getting elected is so huge that only multimillionaires or people sponsored by multimillionaires have a chance of election. These super-rich also control and/or are major shareholders in the big US corporations.

Quote "What has changed? The battleground. It's not governments that will be distorting the internet to their ends and away from yours any more; it’s the corporations"

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Piketty-Poketty-Poo: Some people are JUST ITCHING to up tax to capital ...

Duncan Macdonald

However taxing wealth avoids some tax loopholes

Many of the very rich arrange for much of their income to appear as capital gains rather than ordinary taxable income. (Often with the gains held in an off-shore tax free trust or company.) Having a tax set up like the US AMT with a rate of say 1% would be one way to get the very rich to pay some of the taxes that they otherwise evade. (Compute your income tax as normal then compare it to 1% of your wealth - you owe whichever is the higher. Possibly exempt the first million pounds of your wealth to avoid dragging the not very rich into the new tax.)

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Snapper's decisions: Whatever happened to REAL photography?

Duncan Macdonald

Many good points - however

A very good medium format camera remains a heavy bulky camera. For a planned trip where the photography is the object of the trip the bulk and weight may well be acceptable. For any other purpose the weight and bulk are likely to be unacceptable. A moderate camera that you have with you is better than a superb camera that has been left at home.

Rough comparison of camera weights

Camera part of smartphone - under 10 grams

Compact zoom camera - about 150 grams

SLR with APS-C sensor and kit zoom lens - about 700 grams

Full frame SLR with good zoom lens - about 1500 grams

Medium format camera with lens and tripod (needed) - about 5000 grams

I have a number of lenses that I use with my full frame SLR but the one that gets the most use is a good quality 35-200 f4.5 zoom. Other lenses (50mm f1.4, 500 mm f8 mirror, 135mm f3.5 etc) are used for some preplanned shots but are not normally carried due to the additional weight. For a person who is not a professional photographer, the weight of the carried equipment is a very important consideration. (For a casual trip into London, if I carry a SLR camera at all it is likely to be a Sony A200 (APS-C) with 18-70 kit zoom for its light weight.)

I have considered and could afford a medium format setup - however I decided that it would not get very much use due to the weight so I decided not to go for medium format.

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Forget WHITE BOX, it's time for JUNK BOX NETWORKING

Duncan Macdonald
Thumb Up

Example

Just to show what can be done for very low money.

(All items on eBay UK - buy it now prices)

Dell 2950 Twin Xeon Quad Core X5355 32GB RAM SAS/SATA RAID PowerEdge Rack Server £299.99

Dell PowerConnect 8024F 24 Port 10GB SFP 4 Port 10GB COPPER Layer 3 Switch 8024 £1699

DELL KJYD8 Dual Port SFP+ 10GbE PCIe 10GB Broadcom 5711 Network Card £99.99

Dell Cisco 10GBASE SFP+ Twinax Cable SFP-H10GB-CU3M £49.99 each

Add SSD storage as needed (about £300 per 1TB drive and Dell drive caddy)

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NATO declares WAR on Google Glass, mounts attack alongside MPAA

Duncan Macdonald

Re: Great steaming hairy... WRONG

Unlike a cats eye which has a spherical surface, the sensor in a camera is flat. Incident rays hitting anywhere except in the exact centre of the sensor are not reflected back to the light source. Reflection from a good quality multicoated lens is very low (about 1%) and is also not directed back to the light source. There would be so much more reflected IR from other objects (clothes, pens, glasses, handbags etc) that the signal from cameras would be totally swamped.

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UK.gov rushes out broken 'Orphan Works' system as EU Directive comes in

Duncan Macdonald
Thumb Up

However existing image copyright is broken

If I have a commercial photograph of my mothers wedding then under the Copyright Acts I cannot make another but have to contact the photographer (name and address unknown - and may well be dead) to get another copy. This will at least make it legal to make another copy.

A huge number of commercially produced photographs have either no metadata (no name or address of the photographer) or have metadata that is no longer usable - the name and address of a photographic business that has long ceased trading. This act will at least make it legal to make copies of such photographs.

If the term of copyright was more reasonable (a maximum of 20 years) then there would be less of a need for this act.

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Microsoft has Windows Server running on ARM: report

Duncan Macdonald

Putting pressure on Intel ?

Possibly Microsoft are doing this to put a bit of pressure on Intel for some reason. The cost of doing a test port of Windows Server to ARM probably does not exceed a few million dollars (if that) which is very small change to Microsoft. Microsoft might be trying to apply a bit of pressure on Intel to get them to produce faster CPUs (faster single threaded performance especially) to drive a new PC update cycle (with the resulting new Windows licence fees). ARM CPUs have been increasing in performance faster than Intel CPUs over the last several years and telling Intel that Windows might not remain their exclusive domain puts pressure on Intel to improve their CPUs

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BAE points electromagnetic projectile at US Army

Duncan Macdonald

Numbers

A missile can take down ONE attacker. If the enemy attacks with a wave of drones then the available supply of missiles will be exhausted very quickly leaving the vehicle with no protection.

However I am not at all sure that a railgun is much good for anti drone defence. Unlike manned aircraft, drones can fly very close to the ground so they would be masked from any vehicle mounted point defence weapon until the last few seconds. For a point defence weapon to target and destroy an attacking drone in the available time it needs to be lightweight and agile. An array of pulsed lasers is probably a better bet (or possibly MetalStorm type rapid firing guns).

Overhead defence drones (Fighters !!) will probably be the best bet to deal with attacking drones (Bombers !!) as with the advantage of height (say 50m) they will be able to see attacking drones before they reach the target vehicle.

A railgun makes more sense as an offensive weapon. If you can fire a depleted uranium slug at mach 7 then it could penetrate tank armour from beyond the range of the tank's main gun

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The future health of the internet comes down to ONE simple question…

Duncan Macdonald

Do we still need ICANN ?

There are very few (if any) IP4 addresses left to distribute. The IP6 address range is so huge that each country could be given a range of over 10^18 addresses without making a dent. Give the ITU the job of approving additional extensions (e.g. .politics !!!) and appointing the registrars for the non-country domains. Give each county the control over its own domain (e.g. .uk) and leave it up to the individual countries how they administer their own domains. Existing IP4 address range allocations would become permanent assets of the organisations that currently own them (they could be sold if no longer needed).

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Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill

Duncan Macdonald
Mushroom

Re: It is is still an E.L.E. - No it is not

A 450m diameter comet nucleus is not even close to being large enough to be an extinction level event.

It could cause local devastation and some global cooling (due to dust) but it is too small to cause major global damage. If (for example) such an object hit in the middle of the UK there would be little damage (if any) to more distant parts of the EU (e.g. Italy and Spain) let alone to the rest of the world.

This comet masses less than 1/1000 of the dinosaur killer asteroid and therefore has less than 1/1000 of the energy release on impact.

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A drone of one's own: Reg buyers' guide for UAV fanciers

Duncan Macdonald

For kids - gyro stabilised small quadcopters

The current small gyro stabilised quadcopters (e.g. the Hubsan X4) can be flown by complete novices. These are R/C models - not drones so no GPS but the stabilisation is carried out by the quadcopter not the pilot so they are easy to fly. They are also cheap (at under £60) so if a kid does break one it is not the expensive disaster that would be with a high end model at over £1000.

Do not let a kid loose on a big quadcopter until they are good with one of the small models.

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Pen-testers outline golden rules to make hacks more €xpen$ive

Duncan Macdonald

Re: let me see if I've got this right.

Unfortunately two very common apps - Word and Excel - have scripting built in - good luck in getting those apps banned.

Also a number of businesses have web based apps that use scripting (using IE, Firefox or Chrome).

Given the above item 3 on the list has very big problems.

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