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* Posts by Nigel 11

2499 posts • joined 10 Jun 2009

Furious Frenchies tell Apple to bubble off: Bling iPhone isn't 'champagne'

Nigel 11
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Re: Alternative option

I was thinking they could call their colour Shampagne, but I'm not sure how that would play with potential French customers.

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Google chap reverse engineers Sinclair Scientific Calculator

Nigel 11
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$400 for the competition??

I can't remember the exact year, but I remember that when I was in the market for my first scientific calculator (as a schoolkid), the competition was between the Sinclair and the Commodore SR-36 at about twice the price. I bought the Commodore (for a vaguely-remembered £59? ), and never regretted it. Everything worked perfectly right through to about 2005(*), during which time I never felt a need to buy another calculator. I think it was the keyboard which proclaimed "quality" just as the Sinclair one proclaimed "cheap, nasty".

The Commodore SR-36 was a real class act.

(*) except the rechargeable battery, whch I had to replace a couple of times (screwdriver and soldering iron required).

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UK gov dials 999 over Serco prison escort fraud claims

Nigel 11
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Re: My own, minor, experience..

Outsourcing to the wrong organisation? Who chose this grocer? Sainsbury, Tesco, Asda all do free delivery on orders much smaller than £500!

I wonder who is paying for "those people"'s lunches?

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Nigel 11
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Re: Prisoner Escort - a question

It's a bus isn't it? One where the passengers are handcuffed to the seats (or something - never seen inside one!). But does that make it any less of a bus?

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Silicon daddy: Moore's Law about to be repealed, but don't blame physics

Nigel 11
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IT Angle

Re: There cannot be an exponential that doesn't end," he said. "You can't have it."

Isn't the growth capitalism depends on measured in money? Which is subject to inflation? I've always assumed that capitalism works just fine on somewhat illusory growth. In boom times growth is ahead of inflation, in slumps inflation is ahead of growth, and if there's a fundamental reason that this cannot continue for the forseeable future I don't know of it.

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Nigel 11
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Re: Human Brain 1000000x more powerful than a computer

non-faulty computer or calculation design will always return the same answer, assuming other variables remain constant. A Human brain is completely different in that it is likely to return a different answer each time, even if the variables remain constant.

Straw man! assuming other variables remain constant If it's a realtime event-driven system with unpredictable and unrepeatable inputs, that is never the case. A brain is clearly such a system. One may speculate that is a large part of its superiority over a computer (though of course, an operating system is also of that nature).

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Nigel 11
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Re: Human Brain 1000000x more powerful than a computer

it's the power, cooling, and interconnect on the large scale that needs work.

Very well said. When Moore's law finally runs out, the next major breakthrough will have to be in parallel coding.

A (human) brain has ~10^11 processing elements clocked at maybe 10Hz. A CPU has ~10^9 transistors clocked at ~10^9 Hz. By that measure a humble desktop CPU should be ahead of us by a few orders of magnitude. So what gives?

Well OK, a neuron is a much more complex device than a transistor, but a million times more complex? Unless it's in some sense a quantum computational element rather than a classical one (which cannot be ruled out), I don't think there's a difference of complexity of order 10^6. Surely not 10^9 (comparing against a 1000-CPU cluster).

Which leaves the dense-packed 3D interconnect in a brain, and even more so the way it is able to utilize its hardware in parallel for a new problem without any (or much) conscious organisation of how that hardware will be organised, what algorithms it will deploy.

The next huge breakthrough will have to be in problem definition technology. Something that fulfils the same role as a compiler, but working across a much greater range between the statement of the problem and the hardware on which the code will run. There are some scary possibilities. Success on this front may reveal that a decent scientific computing cluster is actually many orders of magnitude superior to ourselves as a general-purpose problem solver, and might also reveal intelligence and consciousness as emergent properties.

Jill (*) or Skynet?

(*) Jill is the most benign first AI I know of in SF. Greg Bear, "Slant".

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US highway agency awards Tesla Model S RECORD safety score

Nigel 11
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Re: Trade in value will make it or break it.

a 4 or 5 year old 100K Tesla may prove to be an unwanted relic .

Or a design classic. It's certainly one of the more attractive vehicles out there, and it will almost certainly be seen as the first successful electric car. Beautiful and historically important. IMO more so on both fronts than, say, a mark 1 Porsche 911 or an E-type Jag.

As for advancing battery technology: if batteries in five years time have twice the capacity, surely someone will work out how to retro-fit a better battery into a Tesla? Also a lot of the cost of a battery pack is the raw material (Lithium) it contains. You should get a large trade-in allowance against a new one, and an appropriate payment for the one in a scrapped car.

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Nigel 11
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Re: Front 'trunk'

Mostly trunks aren't completely full with solid stuff. If they are, the car is almost certainly dangerously overloaded (and being used way outside its specification, so any consequences are definitely its user's fault). Usually, baggage is light and squashy stuff (like clothes or desktop PCs).

For reference, a cubic meter of concrete is about 2.5 tons. The maximum permitted load for a typical car, (evenly distributed between both axles, and including the passengers) is in the ballpark of 1.5 tons. Probably quite a bit less for a sports vehicle like a Tesla, and at most half at the front.

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Nigel 11
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Re: The battery pack is an issue on trade in value.OTOH remember what happens to BHP?

It's built like a tank.

Which is NOT the right way to build a safe car. Run a tank-like vehicle into an equally solid obstacle (such as a bridge pier) and the occupants are subjected to a very high G force. They'll therefore suffer greater injury. The seat belts and airbags will do theit best to cushion them, but there's only half a meter or so of cushioning there.

As the article says, a Tesla has a front boot, all of which is engineered as a crumple zone. It therefore has an engine's length of extra crumple-distance than a front-engined car, meaning it's got maybe twice the distance for the passenger cell to decelerate within, thereby subjecting the occupants to half the force.

In reality it's not quite as great an advantage as that example, because front-engined cars aren't that badly designed. They're designed to crumple so the engine is forced downwards and the passenger cell rides upwards over the engine. In other words, not at all solid like a tank!

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AREA 51 - THE TRUTH by the CIA: Official dossier blows lid off US secrets

Nigel 11
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Black Helicopters

Re: The Truth is out there ( pa' vItna' tu'lu'). Old Klingon saying!

They've declassified Ared 51 as a red herring. The real secrets are, of course, to be found at Area 667. Yes, of course you've never heard of it.

Oops.

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Nigel 11
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Re: English Electric Lightning ????

Going in a different direction, maybe. At top speed and overtaken by, no way!

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Microsoft DMCA takedown requests targeting OpenOffice

Nigel 11
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Re: Law Talk?

They might actually be doing Openoffice / Libreoffice a favour.

The right way to get free software is to download it via the appropiate web-site (www.libreoffice.org, www.openoffice.org). If you don't know where that is, Google is your friend. If you're professionally paranoid, you check the sha256sums after you've fetched it.

The wrong way is to trust that www.dodgyfreedownloads.ru is your friend and that what you download has no added extra malware. And if a site is advertising a MS Office torrent, it's definitely very dodgy!

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PC market hits the ropes, but Lenovo's still standing

Nigel 11
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Re: We are seeing Lenovo riding Windows 8's coat-tails

My thought also. It's not the big corporates who care whether Windows 7 is factory-installed. On the other hand, what about the small companies out there? (Four men and a dog ltd.) They also don't want Windows 8, and don't always have the downgrade rights that big corporates take for granted.

If Windows 7 drivers aren't offered, that's a do-not-buy flag to any size of customer that wants to run Windows 7. And factory install maybe suggests a greater comittment to Windows 7?

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Microsoft: That $900m Surface write-down is smarting

Nigel 11
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Joke

Re: You'd have to pay me to use it

It's not quite that bad. If I couldn't buy a Logitech mouse, I'd pick a Microsoft one.

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Make or break: Microsoft sets date for CRUCIAL Win 8.1 launch

Nigel 11
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WTF?

Re: gooooooooooooood

I read the OP as irony

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Nigel 11
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Re: NO, Windows 9 is make-or-break

Make or Break will be when Microsoft announce an EOL date for Windows 7. As long as businesses can "downgrade" to 7, they'll just ignore Windows 8 while suffering the (just about manageable) pain of migrating from Windows XP to Windows 7. If MS has any sense left it'll announce that Windows 7 has guaranteed support until at least 2020.

If there's no user-compatible upgrade path from Windows 7 when it's EOL announcement arrives, that will be the date that businesses divorce Microsoft. (I mean divorce. Messy, acrimonious, and horribly expensive).

PS the desktop isn't dead, and never will be. It may run a non-MS O/S, or become a thin client for a noisy fat monster in the server room, but it will have a proper keyboard and mouse and a big monitor at the far side of a desk. What you need for real work, as opposed to playing, posing or skiving.

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Nigel 11
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Oddly, the design and engineering deficiencies of the Titanic didn't deter travellers of that age from embarking on the Olympic (Titanic's sister ship)

Sinking-ship icon needed.

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Nigel 11
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Re: Make or Break?

Just as long as you can go into its BIOS, disable secure boot and UEFI, and install Linux and/or Windows 7, I'll be happy with a discount.

We can already see what non-repurposeable Windows Surfaces are worth, can't we?

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Samsung Mega 6.3: Enter the PHONDLESLAB

Nigel 11
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Re: Size Matters

I still have a CRT telly. I don't want to throw away a piece of 1970s technology that still works perfectly, despite the 25 kilovolts in its innards and the hige multiplicity of discrete components.

(And size doesn't matter - a 25 inch telly is quite big enough! )

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Nigel 11
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Tabphone? Ear-iron?

Tabphone or Tabfone might work, in a way that Phablet definitely doesn't.

For gentle mockery of anyone who spends too long talking into one, what about ear-iron? (makes for flat ears).

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Nigel 11
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Why no two-part phones yet?

Seems to me that what's needed is a two-part system. A largish tablet, for internet access. A small and very light weight "phone" for one's shirt pocket. Link the two parts by bluetooth.

Even better if they standardise the interconnection protocols, so any tablet can support any bluetooth phone. (I'm dreaming).

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Nigel 11
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Re: Very Large Phones

I was thinking megaphone ... except that's already taken. Sigh.

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Nigel 11
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Re: VLP == Vain Losers Poserphone

I doubt that being seen with it is a consideration these days. I'd expect that the typical user of this device wants to use the internet a lot more than he wants to make phone calls. Or is visually impaired, and finds any smaller screen verges on un-usable.

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Do you think spinning rust eats flash's dust? Join the hard drive daddies club

Nigel 11
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Re: Start making archive drives

I'm guessing it won't work. At the very best you'd have tracks twice the length, but you'd have to slow down the disk rotation speed to half both to maintain the aerodynamics that floats the head and to reduce stress on the bigger disk to a manageable level. Data bandwidth would decrease as data size increased. At worst vibrational instabilities would kill the idea. (General engineering rule: the bigger it is, the less stiff it can be).

If the manufacturers can get the price of a 4Tb 3.5 inch disk down to the £35 which has been the price of every previous size of disk drive at the time it was superceded, they'll be in business for a while yet. Get HAMR and/or BPM to market and sell 40Tb disks for £35, and I doubt Flash will ever compete.

The dark horse is ReRAM. I think it may kill flash first, followed by disks, both within 15 years of today.

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Nigel 11
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Re: SSD are not reliable enough yet!

SSDs are certainly more rugged. For laptops that get banged about, they might be the better choice. SSDs aren't more reliable on the desktop. They don't give advanced warning of failure. One moment they're AOK, the next monent they're done for. They wear out and die - the more that is written to them, the faster they wear.

Nevertheless my employer is going over to SSD for the system drive of all future desktops. The speed-up (especially in boot and log-in times) is extremely significant. They also save quite a few Watts per PC (and again on the air-con). No irreplaceable data lives on the SSDs. Everything that matters is on "enterprise" big RAID-6 arrays of spinning rust in the server room (and incrementally backed up to another site every night). If the desktop's SSD fails, just throw it away, connect a new one, reinstall the image across the network, and carry on as if nothing happened.

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Nigel 11
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Re: Not in my experience

Really? Did you run software to check the SMART statistics that turned into bricks? Did you try ddrescue after the failure? You must be a very unlucky chap. Based on a sample size of several hundred over a decade, the majority of hard drives (probably 2/3) do show signs of going bad before they fail completely (at which point I pre-emptively replace them), and ddrescue can retrieve a large part of the data from maybe half of the other third.

Anyway, we have backups, don't we?

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Rate-my-boink app scores frisky fanbois, fangurlz' SCREAMS, VIBRATIONS

Nigel 11
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Re: Sex or Murder?

Or a labourer having fun? (Strap the phone to the handles of a pneumatic drill ...)

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Google sniffs at MySQL fork MariaDB: Yum. Have an engineer

Nigel 11
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Paris Hilton

PostgreSQL

Anyone?

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Brits give thumbs-up to shale gas slurping in university-run poll

Nigel 11
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Re: Real risks are long term

So you don't let it get loose on the surface. It needs to be treated like it would be if it was effluent coming out of a factory. The oil and gas industry has plenty of experience of dealing with high-pressure conventional gas and oil wells that need no encouragement to flow, and they very rarely leak near the surface. A fracked tight gas well is a much more benign entity.

How to dispose of this mildly toxic water (which is probably safe enough to swim in, but not to drink)? I don't know what the regulations say. Personally I'd guess that the thousand-fold dilution you'd get even in the immediate vicinity of dumping it into the sea would render it quite harmless.

"Radioactive isotopes?" Are you implying that fracking is a new method of isoptope separation that doesn't require ultracentrifuge chains, etc? Or are you just referring to the Radon being produced with the fracked gas, just as it's produced with conventional gas? Yes, the gas that feeds your heating is measurably more radioactive than the air you breathe. (Unless you live in Aberdeen, in which case natural radioactivity in the local rock that the city is built from likely guarantees it's the other way around!)

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Nigel 11
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Re: Detectable

You get bigger earthquakes when a car drives over a speed hump near your residence. A fire engine at full emergency tilt over that hump is Richter 4-plus (Wikipedia: Noticeable shaking of indoor objects and rattling noises. Felt by most people in the affected area. Slightly felt outside. Generally causes none to minimal damage. Moderate to significant damage very unlikely. Some objects may fall off shelves or be knocked over.)

They monitor for tiny quakes because of the theoretical risk that fracking might lubricate and activate an occult fault (one that's present underground but not visible on the surface). AFAIK to date, there has been no significant seismic event capable of threatening life caused by fracking. Pre-drill seismic prospecting will show up most faults before the drilling goes anywhere near them.

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Nigel 11
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Re: Gross stupidity

If corners are cut to the point of failure, what's the worst case? Considerably less bad than it could be with a conventional free-flowing gas or oil well. Pre-frack, nothing comes out. No chance of a blow-out while drilling, which is the greatest risk with conventional gas or oil. Post-frack, a natural gas leak. Tight gas flow rates are quite low compared to conventional wells, which is why lots of them are needed.

Ignoring global warming, is there any energy supply technology that's less likely to cause environmental damage than tight gas accessed by fracking? As for global warming, yes, it's a fossil fuel, but natural gas is the least bad one.

I'd happily have a tight gas well in my back yard. (If literally that close, it would be like living with a building site while it was drilled: I'd expect appropriate compensation for a noise nuisance). BTW with respect to Richter-3 earthquakes, I'm getting one every few minutes in my flat ever since the council installed speed humps on the road outside!

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Future of storage: Micron bets chips on 3D NAND flash – but NOT YET

Nigel 11
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No ReRAM?

Pity nothing asked about ReRAM (Memristors). When do they see it becoming a competitor with Flash? Are they planning to manufacture it? Etc.

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Seagate's shingle bathers stalked by HGST's helium HAMR-head sharks

Nigel 11
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Leakage from a laser tube may be accelerated by the fact that the thing runs hot and the gas is ionised. Is it He2+ that gets into the glass? (He2+ a.k.a. alpha particles, helium nuclei). On the other hand, I'd expect glass to be an intrinsically better gas-container than a multi-part metal HDA.

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Nigel 11
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Re: Sounds a bit too complicated for me

The problem with head size is that they can't make it smaller while still passing enough current through a coil that small to generate an adequate magnetic field. Too much power in a very small volume = meltdown (and they still haven't found a room-temperature superconductor).

Which is where HAMR comes is. Shine a laser through the magnetic field created by the head, focussed on one track of the several under the head's "bubble" of magnetic field. That heats up the surface of the platter. Choose the magnetic medium right, and the head's magnetic field will flip only the bits in the heated track while leaving the cold tracks on either side unaffected.

To me HAMR feels like good physics and engineering, SMR feels like a kluge. Bits that can only change state when heated should be MORE stable than those stored conventionally.

Some SMR maths. A conventional disk doing small writes may manage 100-up IOPS (seek time ~8ms which dominates, half a rotation of latency 4ms, a bit of optimisation possible by doing out-of-order writes). If they shingle three tracks, the rotational latency of a write goes up to about six revolutions of the disk (three to read it and three to rewrite it after modification). That's about 50ms for a 7200rpm disk. SLOW except for large writes. (Reading will be no slower).

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Nigel 11
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Alert

Magnetic media aren't worn out by repeatedly being written. (They can be adversely influenced by the read-write head lying at one particular location most of the time, whether active or not. The mechanism here is interaction between airflow and tiny amounts of contaminants within the sealed HDA. For this reason drive firmware periodically performs a random "elsewhere" seek on an idle disk)

The amount of power used in writing a track is a very tiny fraction of that used to keep the whole mechanical assembly spinning and to move the heads around.

So I wouldn't expect this aspect of SMR to reduce drive life expectancy.

However, there's a major qualitative change with SMR. In a conventional magnetic drive, once your track is written, it stays there on the disk without any maintenance being needed. With SMR, it will be read and rewritten whenever nearby data is updated. If something isn't working right, there is much greater potential for your pre-written data to become scrambled. In this respect, I'd expect SMR drives to "brick" themselves far more easily. More like an SSD (which also performs read-modify-rewrite cycles), less like the magnetic disks we're used to.

I hope that "old technology" drives remain on sale for a considerable overlap period!

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Terror cops swoop on couple who Googled 'backpacks' and 'pressure cooker'

Nigel 11
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Re: Ah, America...

Surely the authorities have their hands full with things more dangerous than pressure cookers. My list would have guns at the top, Ammonium Nitrate fertilizer second, and barbecue charcoal well above pressure cookers.

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Nigel 11
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Re: Whats the problem.

I guess they're lucky their son wasn't academically inclined and worried about future energy security. He might have wanted to find out the relative merits of conventional nuclear reactors (which create chemically separable Pu239 which can be made into A-bombs) and the mooted Thorium reactors (which breed chemically separable U233), and whether one can make an A-bomb from U233.

I never did find a definitive answer to that last one. I wonder what lists I volunteered myself onto?

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Nigel 11
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Re: You don't need a pressure cooker to cook quinoa

You can cook rice in five minutes in a pressure cooker. Not sure who needs to save ten minutes of meal preparation, or why, but I guess it also works with quinoa!

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Nigel 11
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Re: Ex-employer

Maybe easier in Europe for this one? Here in the EU one has an expectation of privacy in a lot of contexts. You employer should not be reading your e-mails without good reason.

In the USA, as far as I can tell you have no expectation of privacy unless you are talking to your priest, your doctor, or your lawyer.

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Nigel 11
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Re: People are like golden retrievers!

911. He's in the USA. Some parts of the USA, he's not joking.

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Nigel 11
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Unhappy

Re: So don't shop while at work?

There are employers out there who regard using the company internet for private purposes as grounds for dismissal. I hope that they get the sort of employees they richly deserve (ones so incompetent that they can't get a job anywhere more enlightened, and "seagull" mercenaries in it just for the money).

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Nigel 11
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Re: Thank god for the war on Terror

Without knowing the content of the bosses call it's tough to say.

Me, I'm starting to wonder if the Laundry is just fiction?

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Base stations get high on helium, ride MUTANT kite-balloons at the football

Nigel 11
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Re: Why?

I'm also wondering, if it's tethered, why not an electrically powered aeroplane for calm conditions, turning into a tethered glider whenever there's enough wind? (Electric power from the ground, via the tether).

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Nigel 11
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Why?

What is the advantage of the "extra lift" from a kite design? Surely on a calm day, it either displaces enough air to keep its payload and the cable aloft, or it doesn't and sinks to the ground! Alternatively if it's trustably windy, why bother with the helium?

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Highway from HELL: Volcano tears through 35km of crust in WEEKS

Nigel 11
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Mushroom

Diamonds ...

It's long been deduced that magma from very deep in the earth must occasionally come to the surface very quickly. Diamond is a stable form of Carbon only at very high pressure (>50km deep, ISTR). If magma containing diamond rises slowly, the heat and reducing pressure will decompose the diamond into graphite. It has to rise fast and cool fast, to freeze the Carbon as metastable diamond.

Diamond is associated with the igneous rock Kimberlite, and no Kimberlite erruption has taken place in recent geological history. This is possibly a good thing. They may be extremely violent events and/or happen unexpectedly at a location with no extant volcano.

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Edward Snowden skips into Russia as Putin grants him asylum

Nigel 11
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Unhappy

Unless a Latin American country grants him assylum, I doubt we'll hear anything more from him. Russia has made it clear that they expect him to keep his mouth shut, and at present he doesn't have any other offers of a safe home. Sad. It appears that there is no longer anywhere even slightly civilised that allows one to say things that the USA government doesn't want you to say.

If Russia allows him freedom to travel and an exit visa, it is now at least possible for him to reach Latin America without passing through US allies' territory. (Travelling Eastwards through Russia and then across the Pacific).

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Happy 20th birthday, Windows NT 3.1: Microsoft's server outrider

Nigel 11
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Misleading

Windows NT 3.1 was the biggest remake of the Windows family until Windows 8 came along

True, if you are looking "under the hood" i.e. at the kernel. (But note, the Win 8 kernel is still derived from NT). However, the kernel is not the first place most Windows users look. The other revolution was replacement of the Windows 3.1 GUI by the Windows 95 / 98 / 2000 / XP GUI, which pretty much defined a (small-w) windows desktop until Windows 8 was dumped on us.

NT 3.5 (at the time it shipped) was unbelievably stable, but still ran the 3.1 desktop. (It was basically NT 3.1 with most of the bugs fixed). NT 4.0 ran the newer desktop, which had required driving a coach and horses through the carefully designed VMS-like security model of NT 3.x. The system's architect, David Cutler, formerly architect of VMS at Digital, left Microsoft around the NT 4.0 release, possibly because of Microsoft putting image above security considerations. Microsoft has probably been paying the price ever since!

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How did Microsoft get to be a $1.2bn phone player? Hint: NOT Windows Phone

Nigel 11
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Devil

Re: Extortion - time for the oft to get involved in the UK?

Ten dollars, or even fifteen, per smartphone, is hardly serious distortion of a market where customers pay twice that per month.

The far greater Microsoft monopoly abuse scandal is the way they have made it all but impossible, for very many years, to buy a PC and reclaim the full cost of the Microsoft Windows license which isn't wanted by people who run Linux. Yes, it' s possible to buy a PC without Windows in a few places, but it's hardly ever any cheaper, let alone as much cheaper as the known cost of a Windows OEM license! £50 per £400 PC is a far greater "tax" than $15 on a phone, and has far less justification.

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Panasonic claims world's first ReRAM-equipped product

Nigel 11
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Memristor rewrite-ability is effective infinity. It's targetted at replacing RAM, i.e. word addressable, with the added benefit of being non-volatile.

Price per Gbyte will start high and fall as the technology and semiconductor processes are prefected. It'll probably replace Flash within a decade unless there's some problem that hasn't yet surfaced in the labs. The more interesting thing is whether it'll ever be able to replace big disks. (i.e. multi-terabyte for under £100)

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