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* Posts by Nigel 11

2496 posts • joined 10 Jun 2009

Tesla's Elon Musk shows the world his D ... and it's a MONSTER

Nigel 11
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Re: I dont get it.

Solar! Yeah, that works during the _day_ - most people charge their cars at _night_.

Solution 1. Most folks cars are parked during the working day, between commutes. So equip all car parking facilities used by commuters with e-car charging facilities. Likewise all supermarket / shopping centre car parks. Folks will rapidly get out of the habit of charging at night once it becomes true and well-known that daytime charging is cheaper.

Solution 2: store the solar power. That may actually end up using the same battery tech that e-cars are causing to be rapidly developed. But there are many other approaches. The simplest is delayed solar-thermal. Use the sun to melt a salt and store large amounts of the melt in insulated tanks during the day. At night run conventional steam turbines off the stored heat.

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Nigel 11
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Re: I dont get it.

Or did I miss something?

Solar power. It's already at parity with fossil-fuelled generation in hot sunny parts of the world, such as California and Arizona. Soon, it'll be a no-brainer anywhere less cloudy and Northerly than the UK.

These cars are rich men's toys today. As were internal-combustion automobiles in the first decades of the 20th Century. They'll be everyone's cars a few decades hence. Just as most of us drive automobiles with internal-combustion engines today.

(You also missed wind power, wave power, and even nuclear fission power)

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Nigel 11
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Re: Charging issues? Range?

You're assuming high (peak) power output equals inefficient non-peak use of energy.

That was very true for old carburetted internal combustion engines. It's a lot less true with the new breed of one-liter 160BHp units with computerized fuel injection and high boost turbo/superchargers. And it's almost completely untrue for electric motors and control systems.

Likewise, aggressive driving in a conventional car means wastefully dumping kinetic energy into heating up the brakes. Far less so with regenerative electrical braking. And in any case, responsible owners of high-power cars don't drive aggressively for more than a tiny fraction of the time. The efficiency penalty with a six-liter "muscle car" is mostly fuel wasted while cruising, with the engine running at a tiny fraction of its peak power output, using fuel very inefficiently.

The bottom line? These days you *can* have your cake and eat (most of) it.

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Nigel 11
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Re: Only 2 motors

Interesting that they went with two motors. It means they still have to mess about with differentials, whereas a four motor design can do all the power distribution electronically as well as use smaller motors which would be easier to cool.

A safety issue? If something went wrong with the control of four independant motors the car would suffer an enormous turning torque and would become completely uncontrollable. In contrast if the distribution of power between front and rear motors went haywire, there's a decent chance the driver could deal with the problem (at least if he's not going round a corner at high speed when it happens).

Similar to the way civilian aeroplanes waste fuel when cornering and generally can't turn sharp corners, because they are built to be highly stable and self-correcting onto straight-line flight. In contrast, military aircraft these days are designed completely unstable, and can't be flown without the avionics. That's because for military use, failure to dodge incoming fire is a much more likely failure mode, than avionics failure sending the plane tumbling out of control.

On a racetrack we may get to see four independant electric motors in action. On the public roads, I doubt it.

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'MYSTERIOUS PYRAMID STRUCTURE' found on COMET beyond Mars: Landing planned

Nigel 11
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There goes the neighbourhood

Hello Zog ... yes, I'm OK, thanks. Wish I could say the same about the neighbourhood. I mean, it's not as if I'm a newcomer. I've been here four gigayears, and it's been nice and quiet all that time. But now this bloody self-propelled rock thing has appeared out of nowhere and it's somehow stuck itself going in circles around me instead of sailing on past like it ought to have done. And it's playing merry hell with my hyperspace reception ... hello? Zog? Can you hear me?

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Nigel 11
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A large rock that hit the comet - not.

Would have to impact at an extremely small delta-V to leave not so much as a dent. Usual random interplanetary velocities vaporise the impactor and leave a crater.

Applying Occam's razor, the "rock" must have formed on the comet, or in (very slow, low-G) orbit around it.

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Antarctic ice at ALL TIME RECORD HIGH: We have more to learn, says boffin

Nigel 11
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Re: Antactica is melting too

That is where our conversation should be focused. If the plant was susceptible to a positive forcing then it would have destroyed itself a long, long, ... ,long time ago

Faulty logic

The sun is getting hotter as it ages. One of these years, this planet will tip into "cold Venus" thermal runaway. Consensus is that year is several hundred million years in the future, and that the worst that anthropogenic global warming can do is to melt all the ice, thereby flooding a lot of real-estate. Thereafter there's a nice stable region where increased surface temperature would cause increased cloud cover, reflecting more sunlight, therefore reducing temperatures. Negative feedback until cloud cover saturates at 100%.

But the "cold Venus" tipping point will be reached eventually, and maybe it's a good idea to consider the possibility that it's much nearer than our consensus suggests. We won't get a second chance if we're wrong.

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Nigel 11
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Re: Winters coming.

No, it is already in a stable long-term relationship. With the Moon. Very fortunately for us!

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Nigel 11
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Re: Antactica is melting too

The Global warming theory treats the earth as a closed system. If CO2 is causing the earth's temperature to rise, how does the Antarctic ice increase?

Implying that higher temperature automatically means less ice? Oh dear ....

Firstly, pure-water ice forms at 0C. the temperature of Antarctica is minus-lots C. So it can get warmer, and yet ice won't necessarily melt.

Secondly, to make new ice needs a supply of water. Water is carried in as vapour in the air (which may then condense into water or ice crystals while remaining airborne - clouds). The warmer the air, the greater its water-carrying capacity. So warmer air may translate into greater precipitation, which over Antarctica means snow. Or, it may not, because increased capacity does not automatically mean increased content, and because added clouds don't necessarily generate added snow.

Finally, where does the water in the air come from? That depends on air circulation patterns - weather, climate. It's the ever-changing pattern of air circulation that determines whether air in any particular place is carrying more water than last week, or last year, or last century. Weather and climate forecasting is HARD. (Especially hard when you have water turning into ice, and that phase transition releasing a huge amount of energy at exactly 0C. It makes all your equations go horribly non-linear).

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Linux systemd dev says open source is 'SICK', kernel community 'awful'

Nigel 11
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Re: Your stuff is crap but it's free so I'll take it.

If you don't hve a clue, use Google to get one! I want to find something in a text file on Linux, so Google ... let's see ... "Linux search text file". Never let it be said that I make comments like this without trying it out. My very top hit had grep halfway down the first screen as the first suggestion. ( http://www.computerhope.com/issues/ch000757.htm )

There are also hundreds of guides for students of various sorts of ability. Then there are complete books, although you usually have to hand over a few quid to the author.

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CONSUMERISM IS PAST ITS SELL-BY DATE: Die now, pay later

Nigel 11
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Re: Ban interest and live within your means

Unfortunately, hard currency doesn't work. REALLY doesn't work. If you think the modern economic system with soft currency and inflation and interest is bad, you need to find out about the economic history of Europe during the middle ages.

In brief, all the currency disappeared into rich men's treasure chests. Gold to the aristocracy, silver to the merchants, copper to the slavedrivers. There's no incentive to spend money, when by not spending it you raise its value. The remaining 90% of the population were serfs who had nothing to spend -- free under the law, but slaves in every detail that mattered. It's not a joke that often, the only thing that they had of any value was their daughters' virginity. Sometimes this was indeed traded for money. Other times the local landowner thought this also was his right and just took what was his.

The only way to kick the world out of this ghastly deflation-trap from inside was either a big war (pillage, ransom) or a big plague (when the dead outnumbered the living, labour became scarce and inheritance took unusual paths). Wars failed (the Crusades, the wars of the roses, the war against France, and that's just England). Maybe the black death succeeded.

Money is one of those things where everything has been tried, and nothing works well, but what we have may be the least bad thing that's been tried so far.

There's another even more depressing interpretation: that the human world, like the natural world, is a dynamic system optimised to the edge of chaos. Economists are just spotting false patterns in randomness. Such a system is good in the run-up to the next catastrophe. Is there any alternative? Only an enforced stasis, taking the form of the post-catastrophe trough, frozen forever.

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Marriott fined $600k for deliberate JAMMING of guests' Wi-Fi hotspots

Nigel 11
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Ker-plunk

It takes years to build a good reputation and minutes to destroy one. Having destroyed it, what is going to persuade a pissed-off ex-customer to give you another chance?

That's Marriot onto my "last resort only" list, along with Sony(*) and RyanAir(**). And the only way to get off that list, is for one of your competitors to do something even more heinous. (And even then, there's probably space for two).

Now all I need is for a few tens of millions of other folks to start doing the same as I do.

(*) for their music-CD rootkit exploit and the weeks of hassle that caused me. Yes, I know it was a decade ago. That's the whole point!

(**) do you need to ask?

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PEAK LANDFILL: Why tablet gloom is good news for Windows users

Nigel 11
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Re: Growth

Digression

As any fule kno, growth cannot be sustained indefinitely. It's impossible, yet market bods consistently tell us that if you do not have growth, you're in the shit. I don't get it.

Growth of the money supply can be sustained indefinitely(*). It's called inflation. And a steady-state economy would therefore "grow" forever at the same rate as inflation. Once every few generations there would be a "new" currency with a few superfluous zeros deleted.

And so any company that grew 0% last year, in fact shrank by minus RPI% in real terms.

The ups and downs of an economy are actually the working out of things which grew faster than inflation, and things that grew slower, and the fact that there are different rates of inflation for different sorts of goods and services.

Small rates of inflation, up to 6% or so, serve a useful purpose. They "tax" unproductive money that is saved under the mattress, in bank vaults, etc. This prevents the mediaeval deflationary catastrophe where all the gold had migrated into rich men's treasuries, all the silver had migrated into merchant's treasure-chests, and the majority of the population were wage-slaves (serfs) who were lucky to see more than a few copper coins in a year. The only way to get such an economy moving was a large-scale war (pillage, ransom) or the black death (dead outnumbering the living, inheritances, labour shortages). Eventually, the Spanish pillaged lots of gold from the Americas and history shows how the (surprising?) result was to doom their own country, while exporting useful amounts of inflation to the rest of Europe for long enough for modern economics to get established.

Do economists understand that the first thing they should do, is take the logarithm of every sum of money they are researching? I fear most of them don't.

(*) hyperinflation excepted. That's the opposite death spiral to deflation. Left spiral or Right spiral, both end up as a smoking heap on the ground with scavengers crawling over it if the pilots can't break out of the spiral.

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Supercomputer water-cooling comes to solar power

Nigel 11
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Re: The trick is *useful* energy

Scale this down to house-sized? Sounds as if you could have 2-3kWp of electricity, and store the hot water in a tank (somewhat larger than the standard one with immersion heater). Can you say free hot baths for the whole family almost anytime they want?

Yes, you might have to dump some surplus hot water at the height of summer, but so what? You still have the electricity. I suspect it's possible to dump the heat into the earth through a ground source heat pump running backwards in summer, and reclaim much of the heat in winter, but that would be another story. Or use a large (underground, well-insulated) tank of water instead of ground?

The main question is whether this sort of solar PV panel can be cheap enough compared to the ordinary sort, once the supply of free hot water is factored in.

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One Windows? How does that work... and WTF is a Universal App?

Nigel 11
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Linux Desktop

Well, in a way it's nice to see that Microsoft has added multiple desktops (workspaces) to windows. Pretty late to that party - it was by no means a new idea when Linux arrived on the scene.

As for using Linux desktop, the Linux UI is superior to the Windows UI in most regards (the exception being raw performance achieved at the expense of seriously compromising the system's security).

So you must mean the apps. Well, they are Microsoft Proprietary. If you think they are good enough to lock yourself in to the Microsoft walled garden, that's your choice. I'd just comment that if you have a corporate Windows license, and if you don't need the ultimate raw graphics performance, I'd say the best place for Windows is running in a VM, displaying in a Linux window in a workspace on a Linux desktop.

If nothing else, you get snapshots this way. Next time installing something borks Windows (or it gets a nasty dose of malware, or it auto-borks) just revert the VM to the most recent good snapshot. What about your recent user data, you ask? Well, if you have any sense it's on a Linux host filesystem presented to the VM as a network share. And (separately) snapshotted.

I wonder when Windows will get something as useful and reliable as btrfs? 2030? (And yes, I am quite aware that btrfs is not fully mature yet, and there are more reliable similar filesystems out there, such as ZFS. Talking of which, ZOL is also coming along nicely).

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Microsoft WINDOWS 10: Seven ATE Nine. Or Eight did really

Nigel 11
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Re: Missing 9 - A bad idea, and here's why.

It's a mistake in Chinese ... 9 is one of the few lucky odd numbers in Chinese numerology ...

This is partly owing to the fact that the number 9 has traditionally been associated with the emperor (viz. the number of rooms in the Forbidden City) and partly owing to the fact that the sound byte for "nine" is close to that for the word "longlasting"

So Windows 10 won't be with us for particularly long and it won't be taking over the world.

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How the FLAC do I tell MP3s from lossless audio?

Nigel 11
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I'll happily listen to music on a cheap FM transistor radio (just as long as it's amp is passably free of crossover distortion and its speaker isn't scraping on its magnet). Or listen to a pre-war recording that happens to be the best-ever interpretation of a work. What comes out is music, plus harmonic distortion that is melodically indistinguishable from the music (just a change of timbre), and minus some bass and treble (again a change of timbre). Oh, and some interference crackles that are easy to ignore if not repeated too often or too loudly. I'd far rather a crackle, than a digital silence.

Music after MP3 compression has added - repeat ADDED - non-harmonic distortion. That means random if faint notes of random frequency, that are not related in any way to anything on the original. If you have a musician's ear (ie perfect pitch or perfect relative pitch, and a deep love of harmony), this rapidly takes away much of the enjoyment in the recording.

As I've commented, it's not a problem with speech, only with music.

My mother is 87. Last time I visited her, her music sounded horrid. A quick inspection while she was out of the room revealed she'd accidentally switched the receiver from FM to DAB. I switched it back and said nothing. A couple of days later she asked me if I'd done anything to it "it sounds much nicer since you left ... I was going to ask you about it but I forgot." QED. DAB sounds crap, even if you're 87. The best you can say for MPs is that they are less awful, in the same way that a mozzie bite is less horrid than a bed-bug bite.

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Nigel 11
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Re: Take it my simple view is flawed then?

Yes - too simplistic

As I explained above the problem with MP3 is that it adds crap that is not harmonically related to the source music. Added interference, in other words. Noise that was not represented at all in the original data stream.

Which is why compressed MP3s sound shite even on cheap reproduction systems. Only digital compression can do this. (OK, perhaps an off-centre loudspeaker scraping on its magnet can also have this effect ... but that's at such a high level, you immediately diagnose the problem and scrap the speaker).

Slight non-linearity in an amp can create only harmonic distortion. not new noises. The weighting of frequencies that are not harmonically related to the input remains zero.

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Nigel 11
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Re: ROFL

Are you really this clueless or just trolling?

An MP3 cannot be converted to anything better. It's already ruined. Conversion cannot put back what was lost, or remove the garbage that was added, when a CD or better bitstream was encoded as MP3.

Or do you mean, re-rip your CDs, losslessly? In which case why not say so? The problem is that if you download music, you may not have access to any CD-quality sources.

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Nigel 11
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It'as not what is lost in an MP3, it's the garbage it adds!

The difference between MP3 and lossless is nothing to do with what is removed. It's everything to do with MP3 adding frequency components that are not there in the original, and (even worse) which have no harmonic relation to the original notes.

Listen to somerthing very simple. A solo flute is perfect. Or a singer with a "pure" voice and an acoustic guitar. If you have a musical ear, the difference betwewen compressed audio and non-compressed is painfuly obvious. I can obtain pleasure listening to acoustic music on hardware way below the audiophile grade. It's failings are to attenuate some very high and very low frequencies, and to introduce some harmonic distortion, i.e. notes harmonically related to the source. This latter changes the timbre of the sound ... some folks actually prefer the "warmth" added by a valve amplifier, which does so more than even a low-budget transistor amp.

But non-harmonic added noise is just that. Noise. Disgusting atonal interference. It doesn't change the timbre, it interferes with your appreciation of the music. It does so with any fidelity of post-DAC amplification, not just the highest. Amplification with any approximately linear transfer curve cannot add non-harmonic components. Sampling will "alias" ultrasonic frequencies back down to lower audible ones, but that is avoided by filtering the inut so that there is effectively zero in the pre-ADC stream at much above the sample rate to get aliased down below 10kHz. Compression is simply evil.

BTW this same phenomenon is why FM sounds so much better than DAB, even on a crappy portable receiver. (Oddly, the horror is far less with speech than with music). Of course, the compression on UK DAB is particularly awful, which doesn't help.

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Renault Twingo: Small, sporty(ish), safe ... and it's a BACK-ENDER

Nigel 11
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Re: Why the love for the original twingo?

You can't explain love, or character. How else to explain the longevity of the 2CV, and the fact that well-preserved ones are still much sought-after?

Some of it is simply a desire not to be in an identikit-near-clone of everything else on the road that's a similar size and price. Same reason that when I'm shopping for a used car, one of the criteria is "NOT silver, black or white". Simply because far too many cars out there, are.

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Nigel 11
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The little things matter ...

meaning something as long as 2.31m can fit in

Meaning a standard board or length of wood purchased at a DIY shop won't fit. The standard length is 240cm.

Maybe it won't bother some, but it's enough to cross it off a DIYer's car list.

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BENDY iPhone 6, you say? Pah, warp claims are bent out of shape: Consumer Reports

Nigel 11
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Re: Aluminium?

@Jeffypoooh: Thanks

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aluminium_alloy

6000 series are alloyed with magnesium and silicon, are easy to machine, and can be precipitation hardened, but not to the high strengths that 2000 and 7000 can reach.

7000 series are alloyed with zinc, and can be precipitation hardened to the highest strengths of any aluminium alloy.

There's more, including Scandium alloys, further down. So is this an example of (not quite) good-enough quality? A company putting a few dollars above shipping the best possible product?

( I don't care a lot - it's Android that sold me a Samsung. It was much cheaper, plastic, and strong enough for me. And I can swap the battery. )

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Nigel 11
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Aluminium?

Does anyone know what aluminium alloy they are using? (Won't be pure aluminium - far too bendable).

I'd have used one of the alloys developed in the cycle-racing industry. Light and VERY strong. Expensive, yes, but an iPhone uses a lot less than a bike. The magic ingredient is often Scandium. An aerospace Titanium alloy would be another possibility.

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Nigel 11
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Stress fracturing?

I wonder what happens with a lower force - say 30 lbs applied repeatedly over a week?

Probably, nothing.

Possibly, metal fatigue and a sudden fracture. Aluminium alloys can be vulnerable to that, witness the ill-fated Comet airliner. But it takes a lot of stress cycles to make this happen. In a week - very very unlikely. Years, slightly more likely.

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SanDisk Extreme Pro SSD – courting speed freaks and gamers

Nigel 11
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AFAIK

As fas as anyone knows. That's the problem. I'd far rather have media warrantied only three years but which can be expected to degrade gracefully thereafter, than something warrantied for ten years but with a greater risk of sudden and total failure.

I'm old enough to remember some of the unfortunate ageing problems that have hit computing in the past. Purple Plague and Black Death of chips. The DEC disk drive where a beancounter substituted an adhesive marked "DO NOT SUBSTITUTE", and thereby doomed every disk coming off that production line to die from surface contamination within three or four years.

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Nigel 11
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Re: An important question : SSD failure modes?

All the HDDs I had failed completely without warning

I'm very surprised. Was this a spectrum of different drives from different vendors of different ages, or a (faulty!) batch of disks or systems all procured at once? And were you actively monitoring the drives' SMART parameters as they aged, or just waiting for a "replace drive" warning that never came?

In my experience the reallocated block count (plus pending reallocation count) is the key parameter. It may be non-zero on a new drive, or rise from zero when the drive is slow-formatted (ie, every sector written to). It should then be on a plateau. If it is rising, beware. If it starts rising exponentially, swap that drive out asap.

Yes, I have experienced hard drive controller failures (insta-brick) but this has been a rare event compared to more or less gradual degradation of the medium. And even when the controller has gone seriously wrong, ddrescue has not infrequently managed to rescue the data.

You are right, backups are esential if the data is important. But where I work, there are many Terabytes of simulation output, kept for future reference. (A bit like the science-research equivalent of a PVR!) If the drive dies, so be it. The simulation can be re-run if necessary, at the cost of many core-hours of number crunching. The economics is such that it's better to use two multi-Tb drives to store 2x as many results for future reference, than to set the drives up as a mirrored pair.

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Nigel 11
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An important question : SSD failure modes?

What I'd really like to know about SSDs in general and SSD models in particular, is how they fail. Hard drives mostly (not always) give advance warning through the SMART parameters of when it is a good idea to replace the drive proactively. They also more often than not fail in such a way that ddrescue or suchlike are able to perform a complete or almost-complete copy of the contents.

Apocryphally (or perhaps related to early products) SSDs turn into bricks "just like that". Perhaps only a few years of working with SSDs can fill this knowledge gap. Still, it would be nice if some review site could embark on a useful long-term endurance test. Write and rewrite flat-out while keeping an eye on SMART to see whether the drive gives warning of its own demise with days (or preferably weeks) to act on the warning.

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iPhone 6: The final straw for Android makers eaten alive by the data parasite?

Nigel 11
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Re: "a parasite that's so successful it's killing its host"

A successful parasite doesn't kill its host. In fact the greatest success is to become a symbiote, such that the host cannot survive without the (former) parasite.

Methinnks I've just over-extended the analogy.

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Getting to the BOTTOM of the great office seating debate

Nigel 11
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Re: Thumb-tacks

You must have an enlightened employer with good fire sprinkler coverage.

Often, between health-and-safety and tidy-minded managers, this practice is banned. Health and safety do have a point - large amounts of vertical paper will make a fire spread faster. As for the managers, "a tidy mind is an empty mind" and they are the un-dead proof.

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Nigel 11
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Mushroom

Floor boxes - don't get me started

Oh yes, floor boxes, the most moronic architectural fad since Le Corbusier decided ugly was beautiful and concrete chairs were comfortable. But a lot more dangerous.

They're supposed to be "flexible". That means, you might be able to have them moved, if you have a large stock of spare matching carpet tiles, can afford to employ a carpet fitter, and an electrician, and a network technician. You may also need to replace the entire cat-5e or fiber run, if the original installer didn't think to leave a couple of meters of spare length under the floor in case the box needed moving a few feet.

In practice the furniture gets moved, the boxes don't, and cables are left trailing across the floor under people's feet and wheely-chair wheels. When cat-5e fly-leads get crushed, data unreliability results. Worse, when mains cables get crushed, a fire or shock hazard results. I have seen more than one instance where the insulation was melting because the underlying copper was fractured, and others where live copper was exposed. And of course there's the trip hazard. Get a cable caught around your ankle, and if you are lucky you get a sprain that develops into arthritis during your retirement and puts you in a wheelchair in your 80s. If you are unlucky you trip, bang your head on the corner of someone's desk, and are dead or a vegetable an hour later.

And when the much maligned Health and safety people spot the hazard and insist that the floor box is moved, the architect-types then tell you that it's impossible to get the box within two feet of this or that wall or pillar, so you discover that several square meters of expensive office space are effectvely unusable.

All of which happens after the architect has won some sort of award for a beautiful expanse of carpet tiles and unused desks uncluttered by visible sockets, and has moved on to fuck up someone else's workplace.

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PORTAL TO ELSEWHERE scried in small galaxy far, far away

Nigel 11
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Seeing the centre of our galaxy clearly is much harder than if we had a view "down" on it. Obviously distrance restricts resolution, but there will be a lot less dust in the way if we can look "down" on some other galaxy, rather than at the edge of its disk.

OTOH being *precisely* on the rotational axis of a disk surrounding a huge black hole might be extremely unhealthy. One can probably say that if there were another galaxy with its axis precisely aligned on us, we wouldn't be here to notice it.

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Top Gear Tigers and Bingo Boilers: Farewell then, Phones4U

Nigel 11
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Re: Slides don't surprise me

Why would you go into a phone shop if you wanted to avoid a sales rep?

To look at and handle some phones?

This might be part of their demise. Back when phones had buttons (and features rather than apps) touch and feel (and even sales-guidance) was important. Now they are all touch-slabs running Android(*), you don't need high-street outlets. Especially don't need high-street outlets not working for you (the phone network).

I knew what Android was like from friends who'd got a smartphone before I did. Choosing a phone was mostly down to internet reviews and simple parameters like size, weight, and (reviewer-compared) battery life. Then I bought through Amazon at lowest pricce, and it turned up the next day (with a user manual in Estonian, but what hey, nothing wrong with the phone).

(*) Yes I do know about iPhones and WinPhones. I just don't want one.

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European Court of Justice allows digitisation of library books

Nigel 11
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Re: Poor eyesight

An interesting case is people who need to enlarge something because of their poor eyesight. Use a magnifying glass, you say? That's not so good for piano music!

Actually, it probably is, unless the poorly sighted musician is also a wizard sight-reader, and has a very good page-turner to assist him. Mostly, musicians have memorized what's on the page a long time before they've perfected their performance, and the sheet music in front of them is more for reassurance than out of necessity. Some will perform without any paper at all.

Blind musicians don't have the paper option. It doesn't seem to impede them. I wonder, do they learn completely by ear from recordings, or do they need the help of a sighted teacher to learn a new work?

Mozart heard a secret papal mass - once! - as a child! - and then wrote down the entire score, note-perfect. But he was a genius.

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Nigel 11
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Re: Copying & Printing

It's called fair usage. You're allowed to photocopy smallish exerpts of a book (from memory, no more than 10%), but not the whole book. Enforcement is usually informal, by means of the library's photo-copier. It typically costs 10p/page, some of which is fed back to book publishers although they can't know what was copied. That also discourages excessive copying: 400 pages at 10p/page is £40, and the majority of books cost less than that. And of course, if you use the copier for too long, the librarians will investigate what you are up to.

There's a HUGE loophole in that if you can borrow the book, you can copy it on some other scanner or copier! In my UG days, the publisher had allowed a recommended book to go out of print, and every student had an "illegal" copy.

It ought to be straightforward to link a dedicated terminal displaying a scanned book to a library printer, in such a way that fair usage rules are enforced.

I'n recent years I've taken to using my phone to photograph exerpts, rather than pay to use the library copier. Don't know what the rules say about that, but I feel it's fair. So far the librarians have ignored me. The copy is inferior. It's mainly a way for me to time-shift by study of the exerpt rather than anything that I want to keep long-term. (It occurs to me that taking photos of a screen is easier than taking photos of a paper page).

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Cops apologise for leaving EXPLOSIVES in suitcase at airport

Nigel 11
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Re: the public was never in danger

Professional / Military grade non-detonating explosives are not particularly dangerous, and the greatest risk is probably the toxicity of heavily nitrated hydrocarbons. They need a detonator to make them go bang. If you manage to set them on fire, they do burn well, but probably less well than gasoline (and they're solid, not liquid).

I do wonder why the police used a significant amount of (presumably well-wrapped) explosive, rather than a minuscule smear, unwrapped. Both would give out the same concentration of vapour so they'd both smell the same to a dog. Maybe they were actually testing a scanner (which failed!), rather than training a dog,

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Boffins: Behold the SILICON CHEAPNESS of our tiny, radio-signal-munching IoT sensor

Nigel 11
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Another SFplot element coming to reality

Queng Ho Localizers, here we come.

I first read Vernor Vinge's "A deepness in the sky" shortly after it was published, and this was the plot element I found hardest to believe in. And now, it's looking not just plausible, but achievable in the next decade or two.

Which should scare us. In the book, ubiquitous surveillance was described as the fastest way to kill a civilisation, and that's something which I found was not the least bit hard to believe in.

(Book strongly recommended to anyone who hasn't yet read it.)

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Data entry REAR-END SNAFU: Weighty ballsup leads to plane take-off flap

Nigel 11
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Computers

Having a computer take over as many of the boring pre-flight checks as it has instrumentation to perform is likely to increase safety. A computer will do the same thing over and over again with almost 100% reliability. It won't ever get bored or distracted. Humans aren't like that. They tend to miss items from long checklists, and sometimes miss even a red flag if they're bored.

I agree about actually flying the plane, and the handling of critical situations in the air. In these cases, an experienced pilot's instincts are likely to work better than a computer following a completely fixed rule-set. It's a completely different situation to running through a checklist.

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Nigel 11
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Re: Does it really matter who shot it down?

but that's like claiming that murdering the wrong man is only manslaughter, and doesn't wash for me.

In a war, that's not manslaughter, it's not even regarded as a crime. It's "collateral damage" provided one's intent was to hit the enemy, and the poor bloody civilians were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

War sucks.

And so do conspiracy theories. Until there is hard evidence, I won't be attributing to malice(*) that which is adequately explained by incompetence.

(*) malice by the hapless incompetents in charge of the missiles, that is. Putin does have a lot to answer for, in terms of creating and prolonging the war, and in terms of putting those missiles in the hands of inadequately trained rebels.

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Nigel 11
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Re: the “adult weight” of 87kg

Unless it's a RyanAir flight, where they fine you something silly for every extra ounce.

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Nigel 11
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Re: tare weight...

Commuter flight. The smaller the plane, the more easily it can be unbalanced. One twenty-stone passenger at one end and two small children at the other are a significant imbalance, if the plane seats twenty rather than two hundred.

In passing, this is the real reason they'll upgrade economy class passengers to business-class if business-class isn't anywhere near full. A tail-heavy plane is unsafe. Passengers in business class are a necessity for safe operation!

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Nigel 11
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If only they were carrying hundreds of tonnes of some sort of liquid that could be pumped into tanks in different parts of the aircraft to rebalance the weight.

Irony?

The obvious problem with redistributing the fuel prior to take-off, is that for a flight destination close to the plane's maximum range, the tanks will all be close to full. Take-off and climbing to cruising altitude uses a significant fraction of the plane's fuel, after which optimally balancing the plane during the rest of the flight is part of normal operations.

And of course, you would need to have instrumentation on the plane's undercarriage to detect the loading problem. Halfway down the runway is too late to rebalance the fuel load.

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Nigel 11
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If there is a problem detected what should they do? You need more procedures and to determine how to correct the weight distribution and the co-operation of the passengers.

This is the sort of thing that the plane's computer should do. Check the loading. Do nothing if it's within optimal operating parameters. Alert the crew if it's sub-optimal, so that they are forewarned and can decide whether other conditions (bad weather etc.) make it necessary cancel the take-off. And refuse the allow the plane to fly, whatever the crew might think, if it's so badly ourt of balance that attempting take-off is likely to be disastrous.

So the flight crew would get an orange light maybe one flight in twenty, and a red light once in a blue moon, and air travel would become slightly safer. What to tell the passengers if it's a red light? That the plane is unable to fly because of a red light that has to be investigated. If the problem is in the passenger distribution, that should be obvious to the flight attendants once they are told to look. I expect more often, it's in the cargo hold.

Not having any instrumentation so the problem can't be detected until the plane is halfway down the runway, is crazy. That may well be too late. One of these days, just when the pilot needs more thrust than usual, there will be an engine failure. Most disasters happen because too many things go wrong at once, not because just one thing fails.

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Gee, everyone who wants a tablet has a tablet. Waiddaminute....

Nigel 11
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Re: Seniors have their moments

It'll be a while yet. It's a hard problem, even for a human being. You'd need an AI at least as intelligent as a dog. How often do your ears prick up because you thought you heard your name? How many times have you had to ask someone to repeat what they just said? And then understood no better than the first time they said it?

That third one, not often, but I did once ask in Glasgow which platform the London train went from. The reply could have been any of the platforms on the station. I missed the train.

Old Joke

Boss: "You're fired!"

Victim: "Computer: Format C Colon. YES!"

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We give Panasonic's new 5-inch Toughpad phablets a kicking

Nigel 11
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What I wan to know

Is whether it can survive face-down 2m drops onto a flint-gravel drive?

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Heads up, Chromebook: Here come the sub-$200 Windows 8.1 portables

Nigel 11
Silver badge

There's the VM option (install VMWare Player, install Linux into a VM, treat Windows as the world's slowest bootloader). That depends on whether the CPU supports VMWare (do Intel still make any that don't?) and whether it has enough RAM.

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Nvidia blasts sueballs at Qualcomm, Samsung – wants Galaxy kit banned

Nigel 11
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Where does liability stop?

Intersting point here. If Samsung buys chips from Qualcomm in good faith and without knowing about the internals beyond the published literature, and if Qualcomm is allegedly infringing an NVidia patent within that chip, does that make Samsung liable? Especially, liable going back in time to before the allegation was even made?

If so, I'm slightly surprised that any large company is willing to buy VLSI subsystems from a small(er) company, and that patents haven't yet caused all progress on the hardware front to cease!

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DREADNOUGHTUS: The 65-TON DINO that could crumple up a T-Rex like a paper cup

Nigel 11
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Defense

My first thought was that the tail isn't long enough to defend the neck, so all a (large) predator would have to do is get around the front and rip its throat out. (Proof, perhaps, that carnivorous dinosaurs did not hunt in teams? )

But then I remembered a film of Giraffes fighting ... I guess that the front end was maybe just as capable of being used in self-defense as the back end.

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DEATH TO TCP/IP cry Cisco, Intel, US gov and boffins galore

Nigel 11
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Re: Verifying the source of the data

Track, yes, if "anonymous" is not built in as an acceptable source. But how is that different to today's internet, or the telephone network? If a two-way communication is desired, then an outgoing packet has to have a truthful source. If verification was built in, you'd be able to know that the claimed source was untruthful, and 99% of the time the right action to take for a non-verifiable source will be to drop the packet.

Intercept, no. There is no conceivable way to prevent the data content of the packets being encrypted. By the way, one of the dual purposes of public-key cyphers is sender-verification. You can even do verifiable plaintext. (Transmit single-encrypted with your own private key, rather than double-encrypted with your own private key and your recipient's public key)

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Nigel 11
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Might this be the DAP of networking?

Before LDAP there was DAP. As far as I know it was never actually fully implemented, let alone ever used on a large scale. It was so encumbered with features and misfeatures, that one might have expected it to sink without trace.

But someone took a knife to it to create Lightweight DAP and the rest is history. Maybe that history is about to repeat itself. Certainly, the limitations of the internet as it is today are becoming ever more apparent. Something better is needed!

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