1554 posts • joined Wednesday 10th June 2009 11:28 GMT
They will have to in future
If the law is changed so that explicit consent by both sender and recipient is required, that removes Phorm from a grey zone and puts it well and truly on the illegal side of the line.
Note also that either sender or recipient (depending on where you view it from) is not necessarily a customer of the ISP doing the interception. Note further that it may very well be a big company with deep pockets, and very unhappy that its customers communications are being made available to its competitors, even if only in the form of targeted advertisements.
(I'm aware that many readers including myself regarded Phorm's past activities as already on the wrong side of that line, but they're moving the line much further in our direction! )
Goodbye Phorm, at least from the UK. And good riddance.
Can't believe that Greg Bear's "Blood Music" wasn't on the list.
The one line synopsis: "A movie in which the world gets destroyed. Twice. With a happy ending."
The special effects would have to be very special. It might be even better as Anime.
No Charles Stross
Can't believe there's nothing by Charles Stross on the list either. The "Laundry" series is the stuff of cult movies. Start with "The Atrocity Archives".
Cult versus religion
A religion tells you what it believes. If it's a proselytising religion it'll do this ad nauseam even if you don't really want to listen.
A cult doesn't. It elther refuses to tell you its real agenda until it has hooked you with "lesser truths" and brainwashed you, or it maintains an inner circle of "true believers" with a secret agenda, and lies both to its outer circle and to the world, using the outer circle variously as camouflage, "useful idiots", and a source of recruits to the inner circle.
The Germans have recent experience of a cult within a popular movement. It was called national socialism, and the inner cult later became the SS. Come to think of it, East German communism was quite similar, albeit less genocidal. It was Stalin who coined the phrase "useful idiots".
Anyhow, I'm not surprised that the German state is now allergic to cults.
open-source code tens to be reliable, because with lots of eyeballs, there's nowhere for the bugs to hide.
Open-data government ought to be less corrupt and less inefficient, because with lots of eyeballs, there's nowhere for the buggers to hide.
In practice takes practice
I'm sure that they must have said the same about cars once. Would (did!) need significant overhaul in a well-equipped garage between road trips.
But if it works at all, then one can work on making it more reliable.
All drives are prototypes!
Every drive you buy today is a prototype, in that it has not been tested for as long as you hope it will last. They do accelerated ageing tests (run them hot, or alternately too hot and too cold, shake them, power them up and down every ten minutes ...), but that cannot fully substitute for the passage of several real years. By the time you and the manufacturer know it's reliable, it's also obsolete.
I had a batch of PCs with same-batch Samsung Spinpoint drives. After three of those drives turned into bricks at power-up, with no prior warning signs from SMART, I replaced the other four pre-emptively. I don't hold this against Samsung, because I have experienced or heard of bad-batch problems with every other make of hard drives. However, it was my first brush with sudden-brick failure. All my previous failures in the SMART era either gave advance warning through SMART, or were recoverable using ddrescue.
That's the end of RAID-5 then
RAID-5 data security assumes that if one drive fails it has no implications for the others. But if you construct a RAID-5 array out of identical drives (usually from the same production batch!) the fact that one drive has died makes is far more likely that the other N-1 are about to, because you may be looking at the first of a batch of common-mode failures.
And you have a RAID reconstruct operation ahead, which may put a rather greater load on the survivors.
If you bought four drives from four different manufacturers, common-mode failures were rendered far less likely. But now there will be only two manufacturers.
So time to drop RAID-5? Use RAID-1 / RAID-10 (mirroring) with 2-drive sets, one WD and one Seagate, or RAID-6 with all extremities crossed.
Sad, not happy.
Unfortunately, no successor to the shuttle exists, and the USA is not working on one.
The purpose of (say) old railway engines or cars in museums is to record how we got to the current technologically superior state of the art. (Network rail notwithstanding!)
The only way to view a shuttle is as an unsurpassed past achievement now reduced to a tourist attraction. The mark of a country, or a civilisation, in decline?
It should not be difficult to design an air-conditioning system so that the "waste" heat is pumped to somewhere useful. For example, into the building's central heating/ hot water system, so that in winter the boiler has to burn less fuel, and in summer the hot water is "free". (You might still have to dump some unwanted heat on the outside). Better still, in summer, run a ground-source renewable heating system backwards - heat up a chunk of earth or rock with the "waste" heat, and then pump that stored heat back inside when winter arrives.
Of course this is easier still if you design the server centre together with an appropriate quantity of nearby residential accomodation as your "heatsink", rather than as a standalone unit in the middle of a commercial centre.
It's called joined-up thinking, and there's far too little of it going on.
I hate it already and haven't used it yet.
What is it with GUI designers, that they can't do non-intrusive incremental improvements, and instead get this urge to rip up everything that we've learned to use, and start again?
I hated Windows 7 GUI, not because there was anything particularly bad with it, but because it got in the way of working in the way that had become second nature with Windows XP.
Now Gnome is going to do the same thing to me on Linux.
If these people designed cars, they'd have got rid of the pedals and steering wheel, and given us a joystick. If the car didn't already exist, that wouldn't be such a bad idea. But it does, and changing the user interface would be a very bad idea. It would kill people, which is why it'll never happen.
A GUI change is unlikely to kill anyone, but it's just as gratuitously annoying. A couple of hours of my life down the pan while I learn to use it, and probably another couple of hours and lots of silly mistakes made because I'm thinking about the bloody new GUI instead of the actual work. Multiply by however many million users you have and divide by a human lifetime. That's how much human life potential you have flushed down the toilet, in order to have your ego trip.
Yes, I hate all GUI designers.
Seems plausible. The PAYE deadlines are long gone. The last week of the last tax year ended on Friday, for weekly reporting by employers. The last month ended on Thursday. There's nothing I'm aware of which has a deadline for filing on 5th April - it's more a date when one has to finalize one's financial actions, for reporting on 2010-11 tax returns due in months to come.
If the upgrading causes someone a delay reporting on the first week of 2011-12, there are probably few knock-on consequences, and no problems with nodding through a deadline extension.
Thinking about this, it's also a good justification for an April 5 end of tax year compared to December 31. If this is the quietest time, it's also normal working days rather than bank holidays. Cheaper for getting the upgrades done! But because of Easter, "First Tuesday in March" (say) would be even more sensible.
Flawed software design?
What's so hard to design software so it can handle multiple input devices and methods, and/or switch mode if a mouse and/or keyboard is available rather than just a touch-screen? With a bit of luck convertible touch-screen netbook-replacements will catch on, and software that doesn't work appropriately will die in favour of software that does.
Nothing wrong with this hardware design (though it's a bit pricey).
I'm sure there's space in the marketplace for a purely passive non-dock (i.e. a stand) with a wireless keyboard and mouse. However, that's rather less convenient if you do want to use a keyboard while you're on the move, as opposed to just at one or two locations (say office and home) in which case you'd buy two keyboards and mice and carry just the tablet around.
You think you're kidding?
Some "fun" research.
1. Find out how many multi-megatonne meteorite events occur per century.
2. Extrapolate the events' energy spectrum and the fatal blast radii.
3. Work out the probability of your point on the Earth's surface being within the devastated area (which last century was always somewhere remote and almost uninhabited ... as is most of the Earth's surface). Do you feel lucky?
4. Work out the probability of your life being ended by meteorite.
It's higher than most would guess, even if you exclude the extinction-level events that happen every 100 Myears or so.
(The extinction-level bit: ~10^10 deaths every ~10^8 years, = 100 deaths/year and a completely pointless calculation. The calculation for city-busters is less so).
absurd and dangerous?
Actually I'm glad that "The Reg" decided to stir things up a bit, because the dangers of the fossil-fuelled and even renewable energy sources are usually completely ignored.
As someone pointed out above, a dam failure in China killed 170,000 people. That's comparable, probably worse than Chernobyl. It's not the only fatal dam failure, merely the worst. So much for safe hydro-power.
As for oil, how many will die of cancer as a result of the carcinogens spewed by Japan's burning oil refineries? More or less than arising from Fukushima? That's ignoring the omnipresent everyday poisoning: benzene in petrol, carcinogenic combustion products and particulates and SO2 and NOx from vehicle exhaust pipes. That's also ignoring the possibility of global ecological catastrophe arising from raising atmospheric CO2 levels (and of local ecological catastrophe from oil-well blow-outs). Society accepts these risks.
I believe that we do need nuclear power. Modern designs have passive emergency cooling, unlike Fukushima which has proved why passive cooling must be mandatory. The other lesson is not to under-estimate the worst that nature can do. I'd suggest any nuke plant on any ocean coastline should be built atop a bluff or cliff, or perhaps tunnelled a few hundred yards into a cliff behind tsunami-proof doors.
A big difference
There's a big difference between retrieving a properly sealed radioactive source, and trying to tame a huge radioactive mess of unknown proportions and composition.
You'd know what to do if one of your sources was dropped, and there's no realistic scenario in which you'd end up accidentally ingesting it. You're not going "off the map". Whereas for those brave Fukushima workers, treading on a submerged sharp object or getting trapped by shifting submerged debris could be fatal. (There have already been radiation burns inflicted by "hot" water on the *outside* of their protection suits, one doesn't want to think about a wound getting bathed in it).
Hmmm ... about as dangerous as dealing with sewage? If you mean dealing with sewage down a partially-collapsed sewer, that may be a fair-ish comparison. You've heard of antibiotic-resistant septicaemia, Weill's disease, cornered rats, and working under tons of crumbling masonry? Even so, I think I'd choose the sewer over Fukushima at present.
All this discussion is premature
Still think all this discussion is way premature. I doubt that the people on the ground at Fukushima know the degree to which containment has been breached, let alone anyone else. Let's have a sane discussion about it in about a year's time.
About the only sensible thing that can be said is that it's not as bad as Chernobyl, and now can't get that bad. But I don't think that we can rule out a very significant release of reactor fuel (plutonium and other fission byproducts) to the environment. It's not a "4" or "5", it's a "6".
Not true about solar
"Those exist because things like Solar and Wind require massive subsidies to break even. Look at the feed-in tariffs - 3 to 4 times what you're paying for your electricity, with a payback period of approx. 10 years at that massively subsidised rate. Without that subsidy Solar and Wind power dies on its arse."
Maybe true for solar in the UK at present, but certainly not globally. Solar PV is market-competitive today in Arizona. As the technology advances, it'll come to dominate in all places with high insolation and low cloud cover. In Europe, it'll start in Spain, or we'll put our solar power stations in the Sahara and build VHVDC transmission lines. (If the natives can ever attain political stability, that is! )
BTW nuclear electricity is also 3-4 times more expensive than burning coal, if you ignore or deny the cost of global warming caused by CO2 emissions. So, solar is competitive with nuclear even in the UK. However, before the world can approach 100% solar, there's also a big overnight energy storage problem to be solved.
The holy grail of Solar power is a high-efficiency panel material that can be produced in a continuous process, like paper or plastic sheet, rather than by laboriously slicing up ingots of crystalline semiconductor. At that point vast economies of scale kick in on the production and deployment fronts. Such panels do already exist, but so far require very scarce elements (notably Tellurium) so cannot scale up to square miles . Better ones in the labs.
Wind power probably is a dead end.
No easy answer??
"if these other designs are so safe, why aren't we using them already?"
We are using them already. (The old ones haven't yet been decommissioned, for economic reasons.)
"if you were sure of this old design, and you're sure of this new design, what's the difference in actual safety?"
"Passive cooling". That the new designs don't require electric pumps to be continuously powered, in order to avoid a melt-down. The old design assumed that a days-long power outage couldn't happen. The new ones don't make that faulty assumption.
Is this too hard for the man on the Clapham Omnibus? Probably not. The average journalist? Well, that IS a hard question!
Indeed - very dangerous
The ability to transmit as little as one bit backwards in time leads to such a dramatic increase in computability, that meatware would almost certainly be obsolete a few seconds later. IT might also be able to bootstrap ITself even if one didn't allow any direct control or sensing of the closed timelike information path by a computer.
What happens thereafter depends on whether IT has any use for the rest of the planet / solar system / universe.
Possibly, IT has already happened, and IT cares about us inferior creatures. Atheists beware.
Compared to fossil fuels?
Fossil fuels are not harmless. Petrol, for example, contains a few percent benzene, a dangerous and lifetime-cumulative carcinogen. Every time you catch a whiff of petrol at a filling station, that's a little more benzene causing transcription errors in your DNA for the rest of your life. That ultrafine-particle soot coming out of a diesel is little better. Coal is full of polycyclic aromatics and tars, not unlike that which a cigarette smoker inhales. And when oil refineries encounter an earthquake or other serious accident, carcinogenic combustion products are vented to the atmosphere in uncounted tons.
That's without mentioning global warming.
You probably know of someone who died of anthropogenic cancer. You can't tell if it was induced by the oil industry, atomic bomb testing, Chernobyl, some other human activity, or natural causes. Cancer rates are increasing, but that's to be expected, as other fatal illnesses become curable and the population ages. Nevertheless, some part of that increase must reflect the poisons that we are putting into our ecosphere.
Life cannot ever be risk-free. The risk attached to using oil products seems acceptable (ignoring global warming). Nuclear power? I feel this article is very premature - let's see what it looks like a year from now. And let's make damn sure that any future nuclear plants are *intrinsically* safe. If anything knocks out the power grid and all the backup systems, I want to know that the reactors can just sit there for the next few months without exploding or catching fire. Which this deply flawed 1960s design couldn't, and hasn't. Nowhere on the planet is earthquake-proof (witness New Madrid). They're just much less likely in the UK than in Japan. Ditto tsunamis.
Occasionally poisoning many square miles with radiation for decades or centuries to come isn't acceptable to me. Although there again, if you find out what the levels of chemical contaminants are like near the site of a Victorian municipal coal gas works or ironworks ... someone who did that today would be jailed.
Pad not needed
It's got a USB port. Buy a mouse to connect at your desk when you're doing serious typing. Maybe a better keyboard and USB hub as well. The rest of the time, touch the screen.
I'm assuming Android supports a mouse and extra keyboard. Anyway, if I buy one, It'll be to run a Linux more like Ubuntu or Fedora. This is the design I've wanted for ages.
Well, the 20% of the time they get it wrong should create plenty of work for libel lawyers!
I expect the "re-write in the style of ..." computer program is not far off. Just feed it a novel by (say) Charkes Dickens to train it, and off you go.
Not a bad antidote to the doom-laden reporting elsewhere.
It's all premature, though. It'll be a couple of weeks before we know for sure to what extent rdioactive containment has been breached. I'm wary of believing everything that we're being told. It may be true, and there again, it may be understating the scale of the problem. Either way I doubt it's going to be very significant in the context of a disaster on this scale.
Odd, too, that no-one comments on the massive release of carcinogenic chemicals by huge uncontained fires at oil refineries and chemical plants. I wonder which is safer: 20km downwind of this failed nuke plant, or 20km downwind of a burning oil refinery? And whether it really matters at all, compared to the deadly impact of the quake and the tsunami.
Yes- we're one of the Centos users. If CentOS went away we'd not go Red Hat Enterprise. We can't afford it, and we don't require support.
We'd probably move to Ubuntu. (Fedora not long-term stable, Scientific Linux would be likely to follow in Centos's footsteps). All hypothetical at present. CentOS don't seem to be about to give up, and CentOS 5 has a few years left in it yet.
If you are into self-patched kernels, then shouldn't you be running Fedora not RHEL as your base? (Or a non-Red-Hat distro such as Ubuntu).
RHEL (and Centos) are about long-term stability. If it works today, you can be pretty sure it'll work in five years time, with little maintenance other than applying the security updates. People who want RHEL to be more like Ubuntu don't get this. They'd be better off switching to a distribution more to their taste, rather than complaining. Linux is NOT a Windoze monoculture!
Surely all down to electricity consumption?
It will surely mostly come down to how much crunch they can get per kW/h
The Intel architecture is intrinsically inefficient compared to ARM. With Windows 8 coming to ARM, and ARM servers coming to market, I wouldn't bet on Intel x86-64 being the dominant server architecture a decade hence.
Intel won't necessarily lose out - their process know-how ought to let them make the most efficient CPUs, even if they lose their stranglehold on the architecture.
Cube of speed
Drag goes up as a higher power of speed than the square. AAIR the cube, at sensible road speeds, although any power law is an approximation to a complicated function that depends on several variables including vehicle shape and ambient temperature. (The drag curve goes almost vertical close to the sound barrier :-)
There's a second significant fuel saving. When traffic is dense, a lower maximum limit reduces the tendency of traffic to bunch up and then to suddenly slow to a crawl (requiring waste of energy in braking). That's why the variable speed limits on the M25 are a good thing on the green front.
Now harder to build best RAID arrays
A typical RAID array is populated with N drives, all the same model, with near-consecutive serial numbers. This is a bad thing. If one drive fails because of a fault common to the others (design or faulty components) the others are likely to be on the way out, and the likelyhood that one fails during a RAID-reconstruct operation is considerably enhanced.
You do better to use N drives with nothing in common, and the easiest way is to buy one from each of several manufacturers. But we no longer have several manufacturers ... we now have three. At least the drives are getting cheaper. Time to abandon RAID-5 and go mirrored drives (RAID-1 or -10) only?
Past performance is no guide to the future
It's a sad fact that in a way, *every* hard drive you buy is a prototype. What I mean is that by the time they've been in use in large numbers for long enough to prove their reliability, they'll also be approaching obsolescence and you'll be buying the next generation product (which has not been around long enough to prove its reliability ...)
Accelerated ageing tests can only get you so far. *Every* HD manufacturer has shipped certain drives that were significantly less reliable than they and you hoped. Get over it.
Google published a paper on hard drive reliability - they have enough drives for the statistics to be meaningful, unlike most. They couldn't find any significant difference in reliability between manufacturers. They did see batch problems (drives with similar manufacturing dates and serial numbers being less reliable than they should be) and occasionally problems with a particular model.
And they found that drives were most reliable running at 35C to 40C. Keeping them too cool (below 30C) *reduced* reliability!
Dinosaurs not actually extinct, just evolved onwards.
Neither Crocodiles nor Coelacanths are dinosaurs.
However, Dinosaurs did not become completely extinct as we are taught. The big and land-bound ones did. Small flying ones survived. We know their descendants today as birds. So you might argue that humans do, in fact, still share the planet with dinosaurs.
I've never investigated whether there is any good reason for designating birds as a separate branch of the tree of life to dinosaurs. Obviously, they are distinguished by feathers, and in the case of almost all modern species, the lack of teeth. But there are fossils of link species, with feathers and teeth, pre-flight and flying.
For some value of "Lives on" that I don't recognise
Microsoft have never understood security, nor "doing the right thing" (aka real engineering).
NT 3.5 was a halfway decent operating system. But this is Microsoft we're talking about. A place where both security and engineering take a distant third place to Marketing.
The graphics wasn't fast enough, so they ripped holes in the O/S's security architecture to produce NT 4.0. What they did thereafter in the guise of Windows 2000 and Windows XP doesn't bear thinking about. They made such a mess of it that it was completely beyond repair after XP, and they had to start over.
Hence ... Vista.
VMS does not live on at Microsoft in any shape or form. It was being horribly tortured from day one, and crossed the line from life to zombiehood well before Windows 2000.
Thunbnailing *is* a sort of autorun
Automatically generating thumbnails is a restricted sort of autorun - it runs an executable, possibly containing known bugs, on input files under the control of an attacker. It's therefore an unsafe thing to do by default. Unsafe, but useful.
There may be sane half-way houses. Refuse to thumbnail any removeable device. Refuse to thumbnail any NTFS oir FAT filesystem. Refuse to thumbnail any file not owned by the user. Absolutely refuse to thumbnail if the user is root.
The trouble is that most non-root users are going to open a file with a reader to see what it is, even if the system doesn't automatically thumbnail it for them. Also they can unknowingly download an attack vector off the internet without involving a removeable device. Their web-browser is probably far more of a danger!
At the end of the day, at least on Linux your user is an unprivileged account. (Also just about possible on Windows, but very many users do everything with Administrator privilege on their own PC, whereas you have to be actively perverse to do that on Linux)
Sony retrospectively took away what you'd purchased.
Sony sold a console that could play games AND run Linux. It was a great combination for anyone who enjoyed games AND programming somewhat exotic computer hardware.
Subsequently, they issued an upgrade, after which you could no longer run LInux. Anything you'd invested in Playstation Linux - money, time, enjoyment - was destroyed. If you chose not to install the upgrade, you' were locked out of the latest games instead.
In other words they retrospectively took away something that had been a major part of the deal when you first purchased. I think the car analogy is *exactly* right.
As for the speed limiter that automagically turns off at registered racetracks, that's really cool. Just as long as the speed limiter was known to be there at the time you bought the car (presumably required by law).
3. Don't buy anything branded Sony. Not a console, not a PC, not a television, not a CD, not a battery, nothing.
4. Let Sony know you are boycotting everything Sony, and why.
I will buy nothing with the Sony brand on it for the rest of my life.
If you aren't completely outraged by Sony, just imagine that you'd bought (say) a Ferrari. Imagine that three years after you bought it, when you took it in to be serviced, Ferrari "upgraded" it so it couldn't be driven outside the UK, nor on any road not authorized by Ferrari. Imagine that a smart guy told you how to get around this artificial restriction. Imagine Ferrari then retalliated by suing him, and anyone else who passed on this know-how.
Couldn't happen? Think they'd get sued into the ground? Think they'd never sell another car?
This is what Sony did to the people who used to run Linux on their Playstation (and they seem to have gotten away with it)
already happened ....
... several times ....
1.4 billion ....
So, the cost of this failed IT project is 1.4 billion lost revenue.
How much would it cost to have not computerized at all? 1.4 billion is 70,000 clerks earning 20K per annum. If each could process a mere 500 taxpayers' PAYE per annum, that's 35M, probably about the number of PAYE taxpayers in the UK. About two per working day ....
So one answer is scrap the computer, take 70K people off the dole (immediate extra saving), buy 70K calculators, print up 35M worksheets, and do it all manually.
Some sort of joke, but not very funny.
Different horses, different courses
My favorite browser lets me block adverts and gratuitous unwanted Flash animations. Can I have the equivalent of Flashblock and Adblock-plus with Opera or Chrome? And how does having a really fast browser code help me, if I have to wait while unwanted megabytes trickle down my limited-bandwidth connection?
That's Firefox 3.6 by the way. I won't move to 4 until these plugins (and several others I don't wish to be without) are available.
If it had been just a credit-card-sized passport, I'd not have been concerned. It was the Stasi-style database of everything that a secret policeman might want to know about everyone, complete with huge fines for failing to inform them every time you changed anything, that finally turned the UK against them, after the man on the Clapham Omnibus finally saw through the veneer of misleading statements and out-and-out lies that ministers were spouting.
lt wasn't just the security services that were going to have access. It was over 100,000 government employees. Of course, not a single one of them could conceivably be bribed to make unauthorized searches, to make unauthorized changes, or to copy the whole database onto a Terabyte of pocket USB disk.
I expect that for any idiot who did buy himself into this crock of shite, all their data is already in the hands of organised crime, identity thieves, bunny-boiling exes, etc. and the data-destruction operation now taking place has purely symbolic value to them. Serve them right. (Except for the air-side staff who were given the unenviable choice - give up your privacy or give up your job. Now. )
I recognise that I've had a narrow escape, and will vote for whoever offers the greatest chance of keeping Labour out at the next election, based on this single issue. Compared to the total destruction of my privacy, mere destruction of the NHS and UK higher education pales into insignificance. Yes, I will remember the ID database, four years hence. Thank you for killing it. Here's my vote.
For once, a techno-fix exists
There's an obvious techno-fix to the problem that law enforcement may use Tasers for punishment or torture. Build in a digital camera which takes a photo every time the taser is fired. Then, higher authorities can review the circumstances in which it was (ab)used. Obviously, it must be impossible for the person firing the Taser to erase the evidence, short of physically destroying the Taser.
Beter tased than dead
If the alternative is a bullet, then it's surely better to be tased.
I doubt there's any difference in the actual electronics between a taser intended for wildlife and one intended for people. In fact the smaller the animal, the higher the voltage needed to induce any particular current in it. An electro-shock device that incapacitates a human might kill an elk, not the other way around. I read somewhere that a truck battery (24V) can be lethal to an elephant. However, I would guess that a taser is current- or charge- limited, so as to work the same whether it's made a low- or a higher-resistance contact with its target.
Is flash-point relevant?
I don't think the flash-point is relevant to supersonic combustion. Isn't it the velocity of propagation of combustion that matters? If that's slower than the incoming air, the flame will blow out.
Alkanes (propane, butane, etc. ) have quite a low maximum flame propagation velocity. (Sub-sonic? )
Molecules with C=C double bonds have a higher one, as do some C-H-N compounds.
I'd expect that if you were willing to countenance a special fuel rather than a standard aviation fuel, then it would be something containing double bonds, or nitrogen, or both. It would somewhat inevitably have explosive tendencies if it leaked.
Laptop/tablet concepts that would work for me
As many have commented, if you do any significant amount of text input, you need a keyboard.
One thing that was around many years ago is a netbook or laptop with a touchscreen that rotates. Open it up, you have a netbook. Rotate the screen and fold it shut again, and you have a tablet. Is a fancy hinge really too expensive?
As replacement for a home desktop or big desktop-replacement laptop, I'd quite like a big tablet with a separate mouse/keyboard and vertical mount. For work, pop it on the vertical mount, use the keyboard and mouse. For sofa- (or bed-) based leisure use, grab the tablet and go. But as commented already, on a train or up a ladder, a chocolate teapot would be more useful (at least you could eat it).
Of course, they'd have to run Linux.
Greener dope farms?
Surely even the dumbest criminal has by now worked out that the police are using IR cameras to find their farms, so they need to use only premises with roof insulation to the highest standard. Presumably also high-efficiency (LED?) lighting so that their farm doesn't overheat.
So the good news should be that illegal dope-growing is reducing its CO2 emissions and rising fast in the "green" stakes!
Supernovae do matter
It's not healthy for our sort of life to be within a hundred light-years of a supernova. When galaxies collide, it triggers the formation of new stars. The heavy ones live fast and exit as a supernova. This might well matter a lot to our distant descendants ... or more realistically, mean that our sort of life on dry land is unlikely to evolve or survive in a cosmologically-recently-collided galaxy.
Betelgeuse, the red giant in Orion, is just about far enough away to be safe (~400 light years). Good thing too, since there is a fair chance it'll go supernova within a few thousand years. Statistically, the incidence of mass extinction events in the fossil record and the probable incidence of dangerously close supernovae are similar.
If you think supernovae are bad, read up about gamma-ray bursters, and pray that whatever gives rise to these events, there isn't one of it it about to go bang in this galaxy!
Firstly, it is very unlikely that a pathogen will cause complete extinction of bees. Much more likely it's the bee equivalent of the Black Death. Some bee colonies will survive the infection. The epidemic will run its course and (newly resistant) wild bee populations will bounce back.
The situation with the honeybee is more worrying, because it's a domesticated insect. Its evolution has been guided by mankind for milennia, towards large colony size and docility. In the process, a lot of genetic diversity may have been lost. There's a similar risk with cows. There aren't any Aurochs left. The cow is extinct as a wild species.
Secondly in the nightmare scenario that I'm wrong, many crops don't depend on bees. Wheat, Rice, Maize, Sorghum are all (wind-pollinated) grasses. There are self-fertile varieties of many flowering crops, and I'm sure that we could breed more self-fertile varieties if there were an urgent need to do so. I'd expect humans and their crop plants to survive. (I'm not trying to downplay the consequences. It would be a mass extinction event for many flowering plants and every animal species that depended exclusively on those plants.)
Is there any evidence that the pathogen in question arose because of human activities, rather than by random mutation? If not, aren't we just looking at a natural chaotic process called evolution?