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* Posts by Nigel 11

2431 posts • joined 10 Jun 2009

Astronomers find biggest black hole, 17 BILLION times the size of Sun

Nigel 11
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Facepalm

Biggest != Typical

Shouldn't one always expect the biggest of anything to be an outlier, an anomaly, a bit of a freak? Unless it's difficult to concoct any scenario leading to the formation of this monster, one should surely assume that the observable universe is large enough for even very unlikely things to have happened somewhere.

And of course, the biggest is also the one shouting loudest for our attention. (Well, apart from Gamma-ray bursts, whatever they may be! )

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What killed Motorola? Not Google! It was Moto's dire software

Nigel 11
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Unhappy

After the Star-TAC ...

After they built the Star-TAC, the only way was down.

I'm not saying that it was the best ever Motorola phone, nor that phones haven't advenced very much further. Just that when you realize something out of "Star Trek", that the TV series thought couldn't be attained for a few centuries yet, you've reached the top.

My mother finds most mobiles too small and fiddly for her ageing hands and eyes. She'd love a Star-TAC (same size, much the same user interface, modern cellular tech inside).

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Pirate cops bust LITTLE GIRL, take her Winnie-the-Pooh laptop

Nigel 11
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Headmaster

Re: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

She did take someone else's (intellectual) property. If it was done with provable intent to evade paying the license fee, then it was theft. Composers and performers, and perhaps even the horrible multinational companies to whom they sell their copyrights, do have a right to earn a living (and if composers couldn't sell their copyrights, how would they then earn a living? )

Of course it wasn't theft on other grounds. Firstly, a 9-year-old can't reasonably be expected to understand such fine points of the law. What's the age of criminal responsibility in Finland? It's 10 in the UK. Secondly, how can someone know that what is delivered when one clicks a link is delivery of stolen goods? That's as daft as saying you're a thief if you un-knowingly buy a packet of crisps from a shop run by a man who nicked a big box of them from Tesco. It's the person who knowingly posted the link to stolen intellectual property that is the thief.

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Assault on battery

Nigel 11
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WTF?

Rechargeables, for Gaia's sake!

Not a lot of rechargeables. One spare set, or maybe a few shared sets and a charger kept by the person who volunteers to swap your discharged ones for recharged ones.

Rechargeable NiMH has come a long way. The last excuse for not using them was that they self-discharged in about six weeks. The latest ones don't. (The ones that come pre-charged in the packet).

The government ought to raise the tax on non-rechargeables so that they cost more than the rechargeable ones, and start a public-awareness campaign. I guess a few dim light bulbs will still throw them away after one use, but one has to start somewhere.

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BOFH: The Great Patch Mismatch

Nigel 11
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Pint

Re: Halon Rocket Fuel

I've heard a similar story. Except it was a high-pressure air cylinder that someone had unstrapped from the wall and propped against another. It toppled, struck its neck on the bottom rung of the decorator's step-ladder, fractured, and went through three walls ending up embedded six feet into a hillside. No-one was killed. The decorator's deafness was temporary.

Or so I was told, over a beer.

(The REALLY scary stories involve overheated acetylene cylinders, which make unexploded WW2 bombs look friendly.)

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Nigel 11
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Boffin

Re: This brings me happy memories

Halon is NOT an oxygen suppressant. That's CO2 flood.

Halon removes heat, not oxygen, in a rather clever way. When it is heated to its decomposition point, that is an endothermic chemical reaction. It absorbs heat, thereby cooling the flame. Further, the Bromine and other halogenated fragments that are released bond to the free radicals in the flame, so the flame is not only cooled but rendered incapable of catalyzing decomposition of its flammable substrate to generate more fuel for itself to feed on. It goes out and stays out.

It's exactly the same property that makes it so dangerous in the upper atmosphere, where UV decomposes it and where the fragments then catalyze the destruction of Ozone. Which is why it's been banned except in the most critical of safety-critical fire-suppression roles. Computers gave to take their chances with sprinklers, or be put in a true lights-out room with a CO2-flood system that kills both fires and people.

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Nigel 11
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Boffin

Re: This brings me happy memories

Let's prevent deaths from smoke inhalation by killing anybody who might be in the room wanting to breathe.

Only in the parallel BOFH universe. Or you are confusing Halon with CO2 flood.

In the real world Halon is almost inert and is not used in great enough concentrations to asphyxiate. If you were in the computer room when it dumped you would be off work with a monster headache the rest of the day and the next. It's not clear whether that's because of the huge noise it makes (only just short of eardrum-breaking), because of the flying ceiling tiles that the release usually causes, or because Halons have another use. The Anaesthetic gas that hospitals use is a halon.

Maybe someone once got fully anaesthatized, and that started the urban legend about it killing fires and people and leaving equipment unscathed?

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Microsoft dragging its feet on Linux Secure Boot fix

Nigel 11
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Black Helicopters

Re: Pretty sure its not malice

Hmmm. From a black-helicopterist perspective, that's the cost of employing someone incompetent on purpose, so you can't get hit with a monopolies lawsuit and made to fund a not insignificant part of the EU's deficit.

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Nigel 11
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Boffin

GPT

In passing, you don't need a UEFI BIOS to support disks >2Gb with Linux, provided you are happy with the plural. Once a linux kernel is up and running, it'll handle a disk with a GPT without any use of the system BIOS.

So boot off an SSD for a faster system. Or load your kernel from a USB memory stick if you want it cheap. Or off a CD (try root-kitting that!). Or even put that old 80Gb drive back to use.

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Nigel 11
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Thumb Down

Re: Never ascribe to malice that which can adequately be explained by incompetence

In the long view, malice is simply a subcategory of incompetence anyway.

Only if there's an afterlife. Otherwise if you can make off with a large amount of someone else's money or other valuables, and get away with it until you draw your last breath, then in the long view malice has paid handsomely.

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Nigel 11
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Except that a large enough corporation will employ someone incompetent to do a job that they don't want to be done competently.

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Texan schoolgirl expelled for refusing to wear RFID tag

Nigel 11
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Re: File this one under...

You might come to think "right reasons" if you consider that she doesn't want to be forced to wear a tag because it's against her principles, and you don't want to be forced to wear a tag because ...

The opposition being the people who say fuck your principles, do what we tell you or we'll hit you with something.

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Nigel 11
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Black Helicopters

Which is of course why "their" next step will be to implant the chip in our foreheads at birth once the infrastructure is omnipresent. Are we quite certain that those religious people are complete fruitcakes?

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Nigel 11
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Coat

Re: I predict...

If you read the article, you'll see that you need a working RFID tag at that school, in order to be able to use the toilets. So you'll most certainly have something to hide by the end of the day.

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Design guru: Windows 8 is 'a monster' and 'a tortured soul'

Nigel 11
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Small children find it easy to use

I find Duplo bricks very easy to use. They just aren't an awful lot of use for getting real adult work done.

Something that might have merit on a 4 inch touch-screen is a complete heap of garbage on a 24 inch high-res monitor being steered by a mouse. Like trying to build a real house out of Duplo bricks?

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Nigel 11
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Coat

Re: Idle Process is stealing my cycles

Let me guess, he went out and bought a much faster system, and discovered that the idle process was stealing even more of his time?

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Evildoers can now turn all sites on a Linux server into silent hell-pits

Nigel 11
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Unhappy

Infection route

One route would be any bug in the kernel that allows an attacker to execute code as root. Such bugs usually have a short life, but a rootkit may outlast the bug that allowed it to install itself. Alternatively the bug may at present be known only to the black hats. Another route would be if they managed to hack into a developer's system and build their malware (or a bootloader for their malware) into a released package.

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LAST EVER British typewriter manufactured in Wales

Nigel 11
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Questions

I find myself wondering when and where was the last finger-powered typewriter made? Also the last non-electronic (purely electromechanical) one?

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'Mount Doom' rumbling ominously

Nigel 11
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Boffin

Re: Dangerous or not (prediction)

Volcanoes are much easier to forecast than earthquakes, because they do give considerable advance warning. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prediction_of_volcanic_activity. Predicting how bad it'll be this time after it starts errupting is harder, but anyone sensible will give themselves a large safety margin rather than waiting around nearby to find out!

The trouble with an earthquake is that very often, the big shock arrives "out of the blue". Everyone knows it'll happen somewhere on a known fault line some time in the next fifty or five hundred years, but nobody knows how to predict it a week or a month ahead with sufficient reliability to request an evacuation.

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Power to the people - if you can find a spare socket

Nigel 11
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A space-saving solution

What saves a huge amount of space is an extension strip with 6, 8 or more parallel IEC sockets rather than UK 13-amp sockets. IEC plug-socket cables are easily sourced and inexpensive. What' s infuriating is that two 4-way 13-A plug strips cost about £5, and an 8-way IEC strip with no flex (just an IEC plug) costs about £80. The components it's made from (8 IEC sockets, one IEC plug, a foot or two of wire and a plastic box) surely cost less than a tenth of that ... you can look them up in an electronics catalogue, apart from the plastic box.

Typically you'll find fancier metal-case versions of these strips fitted in 19 inch server racks (and the prices for these are even fancier! )

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Nigel 11
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Flame

Re: No fair

Yes, I know that sort of expensive idiocy. It's a 13 amp socket (dammit), and you put a lower rated fuse in the PLUG if that's appropriate for the appliance at the other end. You can buy the special 5 amp fuses that go in those socket strips from electronics suppliers. I bought 100 of them, and have added fixing stupid electricity sockets to fixing IT equipment. What really annoys me is why they felt the need to fuse every outlet. The laws of physics say one can chain as many UK 13A extension blocks as one wants to. The 13 amp fuse on the first one will blow (and disconnect the whole chain) if the total current drain of all appliances connected to the string exceeds the 13 Amps at which all such blocks are rated. Not much risk of that with IT stuff. OTOH there are some laser printers that can take out a 5 amp fuse, since they take >5A for a few seconds while heating up from cold.

And if there were no 13 amp fuse, four times five amps is 20 amps, which is an overload condition for a 13 amp plug!

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BOFH: Hasta la Vista... luser

Nigel 11
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Facepalm

Re: We've all been there haven't we!

I'm afraid the best answer is to give the luser a USB memory stick and tell him to copy everything he needs to keep onto that, because the only way to cure a computer that badly infested with malware is to re-format the disk and start again(*). If s/he demurs, refer him to the shop s/he bought the thing from or to the manufacturer's warranty page. After a few round trips, s/he will beg you to wipe it!

(*) Only a slight lie ... it's certainly the best, the most reliable, and the fastest. Apart from a big hammer or creative use of an ITIL manual, that is.

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New flexible lens works like the one in your eye - and could replace it

Nigel 11
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Boffin

Re: Something wrong here

My knowledge of cataract implants and how the eye works was out of date. Nothing Google / Wikipaedia couldn't fix. Yes, implants used to be rigid, which was less than ideal. Today, they are flexible. This seems pretty obvious - if one can make a biocompatible material with all the desirable physical properties of a natural eye lens, then one should. And today, they do. So, something slightly fancy needed, and available.

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

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Nigel 11
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Re: @Scott

re Varifocals. I tried. I walked around for a month feeling that I'd wandered into a nightmare with invisible horrors haunting my peripheral vision. (I exaggerate slightly, but I did keep getting startled by nothings). I didn't get used to it, so I threw the expensive experiment away. Apparently I'm more conscious of my peripheral vision than most other people. I immensely dislike those trendy tiny-lens spectacles for the same reason, and wear the "classic aviator" sort.

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Nigel 11
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Something wrong here

Applications of the new lens include lens implants for people with defective or diseased lens

We've had those for decades. Nothing fancy is needed to replace a diseased lens (typically a cataract), just a moulded acrylic lens implant with the same optical parameters as the natural lens. Nature focusses the eye with muscles around the eye stretching or squeezing the eyeball, thereby moving the lens in or out a bit.

Someone I know with such an implant swears that it's better than what nature gave him in the first place, so it seems unlikely to me that any further improvement is either necessary or possible.

Before implants, they just removed the clouded natural lens and gave the patient cataract spectacles, which he could focus by moving them to and fro along his nose.

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Equinix's new Sydney bit barn built to survive TOXIC FLOOD

Nigel 11
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Re: Couldn't they just put it on the 5th floor?

My thought also. Or choose a location reasonably uphill of sea level and any nearby rivers.

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ROGUE PLANET WITHOUT A SUN spotted in interstellar space

Nigel 11
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Re: H2G2

Not quite as remote, but Iain M Banks' "Against a Dark Background" is set (to very good effect) on a solar system that's been ejected from its galaxy.

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Nigel 11
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Boffin

Re: Planet?

It's just a matter of definitions. It might avoid a lot of arguments if it were done by mass, with a planet being a body more massive than an asteroid and less massive than a brown dwarf star, and with precise numbers setting the boundaries.

Note, any object gravitationally bound to our galaxy is orbiting at least one star. If it's wandering in interstellar space, it may be orbiting many tens or even hundreds of millions of them.

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Nigel 11
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Re: Very strange stuff

There's also a grey zone between a wandering gas giant planet and a brown dwarf star. Jupiter emits more energy than it receives from Sol, because something (probably a very small amount of hydrogen fusion) is going on in its core.

"Torn loose by gravitational interactions" implies some sort of catastrophic interaction such as another star passing close to a solar system. That's not necessary. Any solar system with more than two bodies is stable only in a statistical sense. A 3,4, ... N body gravitationally bound system is chaotic, and it is always possible that what appears to be a stable orbit will in fact end up with one of the planets ceasing to be gravitationally bound to its sun.

You'll be unsurprised to know that the future of the solar system has been carefully modelled. Earth is safe for the next 200M years or so. Beyond that, we can't say. The observations aren't good enough to distinguish longer-term stability from its opposite. Such is the nature of a chaotic system. An unmeasurably small difference today may be the difference between earth remaining in orbit or not, 300M years hence. "Past performance may not be a reliable guide to future performance"!

Back to mini brown dwarfs or large wandering planets, it's possible that these might be the last habitable places after all the universe's stars have burned themselves out. Has anyone ever written a far-future SF story set on or within one?

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Sinofsky OFFSKI: Is Windows 9 now codenamed 'Defenestrate'?

Nigel 11
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Re: Perhaps we need a "Jobsian" second coming of Gates?

How could anyone at Microsoft take a look at Windows ME and say that it was OK and ready to be shipped? Going back a bit ... but Bates was in charge back then.

No, MS needs a completely new board, followed by a lot of sacking of people at or near the top. That's if it's possible to rescue the company at all. The rot may be too deep by now.

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Nigel 11
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Re: @Urs

Yellow, with purple text

Black, with black text

Black, with smoke (permanent)

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Windows boss Steve Sinofsky exits Microsoft

Nigel 11
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Mushroom

Re: you seee

Bringing NOTRO and Windows 7 UIs together would have been very easy. A start menu item "switch to NOTRO mode" and a tile in that mode "Switch to Windows 7 mode". Maybe they could still do that, depending on how badly they've smashed up the underlying code.

I'd have expected desktop NOTRO to have attracted less than 1% of desktop users, and could have been unceremoniously dumped from Windows 9. Unfortunately, certain people's egos were too big to allow a billion users to choose for themselves ... and now the recriminations have started. Good luck, chaps, you'll need it.

I'd say Microsoft has about two years to return to the Windows 7 interface on the desktop and send NOTRO to Vista-land. If they haven't fixed it by then, MS is doomed. (Might last another decade, but still doomed).

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Nigel 11
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Re: Microsoft Bob Cloud Enterprise 1.0 (Professional)

... with 42 users.

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A bitter spill to swallow, or 'how to smeg up your keyboard'

Nigel 11
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Boffin

Re: Simpler soloution

Just a mixture?

Not exactly. You can't completely separate Ethanol from Water by distillation or other physical means. Distillation gets you to "cask strength" (from memory, about 58% Ethanol). To get beyond that to 100% Ethanol you have to resort to chemical means. Be warned, 100% Ethanol is very highly toxic. Very much more so than twice the amount of cask strength spirit. It also tends to contain benzene (carcinogen) as an impurity.

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Nigel 11
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At least that's only one person's germs. The buttons in the lift, that's everyone's, refreshed daily.

Train yourself to press lift buttons with your knuckle. Seriously!

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Nigel 11
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Getting sugar out

Sugar isn't a problem if you're willing to take the slow route. Remove batteries (if any) and imerse in water. Leave several hours. Rinse. Repeat. Towel dry. Leave in airing cupboard for several days.

Cola, though ... kiss of death. Doesn't that make you wonder what it does to *your* innards?

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Nigel 11
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Re: Simple solution

Another simple solution: cheap Logitech keyboards.

They're actually rather good. They'll put up with quite a bit of abuse. They're cheap enough so that when a luser tips a can of cola into his, you just put it in the nearest bin and give him another used one.

(Not a new one. That would boost sales of cola! )

But they aren't shiny and they don't have keys that well-known patented shape.

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Nigel 11
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Mushroom

What they are thinking?

What they are thinking, is how can we make sure that it craps out as soon as possible after the warranty expires? Or even better, during the warranty, but in such a way that it's obviously the luser's fault and so not covered by warranty. And of course, it helps enormously if it can't be replaced except by buying it from us, with a mark-up of 400% on monopoly spare parts.

This is what you pay for "cool".

Where I work, we refuse to buy any PC that isn't constructed entirely from components that we can go out and buy for ourselves in a competitive market. mATX or ATX motherboards and cases. Standard PSUs. Quite apart from meaning I can almost always fix a broken PC in-house in minutes and within hours, it's also a legal way to keep the door firmly closed on Dell crap and HP crap.

Apple, though ... sigh. They've installed a virus in the lusers' brains. No other possible explanation. Shiny! Must be shiny! And rectangular with rounded corners!

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US condom rules 'will cause nasty RED RINGS on porn stars' todgers'

Nigel 11
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Joke

One size fits all?

Never was a good idea, but it never stopped them. They tried to make pi 3-sized, once. Next, they'll decide that since the average size bust is a C cup, all other sizes of brassiere are banned.

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BOFH: Can't you just ... NO, I JUST CAN'T

Nigel 11
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The first one broke

On what?

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Nigel 11
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Password complexity

Unfortunately in the real world, if they can't use "123456" or something short and crude, they write it down on a post-it pad and attach it to their monitor.

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Habitable HEAVY GRAVITY WORLD found just 42 light-years away

Nigel 11
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Pint

Water worlds

http://www.lsbu.ac.uk/water/phase.html

There's no reason you can't have liquid water in a high-G or high-pressure environment. It doesn't squash into a solid phase at all easily. Indeed, for everyday ice rather than one of the other high-pressure forms, squashing it converts ice to water rather than vice versa).

It's even possible to concieve of liquid planets - ones made of H2O all the way through. (At high pressure just about anything has high solubility in water, so that's where any small rocky or iron core would disappear to).

Maybe even a beer planet? (Microbial life in liquid suspension? Check. Excreting ethyl alcohol? Check.)

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Nigel 11
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Alert

SF life in a REALLY high-G environment

On the surface of a neutron star. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragon%27s_Egg

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Nigel 11
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Re: Wrong end

We need to suss out what makes us what we are, and implant that in a body that has fewer stringent requirements for survival and doesn't age, something that can use anything as fuel, has a long sleep/hibernation mode.

Silicon chips optimised for energy efficiency, clocked very slowly during the long boring bit in interstellar space? Can't beat the speed of light, but can crank up subjective speed by any desired factor just as long as the hardware in the real world lasts the voyage.

Uploading a human being into a virtual reality is the hard part of the problem we haven't addressed yet. Indeed, we don't yet know for sure whether consciousness is a wholly classical phenomenon. If it's quantum in nature, a personality (soul?) is not uploadable to any conventional computer, and is not uploadable at all without destruction of its original. This is where physics meets theology via IT.

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Nigel 11
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Meh

Re: EE 'Doc' Smith? Larry Niven?

An elephant is about the largest land animal (mammoths and dinosaurs were somewhat bigger). But that's on Earth, at 1G.

Consider stumbling and falling. Impact kinetic energy after a fall of any stated distance at 2G is the same as that for a fall of twice the distance at 1G. For a human, a pratfall at 2G would be like falling over the edge of a drop of his own height at 1G. A twelve-foot fall won't always kill you, but it will sooner or later. Big terrestrial animals (horses or larger) often die if they fall while running, but 4-leg stability means such falls are rare enough for the species to survive. Surviving a broken leg is also difficult to impossible for a large animal, and at 2G the load on the legs is doubled for any particular body weight.

Now consider 5G rather than 2G. 5G means the impact from falling over is the same as falling five times your own height on Earth. And consider that with a multiplied G force, you'd have to react many times faster to correct a postural instability before it becomes uncorrectable and results in a fall.

The elephant in the room on a 2G planet will be at most the size of a small pony. Which is good, not least because the maximum possible unsupported roof span will be a lot smaller than on Earth.

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Nigel 11
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Meh

Re: EE 'Doc' Smith? Larry Niven?

Same thing. OK, EE was before genetic engineering was on the horizon, so no new body plan. But if you were picking human colonists for a high-G world, you'd select the shortest and most heavily muscled humans you could find. I confidently predict that if the colony survived, the fifth-generation children would be shorter still, more heavily muscled, with denser bone structure, and bigger feet for stability. Think Hobbit weightlifters in this case.

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Nigel 11
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Re: So....

Unless we ever manage to tune in to their TV broadcasts.

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Nigel 11
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FAIL

Re: EE 'Doc' Smith? Larry Niven?

The Valerian colonists were huge and powerful ...

Showing an inability to understand basic physics (and Darwinian evolution). The larger a structure, the less able it is to resist gravity. A flea can survive hundreds (thousands? ) of self-inflicted gravities every time it jumps. A mouse can fall off a cliff and run away at the bottom, unharmed. A human being over seven foot tall is freakish, and at a clear evolutionary disadvantage. (Much more likely to break bones when he falls over, for starters).

Inhabitants of high-G worlds will be small by Earth standards. Rugged and powerfully muscled for their size, certainly, but above all sufficiently small as to be able to resist gravity.

Also unlikely to be bipedal, unless their nerves and reactions are much faster than ours. The consequences of falling over in high-G are greater, and the time available to avoid doing so is much less. Think small thick-set centaurs or wallabies.

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AMD shutters German Linux lab, gives devs the axe

Nigel 11
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Out of interest ...

Out of interest, what is it in the Linux kernel that needs to be so different for an AMD CPU compared to an Intel CPU that a specialist team from the manufacturer is needed to help write it?

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Psst: Heard the one about the National Pupil Database? Thought not

Nigel 11
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Unhappy

Anonymized?

The data could be anonymized. Names, addresses, day of birth and second halves of postcodes blanked out. For doing genuine statistical research, this would matter not one iota.

If it's not anonymized, what we have is a catalogue for paedophiles to choose their victims from.

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