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* Posts by Nigel 11

2350 posts • joined 10 Jun 2009

BIG BOOBS banished from Linux kernel

Nigel 11
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Re: Oh noes 0xDEADBEEF

I believe that was also a patch to the original version which was 0xDEADBABE. That code was written at about the same time as a young lady died in a car belonging to one of the Kennedy dynasty (ie rather before my time).

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Ocean-seeding experiment re-ignites geo-engineering debate

Nigel 11
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Boffin

Re: how much carbon is burned

Very little. The reason is that the soluble iron is like a catalyst for the plankton. It's a shortage of small amounts of iron which limits the rate at which plankton can grow. Supply those small amounts, and a massively greater weight of plankton grows, much of which is carbon. And when it dies, it sinks, taking the carbon to the ocean deeps. (Also the iron, which is WHY it's in short supply in ocean waters).

I wonder if there's a stabilizing feedback mechanism here. We're causing the oceans to become more acidic as they absorb the CO2 we emit. Will the increased acidity increase the amount od iron that the oceans can dissolve out of the dust that the winds blow from land deserts out to sea? If so, that means more plankton dragging more CO2 down to the ocean deeps.

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Judge: Apple must run ads saying Samsung DIDN'T copy the iPad

Nigel 11
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Meh

Re: Timing is perfect!

The judge can't order Apple to change its corporate mind. The case-law implications in other jurisdictions would be the same, whether or not the judge had ordered the publicity. With respect to future Apple vs Samsung action, the publicity order is a non-issue.

Whether it'll hurt Apple's sales remain to be seen. People do not like bully-boy companies, though to what extent this will tar Apple with that brush remains to be seen. Their Teflon coat is probably good for a while yet.

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Backups? Use disk. Archives? Disk. Particle accelerators? Fine, tape

Nigel 11
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Re: Spun down or Offline disk?

> Because when a disk is spun up, you notice if it's failed. When a disk is on a shelf, there is no notice, unless you spin them up every so often to check them, in which case you rapidly start to lessen and possible advantage.

I'm not convinced. Many office PCs are powered up and down daily. Many are configured to save electricity by sleeping with the disk spun down, several times per day. They're acceptably reliable. I look after ~100 such and see 2-3 HD failures per annum. With about half there's advance warning of incipient failure (SMART error counts) .

For an archive, the disks would be in RAID sets (multiple partity disks, at least two). Have the automation spin the disk up once a week if that hasn't happened by normal operations. Fail? same as any other failure in a RAID system. (Automatically) replace the failed disk, reconstruct, set bright red failed light on failed disk canister so dumb tired human knows which drive he's supposed to unplug and toss. Disk life expectancy would be close to shelf life, if they were powered up only for a couple of hours, one day in seven. MTBF ten years? Close to office PC disk life, if active two hours every day and spun up and down a few times per day. Certainly no worse than three years.

Main problem I see with a big disk archive is the running cost of replacing failed disk drives. There again, how long are tapes safe before you are advised to copy them to new media? Cost per Gbyte is pretty much the same. In a few years time, will tape have caught up with 10Tb disks? And if BPM/ HAMR tech gets out of the labs, we'll probably have 100Tb disks by 2022.

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Nigel 11
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Re: Spun down or Offline disk?

> I would not trust a disk to be off for a year or more and expect it to come back

Why distrust that, any more than you distrust a disk that's powered up, wearing out some mechanical or electronic component with an in-service life considerably less than its shelf life?

Anyway, for archive you are surely using RAID techniques with multiply redundant disks, so a single failure or even a double failure won't hurt.

"New" disks may have been in the pipeline from manufacturer's testing to your installation for many months. True, new drives fail rather more often in their first few weeks and occasionally are even DOA. Most, though, are just fine. So as long as you have RAID with two or more redundant disks you should be OK.

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Nigel 11
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Happy

Re: I remember a time...

Yes, it's very important to match the reliability of the storage to the importance of being able to retrieve it down the line. My CD archive is of physics data most of which will never be read again, and of which a statistical sampling (say 80% of the files) will be almost as good as 100%.

Wonder if anyone would be interested in software to create RAID-6 sets of DVDs? (Not that I have time to write it, but someone might like to run with the idea, especially if their data archiving needs are a few tens of Gb per run).

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Nigel 11
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Boffin

Spun down or Offline disk?

No reason to keep your archive disks powered and spinning. If access is infrequent, the system should spin them down between accesses. If even less frequent, they could be unplugged completely (robotic hot-swap SATA storage? Or just some custom electronics to cut the power completely on drives that won't be accessed again for weeks.

Arguments have raged for decades on whether drives last longer spinning or powered down. I don't expect a resolution any time soon. Whenever someone has a statistically valid answer, the drives for which it's an answer are many years obsolete.

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Nigel 11
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Re: I remember a time...

Anyone know why they can't / don't do write-once optical tape? Holes burned in a stable dye layer between polymer films? 2400 feet of 1-inch tape is the area of about 1500 DVD-Rs, or about 7Tb at the same data density.

BTW I have no trouble reading CD-R's burned over a decade ago, that have been kept in sleeves in the dark at office temperature. Ditto DVD-R going back slightly less time. People who say they don't last, are probably letting sunlight get to them.

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Nigel 11
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Re: Tape this !

> Cheaper TB for TB? Really?

DLT-S4 cartridge, 800Gb (1.6Tb compressed), £40

2Tb disk drive, £80 at inflated post-Thai-flood price. £50 expected again soon-ish. 4Tb drives on the market but so far at "premium" prices.

I make that a tie, depending on whether your data is already compressed or hugely inefficient. Now, if the argument was whether you'd be able to read it after twenty years' offline storage, tape might make the better case. Certainly, the results of the accelerated ageing tests for tape don't need to be taken with quite as much salt. But if the data really matters, you'll probably be reading or even re-copying every couple of years to be on the safe side of entropy.

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Devolo dLAN 500Mb/s powerline network adaptor review

Nigel 11
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Facepalm

Think laterally

Unscrew the socket, rotate 180 degrees, screw back in place. It's only convention that the earth pin goes at the top and the switch (if any) is "down" for on. Obviously, make sure you don't strain the mains wiring in the socket box when you do this.

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Nigel 11
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Boffin

Re: Cat5 and Gigabit

you want at least Cat6 for a stable gigabit network. Just like I have here at home, in fact.

Overkill. Gigabit was specified for cat-5. Experience with cat-5 in the field suggested insufficient margin to tolerate all the kinks and scrapes that the cable plant got subjected to in the field, and cat-5e was born. I doubt you can still purchase non-e plain cat-5. Cat-5e is extremely widely used for Gbit ethernet (such as everywhere in my workplace) and has no stability issues at all provided you respect the distance limits (max 94m of fixed wiring with max 6m total of patch cable at the ends, no joins in the middle. If the cable run in the middle is considerably shorter, as it usually is, you can take some liberties with longer patch cables at the ends).

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Nigel 11
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Boffin

Re: Tests?

Comparative tests with 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz a/b/g/n?

Pointless. Comparing apples and oranges. Comparison against other powerline networking products used with the same domestic power wiring and household appliances is at least apples with apples.

Comparison with wired Cat5e via 1Gbps Switch?

Pointless. A 1Gbps switch gives you 1Gbps end to end, and no variability from interference etc. That translates to at least 100Mbyte/sec data transfer on any sufficiently agile PC and NIC.

Effect of all the light sockets with cheap CFL lamps?

You'd need to characterize the CFL lamps. Cheap but minimally EU legal? Cheap and illegal? How illegal? Are any two bulbs even from the same batch comparable in terms of powerline interference? Do they change with ageing (I know that the gas discharge does). And if you did all this, how is a reader supposed to apply it to his random collection of mains wiring and appliances?

Frankly, buy it, try it, fiddle around with your own domestic locations and extension cables and so on if you can be bothered. It works well enough for most people. Be aware your mileage will vary from the reviewers', sometimes very much so. If you want seriously predictable and consistent network performance, install cat-5e and a switch!

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Micron mass-produces Phase Change Memory

Nigel 11
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Alert

Is this a problem?

Life expectancy "in excess of 100K cycles" but each cycle takes only 1us. So might it be vulnerable to burn-out within a few seconds, if someone makes a programming error? 100k x 1us = 0.1 second!

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Microsoft 'didn't notice' it had removed Browser Choice for 17 months

Nigel 11
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Re: fine the bustard!

Is that a joke or a spelling mistake?

(Great bustard - world's heaviest flying land bird - a bit like a flying turkey)

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Nigel 11
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Re: The EC finally sorted the brower wars, after microsoft had won.

Protect Linux and multi-boot. Yes PLEASE.

I noticed that the browser choice screen had gone. Big deal. I assumed it was my employer doing something sensible, that they'd somehow removed it because it just confused users who did not have admin rights to install anything. Firefox was in the standard builds in any case.

The EU should offer to let MS off the hook in exchange for pre-emptively knocking on the head any future attempt at locking Linux out of PC hardware. Microsoft should be required to agree not to do what they aren't presently doing and claim not to be planning, with a pre-agreed fine of say ten billion Euros the moment they breach their undertaking. And if Microsoft starts wriggling, well, we'll all know what that means!

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Yes, you can be sacked for making dodgy Facebook posts

Nigel 11
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Meh

Re: Lets take it a bit farther

In the EU we have an expectation of privacy under EU law. Employers are allowed to monitor e-mail and telephone calls only if they let you know in advance that they are doing so, and it's for appropriate purposes such as financial compliance or business dispute resolution. That still doesn't mean that they can act against you if they "overhear" you say something they don't like in a conversation or e-mail to a person you call a friend. You'd have to have broken the conditions that the monitoring was put in place to enforce, and that monitoring would have to be reasonable. They'd have to be rather careful even if a now ex-friend forwarded to your employer, messages that you believed were private communications when you sent them in the first place..

But if you post in a public forum, you can't argue that you expected privacy. It's more akin to shouting in a public place (where bringing your employer into disrepute has long been held acceptable cause for disciplinary action).

The name "Twitter" conveys to me an image of immature fledgelings in a nest. They Twitter for attention. Quite often the attention they get is from a cat or magpie thinking "lunch".

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Much of China still has rubbish net connections, stats show

Nigel 11
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Re: Mr.

Maybe also to do with censorship? The more bandwidth is available, the harder it gets to censor and filter it.

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Raspberry Pi used as flight computer aboard black-sky balloon

Nigel 11
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Boffin

Re: Old news ...

Nice story but the physics is wrong. Oxygen and Acetylene gases are both denser than air. Such a balloon wouldn't get off the ground.

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Nigel 11
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Batteries?

Presumably the lightest possible batteries that pack enough charge for the duration of the flight. I'd guess non-rechargeable Lithium cells. Obviously one would check that the voltage and current needed are maintained at low temperatures (or weight-budget for enough thermal insulation to prevent them getting too cold).

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Nigel 11
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Re: silly questions...

Even without a parachute, the drag created by a burst weather balloon is fairly considerable. I expect that for the weight of payload that it can lift, packed into something without any sharp corners, the risk of causing serious injury is negligible even if it does land on someone's head at terminal velocity.

The odds of hitting someone with an object dropped randomly on the earth's surface are very small. There are probably more meteorites dropping to earth every year than there are weather balloons, and even a small lump of nickel-iron at terminal velocity could do serious injury or worse.

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Giant super-laser passes 500 TRILLION watts

Nigel 11
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Mushroom

Re: Badass

On the other hand laser-driven implosion yields a MUCH greater plasma density, so the much higher net energy gain might also be a lot easier to achieve. Definitely worth researching.

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Nigel 11
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Headmaster

Re: So what does American spelling of LASER stand for then

It's evidence that LASER has passed or is passing out of the realm of acronyms and into the realm of neologisms (as laser or US lazer). It is virtually certain to become recognised as an ordinary word in the near future if it isn't already, because it's made it into everyday life and speech (unlike, say, SCUBA, which is still used only in connection with one specialism). Compare RADAR / radar, coloquial usage "on your radar".

The Amercans may be regularizing its spelling in line with other American spellings, regardles of the word's origins. They have a somewhat more phonetic and less etymological approach to spelling than in GB English. In passing I know that the OED has turned traitor to time-honoured GB English usage, but in my book there's only one word that should end in -ize, and that's Americanize.

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Build a bonkers hi-fi

Nigel 11
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WTF?

Re: Laws, sausages, vinyl records

Do they still make vinyl records at all?! I didn't know they did. I'd hope that they'd cut from a studio-master, not from a CD, but I guess in the final stages of the death of a media format, I guess this sort of thing happens.

Old vinyl from before the CD was invented was most definitely cut from the studio master tape. Handled very carefully, played on a high-quality deck, vinyl could definitely give a CD a run for its money. But vinyl is so terribly fragile, compared to the almost indestructible CD. The rest is history.

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Nigel 11
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Re: Snake oil

Jail for fraud is a bit strong. The people that buy the stuff must surely get some sort of pleasure from buying it. My guess is that there are audiophiles and there are audio-fetishists, and the silly stuff is for the latter. Same as with underwear, really.

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Nigel 11
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Boffin

Re: Coat hangers...

Look up "skin effect". A high-power high-frequency signal is restricted to the surface of a conductor, or to put it another way, the resistance of cable increases with frequency. Lots of fine strands have more surface area, so they work better.

It's a smallish effect at audio frequencies. However, at least use mains flex (multi-strand) rather than cable (single-strand)! The cheaper grades of speaker cable have still more finer strands and don't actually cost an awful lot more. Linear-crystal Oxygen-Free stuff, that *is* getting silly.

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Nigel 11
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Trollface

Re: Oh dear, not this again

You've surely got to be a troll. In a digital system the bitstream either arrives intact or it doesn't. A cheap PC works (until it doesn't). Indeed, sometimes it fails because a cheapeast-possible cable assembly has come apart, but the fault there is in the mechanicals of the assembly. A digital feed to a DAC is no different to a digital feed to (say) a disk drive in this regard (except that the disk drive cable has to work at Gbit/sec not just kbit/sec)!

Spend the money on the things that matter. the DAC, the amp, the speakers, and if you've got the money for top end, the analog wiring (the amp to the speakers in particular).

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Nigel 11
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Re: Its not about the money... its about the music

Valves are a way of delivering a musically acceptable from of distortion in the loud passages. Done deliberately and in large amounts, this is the delicious sound of an electric guitar, but I'd rather not have extra added to everything I listen to. A good solid-state amp doesn't deliver any noticeable distortion at all.

Horn speakers can be very good indeed, if you've got the space for them! IMO the absolute ultimate reproduced sound quality is through electrostatic headphones, but headphones are a solitary pleasure.

Music is a gateway into another world, that opens only for some people. If you think that's pretentious, you just aren't one of them. Harmonic distortion is like looking at fine art through tinted glass - pretty harmless if the tint is mild. Non-harmonic distortion (which is what digital compression creates) is like looking at fine art through a pebbled-glass lavatory window. Horrible and pointless.

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Nigel 11
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Facepalm

Re: Remember the hard drives

Perhaps when I retire, I'll build myself a lossless CD storage box, if no-one has by then marketed a reasonably inexpensive lossless one done right. During playback I'd not want the disk drive spinning at all. How much does one Gb of RAM cost? So the right way would be to buffer the entire selected CD into RAM (600Mb at 100Mb/sec = 6 seconds), spin down the hard disk, and only then start playing the music.

Obviously there would be no fans in the box either. I'd probably end up using a (very retro) non-switch-mode PSU, because most switch-mode PSUs make an audible squeak under some load condition or other.

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Web snooping bill an 'odious shopping list of new gov powers'

Nigel 11
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Unhappy

Re: Britain

I'm starting to think that you'll need to find somewhere small, less developed, more chaotic. The Cape Verde islands, maybe? Costa Rica? Iceland? The Swiss have a good attitude but a lousy location. The bigger and more centralized the state, the worse the techno-surveillance will be, and the worse things will be when the trap closes.

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Nigel 11
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Mushroom

Re: Hypothetical...

The question that politicians must ask themselves, is whether they are really happy to have the legislation and the infrastructure passed down to the worst possible successor government they can imagine.

A lesson from history. At the time of German Unification (under Bismark - 1890s) everyone happily traipsed off to fill in a simple form to claim their citizenship of the new German state. Bismark also created the most efficient beurocracy that the world had ever known.Those records were well-preserved, well-copied, well-indexed. Roll forwards 45 years. The parents may already have passed on, but the single word "Jewish" under "religion" sealed the fate of their children and grandchildren and even great-grandchildren.

Do you *still* want the entire map of everyone you, your parents and your children ever communicated with to available to *all* future governments?

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Nigel 11
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Mushroom

How long

How long before the black boxes get pwned, and all our data becomes available to precisely the people we don't want to have it? (Don't want to have it even more than we don't want the government to have it, that is).

I voted against Labour last time to kill ID cards. Who do I vote for next time? What's UKIP's policy on spying on the populace?

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LOHAN to brew thermite for hot ignition action

Nigel 11
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Flame

Re: Alternatives to Thermite.

I think Barium Peroxide may be a better-behaved oxidizing agent than permanganate or saltpeter. It's stable up to about 500C, above that temperature it releases neat oxygen.

Do take great care with this sort of research. I once read an article by someone who'd managed to set a piece of Titanium on fire.

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Disable Gadgets NOW says Redmond

Nigel 11
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Mushroom

It's a cultural thing. Microsoft not getting security is like banks not getting that it's my money, not theirs.

The only answer in both cases is the same. Take your custom elsewhere!

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TLC NAND is coming

Nigel 11
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Cacheing?

Wouldn't it be better to combine SLC and TLC? Write data to SLC first and then have the controller move it to TLC once the data has stayed unchanged for a sensible length of time. Unlike RAM cacheing, no loss if the power suddenly vanishes, no big(gish) backup battery needed to prevent that.

Would it be possible to bake a combined SLC + TLC chip or are the processes different?

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Can neighbours grab your sensitive package, asks Post Office

Nigel 11
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Re: my neighbour? you sure about that?

I'd be sorely tempted to send him a big empty box, signed-for, with his own address as the address of the sender.

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Nigel 11
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Flame

Common but unofficial

The difference is what happens when the signed-for item disappears after "delivery". Today, the Royal Mail is liable if it's not the recipient's signature. Only up to 100x a first-class stamp but that's often enough. In future the dishonest neighbour (or a bad-egg postie) will sign for it, and the Royal mail will claim that they carried out all their obligations in full and tough luck.

Which is very short-sighted of them. Businesses (Amazon for example) will cease using Royal Mail altogether, as soon as the non-delivery rate soars. As for E-bay, it's probably the end of people who aren't full-time traders selling anything there, for lack of any trustable delivery mechanism.

In my dreams, Ebay would take over the Royal Mail and run it sensibly.

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Nigel 11
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Mushroom

You think that's accidental?

More likely they've decided what they are going to do and the consultation is a complete sham. This is their secondary way of making sure that they don't get a non-ignorable number of responses from those who might disagree with them. The most obvious one is not publicising the so-called consultation in any effective way. Good thing the Register has blown their cunning plan in time to write to newspapers and MPs.

Remember "Beware of the Leopard"? (in the HHGTG, not an Apple blog)

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WTF is... WiGig

Nigel 11
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Alert

Security?

The security side of this is going to be ... interesting?

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UK judge hands Samsung win for being 'not as cool' as iPad

Nigel 11
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Paris Hilton

Re: Apple and the bleeding obvious

> As a general rule, shoppers really aren't interested in the back side of things.

Except for jeans.

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Nigel 11
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Thumb Down

Chicken and egg.

> No, all tablets are shaped like they are because that's the size and shape screens are made.

Are you sure? From what I know of the technology there would be no great difficulty in making TFT screens oval or triangular or any other shape without concavities. The electronics to drive such an odd array would be more complex, but hardly impossible. If there were any massive demand. There isn't. Do you think an oval phone would score any cool points over a rectangular one?

Pockets are rectangular. The larger things that go in pockets, like wallets and phones, are rectangular. A round one would be wasting space in the corners, and would have certain other drawbacks, like rotating in the pocket so you couldn't immediately know top from bottom.

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Nigel 11
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Re: Change the battery on a Samsung

the question may be whether you can dismantle, replace battery and reassemble it using a normal techie's toolkit and a bit of Googling, or whether it's designed to be tamper-proof or unrepairable (which in my book ought to be illegal except when there's a strong health and safety reason).

I don't actually know.

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Nigel 11
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Unhappy

Bankers

Yes. It's another sign of a sick society. The same sickness that has engulfed out banks and financial services. It's managed to corrupt our legislature. If it gets to corrupt our judiciary, we're doomed. I fear that it already has done so in the USA.

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Nigel 11
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Legal precedents

It's been established that you cannot patent or copyright the external shape of a car exhaust pipe. That's because only one shape can fit underneath any particular model of car, and therefore there is no freedom to do anything different.

The same, surely, for a pocketable tablet. The overall design is dictated by the pocket.

We may have been spared such lawsuits back when the clam-shell mobile first appeared on the scene, because there was such obvious prior art. The Star Trek communicator. They couldn't make a working one, but the overall design was still obvious.

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Nigel 11
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Patent lawsuit procedure

Rather than summary judgement, I'd say that for every pound, dollar etc that the plaintiff spends on lawyers, he should be obliged to lend exactly the same amount to the defendant for payment of the defendant's legal costs. If he wins, repayment of the loan is added to other damages. If he loses, then he loses the right to repayment of the loan as well as any other costs awarded against him.

The result would be that no company (typically a small company) would feel obliged to settle out of court for lack of sufficient finance to match the plaintiff's legal muscle. Patent trolls would probably disappear.

It wouldn't have made any difference to this case and there's no reason why it should. Samsung and Apple both have deep enough pockets to afford armies of lawyers out of their petty cash.

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British Gas bets you'll pay £150 for heating remote control

Nigel 11
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Re: Hmmm..

A quick Google for "Internet Wireless Thermostat" reveals a range of products starting at 120 quid. I would hope that a techie is capable of replacing his existing thermostat without electrocuting himself or creating a fire hazard.

(I'm also assuming it's still legal to do so. It's legal to replace a cracked 13A socket without getting an Electrician in, so I guess a thermostat is the same).

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HP's faster-than-flash memristor at least TWO years away

Nigel 11
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WTF?

Ever heard of patent royalties?

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Ten budget inkjet printers

Nigel 11
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Re: Only use Epson if...

With HP, keep the printer in standby even if you won't be using it again for weeks. HPs wakup up to squirt a tiny amount of ink through the nozzles every 24 hours, to make sure that the heads don't block up. It really is a tiny amount of ink - you won't notice unless the printer is left un-used for years.

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SMART's new SSD wrings extra juice from MLC flash

Nigel 11
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Unhappy

Re: "can do 50 full drive writes a day for five years"

Treat warranties from new companies with more than a pinch of salt. They have nothing to lose by lying, sorry, being over-confident.

If the product doesn't wear out prematurely they get to stay in business and their happy customers come back for more. If they get more warranty returns then they can afford three or five years hence, they file for bankrupcy. Either way everyone has had a living for two or three years (and the fat cats at the top might well retire for life, if their living was a seven-figure salary).

BTW isn't SLC good for a million cycles these days?

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Burnt Samsung Galaxy S III singed by external source, probe reveals

Nigel 11
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Re: Rehab

Just as long as there isn't anywhere that water or air can get trapped until it's exerting nearly an atmosphere of pressure, followed by a tiny pop or crack that's nevertheless quite fatal.

The best places to dry out wet electronics are an airing cupboard, or a machine room with air-con. In both cases, leave it for a good few days.

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Nigel 11
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Rule Zero

Rule Zero: get the battery out of the device as soon as possible after it gets wet.

Water won't do much harm to an un-energised device even if it's wet for days. Electrolysis, on the other hand, can corrode it to death within minutes, sometimes less.

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