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* Posts by Nigel 11

2431 posts • joined 10 Jun 2009

Assange granted asylum by Ecuador after US refused to rule out charges

Nigel 11
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Good job Hague, Ecuador has now called your bluff. What are you gonna do now?

Nothing in the short term would be a good idea. Personally I'd quietly offer to do nothing for as long as they do nothing in support of the Argies w.r.t. the Falklands ... OK, assume they say no to that by word or deed.

Long-term, he could find another building that's superior to the current Ecuadorian embassy, and tell Ecuador that he requires them to move to the new embassy within (say) a year. During the transition both buildings would have the status of embassies, and all usual privileges will be maintained for diplomats and diplomatic bags. Removal costs would all be footed by the UK government.

Assange is not an Ecuadorian citizen, let alone a diplomat, so a year later we'd have him without setting a disastrous precedent for diplomats elsewhere. (There surely must be a precedent for an embassy being relocated at the request of the host nation, with reasonable notice? For example, if the building is blocking a major infrastructure development? )

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Nigel 11
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Re: Getting him out

The only thing which bothers me is that neither the UK nor the Swedish government has completely nixed his assertion that the rape charge is a subtext for passing him on to the USA.

I'd urge Sweden to state that after he is acquitted, or after he serves his sentence in Sweden if he's found guilty, then he'll be allowed unconditional free passage to anywhere in the world that will have him. If he won't voluntarily return to Sweden after that assurance, the conclusion is obvious, and Ecuador would be best advised to throw him out of their embassy into the hands of the UK police.

I've heard that such an assurance is already implicit under EU extradition law, but why not make it explicit? I'm no lawyer so I'm somewhat unconvinced by the former, but would be completely happy with an explicit assurance by the Swedish government. Anyway, why not make explicit what they know to be implied?

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Doctor Who Sonic Screwdriver Universal Remote Control review

Nigel 11
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Meh

I forsee a problem

We may think it's from the Dr. Who mythos, but what does it think?

I expect these things will be claiming assylum at wherever the embassy of Biroid life-forms may be. Which means as far as us humans are concerned, it'll be here today and inexplicably gone tomorrow.

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Scientists find safer way to store hydrogen

Nigel 11
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Re: Methane and Global warming

Better then to figure out how to keep the temperature up when the gradual cooling sets in.

Methinks that's a long-term problem, after dealing with the runaway thawing of the arctic and consequent temperature and sea-level rises. (The cooling after that is inevitable, once there's no longer any supply of short-lived methane into the atmosphere from thawing permafrost. The methane converts to CO2, and plants once again start trapping the CO2, and the ice once again starts to creep down from the pole, once again locking up the methane from decomposing vegetation as methane hydrates ... repeat many times, until continental drift does away with the Arctic ocean.)

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Nigel 11
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Boffin

Methane and Global warming

Methane is anout 15 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2, true, but it has a short half-life in the atmosphere (about 10 years from memory). It gets broken down by UV and recombines with oxygen as CO2 and water. Incidentally water vapour is an even more potent greenhouse gas than methane, but the atmosphere is naturally pretty much saturated with the stuff. If it weren't for global warming caused by water vapour, the planet would mostly be too cold for life.

Anyway: methane does not accumulate long-term in the atmosphere, whereas CO2 (probably) does. Which is why the focus is on the CO2.

There IS a clear and present danger of a runaway warming event caused by the thawing of methane hydrates of natural orogin currently trapped in permafrost across the world's Northern tundras. If the permafrost thaws, lots of methane is released, causing increased global temperatures, causing more thawing and more methane. A positive feedback loop until all the arctic has thawed. The fossil record shows that this has happened several times in recent geological time, without human causation. A very sudden thaw, followed by a gradual cooling. To my mind, this is the key reason why we should be VERY bothered about human CO2 emissions.

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Nigel 11
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Re: Why Hydrogen instead of methane?

Actually Methane is already out there. Cars can be converted to run on CNG (compressed natural gas) as well as LPG (Liquid petroleum gas, better remembered as low pressure gas).

The problem is that to get enough range out of a reasonably sized tank, a very high pressure is needed. The potential for explosions if the tank is badly maintained is high (far higher than for a tank of gasoline). Also refilling is not nearly as simple as pumping a liquid, or plugging in an electric cable (and not as fast as the former, though faster than recharging a battery).

For these reasons the general public are not in general offered CNG vehicles. You'll find it used for running taxis and public transport in some cities. If oil runs out and gas (shale gas) does not, that might yet change.

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Nigel 11
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Re: RE= Aluminum Paint killed the Hindenburg

unfortunately the liquid medium is unstable itself when heated during normal vehicle operations

You mean, like a tank full of gasoline?

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Nigel 11
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Hindenburg

Well worth pointing out that the Hindenburg was actually a good demonstration of the relative safety of Hydrogen! The majority of its passengers survived the disaster. Those that didn't mostly jumped from too great a height or were crushed by falling structural components. It was the aluminium-paint skin that started the disaster, and the hydrogen burned harmlessly up into the sky, being so much lighter than air.

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Nigel 11
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Re: True Cost/Efficiency

...which means you need to invent a solar cell that's better than 15% efficient, which means -- you guessed it -- back to the drawing board!

Completely wrong. For solar electricity, the energy source is inexhaustible in human terms and has zero cost. It beomes a matter of economics: the cost of making solar cells and the cost of the real estate on which you put them. At present the real estate cost is close to zero (no-one much wants the vast tracts of near-lifeless desert that exist) but the cost of the solar cells is rather high compared to the cost of generating the same electricity from fossil fuels.

Raising the efficiency of the solar cells is one way to improve this. Making them much more cheaply is another. If we could make a plastic sheet that generated electricity as cheaply as we make polythene sheets, it would not need to be even 5% efficient to revolutionise the world.

(Nature did this a long time ago. It's called a plant. Conversion efficiency of solar energy to hydrocarbons rarely better than 1%, but a very low production cost in human terms because to a large extent, they grow themselves into useful products, and make their own seeds. If only they didn't need so much water to grow! )

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Nigel 11
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Re: "can soak up so much of the stuff ..."

i can't see how you can adsorb a material to a higher density than a bulk liquid.

By rearranging things chemically so that the density of hydrogen atoms loosely bound to some carrier compound is greater than the density of hydrogen molecules in liquid hydrogen. It's akin to the old party trick of pouring a pint of water into a pint glass already full of sawdust. It all goes in! (Water packs more tightly around just about anything, than the dynamicall changing open structures in liquid water).

The density of liquid hydrogen is an extraordinarily low 0.07 (water is 1.0) so there's a lot of scope for it to pack down into the interstices of open crystal structures. That's the problem with storing hydrogen at high pressure in metal tanks. It does pack down into the interstices in the metal crystals, and as this happens, the metal becomes progressively embrittled.

(Source for 0.07 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liquid_hydrogen corroborated elsewhere by Google. That's quite a lot less than 1/4 the density of petrol. More like 1/12 working from memory)

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What to do with 110,000 Magstar tapes and 11PB of data

Nigel 11
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WTF?

Re: So to recapitulate...

Who's the asshat that thought of this then ?

Got a better idea? If not, the choice is to punt the problem into the future without destroying any data, or to give up and hire some skips.

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Nigel 11
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Re: 11 Pb?

I did wonder what it all was. Geophysical survey data explains it. You could compress it heavily, but you'd probably end up throwing away the information that future interpretation exercises might need!

Nevertheless, I wonder if anyone investigated the possibility of lossless compression of geophysical datasets, on the fly between the old and new archives? (I don't mean of a single data stream, I mean by removing redundancy from outputs of multiple sensors and shots in a single seismic run).

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Optical Express 'ruined my life' gripe site lives on

Nigel 11
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Boffin

Re: I would love to have LASIK

NO! look up "common mode failure". Examples: incompetent surgeon /operator, incorrectly calibrated LASIK equipment, idiosyncratic (unusual, bad) reaction to the surgery in one particular patient (ie you). Any of these could cause BOTH your eyes to be knackered if you have the procedure performed on both eyes at once.

Same reason airlines NEVER service both engines on a twin-jet at the same time!

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Nigel 11
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Boffin

Re: I would love to have LASIK

The question should be whether your life is really seriously impaired without LASIK? If spectacles are able to correct one's vision defect, then LASIK is a risk being taken for little reason beyond convenience or vanity. If it goes wrong (which sometimes it does) one is irreversibly worse off, and spectacles then won't help.

The thought of someone risking both eyes at once is quite incredible. Have one done, and wait until one can judge the short-term results before risking the other one! Having one eye irreversibly screwed up is bad, being functionally blinded is far, far worse.

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Nigel 11
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Boffin

Re: LASIK night-vision loss

Night vision loss - I'd guess that what people notice is increased scattering of bright light, such as oncoming headlights, by the scar tissue. Light scattered into the dark parts of your visual field means that the subtle gradations of dark are washed out by the "noise".

Everyone's dark vision deteriorates with age, but an optician may point out that you have a "pre-cataract". That's clouding of the natural lens in the eye, which will lead to a cataract but which at present is only hurting one's night-driving vision. Hard question: give up night driving, or pay for and risk a cataract operation a decade before the cataract will be causing everyday vision problems?

I also wonder whether some people who try LASIK to correct severe lens defects which spectacles can't properly address, might be better treated with a full cataract operation to replace the faulty natural lens in their eye? The cataract lens-implant operation has an extremely high success rate and leaves one with vision that's in some ways more perfect than nature. I guess the risk of losing the eye altogether is higher for cataract surgery, though the risk of being left with vision that's worse after the procedure than before is surely higher with LASIK. And one does have two eyes .... But there again, eye lens implants haven't yet been tested for a full lifetime. People who have lens implants are usually elderly, for whom a lifetime is unlikely to exceed 20 years (and the implants have now been well-tested over that timescale).

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Nigel 11
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Boffin

Re: @Nigel 11

The effects of drugs taken for a short time are almost certainly reversible, even if your body reacts badly. The adverse effects of long-term use of Ibuprofen are well-known, starting with increased risk of heart attacks (read the leaflet in the packet). It's a long-term effect, caused by the drug interfering with your body's self-repair mechanisms. Short-term (for a few days), it's a negligible risk.

Surgery is almost by definition irreversible. Contact lenses are equivalent to long-term drug usage, and I would also counsel avoiding elective use of a drug therapy for the rest of one's life if the treated condition isn't life-threatening or seriously debilitating.

I have in fact made that choice with respect to life-long use of anti-gout medication (no thanks). I prefer to put up with a few hours of extreme pain in my big toe maybe once a year, and treat that with diclofenac (a more powerful version of ibuprofen) for about a week when it happens. Someone suffering from gout more severely would doubtless choose otherwise, as I will if the attacks become frequent, or develop into chronic gouty arthritis, or spread to my major joints.

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Nigel 11
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Boffin

Don't consider ANY elective surgery until they can point at a statistically valid number of guinea-pigs, sorry people, who have lived to a ripe old age with no undesirable side-effects. The medical history books are full of treatments that looked like a good idea at the time, but proved to be a long-term disaster.

I won't even consider contact lenses. It'll be another couple of decades before there are ninety-year-olds who were wearing them since their twenties. Does vanity or slight convenience justify even the slightest increased risk of losing your sight in your old age?

(It is of course different if the surgery is to address a life-threatening or seriously life-limiting problem.)

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Hypersonic Waverider scramjet in epic wipeout

Nigel 11
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Re: Sunk cost

Concorde would have been out of service sooner or later because of the airframes wearing out (metal fatigue) and no production line for replacement Concordes. Don't blame BA alone. All the world's airlines decided Concorde's fate by not buying into the supersonic aviation concept. Maybe supersonic passenger transport might someday be economically viable, but Concorde's worst flaw was that it could not bridge the Pacific ocean.

I've always wondered, was Concorde really just a state-sponsored civilian air transport project ? Or was the real purpose to develop technology for supersonic bombers, that was rendered pointless by accurately targeted ICBMs?

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Nigel 11
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Re: Sunk cost

The semi-intelligent life would survive an unexpected belch from old Sol, unless it was on a scale that hasn't happened since life was walking on dry land. Our civilisation might not ... but we'd probably find a way back within the next hundred thousand years or so.

Probably ditto with respect to extinction-level meteor impacts. The dinosaurs died out because they were big and dumb and didn't shelter in holes or cache food. (The mammals did. The birds or flying dinosaurs substituted long-range mobility for hiding in a hole).

We can't do anything about Sol. Since we might do something about meteors, maybe we should. On the other hand, we've scanned the skies and made sure that there aren't any extinction-level impacts coming from objects orbiting the inner solar system during the next few decades, and we would notice them coming with enough time to react. Probably.

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Flash Player to vanish from Android store on Wednesday

Nigel 11
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Paris Hilton

@Original Cactus

<-- Inflict?

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Saudi royals seek ban on .virgin, .sex, .catholic, .wtf and 159 MORE

Nigel 11
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Re: Oh wow

Yes, for certain restricted values of "internet", "know" and "people".

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Nigel 11
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Alert

Re: The Saudis have a better moral compass

a pit of amorality and cluelessness

Completely valid righteous indignation, completely wrong argument. They have such a strong view on moral standards they they'll force children to be burned to death rather than see them break the moral code even in the most desperate of circumstances. It's not amorality, it's the even worse sort of dogmatic insanity at the complete other end of the spectrum. Give me a choice between someone with no moral compass and someone whose moral compass is glued immovably in a particular direction, and I'll unhesitatingly choose the former!

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Nigel 11
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WTF?

Re: so-called “dot-brand” or “single-registrant” gTLD

I still can't understand the rationale behind paying big bucks for these TLDs. Why is .virgin better than .virgin.com or .virgin.co.uk? Do people really go domain-name guessing, rather than putting what they want into a Google (or other) search box? Heck, if they use IE, there's only the one box in any case.

Or is that the reason? Buy the .baby TLD and make it impossible for a not-very-smart mother-to-be to search for "Baby" using IE?

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Google may face grilling by MPs over 'immoral' tax avoidance

Nigel 11
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Re: All big companies HAVE to do this

A company is obliged to do this. Its directors are required to seek to maximise the return for its shareholders. If they fail to take advantage of obviously legal opportunities to save tax, they could be sued by their shareholders!

As someone said above, operating throughout the EU out of Eire (lowest corporation tax) is pretty much a definition of what the EU is for!

The government should start by changing company law so that a company is no longer obliged to minimise tax paid (and work through diplomatic channels to try to get that change made in all developed economies). Then, maybe Google would do the right thing rather than the legal thing.

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SHOCK: Poll shows Americans think TSA is highly effective

Nigel 11
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Re: @AC 01:23

> "has anyone interfered with your luggage"?

I use a (coloured and marked) cable-tie so that I can answer that one! It's also a mild disincentive to light-fingered security staff. It doesn't stop security looking inside if they want to (and they don't have to wreck my luggage to do so) but a thief will know for sure that I will notice the intrusion at the baggage claim.

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Nigel 11
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But is there such a thing as a drinkable high explosive? I don't believe so.

I still think that they could safely allow a bottle of water (say up to two litres) provided the passenger takes a drink from it at the security checkpoint. The reason they don't has everything to do with increasing the profits of the air-side vending outlets, and nothing to do with security.

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Hello nasty, don't use my music: Deceased Beastie Boy to admen

Nigel 11
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Re: Very strange behaviour indeed

You don't get my point. The association that has been created in my head between Dvorak's music and Hovis bread is to the irrevocable detriment of the music and (part of) its audience. In my opinion it's like letting a graffiti vandal tag a sublime painting. It is something that the creator of that work of art has a legitimate right to refuse in his will. I've no idea how Dvorak would see it, but I know that's how I'd see it!

The law permits a creator of intellectual property to leave it/them to a literary executor, who/which may be bound by the creator's wishes provided those wishes are legal. I don't know if it's ever been tested in a court, but I don't see anything obviously contrary to public policy in refusing permission for use of music in advertising until the copyright expires (assuming he owns the copyright at death). He's allowed to make that distinction and refusal in life, so why not make his intellectual property subject to that same condition after death?

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Nigel 11
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Re: Time..

Unfortunately the one thing that you do not own in law, and possibly even by definition, is your own body after its life is extinct.

There are good public-health reasons for this, as well as theological ones. Your body therefore belongs to your executors as soon as life is pronounced extinct (without waiting for probate!), and they are responsible for its safe disposal in accordance with the laws governing such.

This unfortunate chap obviously chose the wrong executors (and maybe the wrong jurisdiction to die under).

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Nigel 11
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Mushroom

Re: Very strange behaviour indeed

His specific anti advertising hissy fit is a logical disconnect.

If you have a soul that responds to music, it most certainly is not.

For example, the second movement of Dvorak's "New World" symphony is one of the most sublime musical creations of all time. Unfortunately some soul-dead advertising agency used it to advertise Hovis bread, and now I can no longer listen to it without momentarily wincing at the association. Which incidentally, has negative value for Hovis, because I always buy some other make of bread whenever I have a choice!

(It could have been worse. They might have associated the music with something I really detested. Be thankful for small mercies).

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Nigel 11
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Re: Don't Worry

If you're serious, you'd have to leave your artistic or intellectual property rights to a foundation which can continue in perpetuity, but which cannot have its founding purposes overturned. You'd need to take expert legal advice on which jurisdiction to create this foundation under!

That's what the FSF is for, with respect to free software. Copyleft is also capable of application to music, literature, etc. "You're licensed to use it subject to these terms. If you reject these terms, you have no license to use it at all" (You can ask, but you won't get special terms).

The law won't allow you to make stipulations that are clearly illegal or contrary to the public good. An argument might be made that freedon to advertise is a public good, but advertising using a particular work against its author's and its owner's specific desire when there are plenty of other musical works to choose from, would be a bit of a stretch!

IANAL etc.

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NASA’s new lander CRASHES AND BURNS

Nigel 11
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Boffin

Re: Splat?

Why bother? Don't forget the cost penalty of every extra gram that you send to another planet. If it tips past the point of no recovery on a mission, it's doomed anyway, engine on or engine off.

And don't say that they could have put a shutoff valve in for terrestrial testing and later removed it for space missions. It's possible that it might be working only because of the presence of an open valve instead of an unadorned pipe.

When Intel clones a working fab, they clone *everything*. No matter how much of a bodge it looks (and in the first place probably was), that comical tangle of plumbing may be an essential part of the reason it's working. It's far too expensive to do an experiment to find out that it wasn't ... or was.

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Nigel 11
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Re: wasters

Luckily back when we lived in caves, there were people who didn't think that playing with fire was a complete waste of time, likely to get people burned or worse. Because otherwise, we'd still be living in caves.

For a more recent example of curiosity and its delayed value, consider the field effect transistor which today lies at the heart of virtually all micro-electronics. The underlying physics was studied in the 1930s, and the transistor predicted as a theoretical possibility decades before the technology existed to make one (let alone two billion of them on a single chip).

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Nigel 11
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Anyone remember the TV series "21st century jet" which followed the Boeing 777 from design to first flight? the bit I remember most was the destructive testing of its wings. (Clamp plane to the floor, put hydraulic jacks under wing-tips, watch the strain guages, jack up until the wings break.. Best explosives-free explosion I can recall, and very reassuiring that they're about 10% stronger than the designers calculated).

Checking that it really could stop on brakes only during a worst-case aborted take-off was also fun (perhaps less so for the pilot). The brake disks were literally white hot when it stopped, but nothing caught fire.

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Nigel 11
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Trident Missile test fail

Much more expensive, much more spectacular.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Z-3fjg4dYY

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Snap suggests Apple out to 'screw' hardware hackers

Nigel 11
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Re: Assuming this is true...

That patent / copyright technique probably fails, for the same reason that anyone is allowed to make 3rd-party car exhausts that are (on the outside) exactly the same shape as the manufacturer's registered design. It's allowed, because no other shape is possible: if it were a different shape it would not fit the car.

IANAL, but any other shape of screwdriver head would not fit the screw. As for patents, it would be hard to think up anything that could be patented about a driver shaped to fit a socket, although I suppose a company that thinks it can patent a rectangle with rounded-off corners might try.

In passing if Apple really wanted tamper-proof screws they could choose one of several designs already on the market, that engage an appropriate screwdriver when twisted clockwise but which cam out when twisted anti-clockwise. However, as someone comments above, a Dremmel tool will convert any screw into one that can be twisted with a flat bladed screwdriver. Far more tamper-proof are plastic cases that snap together and require mechanical contrivances with fifteen thumbs to un-snap them (or which can't be un-snapped at all, short of breaking them).

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SCO keeps dying, and dying, and dying

Nigel 11
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Black Helicopters

Catch-22

I think there's an obvious problem. It's much the same as the observation that anyone who says he wants to be president of the USA has declared himself unfit for that role (that's the polite version. "Should be summarily executed" Is another one).

It's a bigger problem with governments, in any case. Limited companies can and do "die", and their still-useful parts usually get recycled. Government, on the other hand ....

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Nigel 11
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No. Not until its patents and copyrights are all in the hands of some organisation that is committed for all time to do no evil with them, such as the OSF. (Or better still in the case of patents, expired).

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Nigel 11
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Re: They were being propped up...

Wasn't M$ quite openly putting money into SCO?

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Nigel 11
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Re: I've seen this film...

The film I'm thinking of is "Carrie". Sorry if that thought gives you nightmares too.

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HP must throw its PC biz overboard to survive, says analyst

Nigel 11
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Re: Be an industry analyst, The Burkiss Way

It's now well-known that's how to make a fortune in finance.

Gamble with someone else's money. If you get it wrong you're fired. If you get it right, you're a star. Your salary goes up and you get put in charge of a bigger pile of someone else's money.

Repeat about six times and you have a 1/64 chance of becoming a squillionaire mega-star fund manager. Fail and you'll probably still be retired at 40 on a better pension than the rest of us.

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Nigel 11
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Thumb Up

Re: HP PCs and Printers Are a Disgrace to the HP Name

Another vote for the DJ970. Mine still going strong, though a bit slow by today's standards!

Also for the Officejet Pro range, from the K550 through to the 8000. (I don't yet have the current 8100 model to play with, but I've heard from others it's a worthy successor to the 8000).

Cheap printers are always a false economy. They're built down to a price rather than up to a standard, so that they can be bundled (given away) with PCs, or piled high in supermarkets at Xmas for the clueless to buy. Then you pay through your nose over and over again for tiny ink cartridges. When you are deciding which printer to buy, include the cost of consumables for five years of use, and assume usage will increase with time. This advice applies to all manufacturers, not just HP.

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Nigel 11
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Boffin

Re: HP Titanic

That comment is like saying there's no future in transistor technology two years after Brittain, Bardeen and Shockley invented the things!

(And with the benefit of LOTS of hindsight you'd have been right ... the real breakthrough technology was CMOS, and the field effect transistor was invented as a theoretical possibility by Prof. Sir Neville Mott back in the 1930s, when the technology to actually make one did not exist).

It'll be quite a fewl more years before memristors appear in actual products. However, HP owns the patents, and HP (or whoever it sells those patents to) should do very well out of them.

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Nigel 11
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Please, separate printers and PCs!

HP's printer business ought to be able to survive a spin-off. It might even thrive by returning to the original HP company ethos. There's no synergy I can see between the design and manufacture of printers and that of PCs. Indeed there may be negative synergy. A competing manufacturer of PCs is hardly likely to bundle an HP printer (ie directly support a competitor) when it can bundle one from Lexmark, Kyocera, or several others who aren't competing to sell PCs.

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Jimbo Wales: Wikipedia servers in UK? No way, not with YOUR libel law

Nigel 11
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Re: Truth hurts

In practical terms, if they have no assets in the UK there's nothing to be gained by suing them here. Or at least, there won't be if the jurisdiction(s) that they do hold assets under are not willing to kow-tow to UK libel law by enforcing the judgement of a UK court.

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NASA's $2.5bn Curiosity rover: An Apple PowerBook on wheels

Nigel 11
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Re: Nope

I wonder if they might have been able to build it with a non-hardened "co-processor" in a powered-down state until it arrived? (If I understand right, radiation is far more damaging to electronics that's powered-up than if it isn't ... though I'm not sure whether Mars's atmosphere is an adequate radiation-blocking substitute for Earth's in this context).

Downside: weight penalty. Upside: a *much* more powerful computer available, should it survive transit.

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Euro NCAP to mandate auto-braking in new-car test

Nigel 11
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Re: @iCode

With filament brake lamps it's easy to prove that they weren't working (given forensic investigation). If they were on when they got broken (or activated afterwards) the tungsten filament will have burned into tungsten oxides. If they were disconnected that can't happen. Likewise if the filament was broken prior to the impact.

With LED arrays it may be harder.

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How one bad algorithm cost traders $440m

Nigel 11
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Unhappy

Re: Wow!

Reminds me of a plain ordinary modem, where the connection to the telephone socket wasn't sufficiently secure. One day we got a four-digit phone bill. It turmed out a cleaner had been unplugging the modem, plugging in a telephone, and having long conversations with somebody in the West Indies.

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Nigel 11
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FAIL

Re: Gamblers deserve to lose

Wrong.

Gambling is investing when the expectation value for the profit is negative. Bet in a casino, and averaged over enough bets, you are losing 1/37 of your capital for each bet (in a UK casino with one zero on the wheel).

Investing is when the expectation value for the profit is positive. You might imagine an eccentric millionaire who returned double your stake on all zeros, so you could predict that you'd be up by 1/37 for every spin of the wheel. Buy shares in a big blue-chip company, and that return is called a dividend.

Of course, investing in companies is to some extent a matter of judgement rather than probabilistic certainty. You have to be right often enough if you're going to make a profit. A few people can even judge horses right, and for them a betting slip is an investment not a gamble. They're rare. Successful stock-market investmenting is easier, because an honestly run company is trying to make money for its shareholders, not lose them money.. (You might guess that I do not invest in banks. I've long believed banks run on the principle of "heads I win, tails you lose". )

There's also a social benefit to investing even when it makes a loss. You're lending your money to a company that hopefully is in a business that you believe ought to be carried on. It's often said this applies only to those who buy new equity issues. Wrong. The initial investors probably wouldn't invest, if there was no way ever to sell up. A company is supposed to last longer than the few decades between having earned surplus capital, and wanting to spend it on one's retirement. The stockmarket is a mechanism that makes people more willing to invest their capital in the first place.

It becomes less clear when instead of doing one's own investing, one delegates it to a pension fund manager or suchlike. That's because your delegate would like to put as much of your money into his pockets as he can get away with. That, however, has nothing to do with whether it's investing or gambling.

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Nigel 11
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Re: Nah... It's the other way round.

The obvious safety is to have a trading limit, if only for debugging! After it's done $(LIMIT) of trades, it stops, until a human has checked the goings-on. Once they're happy it's working they might set the limit to effective infinity.

The other obvious limit is $(MAX_LOSS), but the danger there is that it might think it was making a profit when it wasn't (which appears to be pretty much what happened).

Personally I think program trading is one of the casino-finance things which ought to be banned, or at least heavily restricted. Otherwise, sooner or later there's going to be another bug like this one with added naughts. In other words it won't just bankrupt a bunch of speculators, but it'll also do major damage to the real economy.

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Hundreds of websites go titsup in Prime Hosting disk meltdown

Nigel 11
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Re: More fun if the card goes

Drives from one controller will often not talk to later versions of the same controller (or have I just been unlucky)

No, thats one of the several reasons that these days I refuse to countenance hardware RAID controllers.

Another is the case where the manufacturer of your RAID controller goes out of business and the only place you can get a (maybe!) compatible replacement is E-bay. And then there's the time you find out the hard way that if you swap two drives by mistake, it immediately scrambles all your data beyond retrieval. And if there's a hardware RAID card that uses ECC RAM, I've yet to see it.

Use Linux software RAID. Modern CPUs can crunch XORs on one out of four or more cores much faster than SATA drives can deliver data. And auto-assembly from shuffled drives does work! You do of course have a UPS, and you have of course tested that UPS-initiated low-battery shutdown does actually work before putting it in production.

(Enterprise RAID systems with sixteen-up drives may be less bad, and in any case it's a bit hard to interface more than 12 drives to a regular server PC. It's little 4-8 drive hardware RAID controllers that I won't touch with a bargepole.

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