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* Posts by Nigel 11

2395 posts • joined 10 Jun 2009

Fix capitalism with floating cities on Venus says Charles Stross

Nigel 11
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Re: "may make a good sci-fi writer"

"Halting state" is written in the second person. It didn't bother me that much. It's the sort of thing that authors do as part of being creative. I wasn't convinced it added anything compared to the conventional mode of narration, but I didn't find it hard to process.

Have you ever tried Iain Banks' "Feersum Endjinn", in which one of the narrators is dyslexic? Or (the book) "Clockwork Orange"?

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Nigel 11
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Re: Weights and Measurements

Stross is a completely awesome writer of entertaining and thought-provoking fiction.

As for economics, I have yet to be convinced that anyone understands economics. As a physicist, I know that fluid dynamics is really hard, and climate modelling even harder. Now try climate modelling with particles (people) that make their own decisions about how they are going to behave, based on the conditions in which they find themselves. You really think you can do that?

Most economists I've talked to don't know enough maths to recognise an (impossibly?) hard problem when they see it. They just catalogue what's (mostly not) worked in the past and suggest on that basis things that might work in the future. Like one would expect,they mostly don't work. But what hey, sometimes you luck out, and then you're famous and influential and enjoying tidbits from the tables of the seriously rich.

To the extent that they are reminding us of the bits of history to remember rather than repeat, they're not entirely bad. Compared, say, to parasitic "professional managers" who claim that they don't need to know anything about the business activities that they are in charge of and the lives they fsck up.

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Security guru: You can't blame EDWARD SNOWDEN for making US clouds LOOK leaky

Nigel 11
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Re: Snowden was/is a chinese spy.

Chinese??!

So why is he stuck in Russia?

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Nigel 11
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If you really want to scare yourself about the future ....

Read some good SF. I found the back-stories in Vernor Vinge's "A Deepness in the Sky" particularly haunting. Societies that were driven back to the stone age or extinct by inflicting omnipresent surveillance on themselves. Others which avoided that trap, and fell into the more subtle trap of over-optimizing their civilisations, thus finding themselves powerless to avert a complete collapse when entropy finally gained the upper hand.

The front story is also pretty darned good, though (IMO) a bit less frighteningly plausible.

Do we have the wisdom to avoid in real life, that which will haunt your dreams when you read it as fiction? I very much fear not.

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Nigel 11
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Re: Well said that man.

Where are the EU alternatives for email, cloud storage, and social networking?

Email - if you care, use encryption. The e-mail protocols are absolutely as open as a postcard in the mail unless you encrypt. PGP also allows your correspondent to verify that it was you who sent the e-mail, not someone impersonating you. Alternatively just don't say anything in e-mail that you wouldn't write on a postcard.

Cloud Storage: again, if you care, keep your live data locally and encrypt your backup data before it enters the cloud. Or decide that the risk of putting your corporate crown jewels outside the physical boundaries of the corporation is not worth the cost savings from using cloud services instead of locally-hosted ones.

Social networking: oh really? I find the best way of not having spooks, burglars, con-men, salesmen, salesdroids, bosses, promotion rivals, exes, and random nutters knowing more about me than I know about myself, is not to use social networks at all. Call me paranoid if you want, but surely the USA gubmint comes very far down on the list of people that most social network users should concern themselves with?

If you are of dircet interest to the NSA none of the above will help. Your best bet would be to refuse to use any electronic device manufactured since 1990, but they'll probably still have you bugged and monitored 24x7. There are people out there who choose to live without any technology not available several centuries ago. I should think that a modern spook's biggest challenge would be spying on someone living an Amish lifestyle!

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Nigel 11
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Linux

Re: Well said that man.

There's even no operating system available which wouldn't be controlled by an American company.

Boggle. Ever heard of Linux?

Not only is it not controlled by an American company, it is not controlled by any company or other organisation at all. It's Free Open Source Software.

It's possible that there are backdoors in Linux or related software that were engineered by the NSA and which are sufficiently obscure that all the folks who have since looked at the source code have missed the problem. Witness Heartbleed (which was probably an accident, but similarly was not noticed for quite some time). But that's not the same as controlled.

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The quid-a-day nosh challenge: Anyone fancy this fungus I found?

Nigel 11
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Re: The May blossom is out @Captain Hogwash

For me, all along the Thames footpath at Richmond (SW London), last Saturday. Is this a long way South from you?

The horse chestnut trees are also all in blossom, which I think is even more advanced than the May in April.

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Boffins build billion-synapse, three-watt 'brain'

Nigel 11
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Re: As a matter of interest ....

So what's the fastest processor you can currently get that runs at 20W?

It's a question of connectivity rather than operations/second. That's where a brain retains an orders-of-magnitude advantage over man-made Silicon. It's a distributed 3-D processing network, compared to Silicon 2-D ones. (If you estimate fractal dimension the gap isn't quite so huge - maybe 2.8D versus 2.3D).

If operations/second was all it took, we'd have lost several years ago. Brain: 10^11 neurons switching maybe 10Hz. Computers: 10^4 CPUs switching at 10^9 Hz. But each neuron has around 10^3 synapses, so brains boast ~10^14 independant full-bandwidth interprocessor links!

I'm also perfectly prepared to believe that the only way to program a brain is the way that nature does it: grow one, connect it via high-bandwidth links to its environment, and wait fifteen-plus years for it and its parents and its society to bootstrap it. (NB it is scientific fact that the physical structure of our brains changes very significantly at puberty - adolescence really *does* do one's head over! )

The joker in the pack will be if any subsystems in out brains are discovered to be quantum computational devices. Most think this unlikely. I'm not so sure. Did the quantum realm really remain completely unexploited throughout six hundred million years' evolution of nervous systems?

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Nigel 11
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Re: “you have to know how the brain works to program one of these”.

I've seen plenty of instances of cats programming human brains ....

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Fresh evidence Amazon is ARMing its huge cloud against Intel et al

Nigel 11
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Don't write Intel off!

Intel has two advantages. Its process technology is second to none. And it is the platform of choice for proprietary binary-only applications.

Intel was in grave danger when Netburst (P4 architecture) failed and AMD (briefly) gained the whip hand, but they've long since spotted the danger presented to their business by inefficient electricity usage, and are well down the road to remedying it.

The mot efficient ARM CPU would be the one fabbed by Intel ... but until someone else can make serious inroads to the server-room under the handicap of a less advanced process technology, the world is unlikely to see that CPU. I'd be surprised if it didn't already exist in a secret R&D lab somewhere inside Intel ... plan B stuff ... unless they've forgotten that "only the paranoid survive".

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UK.gov data sell-off row: HMRC denies claims it'll flog YOUR private info

Nigel 11
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A different perspective

Although I can't agree entirely, it's worth pointing out that in Sweden and other parts of Scandinavia, there is a very different attitude to taxpayers' privacy. There isn't any, and there's no significant public disquiet with that state of affairs.

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/danielhannan/100150768/if-tax-transparency-turns-us-into-scandinavians-so-much-the-better/

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Cash slump a Seagate problem, or a hard disk industry problem?

Nigel 11
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Now a mature market, possibly declining?

1. Replacement interval for PCs is getting longer. Once 3 years to obsolescence, now 5 years, will probably soon be 7+ years, and determined by hardware becoming unreliable rather than obsolescent.

2. Many new systems use SSDs not HDs. SSDs are getting larger and cheaper. I expect that soon the default system device on a new corporate desktop PC will be an SSD, not a HD. The domestic PC market is in obvious decline. Consumers prefer tablets (with SSDs)

Which leaves cloud storage and enterprise storage on multi-Terabyte drives, but for how long?

IBM sold its disk drive business to HGST quite a few years back. I think IBM worked out what was coming on the SSD front long before the crowd did.

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NASA spots 'new' star just 7.2 light years away

Nigel 11
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Re: Why is it warm?

There's a third possible heat source: a matter phase change in the core. Inside the earth, a solid(ish) iron(ish) core is believed to be crystallizing as an on-going process, and releasing heat as it does so. Heaven only knows what corresponding process might be going on in the core of a brown dwarf.

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Asteroids as powerful as NUCLEAR BOMBS strike Earth TWICE YEARLY

Nigel 11
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Re: worried?

Much more to the point, the Yellowstone super-volcano is going to errupt all by itself "soon". (That's a geologists' "soon". Something like within 300ky, probability 0.9).

So it probably won't happen within our lifetimes. OTOH, when it does happen, one might expect it to usher in global starvation, anarchy and war, leading to the death of at least half the human population of the planet. (It could be much worse than that). Statistically, that's around a one in 10,000 chance it'll kill you. And there are a dozen or so other supervolcanoes around the planet!

Unlike looking out for large meteors, I'm not aware of any even slightly plausible way to tame a magma-filled supervolcano reservoir.

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Nigel 11
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If a 50 metre chunk of iron is plummeting towards a city at 50000mph then there is nothing anybody can do about it one way or the other. There's no way to stop it happening and it's doubtful that you could evacuate the city in time

Depends how long ahead it is spotted. You don't need to impart much delta-V to convert an earth-hitting meteor into a near-missing meteor, if you spot it early enough.

Even if it's too late to move it (or even just to steer it away from an urban centre onto a less-populated area tens of miles away), with a single day's warning you could get people away from ground zero and into basements and strong buildings with all the glass taped up. They'd then survive (and with a meteor, there's no radioactive fallout).

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Nigel 11
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Re: Maybe we need a couple hits near some major cities

Any hit with any human casualties, in a place that other folks can travel to, would be sufficient. Tunguska is too remote, in both space and time.

BTW a kiloton-equivalent object vaporising ten or more miles above the surface (ie Chelyabinsk) is no great deal. Lots of broken glass, but few severe injuries. It's anything that reaches (or comes very close to) the ground and creates a nuke-equivalent plasma ball there, which we have to be more concerned about.

The other danger, not mentioned above, is what might happen if a meteor strike devastated (say) Karachi. Would it be mis-identified, leading to an all-out nuclear strike and counterstrike in the following minutes? Indeed, are we sure that the USA or Russia would correctly identify what nature could throw at Washington or Moscow or other major cities?

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Apple stuns world with rare SEVEN-way split: What does that mean?

Nigel 11
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Seven for one: WHY??

It baffles me why a company ever splits its shares other than ten for one. That way you can keep track of how your investment is doing (just read the digits and move the decimal point for the pre-split value).

Two for one and five for one are manageable with a little thought. Seven for one perhaps suggests that the company wants a complete disconnect in investors' minds between the old and new share price. What do they know is coming, that we don't?

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Nigel 11
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Re: No change

Seriously, revelations reads like a bad trip

Probably, that's exactly and literally what it was.

Until recently, it was not understood that if grain was stored damp (ie after a bad harvest), a fungus called ergot would grow on it. The fungus produces ergotamine, which has effects similar to a bad LSD trip. And since an entire community likely ate bread baked from the same batch of bad wheat, they all went on a bad trip at the same time, and that made it even harder to dismiss the (shared) experience as mere hallucination.

Revelations indeed, though not divine.

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95 floors in 43 SECONDS: Hitachi's new ultra-high-speed lift

Nigel 11
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Mineshafts

Out of interest, how does the speed of this elevator compare to the devices that get people to work down deep mines? (some of which are over two miles deep).

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It's GOOD to get RAIN on your upgrade parade: Crucial M550 1TB SSD

Nigel 11
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Re: Power savings

OTOH for every hard disk that is replaced by an SSD, watts of power spent keeping the platters spinning are replaced by milliwatts of SSD standby power.

Yes, I know that modern operating systems can spin down the HD when it's not being used, but in quite a few cases there's some pesky app that regularly prods the disk so it doesn't spin down. Also spinning down a hard disk too often rather shortens its life, to the extent that I prefer mine to spin continuously except when I actively shut down or hibernate my PC.

Anyway, after reading that I'm not sure my PC will have a hard disk for much longer.

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DeSENSORtised: Why the 'Internet of Things' will FAIL without IPv6

Nigel 11
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Re: the lightbulb moment...

I'm surprised no-one has asked yet ...

How many network technicians does it take to change a lightbulb ?

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Boffins brew graphene in kitchen blender

Nigel 11
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Re: So not actually making graphene then.

(perfect) Graphite is lots of layers of Graphene held together (mostly) by Van der Waals force between them. Graphene was first discovered by peeling one layer off a Graphite crystal (using sticky tape!). Prior to that, it was believed that a single isolated layer would not be chemically stable. Anyway, I too am puzzled as to what is the actual difference between Graphene in bulk, and ordinary Graphite. The area of the perfect atom-thick layers? I don't know how many imperfections there are in Graphite crystals.

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Ancient Earth asteroid strike that dwarfed dinosaur killer still felt today

Nigel 11
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Re: So

Are there any mass extinction events around this time that corroborate this?

Is there an iridium or ash layer like chickycluxal?

No, because it was too long ago. 3400 My compared to 60My. Erosion and subduction will have long ago destroyed the macro-structure.

However, there will be special minerals such as shocked quartz that can only be generated by extreme pressure waves. And it may not be complete coincidence that the impact site seems to have been where we now find some of the the richest Platinum-group-metal-containing rocks on the planet.

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Nigel 11
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Re: Assuming that..

the dinosaurs weren't very bright, and rather nasty to boot

You've got a time machine to hand?

Dinosaurs are still with us. We call them "birds". The big flightless ones all died out. The small flying ones didn't.

Of non-human intelligences on the planet, parrots and crows have to come pretty high up the list. Parrots have the verbal abilities of a human toddler, and that's speaking in human language. Some crows make tools (a step up from just using found tools). Considering that their brains are constrained to be so small, that's even more impressive.

So big dinosaurs might have been scarily smart critters. We'll never know (short of finding some 60My-old fossil tools made by intelligent 'saurs! ).

As for nasty, that's plain silly. Some were carnivores. So are many humans. They evolved to be carnivores, like tigers or killer whales. With humans, that's chosen behaviour.

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Nigel 11
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Re: Wiped out species in existence?

impactor of that size would cause what is known as crustal tsunami. would just crush all underground shelters as it traveled around the globe

But life at that time was single-celled organisms living in oceans. Provided the water around them didn't vaporise or get hot enough to kill them, they'd survive with no trouble at all. An impact like his could sterilize all life on land and within rocks, but deepwater life away from the impact site would stay safe.

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Nigel 11
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Re: @Tom 7

The hard thing about life is getting it started

Maybe. Or maybe not. Maybe it's a virtual inevitability, given a planet continuously covered in liquid water for a few tens or hundreds of millions of years. There's only one instance of life known to us at present, and you cannot calculate anything about the likelyhood of an event from a single datum.

However, one can observe that life started within a few hundred million years of the formation of this planet, and closer still to the later time when Earth developed stable oceans that weren't periodically boiled or vaporised. So life got started fairly quickly compared to the length of time it's been running for.

The same cannot be said of multicellular life. It may be that almost every planet in a habitable zone around a star is covered in slime, that only one in a million has multicellular organisms, and that we are currently the only intelligent life in our galaxy. But that's also speculation - only one datum, from which it's hard to make deductions about the likelyhood of life of any sort.

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Revoke, reissue, invalidate: Stat! Security bods scramble to plug up Heartbleed

Nigel 11
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Re: Is this really as bad as it sounds?

I shoud think that if they sit out there and repeat every day / hour / minute, they'll soon find out how long one has to wait on average for a new chunk of un-zeroed memory to leak.I'd expect heap-management on the host system to recycle blocks of free memory fairly fast, unless it's a very lightly loaded system.

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NORKS' own smartmobe pegged as Chinese landfill Android

Nigel 11
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I wonder where they get their apps from, and how they stop stuff "leaking" through "their" handsets to the NSA?

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Gay marriage foes outraged at Mozilla CEO flap, call for boycott

Nigel 11
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Re: Look at this! - Compare to Mozilla FAQ

An honorable man, whatever one thinks of his views.

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Nigel 11
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Re: No win. (@LDS)

The gay community is several percent of the human race (many of whom feel obliged to conceal the fact). What you mean is that a small, vociferous, extremist minority of the gay community is acting like McCarthy.

Can you name any group of people numbered in the millions, which does NOT have an organised and extremist group claiming to be acting on behalf of the other millions when in fact it's just pushing its own agenda?

Don't be silly, and put Firefox back (unless you actually prefer some other browser, in which case don't claim you removed Firefox as a protest).

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Nigel 11
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Re: Freedom of speech goes both ways here

Some people can, and some people can't, leave their beliefs as a private individual at home when they go to work. If he was one of the former group, then it was wrong to call for his resignation. If one of the latter group, it's his employees who shouuld have led the campaign to oust him.

In my book I'll contrast the speed with which he resigned to save his company embarassment (perhaps he should have toughed it out?), with a certain MP who resigned today after fighting an unjustifiable, legalistic, and threatening battle with the media over the facts of her abuse of the house of commons expenses system. I know who I'd rather work under!

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Tesla in 'Ethernet port carries data' SCANDAL

Nigel 11
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Re: Thank god I have an old car

The important thing is that safety-critical systems are appropriately firewalled from infotainment systems. The last thing one wants is malware or a hacker getting in to the standard networked OS running the infotainments, and then accidentally or deliberately crashing your car. (I.e. crashing the safety-critical systems, followed shortly afterwards by a mechanical impact).

IMO appropriately firewalled means something like a serial interface with a very limited set of readonly diagnostic commands. Ideally, air-gapped until a service cable is attached. Re-flashing or re-parametrising the safety-critical stuff should require removal of the control unit from the innards of the car and breaking the seal covered in dire warnings about why you shouldn't break it.

The other important thing is that the safety-critical systems are engineered to an approriately high standard, and engineered to fail safe. There have been some worrying reports of late suggesting auto manufacturers are cutting corners that would never be allowed in aviation.

BTW Electric cars simpler than internal combustion? I doubt it. You need precision control of battery charging and discharging, monitoring of motor temperatures so you can't drive hard enough to burn them out, monitoring of the battery for dangerous excursions (leading to thermal runaway and fire if not stamped on), plus the same antilock braking systems and ESP as a fuel-driven car (and don't forget, the engine is also a regenerative braking system). I don't see this as simple. Fuel tanks are less capable of spontaneous combustion than big Lithium batteries. There aren't two competing braking systems one of which interacts with the fuelling system on a fuel-driven car.

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Nigel 11
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Re: I'd guess none

Don't forget the "mere aggregation" and library linking exception clauses.

As long as they're shipping stock Ubuntu plus ordinary user-mode binaries, they aren't shipping any derived GPL code at all. The OS is Ubuntu's distribution, get yours through the usual channels. The proprietary user-mode binaries are merely aggregated.

Yes, if they have made changes to the kernel or to any of the GPL'ed programs in Ubuntu, they have to make source of those changes available. Even then, they can still keep their proprietary user-mode executables secret, just as long as they aren't derived from GPL code.

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Seagate brings out 6TB HDD, did not need NO STEENKIN' SHINGLES

Nigel 11
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Re: This is all very nice but...

Actually the physics works better as the platters get smaller. I doubt you could get this areal density working on a 5.25inch platter, because it would flex by more (vertically) in response to any external vibration source (even if all internal vibration modes could be tamed). Then you'd have to get the head "flying" right over a greater range of platter-surface velocities, including considerably faster velocities towards the edges of the larger platters. That, or drop the spin rate and suffer greater latency. In fact latency would almost certainly increase anyway, because of the larger head arm needed and (again) the greater time taken for vibrations to damp down after it's moved.

If it were possible to pack the tracks closer, there would be considerable benefits from moving everything to 2.5 inch drives spinning at 10,000 rpm or faster. Perhaps when HAMR arrives?

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Nothing's as SCARY as an overly aggressive SOFTWARE PIMP

Nigel 11
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Re: slugged mainframes

It's exactly the same with Intel CPUs. To start with they sort them by attainable clock speed, and sell the slower ones cheaper. After a while they have perfected their process, and then almost all production can clock at the fastest speed. So they clock-lock some of them slower, and sell them cheaper. (I think sometimes they also nobble a perfectly good chunk of cache).

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Nigel 11
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Re: Persnly...

The difference is that Windows XP pre SP1 (and Windows 2000 before that) were very buggy. Some called them "broken" because of that, but bugs can be fixed, and were fixed, and XP (specifically, the XP UI) became much liked.

Windows 8 is broken by design. There's nothing can be done to fix it. It's not prone to crashes. It works as it was designed to work. It just doesn't do what its users want. Compared to Windows 7 it's a large step backwards. Microsoft's best hope is to make Windows 9 ("Windows Desktop") an evolutionary improvement over Windows 7, and consign the Windows 8 user interface to the dustbin (or possibly the tablet/phone arena) where it belongs.

If they EOL Windows 7 without having a proper desktop UI to replace it, it's curtains for Microsoft. Ditto if they EOL all the Windows 7 APIs which proper desktop software uses. They're now in the last chance saloon.

Why on earth didn't they learn from Apple? Three device classes: Keyboard+Mouse, Tablet, Phone. Three user interfaces, each optimised for its device class.

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Nigel 11
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Under the hood?

"can you really convince yourself that Windows 8.1 is better than XP"

Under the hood? Even speaking as someone who loathes Windows 8, it's definitely a large improvement over Windows XP in places where only systems guys ever venture. It's also an improvement over Windows 7. (In both cases, excluding the graphical configuration interfaces which are a step backwards).

All of which isn't worth a bean, against the fact that the NT 4 / Win 2000 / XP user interface which we knew and loved has been thrown away, and we're expected to enjoy being sent back to the nursery school. (Windows Programmers tell me it's much the same with the programming interfaces)

Linux gets this right. We can upgrade the user interface as and when there is a reason to do so. We can choose between many. If Microsoft did things the Linux way, you could install all of XP, Win 7 and Win 8 userr interfaces on the same system, and choose which you wanted when you logged in. You might have been able to install Windows 8 with a "boot to XP" environment, upgrade a user on a Saturday, and on Monday that user wouldn't notice that anything at all had happened.

But that's not the Microsoft way. Which is why I hate Windows 8, and the company that inflicted it on us.

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Win XP usage down but not out as support cutoff deadline looms

Nigel 11
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Re: MIcrosoft+Evil Greed

MS is under no obligation to support their ancient products.

I'd love to see that tested by someone with really deep pockets in a court of law. It's arguable that if Microsoft shipped a product that was defective in the first instance, and especially if they had been made aware of the defect at any time during the furst five years after they shipped it, then they *are* under an obligation to fix it.

This could be why they are giving a special deal to the UK govt and NHS. Are similar deals in place with other governments and huge customers? "We'll keep you happy just as long as you let us carry on screwing Joe Public and his small business".

Other big businesses won't rock the boat, because the precedent (if ever set) would hurt all of them.

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Tamil Nadu's XP migration plan: Go Linux like a BOSS

Nigel 11
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Another crack in the dyke

First Munich, now Tamil Nadu. (And a few more I could mention). Each one makes it harder to claim that you can't do without Windows or Office. As every Dutchman knows, a few small leaks soon becomes an all-consuming flood. (But apart from Microsoft employees, this is a flood that all should welcome).

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El Reg's Deep Outback XP upgrade almost foiled by KILLER ARACHNIDS

Nigel 11
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Re: Air con - for the computers I hope!

I'm guessing you're somewhere humid - "dry out for a shave"? In dry heat, you just wait a few tens of seconds, you don't really need a towel let alone air-con. Also 30C dry heat isn't particularly unpleasant, even straight off a plane from the UK. You just have to be sure you can stay hydrated, or it'll make you ill in a couple of hours and kill you in a day. Water works better than beer.

(I've been to Death Valley in summer. That WAS hot. )

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Hardwired crypto certificate FAIL bricks Juniper router kit

Nigel 11
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Re: Computer Misuse Act

Was about to post the same thought, that this is illegal.

Moreover, is this purely a matter of civil law? IANAL but I hope that Juniper executives take legal advice about the possibility that they are guilty of a (currently ongoing) criminal offense?

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Life support turned off: NHS Direct dies silent, undignified death

Nigel 11
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If you really want to wind up a doc, tell him that you've been researching your symptoms on USA medical websites! (Especially, the "alternative" ones).

I guess we now find out hw many extra visits GPs have to handle because people can't just get the info they need off the web. (Well, they still can, but not from the NHS, and most of the rest is intended to encourage you to visit your doctor in countries where you have to pay to see your doctor)

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Judge rules Baidu political censorship was an editorial right

Nigel 11
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It's MY press not YOUR press.

I'm sure this was sorted out for newspapers a very long time ago, and anyone serving web pages to the internet is a publisher every bit as much as a newspaper is. The publisher owns the computers generating the search results, and if freedom of speech means anything it means they have an absolute right to "print" anything they want, subject to overriding laws (on incitement, porn, etc.)

The judge is right. If you don't like Baidu, use a different search provider. If you don't like any of them and have enough money, write your own, thereby expressing your own freedon of speech. You might well start by generating a database of articles containing "China" "Chinese" "Sino-" etc. that can be accessed through Google but not through Baidu.

Paradox? What paradox?

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GNOME 3.12: Pixel perfect ... but homeless

Nigel 11
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Re: Desktop icons are confusing to most users

And what on earth is wrong with having folders on your desktop? If all your files fall naturally into one of half a dozen categories and you know about subfolders, it may be a completely sensible way to work.

Especially on Linux, where your desktop is just a folder ~/Desktop. Especially with Linux workspaces, where you click on a free workspace and then click the appropriate folder. On Windows, where the mapping from what you see as your desktop to any particular place in the filesystem is a bit metamagickal, maybe there are reasons to work elsewhere?

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Nigel 11
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Re: What I think's weird

Not just you. I'm not tempted back from Cinnamon by anything I just read. The thing is, on Linux you have choice, so if you don't like it you just install a different UI. . Whereas on Windows, you are at Microsoft's mercy. You have to replace the O/S to get back to Windows 7 UI, you can't have XP UI at all, and I'm not sure someone who doesn't have volume licensing can do it at all.

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China's rare earth supply crimp plan ruled to be illegal

Nigel 11
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Re: If the shoe was on the other foot...

Once again now: Rare Earths Aren't Rare

You can extract REEs from just about any clay. China has some of the clay minerals that are rather richer is REEs than most. It also has, or had, a culture that permitted the pollution that is caused by the cheapest methods of REE extraction, that would be forbidden in the USA or EU. (And yes, extraction is hard, and that's why refined REEs are quite expensive. Unrefined REEs or lefotover REEs are cheap enough to put in disposable lighters as "flints".)

Helium is present in natural gas (it's generated in the earth by radioactive decay and gets trapped along with the methane. Most is not separated and goes up a chimney along with the CO2). It'll run out when the gas does. Methinks shortage of methane fuel will be a bigger problem than shortage of Helium ... if we haven't suffered a global warming catastrophe before then.

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Nigel 11
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Re: Oil?

Forget OPEC, what about the USA?

It's illegal under US law to export Oil or Gas. Since the success of fracking in the USA, this means that US home industries do not have to fear Russian or Middle-East "supply problems", while rendering Europe impotent to stand up to Russia over Syria or Crimea for fear of having our gas supplies turned off.

A conspiracy theorist would say that US foreign policy is intended to destroy EU competitiors while making it easy to lay all blame on Russia or Saudi.

As for REEs, China has sown the seeds of destruction of its own REE industry. Because they forced prices so high, there are now a large number of non-Chinese REE extraction projects coming on line, and the world is headed for oversupply. Because REEs are not actually rare (unlike oil, which is! )

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Sticky Tahr-fy pudding: Ubuntu 14.04 slickest Linux desktop ever

Nigel 11
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Re: A slice off the top

Those who don't know Linux might be surprised to know that there are many different choices for desktop GUIs. You can even install half a dozen on the same machine, and switch between them when you log in.

If Microsoft had done the same with Windows 8 (option to choose Windows 7 AND XP classic interfaces) they'd have received plaudits instead of brickbats.

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CHILLING STUDY: Rise of the data-slurping SNITCH GADGETS

Nigel 11
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How I'm driving, or where I'm driving?

This is the immediately obvious question. I don't much mind an insurance company logging the data necessary to assess my driving style (IMO it would save me money). But I most certainly do not want them (or anyone else for that matter) maintaining a log of precisely when and where I drive. For assessing insurance risk, any GPS coords transmited should be processed into a road type classification(*) and the actual coordinates immediately and irretrievably forgotten. With the threat of huge fines and damages if they ever break their promise, because otherwise it's certain that they will.

(*) for example M-way, Urban Dual carriageway, rural unclassified, city centre, ... about a dozen types ought to be all they need for risk assessment. Add the county/metropolitan district if they must, I guess London city centre is a higher risk than Milton Keynes city centre.

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IBM PCjr STRIPPED BARE: We tear down the machine Big Blue would rather you forgot

Nigel 11
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Re: keyboard hell

It's believable, but for a different reason.

The electronics is deliberately slowed down! If it weren't, a short period of intermittent connection between down and up could easily turn A into AAAAA. It's called de-bouncing. Also there's key-rollover logic for when one finger depresses a second key before the first is (fully) released. Sometimes multi-key rollovers.

I can quite believe that a keyboard that's good for a hunt-and-peck typist would frustrate a fast multifingered touch typist. Also vice versa.

Personally I get on with even the cheapest Logitech keyboards and can't get on with Microsoft ones, cheap or otherwise. I've never worked out why.

The fisrst computer I ever used, the keyboard was a teletype at 110 baud.

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