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* Posts by Nigel 11

2413 posts • joined 10 Jun 2009

Malaysia Airlines mystery: Click here for the TRUTH

Nigel 11
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Re: Phone signals

I was thinking about Scotland and Kazakhstan. I believe that there are large expanses of uninhabited Scottish highlands where you can't get a mobile signal (*). Same in Kazakhstan?

Don't forget a plane is a metal tube. It's not a perfect Faraday cage because of the windows, but they'll attenuate the phone signal considerably, and the windows point sideways not downwards.

BTW cruising altitude can be 40,000ft: that's 8 miles.Higher is possible though not used in normal civil aviation.

(*) I *know* there are small expanses of rural Dorset with the same problem.

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Nigel 11
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Re: So what is going on?

Would a 777 crashing into the sea make a noise that could be recorded by submarine listening arrays like SOSUS? If so would the owner of the array consider it to be revealing too much information about their capabilities to mention it?

A good question to which you won't get a reliable answer!

Possibly, the owner of the array will just happen to discover floating debris and won't let on how they just happedned to know where to discover it. Arranging the cover story will take some days.

It would have been a loud bang compared to, say, a submariner dropping a spanner. So maybe they can inform the world through confidential diplomatic channels that "we are 99% certain it did not crash into the Indian ocean. Search on land. No, I cannot say any more". That, without revealing too much about their actual capabilities.

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Nigel 11
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Re: Phone signals

I believe not, with the plane at cruising altitude. Not until the plane got down to (a guess) 10,000ft. Question: are there large tracts of central Asia with no cellphone infrastructure? Especially the same, with one or more abandoned Soviet airstrips and no mobile coverage?

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Nigel 11
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Re: hints

There are far more runways, if you want only to land or survivably crash-land, with no intention of taking off again.

This may be a theft or a theft-gone-wrong(*), rather than terrorism. Notably absent from the news reporting, any discussion of the cargo manifest or cargo screening. This may not be mere cluelessness.

(*) gone wrong: the passengers assumed terrorism, and the flight ended the same way as the fourth 9/11 jet. Or not gone wrong, just psycopathically ruthless thieves committing mass murder.

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Nigel 11
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Re: So what is going on?

"Why is there a need to have the functionality to allow an identification beacon on a civil aircraft be switched off in flight?"

Someone needs to urgently re-do the risk analysis here. Yes, there's a (tiny?) fire risk in having some active electronics on a plane that cannot be disabled by any volitional act in flight. Yes, it might catch fire. Most unlikely, if it's protected by an ordinary fuse inaccessible to the crew, that would shut it down if it drew excessive current.

But I think we can now see that there is a much greater risk to the safety of both passengers and the rest of us on the ground, in allowing it to be disabled. Potentially, there is now a 200-tonne suicide-piloted missile out there somewhere.

Edit @Vic

OK, accepted there are good reasons why the transponder needs to have an off switch. So apply my arguments to the data transmitter that the assumed hijackers failed to totally disable. Instead of meaningless pings, have it return (at minimum) Airframe number and GPS coords.

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They ACCUSED him of inventing Bitcoin. Now, Nakamoto hires lawyer to CLEAR his name

Nigel 11
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Get real

If he's really invented Bitcoin he'd be rich enough to buy a new identity, a private island, a Learjet, and wouldn't be working for a living (or trying to find work at an age when most of us would prefer to be retired)

He's also been made the target for a large group of idiots who have lost a lot of money, one or two of whom may be psychopathically vengeful.

Good luck to him with the lawsuit. I hope he doesn't just get the record put straight, but a large settlement. Unless, of course, Newsweek's story is true. (I doubt it. More likely, just make up the story about a small guy who can't defend himself. This smells just like the News of the World did, until it stank too much for even Murdoch to defend).

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Win XP holdouts storm eBay and licence brokers, hiss: Give us all your Windows 7

Nigel 11
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Re: Maybe I'm missing something here...

It's that people are used to a UI which, as far as they are concerned, defines Windows. Microsoft comes along and tears it up. Yes, it's possible to learn to use the new heap of shite. It may even be possible to become as fluent in it as one was in the old one, after spending many hours of one's life on it. But it's most unlikely that the hatred this incurs will ever blossom into love.

Not everyone learns the same way. I'm one of the 8-haters. XP was in my fingertips, and I just used it while thinking continuously about the real work. I (still) can't do that with 8. I still find the enforced mental context-switching stressful and damaging to my productivity (in a way that XP to Win 7 or Gnome-2 or even Cinnamon is not). I also dislike KDE and Gnome 3, but Linux gives ne freedon to choose so I'm happy that other people like the alternatives. On Windows, there's no fscking choice, just Microsoft shafting us.

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Nigel 11
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Re: It's not a "Windows 7 downgrade"

Many regard XP as the best, and Windows 7 as a small downgrade (compared to Windows 8 which is a large downgrade). This based on the UI experience.

If the hardware is old, then both 7 and 8 may take an elderly PC from usable to useless, in which case it's hard to argue that either represents an upgrade rather than a wrecking ball.

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Web inventor Berners-Lee: I so did NOT see this cat vid thing coming

Nigel 11
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Agreed on Facebonk and Twatter, but surely Stackoverflow is of some use? And Google?

Sometimes one deserves credit just for starting a ball rolling. And if you think "obvious" is obvious, find out about the Dot Conjecture. Proving it defeated all mathematicians who tried for many decades. Yet it has a proof that requires only schoolboy geometry, a proof which is "obvious" -- from the moment someone has shown it to you.

I don't think the WWW is anywhere near mature yet. It's an invention like Watt's steam engine. Could anyone have imagined (in 1780) everything that would be changed by or depend on that invention by 1880?

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Nigel 11
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Re: my useless contribution

The technological push/pull difference is absolutely no reason why one couldn't have sent e-mail to a mobile, even in the early 1990s. I'd send e-mail to (say) 08767654321@vodafone.com which would deliver it to a mailbox on a gateway computer at the mobile phone company. That system would periodically poll the mailboxes, check each mail therein for suitability for onward delivery to a mobile as text, and if suitable, push it to the phone using SMS. (For excessively large e-mails with attachments and suchlike, it could e-mail the sender with an explanation of the limits of what can be forwarded as SMS)

It's been done since, but it never caught on, and now smartphones do full-function e-mail.

The reverse (SMS to E-mail) would probably have required some extra hooks in the SMS protocol, but do you really think they'd have been impossible to implement? Anyway one-way e-mailing to text a phone would have been useful, just because it's easier to type on a computer keyboard than on a 0-9 keypad, and useful for many (even back then) for a computer to generate alert texts.

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Nigel 11
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Re: my useless contribution

In a similar vein, back when a mobile phone was housebrick-sized, I casually commented "Why can't we send e-mail to mobiles"?

A couple of years later, someone else invented Texting (and botched it by errecting a digital Berlin wall between the realms of text and e-mail). Sigh.

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Nigel 11
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Why cats?

Cats perform the same role for digital imagery, that "Lorem ipsum ..." does for Typography.

Nobody knows why (except, possibly, the cats ... and they aren't telling).

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BuzzGasm: 9 Incredible Things You Never Knew About PLIERS!

Nigel 11
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Re: Pliers, Wiring, No 2.

3) Any tool can be used as a hammer

aka a "Leyland hammer" from the same industry that gave us "Lucas, prince of darkness".

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Nigel 11
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Re: Mole grips

I had the reverse problem years ago when I thought "duck tape" was "duct tape" mis-typed. (Now, they sell Duck brand tape in the UK, and yes, duck tape works OK on ducts as well as a thousand other things)

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Nigel 11
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Re: Never 6ft away from pliers

Indeed. Spanners are wider at both ends than the middle, so one can tie a long string to them. Adjustable wrenches usually have a hole in the handle for the same purpose. But pliers ....

Why isn't the proverb "Pliers in the works" not "A spanner in the works"?

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Nigel 11
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Re: "epicaricacy"

So one can describe a person as epicaricacious ?

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Battery vendors push ultracapacitor wrappers to give Li-ions more bite

Nigel 11
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Re: Bah!

Dynamite is Nitroglycerine dispersed in clay. Pure nitroglycerine is dangerously touchy stuff - it will detonate in response to any slight impact. Cheap and easy to make, though. You can hit dynamite with a hammer and it won't explode.

TNT is used for filling bombs and HE shells. It's stable until subjected to a shockwave from a detonator (though it decomposes and becomes less safe after many years' ageing). Trivia question: what commonly-used substance was invented by terrorists for terrorist purposes? Answer: ANFO, ad-hoc explosive made by mixing Ammonium Nitrate and Fuel Oil. It's now widely used by the mining industry. Drill holes, fill with fertilizer, then add fuel oil, finally detonators. Much cheaper than "real" explosives and safe enough for in-situ preparation.

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Nigel 11
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Re: A level physics confusion?

Always some losses: yes. Not always 50% though, that's for charging through a resistor from zero volts and discharging back to zero. With a battery in parallel with a capacitor the voltage difference between the battery and the capacitor will remain small at all times (short of a gross overload, which is likely to start a fire unless of extremely short duration).

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Nigel 11
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Nothing yet known to man has that capacity!

Er ... no? You can go out and buy an ultracapacitor module that'll store a megajoule. That's a million watt-seconds, or 100kW for ten seconds. 100kW is comparable to a decent car engine at full throttle, so that's ten seconds of doubled power output. What does nitro do for that engine? I'm no expert, but I'd guess twice the power, and more than a ten-second boost is likely to damage something.

The ultracapacitor may not be a practical system, but very far from impossible.

BTW what is the technology behind KERS on F1 cars?

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Nigel 11
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Re: fire power

so we are wrapping a small fire bomb in a detonator?

No - there's no mechanism that could cause the ultracapacitor voltage to exceed that of the battery (other than the battery spontaneously developing an internal short-circuit, which is almost certain to result in it catching fire shortly afterwards, ultracapacitor or no)

I am slightly concerned that this device might be useful to a terrorist, i.e. the power surge which it needs to cope with being the power draw of a detonator on a bomb when its timer reaches zero. However, I guess they could buy a separate ultracapacitor, and wire it in parallel with a battery.

Advantage of integrating the battery and ultracapacitor? Packaging, I'd guess. No dead space between two separate components.

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Blurred lines: Android e-ink mobe claims TWO-WEEK battery life

Nigel 11
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Re: It's not the radio

There are plenty of (dumb) mobiles out there where the battery will last a week or longer. that despite the battery being a lot smaller than on a smartphone. It's the display and the high-power smartphone CPU and software that eats the battery faster than the radio, with one caveat. That is, you're in a good mobile signal area. Moving from a 4-bar area to a one-bar area cuts the battery life of my dumb phone from about a week to around a day, and that's before I use it as a phone.

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Hey doc, what's the PC's prognosis? A. Long-term growth below zero

Nigel 11
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Re: We're losing more than what most realise...

Microsoft shut the door on hobbyist programming a long time ago. They wanted users clueless and brainwashed to buy MS. The accomplished the first part, something went wrong for them with the second :-)

These days your best discovery device is an old (or ancient, or even new) PC running Linux if you are happy with pure software, or a Rasberry Pi if you want to hack hardware. When I learned to hack hardware, the box I was hacking cost about ten times a Rasberry Pi, and a pound was worth more back then!

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Nigel 11
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Re: The real trend

So why aren't they making/ selling PCs that don't take 3 minutes to start? It's not hard. You just replace the HD with an SSD. (120Gb is plenty, and for folks who need more, just plug in a USB3 Terabyte or two).

Once you've done that, get rid of all the fans (passive-cooling) so it's silent, and you then don't have to boot it except after major software upgrades or power cuts. You just turn off the monitor and let it go to sleep. Whenever you want, press a key and turn on the monitor. It's ready in a few seconds.

I've built myself such a system around a Gigabyte GA-C1037UN-EU board. Yes, it's a "slow" CPU, but quite fast enough for everything I use except a few games (for which I have a second PC). Can I buy a similar system without DIY assembly? I don't think so.

Lack of imagination at the hardware vendors is a part of their problem. What I can't do is integrate the passively-cooled PC into the monitor (which has a conveniently large area for a heatsink on the back), thereby saving a power supply and a lot of wires. Possibly also throw in a TV tuner, if TV tuners are as cheap as I think they might be.

I could get started on the state of laptops ... where can I buy a PC laptop with a 15in high-res screen, without taking out a second mortgage? The screens exist - you can buy a small TV with such a screen, for not a lot of money.

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Dark matter killed the dinosaurs, boffins suggest

Nigel 11
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Dinosaurs are still with us

Er ... are there some flying feathered creatures outside your window, chirping or even singing?

Those are dinosaurs.

Yes, they didn't all die out. The small mobile feathered ones survived, evolved, and today we call them birds. One or two remain velociraptor-scary (ask someone who's narrowly survived a hostile encounter with a Casawary).

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Nigel 11
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Re: And thus Nemisis is reborn...

Can the simplest hypothesis be ruled out?

That Nemesis isn't one body gravitationally bound to Sol. But that multiple Nemesises have existed: other ordinary stars in their own orbits around the galactic core, which have wandered close enough to Sol to disturb its Oort cloud.

The evidence for 35My periodicity is pretty weak, but weak periodicity is what one might expect. The chance of a significantly close encounter with another star rises as Sol passes through the parts of the galaxy with a higher density of stars.

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Nigel 11
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Re: Dark Matter?

Good summary of this hypothetical entity.

A few days ago, a 3.5keV emission line was detected by X-ray astronomers, seemingly being faintly emitted by all galaxies they have looked at so far. There is no ordinary matter (atomic) emission line that can account for it.

If it isn't found to be an observational error or statistical deviation, it may prove to be the first sign that dark matter exists.

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Hundreds of folks ready to sue Bitcoin exchange MtGox

Nigel 11
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Re: Horses and Stable Doors...

Also can we stop referring to Bitcoins as a currency, they are not, they are a commodity. If anything they could be used to back a currency like Gold was/is but you can't suddenly print more Bitcoins when you feel like it.

I thought forgery was a crime.

Oh, but of course, the government minting the currency makes the laws, and exempts itself from that one.

What a definition: it can only be a currency if it can be debased!

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Nigel 11
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Re: They have assets....

Indeed. When a body animate dies, the vultures turn up. When a body corporate dies, the lawyers turn up. They perform the same function in different realms.

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Nigel 11
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Just because some people accept them doesn't mean that it is a currency. It's a way of paying for a small number of goods, yes, but as it is not widely accepted, by definition it is not a currency.

Hmmm. Is the Kyrgyzstani som a currency? (I had to look it up, but I haven't made it up). If you were offered bitcoins or som to the value of £200 at current quoted exchange rate, which would you take?

I'm not sure "currency" has any official definition, and in any case all forms of money conflate at least two separable functions. (1) A common medium of exchange. (2) A store of value. The first requires liquidity and fungibility, but value needs to be preserved only in the short term (long enough to spend or convert your earnings without suffering an unacceptable loss during the days you hold them). Stores of value can be non-fungible (e.g. works of art) and illiquid (e.g. works of art, houses in a buyer's market).

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Nigel 11
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The people lost their money the instant they turned it into bitcoin

No, they converted one currency into another. Bitcoins are still out there and still have an exchange value. Less than it once was ... but currency fluctuations are nothing new. One pound sterling was once worth exactly the same as one gold sovereign. Until a day came, when the UK went off the gold standard.

Their real mistake was allowing MtGOX to look after their bitcoins, rather than holding them in their own digital wallets. Someone broke into the bank and stole their gold, sorry, bitcoins. Now someone else has all the bitcoins, which are worth a fair bit to the thief even at today's exchange rate. MtGOX is doubtless legally liable, but I don't suppose it's got enough assets left to make it worth suing.

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Cisco kicks off $300k Internet of Things security competition

Nigel 11
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Bring back the write-protect switch!

It won't solve all the problems. But it will solve a lot of them. If there's no way for a bad guy to change the thing's non-volatile settings, it'll mean that power-cycling the thing restores it to whatever state you stored in it by using the write-protect switch. Note: it must be true hardware protection, that's completely impossible to alter by any sort of software exploit.

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German freemail firms defend AdBlock-nobbling campaign

Nigel 11
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Advertisers, watch out!

You know, blocking adverts isn't the worst a plug-in could do to you, not by a long way.

How about downloading every advert to the bit-bucket and then generating an auto-click on it, with the resulting page also sent to the bit-bucket? Or even heuristically locating your sign-up page and automatically filling it with garbage and submitting?

Then the site that makes money out of serving ads gets extra revenue, and the advertiser spends money serving bits into buckets with no human eyeballs involved. Those of us with unlimited high-bandwidth broadband probably wouldn't notice any overhead. Eventually the advertisers will notice that the effectiveness of "push" advertising is approaching zero.

Annoy us too much and someone will actually write that plug-in. (Or maybe they have, and I've just not yet been annoyed sufficiently to go and find it?. Adblock-plus will do for now).

My personal attitude is that I'm a buyer, not a sellee. If I want something I'll use Google and suchlike to find out where I can obtain it, what consumers think of it, etc. So instead of pushing adverts that we ignore one way or another, how about spending the money on making your product (a) easier to locate when we look for it, and (b) better?

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We test Intel's 730 480GB SSD Skulltrail scorcher

Nigel 11
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Not overclocked

Sorry to nit-pick, but over-clocked means operated at an un-blessed clock rate above the manufacturer's specification (and crossing one's fingers). In this case Intel has re-engineered or simply revalidated its own chip for a higher clock rate than previously used. They do the same thing with their CPUs from time to time.

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In spinning rust we TRUST: HGST slips out screamingly fast ... HDD

Nigel 11
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Re: Price?

Should also last longer than SSD

Depends on how it's being used. In a write-mostly and intensely-accessed environment an SSD will "wear out" in less than the several years that a mechanical drive can be relied on. In one where reads are more frequent or where there is 16 hours/day near-idle, there may be 10, 15, more years of write traffic needed to wear out the SSD, and in that case I'd expect the MTBF of an SSD to be higher than an HD. Expect, because SSDs haven't existed for long enough to be certain about their long-term ageing characteristics.

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Nigel 11
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Price?

Would be nice to know what it costs.

(Obvious comparison, 512Gb SSDs. Can't win on performance, so has to be significantly cheaper).

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Nigel 11
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Re: Am i the only one

You shouldn't be able to hear any rotational noise at all - if it's whining, it's dying!

What you hear much more on datacenter disks than on home ones is head seek noise. There's a tradeoff between minimising acoustic noise and minimising head repositioning time. In a datacentre, noise usually doesn't matter (it's dominated by lots and lots of fans moving air around, often making it hard to be heard without shouting).

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Apple's Windows XP moment: OS X Snow Leopard left to DIE

Nigel 11
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Also in Microsoft's favour, they don't sell hardware (mouses and suchlike aside). If your hardware prevents you from moving off XP to Windows 7, it's probably not Microsoft's fault, but that of whatever company is refusing to write modern drivers for its older hardware.

Can't think of anything we're being forced to throw away with XP's demise, that was made in 2007 or after.

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Nigel 11
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Re: 2007 hardware obsolete?

If it's not welded or glued shut, assembled by highly trained octopi, or otherwise artificially rendered impossible to upgrade, you can get a whole new lease of life out of an old laptop by removing the hard disk and installing a solid-state disk. The speed of the CPU is frequently irrelelevant, whereas reducing the hard disk seek time to effective zero can make a 5-year-old laptop feel faster than most new ones without SSD.

Same for desktops used for running Office and suchlike, by the way.

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Intel, Sun vet births fast, inexpensive 3D chip-stacking breakthrough

Nigel 11
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Re: Core temperature

It's not necessarily a problem. An actively cooled CPU can dissipate ~100W emanating from a square centimeter of silicon. So if the chips you want to stack generate 1W each, you can stack them 100 deep before the problem's much harder than a CPU. (Somewhat harder because you need thermally conductive glue between the layers, and thermal stresses must not destroy the assembly or the individual chips).

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HP busts out new ProLiant rack mount based on Intel's new top o' line server chippery

Nigel 11
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Re: Obviously not

There's at least one problem class where all-local RAM helps. Big sparse matrix calculations, as often encountered in engineering modelling. Wonder what HP *does* charge for maximum RAM? We once got a quote for an HP system thart could support 1Tb RAM, but the price for that configuration was so exorbitant that our scientists went for two commodity HPC servers maxed out with 0.5Tb RAM each ... and quite a lot of change.

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Sanity now: Gnome 3.12 looking sensible - at least in beta

Nigel 11
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Re: Linux is a fractured mess

In what way is the sudden arrival of Gnome 3 on an experienced Gnome 2 user's desktop, different to the sudden arrival of Windows 8.0 on an experienced Windows XP user's desktop?

It'll tell you the difference. There's a way out of Gnome 3 if you don't like it. Indeed, there are several different ways out, including choosing not to upgrade at all (apart from security patches) for the next five years at least.

The reason that the Gnome programmers were vilified when they shipped "3" wasn't that half of us thought it was crap. It was that they'd decided to write it as an upgrade (like Microsoft call Windows 8 + TIFKAM an upgrade). Meaning they had denied us the right to install Gnome 2 alongside Gnome 3 on the same system, just like Microsoft. Luckily they only control Gnome, not Linux.

Why is it that there are so many folks who still think like Soviet State Planners in the 1980s, that there there is One True Way, and that it will inevitably succeed? Oh yes, it's the brainwashing. The CCCP was very good at brainwashing. So is Microsoft. They should note, it didn't do the CCCP much good. The trouble is that you're more likely to believe your own propaganda, than the rest of us.

Linux folks know that "world domination" (Linus) was a joke. But on the other hand "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." (Ghandi). We've reached stage 3.... we've won inside the DVD players and the cars ... we've won the tablets in a Googly sort of way ....

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Nigel 11
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Re: Amazing what a bit of competition can do

Define "real work".

What do you think is used to make a movie? To design a new drug (or car, or airliner)? To build a million-user web-site?

Chances are high that the creative stuff, without which none of the other w**kers in the organisation would have jobs, is done partly using Linux and partly using Macs, with Windows in third place and there only because (a) some customers(*) and (b) the abovementioned real w**kers insist on it.

(*) customers are always right even when they are wrong. Unless you work for Microsoft.

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Nigel 11
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"Start" menu

Am I reading it right? Having taken away a menu that you accessed with a left-click, they've now given back a menu except you have to access it with a right-click?

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Antarctic glacier 'melted JUST as fast LONG before human carbon emissions'

Nigel 11
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I thought this was well-understood?

Recent geological history reveals several very rapid thaws followed by much slower re-cooling.

I thought the mechanism was well-understood: runaway global warming caused by methane released from methane hydrates in permafrost (and/or ocean floors).

The warning to the human race is obvious. Cause a small amount of global warning and it could become a runaway process. There are VAST amounts of methane trapped in permafrost in the Canadian and Russian tundra. Thaw the ice around the edges of that zone and the methane escapes, which causes more global warming, which causes more thawing ... a positive feedback loop.

When you know avalanches have happened before without human intervention, perhaps it's still best to avoid going off-piste?

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Alliance for Wireless Power to pursue new 50W standard

Nigel 11
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Re: 50? What? Dell?

What's the electric car slogan: "range anxiety?" What would the laptop equivalent be?

Worrying that its power runs out before it's banished the extra-dimensional horror that's got its tentacles around your neck?

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Nigel 11
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A toothbrush isn't "wireless power", it's just a transformer with the primary in the "charger" and the secondary in the toothbrush.

I can't help thinking, why bother? (in the case of the toothbrush, the principal reason is to make it all but impossible to create an electrical circuit from mains through a fault and thence through mouth, heart and other hand of an id10t(*) to earth.

(*) or victim. or autodarwinator.

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Seagate's LaCie touts a 25TB (not a typo) box o' disks for your DESK

Nigel 11
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RAID1, odd number of disks?

You can do RAID1 on an odd number of disks just as long as your operating system or controller lets you split the disks into partitions (most simply, two equal-size partitions per disk). You then make a RAID0 of RAID1s, should you want to view the whole assemblage as a single volume.

It's actually a slightly enhanced RAID10 that never(?) acquired its own number.

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Nigel 11
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Depends what you mean by a "drive" and how much space you've got inside. Look up "SATA port multiplier", and how Backblaze make their 146Tb storage pods (mostly) out of commodity hardware.

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Nigel 11
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Re: I have my doubts..

Well, to grab a linux command: rsync.

The first rsync will take many hours, maybe days. Just carry on using it while that completes.

Once done, stop modifying it, and repeat the Rsync command. The second pass will copy only the data that has been changed since the first pass, so quite possibly only a few minutes.

The same approach doubtless exists under other names. Back in the days of tape, they were called full and incremental backups.

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Office Online rises from ashes of 'confusing' Office Web Apps

Nigel 11
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Re: Exactly

Which is why Donald Knuth created TeX in the first place

Which has been followed by LyX and kin, offering WYSISYM (what you see is what you MEAN) rather than WYSIWYG.

Actually I think the first WYSIWYM I ever saw was something whose name I have forgotten, running on an Acorn Archimedes. Shame it didn't catch on with the rest of the world.

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