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* Posts by Nigel 11

2561 posts • joined 10 Jun 2009

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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Middle England's allotments become metric battlefield

Nigel 11
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Re: RACISTS!

If Polish lacks definite and indefinite articles as do some other Slavic languages, I can understand why the significance of the capital letter in front of Pole meaning a person from Poland has been overlooked. And yes, there is a problem with operator overloading at the start of our sentences.

Anyway, although Poles tend to be slightly taller than the EU average height, I have yet to meet one about five meters tall.

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Nigel 11
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Re: Area?

The Barn is already taken as a unit. It is indeed a measure of area, but one so small that it's really of use only to atomic physicists. For agriculture, even a Yottabarn would be too small a unit. Oh, and it's metric.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barn_%28unit%29

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Nigel 11
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Re: When Did We Go Metric?

how come our currency isn't called the British 0.453592 Kilogram now?

Because of inflation.

You did know that a pound sterling orginally referred to a pound of sterling silver? (And that Europe, including the UK, had a single pan-national currency based on fractions of a pound sterling back in the middle ages. Florins, Francs, Marks, S[c]hillings, Crowns and Thaler (hence dollar) were all originally sub-multiples of a pound of sterling silver, and circulated across borders).

These days a (troy) ounce of silver costs around US$ 20. I'll leave working out how many grams per UK currency unit as an exercise for the reader, but it's a heck of a lot less than 453.

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Nigel 11
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Enter the metric pole?

The timber industry works in "metric feet" i.e. units of 30cm.

There's clearly a "metric pole" waiting to be invented, namely 5m. The ~1% difference between a square pole and 25 square meters is surely too small for anyone involved in small-plot agriculture to notice. in any case there's no way to change the allotment boundaries for existing allotments in order sto squeeze in one extra one at the nd of a row of 100. (Are there ever as many as 100 in a row? )

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This changes everything: Microsoft slips WinXP holdouts $100 to buy new Windows 8 PCs

Nigel 11
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Re: Too little, too late.

Try using a 13 year old install of XP on a 13 year old PC and you'll find that it doesn't work...very well at all.

Don't know about 13-year old, but 7-year-old is fine. Just as long as it has enough RAM for modern XP (1Gb minimum, 1.5Gb better).

Insert XP with SP3 DVD, install

Crank up Windows Update, install updates, reboot, install more updates, iterate several times until up to date. Tedious, slow, bandwidth-consuming, but it works. If you have a volume license for Office you might also install that, upgrade to Microsoft Update, go around the updating loop a few more times. And install MS Security Essentials if you don't have any other AV to install.

Once you have an up-to-date virgin XP install the smart thing to do is to sysprep it. Then boot a stand-alone Linux disk such as SystemRescueCD, re-size the boot partition as small as reasonably possible, and generate an image of the used part of the disk. (Alternatively you could use one of the paid-for snake-oil imaging tools for folks who don't understand the previous sentence).

Make sure you can restore and boot your image onto another PC with a blank disk.

And now you'll be able to install up-to-final-date XP onto 7-year-old or maybe 13-year-old PCs in half an hour, for the forseeable future ....

Until Microsoft shuts down their XP activation servers ....

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Bono bests Bezos in Fortune's 'World's 50 Greatest Leaders' list

Nigel 11
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Re: World?

Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un are bad and worst leaders. The jury is out on Xi Jinping. The recent leadership of China has accomplished some remarkable things. Heretical thought: would today's average Chinese really have been better-off if the country had become a Western democracy when Mao died?

Ancient Chinese wisdom:

“The best leaders are those the people hardly know exist. The next best is a leader who is loved and praised. Next comes the one who is feared. The worst one is the leader that is despised.

"If you don't trust the people, they will become untrustworthy.

"The best leaders value their words, and use them sparingly. When she has accomplished her task, the people say, "Amazing: we did it, all by ourselves!"

Lao Tzu, and as true today as in the 6th century BC. I'll leave it to fellow commentards to assess whether any of Fortune's list are those rare grade 1 leaders.

Does anyone know if "she" in the last paragraph of the quote is a modern translator's gimmick, or the most accurate translation? Or is Chinese personal pronoun ungendered "she/he"? Both seem unlikely given more recent Chinese society, but it was written ~2500 years ago.

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Nigel 11
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Re: Elon Musk would be my vote

Solar power is 100% efficient by any sensible definition. It is capturing energy for useful purposes, before returning it to outer space as low-grade heat. The earth's surface does exactly the same just by being there, but without the useful purposes stuff in the middle.

Conversion efficiency means that a 15% efficient solar panel is 85% no better or worse than a rock, and 15% useful. That's infinitely (divide-by-zero-error) better than plain rock, at least with respect to generating electricity.

The Earth's current total electricty usage could be met by current technology solar panels covering just 1% of the Sahara desert. To those saying that's a very large area, it's about the same area as the part of the planet covered by roofs. Average life-expectancy of a roof? Maybe 50 years. So given solar panelling at the same price as roofing materials, humanity could do it in fifty years.

In sunny parts of the world, solar roofs are surely the way to go!

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5 Eyes in the Sky: The TRUTH about Flight MH370 and SPOOKSATS

Nigel 11
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The human brain evolved to pattern match, and the cost of a false positive was usually far less than the cost of missing a match. The latter tended to involve being eaten shortly afterwards, thereby removing the less hair-triggered pattern matchers from the gene pool.

So we all spot patterns in random noise. Especially faces and straight lines. Get tired enough, drink enough coffee so you are still awake, and you'll end up hallucinating in a small way. For me it was small creatures running around in my peripheral vision, that weren't really there. (The programming part of my brain was still perfectly "in the flow". Odd things, brains. )

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Nigel 11
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Re: diNgo

They probably thought of DINGO, and decided that something that bites and occasionally eats babies wasn't the best of names for it.

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Nigel 11
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Re: Not surprised, but still skeptical

The problem is that of a needle in a haystack. Mostly, spysats are used to look for stationary things that have a fairly guessable appearance and location. Undefined drifting wreckage in millions of square miles of ocean isn't what it was intended for. A lot of eyeballs (crowd-sourced searching) might help, but that gives away the clasified capability of the system.

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Nigel 11
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Re: Resolution

Presumably the authorities realized that the high-res images were of more use to terrorists, jailbreakers and plain old burglars, than to the rest of us?

They're still good enough for me to work out the final stages of driving to a rural location where the postcode is several miles wide. (Fifth house on the left, about two miles from the right turn ... it worked first time).

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Nigel 11
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For over a year attempts were made to find it, in vain.

Because it had already sunk? Sometimes there IS a simple explanation. (No-one is going to bother looking for a wrecked ship under a mile of water - it it had still been afloat, it was just about worth salvaging. )

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Nigel 11
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Re: Last weeks images.

Reported on BBC, the "door" was actually a cable reel.

I think this article makes it clear, the images that are being released are not the best images available. They're just the completely unclassified reduced-resolution versions. To my mind there's nothing sinister if a government with spy-sats says "we think you should be looking at (coords), but we can't tell you why". (Ditto if it's got passive sonar arrays for detecting submarines, and they picked up the sound of a big impact, or a military radar system that works better / worse / differently to how other players think it does ).

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Nigel 11
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Re: Hindsight?

Er ... how could even a successful shoe bomber account for the plane crashing in the South Indian Ocean, when it should have been headed in the direction of Beijing?

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Microsoft exec: I don't know HOW our market share sunk

Nigel 11
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Re: innovation

Innovation in a GUI needs to be done by slow and careful incremental improvement. New features should be inserted somewhere that they won't cause a user any difficulty until he is ready to try them out. Menus (be they start, right-click, or hover) are a good way to accomplish this. Magic pixels that dump you into something you've never seen before when you get your mouse near to them, are a very bad way.

If the GUI won't work on some other class of device, you need a new GUI for that class of device. Or you can implement a mode-switcher, provided it's hard to get into if you don't know what you are doing, and easy to escape from if you blunder in to its first stage without knowing what it is.

An example that's only tangentially Microsoft. I was recently called in to look at two "broken" laptops where the mouse-pad had stopped working. It took a while to discover that Alt-F-something disabled the mousepad PERMANENTLY in one easy mis-type. Not even re-booting could "fix" it (not that it's easy to log in without a mouse), and you needed that one magic keystroke again to get it back. Idiots (no, not the users, Toshiba! ) The users were seriously contemplating scrapping and replacing them. If this had happened Toshiba would have lost a lot of custom because of "crap mousepads" -- maybe elsewhere, they have.

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Nigel 11
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Re: What language is this?

High-risk route up the greasy pole. Say what you are going to do in clear and plain language. Get some of the credit if it all works out. Get all of the blame, and then some, if it doesn't.

Low-risk route. Talk plausible-sounding gibberish that's as content-free as possible. Claim credit if something good later happens. Deny all responsibility if something bad subsequently happens. No-one will be able to gainsay you.

I can't bullshit. That's probably why I'm a programmer not a CEO.

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Microsoft alters Hotmail policy amid blogger inbox probe outcry

Nigel 11
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How much more snooping

How much more snooping will it take, before the world moves en masse to PGP or other securely encrypted e-mail?

At present, assume that your e-mail is going to be read by everyone with more than a casual interest in what you are saying. That way you won't be surprised when it is.

The snoops will overreach and kill their golden goose one day. I'm surprised it isn't today.

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Intel details four new 'enthusiast' processors for Haswell, Broadwell

Nigel 11
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Re: Sweet stuff

My guess is that the main market for mid-range ships is office-secretary grade systems where the merely adequate graphics is, well, adequate. Decreasing the wattage is the preferred design trade-off over increasing the graphics capability.

There's still plenty of mileage in adding a fairly inexpensive ATI or NVidia graphics card, if you don't need a faster CPU but do want faster graphics. Or get a system with an AMD CPU - inferior CPU but better (ATI) on-chip graphics. We have folks with boring desktop systems plus beefy NVidia cards, that actually use CUDA to good effect (molecular modelling results displaying).

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Nigel 11
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Re: Secret thermocouple compound

At the low wattage end, re-implementing any current design at 14nm will reduce the power it consumes very considerably. So we can assume that if the market exists, they'll make it.

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Nigel 11
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Re: Worrisome...

Intel has the best process technology bar none. 14nm CPUs is quite astonishing.

Intel made a big mistake with the Pentium 4 because they thought that dumb would be good enough when they got the clock up to tens of GHz. They found out that clocking Silicon much above 4GHz wasn't do-able, and AMD almost gained the lead by doing a much smarter CPU design (ie, using the available transistor count to accomplish more useful work) despite having to implement it with an inferior process technology.

Intel resurrected the Pentium 3 and worked on it. They got back level with AMD, then overhauled them and stayed there. AMD doesn't appear to know how to do smarter squared (nor does anyone else). It may be a software problem, not hardware: how to automate code generation for very many cored CPUs. Which ARM could make tomorrow, but they presumably know that 128 one-watt cores on one chip wouldn't sell. Heck, NVidia make them, but GPGPUs running CUDA code just point at the problems in using that approach more generally.

My theory is that Intel could put AMD out of business but never will, because it needs to point at AMD to justify not being treated as a monopoly (and maybe to stop itself behaving too much like one!). If the only place to buy high-power workstation and server chips was Intel, they'd end up being regulated as a monopoly, and then innovation at Intel would cease.

Maybe one day ARM will be competitive outside the mobile and low-power arena. Time will tell. Until then, Intel is top dog.

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BOFH: On the PFY's Scottish estate, no one can hear you scream...

Nigel 11
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Not running out of oil

We won't run out of oil, we'll jut run out of oil that's cheap enough to burn as fuel or to throw away as low-value packaging. There are huge numbers of oil finds that flowed a little oil and were then plugged and abandoned as hopelessly sub-economic. To get oil for use as a high-value petrochemicals feedstock, the day may come when it's worth re-opening those wells to extract said feedstock at $1000/barrel, $10,000/barrel or whatever.

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Micron embiggens personal SSD for storage-hungry public

Nigel 11
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The problem isn't how full it is. The problem will be if it wears out faster because it has less spare blocks available. It's users with write-mostly usage patterns who'll hit the proble first, if problem there is.

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Crap flap-app flap chap yaps: Yes, FLAPPY BIRD is comin' back

Nigel 11
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Coat

I was hoping for a game in which you play the part of a Pigeon navigating above and around the streets of London.

Crappy Bird?

GD&R clutching coat.

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GIANT FLESH-EATING DEVIL CHICKENS roamed North Dakota

Nigel 11
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Casawary not chicken?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nOPVVdg8noc

A smaller relative that didn't go extinct? Still has feet designed for disembowelling.

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Monkey steals iPod touch, loses interest in minutes

Nigel 11
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Next time....

Give him a tablet running Winows 8 and see if it's more or less desirable to a monkey.

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MH370 airliner MYSTERY: The El Reg Pub/Dinner-party Guide

Nigel 11
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Re: Hijacking foiled scenario?

And tech-savvy terrorist forgets how to read a compass....

So by process of elimination, one or terrorism's dimmer light bulbs? There was a bunch who hijacked an airliner and wouldn't believe the pilot that it didn't have the range to go where they wanted, until it ran out of fuel. (And ditched near a holiday resort island, with quite a few survivors).

A pilot who knew he was going to die and it was just a matter of saving people on the ground, might even cut power to the cabin pressurisation systems and reprogram the autopilot to take the plane out into the ocean after everybody had gone to sleep.

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Nigel 11
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Re: There's a lot more that can be said...

a) put it in a row of many similar other airliners

b) crash it into dense jungle or deep snow

c) land it carefully on a deep part of the sea so that it does not break up, and let it sink intact.

d) Put it in a (big) hangar

Are there any abandoned USSR airstrips in Khazakstan or thereabouts, with bomber hangars still roofed? (Or nuke-proof hardened aircraft shelters, probably good against weathering for longer than the Pyramids) Have all such airfields been checked on the ground by now? (How cooperative are the Stans? )

Still not my favorite theory. Flying Southwest (on auto-pilot? not?) until the fuel ran out is the most mundane way to disappear. It's a long way from land, always very rough ocean, and off almost all shipping lanes. How / why? We may never know.

e) Cut it up and put the bits in (a) scrap-metal compactor(s). I can't conceive of a reason, but if you had the manpower and plant normally used for demolishing buildings and crushing cars, I imagine it could be unrecognisable within a few hours and gone after a few more hours. One for the conspiracy theorists, I think.

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Nigel 11
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Cellphones

I'm certain there's no cellphone coverage over the Southern Indian Ocean.

You're probably right about Tibet and the Stans, though cellphone coverage is probably a lot less dense than over North America.

I fear that for whatever unknown reason, this plane flew South-West on auto-pilot until its fuel ran out.

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Nigel 11
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Re: Spy satellite?

Another good reason is that there may be nothing left to see from above, even a few hours later.

Break-up in the air and the pieces falling onto a jungle would look much the same before and after, especially if there was no fire on the ground. Even if it did make a hole in a jungle, how many big jungle trees succumb to rot and fall over every day? How many big trees are (mostly illegally) felled for their timber? How many small clearings are made by primitive farmers (slash and burn agriculture)?

The sea will also look much the same, apart from some floating seat cushions. AFAIK a one-foot square is about a spy-sat's resolution limit, and the sea is full of transient white patches (breaking waves).

And then there's cloud cover. Some parts of the world you have to wait weeks for blue sky. (London, from Xmas until recently, for one! )

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Nigel 11
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Plausible. I've seen an under-inflated nose wheel tyre suggested as a possible cause. Overheated during take-off, smouldered for ~80 minutes, then started burning with a vengeance giving off thick black toxic smoke at the front of the plane.

Could smoke be so thick that pilots could not see the instruments or anything outside the plane? They have Oxygen masks and smoke hoods, but no use if they are blinded.

Question for a pilot: can auto-pilots deal with a stall if the pilots don't supply any inputs?

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Nigel 11
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Risk analysis needed

It's a risk analysis problem. What is the risk from an ACARS system which cannot be shut down in flight, but which is protected by a fuse and circuit breakers so it shuts itself down if it draws excessive current or gets too hot? What is the risk from a malicious pilot? IMO the safest low-power electrical installations are probably much more reliable than human brains.

One thing to factor in is the much larger number of lives at risk on the ground from a suicide-pilot, compared to the fairly random crash location of a plane on fire that fails to reach an airport in time.

Oh, and instead of meaningless pings, have the antenna transmit the plane's GPS coordinates even when ACARS is shut down! How much extra bandwidth would mere GPS coords every half-hour actually cost? If this plane's black boxes are never found, this will be an accident or incident with unknown causes that may recur, so there is a strong interest in knowing where to look for a lost plane.

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Malaysia Airlines mystery: Click here for the TRUTH

Nigel 11
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Re: So what is going on?

Civilian "radar" relies a lot on transponders. What is its actual spatial resolution of genuine radar echoes?

As for the military, they won't say. However, I know that there has been a move from active radar to passive illumination, because anything that transmits continuously ends up blown to pieces by a homing missile soon after hostilities commence.

Scary question: if a civilian jet picked up another civilian jet flying dark a few hundred meters behind it in the middle of an ocean, would anyone notice until it was too late to intercept the suicide-piloted tail?

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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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