1923 posts • joined Wednesday 10th June 2009 14:47 GMT
Cause or coincidence?
> a definite 200-year-long cool period which corresponds with the onset of the "Homeric Minimum"
Maybe we'd better all stop writing ancient greek prose, just in case.
Standard bureaucratic response
> "The government agreed with our assessment that the central system for assuring major projects was not optimal," the NAO says, and the government has since set up the Major Projects Authority (MPA)
Add more committees and paperwork. It's a poor substitute for talented project leaders, but it's the only substitute we have.
> Some broadcaster suits will take [40% of people being online while watching TV] as a call to make TV more interactive, while others will see the need to make shows more engaging so people put the damn
notebook tablet phone down, and watch.
It could go the other way. That TV producers will assume that if people aren't actually watching, they can reduce the "quality" of the programming. I suppose the direction it will take will be determined by whichever option lets them make the most hours of
filler content for the least amount of money.
> thames charge 117p per tonne plus 580p for disposal
Holy crap! (actually, that might explain it) Thames charge us the same 117p / m³ to deliver but only 59p/m³ to take it away again. Odd that they're charging you 10 times as much.
p.s. to AC 15:22: awwwwww! did someone not get their hug today?
> ... and the creeping rationing of water meters continued to spread
Personally I was very pleased to see the advent of "rationing" when the installation of a water meter at our house dropped the annual bill from a flat-rate £440 to a pay-for-what-you-use cost of £160 p.a. Though it's worth noting that this is still significantly higher; both in standing charge and in cost per m³, than water bills in "dry" areas such as the desert regions of Spain.
As for the rest of the article, TL;DR
A tale of 2 chemistries
Question 5: In comparison with steel, what is pure iron like?
Q1, part (c) Describe the action of heat on:
(i) Sodium hydrogen carbonate
(ii) lead(II) nitrate
For further marks, determine which question came from (a) the AQA Extracting metals and making alloys section on the BBC website and (b) the 1973 O&C Chemistry O Level paper
Was it Yes Minister or Dilbert who suggested the idea of countering a disastrous project failure with a meaningless reorganisation?
It does seem to me that a random swapping of job titles won't excuse pouring £17Bn down the drain - though given the amount of talent in government, a quick reshuffle is probably the best they can manage.
However, if our overlords and rulers are so worried about IT "waste", why not change the certainly useless Chief Social Scientist role into something useful - like a Chief Computer Scientist job? In fact, given government's history with IT projects, they probably don't need an actual person to fulfill the role. A framed notice will do - it would read "It'll cost more than you can imagine, it'll be delivered late or not at all and it'll never work properly".
That'll go nicely ...
... with the three channels of snooker on at the moment.
(For those who want to check: BBC2, BBC HD and channel 301)
Let's apply the same standard more widely
ISTM the accusation of "wilful blindness" is fitting to almost any situation where a person in power should reasonably have known what was going on. Whether that person is running a company or a government - maybe the time has come to start investigating more people, including our (ex) leaders and holding them to the same standard.
Though really this is just the start. The big question is: what happens now? Presumably all the NI/NoTW underlings who are still the subject of police charges will be duly processed, but the guy at the top will just walk away?
Biscuits or Pi?
There are lots of embedded PC formats. Apart from the fairly popular Mini (and Micro)-ATX there is also a 3½ inch "biscuit" format and a 4 inch PC104 size, which seems to be about the same as this new offering.
These are intended for embedded use - as is the Pi, though given the power and heatsinking requirements of Intel's latest attempt, I'm not convinced that's the market they're aiming for.
It's definitely not a Pi-worrier.
An idle thought: surely no town's tourist board would sink so low as to make up a story like this, just to attract visitors. Would it?
Sadly, Wirth's Law will keep on going
"Software gets slower faster than hardware gets faster"
Luckily for us, the annual increments in processing power have masked the continual degradation in software performance. If Moore's law does hit the buffers, someone somewhere is going to have a 50 year project on their hands to fix all the inefficiencies, crocks, bad design and unoptimised code.
Maybe once there is an actual incentive to write fast, efficient code instead of the traditional "do whatever it takes, just deliver it by Monday" approach to software development, we'll have a renaissance in programming. If we're lucky, we may even find that once people start writing well-designed, reliable and efficient software that programmers start to win back some professional esteem and respect, too.
I am told that Mac have internal moisture sensors that "go off" when dampened and are used by their service people to deny warranty claims. It may be that a kid with a good aim didn't actually destroy the Macs, just dampened them enough to void their warranties. Although to describe them therefore as being "destroyed beyond repair" may just be a ploy to get the insurance (or the child's parents) to pay out.
Re: He was still guilty.
> He did not engage in theft, fraud or extortion
It's a fair bet that if he had - or if FB had thought he had, he'd been in an american prison camp by now, and not just for a few months.
Buy what you're told to
> You're not, after all, going to buy a crap TV just because it can connect to the internet.
But a lot of people do buy a crap TV because the nice person in the shop tells them how wonderful it is.
A lot of people have their TV adjusted completely wrongly. Colours (set to the garish "demo" mode), sound may or may not be stereo, treble/bass heavy and until recently may even be watching analog channels (Hi, Mum!), no matter how often their diligent and loving sons explain the "benefits" of digital, HD and even calibrate the set with test images. They know what they like and no amount of telling will convince them otherwise.
Less useful than it appears
> support extended from three to five years by Canonical.
The "support" only covers the O/S - not the applications. So while you can get bug fixes and security patches (and maybe some O/S enhancements, too), your applications will remain frozen in time.
During the three or five years that this release will be supported, almost every piece of accompanying application software will get updated (or die off). However, there's no guarantee, or even hint that it will be possible to install those upgraded apps onto 12.04 due to library incompatibilities, pre-requisites or the like. To get all that stuff to work, you'll still need to move to a newer Ubuntu - one that does supply the libgodknowswhat.so.3.99 when all that's downloadable for Ubuntu 12.04 is v3.98, even though there's ostensibly still support for the release. Operating systems are only useful if they can run apps. When the apps move ahead of an O/S, it becomes obsolete, no matter how much or little support it's provider gives it.
Those aren't banned words
That whiteboard is the source of every tabloid headline (and probably article, too) over the past 10 years.
Since it's got "boffins" on it, maybe it includes all El Reg headlines, too?
We know this is excellent advice ...
> "Technology diplomat" Ben Hammersley – who has worked as a journalist ... Hammersley said that companies shouldn't do community give-back as some kind of add-on after they'd made lot of money, but that the business should be "focused" on the community from the get-go.
... As this guy has been so successful at running design companies and startups in the past. Oh, hang on - no he hasn't. He's never done anything entrepreneurial himself, all he's done is sit on the sidelines and write about other people's companies.
So while his flowery prose and inspirational word-smithing sounds all very fine, he has no practical experience to back it all up (and worse: no personal investment in what he's advocating). So really he's just pontificating about how he thinks things should work. Beware the pundit - inventing new words ("podcast") doesn't mean he knows how to run a tech. business.
Puppets on a string
The thing to remember about all TV presenters, reporters, interviewers and correspondents is that first and foremost they are de-facto EMPLOYEES of one or other public body. As such their only allegiance is to keeping the pay cheques flowing. If that means toeing the company line, tugging the forelock to the arts graduates and capricious "Head of ..." who can sideline you on a whim ("he/she just doesn't have the right image, darlink"), then so be it.
These on screen people are not there because of their qualifications, nor for their ability to explain / educate or even entertain - though it's almost all entertainment, these days. No, they're there simply because they have an insubstantial, undefinable quality that makes them "right" for a piece to camera (or because they contribute to a quota). Consequently, if the planning meeting decides that they should spend a day learning to put angle brackets around words and call it "programming", then that's what they do - and are grateful for the opportunity.
For all it's cuddly "auntie" facade, I doubt if there are any other publicly funded organisations in the country that are quite so institutionally totalitarian - or as unaccountable in their dealings with "talent", as the BBC. So you can't really blame the presenters for the crass, simplistic or simply inaccurate content of their reports. They're all just standing in front of cameras, having their strings pulled by unqualified, dull-eyed production-types back on the mothership.
Plan for world domination
The difference between shipping "precious" (only until availability increases and prices drop) metals to Earth from asteroids and bombing the planet from orbit is not much more than where the delivery comes down - and how fast.
Success is not being at the top of the food chain, it's being at the top of the gravity well.
Poor change testing
Going in to a change with no certainty (or even a reasonable prospect) that it will work. Whether that's because of lack of time to work out how to do the change and then carry it out, live - or a lack of preparation due to test/mirror systems that don't actually reflect the production environment - changes being assigned to staff who have no real clue what they're doing (but it was their turn) - or even just systems that are intrinsically untestable and have to be changed "hot". One place I was involved with made over 12,000 production changes a year. Of those 60% were to undo earlier changes, correct improperly applied changes or to add diagnostics so the support teams could work out what was going on - oh yes: then another change to fix the problem and another change after that to take the diagnostics off again.
The cost of impetuousness
> the US military would like to be able to deliver a warhead to any spot around the planet in less than an hour.
Whereas most other global purveyors of firey death would be happy to wait an extra day or two and send it by a more traditional means: DHL, anonymous shipping container, back of a Transit, etc.
Still, I suppose when you simply have to make the 6 o'clock news, extreme measures are necessary
I think I see the problem
> the new movement ... <name of website>
It's kinda difficult to get people to become "netizens" by promoting a website to them. If they can get to the URL they're already converted.
Maybe next, she'll start promoting letterboxes with a mass-mailing campaign.
Re: Crimes of dispassion
> ... many criminals will try to reduce the risk of long term prison. ... using a replica firearm ... get a shorter sentence if caught.
But that just illustrates the irrationality (and complete lack of actuarial sense) of criminals who do that. They are implicitly saying "if I rob some premises and get away with £1000 but get caught with a replica gun I'll only go to jail for X years, but if I use a real gun, I'll be locked up for Y years".
So they have done a calculation and decided that £1000 is a worthwhile reward for X years of lockup, but not for a longer term. It still seems to me that this is extraordinarily dumb behaviour and is a prime example of a crim still assuming they won't be caught - but just hedging their bets on the offchance they do.
Where e-books go to die
> I can understand why people never like it when I ask what will happen if they go out of business, but it annoys me that they haven't considered the possibility.
We all already know the answer to this: they'll just disappear, along with the company (and your only recourse for complaint). it's not that they haven't considered the possibility, it's just that they have nothing to gain from telling you that all your investment in virtual goods and chattels are just that: virtual. They don't really exist, except in the benevolence of the supplier. And when that goes away, so does all the stuff you've paid them for.
Crimes of dispassion
OK all you criminals out there, hands up if ...
When you were planning your last heist (english translation - robbery) or slaying (murder), how many of you thoroughly worked out your plan and then ran the risk / reward possibilities through a spreadsheet before deciding whether to go ahead, or try something less risky instead.
No-one? How odd. You'd think that with "the needle" on the table, there'd be some sort of rational assessment on whether to embark on a life of crime. Maybe, it's just that people who slide into such a career (and it does seem to be a career - greater job "security" than most employment opportunities offer) aren't great at controlling their impulses - or have an innate view that they won't get caught.
If that is the reason then it explains why, 150 years after prisons became "popular" as a way of dealing with criminals, we still have a crime problem. After all that time, you'd think that if chokey worked as a deterrent, the problem would have gone away by now. As it is, the only things that a custodial sentence (or a terminal one) achieves is to remove the unsuccessful (i.e. the ones who get caught) criminals from society for a period and also, as Chris W says to satisfy the victims' and society's demands for revenge - or "justice" as it's usually called.
No news here
This is by no means a new phenomenon - and it has nothing to do with the internet.
Even 20, 30 years back; probably even further, people were going into "hi fi" showrooms, asking about stuff and then going down the road to the box-shifters and buying it for less (generally much less). Even in the 80s and 90s it was hard for a specialist shop to come up with a reason why customers should pay top-price, when usually the only value-add was "and this one comes with OXYGEN FREE CABLES" and their opening question was always "how much have you got to spend?"
I can't say I'm sorry they're going, or gone. While it was nice to go into the back room and talk bollocks to a pretentious nerd: about phase-shift and "a slight brightness in the upper-mid range", it was nothing more than entertainment and no-one (well: almost no-one) took it seriously unless they were majorly maths deficient and couldn't tell a deci-Bell from a cucumber.
The same principle applies to pretty much all retail durables, desirables and consumables. Unless there's something unique and well-defined that makes highstreet shopping worth more than buying from a commoditised or internet outlets, there's little reason to keep them around.
Adapt or die.
Re: I did Latin
It's not a question of teaching/not-teaching Latin, or any other subject. It's more a question of
"if we want to teach <subject>, what do we drop from the curriculum to make room for it?"
Around here, children get a bit less than 25 hours a week of being taught. There's only so much that can be squeezed into that time. Should Latin or computing be included - and if so at the expense of what?
Re: Wuh? wuh, wuh, wuuuuuuhhhhh ...
> Explain to me how a $400 computer plus a thumb drive is a fraction of the costs of a $30 computer?
Nothing could be simpler to explain.
Schools already have PCs coming out of their metaphorical ears. They're everywhere. hence to plug in a thumbdrive containing "Raspberry Linux" requires no additional hardware and therefore no additional costs. The schools already have the PCs necessary to supply all the ancillary parts: power, keyboard, mouse, display. Total cost: a couple of quid for a USB stick.
Compare that to dropping a load of RPi boards into a school. On it's own, each board can do nothing. It has no power, keyboard, mouse or display. They don't come as part of the "$25" package and therefore have to be provided at extra cost by the school, as without them, the boards are useless. You can't "just borrow" the parts from existing PCs - as then those PCs can't be used until they are returned. Economically it makes no sense to disable a £300 PC in order to make a $25 device work.
It's not as if we're talking about a school in a faraway country. We're talking about Leeds - so the "cheap" solution is just to provide a software solution as a hardware one is neither helpful, efficient or reliable.
Pushing the rock
> computer programming is a meritocracy. Not everyone will get a prize, and nobody should get a prize just for trying
In a lot of places that's exactly what happens.
"Smith, it's time for your annual review. I see from your timesheets you've been working 60 hours a week. Excellent. Keep up the good work."
"Jones. It seems you've been getting in late and leaving early. We can't have that sort of behaviour, you're going to have to pull your socks up."
Far too many IT departments (and companies in general) reward effort: how much energy you expend trying to move a mysterious bug or a large rock, rather than the results achieved: one person with a JCB gets more done in 10 minutes than an army of rock-pushers (especially if they're arranged in a circle - as that's the obvious way to apply more people to the task) does in a week.
However since too many decision-makers and salary-deciders have no methods for measuring IT productivity (which, for a lot of so-called IT "staff", is the only reason they still have a job) they decide your fate based on what they can quantify.
So instead of teaching children to code, maybe they would be more successful if they were taught to sleep with their eyes open. Although a lot of kids in a lot of classrooms seem to have already mastered that art.
 Or causes more damage, depending on skill and training.
Re: Wuh? wuh, wuh, wuuuuuuhhhhh ...
> What could be the educational advantages of a Linux PC that runs off an SD card (easily reimaged if broken) and can be programmed in any number of languages, and can be put in a school bag? That costs £30. Including all the software. Tough one.
Yes, it IS a tough one.
Especially when you still have to provide a screen, keyboard, mouse and PSU before you can do anything with it. For use in schools these parts can't be cannibalised from other systems - or they will cease working, too.
A far better solution would be to have a standalone Linux in a thumb drive that plugs into an existing PC and boots Linux (presumably the PC the little darlings would be using for their existing work) and learning to program on that. They can then unplug it, take it home and continue their efforts if they wish. That way the PC, or: display, keyboard, mouse and PSU in this case, is still available for others to use. Whereas with an RPi, any instance of "please Miss, I left it at home" denies every prospective user of that device until forgetful small child brings it back in.
Since it took 6 years to develop the RPi, I can't help thinking that a some work on a thumbdrive/educational Linux could have achieved the same results many years earlier - and for a small fraction of the hardware costs.
Maybe it's not such a tough one after all.
Am I right or am I wrong?
> it [iCloud] screws up calendar sync and iTunes music and film sync and that kills it stone dead for me.
> Dropbox doesn't do calendars or iTunes music/film sync but I don't care about that
It seems you care enough to dismiss iCloud for screwing them up. it's inconsistent to damn one service for messing up a feature, then saying later that it's not a feature you use or care about.
So to answer your question: you're wrong.
Steven Livingston Seagull
An over-long concept piece about nothing in particular.
Featuring a seabird that can't act and a soundtrack by Adele, which quickly sends the bird into a state of total depression.
He It is rescued by by a transcendental pigeon that teaches Steven the simple pleasures of pooping on statues. He learns that forgiveness is the key to growing as a bird, but flies off on a search to dive-bomb Adele, instead.
The joys of absolute power
That's the problem with living in a democracy: you tend to take things for granted. So we all blithely assume that we have and always will have a "right" to express ourselves (although in practice it's never been as far-reaching as it's fans would have you believe) by whatever means available. So we build our infrastructure without even acknowledging the assumption we've made. Whether we should consider the internet's inability to circumvent censorship as a bug is debatable. in the early days (ahh, so young, so naive) it was popular to say "the internet sees censorship as a fault and routes around it". That was fine until the assumption was tested and found wanting - presumably because none of the idealists ever thought than censorship could be done on such a wide scale.
The only question now is whether our western governments are quietly sidling up to the chinese and surreptitiously whispering "can you help us with our internet 'problem'?". Meanwhile, we're just waiting for the Big Yellow Taxi to turn up.
You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone
Better check its internal logs
Maybe it got too warm, or was really cooling, or used to be much hotter than it is now.
I'm sure a few talented
philosphers climatologists could keep disagreeing with each other and slagging each other off in the popular press, about WHY it failed, to keep themselves on the gravy train for life.
That IS the name of the game, isn't it?
> My complaints about portable computers clearly hark back to the days when they really were crap
Oddly, my 1997 vintage Olivetti laptop would fit right in with today's offerings (apart from it having a sensibly proportioned 4:3 screen). Sure, it was slower and had less memory - but W95 (when it didn't crash) was so much faster, esp. without the need for anti-virus and more frugal that it balances out - ref: Wirth's Law.
The screen was a usable 12.1 inches, comparable with most screens today and the number, size and position of keys was exactly the same. So in terms of development, there's been little progress in the past 15 years. Even the screen resolution wasn't too far off todays low-end models (1024x768 vs. 1366x768 and in colour!). Battery life, too, was neck-and-neck.
The only thing that differentiates was the price: £3,600 back then and maybe 1/10th of that now.
So as far as crappiness goes, it seems like not much has changed.
Re: So the unprofitable users are leaving
> build a company with a long term future,
Yes, that's an other option. However, historically web-based businesses don't have a very long shelf-life, unlike well run "proper" businesses with tangible products. So if a major FB shareholder suddenly developed a philanthropic bent (or just felt the need for redemption), then IPO-ing, and cashing in his/her chips to go off and do good works seems to be the way forward.
So the unprofitable users are leaving
The kids, being kids, are all fluttering off to the next fashionable location. Does that really matter? they don't have much in the way of disposable incomes, anyway.
> An older Facebook demographic ... an audience with deep pockets,... consuming content and completing transactions
and that's where the money lies. I once read an article about tourism from the tourist manager of a large provincial town. The view there was that it's far better to have 1 visitor who spends £1,000 than to have 1,000 visitors who spend £1 each. Maybe if FB takes, or is forced down, that route it wouldn't be such a bad thing for them.
However, if I was Mr. FB I'd hardly be worrying. So long as the share price holds up until I can cash-out that's all that matters. After that no doubt he'll stand down so he can spend more time with his money and maybe (follow Gates) into doing some good, or colonising outer space, or buying a presidency or two - either for himself, or his friends.
> We really are aspiring for this to be the Linux of the cloud
Hmmm, so that would be: something few people use, fewer get to work properly and fewer still who make money from?
A little bit more
> the proposed GCSE runs the risk of turning out students qualified to support Microsoft or Cisco products
You'd kinda hope (maybe in vain) that people going into IT as a profession would have a little more than a GCSE in CompSci. If A levels are to be made harder, then that would at least start to separate out the chaff.
C4's "Home of the future"
Channel 4 did a series about this a month or two ago. After spending a quarter of a million quid (so they say) on kitting out a house, the overriding impression was that a lot of the gadgets weren't very good.
Yes, you can control the heating when you're out - but really: who cares (you're OUT) and you could probably watch live video of your house being burgled if you had the desire - but still couldn't do a dam' thing to stop it.
What the programme couldn't do was make the technology disappear - it still needed people to actuate and control it. All the programmes managed to do was to show off a few point-solutions to some rather unrealistic situations. The best example being the (hopelessly cliched) Roomba (other home vacuums are just as bad). Sure, it could go across an unobstructed and level floor and move the dirt around, but as a home vacuum cleaner it was and always will be a failure. How can it clean the stair carpet? What about the dust behind the TV cabinet? What chance of reaching the cobwebs on the ceiling? What about emptying it's own bag - not a chance.
And the same story played out for almost all the gadgets that feature in home automation / HotF articles. Eventually a person needs to step in and complete the job, or fill in for the gaps in the gizmo's abilities. What that means is not only do yo buy a gadget to do half a job, but you still need all the paraphernalia to do the work yourself.
Since houses are designed for people and built to a human scale, until and unless the gadgets take a similar or more adaptable form, we'll still be a slave to the technology: having to move the furniture so the little robot can get behind it to clean. FAIL.
So it's business as usual
Give or take the odd hurricane, record-breaking heatwave and droughts. ... the climate's just as it's always been.
A small question
The only reviews or suggestions worth a dam' are from people who have actually bought kit with their own money, used it for several months and THEN written about their experiences: warts and all.
So: how many of the items listed does the reviewer own, himself?
For extra marks, what stuff does the reviewer own, and what's his view on that - good and bad?
The "b" word
A blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be. Hence the custom among the Scythians of plucking out a cynic's eyes to improve his vision. [ Devil's dictionary ]
Since most western countries have passed laws making bribery of officials illegal (sidenote: I wonder how many palms were greased to get those laws through?) You can't just bung a wad of dosh at a purchasing manager and hope for the best. No, you have to make it all look official, above board and thoroughly respectable. What could be more respectable than a government backed scheme to tell the russians how to use their oil reserves more efficiently?
Obviously it's not an inducement, as it's all out in the open - or at least it is now. And if the russians, or the indians or the chinese or anyone else was to just happen to decide to award some "consultancy" contracts to british firms? Well that just goes to show how effective government "grants" can be.
So if you don't opt-in for smut, does this provide an alibi if something "dubious" is later found on your computer.
"But constabubble, I never *asked* for pr0n, so it's not my fault ... "
Something tells me you'd still get banged up - though it would be interesting to see how the ISPs would weasel out of admitting liability, or paying compo for the "damage" caused.
One way to beat this law is to post complete rubbish and then plead insanity. If you can mangle the spelling and grammar as well, that adds reasonable doubt over what you actually said, or meant. Some might argue that a large proportion of internet users have been doing this for years.
and who eventually pays?
"This is an important step in transferring the cost of nuclear third party liability from taxpayers to
So all that will happen is that if a nuclear plant does go pop, all the people who got their electricity from that supplier will very quick switch, in the expectation that they will end up paying the fine through increased tariffs. All the other providers will, on the knowledge that Unlucky Leccy Inc will shortly be upping it's prices, themselves prepare price rises for all new customers who they will expect abandoning the old ship and joining someone without a billion euro millstone around their necks. Miraculously, those new rates from all the other suppliers will be just a smidge lower than the old supplier will now be charging.