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* Posts by Pete 2

2082 posts • joined 10 Jun 2009

Suitably-endowed punters lured into bonking for Vaseline loving

Pete 2
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Skinner's pigeons

Prof. Skinner was a behavioural scientist who showed how pigeons (and rats, but let's not call advertising targets "rats": "bonkers" is probably derogatory enough) can be conditioned into performing actions for rewards. In his experiments, the pigeons would peck at a disc and be rewarded with a small amount of food. They quickly cottoned on to the action/reward idea and the Prof astounded the world with his discovery.

It now seems that advertisers have caught up with the research and are now attempting to train people to do similar things for even less tangible rewards. Who says the human race isn't progressing? Maybe we're evolving into well-trained pigeons.

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UK.gov holds summit to stop satnav-driven smash-ups

Pete 2
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Old problem - old solution

ISTR there's (at least one) a small road leading from Cheddar Gorge with a small, old sign warning potential drivers: Not Suitable for Charabancs. It's been nigh-on 30 years since I frequented the area but the problem does seem to pre-date the Satnav era and the solution seems to be simple to implement.

Why not just put up a few more signs?

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Eric Schmidt flicks INTERSTELLAR TOWEL at top tech fair

Pete 2
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A more accurate SF prediction

Sadly, the future will probably turn out more like Incompetnece [sic] by Rob Grant.

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Cash-strapped graduates sell their own faces

Pete 2
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Paying off your student loan is the worst idea possible

New loan-takers get an extremely generous deal on their student loans. The interest rate is guaranteed *never* to be above the rate of inflation and currently stands at base-rate + 1%. if you have savings you can beat that easily with an ordinary savings account.

So if these guys are making money from daubs on their faces (do students still never wash?) then they should be putting the cash into a savings account - not paying off their incredibly cheap debts.

Presumably they're not economics students.

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Lithuania rules beer brewing 'vitally essential' to life

Pete 2
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Buying beer from a disgruntled workforce

... sounds risky.

Too many opportunities for new "additives" to find their way into the mix.

"All the beer from this brewery has been passed by the workers"

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China aims its most powerful rocket ever AT THE MOON

Pete 2
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Tons, metric tons and tonnes

To all intents and purposes they're all the same. Let's forgive the odd 35-and a-bit lbs (in obsolete units) and just call a ton a ton

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Brits trapped in confusing council website labyrinths - survey

Pete 2
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Damned if they do ...

Councils get a kicking for not having easy to use websites. I'm sure they can live with the pain, when it would be compared with the fulminating tabloid headlines if they went out and engaged a "high priced external consultant". You know; one of those people who actually KNOWS how to design websites.

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BBC iPlayer boss: smart TVs not sufficiently simple

Pete 2
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"Enough with the firmware updates, while you're at it."

Actually, some firmware updates would be lovely.

Since we got our "smart" Toshiba a year ago (simply plug in TV, HDMI and network, switch on, scan DTV, assign names to inputs, enable wired IP - and done in < 5 minutes, easily) there have been no updates, ever. Not OTA updates, not IP updates, nada.

What would be better is if the TV manufacturers opened up their specs. I can see the TV runs Linux and I doubt it's harder to hack than a Dreambox, so why not let the users create their own apps - maybe even have a TV "app store" if the control freaks insist on micromanaging things.

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El Reg appoints Special Projects Burro

Pete 2
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A donkey among asses?

> what his future role at the SPB might be...

You could always lend him to a journalist in return for lots of highly favourable reportage

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Apple: We never said Siri would actually work in the UK

Pete 2
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A watchdog with no teeth ...

... nothing sucks more

From their own website:

"The ASA is a non-statutory body so we do not have the power to fine or take advertisers to court."

You've got to wonder, just what is the point of them.

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Raspberry Pi signs big-name sellers

Pete 2
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Re: @Pete 2

> you obviously have no idea

I have a very clear idea (though I don't own a RPi). While it can run Linux, that doesn't make a device a computer. My TV runs linux, but it's still only a TV. I have mini-ITX boards that sit on a bench and host Linux/Windows off a n/v RAM module - but they're not "computers" either - even though they run "just like my desktop Linux box".

The RPi is simply a component, in that it's uncased, cannot work without additional, non-bundled, hardware and is being sold to developers rather than to domestic users as an appliance in its own right.

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Pete 2
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Re: Re: @Jason

Doops, sorry - should've been @James Hughes 1

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Pete 2
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Re: @Jason

> This is a fully functional Linux machine, not an Arduino knock off

Stop!

Take a deeeeeep breath and check out the spec. of this CIRCUIT BOARD.

Essentially you're getting a 700MHz ARM processor, 256MB memory, ethernet, SD card, Wifi, HDMI and sound. This isn't a "fully functional Linux machine" it's the computing core of a cheap tablet. (Though I doubt there are many tablets with sub 1GHz CPUs being designed these days).

In fact, the product up for grabs isn't even an embedded component. It's the development hardware for a company to embed RPi developed (open source) hardware into it's own designs. Expect companies like TV makers to take a look at this and then decide that there may be a few usable ideas - or that it would have been cutting-edge 2 years ago, but their own internal developments are already way ahead of this hardware.

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Pete 2
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Never trust a publicity junkie

So what todays events boil down to? The announcement we were advised to "buy an alarm clock" for is simply to tell us that there will be 2 companies selling the "B" model, at some point in the future. And if we wish, and if we can get onto the thoroughly slashdotted websites, we can put our names on a waiting list.

The Raspberry Pi people have certainly achieved their goal of creating the maximum amount of media buzz about their (still unavailable) product, I can't help wondering if that media frenzy is all it will be remembered for.

Although the technically minded are in no doubt that this is merely an embedded component that, with a lot of work *could* be integrated into some future products, the lay press is pushing it as a "$35 computer" [ ref: cbc.ca ] and this seems to be with the consent and tacit approval of the designers / pushers, themselves. Given that the first run is a trifling 10,000 units and the amount of (misdirected) interest is sufficient to kill 2 commercial websites for some hours I can't help wondering if the sheer volume of publicity has been somewhat over the top.

In 6 months, when the hype has died down and several thousand tinkerers have bought one of these - only to wonder, when a circuit board drops through their letter boxes what the hell they're supposed to do now - what will be the end result? A few will have turned into the sort of apostles that Sinclair's early computers produced, but most will realise they have neither the time or skills to use it, nor the need for one . Then, and only then will some actual worthwhile products start appearing that are based on RPi circuitry. But they'll be deeply embedded in a domestic appliance and nobody will even be aware of it's origins.

That's the true destiny of embedded electronics. To be so good that it becomes invisible. if it does succeed, few will (therefore) know and most will simply not care - just so long as it works.

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Hacking breach made us stronger says RSA

Pete 2
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What's sauce for the goose

> the hacking attack... ended up making the company stronger and more effective.

So presumably the hackers will be able to invoice the company for the services provided. After all, if companies can claim damages for adverse effects of hacks, surely they should be made to pay for benefits, too.

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Molesworth and the New Latin

Pete 2
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The new latin

Coding in a language

as dead as dead can be

it killed the ancient programmers

and now it's killing me

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Avoid flying next to blubberbeasts with seatmate-finding site

Pete 2
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Re: Ugh

Absolutely right. Sit down, put up the newspaper "barricade" and plug in the in-canal earphones. That way it's perfectly clear that you have no wish to interact with the other strangers on the plane.

Maybe the thing to do is to create a new FB profile (we all have several - or none - don't we?) with things like:

Interests: I love garlic and bean sandwiches

Hobbies: Pig farming

Which should guarantee not only that nobody would want to sit near you, but that you get the whole row of seats to yourself.

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Male dinosaurs failing on social privacy

Pete 2
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Being polite

I assume the phrases "post something they regret" , "young men are the most impetuous" and "men to be the least privacy-conscious people online, and the most likely to make a gaffe" are merely roundabout ways of saying that (young) men are more likely to post something while out of their skulls on <chemical of choice>.

Failing that, maybe it's simply down to the sorts of people that social networks attract? Not "men" or "women" in general, just the fraction who actually spend their time posting stuff.

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The cyber-weapons paradox: 'They're not that dangerous'

Pete 2
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A team effort

We're fortunate that there are very few people in the world who wish to cause harm - and even fewer in positions of trust and with the ability to do so. Luckily (!) most of the attacks we've heard about have either been from external forces - limited by their ability to insert bad stuff accurately, or by lone insiders acting out a personal vendetta. Whether the situation of a concerted inside-job by a focused team will remain a fiction, or whether it will be targeted as the "soft underbelly" of the whole computer industry, remains to be seen. However, it would be incredibly easy to do[1] given the time and inclination of those involved.

Afterthought: Given the amount of mis-management, overruns, over-costs, poor implementations and buggy products - maybe this sort of sabotage has, actually, been happening for years - or decades.

[1] Scenario: An HR person with a particular "outlook" preferentially recruits techies with the same outlook. As part of a slow-burning plan, they all gravitate towards working on the same vulnerable system and from that position of self-supervision are free to implement whatever bugs, backdoors, weaknesses, logic-bombs or espionage they please. How many people? A team leader, couple of coders, a tester. Maybe half a dozen: tops. How long? Maybe a year or two.

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Hey Commentard! - or is that Commenter?

Pete 2
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Re: It's not just retard

> nearly all words ending -ard are (or were once) derogatory tags

I'm sure the "bARD" would disagree. Surely you would rewARD his talent and have regARD for his hARD work. You wouldn't give him his cARDs. I think you've been hoist by your own petARD.

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Pete 2
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Push back the limits

Anything that stands against the tutting, intolerant and politically correct must be a good thing.

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Brits guard Facebook passwords more than work logins – survey

Pete 2
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Remembering a password is no harder than remembering a phone number

It must be so difficult, living in modern times. Apart from having to remember your address - or getting lost 'cos you've forgotten where you live. Or your registration number and wandering the neighbourhood attempting to get into every vehicle you come across (at least that's what I told the nice officer). Or what channel your favourite programmes were on. Or your spouse's name (not one you want to get wrong!) or any of the other gazillions of pieces of information you need to recall just to live your daily live.

Now add on top of all that, three or four (or even 10 or more) passwords. It must be pure hell.

In fact, recalling data that you use on a daily basis is no big deal - we do it thousands of times every day. So, provided you pay attention when you set the password and use it regularly, it's as easy as remembering to get dressed before you leave the house. The big problem only comes when one of the stooopid "security" systems insists you change a perfectly good password on a regular, or frequent basis. Now that IS dumb.

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Met Office wants better supercomputer to predict EXTREME weather

Pete 2
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I'd love to live in your world

> What happens when we predict icy roads properly?

Where I live the gritters go out and salt the 1 major road through my town (pop 20,000) and the bypass. However they never, ever grit any of the side roads. So the arterial routes are lovely and clear, but since nobody (the people who's council tax pays for the gritting) is able to get through the snow-blocked residential streets to use them, they remain clear - except for the occasional gritter wondering why they bother, since nobody is using the road.

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Pete 2
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Sometimes the answer is "we just don't know"

In Britain most of the weather we get only develops in the last 2 or 3 days before it hits us. While it may be possible (sometimes) to say "there's a storm coming our way", or "some places will be windy" predicting exactly WHERE will be hit is probably outside the bounds of the knowable.

Even within 24 hours of an "event", the precise location - or worst hit spots - probably won't be evident until whatever it is actually starts to rain/blow/bake or blizzard all over it. if the Met Office was to buy some new sooper-dooper computers, would they really be able warn a particular village that it would be flooded, but the one 10 miles away wouldn't? Without that degree of certainty, we could end up in even worse bother: with the wrong emergency services being sent to the wrong place in advance of an imprecise prediction - instead of being held on "alert" until some calls for help actually came in.

Maybe what Britain needs is a bit more awareness (such as not building houses, or critical services, on flood plains or near rivers) having a few more gritters and the will to use them and for someone to be in charge, rather than diluting responsibility to a mess of small and poorly organised local councils who don't really have any incentive to take precautions against once-in-10-year weather events.

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LOHAN flashes fantastical flying truss

Pete 2
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A spot of wind

Aside from the question of balance, the design needs to be able to withstand high winds. ISTR that PARIS encountered some blowage at height and the extra stress of balloons wanting to go in different directions (a phenomenon some readers may be familiar with) could exceed the design loading of the truss.

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Two thirds of Brits crippled by mobile phone loss terror

Pete 2
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Re: Going up!

Wot 'ee said!

(must learn to type faster)

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Pete 2
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Going ..... up!

And with the increase in utility - especially financial utility, what with Barclay's recently announced foray into mobile monkey and the possibility of NFC becoming useful, the level of insecurity and dependency can only rise.

Just like it's common sense to have more than 1 housekey or credit/debit card (and not to keep them all in the same wallet/purse) , surely the trend of concentrating too many functions onto one not-very-secure and easily nickable piece of shiny plastic can't be a good move. Eggs and baskets comes to mind.

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Linux talent shortage drives up salaries

Pete 2
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Money, money, money

> they were doing all kinds of things to try to retain and attract Linux talent

All kinds of things ... except paying enough to attract recruits, it seems.

If you really, REALLY want to fill a Linux position, simply offer a salary that will attract applicants. Not getting any applicants? then your headline salary is too low. Getting applicants who are crap? Then your recruitment agency needs a kick for not screening properly. Getting applicants who turn down your offers? Then look inside at your company - the work, the conditions and (most important) whether the boss is an idiot.

The problem is that in a lot of large organisations: multinationals, government departments, utilities and the like, all regard IT workers as the same. I've seen instances where the HR people and the IT senior managers were seriously saying "but they're all support staff, why not just get the Windows team to do it?" With no understanding - or even awareness - that the skills are different. When you start with that level of ignorance, it's no surprise that the so-called "perks" listed in the article fail to attract.

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Tesco offers broadband for LESS THAN THE PRICE OF A PINT

Pete 2
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Beer and broadband

Just imagine if Tesco (or, TBF any other supermarket) sold beer the same way they sell broadband.

Beer: quantity UNLIMITED (subject to contents of bottle). ABV: up to 4.5% and then noticing that the bottle top doesn't come off, and you can't get the stuff out at more than a trickle.

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CSC confirms $1.5bn NHS IT write-off

Pete 2
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What he meant to say was:

> these discussions have evolved into a potential go-forward framework that is currently in the government's review process,

If we're lucky the government might bung some sympathy work our way. If that does happen, and our shares get back to anything like last year's level you won't see me (or the rest of the board) for dust.

Now where did I leave my golden parachute?

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IT guy answers daughter's Facebook rant by shooting her laptop

Pete 2
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I bet he gets *no* IT bug reports

Once word of his novel approach to dealing with problems becomes common knowledge, I'd be surprised if anybody would issue a bug report against any of his software, in case he applies his special remedy for "fixing" their IT problems.

It would be interesting to see his staff appraisals, too. I can imagine a somewhat shakily (hand)written assessment along the lines of " ... some scope for improving customer-facing skills"

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Royal astro-boffin to MPs: Stop thinking about headlines

Pete 2
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Ignorance is bliss

> Ignorance prevented people participating in important debates, he added.

If only that was true. The biggest problem (he said, not knowing if it's true or not) with public debate on science and technology - or finance & economics - is that people who don't know the facts still feel they have a right to say what they think. We see this every day, not just in scientific debates but whenever a TV news programme needs some cheap filler and goes out on a trawl for vox-pops. Once an opinion gets onto our TV screens it assumes greater importance - as if being broadcast (and being chosen to be broadcast by an equally techno-illiterate studio-person) somehow turns fiction into fact: "Well someone on telly said ... " and is well on the way to becoming accepted wisdom. After that, no matter how many white-coated, bespectacled, bearded, geeks you put up against "what everybody knows" you're on a loser.

Maybe the first question that Paxo, or any other TV presenter should ask, when opening a conversation with an interviewee should be: "What, exactly are your credentials?" and we should be reminded, frequently, whether the individual speaking does so from a position of knowledge. It could result in much shorter TV debates.

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Doctors sick of anonymous-coward NHS feedback commentards

Pete 2
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Only human

... and of course all doctors are fine, upstanding, conscientious and talented.

The main reason for people "hiding" behind an anonymous posting is to avoid the possibility of retribution - or even of a practice deciding they don't want whingeing patients on their books. You can just imagine a situation, moments before the doctor says "cough, please" when they decide to raise the topic of your last, critical, posting of their bedside manner.

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Sysadmins: Don't get in your own way

Pete 2
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The moral of the story ...

... is to make the users do all the work themselves.

Whether the alternative - either for the helpdesk or the checkout - is one that involves lots of waiting, having to deal with barely-trained & disgruntled employees, having to beg for the most basic services (or carrier bags), trying not to appear too annoyed ... w h i l e ... t h e y ... w o r k ... a t ... t h e i r ... o w n ... g l a c i a l .. p a c e ... or suddenly decide to change shifts and stop everything for 5 minutes.

Faced with that, it's no wonder employees want to bring in their own kit and operate "self-service"

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Boffins out earbuds that sound right when inserted wrong

Pete 2
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Really getting wired

> a weak current, which runs between the buds, is broken.

Now that could add an extra dimension to the music. I can just imagine some over zealous royalties enforcer requiring a chip in all new players that turns this current up to 11 if the requisite DRM checks don't pass.

On the matter of detecting which orifice an earbud is inserted into, wouldn't it just be easier to colour-code them?

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Facebook files for IPO, seeks $5bn

Pete 2
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Too big and too little

What's the point?

The company has been going so long (and grown so quickly) that its future expansion is quite limited - so not much scope for organic growth. Yet for all its size, it's only planning on raising $5Bn from the floatation.

That's enough to land it with all the regulatory deadweight that a public company must conform to, but not cash enough for it to drastically change its business model. All FB could hope to do would be to gobble up other companies in exchange for it's own shares - presuming they hold their value on the stock market - and then hope it can assimilate whatever novel attribute the small-fry had into it's own corporate mass. A strategy that's not known for its successes.

This IPO would make sense if the owners were planning to cash out and wanted to spend more time with their money. But in that case, without the founders' vision, who'd want to be left holding the shares?

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Gov's 'open data' strategy: It'll cost too much and won't work

Pete 2
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To try and to fail

... is better than to not try at all.

The main government driver for almost everything (apart from personal gain: political or financial) is CYA. Therefore it's not important whether a programme succeeds or fails - if it's timed properly, that will be the next incumbent's problem - but to be seen to be doing something. To show that there is action being taken. That there is a policy.

So it is with this one, too. Who cares if it won't work or costs too much? Most government IT projects don't work, so the only issue is to manage expectations: downwards. As to cost -no big deal! The money's going to be spent on something, somewhere and whatever it's spent on probably won't deliver what was intended, anyway.

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Newzbin barrister struck off for owning site he represented

Pete 2
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Pop!

> ... diminish public confidence in the legal profession

Or demonstrate that lawyers are just ordinary people who can hide behind a wall of obscure legal (and latin) jargon.

Most people who have ever come into contact with the legal profession; either through a house purchase, divorce, damages claim or criminal prosecution in all likelihood will already have a pretty low opinion of lawyers. Whether it's the firm that charges you parters' rates for your work and then hands it off to a junior who can't even spell. Or the conveyancer who seems to take a week to drag their heels through every single stage of an otherwise simple property purchase. Or the defence lawyer who doesn't seem to understand that YOU DIDN'T DO IT and just wants you to plead guilty, so they can have an easy life, collect their considerable fee and move on to the next victim.

Maybe this guy didn't diminish public confidence in the legal profession. Maybe all he did was show them up to have the same failings, weaknesses and faults as everyone else - that he peeled away the thin veneer of competence and exposed them to the light of day. For a profession that relies so much on appearances and excluding "ordinary" people from their goings-on, a bit of harsh reality could really burst the bubble.

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Samsung 11.6in 'retina display' tablet spied

Pete 2
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Size doesn't matter

> an 11.6in screen is pushing it a bit for a handheld display

Once a device gets bigger than a convenient size to stuff in your pocket, then whether it's 10 inches, 12 or more becomes less important that how much it weighs. At those sizes (i.e. laptop-sized) it needs a bag to carry it around in, so it's lost the convenience factor. All that is up for discussion is how big the bag needs to be - and if you've got to carry a bag, why not have a proper laptop in it, instead?

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Juror jailed for looking up rape defendant on Google

Pete 2
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What good would 3 months in jail do?

The woman is a psychiatrist (or was it a psychologist? Meh!). She'll probably write a book about her observations and make a ton of money from it.

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Teen net addicts pee in bottles to stay glued to WoW

Pete 2
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Do climbers carry umbrellas?

> Though I wonder, is peeing in a bottle any different ... from me taking a crap outside when I'm out climbing

Only the person following you up the cliff can answer that!

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Pete 2
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So much for individualism

Any parent knows that the hardest thing in the world is to persuade a teen to get out of bed. Yet here we have at least 2 kids who are so motivated by something that they'll voluntarily haul themselves out of the pit (while hopefully not tripping over bottles of stale pee - hey, if it was good enough for Howard Hughes ....) at 3 a.m. to partake of an activity with other, like-minded, people.

Rather than praise their dedication, determination and competitive spirit, she chooses to scoff at their choice of entertainment and criticise their methods of maximising their participation. I can't help wondering if this lady is guilty of a huge double standard: taking the errr, "mick" out of games players yet admiring sports-people who spend much more of each day (and are prepared to suffer more) fulfilling their obsession for equally fleeting successes and rewards.

Maybe she should be less concerned with forcing normative behaviours on children and look instead at how this enthusiasm (or obsession?) can be harnessed into something a bit more constructive than passing comments on how other people spend their time?

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Women pick the family's mobile tech - and pay for it too

Pete 2
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Ask and you shall receive

> asked just over 1,000 women within families ... Around 94 per cent ... were "primarily responsible or involved"

As a control, it would be interesting to know what the reply would have been if they'd asked 1000 men *within families*[1] the same question. I suspect the answer would have been roughly the same.

[1] a further "reveal" would have been to discover if, given a very high divorce rate, those women had anyone else who *could* contribute to the decision making process. Since these days a "family" does not necessarily mean there's a man about the house.

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McDonald's punters offered sex in exchange for Chicken McNuggets

Pete 2
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A simple misunderstanding

Maybe what she actually said was: "would you like to swap those McNuggets for a Happy Meal?"

I mean, who could possibly misconstrue that.

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Olympics volunteers urged not to blab online

Pete 2
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Canute

I fully expect the "unauthorised" posts, tweets, articles and leaks to be the only interesting part of the whole thing - with the possible exception being the inevitable witch-hunts afterwards to find and then prosecute to the fullest extent (and then some) possible anyone who might have been in the slightest bit involved.

So far as "not to disclose their location; ... not to get involved in detailed discussion about the Games online," The Olympic Thought Police may as well issue guidelines asking the tide not to come in for the duration of the games.

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Ten... stars of the Consumer Electronics Show

Pete 2
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To sum up

So the best from CES - the world's biggest gadget show - was a bunch of computers and tellies. With a (admittedly veeeeery cool) RC helicopter and toy guitar to mix it up a bit.

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India threatens to block Google, Facebook and chums

Pete 2
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Power moving east?

Forget all the arguments about censorship, or freedom. What we have here is another example of the most populous countries in the world recognising that they have power: both political and commercial - and exercising it.

Whether the "objectionable" material the Indian government is objecting to (surely de facto, if they object to it, that alone makes it objectionable?) is political in nature, religious, cultural or illegal is less of an issue. We already live in a world where a self-appointed copyright guardian in one country has given itself the right to dictate to everyone on the planet what they may or may not show, stream, upload or view. That's got to be a far less legitimate use of power than for an elected body to require similar controls within its own borders.

Let's fix the mote in our own eye first.

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US killer spy drone controls switch to Linux

Pete 2
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Got it!

> use of the word "advised" in context with military hardware

it's that metallic "click" you hear before the nice man in mirrored sunglasses says "we really would advise you not to do that"

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Pete 2
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You won't make any money like that, son

> If I would need to select between Windows XP and a Linux based system while building a military system, I wouldn't doubt a second which one I would take."

Nope, neither would anyone else supplying softs to that source of infinite amounts of moolah.

Linux is definitely the worst choice possible. Imagine installing a reliable, low cost and easily supportable infrastructure. Whereas everyone knows that to make money from military contracts you MUST specify the most expensive, inadequately implemented and personnel intensive products available. Otherwise your margins will be terrible and you won't be able to cash in on the ongoing support, mandatory suckurity upgrades, and constant bug-fixes (all at an hourly rate) that is where the real profit traditionally lies.

[Afterthought: though maybe the supplier is *still* charging for support at "windows" rates and has forgotten to mention to the suppliers of pork that their new system can be supported by a 14 y/o on a few pesos a day]

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Apple said to threaten legal action over Steve Jobs doll

Pete 2
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Prior art?

But couldn't one claim that he's a derivative work, courtesy of his parents?

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