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* Posts by Pete 2

2084 posts • joined 10 Jun 2009

How to make boots on Mars affordable - One way trips

Pete 2
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If you ask nicely

> I'd miss all the normal things, like rain, green grass, trees, chirping birds, my neigbours nice arse....

...he might sign up too.

But it's more than missing the comforts of home. What do you do when you get a toothache, or have a heart attack. Basically any sort of injury and you're effectively a goner. There's no major hospitals this side of Phobos and even that one doesn't deal with human cases. Until we know a lot more about Mars, there's not even the prospect of having the right equipment to do decent research with and without something like a fusion reactor, not enough power to keep people warm during the loooonger Martian winters (nice arses notwithstanding).

Basically, it'll be 200+ years before we have enough knowledge, resources and abilities to get people to Mars - and support them there. Until then, it's robots all the way.

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Pete 2
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The "Gobi Desert" question

Q: Why don't people colonise the Gobi Desert?

A: Because there's nothing there to live on, or work on, or export, or shelter in

Yet it's a thousand times more hospitable than Mars and a million times cheaper to get to (plus, there's a good chance you could get back, too). So the tipping point of where people choose to live is set well and truly on the "land of milk and honey" side of the equation and a long, long way away from earthbound deserts and even further from Martian ones. What would the "colonists" do all day? Huddle inside their little shelters, wondering when or if the next supply rocket would arrive (or if they'd just see it go past as a flaming ball, crashing or missing them completely - as 50% of Mars-bound spacecraft do)? Press their noses up against the windows and count the number of rocks outside? Without a highly developed support structure, there's little possibility that they'd be in a position to mount expeditions to other parts of the planet, or go searching for signs of life, or even try to find one of the crashed or failed previous spacecraft.

So far as the cost thing goes. Surely the cost of getting enough fuel for a return trip out to Mars is only higher than the cost of continual resupply if the people there are not expected to live very long. If they need (say) 1 ton of supplies sent every year then after a certain number of years, that amount of stuff will have exceeded the amount of stuff needed to bring them back. It sounds like a particularly cold calculation to make: "Well we reckon you'll only survive a few years, so it's not worth spending the money to send rescue. We'll drop you some more water and oxygen when we have the time"

Even the convicts transported to the antipodes got a better deal than that.

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No hiding place - facial biometrics will ID you, RSN

Pete 2
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countermeasures?

This tech may well work *against* ordinary people who are either not aware, or don't care about it. However, just as people didn't used to lock their doors until the threat of unwelcome visitors became widespread (or at least became widely reported) - we can expect that once these activities become too intrusive the population will push back. Whether that entails us starting to wear large, floppy hats, dark glasses and/or false beards (until they all become criminal offenses), or something else.

Presumably at some point an escalation will start with ever more sophisticated probing into our lives, followed by greater reluctance to show our true selves in public. Maybe it'll become a new selling point for pubs, clubs and other meeting places: No Cameras!

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Robot wars break out on poker sites

Pete 2
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As a non-player ...

> With a decent mathmatical model you could do well out of it, but would it be cheating?

I can't see that it's cheating any more than memorising the odds of various combinations is cheating - doesn't that give an "unfair" advantage to people with good memories?

However, I also can't see any problem with insider trading - not that I'm into gambling on stock markets, either. Why on earth would you buy (or sell) a stock unless you had information about its prospects?

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iPhone users are sad and mentally unfocused

Pete 2
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Sounds like a good interview question

> they spend 46.9 per cent of their time thinking about something other than what they're doing

Thank you for coming in, before the interview starts properly, one little question: have you got an iPhone?

"Why yes I have" says the interviewee, proudly. "Would you like to see it?"

No thanks comes the curt reply <ding> "Next please".

(of course we don't know what percentage their time of non iPhone owners spend dreaming and gazing into space - it could be even more than this, especially if they were wishing they had an iPhone, too.)

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MAD Students Union bars 'racist' ZOMBIE PHYSICISTS

Pete 2
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Re: nuclear free zone

Yes, our lot (bloody art students) made the same pronouncement. Then someone pointed out all the isotopes being used in the physics and chemistry departments. They didn't even blink but carried on in their pompous naivety as if nothing had happened.

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Our PARIS becomes GLOBAL MEDIA SENSATION

Pete 2
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Gotta get the ages in

Congrats on the recognition. I'm always mystified by stories in newspapers - they seem to be fixated on details such as peoples' ages, marital status etc. It's so bizarre.

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Two-faced world spends billions on climate help, fossil fuel

Pete 2
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OK, so let's cut one

Rather than spending $Bns on each of these ventures, let's nail our colours to the mast and axe the budget for one of these two. I suggest we take a world-wide vote: which do people want - cheap petrol or a cooler climate?

No prizes for guessing what the outcome will be.

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Project managers: fall-guys or heroes?

Pete 2
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The good, the average and the clueless

I've worked with/for a lot of project managers. Two or three of them were absolute stars - as deified in the article. Some merely took up productive time with undirected meetings that rambled on forever and there were one or two outstandingly bad ones who really, really had no management or leadership qualities at all.

Of the rest, they *did* do a good job - not excellent, but competent - possibly because their mettle was never tested since the projects went ahead with little or no drama (though, maybe that's a testament to their skill: all the best people AVOID problems, rather than fix them). The difficulty with this lot was that you couldn't tell the good ones from the lucky ones.

However, the main observation is that before I encountered any of these people, and until some time had passed, it was not possible to distinguish the great ones from the turkeys: they all did much the same until something unexpected happened. I suspect that if you took all of these peoples' CVs you'd be hard put to tell which PMs were worth their weight and which were a liability - basically, choosing one to employ is a bit of a lottery - luckily for some.

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'Hippy' energy kingpin's electric Noddy-car in epic FAIL

Pete 2
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Maybe it didn't break down

> the Nemesis as "powered only by renewables"

maybe the wind just stopped blowing?

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Aircraft bombs may mean end to in-flight Wi-Fi, mobile

Pete 2
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fuel

> All fuel will be tested before leaving the fuel depot. It will remain under armed guard at all times. The citizenship can not be trusted.

Any fuel found to be even the least bit flammable will be destroyed as an obvious sabotage attempt. Passengers will have to walk to their destinations. (but they'll still be charged Air Passenger Duty and the Fuel Surcharge, oh. and the UK Passenger Service Charge as well)

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Shut up, Spock! – how Battlestar Galactica beat Trek babble

Pete 2
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Spot on

+1

This is absolutely, dead, right.

Sadly, Hollywood thinks of SF as "space ships" or stuff we can't explain (a la X-Files). When it's really about the concepts, opportunities and problems that will come about as a result of the SCIENCE we will discover and the technology we'll develop from it. Almost all the SF on TV is derivative. Whether it's the insultingly obvious cowboy ripoff of Firefly, or the "running from the law" of Blakes 7 (or Farscape) - or pretty much anything else between them and now.

I have a suspicion that if anyone had a truly original SF idea, it would be so foreign to the studios' money people and so far outside their comfort zone ("where are the disintegrator guns?" "but it's got to have e a warp drive?") that it wouldn't stand a chance of getting onto the screens - certainly not in its original form and not without turning into yet another WW1 dog-fighting, our guys against the other guys piece of pantomime. Thank god we still have books.

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Pete 2
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One man's technobabble is another mans daily life

"I googled that virus and all I got was spam"

"Pass the remote, I want to watch Strictly off the PVR"

"Who left a readymeal in the microwave?"

Pop back in time 100 years, go around speaking like any of the above quotes and you'll get funny looks. Talk about the things we take to be commonplace today and you're likely to get committed. The point is that all the "Roddenberrian nonsense" used in ST would have been everyday phrases for the crew (and, frankly not that hard for the rest of us to get the jist of). In fact it no more hinders a show than hearing medical people in a contemporary drama rattle on about all the medical terms and jargon "I'm sorry nurse - he's got a subdural hematoma".

So no, I don't buy the BSG guy's premise about banishing the technobabble from BSG. You can't explain 99th century (or whenever it was supposed to be) concepts and occurrences with 21st century words - just like it's completely incongruous that a civilisation with star-travel and AI robots would still need spectacles and WW2-style field telephones (complete with Bakelite handsets) - and yes, I do know all about the profoundly shaky rationalisation for not having networks in the show.

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Times celebrates disappearing readers

Pete 2
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In no particular order

Does the front page headline take up more than half the page?

Does the FP have a picture of a celeb/sports person on it (anywhere)?

Are any words on the FP deliberately misspelled to make a pun or joke?

Does any story occupy more than one full page? (or more than a 2-page spread)?

Is there more sport "news" than foreign news?

Does TV "news" and schedules take up more than one page?

Is there a horoscope?

The more "yes" answers, the lower the quality.

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Pete 2
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Still more profitable than web advertising

Even with a 99% reduction in "footfall" and assuming the lowest tariff, the site still pulls £100-200K a week. That sounds like a much better return than any website would get from taking advertising. The key is how will they fare in the long term?

Are those users loyal or will the numbers decline significantly over time - or once their introductory offers expire. Come back in a year for the next exciting installment!

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Asda prices up Elonex 7in Android tablet

Pete 2
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and then ...

> persuade many of Joe Public's less technologically savvy siblings that tablets are the Christmas gift of 2010

And the eBay offload in January 2011 - can't wait.

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No wonder CompSci grads are unemployed

Pete 2
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It's not a degree, it's an apprenticeship

1950. You leave school at 16 with the obligatory 2 O-levels and a budgerigar. You go up to the local factory and learn the mechanical skills that allow you to be a fitter, or an electrician or a welder. That's all you learn and spend the rest of your working life performing that one function.

2010 You leave school at 18 with 4 A levels and the obligatory iPhone. You go to the university and learn the mechanical skills to write code in Java or C#. That's all you learn and you spend the rest of your working life flipping burgers, as there are 100 million far-eastern programmers who can do exactly the same, but for one-third the pay.

The conclusion is that simply learning a computer language means nothing - anyone can do it and it's not especially hard to do. Spending three years in a classroom and getting into debt is a particularly inefficient way to do it - especially when you consider that the stuff you learned in your first year will be almost obsolete by the time you graduate and really, it's only you final year's worth of learning that comes close to what the grown-ups in business will want from you. As it is, the distinction between a programmer and an office worker who has read Excel for Complete Idiots" is somewhat slight and it's often difficult to tell which one is more valuable to a business. So it should come as no surprise that recruiters are less than impressed about the words on your CompSci degree certificate and care more about how you answer real,, practical questions in the job interview.

All the degree does is get you in front of "the guy", although not as effectively as a funny handshake, or the abillity to play golf.

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Daily Mail rails at Street View in women's refuge wrongness

Pete 2
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Time to stop quoting "The Wail"?

How about a new years resolution: We will all stop trawling the Daily Wail for alarmist, xenophobic, ill-informed or pessimistic items, where it's impossible to tell where facts stop and opinions begin. Instead we will only use material they supply which is confirmed by an independent source, has allowed enough time (say, a week) to pass for them to issue retractions, corrections, denials, apologies and damages. Finally we will limit references to pieces of their journalism which are fair, balanced, optimistic and true.

And the world will be a happier place. Ahhhhh!

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Over 100,000 stops-and-searches: zero terrorists

Pete 2
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Failure? No! a resounding success

Look at it from the police perspective. Without this law, they would not have been able to stop over 100,000 "villains" who could have gone about their business, which might have involved doing bad things (did I mention, they were villains). No doubt we'll now be told by people in suits that "defence is the best form of offence" and that "prevention is better than cure" and all sorts of other aphorisms which will not only permit these sorts of activities to continue, but with the obvious success of over 100,000 stops must and should be expanded.

I can see the official line, right out of "Yes Minister": "You've stopped over 100,000 people and not found a single terrorist" "Yes, exactly - a huge success, while we've been doing this, there hasn't been a single terrorist. We must do more." Gaaaahhhh.

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Nearly half of top UK firms do not use software escrow

Pete 2
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Dear Microsoft

I have just bought a copy of Windows 7© and I am a little concerned that if your business collapses you will not be in a position to fix any bugs I might find. Therefore, would you mind awfully putting a copy of your complete source code base, development tools, test suites and documentation into safe keeping with "Dodgy Dave's Software Suppository and DVD Copiers" He promises not to look at it, or accidentally release it into the interweb thingy - and it almost never happens that anyone breaks into his office and steals anything (well, not anything valuable, anyway).

regards

Pete 2 xx

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US Army trials robot 'leccy-n-bandwidth war-mules

Pete 2
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And it carries golf clubs, too

So when there's a lull in the shooting, the infantry can have a quick tee-off. Unless their little (apparently completely unprotected) buggy happens to take an RPG round between the wheels and then the poor soldiers won't be able to tweet their kill-ratios or update their facebook pages and will be forced to withdraw.

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EU to lift flight ban on carry-on liquids

Pete 2
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How can you say that!

Are you possibly suggesting that all this security theatre is NOT for our safety? What a thing to say. After all, we had one chap who nearly managed to blow up his shoe and another who sacrificed his balls when he set fire to his underpants. How is this not the most serious threat to our transport network since conductors were taken off buses and the UN commission on biological warfare banned the British Rail sandwich?

As for the IRA campaign - well that was a completely different problem. They looked like all the other white people around them. How could you possibly demonise a group who were the same religions as a lot of the indigenous population and were so well liked that the americans financed their activities?

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Pete 2
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Not your standard response

Not wishing to point out the obvious misapprehension about duty free (whoops, just did!), but having a "binary: "pass", and you're happily aboard ..." just passes the burden (or perk, depending on how vindictive you think the plastic piggies on security desks are) of taking away your cheap bottle of local brandy from the "underpaid, over-hassled, grumpy airport-security drone" to an "underpaid, over-hassled, grumpy programmer drone" instead.

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Equality Act causes logistics nightmare

Pete 2
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Where legality departs from common sense

Ok, stop panicking, breathe slowly --- in ----- out ----- in ------ out

>if organisations are not compliant from the moment that the Regulations take effect, this could cause them major problems

Don't be silly. No-one's going to get a massive fine or be thrown into jail on April the 5 just because of a new rule that comes into force on April 4th. So long as the people overseeing the process are happy that progress is being made they're not going to punish anyone. They will appreciate that it all takes time (esp. when the necessary information hasn't been made available in a timely fashion) and are flexible enough and not so daft as to act like a bunch of facists: counting down to midnight the day before, just so they can issue writs as the clock strikes. It will take time, but it will be sorted out. No-one will suffer unduly and any complaints treated with sympathy - on both side. So really there's no need to get your knickers in a twist - it's a non-story.

Oh, I forgot ---- in

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US raygun jumbo fluffs another test missile-blast attempt

Pete 2
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Easier than painting

Just wait until the weather gets bad and the aiming laser (or the big bugger, for that matter) gets absorbed by the clouds. The same plan works for confounding satellite surveillance. Just wait until it's cloudy, then do all the clandestine work safe in the knowledge that the capitalists can't see you.

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HD Webcams

Pete 2
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Asking too much

So, the author wants good low-light performance, high quality sound, high definition and (implicitly) to spend less than £100. Sorry chummy: choose one.

Now, I'm no expert (shocker!) but the tiny little sensors in webcams simply don't have the sensitivity to provide noise-free images - especially at higher frame rates and in ordinary, domestic light levels. Go outside into the daylight and you might just stand a chance, but in a dimly lit room - no way.

Sound quality? That has GOT to come from an external microphone. There are no alternatives. Whether it's pinned onto your clothes or hand held, the omnidirectional little electret jobbie stuck onto a webcam several feet away from your gob cannot help picking up all the other sounds and echoes in the room.

HD - hmmmm. Fail. Just how much bandwidth do you think you have? While it may be possible for the average web user to pull down real-time video at a reasonable 1.5MByte/sec over their high-end connection, pushing stuff UP the wire is a whole different game - divide that speed by ten and you're getting close. Try getting HD video up a 150KByte/sec connection and the amount of compression you will have to apply negates any benefits from a HD webcam. I suppose if you keep stock-still, so there's very little difference from one frame to the next, you might just stand a chance, but then you may as well put a cardboard cutout in front of the camera.

So no. While there are some webcams that actually can provide decent quality video in a not too mangled form across a USB 2.0 link, under ideal conditions, they need careful nurturing and the right conditions to achieve this. Simply plunking one on a PC, firing up Skype in a bedroom with a single CFL illuminating the top of your head and saying "Hello Mum" won't do it. All the limitations of price kick in: whether that's the build cost of a £100 webcam (compared to the £5000 "pro" cameras), the cheapness of the built in microphone, the lack of decent lighting or the bottlenecks of sending highly compressed packets half way round the world. You're wasting your time and money - might as well stick with a £5 device off eBay.

One last thing - for god's sake smile! If you're sending video to people, at least look happy to see them.

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Seagate sued for 'fraudulently hiring engineer'

Pete 2
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I *really* hope he wins

Companies need to realise they're messing with people's lives when they employ them. It's long past time that they fixed their casual attitude towards staff (such as calling them "resources", for example) and start acting as they would with any other business partner that they entered into a contractual arrangement with.

We're always being told to tell the truth on CVs - that lies will be found out (riiiight) and we could get sacked for misrepresenting ourselves or our qualifications. However, when was the last time that the "exciting position with huge potential for advancement" turned out to be anything more than the same old sh... in a different building?

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Microsoft sings Happy Birthday to Windows 7

Pete 2
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I hope they pay the royalties

According to the source of all thing dubious (yup, wikipedia) "Happy Birthday to You" is still under copyright until 2030 in america (the free world can use it gratis after 2016). Considering how much MS bang on about piracy it would be terrible if they got dinged for not shelling out on the use they got from someone else's proprietary material. So terrible in fact, it would make me laugh for a long, long time.

And no, I'm not sending anyone any money for naming the song title.

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One-third of iPad fanbois don't download apps

Pete 2
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Another rational explanation

> don't understand technology ... change is dangerous

Or possibly it's because they regard their iPad as simply another appliance. It does certain things and that's what they want from it. After all, people don't go around upgrading their washing machines, or adding new options to their vacuum cleaner. If you think of an iPad not from the geek perspective of a platform to run programs, but from the user perspective of a white-good that performs a specific set of functions, the need for extra apps or updates simply goes away.

I wouldn't buy a car that was continually changing its engine management software, or the layout of the dashboard and I wouldn't go near a 'fridge that asked for a password before it would let me get the milk out.

Most people (and by that, I mean me) just want simple stuff that does a small number of straightforward tasks in the expected, intuitive way. Got a phone? fine - push buttons, talk to people. Got a TV? great - switch it on, watch chavs arguing. The very first time our dishwasher says "I'm sorry Dave, I can't do that" is the time it will be introduced to the local dump.

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Pete 2
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Nah

>...you still want one right?

I've already got a waffle maker, and no more room in the cupboard

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Pete 2
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In a cupboard, next to the waffle maker

Loads of people buy stuff, play with it for a short time, discover it doesn't make their lives better and then forget about it. It happens to almost every kitchen appliance, most of your DVDs, a large proportion of peoples' clothes (some of which are *never* worn - not even once) and one-third of the food we buy. All this tells us is that we are susceptible to advertising, buy stuff impulsively, don't feel the need to return or sell-on things we don't want or are optimistic enough to think "one day I'll sit down and read that book".

There's no reason why Apple's products should be any different from other stuff we buy from shopping channels or after seeing a shiny, sparkly advertisement that promises all sorts of things we know aren't true (but wish they were) or buy 'cos "that person off the telly has one". Goods are made to be sold, not to be used, and once money has changed hands and the warranty has expired, why should Apple or anyone else care how much use their stuff gets put to. By then, they've moved on to the next minor alteration to their thingy - now marketed as revolutionary, new, life-changing and even better value - just like the old one was.

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Just how special are Power Users?

Pete 2
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Some are, some aren't

Power users are just like ordinary users. Some know what they're doing - others don't have a clue. The biggest difference is that they all take a disproportionate amount of support resources to stop them moaning like little babies when they run into difficulties.

Of our "power users", some genuinely have the ability to save the world - or at least earn the company enough to justify the huge bonuses the directors get. Others are basically just drama queens (of either gender) and create more noise and uncertainty than anything else. The hard part is being able to distinguish the one from the other.

Of course, the really valuable employees are the invisible ones. The ones who quietly get on with their jobs: competently, on time, solving their own problems as they go and doing what they said they would. However their lack of "star quality" usually gets mistaken for idleness and as a consequence, they're the ones who get axed at the first signs of economic trouble.

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Vulture 1 sprouts wings and a tail

Pete 2
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The guy who built a boat in his basement

Hope you've checked that you can get this out of the assembly room once it's all finished

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Oldsters beat twentysomethings at social networking

Pete 2
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A passing phase?

We've all heard of early adopters, but they're only a small proportion of the whole - and not even the earliest group to latch onto a fad. Maybe what we're seeing is that the innovators (the first group) and the E/A's have done the social networking thing, discovered it's emptiness and moved on. Leaving the field clear for the majority of people to start toying with the technology. However, if the original theory is correct, they too will find that social networking is no substitute for real-world friends and acquaintances and in time, abandon it too.

This doesn't mean that social networking is for old people, or that older people actually like it. Just that they didn't jump in, feet-first as soon as the nascent technology appeared: preferring to bide their time before trying it out. Although for the upper end of the age range, it definitely has advantages for the housebound or immobile: to use this sort of thing to keep their social lives going.

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Police turn to extreme-sport mobe sucking

Pete 2
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Maybe not water ...

> drop his phone in a glass of water making it impossible to read

but there are many, many corrosive liquids readily available to even non-master criminals that will do the trick.

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Fight cyberwar with cold war doctrines, says former DHS chief

Pete 2
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Sounds like war mongering to me

If you don't want your infrastructure to be attacked get it the hell off our internet. If you don't know how, I'm sure there are plenty of people in other countries who have the skills to help you out.

This guy doesn't really seem to understand that while cyber attacks _can_ be state sponsored as I'm sure the USofA has first hand experience of doing, themselves, the nature of the internet means that one person with a guessed password can wreak just as much havoc. In that case "doctrines" seeking to lash out at countries that america currently doesn't like just won't work - they might find themselves having to bomb the crap out of their own people, in their own country.

As it stands at present, most so-called defences against internet-bourne attacks are little more than a signpost saying "Stop, fine for hacking this computer $1million - if we can find you" whereas the people (yes: people, not countries) who control the DDoS botnets and intrusion probing systems are the equivalent of a division of armour who don't even notice the sign as they roll right into your datacentre - which just happens to have the internet equivalent of a bright neon, flashing bullseye - with the letters ".gov" in the middle - displayed prominently on the roof.

It's no good bleating on about all the badness that "for-ners" represent on the internet and rattling on about "counter-attacks". The military have to realise that they are no longer relevant in preventing cyber attacks and that their 1960's style deterrence is ridiculed by the people (yes, them again) who have even the slightest clue about 21st century networked computing. The only real defence is to do to their infrastructure what they did to their nuclear bunkers and harden them against attack - not with reinforced concrete, but with decent software that has been designed implemented and tested to withstand intrusions and DoS's and with physical separation from the people who might target them.

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Almost a quarter of Europeans can't be bothered with the net

Pete 2
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@ 'cos

Ahhh, but you can lead a citizen to the internet, but you can't make them buy a PC. What's the point of connecting every house in the EU if a lot of the most cut-off / difficult-to-reach ones don't have a 'pooter to use on it?

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Pete 2
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Not much worthwhile stuff for a lot of people

Unless your english is good, there really isn't a whole lot of (legal, non-errr, "visual") stuff out there for a significant proportion of the european population. Sure, there's content in french, spanish, german and italian - but how about if your only language is greek - say, or czech or norwegian? Would you really want to pay the high price of internet access that is common in other european countries (€30-40/month - give or take, on top of a landline rental) just to access the content put out by the 10 or 20 million people who speak your native tongue - most of whom won't be on the internet for exactly the reasons you aren't?

Until you've had to deal with the likes of Telefonica OTE to get a basic phone line installed outside of a large town (hint: it's easier to move house to one with a phone) you don't really understand the barriers to getting access, compared to the small benefits and high costs of having it.

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Power grid scare stories a 'bunch of hooey'

Pete 2
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To willing to believe bad news

Tell someone that everything's fine and they'll ignore you. Tell them there might be a possible threat (note: 3 levels of uncertainty) and you have their attention. You don't even have to mention that the "might" is a one-in-a-million eventuality, the "possible" is almost infinitely improbable and the "threat" is so non-specific; in degree, importance and eventuality that it becomes meaningless.

Until someone is able to quantify some potential badness - attributing a real, numerical chance to it AND to describe the extent of the effects said badness would have (if it did come to pass), there's no information available to base a response on. So when a low-level manager starts running around, waving their arms in the air claiming that "there's a potential security lapse that would let allow someone to steal our data", without solid facts about what data, what could they do with it, how many times has this happened (to other organisations) and how many attempts have been made to steal ours - all you have some unfocussed paranoia. Sadly, these days that seems to be all you need to trigger all sorts of draconian limitationss, huge inconvenience and massive costs simply because an impressionable individual watched too much TV the night before.

Back to the case in point. While it *does* seem like some nuaghty people somewhere did create a worm targeted specifically at an Iranian institution that they didn't particularly like - and that it's perfectly possible for some other bad people to do the same, again. The fix is simple: KEEP YOUR INFRASTRUCTURE OFF THE INTERNET. The facilities have fences, security guards and locks on the doors, the control systems can go one better and isolate themselves completely. There are almost no circumstances where workers, doing their jobs in such plants need any sort of internet access - or to plug in thumb-drives, CDs or any other media. Prevent them from doing this and the threat (if it was ever really there int he first place) just goes away. In the small number of cases where it is needed, use the same level of security and scrutiny that is used for anything else entering or leaving the establishment.

Once you have sewn things up, tight. Sit back, breathe deeply, hire a team of penetration experts to keep your security up to scratch and focus on the things that could actually go wrong, rather than the hysteria from unqualified commentators who thing Die Hard, or The Matrix is real-life.

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Guardian super-blogger flames Reg boffinry desk

Pete 2
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Mark Twain quote:

"There is something fascinating about science. You get such a wholesale returns of conjecture from such a small investment of fact. "

And since no-one actually _knows_ what the effect of the Sun or CO2 is, this one will run and run.

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Philip Green discovers ugly truth of government incompetence

Pete 2
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The price of flexibility

Bulk buying only works when you can commit to a long-term contract. That means you will know that your requirements, or volumes won't change from what was agreed. It means that you can't make changes without paying a penalty. It means that if someone else comes along halfway through the contract period with a cheaper offer (or a better solution) you are tied in to the old specification at the old price. So for example, who'd have thought 3 years ago, that a 2TB disk would be £80, retail. I expect that a 5 year contract started in 2006 would still have the government buying 500GB disks at £100 a go - having congratulated themselves on such hard-nosed negotiations. Conversely, if they wrangled too-good a deal, so that the supplier goes bust they lose the efficiencies of bulk and the benefits of uniform specifications, and possibly not being able to get spare parts.

That's even if suppliers can be assured that the party in power will still be there for the term of the contract - and that the next lot (or a post-reshuffle minister) won't do a complete U-turn, thus invoking mega-penalty payouts, which would lead to equally hysterical headlines in the Daily Wail.

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UK gov could not procure its way out of a paper bag

Pete 2
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lack of competition

> There is no reason why Government should not be as efficient as any good business

That's the biggest difference between a "good business" and a government: the business has to continually improve its efficiency, stay competitive, innovate and provide better service - or its customers will go elsewhere. Governments don't have to worry about such trivial things, they can just raise our taxes when they need more cash. Neither do the civil servants have any incentive. They're too scared of being found at fault to consider any approach except CYA - irrespective of the cost, efficiency, inconvenience or time taken.

While it would be hard to provide competition without having a second government (oh god, not two) - maybe a red one a nd a blue one, we could at least incentivise the one we have with a customer feedback system: Unemployment goes up: civil servants and politicians pay goes down. Too much police corruption? Add an extra year to all forces retirement age. Children not being taught properly? teachers lose a week or two off their summer holidays. ... and so on. I'm sure a few imaginative incentives could be found for all the waste-makers, maybe even enough to recoup some of the money they're costing us.

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Ubuntu 10.10: date with destiny missed

Pete 2
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Free, but not free

Same supermodel, new frock.

Basically this version of Ubuntu has fresh new versions of everything but little in the way of new features. None of the Ubuntu marketing is aimed at telling existing users what benefits (i.e. things they'll now be able to do, that they couldn't do before - or things that are now easier /faster /better than in previous versions) they will gain from this release.

On that basis, while it won't cost us freeloaders anything to download the new stuff, it will cost a great deal in terms of the time needed to either upgrade or backup, wipe, install the O/S then reinstall all our apps. The cost of that last step: getting all the applications that aren't included in the base release, but are needed to move an Ubuntu box from a simplistic games and worm-processing environment to something akin to useful - is the killer.

Even if everything happens as it should there's a good afternoon's work involved. Sadly, experience (from the last time I did this) has shown me that things don't go as they should and that there will be some code that simply won't port, other stuff which has decided to eschew the path of backwards compatibility and yet more applications who's authors have abandoned the fruit of their keyboards and will NEVER work with 10.10. Put all this together and a more realistic estimate is a couple of days of head scratching - so say goodbye to a weekend.

Even at minimum wage rates, that's £100's worth of my time that this "free" version of Ubuntu would cost me. What I get for that is all the latest versions of my existing applications, but precious little in the way of new functionality. A high price to pay for no tangible benefit, and a very high price in terms of lost free time.

The basic problem is that Ubunut, and all the major players, are still fixated on getting people to "try Ubuntu", in the same way you cajole a small child to "try a piece of cabbage - mmmm, lovely: yum, yumt". You know they'll hate it, they know they'll hate it, but you feel (somehow) that it will be good for them, It's about time they gave up on this ploy - it obviously doesn't work. Those people who like cabbage, sorry: Linux are already using it. Those who don't, aren't. How about rewarding the loyal (or is it just cheap?) fan base and improving the migration process and actual BENEFITS, instead of focusing on the trite and superficial: such as the colour scheme and the installation process?

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Doctors' appointment system goes tits up

Pete 2
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Take2 asprin

and if it hasn't come back in a couple of days make another appointment

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Much of recent global warming actually caused by Sun

Pete 2
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The spanish could've told them that

> sunlight readings taken from 2004 to 2007 ... emitted more in the key visible-light

Just pop over to your local Andalucian weather station[1], where they record the amound of daily incident sunlight in and you'll see that early in the decade (there's data from 2001/2) the numbers were about 30MJ/m²/day. Ver the same datos for 2009 and you'll see numbers up around 32MJ/m²

[1] http://www.juntadeandalucia.es/agriculturaypesca/ifapa/ria/servlet/FrontController?action=Init

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20% of TVs to ship in 2015 will be 3D, says analyst

Pete 2
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I don't care how many D it is

all I want is something good to watch.

While we can all marvel at the technology and lack of flicker or glare or grain or blur, none of that turn a badly written programme into something worth watching. It doesn't make a one-dimensional plot into a multi-layered, subtle drama and it won't impart fluency into a wooden actor.

I'd be willing to give up all the technology of the past 40 years (right back tot he early days of colour, on honkin' great boxy tellies) for engaging programmes that entertained and hold my attention. While today and tomorrows tech might be wonders of oriental design and production I find that the amount of stuff I actually want to watch is steadily decreasing - as the number of channels, number of hours, number of "+1"s, cable, satellite, HD and all the other gubbins increases.

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Software dev turned rogue trader gets jail and €4.9bn fine

Pete 2
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On the bright side ...

every trade has a winner and a loser.

The person selling a stock thinks the price will go down while the person buying thinks it will go up. They can't both be right. So while this guy lost his bank some €billions all that means is that some other people made all that money.

OK, so there's an element of "We didn't really _mean_ to make all those transactions, so pleeeeeeeeeze can we have our monkey back?" to all of this but for what turned out to be a real financial loss for one trader turned out to be a good day at the office for someone else - maybe they should bung a few Euros in the hat to pay his fine?

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£1bn+ Royal Navy destroyer finally fires 'disgraceful' weapon

Pete 2
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It will always be like that

Time and cost overruns are an inevitable part of buying weapons systems during peace time. The basic problem is that no-one can answer the simple question: "Who will this thing be used against?" As a consequence you get many reviews, thinktanks, committees and experts all putting their penn'orth into the specification process - just in case the "enemy" turns out to be a massed horde of millions, or a fanatical regime, or a distant archipelago (though why they'd be a threat is difficult to imagine) or a school of mutant dolphins. Add in to this, the lack of any real threat means there is no pressing need to decide what the new thing should do, so no-one is prepared to put their bits on the block and make any binding choices or decisions.

In the end you always get a fudged solution: that has to address all the unsupported claims, fears, "what ifs" and possibilities of a world 30 years into the future when the thing in question will still be in its service life (or just being delivered, depending on how relaxed world tensions are).

In some ways (putting aside the wanton waste of our money) it is a good indicator. It means that there isn't really threat to our well-being that this new weapon has to fight - and that no-one can really see any actual use for it. If there had been a need, it would have been designed to address it, and been brought into service as a rush job to counter the threat. That's why weapons development is always much faster when there's an actual; shooting war going on.

The tragedy, though is that the money earmarked for a shiny new toy for the navy can't be spent on things that other services could use, right now - either to reduce casualties or to better bomb the crap out of whoever it is we're currently bombing the crap out of, but less effectively than we could. Sadly the attitude of the ranking services is closer to a groups of petulant children than to a force meant to defend our interests. So if one gets a new toy, the others MUST have one too - or there'll be tears and letters to The Times. Even though (since no-one can say what it will be used for) it's so obvious that it's simply a sop and almost no use to anyone.

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Pete 2
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Fired in anger?

Leaving aside training, publicity, exercises and mistakes I wonder just how many of these weapons will actually be fired at a target during hostilities. Following on from that, given the cost of the programme what will be the "Pounds per shepherds hut destroyed[1]" effectiveness be?

[1] considering the quality of the intel used to target the device.

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Research links laptops to 'toasted skin syndrome'

Pete 2
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Tea tray

The most popular method in use at Pete 2 towers to stop a nasty case of slow roasted nuts is a cushion on the lap and a tray on the cushion. Forget all these hi-tech coolers and chemicals an' stuff. It also has the beneficial side effect of raising the lappy to a more comfortable height and being able to adjust the angle of the keyboard by fluffing or compressing the front or back of the cushion.

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