* Posts by I ain't Spartacus

3680 posts • joined 18 Jun 2009

Friday: SpaceX will attempt to land rocket on floating, robotic 'spaceport drone ship'

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Re: After landing

In one sense, it doesn't matter. If they can land a few rockets on a plaform successfully, they'll soon get permission for landing on dry land. And won't have to worry any more.

Obviously they'd like the rockets to survive, so they can play with them, or even re-launch one.

They could use those harpoons that helicopters do when they land on ships. But it's probably quite hard to recruit a crew to volunteer to sit on the platform and tie it down. If it doesn't blow up first.

They'll have to hope for the right weather. And presumably they can board the platform afterwards, and secure it. Assuming the weather holds out. But the landing legs are 70 feet across. and seeing as the fuel tanks will be empty, and the upper stages are in space, the rocket should be quite bottom heavy.

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Re: Fingers crossed...

I still like Elon Musk's twitter comment on the last landing (sea-ing?) test - where he said something like, the rocket wasn't able to remain vertical on entering the sea, so structual integrity was lost - i.e. KABOOM!

If there's one thing that we should know to expect from rocket tests by now, it's KABOOM! Rockets are really good at going bang.

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Scrooges rejoice! Beancounters find formula for perfect Xmas party

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Happy

Re: What the sam hell is cracker pulling?

After consuming sufficient alcohol to be able to break the social bonds, but not so much as to be unable to excercise judgement, if one manages to leave the pub with a sexually attractive person one didn't arrive with - one is said to have "pulled a cracker".

I wasn't aware that they were delived to Christmas parties in boxes before, but our laws are becoming ever more liberal, so I'm not entirely surprised.

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Devil

Re: No names but....

But in a yuletide celebratory scenario such as this, one has to leverage the synergistic opportunities presented to the management team of the gathering of all the drones human resource units in one location space. This can be bootstrapped as a valuable engagement and learning enviornment to build both excellent intra-team and inter-departmental communication and understanding. Adding in an extra management protocol of cracker gamification, intensifies the strategic impact for only a small extra resource input.

[I feel soiled now]

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TALE OF FAIL: Microsoft offers blow-by-blow Azure outage account

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We went with a cloudy online accounts package. Not picked by me, but I did a bit of research, and was not impressed to find they'd had an outage the previous year, where they'd not only been down for about 4 days, but also lost a couple of previous days work for clients. I'm guessing the incremental backups were buggered too, so they had to go back to a full one. That could actually be hard to fix, if you don't know exactly what you input when - and you've filed the paperwork as you input it.

The reason I didn't object is that they had a full post-mortem. They'd published what was happening at the time, then had blog posts every week or so for the next few months, with what had gone wrong, why, what mistakes they'd made, what they were thinking of doing to stop it in future, and then what progress they were making on setting up their systems.

It was because they'd started small, grown, then not upped the IT to match the new business. It was impressive enough that we went with them. Any cloudy accounts is a risk, but ours are simple enough that we can rebuild from our locally held copy of their backup (something they introduced after the fiasco) - and it wouldn't actually be that expensive to rebuild from the filed paperwork.

Actually they're now several years from doomsday, so I wonder if complacency will be kicking in again, and we should move to another supplier who's just had a major cock-up themselves and is now in full repentance mode?

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American bacon cured with AR-15 assault rifle

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Re: Bah!

Did you see the pictures? It looked like one of those air-fresheners you see hanging in the front of taxis. Cardboard, but with a slight aroma of somethingorother.

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Deprivation Britain: 1930s all over again? Codswallop!

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Re: When I were a lad...

Easy! In my day we had to punch it onto cards, then post it off to t'data centre to be run on t'central computer.

etc. etc. etc.

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Happy

Re: When I were a lad...

Pah! You've got it easy! In my day we had it much tougher. You couldn't just go online and copy Pytho scripts of t'interwebs. You had to type them in manually. From memory.

Also, I don't hold with all this sex on television. I keep falling off...

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Re: "We may not be doing all that well but we're a damn sight richer than our grandparents were. "

Most of them rented, and also slept several to a bed, let alone a bedroom. As well as outdoor toilets, no bathrooms and no central heating. Not to mention rickets, TB, polio, no antibiotics, limited healthcare...

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Re: Ah right...

And what do you stand for? As it would be nice to know your biases, so I can assess your contribution to the discussion. Oh no, that's right, you haven't made any.

You've attacked the author for the party he's affiliated with, but not any of the arguments he's made. So you've contributed fuck-all of value. Please come back when you've a problem to point out with the argument that he's actually bothered to make.

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Re: Not the economy, stupid.

The difference is that in the 1930s there wasn't very much of a social safety-net. And now there is. Inequality went down slightly during this present crash, because the poorest have a minimum wage, and (as long as it doesn't get cocked up) have a bunch of benefits available to stop them starving. So there's a basic minimum income that everyone can get. Obviously you can argue about what that should be. So yes, the drop in the size of the economy was the same in percentage terms, but the economy is so vastly bigger that this has had less effect, as there's still loads left to go round. But also we have a whole bunch of government schemes that funnel money to the poorest. Which weren't there in the 1930s.

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Re: I agree with Tim Worstall

What I find interesting is the coincidence between Government spending as a percentage of GDP and the whole of the country (poor and rich alike) getting better off.

ST7,

Could be an interesting piece for a book. Well enormous academic economic tome I guess... Bloody hard to get good figures for.

Remember that national income and standards of living also rocketed during the 19th Century, and yet government spending didn't. Although given we spend lots on benefits for the very poorest in society, there's bound to be a strong causation for them doing better the higher government spending is.

There's bound to be a point where extra government spending makes everyone poorer, for example the Soviet Union. And there's also probably a large time lag effect.

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Re: Oh, well *that's* alright, then...

Graham Marsden,

This wasn't an article about UKIP. It was an article on the meaning of the figures that get thrown around in the discussions. Hence it's a useful attempt to be informative.

Mostly the author is also quite clear where he's reporting on the facts, and what the stats mean. As opposed to where he's making comment about his personal opinion. Although there's always the risk that he's cherry-picking data. And he does tend to chuck in a bit of anti-Guardian snark.

It's certainly not a comment on Nige's policies. Have UKIP even got any policies that don't get junked after the first contact with the enemy journalists?

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Re: Ah right...

J.R. Hartley,

Perhaps you'd like to contribute constructively to the discussion, perhaps even with some actual arguments. As opposed to chucking random, unfunny, catty comments at other people, while adding fuck-all of actual use?

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jonathan keith,

You have to argue about relative or absolute poverty, for any of this discussion to be meaningful. The two can mean totally different things.

<blockquote.People may not actually *be* poor, according to some arbitrary chart, but if they see that those at the top of the ladder are vastly wealthier than they are, and that those people are getting more and more of the pie each day, as inequality grows, then those people *feel* poor, and angry to boot.</blockquote>

Actually inequality has gone down in the UK in this recession. Or at least had from the last figures I checked. This is becasue a lot of the rich lost quite a lot and the proportion of taxes being paid by the rich has gone up. Also because of benefits and a minimum wage, the poorest haven't got poorer - a possible exception here possibly being incapacity benefit. The people who've suffered most in this recession are probably the skilled working class / lower middle class types (in as much as those terms still have meaning).

Also if your problem is inequality, it'll never be solved. There's always been inequality in society, and there always will be. So what arbitrary chart are you planning to use to measure this?

I wasn't happy with the analysis from The Spirit Level. I'm not sure it ever sorted out what was correlation, and what was causation. It rather looked like it was cherry-picking it's figures in a lot of cases to make the graphs look better. And it ought to be easier to have lower inequality in small countries with relatively homogenous populations than bigger (more mixed) ones.

Whilst inequality can be truly toxic (see Russia for example) it can also be good. Take Google for example. That's made a small number of people vastly wealthy, because they've created a company that they own a large chunk of that's gone from nothing to global behemoth in just 15 years. Google may have it's problems (privacy, monopolistic behaviour), but it's also generated loads of wealth and helped improve society. Now it might have happened in Scandinavia too, but it didn't. Most of these huge tech companies have come from the less equal USA. But The Spirit Level doesn't seem to discuss that. Like all social questions, it's horribly complicated.

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TheOtherHobbes,

Those numbers are meaningless without context. For example a quick Google gives UK infant mortality being 4 per 1,000 live births. So if it's really 10% more (and assuming my quick Google gave comparable figures) - that would be 4.4 per thousand for those in relative poverty. Which is a difference, but a much smaller one that the weasely use of 10% would suggest.

A bit like so many health-scare bollocks stories in the press. Where a 10% rise in a tiny risk, leaving it as still a tiny risk, is played up as a hugely significant thing.

Families living in poverty can have as little as £12 per day per person to buy everything they need such as food, heating, toys, clothes, electricity and transport.

So that's £336 per week for a family of 4 (£17,500 per year). And that's apparently not including housing costs. I can feed 4 for £100 a week well and easily. So let's add in £30 for bog-roll/cleaning/sundries. Say £7k + £2k per year for heating, another £1k for phones/internet/water - that's £10k - leaving another £7,500 for clothes, travel, sundries, and a cheap holiday. That looks pretty doable to me.

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Re: Difficult calculation

Don't forget even in the seemingly easy comparisons it's all different. I can feed 10 people (or one person for a week) for a couple of quid with veggie curry. It'll taste nice, and be nutritious. Up that a tenner, and it'll have identifiable bits of meat in it too. Somewhere in between determines whether it's mystery meat, and how much there is. Make that £30 and there'll be several glasses of beer/wine and pudding. Even the expensive option is well under 1 day of the minimum wage.

I suspect the cheap option hasn't changed in price massively over the years. Although there was a period of the industrial revolution when lots of people were now livinig in towns, so didn't have the option to just grow stuff themselves, if there was no work. But the variety available has, and the posh grub at the top end has plummeted in price. For £50 a week (1 day at the minimum wage), I can eat meat twice a day, have wine with every meal, pudding, biscuits, crisps - and basically gorge myself silly. On produce from all over the world, ignoring the seasons.

I believe the rule-of-thumb in the Victorian era was you could have 1 pineapple per month per horse you owned. At least if you were prepared to collect all the horse poo, and use it to keep a mini-greenhouse toasty and fertilised. And that doesn't take into account the salary of the gardener. But if you could afford horses and greenhouses, gardeners were cheap. Hence serving pineapple with Christmas dinner was apparently a huge late 19th C status symbol.

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Re: Slight edit error

Mark 65,

Any long-term measure of inflation is by definition bollocks. it's not their fault, it's just the job is impossible. If you've ever studied any kind of economic or social history, these kind of calculations are a nightmare.

The things you're comparing are just too hard. As an example, craftsmanship matters so much less, due to mass production. A hand-made pair of boots is now a luxury, even though it might actually cost a similar amount in inflation terms to the 1930s or the 1830s. Say it costs around a week's wages for a skilled worker then and now (which is probably reasonable for many periods). The difference is I don't need to spend £500 on handmade shoes, I can get cheap ones for £30 or pay £100 for something that'll last years. Those last two options weren't available, except that you could get second-hand stuff. Obviously no-one in the 1930s had iPads, or the option to pop to the supermarket for strawberries in December, or Australian wine.

So you're actually dealing with too many moving targets. Wage inflation is different to price inflation is different to the amount of new things appearing on the market. And they all move at different speeds. My parents bought a fridge when they got married in the 60s. It cost £80. They replaced it when it died in the late 80s for about the same price. The difference was that £80 had gone from being several months salary to only a few days pay.

My personal take is to compare things that are as obvious as possible, like the price of a loaf of bread, or the wage of a skilled worker. Or to look at contemporary documents. Sherlock Holmes is a great guide for example. Conan Doyle talks about incomes a lot in those books. So someone with an income of £1,000 a year in the late 19th C could probably have a home in London plus maybe a place in the country, with a couple of servants in each. Where £50 would get you a decent life. You wouldn't be able to buy an iPad with it - but then neither would the rich bugger with two houses.

When you look at ancient history, it gets even harder. And the income disparities become unimaginable. The Romans had this brief fashion in the late republic / early principate period for going slave-tastic. So to prove just how stinkingly rich you were, you'd have a slave just to hold the towels for your guests. Another just to open the door, several to fan your guests, more to take coats. Just so you could brag to your mates about how loaded you were. This was partly because the price of slaves went down due to all the military victories (hence the captives), but also because they were just getting so immensely rich.

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Screwball ruble closes Apple's Russia store, whole kit and caboodle

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Paris Hilton

Re: On a more serious note...

ZanzibarRastapopulous,

Not sure why you choose to advertise your short attention span, and/or lack of ability to comprehend complex arguments. But whatever floats your boat...

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Re: One-to-One?

(Not quite as extreme as a DEC salesman who told someone trying to order a microvax that for the job they wanted it for then a cheap PC plus an Ethernet card was a better solution and there was no need to buy anything from him)

I do that all the time. I believe in some sales training they call it the difference between farmers and hunters. Or some such bollocks.

We as a company are trying to maintain a reputation. Thus lots of people phone me with technical questions about how to do stuff legally and safely (I'm in the water industry). If we have a product to help, I can then try to get them to buy it. Our reputation for technical competence means we can get away with selling some stuff more expensively than our competitors (so it does the job properly and doesn't have to be built down to a price), although quite a lot of our stuff is unique.

It gets people coming back. Probably it gives people confidence that I know what I'm talking about, if I'm not bullshitting to get them to buy something all the time. Selling is what you do when you know what the project actually requires, and are now getting down to how much to pay for whatever solution they've picked. It's either that or my wonderful personality... [insert simley face here]

On some of our stuff we compete on price on commodity hardware, which is a bit different.

The friend of mine who had the sales training about hunters and farmers worked for Computer Associates (before they were CA). They were definitely Hunters. I don't think having happy customers who'd want to come back was an objective of theirs. Although I'm not so sure about tying unhappy customers into long contracts...

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Re: On a more serious note...

...how's this likely to affect the IISS recrewing and supply missions

Roger Stenning,

They apparently get lots of their parts from abroad now. The space industry supply chain is much more international than it was 20 years ago. I guess that was one of the aims of the ISS project?

But that's OK. As they also get paid in foriegn currency for foreign astronauts. So they can buy those parts with that hard currency, and then when they convert the remainder to devalued Roubles to buy the Russian bits of the rockets, they get a huge extra boost of spending power.

This leads me to think they'll stay with the ISS program, as it gives them good publicity, prestige and hard currency. That also subsidises Roscosmos, and helps pay for now expensive foreign rocket parts for the military side of space. I guess they can also start producing more of their own parrts again, as it'll now be cheaper to produce in Russia. And it's not as if they don't still have the skills.

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Re: On a more serious note...

What a load of old tosh!

Fistly the Rusian ecnomy isn't all that big, compared to the rest of the world. In normal times a collapse like this would be only a tiny blip. In these fevered times it's possible that it could start an emerging market meltdown, that plunges the world back into recession. On the other hand, there was always going to be a withdrawal of liquidity from emerging markets, because the US have stopped doing QE. This has been happening for months, with the odd big blip in the market, but so far no collapse. What makes things easier now is that the oil price has collapsed. So although Turkey is getting hit now, it will probably recover, because its oil is only costing half as much, and it's able to produce lots of exports. Whereas 70% of Russia's exports are oil/gas, and that's just halved in value. So they've taken a 35% hit in export value over about 3 months. Painful. Not to mention that Russia's main gas market (the EU) has cut it's demand for Russian gas by a third this year, as liquid natural gas has got cheaper and more plentiful, and trust in Russia has collapsed.

There is a problem for emerging market countries that have heavily borrowed in dollars, while they were cheap, as the dollar is now heading north, so repaying their loans will cost more. Russia being one of these countries. That's one of the main worries about the global economy - after the continuing Eurozone clusterfuck.

But the economic impact of Russia's problems on the EU is minimal. Germany is the biggest trading partner. I really can't see Russian problems causing China anything more than a blip.

As for sanctions ending cooperation, I doubt it. This crisis should be reinforcing to the Russian government that they actually need the West. They chose to align their economy more with the international one, after the Soviet experiment in going it alone turned out not to work so well. They've done quite well out of it, and this is a good sign of the costs of saying fuck-you to everyone else. Whether that's a sign Putin and co will choose to ignore, I can't judge. I used to think he was a very rational calculator - but his actions in the Ukraine looked like some pretty short-termist gambling, that's turned out horribly badly. So maybe he's not so rational after all?

Anyway the Russians like their imports now. So they'll probably want hard currency. And the ISS gives them hard currency, while supporting their hi-tech space industry. Apparently that now uses a lot of foreign-made parts, which have just doubled in price. So the ISS cash ought to be welcome. The profit on that has just also doubled, as they get paid in hard currency, so can buy the parts, but then that gets twice as many roubles, so can give all their suppliers and staff a pay rise (to cushion inflation), whilst still improving profits. Exports are yummy when your currency collapses, and not to be lightly spurned.

As for sanctions, even the new ones Congress have passed are all still pretty minor. The US and EU have been very careful to only use the most limited sanctions, to make a point. They didn't aim to have this catastrophic effect (even though they always could have), but to ramp up the pressure slowly and give Putin space and time to back down. A lot of what Congress has passed gives Obama the power to impose new sanctions, which he doesn't have to use. In my opinion it would be worth offering Russia a deal to help prop up the Rouble now. The problem is Putin has lied and broken so many deals over Ukraine, that it's hard (probably pointless) to give him the reward before he's actually delievered on the promise. I guess we could just do it anyway, and hope for the best - and it's also a good way of giving confidence in the other emerging markets under attack.

By the way, we didn't sponsor the Chechen fighters. The West were specifically also worried about islamist fighters training in Chechenya - which is why we didn't protest about the hideous Russian human rights abuses there (which made Iraq look like a picnic in comparison). There was a hell of a lot of security cooperation with Russia (particularly in Central Asia), as the US in particular were keen to build a closer relationship with Russia, precisely so this kind of stuff didn't end up happening. The Russians created their own terrorist problem in Chechenya with no help from anyone else at all. Although I'm sure the usual suspects in the Middle East were funding the jihadis, as have been in Pakistan, Syria, Libya etc.

I would not like to think what will emerge now and frankly he was spot on in his interview at the 20 summit in Melbourn - some people are playing with fire without understanding the full consequences of what they are doing.

That is certainly true. Putin has now invaded two of his neighbours and effectively annexed some of their territory. In the case of Crimea, explicitly so. And that's something that's not happened in Europe since WWII. Even the Germans, who's foreign policy consensus has been built on trying to build bridges with Russia since the 1960s, have taken a step back and decided to try another tack.

Putin has crossed a line from being prickly, hard to deal with and (possibly over-) protective of Russian interests - to looking like an outright threat to the territorial integrity of some of his neighbours. And we have military alliances with some of them. He's also playing with fire diplomatically by doing stupid things like lying about using Russian troops to annex Crimea and in Ukraine. Then doing deals on ceasefires, while sending in more troops and arms and lying about it. This is the worst kind of Kevin-the-teenager type of diplomacy. Perhaps he thinks it's funny to face people down and outright lie to their faces. But how do you make peace with people who can't trust you? If you break treaties and agreements then no-one will give you a concession before you've delivered on your half of the bargain first. And this is very hard to stomach and embarrassing. And embarrassment is something that dictators can't take much of, because dictators maintain their power by the illusion of invincibility. Once that goes, no-one's scared of the threats any more. And then you can no longer make the odd example, you have to go and massacre or imprison thousands of people in order to stay in power. And that's bad for the self-image. If you're still playing the democrat, father of the nation role (and after all he can probably still genuinely win elections), it really hurts the self image to have to send in the troops to stay in charge. Also trust is vital in economics too, not just diplomacy. And Putin's regime aren't trusted. That's why the rouble collapse. Everyone wants to get their money out of Russia, where it's safe from being stolen.

I always thought Putin was Bismarck. Not a believer in democracy, but willing to use it, and subvert it just enough to stay comfortably in power. While keeping the people on-side with a mix of nationalism and improving the economy. Also a rational and seasoned political / diplomatic operator. That was certainly the mark of his first 2 terms as President. Now he seems to have lost the plot.

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Dr. Dobb's Journal sails into the sunset - yet again

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Re: Ah the nostalgia!

I think I preferred PCW. But when I bought my first PC, I had one of each. My brother and I sat in his room for a whole evening going through all 600 pages of ads (one magazine each), finding the likely ones, then compared notes at the end for the cheapest.

I seem to remember there was about 100 pages of content, and variable many hundred pages of ads. Plus the ones that had little postcards or discs stuck to their ad page, so the magazine would fall open to theirs first. You used to have to shake out all the leaflets, and remove those stuck in bits, before you could read it easily. And people say banner ads on websites are annoying...

P.S. - we need a nostalgia icon. Perhaps a pile of punch cards sat next to a cup of Ovaltine and a packet of Spangles?

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Re: Ah the nostalgia!

Happy days. When buying a PC online meant reading through 500 pages of adverts in PCW - then faxing / phoning an order through. My first PC was an Ambra - which was IBMs attempt to have a cheap consumer PC brand while still selling more expensive machines to businesses. 386SX at 25mhz, with 2MB of RAM and a 40MB hard drive. Ah nostalgia. I found my copy of Elite the other day, wonder if I could run it in DOSbox? If I still have a floppy drive somewhere?

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ASA slaps Ebuyer AGAIN - this time for ignoring regulator

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Re: What's the next level below Toothless Tiger?

There is an ultimate sanction. Because the ASA can say you're not fit to advertise without your ads bein pre-screened. Then everyone who's anyone in the advertising industry won't show their ads.

However they always seem very reluctant to use this power. And I'm not sure how effective it is anymore, as it probably doesn't apply so well online. I don't know if eBuyer do much press/radio/TV advertising.

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El Reg Redesign - leave your comment here.

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Re: Designed by the monster behind this site.....

Martin-73,

Erk! AOL. I had to log into an AOL email account yesterday. Fixing a friend's pooter, and he's still got the old AOL account, and I didn't know where a password reminder was going to end up.

Truly their homepage is a horrific mess. Not quite as eye-watering as the other site, but close. The only thing on there that's subtle is the link to the webmail interface, which is exceedingly small, and well-hidden. Ugh!

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Happy

Re: Designed by the monster behind this site.....

I love that website! It's vibrant and cheerful. You have to click on Mr Punch to get to the next page. And I haven't seen so much purple and yellow capital letters on a page, since the 1990s.

It's awesome!

Oh sorry, that's a typo. I meant awful. I wish I'd put my shades on first. But it was a nice bit of nostalgia. I'm still waiting for El Reg to let us use the <blink> tag...

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Re: [this space intentionally blank]

I don't like the carousel of news. Although I seem to be in the group that hasn't got it, so don't know if you've improved it.

I find it annoying that it moves when I'm halfway through reading the headline. So now I just ignore it, and scroll down the page where I'll find those stories anyway.

On the other hand, if it's not too huge, it doesn't affect me. So if some people like it, it's a good way for you to have more stories in the more valuable real-estate at the top of the page, and I can just scroll past it anyway. So what's not to like?

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I'd like to make some conflicting points.

It all seems a bit big. I thought I'd accidentally done something to the zoom level of my browser for a minute. I'm sure the text just got a bit bigger. But the thing I notice is the space between the text. Have you upped the line spacing? It sort of makes the writing look a bit lonely. And of course means scrolling more.

Also on the subject of scrolling, although you've made your masthead smaller on the front page I can only see that, the banner ad and one single article. The headline is enormous, and the only picture is of a printer. Now if you're going into photo-journalism, then knock yourselves out and give us one giant piccie, so we scroll down to the articles having had our minds blown by an eyeful of beauty/shock/humour/cat. But instead what you've done is fill my screen with a picure of a very boring printer. Unless that's an advert for Canon - I don't really see the point of it. A thumbnail would be better.

I'd say maybe things are a bit too big. But on the other hand, I have very poor eyesight. But then I have glasses to magnify stuff, what I struggle with is lack of contrast. In my opinion you've been removing contrast for your last few re-designs, and it's making your website worse. Just like modern UI designers seem to be doing. Drop-shadows, putting buttons in boxes, using borders and/or coloured backgrounds for different bits of the screen layout to distinguish them, these are a few of my favourite things... And I'm very sad every time they're taken away.

So once I've clicked on your headlines, they go a hard to read grey. Couldn't you go for a different colour instead? Or just a slightly less washed out one. On comment threads you've got a very faint line in between posts, and it would be really nice if you could make that darker as well.

You have de-cluttered nicely.

Overall I'm quite happy with the re-design. But then I was happy with it before, and before your last redesign before that. In the end it's just a list of articles, and the articles are made up of words and pictures. So as long as they're reasonably well laid out and legible I'm happy. I'm not particularly interested in the fancy design aspect of things. It's the content I'm interested in, and that's why I come back. That and the vast, possibly suicidal, number of delicious pork pies you give away at your lectures... Thanks for Tuesday night, it was good fun.

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Uber surge pricing kicks in during Sydney siege

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Happy

Re: Risky?

Hmmm. That seems an eminently sensible idea to me. Seatbelts on toilet seats that is. After the traditional Boxing Day brussels sprout, prune and sausagemeat curry it might be a good idea to strap in for a bumpy ride...

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The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – Thin plot, great CGI effects

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I quite enjoyed the first Hobbit film. Not brilliant, but I enjoyed it despite its flaws. I hated the second one. Now, because I'be seen two, I have to force myself not to see the third.

Actually as the huge, overlong battles sequences from LOTR were the bits the editors should have cut to get the films to a reasonable length, I guess I should give it a miss.

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Real Ale TWATS: In SPAAAACE, no one can churn your cream

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Pint

Stuff the beer!

Which was lovely by the way. The important fact about that pub was the homicidally huge piles of pork pie death they served. Either they, or The Register, were trying to kill us!

They were so delicious, and yet so unhealthy. I highly recommend pork and black pudding pie to you all. They even had a vegetarian option. Turkey pies...

Thank you El Reg.

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Yahoo! Says! Chrome, IE Users! Should! 'Upgrade'! To! FIREFOX!

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Re: "Whether Firefox should be considered an "upgrade" for users of other browsers"

There's nothing much wrong with IE nowadays. It does the job. Same as the others.

Actually the one I personally dislike is Chrome, because it won't let me have a traditional menu bar, so I have to click on the big button on the right, that then brings up the unwieldy menu of everything. But that's a relatively minor point. I still use Firefox because I got used to it, and haven't bothered to change.

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Sonic BOOM: 10 blast-tastic soundbars

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Re: Am I missing something?

I don't want the extra bass. Firstly because I'm not a big fan of sub woofers, as they always seem to end up sounding like the bass has been tacked on as an afterthought. Although great for shotguns and explosions while gaming, obviously.

I'm also no fan of ludicrous amounts of bass in general, I'm forever turning the bass down, to try and counteract the damage done by idiot music producers/engineers.

Finally, I live in a flat. And my neighbours are nice. I already worry about the amount of bass the Denon produces. Especially in films, or when the bloody adverts come on. They seem to whack up the bass as well as the volume, the bastards.

As you say, in the end I'd rather have bigger speakers. Then again I prioritised music sound quality, and assumed the thing would make the telly sound OK. And was pleased by how well it worked out.

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Re: Am I missing something?

It's strange. £350 buys a nice little Denon CD player with decent bookshelf speakers that has digital and analogue radio a USB socket for iPods, 'Droids and thumbdrives. Plus digital audio in for your telly. £450 then gets you a 50" LED. That's £800. The telly's dumb as a brick, but smart TVs all seem to suck anyway, so that's no loss. It's Christmas, I've seen offers to take the telly down to £400, and that remaining £50 gets you a Chromecast, Amazon TV, Now TV or Apple TV box to round out the package.

All for the same price as that bloody sound bar. Or half if you go for the ludicrously over-priced subwoofer too. That kind of money just spent on audio gets you kitted out with Sonos for the telly, that you can then move around and split up for parties, or a pretty decent HiFi set-up. Lunacy.

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UK flights CRIPPLED by system outage that shut ALL London airspace

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It was when they turned the Christmas tree lights on. There was a loud bang. Everything was plunged into darkness, and then that sad whining sound you get as all the computers power down at once - and you know that it's going to be a loooooooonng time until everything is working properly...

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Jim Willsher,

What's the battery life on your UPS, to keep your PC alive? Oh, plus the phones, radios, lights, power to the other hundred PCs, links to all the radar data you need for ATC, links to airports etc? That probably takes a tad more battery than just to give 1000W at 240V to a single desktop.

Presumably the UPS has to keep everything up long enough for the generator to fire up to keep providing power. That's assuming something hasn't gone wrong with the internal power wiring, in which case there's external power coming in, it just can't be distributed (and neither can the power from the genny).

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US Navy's LASER CANNON WARSHIP: USS Ponce sent to Gulf

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Re: Wot?

[sniffily] I wouldn't know. I don't approve of slavery.

If the the good lord had meant us to muck around with ammo and all this targetting malarkey, he wouldn't have invented smartbombs.

durka durka durka durka durka

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'I'm begging you to join' – ICANN's NetMundial Initiative gets desperate

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It's alright. It turns out that Net Mundial is a multi-stakeholder organisation. There are plenty of the more sane internet organisations out there, including many that refused the offered seats, and they're all holding stakes, ready to drive them through the heart of this organisation, so it can be buried at the nearest crossroads...

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The future looks bright: Prepare to be dazzled by HDR telly tech

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It's interesting

Higher definition doesn't really excite me. HD is enough for me, until the screens get unfeasibly large. But then I've got crap eyesight.

Frame rates may be more interesting. Although I've heard that they got mixed results with using 48fps when showing the Hobbit in cinemas last year. Some people thought it looked worse. Though that may just be people not being used to it.

HDR is more attractive though. I often sit down to watch a moodily lit film, and struggle to see any detail amongst the darkness. Even after turning the room lights off, I'm still struggling to see what's going on. Again, that's down to the eye condition. But HDR is likely to help it. However, the condition also gives me very limited tolerance for bright light - unlike a gremlin, you can feed me after midnight... So I don't fancy going from struggling to see the dark tones to having to don sunglasses whenever things get bright.

There's a lot going on at the moment. It seems very uncertain as to what standards TV will be using in 10 years time. I think the industry need to do some sorting out, because most people won't upgrade if they're going to have to change their TV again in 3 years.

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Hipsters snap up iPod Classics for $$$s after Apple kills rusty gadget

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Re: Worst thing they did. I can't find any decent MP3 players with more than 64 Gb

REALLY?

You need more than 64GB of music?

You Sir, are a wanker.

(Post with a real name in future)

ashdav,

Please post a photo of your birth certificate. I'm pretty sure ashdav isn't your real name... Although in general I agree that it would be easier to use these forums if everyone posted with usernames, unless they were posting something that merited going anon (like info on the company they work for or a love for One Direction).

Ignoring that rather unfruitful topic, I think you probably need to calm down a touch. Going all capsLOCK for something as minor as people wanting to listen to more music than you seems just a little OTT. Perhaps we could just put that down to surprise, except for the gratuitous insult.

I have about 25GB of music now. Recorded in 320 Kb mp3. That's a couple of hundred albums' worth. Obviously if it was in FLAC format, that would be even bigger. Or if there were more albums.

I have about another 5GB of comedy stuff. I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue episodes, Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy radio show, etc.

Then there's podcasts. Some things I listen to weekly, so there's either one or zero unplayed episodes, or stuff that I'm catching up on so there might be a hundred. I think there's about 40GB of that. But it changes, and if I find a new show to try out, that could go up by a few gigabytes overnight, then slowly down as I listen to them.

That means I have an 80GB iPod Classic. And my brother's old one as a spare.

I'm not quite sure why you find that so hard to comprehend. The maths isn't all that difficult.

If it wasn't possible to have all my music and spoken word stuff with me at once, then I wouldn't have. But it is, so I do. Now the phone is out for two reasons. It's an iPhone, and doesn't have the storage - and it's a work phone and the battery is to be used for more important stuff, like work, or pesonal, calls and emails. The first is solvable, the second is going to have to wait for a quantum leap in battery performance, or the steady improvement in battery tech to outpace the growth in power hungriness of smartphones for a few years.

Next, I could manage my audio collection better. I could only transfer the stuff I need to the device, as and when I need it. But I can't be arsed. I don't know in advance what mood I'll be in when I select a tune or podcast to listen to. And if I like a new podcast, I'd like at least the next ten episodes on the iPod, so I don't have to sync with the computer too often. Lazyness perhaps? But my tech is supposed to work for me. Not the other way round.

Also I use it to run sound to my speakers at home. Again, I could use my computer as a media server, but that would mean setup costs to connect my music system to it, and running it all the time (which costs electricity). Mr iPod does that job perfectly fine, as well as being available to pick up and take wherever I'm going.

Finally I could use the cloud. This would work at home, although it seems rather wasteful to keep downloading the same thing over-and-over again. The internet doesn't have limitless capacity, resources are not infinite, and it seems a shame to use a finite resource when I can use local storage.

When I'm out-and-about, the cloud is a shit solution. It doesn't work on the London underground, or large sections of my local train network. Especially the bits in tunnels, or deep tree-lined cuttings. Or aeroplanes, visits to friends in the country, my own flat. And on trips abroad the cost of roaming is hideous. Finally my work phone is on my work dataplan, which is 1GB a month. That's fine for email, browsing and maps for personal and work use. Not so much for the 20-30 hours of mobile audio I get through a month. I'd guess that's probably a couple of gigabytes worth.

In terms of cost and ease of use, an iPod with weekly sync to my PC is the option that makes most sense for me. Your mileage may vary. You should learn that other people's needs may be different. You should also learn politeness.

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Assange's WikiLeaks: Give generously this Xmas – for STATUE of our DEAR LEADER

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Happy

Re: Courage?

Well the hardship can be appalling! It's a little known fact that the Vienna Convention bans all forms of chocolate in embassies, other than Ferrero Rocher. And that stuff is vile. So the poor lamb has gone ages without proper sustenance.

Incidentally the Times did an interview with the Russian ambassador a couple of years ago, and in the waiting room they have a big platter of the things. So either those adverts were based on truth, or have created a very lucractive stereotype, that certain members of the diplomatic commmunity feel they have to live up (down) to...

Either that, or the Russian ambassador has no taste, or a great sense of humour.

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Alleged Silk Road boss's lawyers want murder-for-hire evidence blocked from trial

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Re: It's ok, the jury will never knowq

The US don't have sub judice rules anyway. So this is always an issue. The job of a jury is to assess the evidence they're given in court, and only that evidence. And not to look up other stuff about it while they're doing so. You're supposed to bring your common sense to bear, but not specific knowledge relating to the case. Although those two can overlap a bit if you've got a juror with expertise in something that happens to be relevant (which can have good or bad consequences).

You're supposed to ignore stuff you aren't meant to know when making your decision. Which includes what you read about the case in the paper or online, or anything that gets said in court that the judge tells you to disregard. The only difference the internet makes is that it's easier for a juror to call up Google than it used to be to go to a newspaper library.

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I wonder why both cases aren't being tried together? That would seem the more logical way to do things, as both sets of charges are basically linked. Is it because one lot is state and the other federal?

From my two lots of jury service, I can say that I'd find it very odd to have to rule on one charge, with evidence of another but no idea how to weigh it. If you've got a previous conviction, then you know that this evidence has gone through its own jury trial, so you can rely on it. Admittedly once you've found someone guilty yourself, and they've gone off to prison, you are fully aware that the justice system isn't perfect by any means - and just how uncertain every decision must be. But to be given evidence of a related crime that you can't weigh fully, becuase you're not getting it all seems very odd. And if they are giving you all the evidence, then why aren't you finding on that case too?

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Oi, UK.gov. WHERE'S THE DETAIL on your Google Tax?

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Re: Stop taxing profits

LucreLout,

I totally agree that it's going to be impossible to raise all the tax that a government theoretically should be able to. They have set the target very low (so they're not unaware of this) It's just too complicated. I also agree that it's very hard to get the information you need to tax accurately, and companies can keep moving the goalposts (and the money) around. Finally I also agree that internationally coordinated action is far more likely to be effective at raising money, as well as being far more likely to do less harm than good.

But big corporations in the end do not set the terms of the debate. Governments do. In the extreme, if corporations make it impossible to get the information needed to tax them accurately, governments can just guess - and take any amount they want. Obviously that's liable to drive away business.

But Apples second largest market in the world is the UK. That gives the UK government a certain amount of leverage in the power-play against Apple. Should it choose to use it. I think the UK may only be third or fourth biggest for Google, but it's still many billions of profit a year. Even a few hundred million in taxes each year will not therefore drive them out of the market.

How powerful is public opionion? In the long term, quite a lot. Facebook could die in a matter of months if they truly piss the public off. They're a one-trick pony after all.

Google are becoming synonymous with tax-evasion and privacy-abuse. That's not good for the health of the brand. Look at Microsoft, they are dangerously close to becoming totally irrelevant in the personal computing market. Despite Windows Phone being rather good.

I said in my original post that it would be very hard to tax profit from global advertising (basically brand advertising from global companies). But anything that has a price in sterling, is from a UK only company, has a link to a UK sales site, or even a link to an internation sales organisation (but their UK arm), is going to be easy to track. And can therefore be taxed. If a company chooses to arse around with head-office charges, dodgy transfer pricing, franchise fees etc - then they can be tax audited to within an inch of their lives, and made to justify every single one of those charges, until it's cheaper to pay up. Or a law can be passed setting allowances for transfer pricing. Or a global company could be forced to provide a complete breakdown of their global books, down to every paperclip - and the Inland Revenue work out their liabilities and charge them for the privilage of getting say Ernst & Young to do the sums too. Governments can pass laws that say almost anything.

It's hard to know what this policy will lead to. It could just be a quick pre-election PR stunt. It could be the first part of a 20 year process (mostly involving inter-government negotiation), or something in between. And I'm sure that even if this is the first skirmish in a long war - it'll have a small effect. But it'll be interesting to watch it play out.

My point is that multi-national companies in recent years have taken unprecedented steps to avoid paying any tax. Instead of using loopholes and accounting to lower their bills - they seem to be aiming to have no bills. Part of that is the European single market rules being exploited in ways that weren't planned. I also suspect a good part of it is actually going to turn out to have been fraud (see the banking industry for examples). At one point Google were claiming all their advertising contracts were in Ireland, yet had a sales force based in England - I wonder how close to the wind they were sailing there?

I think it's partly cultural, and that may (or may not) change. In the 90s recession there was a medium sized non-retail bank got into trouble in London. Nobody knew about this until something like 2005, when the Bank of England admitted it. They've got everyone together, and hammered out a solution. That was possibly the last hurrah of the old boys network in the City. Culture changed, and that kind of cooperation went out the window. So when the inter-bank system broke down in 2007-2008, the players weren't able to get together and sort things out in an orderly manner. Everyone knew the shit on their books would have to come out eventually, but seemingly couldn't bring themselves to admit it, even in secret - amongst peers who were equally deep in the brown and smelly. That would have made the crisis a lot less painful, and was in their own best interests. But the culture of the industry no longer allowed it. Equally that culture has turned out to eb riddle with deception, fraud, stupidity, lack of risk control and short-termism. Re-building banking regulations is a huge task, and it'll probably be ten more years before governments finish constructing the system. Who knows how long it'll take for the industry's culture to change. But change is inevitable.

The question isn't why do you expect you can change things? Instead it's, why do you think things will stay the same in a system that's only been like this for a handful of years?

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NASA prods sleeping New Horizons spacecraft: Wakey, wakey, Pluto's calling

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Re: My Name is on the Data disk

By the time the alien overlords arrive, they will instruct the first humans they meet to play this media for them, so they can get the list of their first 500,000 egg incubation units.

And the person will say, "what is this shiny drinks coaster you are showing me, oh powerful alien overlord? I have not seen one of these before. All my data is on my iPhone 208. My wife's got an Google Nexus 150, if you'd like to wait until she gets back from work. Aaaaaarrrrrgggghhhhhh!!!!!!!!!"

After this conversation (followed by killing) has been repeated a few tens of times, the aliens will give up on the CD Rom, sharpen the sides with their laser-knives, and use it as a ceremonial decapitiation frisbee, due to their massively powerful biceps build up from all the porn they're forced to watch waiting for their ship to travel between solar systems.

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Orion hacker sends stowaway into SPAAAAACE

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Happy

Re: Why the fuck ...

Go and listen to your Cure albums or something if you don't like it.

H4rm0ny,

I just mis-read that as go and listen to your Corrs albums. Wondered what the hell you were on about, went back and re-read it. And now I have the mental image of Morrissey singing light folk/pop with his more attractive sisters, while still managing to be very very depressed...

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Manchester festival marketers fined £70,000 over spam ‘mum’ texts

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Nah, it's an ex-girlfriend, Dee Aitchel...

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Rolling the ATTACK DICE in King of Tokyo

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Re: Ameritrash...

Ticket to Ride has a decent hidden score element, so you may be a long way behind but you don't realise it which helps.

I'd never considered that as a game design element. Rather than the hidden score to be to introduce some uncertainty, and to make it hard to gang up on the leader, it's actually there to fool the crap players into thinking they're not doing to badly, so they don't storm off in a huff...

I've quite enjoyed Ticket to Ride. But you can be a long way behind by mid-game, with almost no way to catch up. And that seems to be true of quite a lot of the Euro-Games I've played. A lot of them also seem to require almost obsessive amounts of counting in order to do well. If I'd wanted to be an accountant I could have been one. I'd also want to get paid for it...

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GOOGLE is COMING FOR YOUR CHILDREN

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Re: "One day, while showing my toddlers Thomas The Tank Engine on YouTube,"

Forget that. Copyright's not important here! Thomas is everything-ist.

There was an article in the Guardian about it a few months ago, apparently seriously intentioned. Although it's hard to tell when they're trolling their readers for clickbait - or if this was just a sophisticated parody that I was too stupid to spot.

Well obviously it's sizist. Fat Controller etc. And paternalistic, and far too upper class for the Gruan. But then the author started descending into madness. It's mysoginist, because the carriages are female, and apparently most of the engines are male. Well that might be more a fair point, but it's also racist. The diesel engines are mostly black you see, and they're -the baddies. Geddit?

It was amusing anyway. Judge for yourself

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