* Posts by I ain't Spartacus

3688 posts • joined 18 Jun 2009

Vladimir Putin says internet is a 'CIA project'

I ain't Spartacus
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Re: Macumba

Don Jefe,

The US, UK and friends didn't annex Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Libya, Bosnia etc.

They also didn't create the problems there in the first place, in order to give them an excuse to invade. There were already huge problems. In the case of Bosnia, Kosovo and Sierra Leone they weren't even acting out of raw national interest, they were intervening on humanitarian grounds. Were all motives pure and lilly-white? I doubt it. This is diplomacy and international politics we're talking about.

But any comparison to Russia's nakedly aggressive and foolish actions in Ukraine is utterly ridiculous.

Even in the case of Iraq, which was the most fucked-up and least easy to justify of the recent conflicts we've got involved in, something had to be done. Iraq was a proven aggressive state, in a very sensitive area, with lots of lovely oil. Plus chemical weapons and a desire to use them. And a desire to massacre his own population. Which we'd decided not to ignore, and so we had promised protection to the Kurds and Marsh Arabs (after letting lots of them get killed first). Sanctions were breaking down, in large part due to Russia (and France), but also the neighboring countries not wanting to enforce them. Whether Sadam had much in the way of working, deployable, chemical weapons was unknown, but no-one seriously doubted that there were still some stockpiles left, and most of the scientists were still around to rebuild the program extremely quickly.

The US and friends didn't then simply invade. They spent a year saying what they'd do. Agreed to send in relatively neutral inspectors, so Sadam could cooperate if he wanted to avoid war. He didn't. So he didn't. Then they fucked up the rebuilding. But they didn't level the place and then just bugger off. They attempted to rebuild, get the oil industry going to fund the economy and set up a working government. In the middle of the civil war that was probably inevitable in Iraq after Sadam fell. The minority from the Sunni centre of the country still wanted to run the place - and everyone else had good reason to hate them for it.

What didn't happen was a sneaky overnight invasion, with no attempt at negotiation - with no legitimate reason to do so. If you can't see the difference in that, and the danger in that, I suggest you read some history of international relations.

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Re: Doesn't matter who "invented" it

Oh, I thought he meant Tim Henman...

[Thinks: Berners-Lee sits at his beautiful black NEXT box, he's a bit stuck as to how this particular bit of code goes together, when suddenly from the radio he hears several posh voices shouting in anguish, "Come on Tim!"]

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Re: I always thought he was a bit crazy

Voland's right hand,

I have no doubt that Putin is not in control of what's happening in Eastern Ukraine. No-one is.

But there's pretty good evidence that Russia was more than just a little involved. Firstly I've heard reports on the BBC World Service - where guys occupying the police stations seemed to be clearly all (or mostly) local. They knew each other and seemed to know the local area. But some of them admitted that the guys who'd done the actual storming had been unknown to them, and carrying uniforms without insignia and better weapons. Normally this wouldn't be enough to make me believe a conspiracy theory. Except that it's exactly the same MO as worked in Crimea. Something Putin said he wouldn't do the day before he did it, denied at the time, and then smugly talked about giving the special forces guys medals for 2 weeks later.

Secondly Russia has been noisily carrying out military excercises on the Ukrainian border. This is either the prelude to an invasion, or it's just posturing to totally fuck up the new Ukrainian government. It's now looking more like the prelude to a full-scale invasion, because of the special forces guys already sent in. But it still might be just an attempt to destabilise Ukraine, and create a low-level civil war. Who can tell? However it's also a clear signal to the pro-Russia extremists that they can try and attract Russia to come in, and is a deliberately destabilising gesture.

Thirdly, even after signing a deal with the Ukraine government and Western governments to de-escalate, the Russian government has kept up the rhetoric, and started new military excercises in Rostov. And not called for the protesters to stand-down.

Oh and fourthly, disparate, grass-roots rebel movements don't storm 50-odd buildings virtually simultaneously one morning, with zero reported casualties.

So yes. Russia is definitely involved. In several ways. Some of them even they don't deny. And they've since admitted what they did in Crimea. What their final intention is, that's another matter. I can't believe they'd gain enough from annexing Eastern Ukraine to be worth the costs of occupying it, dealing with the probably huge diplomatic fallout, possible resistance and the mess they'd make of the remnants of Ukraine. NATO would have to invite Ukraine in, which they really don't want to do, probably also Georgia - and those are 2 things the Russians definitely don't want. NATO would also probably have to permanently station troops in the Baltic States. Poland can easily hold out long enough to be re-inforced, they've got 5 armoured divisions.

Also I don't know what the passport position is, but Russia has in certain cases been very eager to hand out Russian passports to Russian minorities in the surrounding countries. After all, it was one of the reasons they gave/manufactured for the war with Georgia. I don't know how much of that has been going on in Ukraine, but there's quite a big chance that whatever happens in Ukraine, a mostly harmonious relationship between people who see themselves as Ukrainian and those who see themselves as Russian is breaking down. This could turn catastrophic, and lead to serious civil conflict. Does he really want a couple of million penniless refugees to deal with? The Russian government isn't made of money. And their economy is taking a serious beating form this crisis as is. Full EU sanctions would be crippling - and he'd suddenly be less popular - after the nationalistic fervour has died down - and people realise how much poorer they are. A gas boycott of the EU bankrupts Russia faster than it freezes Europe, and Qatar's LNG, American shale-gas, and the EU gas inter-connectors make this a pretty poor time to play that game anyway. They can't sell gas to China until they've built a new pipeline and LNG infrastructure is no quicker to create.

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Re: I always thought he was a bit crazy

He used to remind me of Bismarck. Strategically brillant, using nationalism, success and great deftness to maintain a sort of hybrid democracy/dictatorship. Mostly with restraint and subtlety, but with the odd bit of brutality showing through, to keep the more adventurous in check.

But now I'm not so sure. What he's doing in Ukraine, doesn't seem to make any sense. I don't see enough gain from turning Ukraine into even more of a basketcase than it already was, to make up for the downside of all the enemies he's making.

Angela Merkel, mostly an ally, said after a phone call with him last week that he seemed to be detached from reality. That's surprisingly un-diplomatic language…

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Shut up, Siri, I'm watching telly! iOS 7.1 code reveals new role for Apple's PA

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Re: iWatch?

Why would you want to shout at your watch?

How else will you tell your sarcastic english accented car to come and save you?

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Dell charges £5 to switch on power-saving for new PCs (it takes 5 clicks)

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Devil

Re: Dell

£20? That's not right. It's far too cheap!!

How am I going to get gold contacts and oxygen free cables for that paltry amount? I only use the finest quality cables, as recommended to me by the Comet salesman. And I bet he knows far more about computers than the commentards on here. After all, he's in a big shop with them all day...

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DeSENSORtised: Why the 'Internet of Things' will FAIL without IPv6

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Re: IoT

An 'attachment' you say? I believe I already have the requisite dongle.

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Re: Networking's answer to Windows Vista

Tannin,

If IPv6 is Windows Vista, then when do we get the excellent and popular IPv7?

Where we take all the advances in the architecture of Vista and make most of them now work properly? So that the users are willing to touch them with a 20 foot bargepole...

By the way, thanks for reminding me of Windows ME. Erk! Dad had that, fortunately the only computer I ever used/fixed with it installed on. He had Win 95 and ME - so I had to rebuild his OS a lot, and help him recover from many crashes. Sadly he never go Win98, which would have given me (and him) a much easier life.

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Re: Networking's answer to Windows Vista

Peter Mount,

How come VOIP doesn't work over NAT? I'm sure it increases the technical difficulty, but given that everybody uses NAT, and has done for years, this suggests a problem for VOIP to solve.

The alternative appears to be wishing for a better network, which breaks loads of other stuff.

I am merely a humble dabbler in, and user of IT. But IPv6 is going to cost my company time and money to implement. As well as me for my home stuff. The methods that keep the current system working appear to break less than the things the new system does - hence I'm sticking my head in the sand and hoping it'll all go away. Or the IPv6 people could maybe notice nobody's moved over and look at IPv6.1?

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Re: Bridging IPv4 to IPv6

Stuart Longland,

I don't propose anything. Designing international networking standards is well beyond my abilities. It's not my field.

However, I suspect it's not impossible. A workaround could have been sorted out. I presume what you do at the moment is have the local network do IPv4, and then have the network box handling all the NAT and IPv6 stuff for it.

IPv6 has been hanging around for a very, very long time. Perhaps it needs a re-design to reflect reality?

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Happy

Re: the lightbulb moment...

How many network technicians does it take to change a lightbulb?

192,168,001,001?

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Devil

Re: IoT

I'll have you know that I've got great hopes for my line of internet-connected boxer shorts!

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Re: Bridging IPv4 to IPv6

Why didn't they just directly assign all IPv4 numbers to an equivalent IPv6 one, with extra digits at the beginning of course? It's not like IPv6 is short of numbers to miss the waste a mere few billion.

The other thing I don't get about IPv6 is the allergy to NAT. Lots of addresses are good, obviously. Nice and future-proof. Some stuff wants to live online all the time - and who knows how much of this there'll be in future. But some kit never needs to talk to anything outside the building. And there are local networks for that. I'm no technical expert, and I know little enough about networking - but I sometimes get the feeling I've dropped into a religious dispute when I read about IPv6.

Oh,and what did they do with IPv5? I suggest creating IPv12, and getting it completed before IPv6...

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Look behind you, 'declining' sub-$5bn iPod. The iWatch has come... to EAT YOU

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Re: You can have my ipod when you get it from my cold dead fingers

The headphone socket on my now rather elderly 80GB iPod Classic is dying. I've also never liked their scrollwheel/clickwheel thingy. And I've got an iPod dock that I picked up cheap that doesn't connect to their new stuff.

I won't be replacing it with a watch. I have about 25GB of music now plus untold GB of podcasts. So 60-80GB is a minimum requirement (so I don't have to synch and move stuff around too often). Yes I have a data allowance on my phone, no I won't be streaming from the cloud. Just exactly how well does that work on underground trains anyway?

I don't know what I'm going to go for next. Maybe Neil Young's Pono player will work out? Or a phone that takes SD cards?

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Re: Watch for music - headphones?

John Brown,

No. He's not a sick bastard for using radiation. Everyone loves radiation.

He's a sick bastard because he microwaves mice! Poor little things...

My friend had a snake, and he bought six-packs of frozen mice from the local pet shop. He was defrosting one, and forgot to press the right button. After 15 minutes on full power, the mouse exploded, with the tail stuck to one wall of the microwave. He had to buy his Mum a new one after that.

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Spartacus' 1st Law of Apple Rumours:

If a rumour or analyst statement (like there's a difference!) states that Apple will be releasing a new product with 2 or more different sized models - it can be safely assumed to be untrue.

I'm pretty sure none of the rumours I've read have come out right. The ones that said the new iPhones / iPads would be like this, and then gave a range of new sizes - all turned out to be bollocks. I assume they're founded on Apple ordering parts for prototyping - or possibly just causing trouble. Or the rumour-mongers just making stuff up...

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So, just how do you say 'the mutt's nuts' in French?

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Re: But why are we translating it literally?

At least bees actually have knees. And dogs have bollocks. Cat's don't have pyjamas.

And I pity the person who tried to get one to wear them... Although I suppose the phrase could be re-purposed, to give an expression of success through suffering.

So you could say something like, your new super-firework is the cat's pyjamas. However I can see that you've suffered similar facial and hand injuries to the man who dressed the cat.

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Re: But why are we translating it literally?

In that vein, I've used an extension of the dog's bollocks since (I think) I heard it on 'I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue'. Which is the badger's nadgers. It sound's pleasing, rather like the mutt's nuts.

I'm assuming that the reason the dog's bollocks are considered so good, is because the dog seems to think they are. Given how much time they spend licking them.

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95 floors in 43 SECONDS: Hitachi's new ultra-high-speed lift

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Happy

Re: Modern elevators are strange and complex entities

Share and enjoy!

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Tooled-up Ryobi girl takes nine-inch grinder to Asus beach babe

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Re: Getting as bad as motorcycle and car shows

Get up in the morning, slaving for bread, sir,

so that every mouth can be fed.

Poor me, cellulite. Aah.

[with apologies to Desmond Dekker and the Aces]

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Whaddaya mean, NO REFUND? But I paid in Bitcoins! Oh I see...

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Re: Bitcoin - the new Second Life

d3rrial,

Thanks for that explanation. I knew there was a way to prioritise, so you could get high-value trades confirmed more quickly - so people couldn't run off with your stuff before the transaction was confirmed. I just hadn't got round to reading about how.

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Re: Pissed again?

Now you're just being silly. The article isn't supposed to be a serious piece - and yet you're choosing to make childish points about, "the drunkards recollection of what he thinks someone else might have answered" - even though this has been pointed out to you. Perhaps you made a mistake originally, and came to a piece thinking it was serious? Or perhaps you're just desperate to defend Bitcoin?

As for the argument about refunds, it's perfectly valid. BItcoin has many problems. And one of the biggest is transaction costs and exchange rate risk. Bitcoin transactions may be 'free', in the sense that nobody pays as money is printed to pay the transaction processors, but getting money into and out of BTC definitely does cost. And while almost nobody is paid in Bitcoins, the only realistic way to get them is to buy them, thus introducing currency risk into the equation. Risk in a currency that fluctuates wildly. Therefore in any transaction there's a serious risk that someone will lose 10% of their stake just for holding the Bitcoin for an hour too long.

The Bitcoin price collapsed by 20% in a day last week - so transactions over long than a few minutes can become particularly tricky. This is much less of a problem when buying something volatile like gold, because gold is the thing you're buying. Whereas Bitcoin is supposed to be the medium of exchange. One of the main characteristics of a good medium of exchange is stability. Bitcoin doesn't manage this, and therefore isn't a good medium of exchange. Which is one of the reasons it's still a niche hobby, played with on the internet. And therefore a good reason that it's not suitable for deployment in consumer-facing retail, which is bound by quite onerous consumer protection legislation.

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Facepalm

Re: Pissed again?

Paul Smith,

Whooooosh!

Congratulations, for doubly missing the point. Firstly, Dabbs articles are not meant to be taken too seriously. They're usually humorous rants. Although he does tend to pick deserving targets.

Secondly, the bit on refunds is entirely justified. In the real world, people don't deal entirely with bitcoins. Neither retailers, nor consumers. Therefore one party in the transaction has to bear the currency risk - I.e. Changing into and out of bitcoins. Why would the retailer wish to accept this risk? This presents a further problem when it comes to refunds, because of the massive volatility of bitcoin prices.

Finally, the worst part, is that the speaker's answer to this difficult problem was to ignore it! Rather than deal with a difficult area, his answer was simply to ignore the law.

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Re: Bitcoin - the new Second Life

Jonathan 29,

Bitcoin-like currencies do not need a 3rd party, do not need central servers, employees, HR, customer service reps or anything else that inflates the cost of the transaction. It is pure peer to peer and you absolutely can maintain an entire global transaction payment system on very low end hardware.

Your post makes no sense. Bitcoin transactions do need a third party. In fact several third parties. The miners who create the blockchain. Without the blockchain Bitcoin transactions don't happen. You can't do mining on low-end hardware. Even graphics processors aren't enough now, and they're onto custom designed chips with no other use.

This works until all the Bitcoins have been mined. At which point the miners will stop. And then there will be no further Bitcoin transactions. Well I assume that isn't true. I've read that there's a plan to carry on - I just don't know what it is. I assuming it's that every Bitcoin transaction will have to be paid for. The miners will get a small percentage of each transaction as their reward for maintaining the blockchain. At which point it will be just like using a credit card, or PayPal.

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Re: Bitcoin is strongly deflationary

There's your problem. "Common sense" is not a reliable guide to the functioning of complex systems.

As my economics teacher said to me about once every lesson for half a year... Learning economics is the stupidest I've felt in any activity. Not understanding something when you're tired, or distracted is normal. Not getting complex maths or chemistry, once the equations get too much is normal too. But it took months of trying to catch up, and understanding the odd small piece until there was a eureka moment and things started to fit together.

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Re: Bitcoin is strongly deflationary

but I don't see people criticising Paypal by considering what the economy would look like if everything (wages, taxes, etc) was done using and controlled by Paypal.

Mark. ,

No, but then Paypal doesn't have fans who say that it's the future of currency. And I've also had discussions with several Bitcoin fans who have talked about it as an alternative currency, and mentioned how deflation is a good thing as it punishes borrowers and rewards savers.

Although I suspect that's because many people who push Bitcoin on forums are holding coins, and so hoping that their stock will be the stuff being made more valuable by deflation, as well as more widespread adoption.

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Re: Bitcoin - the new Second Life

Jonathan 29,

You don't need Bitcoin in order to have micro-payments.

It may not even be possible to have micropayments. Maintaining a global payment infrastructure is not free. And is unlikely to become so in the near future.

Remember that anyone who says Bitcoin has no transaction costs doesn't understand Bitcoin. Firstly you need to buy the things. Exchanges and credit cards take their cut. Secondly the value fluctuates so wildly that you can lose 10% holding a Bitcoin for just an hour. Thirdly, the miners get paid in BTC. That's a huge transaction cost. The whole Bitcoin economy is giving money to the miners in order to maintain the blockchain.

What I don't understand is how this'll work after all Bitcoins have been mined. No-one will keep updating the blockchain for free. So presumably there will have to be costs as a reward to process each transaction, or Bitcoin will collapse.

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By this point, I was alone - without anyone to issue the punishment beating. My friend had probably seen the explosion coming, and wisely abandoned me to my fate. Although his reaction must have been similar (though far more polite than mine), because he turned up in the coffee shop about 5 minutes after me. Equally unimpressed.

I've come to the conculsion that the pretentious description by the 'artist' is the actual art. It's not pickling the sheep that's the important bit. It's the persuading other people to accept it as art, and give you large sums of money.

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Re: Bitcoin is strongly deflationary

DanDanDan,

Inflation does punish savers. But there's a remedy. It's called interest. Obviously we have to ignore the problem that you can't get any at the moment. That's because we're in recovery from a once-in-a-century (hopefully) financial crisis.

If savers can make a return which just beats inflation using banks, then the economy has a mechanism which allows for extra growth, by lending. I've seen many people talk about debt as if it's a bad thing. Or savers as morally superior to borrowers in some way.

Bad debt is a bad thing. Good debt can be a brilliant thing. It's what gave us the industrial revolution. It's what allows ordinary people to buy their house - which can be a way to be financially prudent, even though it's the biggest debt they'll ever take on. Innovation often requires money. Some of the most innovative people and companies don't have enough to innovate. So they have to borrow it somehow.

I don't buy the idea of permanent deflation either

Nothing's permanent in economics. But Japan has been in deflation for nearly 20 years. That's as close to permanent as makes no odds. It takes something to break out of deflation because of deflation. If savers can just sit on money and watch it get more valuable, then they have no reason to either spend, or invest. That entrenches the group of people with money even more, because it's even more expensive and risky to borrow - and you just get richer by means of already being rich. This is great for those with money, but not so great for those without, or those who would like to innnovate.

It's also hard for businesses, because they have to drop their selling prices by 1-2% a year (that's what deflation means), but their debt is still worth exactly the same amount of money. And has to be serviced with the same amount of interest.

Inflation reduces the value of debts. But then this can be covered by setting appropriate interest rates. Then everyone can win - savers get a fair return for the appropriate level of risk, borrowers can survive, innovators can get finance, business can borrow to invest. One of the major causes of the financial crisis was interest rates being too low. This was partly caused by large global imbalances. Such as China buying $3 trillion of US government debt in order to artificially keep their currency down. This had the side-effect of stoking a bubble in the global economy, as well as the intended effect of allowing China to grow its manufacturing base more than it would have been able to otherwise, by artifically lowering the wages of its own workers.

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Re: Refunds

Danny 14,

Bitcoin isn't a method of payment, like a cheque or card. It's effectively a separate currency. Also it is so volatile that a £500 TV could lose £100 in several hours. There have been at least 2 days this month where Bitcoin has dropped about $100 in value.

Many retailers buy stock months before they sell it. Bitcoins were worth over $1,000 at one point in December last year. Last week it was fluctuating between $400-$500. So it's unlikely anyone would be paying their suppliers or staff in BTC.

Therefore if they do accept it, it'll be at exchange rates worked out at the time of transaction. And if they've got any sense, they'll want to sell those Bitcoins as soon as the transaction goes through. Refunds will then be processed in local currency, and converted back to Bitcoin at the point of that transaction.

Although I think this is all irrelevant. Personally I don't think Bitcoin will work. It looks like a fad to me. But even if it does, it was designed for international internet transactions - where you've got to deal with currencies and transaction fees anyway. That's not really an appropriate model for bricks-and-morter retail. Except maybe airport shops. Even then, you can get zero-weighted credit cards, which use the market exchange rate with no fees to the buyer. For the seller, the card fee is no more than the fluctuation risk of Bitcoins.

I once looked at the raw data from a Bitcoin exchange. They showed the last 10 tranactions on BitStamp. Now top dog, since deposing Mt Gox. Over about 5 minutes, there were 10 deals, each for either 0.1 or 0.2 of a Bitcoin. The price moved by about $10 (it was about $620 at the time). So the global trading price of Bitcoin moved by nearly 2%, over the course of a few minutes, from about $800 of transactions. What was that you said about not being volatile?

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Re: Nice piece.

You'd be welcome in many business meeting rooms too. It's always nice to have someone to say the un-sayable. Particularly if it's someone else - given the unpleasant response so often meted out to the tellers of home truths.

You could be a sacrificial-goat-for-hire. Surely there's a Shoreditch business model in there somewhere. Particularly if you're willing to work for Pringles...

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“Whaaaaat?” I heard someone shout in a rough impersonation of Brian Blessed in Flash Gordon. It was me.

Trying to avoid doing this in meetings is a vital business skill. Not doing so is a great way of losing contracts and/or getting sacked.

I can still remember my failure in this area. I went to Tate Modern with a friend. Let's ignore the press stereotypes of modern art, and actually go and see some. It can't all be pickled sharks and unmade beds surely?

So I've wandered around a few galleries. And decided modern art isn't for me. Particularly the conceptual stuff. And as I'm looking at another lot of expensive rubbish I realised that I wasn't the only one wondering about the emperor's lack of clothing. "This is all complete and utter bollocks", said someone in a loud voice. I looked around, but couldn't see who. Then I realised that it was me...

I quickly repaired to Tate Modern's nice cafe. A chastened, lonely figure in search of a reviving cuppa.

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EU: Let's cost financial traders $400m a day, because EVIL BANKERS. Right?

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Re: Here is an idea

PS: I am fed up with the "free market" religion.

Tough. Free markets have made you, and billions of people all over the world considerably richer. All other systems so far tried have sucked more than free markets do. Of course not too free. Free markets don't work without property rights for example - which need government and independent judiciaries. So in fact there's no such thing as a free market really.

What we need is a balance between making markets as free as posible, with governments to hold the ring and stop abuse. Plus the same governments to take some of the profits away from everyone in the form of taxation to do stuff that markets are crap at, like social welfare and defence.

As for "pathetic speculative tricks", a lot of HFT isn't speculative at all. It's replacing arbitrage desks run by humans. So the idea is to find small price differences and make tiny profits from closing them in high volumes. Theoretically there should be no risk at all, if this is done correctly. This is a good thing, as it makes markets work better.

There's then a second big use of HFT, which is speculative. That's the idea that the article talks about, sugar has gone up, so sell (or short) shares in Coca Cola, Mars, Cadbury's etc. This is trying to get the jump on human traders who are doing exactly the same thing. It's less good for society - although it's not bad for society so long as it doesn't go horribly wrong. Even when it does go horribly wrong though, there's not as yet any evidence that society has suffered. Knight Capital lost some money due to crapness, but it's unlikely to have had much permanent effect on the prices of the stocks they bid down, so they just moved some money from their accounts to those of other people they bought from. And then got taken over. Hopefully lesson learned.

HFT will have effects. Some bad some good. Not all understood yet, I'm sure. But so will legislation. Therefore legislation ought to be done carefully. Also at national level. The European Parliament doesn't have skin in the game, if it all goes tits up. They know they can pontificate and go for popular gestures on this, because most of the consequences are likely to fall on the UK. With the biggest financial sector in the EU. Yet this legislation isn't accountable to UK voters. So it's doubly bad, from an organisation with a reputation for being rubbish already.

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Re: Investors != Traders

I'm not sure there's anything inherently more 'moral' in investing than there is in trading.

For a start, most investors aren't actually helping companies. If you buy a Vodafone share, you're not giving money to Vodafone to put into R&D, or new infrastructure. That ship sailed when Vodafone floated and got its money off the markets. You are of course indirectly helping, because if no-one was willing to buy shares, then no-one else would be willing to invest in new IPOs (with no-one to sell to) and therefore there'd be much less venture capital hoping to cash out at IPO time. But there's often very little direct relationship between your investment and a good to society. You're investing to make you a profit.

In the same way HFT is about profit to the trading companies that use it. Although also their shareholders, who might be the 'good' investors. But HFT does some good for society in allowing trading to be cheaper. So for example, an increasing amount of cash is saved in tracker funds. As these don't outperform the market, but also aren't as crap as many human-directed funds can be. No chance of being above average, but average is better than around half of the human traders...

This lowers the barriers to stock market investment for ordinary folks. Who can get a shares ISA in a tracker fund with very low fees.

Of course there's an unplanned downside to this. More shares in big companies owned by robot-controlled tracker funds means fewer shareholders who understand the company. Therefore fewer people who just might vote sensibly on CEO pay - or exercise any oversight over the board.

Basically it's all terribly complicated. Of all the bodies that could be in charge of controlling it, the European Parliament has got to be the worst. It's just as unaccountable as the City doing its own self-regulation. But has far less understanding of the issues. So the chances of unintended consequaences zoom upwards. It's also prone to childish political grandstanding. It also sufffers from one of the biggest weaknesses of the EU - which is that there's no reverse gear. There seems to be a phobia in EU circles for revisiting regulation that's gone wrong. This is because the international negotiation process is so long and painful, and subject to vetoes and horse-trading. Sometimes a country with no real interest in the outcome will do a deal to get what it wants in another area, or threaten to block what it doesn't care about in this one. So if the EP or Commission buggers something up, like the recent central banking regulation (in which case they've even admitted it was a mistake) they won't re-open it. This is also fundamentally undemocratic, but then the EP is a bit of a retirement home for failed national-level politicians.

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Re: Utter crap

What have the markets ever done for us. Other than roads, railways, hospitals, the industrial revolution, pensions...

Where do you think all the money comes from to invest in stuff? It comes from savers - who are willing to accept some risk, in return for reward. People who take the smaller risk of government-guaranteed bank savings accounts get less reward. People willing to accept more risk go to the markets. Much of that capital gets mis-allocated of course.

One of the major reasons that the industrial revolution happened in Britain, was because we had well-developed markets to allocate capital to innovation. One of the reasons it spread round the world was that Britain invested much of the profits abroad in doing the same thing. Which reduced the industrial lead, but led to a massive increase in global trade and the growth of the City of London as a global trading hub.

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Re: HFT is just a financial Arms race

Increasing market liquidity is a real-world purpose. There are risks in doing it, market makers will sometimes lose. Therefore market makers need to make profits to offset this. As well as to pay for expensive champagne, cocaine and hookers...

Increased liquidity = increased transparency. It's therefore good for investors. Particularly in niche areas.

HFT may not be the best way to do this, but a tobin tax punishes all market makers. And therefore all pension funds. Because costs will be passed on. As well as pension funds getting stuck with shares they are unable to sell at a good price quickly enough. This will have undesirable side-effects.

Tobin taxes will stop some 'unwanted' trading. Although unwanted by who is a fair question here. But it will also penalised market actors who are definitely fulfilling a social good, and damage the econony. Even the European Commission's own report into its own Tobin Tax proposals said that it would reduce European GDP by much more than it would raise.

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Re: Article sounds like a rant

Your pension fund will definitely lose from a decrease in high frequency trading. Precisely as the article points out. Transaction costs will be increased, thus costing your pension fund more when it trades. As a certain portion of your pension pot is likely to be in tracker funds, these have to trade in order to reflect the current state of the market. That's the whole point of them. They will have to charge higher fees.

There is a valid argument to be made that HFT is a risk to the overall functioning of the market, and therefore even the real economy. In which case they might also be a risk to the value of your pension. But the next point the article is making is that the legislators are not in the best position to make this argument, given that their legislation has shown itself to be ignorant of the biggest benefit of HFT to the market and economy overall. Which is its effect of decreasing transaction prices. A good that the legislation is directly attacking, by setting minimum increments.

There's another valid criticism to be made of HFT. In that it improves liquidity in the good times, but may not do so in worse times (for example liquidity has collapsed after a couple of the 'flash-crashes').

Firstly it competes with the market makers, taking away their profits, but HFT isn't necessarily being done in order to provide a market making service. Therefore the traders may withdraw it at no notice, removing normal liquidity from the market. Whereas the whole point of a market maker is to keep liquidity going, so that it's always possible to trade. So there might be an argument to regard the market makers as part of the market's infrastructure, and therefore offer them some protection from competition that's taking the easy profits, but fewer of the risks.

Another argument is about refused trades. This is where HFT will offer trades and then cancel them before they can happen - as the algorithm spots the opportunity another trader has seen - and basically nicks it. This might be a good area to legislate on. Or markets could set rules themselves. As I understand it this used to happen in open-outcry markets, the old style ones with a trading floor where the guys in blazers shout the deals. But a trader who people noticed "didn't hear" the bad deals would find that others wouldn't trade with him any more. Maybe the markets need to learn from this practise themselves, to avoid the need for regulation.

As a summary, it's bloody complicated. Greedy self-interested and short-sighted incompetents shouldn't be solely in charge or regulating such important matters. Which is why I think the European Parliament should be kept well away from anything really. Not that I have a high opinion of the markets at the moment. They need to have a long hard look at themeselves and start learning some lessons and being less shit. But I can think of few organisations I have less regard for than the European Parliament.

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Japanese boffin EYES up big bucks with strap-on digi-glasses

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Devil

Re: Good thing we've..

monkeyfish,

Of course he does. If he worked harder at making robot bodies, then we could be brains in a jar, strapped to giant killer robots already! What's he waiting for!

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It's a done deal! Microsoft-Nokia merger to close on Friday

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Re: Nokia's Elop had $25 M personal stake in Microsoft deal ..

Nokia could have tried the Android route. I don't think they stood a chance of getting anywhere with any of their in-house stuff. By the time they got desperate and hired externally (Elop) that ship had sailed. See Blackberry for details.

Personally I still think Windows Phone was a better bet than Android, as only Samsung have managed to make any money from Android handsets in the last 4 years, and they were already dominant by the time Elop could have got a decent range of stuff to market. Back when he took over there was a chance that Windows Phone might have taken off quicker. There's still a decent chance that it might prosper. It's still growing in market share - even if most of that is at the bottom end of the market.

Had Nokia gone Android I think their phone division would now still be losing money, although on higher sales, but they'd have had no-one to foist a loss-making bits on. But they'd also be struggling to make any money out of their mapping division (which they've kept and is profitable), becasue you couldn't ship a mainstream Android phone without Google maps and therefore couldn't charge for their own on top.

Failure to bring their innovation to market had screwed Nokia before Elop took over. Crap management since the middle of the last decade. Makes a nice fit with Microsoft really, about whom you could say exactly the same thing. Windows Mobile 5 and Symbian were OK, for the hardware of the time - shame they didn't bother to replace them, until the competition had shat upon them from an enormous height.

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Re: Elops Job

John P,

Also don't forget Nokia senior management's descent into incompetence in the decade before Nokia's senior management hired Elop. They had all that lovely, shiny tech - and did close to bugger-all with it.

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Re: Yeh right

Dear Anon,

Do grow the fuck up please.

Not everyone who disagrees with you is automtically a shill. Also not every popular thing is best, or unpopular thing worst. As evidence of which I shall point out that The Spice Girls had 9 no. 1 singles...

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Reg man builds smart home rig, gains SUPREME CONTROL of DOMAIN – Pics

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Happy

Re: Child Labour

The problems with children, over radio controlled solid state devices are many. You've already covered expense and reliability. But we also have to consider that children have higher power requirements, are considerably noisier in operation, and much more easily lost even than the most wayward of remote controls. Even the remote for my speakers, which I keep finding in my pocket when I'm at work...

So far children only win out on fun during manufacturing - although I think you may have forgotten the remainder of the 9 month construction period, not to mention the at least 5 years of installation before they're tall enough to reach the switch. Pus the fact that you can eat them if you're feeling peckish...

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Re: @ambiguous coward[1] (was: Whatever.)

Home automation ain't exactly news, which was my point.

jake,

Of course home automation is news. That's like saying that "the honking-great-database-and-transactions problem was solved 50 years ago - so why are you still reporting on this market?".

If someone comes along and does something better, then that's news. Better can mean many things. It can mean technically better - although home automation is mostly technically simple. It can also mean cheaper or easier to use.

Easy to use is a good thing, even for people well versed in the technology. There's no merit in going with something that's hard to use just because you understand it. That's just childishly showing-off your technical skills. Unless the harder to use tech is better in some way.

Plus things don't have to be new to go in there. Home automation is something I've not thought about for a couple of years - so it was interesting to see what's available. I don't personally see the point of controlling lights. But I do see the point with heating. Which is something I'd like to investigate for my Mum's house - the heating in my place is irredeemably craptastic sadly.

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Dragon capsule arrives at space station for Easter Sunday delivery

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Which is the next milestone

So when does SpaceX get to dock with the ISS on its own, without help from the arm? Or is that still a long time in the future?

Lots of exciting stuff for them still to do. Obviously landing a first stage is going to be superb. But I'm hoping that they can strap an astronaut into a capsule soon, instead of a cheese.

For the first time in ages, there's a prospect of exciting things happening in the space industry. For years it's been a case of utilitising existing technology to do stuff - and the future has looked to be more of the same. Refining our techniques and doing science. All very good of course, but not exciting for someone who's 40, and doesn't have long before having to give up all hope of ever going to space. But with all the developments going on now, I can dream of spending my 80th birthday in a space hotel...

Lots of other stuff is going on. But the most exciting stuff is watching SpaceX apply new technology and ideas to rockets - so even if a spaceplane/shuttle is still decades away we're still advancing again!

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Coat

We are moving forward, keep it up

I think I have to disagree with you here!

When landing a rocket it is vitally important that it be going backwards - and surely the whole point is to set it down...

OK, OK, I'll get my coat then. Hooray for rocket surgery!

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Liftoff! SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts Dragon on third resupply mission to ISS

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Brilliantly done!!

Data upload from tracking plane shows first stage landing in Atlantic was good! Flight computers continued transmitting for 8 seconds after reaching the water. Stopped when booster went horizontal. Several boats enroute through heavy seas...

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Is tech the preserve of the young able-bodied? Let's talk over a fine dinner and claret

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Re: What happened to contrast?

Bloody Vista did that. And then other program developers seemed to follow Microsoft's design guidelines over the cliff as well.

Thanks for that vaguely grey but really just off white menu bar you've given me on a white page. Oh yes, I can see that perfectly. Sure. Because UI clarity is so boring, when I know you spend all that time pleasuring yourself over minimalism at art college. OK, well done you. Now bugger off!

One thing in Windows 8's favour (and Win Pho too) is that with one button click I can have black backgrounds with orange for menu bars. Nice bit of contrast, for no effort. What's that you say? It's not elegant? Doesn't meet your delicate aesthetic requirements? There there. Don't worry your pretty little head about it then. You go back to the Tate Modern website, while I get some engineering done. Then we'll both be happy - and I can spend my time making sure your buildings don't run out of water. Or poison it...

Hmm, that gives me an idea. Royal college of art? Would you like a free building design consultation? Have you heard about the new rules on Legionella compliance? What's that, you don't have Legionella in your system? Do you want some?

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I ain't Spartacus
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As someone with very poor eyesight, tell me about it. My favourite website examples are an engineering company who had mid brown writing on a brown background on their website. Cheers for that guys! You get that in catalogues and marketing bumf a lot as well. And a US band who had a landing page to their website which was a very nice picture of a tree, with many leaves. I should have just changed the url, but I wasn't going to let it defeat me! In the end I literally ran the mouse from right to left over the screen like in old 90s point and click puzzles, until the pointer turned into a hand. Then I realised that this one leaf, out of hundreds, was gently moving from side to side. Obvious really! Why didn't I see it immediately! Oh yes, because it was an identical leaf in a picture of many such, that was wobbling by about 2mm - and I've got about 5% vision. That's probably it...

Also, if you're designing a line graph and have a red line, next to a dark green one, next to a brown one, I've got a nice present waiting for you in my office. It's s baseball bat. Just look over there, while I get it...

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Re: RE: Nobody makes things that bad by accident, surely?

Like Les Dawson playing the piano you mean?

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OK, we get the message, Microsoft: Windows Defender splats 1000s of WinXP, Server 2k3 PCs

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Re: Subtle hints

I was thinking it would go more like, "ere guv'nor. Thas's a nice PC you've got there. Got some lovely ornate software, pretty pictures of your family, nice banking records. You wouldn't want somefink to 'appen to it, now would you... Word to the wise my son. Word to the wise..."

Edit: Oh dear. Someone's already beaten me to that gag, and it turns out I can't delete this post until the editing window is over. Hmmm.

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