* Posts by I ain't Spartacus

3853 posts • joined 18 Jun 2009

'Yes, yes... YES!' Philae lands on COMET 67P

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Happy

Next those evil Canadians will want to muscle in on the Eurovision Song Contest...

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EU Ryanair 'screen-scraping' case could affect biz models

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solo,

The internet is not for sharing. Or stopping competitors...

The Internet is for Porn

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TalkTalk's 'unbeatable signal strength' and 'fastest Wi-Fi tech' FIBS silenced by ad watchdog

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Whereas my rival ISP, with out 5,432 complaints in the last 90 days will run a big banner advert saying, "The ISP with the service so good they won't let you know about it".

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Re: Dear ISPs

But... But... But... BT sent me an email the other day, saying their Home Hub had the best range of any WiFi router. And BT wouldn't lie to me. No! I won't believe it! BT are my friends. They send me emails and everything.

Next you be telling me that anti-ageing creams don't work. And they've been tested by the British Skin Foundation and everything!

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Most convincing PHISHING pages hoodwink nearly half of you – Google

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Re: Hardly surprising

Havin_it,

I couldn't be arsed. I know there's noscript, ghostery, adblock and all the rest. I installed a couple of them a few years ago. There was too much faffing around. You have to whitelist sites you want to get ads from, and sites where you want cookies (to show which articles you've already read), and I seem to remember you could download various whitelists and blacklists. So I played around with it all for half an hour, and ran it for a few days, and decided it was more effort than I could be bothered with.

A periodic cleanout of cookies, care about what sites I go to, and the fact that I use several different computers and devices every day, and log onto different services on each, keeps my data trail a bit messed up. In the end I decided it's more trouble than it's worth to do more.

I do run Flash Block sometimes, as that's nice and simple, and easy to allow stuff, as you just click on it.

If I used Facebook regularly, which I don't, I'd accept their ads. As that's the funding model these sites use, and it's my rule to cooperate, unless there's a reason not to.

Anyway I have ad-blocking software built into my brain. I don't notice them unless I choose to. Or obviously some annoying mis-behaving one zooms in to take over the screen or blares out loud noises.

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Re: Hardly surprising

NatWest are still pretty good. The last email I got about one of my accounts had a button on it, which took you to info about some changes they're making, but it was on a natwest.com domain - and didn't have any links to log into you account.

However Facebook have an interesting idea of security. I don't use it very often, and I always log out. So they've started quite heavily spamming me with emails, presumably in order to get me to use the damned site, and view lots of crappy adverts. I have relatives who post a lot, so there's always something to link to in an email. I know these aren't phishing because they have partial messages from people I know - and the links lead to FB. But when I click on the button, it logs me in to Facebook. Oddly if I then log out, and click on another mail (they often seem to send two or three at once) that time, I'm taken to the proper log in page. That is some particularly pisspoor security from Facebook.

I keep meaning to go and change my email preferences to none. But I probably log-in unprompted about once every 6 weeks.

I don't know why Facebook bother though. The quality of the ads they show me is shocking. It's spam and scam stuff. I know I've filled in virtually no personal info, but they can surely do better than ads for foreign brides, dodgy looking dating sites and 'competitions' to win free iPads/iPhones. I'm amazed any legitimate companies advertise with them. Occasionally I'll see a mainstream retailer - but it's mostly the sort of stuff you see on banner ads in the dodgier areas of the internet. I guess at least I've never seen an ad on FB for one of those "you have a virus use our free online scanners", so at least they have some standards and haven't completely plumbed the depths yet. That'll be for next year...

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Italian appeal court clears seismologists of manslaughter

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Re: They predicted there WOULDN'T be an earthquake

As I understand it, their prediction was that there was no more risk of an eathquake than normal. Despite the fact that there had been some recent tremors. In an area where there are always tremors.

So if you live in an earhquake zone, that's the risk you accept. If you don't like it, either move, or live in a nice soft tent, where you don't care if it falls on you. Those are the choices. Or to stay in your homes, schools and offices, and live your life as normal. Accepting the extra risk every day.

When we have a method of predicting earthquakes, we can revisit this.

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ICANN creates 'UN Security Council for the internet', installs itself as a permanent member

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Re: "anchor seats".

Perhaps it's a cunning ploy? It's a plan to improve the breeding stock of the human race, by removing a whole pointless layer of useless global bureaucrats (B Ark style).

First create a completely insane committee. Then get some of the most useless chair-sitters on God's green Earth appointed. Then sit them on their chairs. Now tie giant anchors to them, chuck the anchors in the deepest part of the ocean, and watch them slide away to the bottom of the deeps.

It's either that or ICANN have made so much money from selling gTLDs, that their bank account is full. Perhaps it's run out of noughts? Anyway, they've all given themselves pay rises, and massive bonuses. But now their bank accounts are full. The cash is still pouring in, so they need to find a way to get rid of more of it, sharpish...

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Wind farms make you sick claims blown away again

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One solution to this might be some judicious bribery.

If the whole nation is going to benefit from having HS2, a new motorway, a new nuclear plant or whatever, then we probably need to simplify planning requirements. Remember the enquiry into Heathrow Terminal 5? This took ten years. There were no extra flights, because no extra runway, and they're already at 98% runway capacity. So all they were doing was putting up a building in the middle of a restricted site that no-one's allowed to go to, except under strict controls. It should have gone through on the nod. Obviously a new runway should take a long time.

Perhaps the solution is to bribe the locals? Since everyone's benefitting, but only a small number of locals are suffering (annoyance, drop in house prices, whatever) - we could give them some cash or some local amenities. That way the burden gets shared.

Personally I'd like to tell them to stop being stupid NIMBY arseholes. But we do live in a democracy, so we should make legitimate attempts to please minorities, before looking at out-voting them. And I do live under 100 yards from a train line that's being upgraded.

The new one is BANANAs: Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything.

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Yes! It's DRONE PORN. And we don't mean shiny pics of UAVs

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Paris Hilton

Re: I realise some guys love their gadgets...

Ah but you haven't known pleasure, until you've had it caught in a blade, lifted up, and stretched to a thousand feet long...

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Re: How dull

<voice=attenborough>

And so the camera pans across the magnificent hills, to the verdant, moist and welcoming valleys. The dappled sunlight of a warm afternoon giving everything a beautiful golden glow.

The dancing sunlight shimmers on the water. But as the camera pans back we can see that it's not water, but glass. In fact the window of a 2005 Ford Escort. And we see homo automobilus canus in his natural habitat, half naked, lying across the bonnet, in an Essex carpark, staring through the windows at what goes on inside.

</voice=attenborough>

And that was when the BBC's latest documentary 'The Dogging World' was cancelled.

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Re: The future

Are you suggesting a "Prince Albert cam"?

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Boxing clever? Amazon Fire TV is SO CLOSE to being excellent

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Re: What about advertising

Amazon do love the spam. I'm perfectly happy to take special offers from companies I use a lot. I don't mind a glance at their email, if it's interesting I save for later, or delete if not.

But one day I had 3 different emails from Amazon, and it had got to the point where I was getting more than 10 a week. This didn't make me buy more, it made me hit unsubscribe.

The stupid thing is, they have a good chunk of my purchase history. Some of their stuff seemed well targeted, and so I bought things on special offer I otherwise wouldn't have. But some of the rest of it was horribly badly targeted, and as well as all the attempts at targeted ads, they'd also do general ones for any-old-thing. You'd have thought even marketing could work out that you can have too much of a good thing...

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The weird thing is, this is exactly what Amazon did with books.

They launched the Kindle, but there was a Kindle app available on every other device they could manage. They supported Blackberry and Win Phone too. So you could get your books from one program, whether on PC, tablet or phone. And of course were able to buy from Amazon's store, right from the app. Or buy in browser, and have it magically turn up on the phone.

Isn't that how they also operate with music? I buy many of my CDs from Amazon, and because I haven't got round to ripping the latest (due laziness in replacing a dead PC), I stuck the Amazon Cloud Player on the iPad.

I really don't understand why they aren't doing this with video. I've just got a Chromecast and assumed it would work with Amazon, as it does with Netflix. I didn't buy it for that, but it was in the back of my mind, if I felt like a few months of gorging on films.

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Re: Obsolete?

My 50" telly cost £500 a couple of years ago. Panasonic. Dumb as a brick. The Panasonic smarties, with as far as I can tell the same panels, were about £800.

That £300 difference would buy me a Playstation to use as Bluray and set-top box. Or a cheap PC to do the same. Although when I tried my friend's PS3 the user interface was appalling, with the smallest text imagineable and horrifically complicated menu structure. It would have driven me round the bend. Has that improved? Or is the XBox better?

Anyway I got Sky for a year on a cheap deal, and the Sky+ Box isn't bad. It's easy to use, and although you can't stream iPlayer live, you can download a show, and start watching after a few minutes.

That's now over, and I've just spent £30 on a Chromecast. Which to my surprise is rather good. All I really want is NFL online games and BBC iPlayer though.

So for that £300 difference I've effectively had a year of free Sky sport and a Chromecast, and I've still got change for a decent meal out. Or a new Chromecast (other thing) in 3 years, when the smart bits of the smart TV are out of date, but the panel still works so you can't replace it.

Finally, is the Samsung easy to use? I've yet to see a TV menu system, that was anything other than an ugly, confusing mess.

Actually that's not quite fair. The menu on my Panasonic is horrible. But the Freeview EPG is actually very well laid out.

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Is new EU digi chief H-dot Oettinger starting a war with his boss?

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Re: That memo is not valid if you cannot be fired

He's already done at least 4 years, in the last commission. As Energy commissioner. So his pension is sorted.

However, he can be fired. The one person who can do that is the President of the Commission. That's the guy who just had the idea of having these Vice Presidents, that Oettinger's just slagged off. Not the brightest move perhaps.

The European Parliament still can't sack individual commissioners. And neither can the national governments. Although the Parliament can sack the whole Commission. As they were going to do a few years ago, before the Santer Commission got their dibs in first, and resigned.

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Not quite. Most of the policies have to go through the Council of the European Union, i.e. the college for the national gouvernments.

True. But what I meant was that no commissioner is totally in charge of his department. Obviously they have some administrative control. But any major proposals have to be voted on by all the commissioners. In a sort-of equivalent of a cabinet government. Remember that only the Commission can propose legislation.

Their legislation is then negotiated on by the Council and the Parliament. But he who drafts the document has control. Unless he's such a fool that he can't draft documents because he's annoyed the Commission President and Vice Presidents...

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As the article says, Oettinger was apparently very miffed that he got the job he did. And let everyone know it. I'm not quite sure why the Germans didn't get a better job for their commish, but I suspect it's because Merkel was more interested in making sure there were hawks in all but one of the places that control Euro policy. She got lumbered with the French Moscovici at monetary affairs, but he's also being supervised by one of the vice presidents.

Also as part of the European Parliament power grab that got Juncker the President's job, they were also trying to force the losing Spitzenkandidate Martin Schultz on her. As the German commissioner. And he's from t'other party. The Germans, like us, rarely seem to send top-rank politicians to Brussels.

Still Oettinger is an idiot. The whole idea of giving the big portfolios to the big countries is sort of inevitable. Given that they've got the political clout. But Juncker is from one of the small states, so his idea was to give the smaller states some power back, by putting them in as co-ordinating Vice Presidents. Who knows if it'll work. But the Commission is just like any cabinet government. You're the minister (equivalent), but all policies go to the full College of Commissioners, and as I understand it go through on majority vote. So you can write all the policy papers you like, and brook no interference. It'll do you no good if you keep getting outvoted for being an arsehole. And if you piss off the Commission President for saying his big idea was stupid.

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Million Mask March: Anonymous' London Guy Fawkes protest a damp squib

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Devil

Re: Tourist Information - the real enemy

There used to be a Tourist Information Centre in High Wycombe. And the signs in the windows didn't just say, "Flee!".

Bastards!

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Re: "bored youth knocking over bins and squaring up to the Old Bill"

That police notice they put out beforehand (quoted in the article), was well-written, in human language and made sense. What's wrong with the wrold!

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Can you really run your business on a smartphone?

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Re: Good luck buying an Android with only a 4' screen

Ken 16,

Maybe have a look at the HTC One Mini? It's got a 4.5" screen, but it seems to be longer and thinner like the iPhone 5, so shouldn't be too hideously enormous.

Actually I didn't think the Moto G was all that large. Again a 4.5" screen. But I do have quite big hands.

I now find my work iPhone 5 screen to be a bit small. Despite having been a fan of smaller smartphones in the past. My favourite size/ergonomics/feel was the HTC Desire and (smaller) Wildfire.

I'm torn between a Galaxy Note of some description or going back to Windows Phone. I'm not willing to shell out much more than £200.

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Re: I stopped reading when he said "Windows"

Windows phones manage business contacts far better than stock Android. The People Hub is excellent. I admit there's likely to be an Android app that's as good, but I've not found it.

There'll be fewer apps, but then if you're going with Exchange Active Sync (or even Office 365) and Office anyway, the most common business tools - all of the 4 main phone players will do the job.

I admit that even as a fan of Windows Phone, if I were forced to do my work from a phone, it would almost certainly be a Samsung Galaxy Note. Because although I prefer Win Pho to iOS and Android, I'm perfectly happy with all 3, and having a stylus would be the best compromise for text input.

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Elon Musk hits the brakes on Tesla's e-SUV Model X production

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Crossover point

When is he going to merge Tesla and SpaceX? I want a battery powered rocket.

The only question is, do you charge up the L-ion batteries and have an electric plasma drive, or just overcharge them, and watch the thing explode into the air instead?

What was it Boeing called it? "Venting with flame".

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Re: non-GAAP

That brings back memories of the Groupon IPO, when they got slapped down for using non-GAAP numbers. Then sulkily said that they were right anyway. Then everything tanked after they'd sold the shares.

Or even further back during the dot.com bust shennanigans. Ah nostalgia. Do you remember when Amazon made profits? Well they were desperate to claim they did anyway. They were making growing losses on growing turnover, but had this super accounting metric which showed how if you took out the costs of everything, they were making loadsa money! I seem to remember they were even trying to amortise their stock over several years, which is an odd trick. Now it's the other way round, and they seem to be actively trying not to make profits.

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Apple strap-on wristjob: You WON'T be able to spend more than $5,000!

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Re: Gold-plated?

The difference between a Rolex and an Apple gold-watch, is that the Rolex is designed to last for the rest of your life. Or at least a good portion of it.

That Apple bling is going to be obsolete in 2 years. Even if you keep using it, it's going to need a new battery in a few more, and those screens don't last forever.

What I want to know is, what happens to the gold case? Or are Apple going to make all their Watches the same size - so that you can just pop it out, and update to the next model?

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Only 20 years? According to those Pathetique Phillipe ads you alwasy see in the Economist, you don't buy a watch for yourself, you look after it for your children. Although it doesn't say if you can break it in half to share between two...

Obviously one should really have inherited one from ones father. Surely there can't be that many loathsome prolls whose parents failed to give them the proper start in life with the inheritence of a multi-thousand pound watch. Then again, you'd really need parents considerate enough to die around your 18th birthday, as it's going to be awkward to insist your father's around to tell you the time until he dies when you're in your 60s.

You know, I'm not sure they've thought this through...

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Trickle-down economics WORKS: SpaceShipTwo is a PRIME EXAMPLE

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Re: @ Allan George Dyer

Economics does explain your breakfast. It's called price inelasticity. This suggests that even though you might value your breakfast at 1/100th of an iPhone, when you're really hungry you'd be willing to pay up to maybe 3/100ths of an iPhone in order to get it. On the other hand your marginal propensity to consume breakfasts is quite low. That first brekkie really hits the spot. Yummy! You'd pay extra just to get it. But if I offered you a second breakfast 5 minutes later, you might not even be willing to pay 1/1000th of an iPhone to get it. Unless you're very greedy.

So breakfast is price inelastic. Apparently so are iPhones. People will apparently pay whatever Apple are charging (within reason). Sadly for other manufacturers, people are much more willing to take the cheaper models. Of course this is all very well, but how the hell do you determine the price elasticity of every good, given that every consumer is different?

Externalities are a bit more complicated though. If some company has taken a new tech at a high price, and made it affordable by working out a way to make it cheaper - that's not an externality to them. They've deliberately spent cash to do the work. We may even grant them a patent to protect their IP, so that other companies can't freeload on their research.

Tech development can be an externality. However it's often deliberately funded. When the government funds something, and we all pay tax in order to get it, it's a public good instead.

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Re: Not Trickle-down economics...

but is there really such a thing as a free market, anywhere?

Allan George Dyer,

Probably not. Perfect markets, perfect knowledge and perfect consumers are strictly for economic models... Also free markets require government intervention. To stop monopolies, and require legal fair play for example. Not everyone opposes progressive taxation. Although it does depend what you mean by progressive. Can a 70% tax rate be progressive? A standard maxim is that if you tax something, you get less of it though. So if you tax income, overall there'll be less income than if you didn't. Hence taxing land being a popular idea (no-one makes that anyway).

As to mentioning command economies, I was still talking about technology. The whole point of the article was that even if there's an argument about trickle down economics (if anyone can even decide what that means), it's demonstrably true that technology often works where richer people do the early adopting that pays for everyone else to get it at commodity prices.

I decided to mention that one of the good things about having relatively free markets and allowing people to earn big rewards for taking risks is that some of those risks pay off. Even if big corporations sit on an idea, it's hard to stop an interloper coming in and disrupting them with something new. Unless they can gang-up with government to regulate their industry to stop outside competition coming in. Command economies, and governments in mixed ones, tend to get things wrong a lot. The difference is that they just ignore their failures and carry on regardless. A more open economic system gives you more chances to succeed, by trying many different things.

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Re: Not Trickle-down economics...

You've missed my point.

...

Then I confused things with chicken-devliery because I didn't want to suggest that every technology is appropriate everywhere.

My argument was addressing this. The point about free market capitalism, and why it beats command economies, is as much about failure as success. In command economies, the people in cahrge are risk averse. As they often become in big companies. They do the safe thing. And often that works.

But the great thing about free economies is that people can try weird stuff. They might go bust, but it's their own cash at risk, or stuff they've borrowed off investors. So different things will get tried with technologies, and some might work.

Actually I'd be happy to argue the merits of trickle down economics too. But Tim Worstall chooses to ignore that in his article, and only talk about technology. And that was your point too.

Take Twitter for example. They weren't competing with anyone before they existed. They probably pay high salaries, and don't really exploit anyone. You might argue about personal data, but it's not like they're even grabbing much of that. But lots of people get value from what they do, so they're apparently worth loadsa money. So it's very hard to argue that anyone's actually got poorer, while Twitter has created a couple of billionaires, and some millionaires. So that's growth, that's cost society very little, but given us something many people use. And made some people rich. If those people then go on a spending spree with their filthy lucre, then so much the better. The economy grows, and some poorer people get paid for providing them services.

Obviously Twitter may be over-valued, crash and burn. Then there has been a cost to society. But they're just an example I picked out of the air. There have been lots of tech companies who've created value, got some people insanely rich, and even if they only spend some of their cash, that's growing the economy for everyone.

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Re: @Tim - Trickle-down economics

Be careful with assuming cause and effect? How do we know that any level of inequality has an effect on technological growth? It could be that growth leads to inequality after all...

Think about all the tech billionaires. It's rapid development that makes them so wealthy. If a founder creates a company, and by the time he dies it's worth billions, he'll be well off. But not insanely so. But if you can found a company in your early 20s, then sell it for billions by the time you're 30 - that's a recipe for massive extremes of wealth.

Also remember that the poorest can't have any less wealth. You can't own less than zero houses. So there's always going to be a wealth-gap, It doesn't take that much extreme wealth at the top-end to start making large differences to this ratio. So any period of rapid technological growth not run by the government is likely to increase inequality in the short term at least.

Also remember the point that Worstall makes in other places about measuring wealth inequality. In the 19th century the poorest got almost no government help. In the twenties there was some basic provision for universal primary education and some pensions. Now everyone in Britain can rely on free healthcare, free education to 18, a basic state pension until they die, housing support, sickness and unemployment benefits, as well as a lot of financial help with child rearing. Even free tertiary education so long as you don't earn over £20k a year afterwards). That's a suite of benefits that's worth many hundreds of thousands of pounds each - and we don't all pay that much tax in our lifetimes. Missing that out from any discussion of inequality is insane.

Also remember to measure who the inequality is between. Globalisation has frozen the wages of ordinary people in the Western economies since the mid 2000s. If you include housing costs in the UK, or healthcare in the US, that's probably frozen since sometime in the 90s.

But on the other hand, Africa is getting much richer. Quite quickly now in some places. China has taken hundreds of millions of people out of extreme poverty. As has the rest of Southern Asia. A lot of that's also down to globalisation. And technological development. We're in another uncomfortable period of social and economic change, but it's not bad for everyone.

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Re: Not Trickle-down economics...

And yet how do these villagers know which market to get their goods to? By checking their mobile phones.

And how do they get hurricane/typhoon/tsunami warnings? Again from their phones (once the fripperies of braces-wearing London stockbrokers), using data from satellites (once the province of Cold Warriors).

Who the hell knows what Spaceship 2 will lead to? It's not a technology we've explored yet. Maybe the current Space industry boom will peter out again. Or maybe we'll have orbital platforms making weird crystals in micro-gravity that start another computing boom. Or give us exotic drugs to erradicate malaria. I've read in several places that one of the benefits of microgravity manufacturing may be improvements in our ability to create difficult molecules for drugs, but I'm not enough a chemist to know if that's still true (or even if it ever was).

Or indeed maybe Virgin will give up, Scaled Composites will be starved of cash, and it'll be Elon Musk who gets us into space, with his technological leap. Who'd have thought ten years ago that a guy could start from scratch and build a space capability that can already sent several tons to LEO and (probably) also land the 1st stage rocket to re-use it? In 2-3 more years he says he'll have a man-rated re-usable capsule that can land on the moon (if it could get there). He's building capabiliites at an amzing rate, and lowering costs while doing it.

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Naselus,

Sure the government is responsible for loads of stuff. Including innovation. War (for example) is a real spur to get your thinking cap on...

But remember that in our current 'Western' economic model (since WWII), government is taxing and spending something like 40% of the economy. Varying over time and country between say 30% and 50%.

So you'd expect the government to be involved in lots of innovation. It's doing lots of stuff. Especially as peacetime military spending has been much more of a driver, due to the complication of modern weapons systems, and the fact we had a Cold War.

Railways, mass steel production, mass clothing production and mass car production all stated in the 19th Century with much less government involvement. Innovators went out and did stuff, made money and more of that stuff happened. Since then we've decided we don't want 19th Century levels of poverty, government has got much more involved in areas like science, and we've remodelled our economies.

But even where you might argue government investment has given us new technologies, you need to remember that there's more than one way to do technology. There's basic R&D to give us the shiny new frontier. Then there's boring development to get something that actually works 99.999% of the time, and doesn't blow up so often. Then there's manufacturing development to make things cheaper, so the mass market can have them. And there's cross-pollination where you take innovations in one field, and use them in another.

Very rich people, wanting to communicate mostly for business, drove a demand for mobile phones in the 80s. That's become a mass market technology that almost everyone in rich economies can afford. But because of us relatively rich (in global terms) masses buying into mobiles, they can now be had for a few quid, so even the very poorest in the developing world can afford them. So this continuing development has trickled even further down, so farmers/fishermen in remote places in Africa can now get their stuff to the right market, to get the most money, so they get richer and waste less. This has allowed and is allowing whole swathes of the developing world to leap-frog a developmental stage that we had to go through in order to get national communications. And is getting them the internet too. All of which may allow them to kickstart their economic, social and educational development in a way no plausible amount of aid money could.

Or take solar panels. In order to make them cheap enough to put on our houses, we're pushing development of this technology. Now my feeling is that this is a mistake, at least in Northern Europe. And we'd be better investing our renewables money into nuclear. But for Southern Europe or US, it could be a brilliant technology to use. Possibly both at local and grid scale. But again our relatively rich market may drive down the price to commodity levels. Then people in the poorest bits of the developing world may be able to skip the step of national power infrastructure, and go for local renewable solar electricity, and bootstrap their economies.

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Stuart 22,

I don't think you're correct at all. And I don't think you have any basis to make assumptions about other people's motives, just because you may happen to like one of them more than the other.

Elon Musk is taking a design that's barely changed for decades, and an industry that's got fat and lazy on government pork, and giving it a mighty kick up the arse. This is great for the rocket industry, as the cosy old one wasn't using newer technology to make things cheaper. Now they'll have to.

But rocketry has its limitations. Even with viable re-usable first stages.

Another way to get to orbit would be to use aerodynamics to get you as high as possible, and only rely on rockets for the last stage. That's what Reaction Engines are doing with Skylon and Virgin Galactic / Scaled Composites are doing with Spaceship 2. In the case of Skylon they're trying to solve the problem with one vehicle, whereas Scaled/Virgin are using a carrier plane to get to 40,000 feet.

This may turn out to be the most efficient. The heavy wings and engines you need for lower atmosphere work can be the most efficient possible, as that's all they do. Then the spaceship component only needs the bits for the upper atmosphere, and space itself. In principle it also ought to be safer, as you're using proven (cheap) technology to get to 40,000 feet, rather than a giant barely controlled explosion rocket.

That shuttlecock tale may be the invention that makes this technology work. Although I don't know if it's good enough for orbital speeds, or if it's possible to carry enough fuel to slow down in orbit enough that you can drop into the atmosphere at safe speed. After all, aeorbraking requires a huge heavy coating of ceramic, to cope with re-entry heating. So it may turn out more efficient to carry a less heavy amount of fuel, and do without the heat shield.

So far as I'm aware none of these 3 options are technological dead-ends. There's loads of development still to do, and materials science is advancing still. It may be we use them all for different things. Rockets will win on heavy lift, but maybe they can never be made much safer, and so spaceplanes will be the way to get people to orbit. And may end up cheaper for small payloads.

Plus there's also hypersonic travel. Concorde shaved 3 hours off the Atlantic crossing. That's nice, but not a game-changer. If you could shave 20 hours off the flight to Australia, that is an enormous difference. Paying £10,000 to fly there in 3 hours, rather than £1,000 to do it in a day, doesn't look like a ludicrous thing to do.

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Antares apocalypse: Orbital points finger at turbopump FAIL

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Designed sure. But not built. That's one crucial difference. 1960s quality control technology was worse anyway, let alone compared with Soviet-built stuff from the era.

I'd have thought that they'd have to go to so much effort to check and refurb these engines, that it would be as cheap to build them new anyway. Given I believe they have a license to do so.

Imagine if an airline flew a 747 with some engines they found in the corner of an old hangar from 40 years ago, with no proper storage paperwork. I suppose, to be fair, that this is the sort of thing people do with historical aircraft. But they only risk their own lives, fly under strict rules at airshows, and don't carry $200m of other peoples' cargo.

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Why Comrade Cameron went all Russell Brand on the UK’s mobile networks

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Re: Advertising Rules

Are you a Vodafone fan by any chance? Don't sit on the fence, tell us what you really think...

Myself I found their coverage OK. It was the several months when they forgot our company had a shared data contract. One month our bill for 7 phones came in at £2,500!!! I think our total usage was about 1.5GB, so even at non-contract pay as you go rates, that's a crimial rip-off. Yes they did credit us. Then forgot for one week of the next month. So our bill was only £600 that time.

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Re: Change the Panning permission rules first!

I don't know if they've been trying to change planning rules on mobile masts. But there's been a running bunfight within the coalition on relaxation of planning rules, which was a Conservative policy at the last election.

Part of this was because it was policy to try and get more houses built. And infrastructure like HS2. But of course you then get MPs in the effected constituencies whose survival instincts kick in.

To be fair to Cameron, he's pushed quite a few policies that he knew would piss off his own core vote, because he believed they were the right thing to do. Such as HS2, gay marriage, relaxing planning in the crowded South East. Which is something we tell politicians we want them to do. Then scream at them for.

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Re: Pedantry...

Apparently his booky-wook was at least partially ghost written. So it's always possible that he hasn't even looked at it either. Like so many sports biographies, and I assume all those books by Jordan...

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Well there would be more of an incentive for one mobile network to build in difficult to reach areas. If it was able to hoover up the calls from all the networks passing through, not just its customers. That might actually be an incentive to fill common blackspots. Although also an incentive not to fix their own black spots.

Whether this is technically feasible or not, is another matter.

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Dominion,

Do you remember when BT were a nationalised company? I'm sure Owen Jones doesn't. But a daytime peak rate national call cost updwards of 40p a minute. That's early 80s money as well. Even local calls were about 20p a minute.

I'm not sure government infrastructure is a panacea.

Now that we are where we are, it would seem extremely silly to nationalise the existing mobile companies, as well as being horrifically expensive. So why not just use the existing system to get what we want. Either tell the companies to just do it, put up or shut up. Or pay them to.

However, don't do an Ed Miliband. Don't, as Sec State for Environment, force energy companies to charge their customers a government mandated surcharge to pay for feed-in tarrifs. Then act all shocked as Leader of the Opposition that energy prices have been shooting up, and demand price-freezes on the energy utilities.

We can either throw a few billion of taxpayers' money at this. Although we are running a huge deficit at the moment. Or we can do it as a stealth-tax, by forcing the networks to do it, and get the money off subscribers or shareholders.

Or we could ask them to allow roaming, and then let the one that bothers to have the network get paid by the others for it. If we set the price right, I'm sure one of them would build it to win extra rural customers.

Or something else I'm not clever enough to think of.

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Re: What

Or that's a story put about by the phone companies as a way to frame the debate as PM had bad call, so decided to act in haste.

I don't know how this idea actually came about, so don't know. I also see that it could have loads of problems. As you need to incentivise people to make the effort. But I'm sure there'd be fees for the networks to roam to each other, and you could allow mutual discounts for those that your users roam to, thus stopping Andrew O's Vampire Network from getting off the ground. Even if it was a realistic idea anyway, as roaming won't be free.

The other way to address this is to say, "you're national networkds, so just bloody do it", and price accordingly. Or have discounts off the spectrum license for those that do.

There does seem to be a bit of special pleading in here. The companies would of course say that they should be given incentives and sweeteners to do the thing that costs money.

That's fair. Taxpayers have to pay for a public good. The other alternative is compulsion, in which case subscribers will be made to pay for a public good. Either are valid options - and both are taxes in all but name. Although only one adds to the government deficit.

But then El Reg has been equally critical of the rural broadband roll-out, and the fact that so much of the cash has gone to BT. I'm pretty sure Andrew O has been one of those critics. So it seems the government can't win here.

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RBS faces BIGGEST ever fine for THAT huge IT meltdown – leak

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Re: Fine

The banks do have to pay the victims for any cocked up transactions and charges caused by the cock-up. Though nothing for not being able to get at their money for a week. But it was made clear at the time that this would happen, so it's not like people were in limbo.

Sadly I was just organising a mortgage with Natwest that week, and I get 0.2% off my interest bill for having a current account with them. So I couldn't take my custom elsewhere. But other people were free to and most didn't.

So in this case, the regulator are trying to make a point that's easy for the board to understand.

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Re: As RBS is majority owened by the government..

Sure we're fining the taxpayer, who owns 70% odd. The other 30% of shareholders lose their 30%.

But we're also going to sell RBS in a few years. So if they do it again, they know it's going to cost. As do the other banks. This is a nice incentive to spend a bit more on their IT. Particularly if it's made clear that the next fine will be higher.

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Re: Yay, lets fine the victims...

localzuk,

It's very hard to prosecute people for screwing up. Especially as you have to prove who did what when. Although I do believe there should have been attempted prosecutions for what I would call deliberate fraud, such as incentivising your staff to sell shitty PPI deals - and hiding it all in the small print. But that's very hard to get criminal levels of proof on.

However this narrative about the banking crisis misses out one fundamental thing. There was punishment. The problem is it was the shareholders who copped it. The government didn't bail out the banks for fun, it did it because it was cheaper than bailing out us, the banks' customers. So they were bailed out, rather than the expense, hassle and disastrous levels of economic dislocation involved in getting our savings back to us via the deposit insurance scheme.

The shareholders got wiped out, as the government put capital in, and took shares. In theory the government may not lose very much money at all - and may even make a profit on the bank bail-outs. Eventually we're going to sell off those shares. We've already made a good chunk of the money back on Northern Rock, and there's even a good chance of turning a profit there, as the mortgages in the bad bank we kept are still being paid.

By going for bail-outs, QE and deficit spending, we balanced most of the costs of the crash across the economy. So house prices dropped, but didn't plummet. This meant most people didn't go into negative equity, which kept us paying our mortgages, and kept the banks us taxpayers now own solvent. Savers lost out due to inflation and low interest rates, but then they got their money saved for them by everyone else, whereas the debt-spiral otherwise would have seen much of their savings wiped out.

Compare this with the Eurozone, where they tried to cut their deficits faster, did some disguised QE (but unwound it too fast) and haven't bailed out their banks. That's been (and still is) a fucking disaster, that's screwed the debtors over horribly. The savers are still mostly safe, but as the debtors are now totally impoverished (including several governments), they'll stop servicing their debts, and then the savers will start losing out. That'll get the creditor states panicking, and then there'll be QE, when they see the choice between losing their badly invested savings or bailing out the rest of the Eurozone.

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'You have no right to see me NAKED!' Suddenly, everyone wakes up at the Google-EU face-off

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Re: Who wants to forget what might be an interesting question

naive,

This decision was made by the ECJ. So it was a judical, not a political one - and should have had nothing to do with the Commission.

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Pop starlet Taylor Swift DUMPS Spotify: It’s not me, it’s you

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Re: Seems Reasonable

Spotify, and radio for that matter, are less about generating revenue, but more about generating publicity.

Lost all faith...,

Please correct me if I'm wrong, I don't use it. But isn't Spotify a subscription service where you can basically listen to what you want? So basically like renting a music collection. Whereas on radio you listen, and you get what you're given.

So in a normal market, that would make Spot ify cheaper than buying CDs / downloads. But still a significant portion of the cost. If you lease a car you pay several hundred a month. Obviously music doesn't depreciate, or need maintenance. But from the artist's point of view they need to get similar sorts of money out of the deal. Bearing in mind that only the elite few get rich from a music career.

Even if we assume that all the works of the record companies are evil, and that marketing is uneccessary... Music needs to pay enough profit for session musicians, studio time, sound engineers, producers, band management, writers, someone to drive the van, and the musicians themselves.

Now some of that can come from live ticket sales.

But quite frankly you can fuck off with your superior attitude about how someone else should work for free for the privilege of being able to give you stuff that you actually want, in the hopes that you'll throw them some scraps in the form of ticket sales. Maybe. That attitude truly pisses me off. The freeloaders need to be honest in these arguments. If they want to do without music, then fine. But if they want to listen to stuff that requires other people have to spend hours of effort to create it, then they should pay for it. Or just steal it, and be honest about the fact that they're stealing it. Rather than all these verbal gymnastics about evil record companies, some artists being somehow too rich, promotion, or whatever else. If you want it, pay for it. If you don't want to pay for it, go without.

And breathe... Ooops. Sorry. Rant over. I'm sure I'll receive a healthy crop of downvotes for this. And I apologise if I've maligned you. And you were just making a general point about marketing. But I'm leaving the post in anyway, because it's a decent summary of what I feel. And I'm sick of the hypocrisy in these arguments.

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Re: People will definitely pay for music.

Tom 13,

A lot of the people who say they'll definitely not pay for music, are people who listen to music. The ones who don't download for free or buy, probably don't care enough to talk about it.

Even those people who refuse to pay for music do value it. They derive a benefit from it, or they wouldn't go to the effort of getting it. The question is, how much is that benefit? Is there a way to stop them getting something for nothing, such that you don't piss off the people who are willing to pay? Or do you have to reduce the prices massively to get acceptance from the customers that it's more trouble not to pay? In which case we'll get less music, of a lower quality.

Historically people have been willing to shell out more money on music than they do now. In very recent history. So there's probably money to be had out there. What we haven't found is a way to make a market work such that if you don't think something's worth the price, you don't get to have it. You have to do without it. If that's no longer possible, then we won't have a free market in music, the consumers will underpay (I mean in economic terms here), they will have a consumer surplus, and at least theoretically the supply of music will drop until the amount people are willing to pay for meets the amount people are willing to produce.

Obviously just as there are free-loading customers, there are also musicians who'll work for free. Because they love to do it. As usual, society is moving too slowly to keep up with technology. Maybe in 20 years time we'll praise the free-loaders for having unlocked a new pargadigm of wonderfulness. Or we'll curse them for having destroyed the industry that gave them the stuff they wanted, but wouldn't pay for. Who knows? It's much more of a certainty that the record company executives will be screwing things up as usual...

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Re: Erm....

who the heck is Taylor Swift?!?

I believe she is a popular, beat combo m'lud. Or to put it another way, she sings both kinds of music. Country, and Western.

To be honest, I've no idea. The only country music I own is by Otis Lee Crenshaw. And he's not taking it terribly seriously... But as he says, "Country music is sitting on the floor, with a bottle of Jack Daniels and the lonely, salty tears rolling down your cheeks. And taking all that pain, misery and heartache, and trying to turn it into cold, hard cash."

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Re: Sorry.....

That's true in a sense. If the market won't pay, you get bugger-all. And tough luck to ya.

But, on the other hand, we have the law to protect people selling. So that the alternatives don't become greedy consumers saying, gimme your stuff for free, or I'll steal it*, and you get nothing.

That's why you aren't allowed to walk into a shop and steal an iPhone, because you think it's overpriced.

Therefore we only get to know the true value, when the choice is pay for the music, or don't get the music. So I don't buy iPhones, I don't think there's any phone out worth much more than the Lumia 730 or Moto G - at under £150. Similarly if I like some music, and want to listen to it repeatedly, I buy it. If I don't think it's worth it, I do without.

*Yes, I'm aware that copyright infringement isn't really theft. Because you're only taking a copy. But it's a fucking pisspoor argument to try to claim on one hand that someone else's work is worthless, while at the same time you're making the effort to get yourself a free copy of it, and then listening to it. I'm happy to accept the argument if you listen once, then delete, and either buy or don't. I check stuff out on Youtube before buying. But you can't argue that something has no value, and then use it at the same time. That's cheating.

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Re: Seems Reasonable

Ralph B,

That argument is total bollocks.

If artists are only getting pennies per thousand songs played from Spotify, then it's pretty much impossible to make up the profit from an album sale in per-play fees.

It's just basic maths. If I buy an album, and the artist gets £1. That means I'd have to listen to their songs 100,000 times, in order for them to make the same cash. That also negates them having the chance of selling me 2 albums, if all their stuff's on spotify.

100,000 tunes x 3 minutes / 60 mins / 24 hrs = 208.3 days of solid listening to pay them back. 312 days if I'm allowed 8 hours of sleep...

That's also not including other costs. Obviously record companies take their pound of flesh from a CD sale. Nice profits. Cocaine and hookers for the execs. But they've also got to pay marketing, photographers, people to organise the band's website, studio time.

I don't know if the writers and producers get their cash out of the artist's cut or the record companies'. But someone's got to pay it.

It looks like Spotify doesn't pay.

Maybe artists will switch all their effort to live gigs. Release enough records to get known, then just tour. But if that happens, the quality of recorded music is likely to drop. And I can listen to far more recorded music than I have time to get to gigs. Plus bands won't come to my house to play while I'm cooking dinner, or entertaining friends. Selfish gits!

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The Great Smartphone Massacre: Android bloodbath gathers pace

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Re: When I started in the phone business

I need to get some new phones. Not that I've kept any of mine, so I can't set up a museum. But I have owned a lot of phones from companies who no longer sell them. I've had

Motorola MicroTAC

Nokias - couple of green screen ones with week long battery life

Sendo - somethingorother. Plasticky but nice.

Siemens - eletric blue candybar

Sony Ericsson P800

Motorola V3 RAZR (my favourite form factor)

Samsung - slider of some sort

Nokia - candybar w. colour screen, crap battery life and kept breaking. Worst phone I ever had

HTC Wildfire (second favourite form factor)

Nokia Lumia 710

iPhone 5 (work)

I've been a bit of a phone whore. My only loyal period was to Nokia's green screens. I didn't manage an Ericsson before they sold out to Sony, and I've not had a Blackberry yet, but I've done quite well at going through the list, in the last 20 years of use. I guess I need to get an LG and a Microsoft one, before moving on to the Chinese manufacturers.

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