* Posts by I ain't Spartacus

4518 posts • joined 18 Jun 2009

Foxconn's going to 'exploit' Indian labour? SCORE! Bye, poverty

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Have you ever tried being a peasant on a collective farm? Or self-sufficient agriculture?

Hopefully working conditions will improve there, as they did here. And everyone gets slowly richer. Although never at the same rate.

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But the problem (for the US and the UK, amongst others) is the huge trade deficits they've incurred by giving offshoring a lot of previously domestic manufacturing to foreigners

True. But this is hopefully temporary. In the sense that we still do export stuff, and as their economies get richer, they can afford to buy more of our stuff, with the profits they make from selling stuff to us.

This has broken down somewhat, because China in particular has chosen to recyle a lot of its profits into US (and other) government debt. This kept the currency artifically low, so helped improve their trade advantage (one of the major causes of the crash as it lowered our interest rates during the boom and helped inflate the bubble), and also has the effect of suppressing internal demand. The second I suspect is also because the Communist Party don't want to create a huge middle class that might be feeling a bit too comfortable, and perhaps start demanding political reform.

Hopefully the Chinese are wise enough to see that the problems they've had sustaining domestic demand, since their global markets hit this long recession, are because they've sent too much of the cash abroad - and they need that demand. That more affluent population will buy more of our stuff, and also they'll stop buying our government debt, so our governments won't be able to run such cheap deficits in the next boom.

Worryingly there's a lot of ifs here...

Also, another problem with all the exporters in Asia, and with Germany (due to ageing population), is that they all want to save. So they export, but then want to save the profits, rather than spending them. That leaves them with surpluses, which they invest in our economies and unbalance them. But OPEC and Russia have also been doing this, and they're having to stop, as they're not so filthy rich from oil revenues now.

Even so, wages for ordinary working stiffs in the US/UK mostly stagnated from the late 90s to the beginning of the crash, not dropped. And I believe that's stagnated only if you include housing costs for the UK, or mix of housing/medical for the US.

One of the problems in the Eurozone is that average wages went up, while productivity didn't. Except in Germany, where they caused inequality to grow faster than the UK with the Haartz 4 reforms, which kept wages down. They're now reaping the benefits of that mercantilist attack on their supposed 'partners' in the Eurozone - but at the cost of possibly pushing Italy out, and of also having a huge pile of savings with nowhere to go in the internal economy. Much of which their banks lent to Ireland, Greece, Italy and Spain. That worked out well...

then pretending that a combination of locally traded services and a debt-funded government are a substitute for actual wealth creating activity.

Sorry, I've rambled a bit. But although our governments have definitely borrowed to much - don't be so rude about services.

We do still have a large manufacturing sector (11th in the world), in the world's fifth largest economy. I believe we're something like the 8th (5th? I can't find the figure easily) largest exporter of manufactured goods.

Services are harder to trade, as they're not as well covered by free trade agreements, but as I recall we're the second largest exporter of services after the US. But some of them are very highly value-added. People seem to think of service jobs as bar and hotel staff. But that's not the sort of services you export. We tend to export lots of legal and insurance services. Lots of companies now do business under UK law, and pay to use UK arbitration and courts, as they can't trust each others (or even their own) legal systems.

ARM are a services company. Other people make the chips, ARM just do the design. I work in the building services industry, and I'm forever dealing with jobs in the Middle East and North Africa. Not because we export, but because Britain exports architectural and building design services. So most big jobs in Saudi or the UAE will be done to either British or US building regulations, depending on which practice they hired.

Things like music, software, films and TV are services too.

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Re: This is why offshoring was such a bad strategy

Huh?

I'd say that a lot of off-shoring was rather stupid and short-termist, and that remains true whatever the merits of off-shoring. See RBS gutting its internal IT department for details. Or just out-sourcing in general, see Sainsbury's stock control database a few years ago, that they had to bring back in-house only a couple of years later as it was such a disaster. If banks are a customer database with buildings full of cash attached, then supermarkets are stock-control databases with shops and warehouses hanging off them.

But moving labour-intensive stuff to countries with large pools of much cheaper labour doesn't instantly stop working, just because that labour is now earning 20% of UK median wage, when it was only 5% fifteen years ago. As long as the transport costs are still lower than the difference. You just might consider whether you stick with where you are, or move to a country with cheaper labour. I guess that comes down to costs of plant and management.

Also of course, it's good for China. Who in fifteen years have seen average wages double every 3 years or so.

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BOOM! Stephen Elop shuffled out of Microsoft door

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WTF?

Re: "Chief insights officer"

Rain is wet.

FIFA are a little bit dodgy.

Don't pour scalding coffee into your lap.

Bears defecate in sylvan environments.

Thank you. Those have been today's insights. My work here is done, have a nice day.

Yours,

I ain't Spartacus

Chief Insight Officer

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Pirate Party founder: I wanna turn news into a series of three-line viral gobbets

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“large raptors symbolise pride, freedom and vision”

Possibly so. But to quote from the fount-of-all-wisdom Dogbert, "Eagles may soar, but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines."

Presumably the Register should have some pithy statement about how vultures are better than raptors?

Vultures: Burying their heads deep into the putrid guts of news! Bringing you only the finest news-giblets!

(Sorry, that's all gone a bit Chris Morris)

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Re: Writers?

Presumably their job is trawl the "useless oldmedia" for the content, then pick the 3 lines of snippet to steal, then steal away.

It's funny how much the future of modern news appears to be nicking linking to what other people have done without paying for it, claiming your platform is the new big thing and then moaning about how the old media is producing worse and worse content nowadays (as it's earning less money), and what we need is more new media...

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Furious Flems fling privacy rule book at Facebook

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Re: Please Cut Out The Cutesie Headlines

Jim 59,

The problem with humour is that everyone's is slightly different. So there's always going to be some gags that don't appeal to you, or actively piss you off. See the Exclamation! Marks! After! Every! Word! In! Yahoo! Headlines! - which really gets some peoples' collective goats.

The subbies tend to write the headlines, so there's fewer people at El Reg towers making the awful puns, that write the stories. If those couple of people don't share your sense of humour then that's bad. Plus subbies love alliteration. It seems to be unstoppable.

I guess the other problem is that you get a culture that builds up, with its own in jokes. Again, if you didn't like these the first time, you're going to be a very unhappy bunny by the 532nd.

So genuinely if you find the snark and silliness annoys you, you probably are better off elsewhere. That is the Register house style after all.

As for that story 'Amazon bans media player' isn't that hard to divine surely? Then you click on it if you're interested in Amazon, media players or whater. I wasn't, so didn't. I'm afraid I rather liked "Bezos Bozos" and don't think they've used that for Amazon before, and hope they now will in future. And I'm not even a subbie...

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Devil

"Apart from anything else, it is infantile."

As I said to Chancellor Metternich, at the Congress of Strasbourg, "Poo to you! With knobs on!"

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Happy

Re: Please Cut Out The Cutesie Headlines

When I lived in Belgium, my Flemish friends told me that they were called the Cloggies, and the Walloons were obviously the Froggies.

So would you be happier with furious froggies and cheesed off cloggies?

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News website deserves a slap for its hate-filled commentards, say 'ooman rights beaks

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I'm not sure if that's true, and I seem to remember things have changed relatively recently as well anyway. It's confusing keeping up with a moving target, even in a field I'm supposedly expert on (which this isn't).

But I think the time element is very important too. If you get a complaint or request to remove something, then you're definitely in trouble if you don't do so in a timely manner. So you may decide that the complaint is unreasonable, but in that case you're now effectively accepting liability for said comment, defending it, and up for punishment if it's found to be defamatory. So I guess most publishers will take the easy route, and delete any comment they get a complaint about. It's far cheaper to hit delete than it is to pay a lawyer for an opinion, let alone actually fight the case.

I seem to recall there's also some ruling that once you edit any comments, or have any moderation policy, then you're accepting liability for everything. Although this defence probably doesn't get you off if someone complains about a comment and you don't take it down. Although surely at that point, you've just started a moderation policy?

I'm so glad I'm not a lawyer...

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Facepalm

Re: News website deserves a slap for its hate-filled commentards

Anyone who comments on a Register article is an idiot!

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Google on Google: The carefully collated anti-trust truth

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Re: Free services are not free

The regulators appear to be deciding that "vertical search" (in this case price comparison search), is a different market to general search. Therefore if Google dominate general search, due to being the best, that's all fine and dandy. They're allowed that monopoly, so long as they don't use unfair tactics to maintain it.

What they're not allowed to do, is to leverage that monopoly in order to gain unfair advantage in other markets. This is why MS got fined so hugely for giving away Internet Explorer for free. Or why Intel were fined for using their PC processor monopoly to protect them in the server market from AMD's superior Opteron chips.

I used sites like pricerunner 5-10 years ago, but stopped because they were usually finding me deals that were only pennies cheaper than the places I was already looking. And why risk a transaction with an unknown company online to save 5p? Google's offer was no better, and yet killed them off. There's an argument that like a lot of stuff on the web, they might have improved. But they didn't get a chance, because they got killed off. As Google's own internal research was saying that Google's service was actually worse than theirs - this could be a clear example of a dominant monopoly abusing its power by stopping progress in a related market. Or equally they might all have remained crap up to now and still no-one would be using them. We'll never know.

However Google will just have to live with this. They've got that search monopoly. They're the gatekeeper to the internet. They have massive power, and they don't seem to be very careful about who they piss on, when they use it. That lack of moderation is going to get them attention from regulators. And actually should do. That's what regulators are for, and if you want free markets, then you have to regulate monopolies. Not that government aren't at least as capable of screwing up as Google are...

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one is that the new entrant (Google) does a better job than the incumbents.

Always a strong possibility. Google frequently do a very good job - although they've had plenty of failures as well.

But in this same case, some of Google's internal emails came to light. Embarrassing ones. From the internal user testing department, where they said that Google's own shopping search sucked, and that people preferred the other ones. The weird thing is that Google's own shopping service was increasing market share at this point - and one suggestion is that this is because Google were shoving themselves to the top of the list.

Oddly, given Google's obvious expertise in search, they've been shit at shopping searches as for long as I can remember. They had a service they killed off called Froogle ten years ago, and they've had various attempts at it since, and none of them have been very good. Not helped by the almost identical ads they show, next to their supposedly cheapest price results nowadays.

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'It’s irrelevant whether Elon Musk is a dick or not. At least he’s trying to make things'

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Re: Pretty laughable to think...

As I understand it, the electric car subsidies came way after Musk had founded Tesla and got it off the ground. He may have been successful at lobbying for them, or they may have come along at the right time to save his bacon (mmmm baaacon) - but that's a different matter.

SpaceX is another matter though. He took a susbidy to get some R&D done - and he promptly did that R&D. Something some of our defence contractors could certainly learn from. So he showed determination in order to pursue his goal, and navigate the legal and bureaucratic maze to get where he wanted.

He then took a government contract to do a thing and did the thing. That's not a subsidy by the way, there's a huge difference. He also did the thing cheaper than everyone else, and with 100% success rate so far. The ISS has got its dinner within a reasonable margin of error (for space launches) every time. And he's never blown their Christmas presents up and scattered them over a launchpad (trashing it in the process), or just blown up and fallen into the sea.

Admittedly he has blown up some sea and dented a barge a few times, but that was strictly on his own time, and his own barge...

Now he's taken another NASA subsidy to do some R&D on a manned capsule. Is anyone here willing to bet against him getting that to work?

Note he's also taken a smaller subsidy for the same job as ULA, so yet again he's going to come out cheaper than the competition. Isn't he even going to come out cheaper than Soyuz (at least what the Russians are charging NASA per launch)? Even if not, Soyuz is looking a little less reliable at the moment, what with the deterioration in relations with Russia, and the recent spate of problems with the Russian space industry. My suspicion is that they've cut spending, while cronyism and corruption have increased, but it may only be one of those two.

The thing that does make you wonder about SpaceX though, is how few commercial launches they get. Obviously the commercial sector is going to want a nice track record - in particular for insurance. But given the reported lower costs, you could probably afford a few oopses, and so far the only payload he's lost was blown up because NASA made him, as a secondary launch on an ISS flight where a launch delay meant they didn't like the flightpath being too near to the ISS.

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Re: Revisionism makes real people look inadequate

Edison electrocuted an elephant in Times Square, in front of a large crowd, to "prove" that Tesla was wrong, and that AC was in fact hideously dangerous and everyone should go with Edison's preferred DC instead.

Apparently he did this a lot at lectures/roadshows around the place - but saved cash by only electrocuting stray dogs.

I humbly suggest that Musk has a long way to go in the being a total dick stakes, before he catches up with Edison.

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Philae warms up nicely, sends home second burst of data

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Devil

As I understand it 67P is incredibly cold, dull, dark, has almost no atmosphere, and has been trailing the stench of bad eggs through the solar system. It's completely unlike anywhere we've studied before, oh Skegness you say, oh sorry carry on then.

Why did we waste all that money on a rocket and a ten year journey again...?

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The insidious danger of the lone wolf control freak sysadmin

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Re: Did the PFY own a bus?

Did they check inside the rolled up carpet in the skip, by the carpark exit?

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Zionists stole my SHOE, claims Muslim campaigner

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Devil

Re: Stasi

There was a program on TV that showed all these jars with grubby kecks in them.

I hope the East German economy was able to produce air-fresheners in sufficient quantity to allow Stasi HQ to remain habitable.

I'm presuming this putrid pandora's box of puissantly ponging pants was stored in Room 101?

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Happy

Re: Has he looked for his shoe in places that are a mile from his home?

In that case, I blame Google translate...

If you want to truly understand someone, first hop a mile in their shoe, then fall over.

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Happy

Re: Maybe...

thomeone should write a thong about that...

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Re: "Zersetzung"

I didn't realise the Manson family also did it. I know it was a common tactic for the Stasi, and I believe the KGB played similar games.

Although did anyone else read, "the Manson family" and immediately try and think which sitcom that was? Just me then? Even if I say duh-duh de dum and click my fingers twice?

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Re: Now it becomes clear.

With all the attention-grabbing keywords already on this thread, did you really want to be typing "in Al Qaeda's defence"?

Oh bugger! I said it now. Will people please STOP saying Jehovah!

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I ain't Spartacus
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Re: Now it becomes clear.

So that's what happens to the TV remote controller? It's Al Qaeda I tell you!

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I ain't Spartacus
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Re: Anyone remember the Sunday Sport ?

Ah, the good old Sunday Sport...

My favourite headline was "Vampire 3-in-a-bed Sex Scandal".

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Coat

Re: ???

Nope. It was a slow shoes day...

OK. OK. I'll get my coat. Just a minute. Where's my coat? Who's stolen my coat!?!

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Belgium privacy commish ambushes Facebook with lawsuit

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Re: One thing I've learned....

Dan Paul,

One word for you to consider: Advertising.

It's how Facebook makes its money.

Now admittedly some of that will be global branding. But from my limited experience of looking at the ads bar in Facebook, most of the ads are of too piss-poor a quality to come from that source. So much of it is going to be local. That is a local revenue stream, mostly within national borders, but almost all is going to be within EU jurisdiction. That is the leverage the EU has over Facebook. And that's without going nuclear, and just having it banned at the router level, which is trivial to do. But politically much less likely.

This is why Google are slowly realising they're going to have to knuckle under to the EU - because if they want to participate in one of the largest single markets in the world, they're going to have to play by at least some of the rules, or get repeatedly hit over the head.

The internet is not magic. Despite what all the marketroids and utopians claim. Much of the stuff people do, they do for cold, hard cash. And they have to get that cash from somewhere. That somewhere is where governments can interact and use leverage on companies, no matter where they choose to headquarter themselves, or put their servers.

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Are these people stupid? Have they not been observing what's just happened to Google? Do they not have lobbyists who can tell them which way the wind is blowing in Brussels?

The Spitzenkandidate system was a German idea (hence the name) from some of the last remaining believers in the one true church of the EU. The idea being to get power to the Parliament from the Council of Ministers. By a clever bit of ambush, it worked. It got its candidate to be President of the Commission. One of the big drivers of German politics is privacy. And this was long before the Snowden revelations! A bit of crude nationalism and sulking that the tech giants are all American isn't exactly going to help matters.

Added to the fact that Cameron attempted to get the Council of Ministers not to vote to give their power away by accident, and they basically didn't like the idea but couldn't really be arsed to oppose it. However, he nearly stopped it, except for a last minute move by the German opposition and press. That gave us Juncker, and he seems to be capable of remembering a favour - hence the complete transformation of the Commission's policy on Google - pretty much from the moment his Commission took over.

Given those political movements in the EU, surely this is the time for giant US corporations that rely on hoovering up as much private data as they can get away with, to keep their bloody heads down and say "yes sir" a few times to keep the politicians sweet. I'm sure it'll all blow over in a bit, and if they don't keep poking the angry bear with a stick, it'll roll over and go back to sleep again.

What are the boards of these companies doing? Is there no adult supervision at Facebook? Or are they just so stupid that they think paying their lobbying cash to Congress covers them globally? Well if they get what's coming to them from the EU, I shall laugh. It's not like they haven't had warnings.

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Black Helicopters

Re: 'Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!'

There is nothing to worry about from Facebook. Facebook are our friends. Facebook is wonderful. I only live to serve the Master. All Hail Overlord Zuckerberg! You are our leader! All good things come from you! I must have 150 emails a day spewed into my inbox to show me what cat videos my friends are watching. I love Big Brother. I love Big Brother.

Help! Help! They're coming for all of...

...

...

...

...

There is nothing to worry about. Facebook are our friends. Facebook is great. No interaction with my family or friend units is complete without Facebook. They got you too? They got me a long time ago...

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The Hound of Hounslow: No $40m Wall Street wobbler

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Re: When things get wobbly

It's a long time since I studied Tacoma narrows, but as I recall the footage the driver got out of his car with loads of time to spare. What always amazed me about that footage, apart from the "wheee look at it bounce" factor, was how long that bridge survived. By the end it was doing extraordinary contortions and yet still more-or-less in one piece. Until it wasn't.

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Re: A bridge too far

If I had a pound for every time an architect has fucked up a job, because they couldn't be arsed to check with a competent engineer first, then I wouldn't be posting this comment, as I'd now be drinking cocktails on the deck of my yacht...

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Entertaining prospect: Amazon Fire TV Stick

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Sad me

I lost a bit of love for Amazon at Christmas. They gave me a month's trial of Prime, just as I was buying Christmas prezzies, so I took them up on their kind offer. Thinking that it was about time I got myself some of this streaming video malarkey. I also happened to have bought a Google Chromecast stick, because someone was coming over to watch an American football match at mine, and it was so cheap I decided it was easier than moving the PC to the sitting room for streaming purposes. Easy access to iPlayer and a cheap toy.

I was a bit disappointed that Amazon didn't have an app on the Chromecast. Particularly given their attitude to Kindle, where they had apps on almost everyone's systems - so you could know there'd be a good chance to access books you'd bought in many years time. Not that I did, but that's a promise I would severely doubt now.

But OK, Amazon have got their Fire TV, and stick in the US, so maybe they couldn't be bothered to write an app. So off I toddled to the PC, open the Chrome browser, and then if you launch the video player in its own window you can cast to Chromecast. Ah, nope. Amazon have deliberately blocked this. So now I'm intrigued, and do a bit of research online. Amazon have also blocked Apple AirPlay, so I can have their app and watch stuff on my iPad, but not cast to the big screen.

Now I'm a bit annoyed. Then I look for some content to watch. I think I searched for about 15 different things. Series or films. Some quite old too. They're all on there. Hooray! Oh no, hang on, there's no button to watch them. But I can buy them? Huh? Oh, I see. They're not actually available on Amazon Prime Instant Irritating Video - there's no way to just filter for stuff you've actually paid to watch, you can't use other devices to watch it, and basically you're paying them £5 a month for them to advertise stuff at you that they would sell to you anyway.

So I cancelled my Prime membership that evening, in case I forgot later. The Chromecast does the NFL app and iPlayer, plus Youtube. So far, that's enough. Apple TV is tempting, but quite restrictive, and I guess the real answer is a mini-PC or maybe a Roku. But everything out there seems to be limited in one petty way or another.

Amazon have disappointed me though. They used to be all about the content. But now they've gone into making mediocre tablets and phones, that seems to be changing.

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Jurassic World: All the meaty ingredients for a summer blockbuster

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Re: I'm more interested

I believe tanks of pirhanas to drop unsuccessful henchpersons into are far more important. In fact, this may be what finally happened to the cat...

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Sun's out, guns out: Plucky Philae probot WAKES UP ... hits 'snooze'

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Terminator

Re: Excellent work!

Full credit to the designers and builders. Mistreated, bounced a kilometre, frozen and subjected to all sorts of indignities and yet - it LIVES!

And now it's heading back to Earth bent on revenge!!!

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TERROR in ORBIT: Dodgy rocket burp biffs International Space Station off track

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Re: WTF

The Duma have just been investigating Roscosmos and some people from their contractors have just been charged with corruption. The head of the Duma committee said something like $1.3 billion of their 2013 budget can't be accounted for. This is either a major probe into sorting out serious corruption - or some of senior management being punished for various recent failures, it's hard to know.

Russian government spending was already being tightened before sanctions and the collapse in the oil price did such damage to the Russian economy and tax base. They've also been heavily increasing defence spending for a few years, so I do wonder if money has been moved from the civilian to the military space programmes.

Equally it's possible that Roscosmos is extremely well funded, but now suffering crippling levels of corruption.

Apparently 98% of people arrested in Russia go on to get convicted, and according to a piece I read from a Russian commentator you have to bribe the police to let you go before you get to the police station, as once you're there and the paperwork is started, you're doomed.

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Couple sues estate agent who sold them her mum's snake-infested house

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Personally I'd be more worried by the Villa...

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Happy

Re: "Broseker is Van Horn's mother"?

Not a problem? What eats mongooses? Or is that mongeese? Eventually we'll get up to a pest so large, that you can simply build a fence to control it. Or keep it as a pet, or just eat it...

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Win Phone to outgrow smartmobe market for next four years

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Re: Sounds like wishful thinking

Perhaps the tech savvy aren't using Windows Phone? MS seem to have given up on the high end, and don't seem to have taken advantage of all the camera goodness that Nokia was putting into their top phones about the time of the sale. Which were features worth bragging about. I was hoping to go for one of those nice cameras, when they got to the mid-price bit of the market.

But I know a few basic users who are very happy. Smartphones are nicer for texts, and although it's a little more complicated to make calls, it's much easier to maintain your address book. Plus you get mapping and email. Win Pho is very good at all of those. Who needs more in a phone?

Well lots of people of course, and if you want the best apps you're better of elsewhere. But for a basic, decent quality smartphone there's little wrong with the cheaper Lumias. If you get one as a first smartphone and then want to be using a lot as a mobile computer, its limitations could get frustrating.

My iPad is my mobile computer. My phone is for work, comms and a bit of mapping or emergency looking stuff up online when out-and-about. If I really want apps, I can tether the two together, and go online with a decent sized screen. Different people have different needs.

My current phone is an iPhone 5 from work. Of our batch of 6, one got lost 2 didn't make the first year and had to be replaced under warranty - and both of those have since started going wrong (mine is having random battery problems and a dodgy button after maybe 14 months since the replacement). One other made 18 months, one hardly gets used, and the last one has been bashed to hell but survived kids, and constant facebooking/texting. Oh and the address book is the worst of any smartphone I've ever used (including my old Sony Ericsson P800...) I think I shall be pointing the company credit card at a replacement mid-priced Lumia or a Samsung Galaxy Note, now we've gone SIM only.

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I doubt MS make much. Although I believe not having full multi-tasking, and the OS being quite efficient means that they can get away with cheaper processors and less RAM - and still have a phone that works well.

For example, 5 years ago my old HTC Wildfire on Android 2.2 sometimes used to stutter with no apps running on its sad 350MB of RAM. My Mum's Lumia 630 runs as smoothly as anything on only 500MB now, although I'm not sure if that will update to Win Pho 10. But then she paid £60 for it on my recommendation.

Since she got it in April, I've had one call asking me how to do stuff. Much better than I was expecting - and much less trouble than she had learning the iPad.

It's a really nice phone. And the apps available in the Marketplace are far better than when I had one (Win Pho 7.5) 3 years ago. There's still quite a lot missing though. It's not as good as an iPhone, but an iPhone is nowhere near ten times better - but it is ten times the price!

My next phone will be a slightly better £100-£200) Lumia or 'Droid, with a nicer camera. I like the simplicity and big buttons of the Lumia, and mostly use apps on my tablet. I would not recommend Android to anyone who's not good with computers though, it still seems too complicated.

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Interplanetary Internet about as useful as flying pigs says Vint Cerf

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Happy

Basic economic reality

All those asteroid miners, cooped up in their tiny ships for months at a time, are going to require repeated deliveries of fresh porn.

Short of frisbeeing it out to them with some sort of orbital DVD firing gun, that requires a space-internet...

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Make Adama proud: Connect your Things wisely, cadet

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Re: Admiral Adama

I turned on my TV one Saturday afternoon a few years ago, to see 5 women doing roller-disco in silver miniskirts to some sort of synthesiser bebop. Before it cut to Starbuck (or Face out of the A-Team depending on your age) winning another hand of space-poker.

Through my laughter I reflected that nothing dates as fast as peoples' ideas of the future.

I suspect if I went back and watched it now, the original Battlestar Galactica would look really crap. I loved it when I was a kid, but then I still remember the disappointment of getting a DVD of Blakes 7, ten years ago.

In my opinion, the first series of the BSG remake is absolutely brilliant TV. Really well made, well written and just well done in general. But once they go into series 2 I thought it started to go downhill, and I stopped watching sometime in early series 3. Other opinions are of course available, but I'd rate that first series alongside anything else I've seen, sci-fi or otherwise.

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Stranded Brussels airport passengers told to check Facebook

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Happy

I currently have the rather pleasant image of someone in leathers and a full face helmet. With a hole drilled through the visor, and a pipe stem poking out. Mounted above the fuel tank on his bike is an ashtray, plus one of those wooden pipe racks, with matches, blade, pipecleaners and a spare pipe, just in case.

Apparently WG Grace's book On Cricket contains the excellent advice to batsmen, that they should stop smoking their pipe before going out to bat...

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Post-pub nosh neckfiller: Bog-standard boxty

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You seriously say toasties cause no serious risk of burning? Have you never tried a jam toasty? Delicious but deadly.

Although my favourite is the egg toasty. Your machine has to have tight fitting plates, or you just end up with work surfaces covered in egg. But the trick is to hold the centre of the bread down in the moulded bit of the plate with a knice, pour in one egg from a cup - rapidly drop the knife and grab the top slice, shove on and whack lid closed as quickly as possible. Then hold tight shut until a seal forms. With practice you can do this totally without spillage. And the fried outside and poached inside of the egg, in buttery fried toasty badness if truly delicious with a little ketchup.

Thinks, I must dig my old toasty maker out of whatever cupboard it's been living in for the last few years.

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Re: Buttermilk

Milk also works, although I've tended to use half buttermilk and half ordinary milk when making soda bread. But I guess it'll work with whatever you've got to hand.

I guess soda bread itself is just about easy enough to do when you get home from the pub. It is definitely fine the next morning when fried with bacon and fried eggs (and sausages), beans. Yummy.

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India to Russia: 'Sod you, Vlad, we're going to the moon ALONE'

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Corruption in high places

I notice that a bunch of senior Russian space officials are now being charged with corruption. Including a committee of the Duma saying that Roscosmos can't account for about $1.3 billion of cash from 2013 alone.

However, I'm not sure if this isn't just the modern Russian equivalent of being sent to Siberia. Someone has to get punished for an embarrassing cock-up, so why not try a few high profile people, who don't have the right connections? Or have annoyed the wrong person lately?

On the other hand, looting state enterprises for all their cash is something the Putin regime excels at. I wondered if the recent spate of accidents was because the large increases in defence spending over the last few years (not to mention the Olympics), had already been straining the Russian government budget. And that's before sanctions and the oil price crash last year. So I wondered if they'd been cutting margins too much. But equally it could be corruption. Or both. Or just bad luck - and the usual learning curve as designs are slowly updated.

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Re: It's about time somebody went...

I make that ( a brief pause while i take my socks off... ) FORTY TWO years.

CAPS LOCK,

Erm, are you from Norfolk by any chance?

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NEVER MIND the B*LLOCKS Osbo peddles, deficits don't really matter

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Re: Impulsive voting

You haven't even quoted enough evidence to support a disagreement with me, let alone call me dishonest.

I didn't call you dishonest. I said your argument was - because I've only seen it made by people from the left as a sort of "nyer nyer Osborne's shit" mantra. I don't know where you sit on the political spectrum, and I wasn't sure if you were even saying you believed that argument, or if you were using it as a way of demonstrating people's lack of understanding of the problem.

However, my supporting evidence, from my post, is here:

in that the trajectory of national debt was set during the administration of the previous government - and short of insane levels of cuts, as were enforced on Greece with utterly disastrous (and utterly predictable) results the coalition was only ever going to have a limited effect on the total debt.

To put this more clearly, the deficit in 2009-10 was something like £150 billion ish (sorry for not looking up the exact figures, but an approximation makes the point perfectly well). The coalition emergency Summer budget had about £6 billion of cuts in it, and I think they also underspent that year by a few billions more.

But even with making cuts the total stock of debt was going to go up by those figures of hundreds of billions a year. So what was the total debt stock by 2010? £700bn? Add 5 x £120 bn and you've got some serious money...

So yes, the ever increasing debt stock was a problem they inherited from the last government. There was no realistic policy they could have pursued that would have made a material difference to the fact that national debt was going to roughly double in that period. They could have cut more steeply, which would have been bad for the economy, or they could have defaulted on a portion of the national debt to get it down to reasonable levels - which would have been a catastrophic idea.

Even if Osborne had managed to follow his plan to eliminate most of the deficit by the end of the Parliament (which would have required the Euro crisis not to happen - amongst other things), national debt would have still ballooned massively.

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Re: Brown's Surplus

Well they may have been Ken Clarke's plans, but it was Brown that carried them out. And Ken Clarke could safely make them, as he knew that he didn't have a cat in hell's chance of winning the 97 election.

Labour could almost certainly have got away with promising a bit more spending in 97, if they were reasonable. The Major government was on its last legs by then. But who can blame Labour for playing it safe, after what happened in 92.

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Re: Flow of money

Remember though that currencies change their value. So if our economy isn't doing swimmingly, but we're paying off debt to foreigners, then Johnny-Foreigner might choose to sell those pounds to someone else at below the market rate.

Then our exchange rate falls. This makes our exports cheaper abroad, and so may help us to sell more of them. But it also makes our imports more expensive. This means we have become poorer as an economy, as we have to sell more exports in order to achieve the same level of imports we were getting before. If a large part of our economy is made up of international trade - then overall prices of goods will rise (again we are poorer). This is of course inflation - and workers may demand higher pay in order to counteract it. And so the merry dance of economic ripple-effects continues...

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Re: It doesn't matter...until it does

It makes sense to run a deficit in a recession - it's a way to get out of it - but you must run a surplus during the boom, or the debt will become too high to pay.

Not quite true. The bit about running compensatory deficits in busts is obviously right. The Austrians are mad. Remember those predictions from the Troika in 2010 that the Greek economy would only shrink by 4%, then 8%, if they took their medicine? Well the Greeks cut their total government spending by 25%! And their economy shrank in the same period by 26%. I believe that's the biggest peacetime cut in government spending in modern history - and not coincidentally is one of the biggest peacetime recessions in modern economic history. One for the Austrian school to ponder on perhaps...

Oh, and by the way, the Germans are big, fat liars. The Greeks sure dragged their feet a lot and squealed - and I wouldn't trust their government to run a whelk stall - but they did implelment quite a few of the reforms. According to the OECD more than any other country in Europe during this recession (although their economy started as one of the least flexible). And I think the 2nd biggest cuttters in Europe were Ireland, who cut government spending by about 6% over 2 years, not Greece's 25% over 4.

But to get back to the point, Keynes was the one who advocated running a surplus during the boom. He wanted to have some wiggle room ready for spending in the recession of course. But he was also talking about demand management, so you'd cool the boom by raising taxes or cutting spending, and then stimulate during the busts with deficit spending.

But so long as your deficit and interest bill is less than GDP growth plus inflation, then the national debt will fall as a percentage of GDP. So if you've got 2% inflation, plus 2% growth and are only paying debt interest of 3% of GDP, then you don't have an urgent need to cut. You could even run a small deficit, say 0.5% of GDP and still have the overall debt-to-GDP level fall. There are risks to this. After all Brown's over-spending wasn't awful, by historical standards, it's just that the bubble was so big and the bust so nasty that it made things materially worse. Had we had a recession that only lost us 2%-2% of GDP, without the chaos of the banking crisis, recovering would have been far less painful.

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Re: Impulsive voting

Pointing out to these people that the coalition had actually increased the national debt more in their term of office than the previous three administrations combined was met with general disbelief

This is a pretty dishonest argument though, in that the trajectory of national debt was set during the administration of the previous government - and short of insane levels of cuts, as were enforced on Greece with utterly disastrous (and utterly predictable) results the coalition was only ever going to have a limited effect on the total debt.

On the other hand though, many people don't seem to get the difference between debt and deficit. Including some politicians seemingly. Many people when asked at the beginning of the last government apparently believed that Osborne had pledged to eliminate the national debt by the end of this Parliament, not the deficit. But I am suspicious of those kind of surveys, like when the Daily Mail tries to ramp up the shock with 20% of teenagers don't know who Adolf Hitler was / can't point out the UK on a globe, etc. Whereas I suspect the real meaning of those surveys is that 20% of people couldn't be bothered to answer a silly question.

I slightly disagree with Tim on the point of the article though. That report with the Excel spreadsheet error still seemed to show a correlation between economies with lower growth and those with debt-to-GDP ratios over about 90%. Although correlation is not causation - so it could as well be said that dysfunctional economies run up large debts.

But trajectory matters. Running deficits around 10% of GDP is dangerous. That kind of money mounts up really quickly. When the Conservatives had to re-write their entire program for government in 2009 - they had no way to predict that interest rates would still be so ridiculously low 6 years later. I mean there was a good chance that they wouldn't be shooting up, as growth and inflatoin might be expected to be rare commodities after such a nasty recession. But it would he horribly reckless to not worry about interest rates on government debt jumping - and it could then start getting seriously expensive to service the national debt. Congratulations are due to the Treasury under Gordon Brown here, for pushing out our government debt maturities to much longer periods than any other country during the last boom. Thus locking in the low interest rates on offer at the time, and making this period much easier for us now.

I've changed my opinion on the risk of the bond markets turning against us. I thought it was reasonably likely in 2010, without some action - but on watching the Euro-crisis unfold and how willing people continue to be to lend money at insanely low rates - even though the risks are both historically high and impossible to properly calculate. Personally I feel that there's more than a 50% chance of Italy having to partially default. Their debt is rising, their economy is stagnant, their population is falling and they're in a fixed exchange rate system at the wrong rate, with a political system that makes serious reforms all but impossible. Yet they're paying under 2% with a debt to GDP ratio of around 136%, and rising by 4%-5% a year. Oh and almost all the Italian opposition parties are now committed to a Euro referendum, and campaigning to leave.

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