* Posts by Sandtreader

90 posts • joined 22 Jun 2009

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UK gov rejects call to posthumously pardon Alan Turing

Sandtreader
Boffin

A Turing test...

... in which the investigator is able to ask a number of questions of a Noble Lord to ascertain if there is any sign of intelligence within.

But seriously, folks, even as a lifelong fan of Turing (it's not just computing - check out what he did for developmental biology) and a strong believer in gay rights, I'm in two minds about this pardon business. I agree with JGC on why he couldn't support the second petition:

http://blog.jgc.org/2011/11/why-im-not-supporting-campaign-for.html

But I think there's also an important semantic difference between a pardon and apology - it seems to me the apology is the stronger response.

A pardon *could* be read as "OK, you *were* guilty of gross indecency, you nasty little sodomite, but because you did all this other cool stuff we'll rather pointlessly let you off". Whereas the apology quite clearly says "OK, we can't undo the past, but we do recognise that the law at the time was abhorrent".

So the pardon *could* still exist in a system in which the law at that time is still considered valid and moral now, and his (supposed) moral guilt for homosexuality is just outweighed by his other gifts to society. The apology is stronger because it unambiguously and entirely transfers any guilt (vicariously) to the government of the time.

Does this make any sense?

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Facebook registers mysterious fBoriGin domain names

Sandtreader
Stop

domains are case insensitive

DNS is case-insensitive and the fborigin.com whois entry is lowercase like every other domain. Where does this bizarre casing idea come from?

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Pollution-gobbling molecules in global warming SMACKDOWN

Sandtreader
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Gaia FTW

So forests have (yet another) mechanism for creating global homeostasis that they (and we) need to survive. Maybe we should stop cutting them down, then...

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US spy drone hijacked with GPS spoof hack, report says

Sandtreader
Stop

I just don't buy it

Even if you could either break the encryption/signature/frequency hopping, or apply microscopic delays in such a way as to fool it into thinking its distance from one or more satellites was greater, we're not talking about just randomly buggering it up, we're presumably talking about getting it to land the right way up, wheels down, somewhere soft.

Insufficient security of control systems or operator finger trouble all sound infinitely more plausible than a GPS hack.

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Dennis Ritchie: The C man who booted Unix

Sandtreader
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OK, you win the prize for best C fragment - encompassing both C and UNIX concepts in a wistful wrapper - nice one!

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Sandtreader
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Metric = Google

OK, scrap that - here is the definition of the Tiobe metric:

http://www.tiobe.com/index.php/content/paperinfo/tpci/tpci_definition.htm

Basically counting search results on +"<language> programming"! Worthless, surely? What's the betting C will spike next month?

Well, here's my contribution to the index in roughly cronological order:

BBC Basic programming ARM Assembler programming C programming C++ programming Javascript programming

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Sandtreader

Thanks for the link, that's really interesting. It appears they are counting people-popularity (number of engineers, courses etc.) rather than LOC, projects or whatever. Interesting to see how C# has stolen quite a bit of Java's fire, leaving C almost back at pole position.

But I wonder if this might favour old and university-course languages. For example, (who (uses-p `LISP)) any more??

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Sandtreader

Most popular language? By what metric?

I keep reading that C is the second most popular language, and some suggestion that the most popular is Java. Based on LOC, I guess. That seems a little unfair since C is one of the world's least verbose languages and used in situations which demand a small amount of code running extremely quickly and reliably.

Shouldn't the count be of number of instances of the software running? In which case, count a handful of instances of Tomcat for each corporate Java project and hundreds of millions for every embedded device, phone, TV, car dashboard, router, GPS (...) running a C-based RTOS or Linux.

And what are Java VMs written in, anyway?

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Hackers dump secret info for thousands of cops

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Chinese coal blamed for global warming er... cooling

Sandtreader
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Aerosols = old news

The cooling effect of aerosols has been known for ages - it's the conventional explanation for the post-war cooling. But aerosols have a very short lifetime compared to CO2 - so the real question is what happens when the Chinese get fed up with smog and/or run out of coal...

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Earth may be headed into a mini Ice Age within a decade

Sandtreader
Boffin

Watch this graph...

You can watch it happen (or not happen) here:

http://www.woodfortrees.org/plot/pmod

(PMOD = measurement of total solar insolation)

http://www.woodfortrees.org/plot/sidc-ssn/from:1975

(Sunspot number)

I think both indicate something slightly different is happening...

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BP world energy review: Chinese coal drives up CO2

Sandtreader
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Two wrongs don't make a right

The implied logic of the article (explicitly stated by some commenters) is that there is no point the EU doing anything to improve efficiency and increase renewable capacity because China is heading in the opposite direction.

This is wrong both ethically and practically:

Ethically because someone else's worse evil doesn't justify your own.

Practically because China will one day catch up and need to use (and potentially buy from us) all that energy-efficiency and renewable technology that we've developed.

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Sandtreader
Stop

PV energy payback < 4 years

Not this old canard again. The energy payback time for PV solar is at worst 4 years and is falling with new technology.

http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy04osti/35489.pdf (PDF)

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Google pits C++ against Java, Scala, and Go

Sandtreader
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NPOV?

"C++ and Java require statements being terminated with a

’;’. Both Scala and Go don’t require that. Go’s algorithm

enforces certain line breaks, and with that a certain coding

style. While Go’s and Scala’s algorithm for semicolon

inference are different, both algorithms are intuitive and

powerful."

I don't think that would pass Wikipedia review... One might argue that inference of syntactic elements from whitespace is ugly and error prone, and enforcement of K&R style doubly so - unless you do it properly and get rid of braces altogether, like Python. Adding semis is like breathing, you don't even know you're doing it; so why mess with it?

Also, in terms of conciseness, it hardly seems fair to compare ISO C++ with something brand new like Scala and Go: Why not C++0x, which instantly gets rid of the lot of the verbosity with 'auto'? And Scala's fancy for comprehension structure was the first thing they threw out when optimising it!

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BT to embrace IPTV as it upgrades broadband network to multicast

Sandtreader
Boffin

Open access?

The key question here - as Christian Berger and an AC both alluded to above - is how open this is. i.e. how are mere mortals able to inject multicast traffic into their network. It would be great if it was fully routed but I'd lay money it is source-specific and hence pretty much only available if you're plugged into their core routers (= if you're BT or a major ISP).

Done properly this could not only enable IPTV - a multicast fileshare carousel, for example, is far, far more efficient than dozens of unicast connections into a CDN for the same file.

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BT and EE join together for Cornish LTE

Sandtreader

2Mb/sec (which is a lot when you're in Cornwall) - until tomorrow!

We already have Superfast pilot areas in Cornwall running with FTTC at 40Mbit/sec; full rollout with FTTP and FTTC to be announced tomorrow - see superfastcornwall.org, Twitter #sfcornwall.

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Google Go boldly goes where no code has gone before

Sandtreader
Boffin

That's a fib

No, fib() is only called once. It's the function it returns, called 'f' in main() which is called repeatedly, modifying a and b each time.

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Sandtreader
Boffin

Reaching closure

It's a long-winded way of doing Fibonacci but a nice-ish way of demonstrating closures. The fib() function doesn't actually do anything, it returns a function which can be asked to do so something later. a and b act rather like globals and are held in a 'closure' attached to the function object returned by fib(). Each call of this function (which gets assigned to 'f' in the main()) modifies a and b. The double assignment is a trick to calculate both right-hand sides before assigning them to new values of a and b, which gives you a kind of two-element queue, which is what you need for calculating Fibonacci. HTH.

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Sandtreader

Language enforces K&R shock

Oh damn, I was getting interested until you said that. So "ANSI" bracing is out? C syntax may not be optimal but it is automatic to millions of programmers...

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Save the planet: Stop the Greens

Sandtreader

Energy payback time for a modern turbine = 3 months

http://guidedtour.windpower.org/media(444,1033)/The_energy_balance_of_modern_wind_turbines%2C_1997.pdf

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Dig deep! Radio asks taxpayers for blank cheque

Sandtreader
Flame

You know something is BAD when...

You know something is bad when even geeks - especially geeks - don't want it. This particular geek spends far too much of his time picking apart digital TV standards and might be expected to be drooling over digital audio - but no, practically the only time I listen to radio is in the car, and only my hyper-local radio station, Atlantic FM, which has publicly said it could not survive the move to a regional mux because it couldn't target its advertising so well.

I don't think the government has any clue about the s**tstorm that will be kicked up if the World In General understood that every radio they own - on their phone, car, van, boat, stereo, ghetto blaster, site radio, shop etc. etc. - is going to instantly become unusable, and half their favourite local stations will go bust.

This is *not* like TV: With digital switchover there was a definite benefit in range of channels and quality of transmission, EPG and recorder support. Most people only have one or two TVs and it was a simple retrofit with a set-top box, and TV is a largely fixed receiver service. DAB is the opposite of all of those things!

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Software suppliers not ready for HMRC online tax filing system

Sandtreader
Alert

Someone save us from the CT600 PDF!

Let's hope someone comes up with a (cheap, simple, i.e. not Sage) package to do iXBRL filing soon, otherwise we'll be stuck with the diabolical CT600 PDF for another year:

More ranting on this subject at: http://sandtreader.wordpress.com/2011/01/01/government-ui/

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Trident delay by the Coalition: Cunning plan, or bad idea?

Sandtreader
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Moral aspect

Lots of good strategic and cost reasons not to replace Trident discussed above, but for me the biggest reason is a simple moral one: Use of a nuclear weapon is primarily designed to kill civilians and destroy civilian infrastructure, and hence is /ipso facto/ a war crime. No amount of outdated banging on about 'deterrence' is going to change that, because the receivers of the punishment (the civilians) are not the actors (probably some terrorist nutcases or out of control military junta). They never really were even in the Cold War, but they certainly aren't now.

So it would good if renewal were kicked into touch for a while, but it's a missed opportunity. If the UK took a proactive stance and said "for moral, strategic and cost reasons we are not replacing, and will retire existing capability by X", that would be a leading example in global disarmament and non-proliferation, on which our current policy is simply hypocritical.

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UK ICT classes killing kids' interest in tech

Sandtreader
Flame

Death by documentation

For my daughter's ICT GCSE coursework, she had to produce 2 docs, a spreadsheet and database (the latter using features not available in OpenOffice Base, grr), and do some fairly trivial formatting / formulae etc., but 90% of the time was taken up drawing up "designs" (including all the formulae, styling etc.) - which of course in reality ended up being reverse engineered from what she actually produced live - and endless screenshots showing every trivial step.

The actual "deliverables" could have all been produced in 3 double practical lessons leaving time for some much more interesting depth ("OK, how would we connect up your theatre booking database to the Internet?"), but no, its a small section of the subject treated at the shallowest possible level, padded out with a shedload of make-work. Result: total boredom and another child put off the entire subject.

There are times in professional software development and IT deployment when you need to think long and hard and document, document, document, but a trivial spreadsheet is not one of them.

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Sandtreader

Logo? [No line numbers here]

I used to teach Logo in the 1980's; actually as an introductory language for KS2 it's not bad at all - and it doesn't have line numbers! I'm still not sure what else would be better as a first language which gets you relatively exciting stuff quickly. Maybe PHP?

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Wikileaks publishes encrypted 'insurance' file

Sandtreader
Happy

Digital Fortress?

What's the betting the pass-phrase is "3"?

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King of the geeks leaves Oracle

Sandtreader
Boffin

Stack allocation

Java has a fundamental limit to its speed - even if compiled - which is that it doesn't have stack / automatic / scope allocation - all objects are on the heap. It also means it can't support RAII (Google).

ActionScript in Flash is based on the same core (ECMAScript) as Java*Script* - not related to Java in any way but name.

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Sony to demo 'world's first' in-box wireless tech

Sandtreader

Powerline?

My thought too - followed by the immediate chaser "so why don't they just send data over the power cables?". Or, hang on, maybe integrate power and data into the same cable. Then they could call it something like Universal Serial Bus. You heard it here last.

Or maybe it's all going to be powered by Tesla coils...

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iSlate leaves fingerprints all over the net

Sandtreader

I bought a Newton...

... and then realised that it wouldn't fit in my jacket pocket, the add-on keyboard thing was horrible, and nothing I wanted to do (e.g. decent text editor, C compiler, vector drawing program) would run on it like a proper laptop (I was also almost the only person that bought the Acorn laptop, which was great, for the time).

I'm yet to be convinced that the middle way between phone and laptop is actually a product anyone really needs, but it'll be interesting to see if they can convince me a second time. <cue: Trick Me, Kelis>

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Google 'experiment' crossbreeds Python with C++

Sandtreader
Boffin

Toy language

OK, so it does have a type system of sorts. However:

- No exceptions

- No generics / templates

- Any two things implementing the same interface(s) (by method names) are type-equivalent

- Destruction only by GC - hence no RAII, except manually with "defer"

- Explicit this!! - we're back in hacking up OO in C here.

- GC is currently batch mark/sweep (incremental is SMOP, RSN)

- No overloading

- ++ -- are statements only

- strings are immutable

- Surface syntax is sufficiently similar but different to C/C++ that switching between them will be a nightmare - e.g. semis are separators, if/for have no () but require {}, precedence of << is different;

- They insist on K&R bracing (spit ;-)

Nice things:

- Unified definition/declaration (no header files)

- Multiple return values

- Non-constant, non integer case

- labelled break/continue

- anonymous functions / lambda / closures

- inferred types

- tidied up iterators (range)

... Some (but not all) of which we get in C++0x. Now C++0x with unified definition/declaration, that would be worth making a song and dance about (but it's probably impossible).

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Sandtreader
Unhappy

Cumbersome type system?

You mean all those annoying compile-time checks and optimisations that stop your code blowing up and/or running like a dog at mission-critical run-time? Who needs them? Programmer time and the freedom to throw stuff together with no discernable structure is so much more important!

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Robot nuclear windjammer to sail patio-gas oceans of Titan

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Virgin Media to trial IPTV off-cable network

Sandtreader
Thumb Up

Clever choice

It's a clever choice of location - a very rural area with not very great broadband (5km loop), within spitting distance (across the Tamar) from a biggish city (Plymouth) where VM already have cable broadband plant.

I'm not sure about the "Cornwall has lots of transatlantic cables" angle, though. I've helped out with broadband strategy here for a few years and it's always an appealing thought that we could just bend a fibre and tap in, but when you dig into it (hopefully not literally), all that lovely bandwidth is just not at the right level - it's all multiplexed link-level bits that go upcountry to be switched and then make their rather slow way back down again.

But there are much bigger EU-funded things happening in broadband in Cornwall just around the corner - watch this space (or IPTV channel).

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LG GD910 Watch Phone

Sandtreader

More lefties

Bob61: Left handers usually wear watches on our *right* wrist, so we can use our (functional) left hand to press buttons, which even with contortions is better than using our (disfunctional) right hand at all. That's assuming you could even get the thing on using your right hand to do up the strap - try your watch on your right wrist to see the effect!

But actually, I was thinking it looked remarkably leftie-usable - you'd just have to press the call buttons with your left thumb instead of your right index finger, just like any other stopwatch etc.

But the inability to make calls without a headset is a killer for me. Maybe it should have the mic and a small speaker on the buckle, so you could put it to your ear like Spooks...

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Euro project to arrest us for what they think we will do

Sandtreader

Minority Report?

OK, let me guess, they'll have all this data displayed on some kind of super-high-resolution holographic display and move it about randomly with extravagant gestures?

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Minister attacks drunken topless lovelies with tangler-bazooka

Sandtreader

re: GU canal

Indeed, old car tyres are particularly good, we found. I somehow managed to reverse into one on the River Cam many moons ago. The prop engaged itself perfectly into the tyre but of course would not disengage itself going forward since the tyre was still free to spin. Result: hands in freezing water (this was winter) for 4 hours trying to cut through the steel reinforcing bands with a mini hacksaw...

So here's a much simpler solution, which also includes an element of recycling and hence will be eligible for Carbon Credits. Take all the old car tyres lying around in the back of ATS et al. and tie them all in a wide arc around whatever it is you're trying to protect, like an reverse purse-seine. If you use a mixture of tyre sizes - kids bike up to tractor - there will probably be one that fits the prop of the attacking vessel. Then you just have to persuade the attacker to come over the line at the right place and then immediately reverse engines. This part is left for a future funding claim.

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Nissan ponders Pré-like cordless charging for e-cars

Sandtreader
Flame

Eddie's currants

OK, so the road turns into a giant degausser (leave your tapes at home, Bill), and anything ferrous (watches, hip replacements, er, cars) nearby gets very, very hot. See diagram left for effect.

[BTW, Tesla's vision was more like having one realy big coil in, say, Birmingham (it might make it a bit warmer, I guess)]

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Google's vanity OS is Microsoft's dream

Sandtreader

Video editing in the cloud

Just to correct the assertion that there are no useable cloud-based video editing apps out there:

http://www.forbidden.co.uk/products/forscene/

No connection - except for those of us that remember RISC-OS, yes, it's *that* Forbidden Tech.

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Schneier says he was 'probably wrong' on masked passwords

Sandtreader

Firefox Web Developer is your friend

The FireFox "Web Developer" plugin has a "Forms / Show Passwords" option. I use it all the time, particularly to remember a password that the browser 'knows' but I have forgotten!

http://chrispederick.com/work/web-developer/

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Don't call me Ishmael

Sandtreader

Ships

FWIW, I've used types of ship at successive companies: 'cargo' for the fileserver, 'ferry' for the firewall, 'barque', 'brig' etc. for big workstations, down to 'launch', 'cutter', 'rib' for laptops and SFF boxes. They have the advantage that they are short, mostly easy to spell and seemingly there's an inexhaustible supply of them ("flyak"?)

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