* Posts by AndyS

696 posts • joined 23 Jun 2009

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Missile tech helps boffins land drone on car moving at 50 km/h

AndyS
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Kalman filter...

This is already in use in any flight controllers running the Arducopter (or similar) software, such as APM and Pixhawk, called the "EKF" or Extended Kalman Filter. Essentially it takes inputs from multiple sources (1 or more of the following: IMUs, more GPS, barometer, compass...), assigns a "trustworthiness" rating to each one based on how far it said the machine was from the previous estimate, then uses that info to estimate where it is now. It works incredibly well.

It should also be able to cope with hardware failures, but my experience says a bug in the code means it can't - it appears to assign a minimum trustworthiness, which is still a long way above the deserved "0" rating. Which can lead to some interesting maneuvers.

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Apple admits the iPhone 6 Plus has 'Touch Disease'

AndyS
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Re: "after being dropped multiple times on a hard surface"

> EU law on it, start looking at Guarantees and returns.

Yes, that provides a 2 year warranty on all products bought. I know it well, and have used to to return/replace faulty goods. There is absolutely no way it provides for free repairs to a 4 year old computer, so either a) the product was under an Apple warranty or b) Apple acted above and beyond their legal duty.

Assuming it was b), she did well, but that is absolutely not Apple's usual course of action.

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AndyS
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Re: "after being dropped multiple times on a hard surface"

Hmm. What was the reason they did it for free? Had she bought an extended warranty?

My 2011 imac screen failed after 23 months. I had the 2 year extended warranty. Without that, it would have cost about £450 for the repair, despite it being clearly a faulty product. I was less than impressed - since that was the third repair within the 2 year period, and since their products are getting less and less useful*, I won't be rushing back.

* I just did a mid-life upgrade by doubling the RAM and adding an SSD along side the original HDD - things that the more recent Apple products don't let you do.

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User needed 40-minute lesson in turning it off and turning it on again

AndyS
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Re: Hmmm!

This reminds me of the ritual I like to call the "How the hell do I open the petrol cap on this hire car?" forecourt dance.

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AndyS
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Re: Can you hold down the power button

Agreed. The issue here was miscommunication - the woman obviously didn't know much about computers, but she did know how to turn one off and on again - she just didn't understand what she was being asked to do. I suspect a simplification of language could have saved our hero 30 minutes of free time.

That said, sacking her for being a dingbat would seem like a sensible solution too - after all if she's this challenged at one thing, she's probably this challenged at many others too.

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Virgin Galactic and Boom unveil Concorde 2.0 tester to restart supersonic travel

AndyS
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Re: Wheels in the Wings Design Flaw

> So yes, going from 150 to 200 is very significant in energy terms

That's the speed of the aeroplane, not the metal strip. While the certainly might be related, let's not pretend to understand the physics of a complex accident with a smarmy 2 line armchair calculation on an internet forum.

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AndyS
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Re: Interesting ...

> Would the rear of the cabin suffer from more noise at mach 2.2 if the aircraft is flying faster than the sound shockwaves it is creating?

The internal air is going at roughly the same speed as the passengers and engines, as is the airframe. Engine noise could reach the passengers just fine through those routes.

Passengers seated on the wing may have trouble hearing the tail engine, though.

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IBM offers Trump its ideas to Make America Great Again

AndyS
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>"...build intelligent – and secure – roads, bridges... "

Oh, I thought Chris Christie had been sacked? Shame, he know a thing or two about clever management of bridges.

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Dirty code? If it works, leave it says Thoughtworks CTO

AndyS
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Re: Dirty code?!

Dirty code like Bobby Tables' school used?

Actually that was probably perfectly clean, easy to read code. Just take the user input, and pass it straight to the database. Could be done nice and simply in a single line.

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Firefox hits version 50

AndyS
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Android

Does anyone here use Firefox as a daily driver on Android? How does it compare to Chrome? I used it a few years ago when I first got a smartphone, but it was clunky and badly integrated at the time.Chrome "just works" now.

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Google and Facebook pledge to stop their ads reaching fake news websites

AndyS
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Re: Bit late now

Sadly, this won't help - the Daily Mail and similar shit-filled gutter-dwelling hate rags will still count as "News" and be allowed through.

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Virgin Media users report ongoing problems delivering legit emails. Again

AndyS
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Re: We send a few hundred million messages a month to domains all over the world

There are plenty of legitimate reasons for a company to be sending large numbers of emails. Maybe they are a specialist email-list handling business? Maybe they are paypal? Maybe they are handling the next US census? Who knows.

They could, of course, be sending spam, but then they would be unlikely to be complaining in this way, wouldn't they?

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'Pavement power' - The bad idea that never seems to die

AndyS
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Re: I don't know

The trouble is that comparison doesn't work.

Solar gives "free" access to a large amount of energy. Let's say about 1kW / sq m hits the ground for 10 hours per day. So, if you can harvest 15% of that, you've got 1.5 kWh of freely available energy.

"Harvesting" footfall is not free, and it is a tiny amount of energy. It is simply very, very inefficiently making people put more work into walking, so that you can get a tiny bit of energy out of them. Now, think of the numbers. A person walking probably uses something like 300 W. Let's assume we can increase that by 10% without pissing them off too much, then let's assume we can harvest that additional 10% at about 25% efficiency (hint - it will be nothing like this). So, each person is going to generate about 7 Watts, for the few minutes they are on it (so, maybe 0.01 kWh per person per day once it's installed, assuming 5 minutes of walking).

My house uses, on average, about 2 kW of electricity through the winter. My car outputs something like 30 kW average while I'm driving, which I do for about an hour a day. So between just those two I'm using something like 80 kWh of energy per day, or about 8,000 times as much energy as this pavement would generate.

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AndyS
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> now there will be a real-life example of the tech.

I was in an airport that had this recently (I think it was Lyon or Heathrow, can't remember which). There was a short corridor with some colourful LEDs on the walls, a big sign announcing what was going on, and the floor was squishy and slightly annoying to walk on, a bit like wet sand.

Also, the normal, overhead fluorescent lights still illuminated the area.

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UK NHS 850k Reply-all email fail: State health service blames Accenture

AndyS
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Re: Poorly designed application

So, in order to solve an occasional problem, you want to destroy the ease and speed with which email can be used, and break the workflow with multiple pop-ups, radio buttons, text input...

Maybe running a trial or two (ideally outside the basement) will rapidly show you why this is a stupid idea.

A warning stating that the email you are about to send will go to X users (where X > a predefined number, probably about 100) would be useful, and is already widely implemented (eg where I currently work). As is a limit on who can email large lists.

Everything else you suggest is just... ridiculous and nonsense. It's not possible to tell if an address is for a single person or a list. I could set up my gmail address to forward to 10,000 people - how will your lotus notes client know that, when you send an email to an exchange server across the road?

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Robot solves Rubik's Cubes in 637 milliseconds

AndyS
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Re: As for that time...

Interestingly the computation time is not included for human solvers - they get to examine the cube beforehand, and work out what they are going to do. So the 4.9 second record is simply for executing a series of pre-worked-out moves, with a few (very short) calibration stops along the route.

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AndyS
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“large number of unanticipated sensors”

"Oh, look here, I've got a sonar sensor! Crap, a laser rangefinder too! What am I going to do with these?"

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UK prison reform report wants hard-coded no-fly zones in drones to keep them out of jail

AndyS
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Re: time to put prisons into bubbles

> or at least cover over the bits where the crims can go or open windows.

> Put a rain shield over the outside exercise area leaving the sides (which are fenced) open.

A large net seems to be a sensible solution - still allow open air access (which is essential to health & wealfare, and hence the core aim of a prison) without letting packages be dropped in. Might be an eyesore but it would probably solve this problem completely.

> OR employ signal jamming on phones and drones.

> Finally, I'm sure that BAE Systems could design an interceptor for a few billion.

Actually harder than it sounds. I've got a drone which cost <£1000, it has no geofencing, it runs open source hardware and software, and it can run fully autonomous flight plans with no radio communication except a GPS receiver, can lift around 1kg and fly around 5 km without issue. Set it up in Google Maps, turn off all radios, and away it goes. I suppose a GPS jammer would confuse it, but I can't see the use of them in urban environments going down very well.

> Failing that build the next generation of lag hotels underground. I hear there are a good few redundant coal mines up for sale.

Why not Mars?

> If all they can come up with it to ask nicely for the GPS's to stop them overflying then they can't really be serious about stopping the flow of drugs, phones and even guns into prisons.

I think this is the real thing. Phones in prisons - genuinely, why not? Payphones cost several pounds per minute to use, meaning people without access to a mobile are pretty much cut off from their loved ones and their home life. Even for minor crimes, this leads to pretty horrendous outcomes and lack of rehabilitation. So, it seems like mobiles for non nefarious uses are sort of tolerated. The solution would be phones in cells, on which the lines can be monitored, for which the cost of use to the prisoner is reasonable.

Drugs? Again, so long as they are not promoting further crime inside, there has been a defacto tolerance of their existence in prisons. There is less of a clear cut reason why this should be the case, but there hasn't been any serious attempt to stamp them out.

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AndyS
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Re: The drone ban.

> The scope for criminality is just massive with these things, is it inevitable that they will be banned?

No.

See also: Cars, houses, metal bars, fire, sharp rocks, etc.

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AndyS
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Re: No-name drones from China?

There's actually a really interesting thing going on here, called the Eurion constellation. Printers / scanners etc don't recognise the whole note, just that one pattern, and a very large number of currency notes include it in a repetitive background image. So, it was fairly easy to get all major manufacturers to include a simple search algorithm to include it.

As you say, cheap unbranded kit no doubt does not include controls, which will be the same with drones. But with printer's it's been successful as, to print decent forgeries, you need a good printer. To lob drugs into a prison you don't need the latest top-of-the-market off-the-shelf drone - any old Chinese import will do the job, or roll your own.

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AndyS
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Re: "hard-coded no-fly zones in drones"

> replace the chip containing the zones ? Hack into the drone's innards and erase said zones ? Create an entire new OS that simply disregards that information ?

None of this is necessary. You'll note the article said the majority of drones on the market. So, let's say 80% of new drones from next year (including all from DJI) won't fly over prisons.

Guess what? The other 20% of off-the-shelf drones don't have geofencing. And neither do any of the DIY built ones.

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AndyS
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Re: Well,

> Flying a drone into a prison with GPS disabled is quite a palaver, and should reduce some of the currently trivially-easy resupply flights.

I think you've completely missed the point. GPS fencing can be turned off, without disabling GPS.

Also, many quadcopters are available without fencing of any sort, and even then it's pretty trivial to roll your own using components for a few hundred quid with full control over the firmware.

Finally, the situation you're describing is nonsense - if they actually wanted to hit a window (which they don't - they drop in pre-arranged areas), they would simply fit an FPV camera, which they presumably have anyway. It costs <£100 to get a camera, transmitter, receiver and goggles, then you get your man to flash a torch to show you where to go, and you go there.

TLDR I don't think you're very familiar with the subject!

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Everything you need to know about HP's three-in-one x3 deals

AndyS
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> I don't know about you but my salary is quite a bit more than £700 a year.

Does your company really employ one person for every computer in use?

That's impressive.

What about the computers used by the people looking after the computers. Do they get a person too?

Can I take the person with me when I travel?

Do they sit beside me at my desk? Do I need to make them tea too? If I take the laptop home, do I need to provide them with board and lodging?

Oh actually scrub that, it seems we have about 1 person per 1,000 computers in the company (wild stab-in-the-dark guess), so at a salary of, I dunno, £30k, that means each computer costs about £30/year to support, assuming they're doing nothing else.

To your other points, I am a mid-level manager in an aerospace engineering company. I travel reasonably regularly. This would not suit me. It would also not suit any of the people in my department, nor would it suit the higher ups. It certainly wouldn't suit the execs and directors. As you already pointed out, an office licence is negligable spare change compared to my wages and. Since this is about portable equipment, the average costs of flights & accommodation on most trips probably far exceed the cost of a brand new laptop with all the MS licencing costs, which as I've noted are already dwarfed by the annual cost of licencing this... empty shell thing.

So, who is it aimed at? I'm not denying it would be useful if it could run a real OS, didn't cost as much as a real computer per year to licence, and wasn't crippled to a limited number of hours. But as it is? Useless.

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AndyS
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So it costs nearly £700 / year to use, with a limit on hours you're allowed to use it which many execs will hit in a week or maybe 2.

To replace a laptop, which probably costs about £700, and/or a tablet, which probably costs similar.

Oh, and it doesn't run standard Windows software, and there's not much software available for it. Want to edit an image using gimp? Want to monitor a manufacturing process? Want to check your kid's baby monitor? Tough.

Prediction: crash and burn.

I'll tell you what. I'd rather have my phone in my pocket (for phone things and light reading), and a tablet and / or laptop in a bag (for real work and / or presentations, videos etc). Rather than a phone and a laptop shell thing which can't do anything by itself and costs as much to rent for a few hours per month as a real laptop costs to own.

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Your weekends may be safe, admins – IT giants tout 'zero outage' tech

AndyS
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"Your weekends may be safe"

Oh, so the kit can also stop cleaners unplugging servers, road diggers cutting cables, and office busy bodies tidying up nests of wires?

That's clever.

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Cisco's OpenStack cloud drops Pokémon-clone name

AndyS
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Re: Really?

> Maybe they just don't want to be associated with what is a pretty dismal...

...so far so good...

> Pokemon

...Oh. Here I was expecting the next word to be "Game."

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Arch Linux: In a world of polish, DIY never felt so good

AndyS
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Re: How odd

> I really see no reason for this article other than to unveil Yet Another Linux Distro.

The point of the article was very clearly laid out - considering it's an old, and fairly well known, linux distro, it is perhaps surprising that there are very few reviews of it.

The conclusion is that this is logical, because there is really nothing to review.

It's actually quite an interesting situation. I suppose the automotive equivalent is trying to review a home-built car in the same way as a Ford Focus or BMW 318. It's just... not really possible, as you can build it out of whatever you want. So the only noteworthy thing is the tool kit which is supplied, which the article talks about (the rolling update philosophy, the lack of patches, and the involved install process).

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Crashed Schiaparelli lander's 'chute and shields spotted

AndyS
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Re: Fun

As in all types of engineering, it's astonishing how much it's possible to learn from a good failure. And the better the failure, the more interesting / fun it is!

(Differentiation between "interesting" and "fun" is largely determined by whether there were lives lost during the failure. Therefore this one is very firmly on the "fun" side).

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Windows Atom Tables popped by security researchers

AndyS
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Re: Super cool name!

I agree. I reckon this is the same level of vulnerability as a keyboard which can, after all, be used to input malicious code as strings.

What if the string I want to discuss is something like Robert'); DROP TABLE Students; -- ? There is nothing inherently wrong with storing that string, as I assume the Reg is about to competently demonstrate when I press the Submit button.

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Let's praise Surface, not bury it

AndyS
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Changing habits over 5 years

It's 5 years since I last bought a PC for home use. And things have changed over that period almost beyond recognition.

When we bought it, it lived in the living room, and it spent hours in use every day. We used it for any internet streaming, TV catchup, or internet music / radio stations, playing music at parties, for reading websites, news, social media, for blogging, for electronics / firmware hobby stuff, and for video editing.

Now it lives in the study, and although the electronics and video editing still need a real PC, the rest are done with phones, a tablet, various chromecast devices etc.

In short, the actual tasks for which it is used have been cut by probably 80%, leaving only the heavy lifting tasks that other, more convenient devices (which we didn't have when we bought it) can't do.

On top of that, it still does all those tasks fine. So there is no pressing need to upgrade it, unlike phones which are still rapidly improving (and getting dropped).

We will replace it if/when it stops working, but before that there is probably no need.

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Squeaky bum time for Apple: It hasn’t made enough iPhone 7 Pluses

AndyS
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Oh dear.

Never mind.

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I've arrived on Mars. Argggh, my back!

AndyS
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Re: How much decrease in muscle mass?

The sentence is "The cross-sectional area of the muscle mass decreased from 86 per cent to 72 per cent." So, a 16% decrease.

What that percentage is of, I'm not sure - maybe the total cross section includes blood vessels, tendons, nerves etc in addition to the muscle? Or maybe (more likely?) it's comparing to a fixed area of a scan, covering the muscle and surrounding tissue?

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Uni students float into Hyperloop finals with levitating prototype

AndyS
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Video

What on earth was that? Couldn't make head nor tail of it.

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A robot kitchen? Whatever. Are you stupid enough to fall for this?

AndyS
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I want to know what happens when the chef murders someone with a kitchen knife, while this robot is watching. How will the rampage be stopped?

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AndyS
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Re: It's all bullshit

> Strange, that's how they tech robots in things like car manufacturering. See how the human does it and then repeat.

1. Cars are made from parts which all tend to be exactly the same size when they arrive on the line.

2. Cars all tend to look exactly the same, with a few specifiable variations, when they leave the line.

So, if I want a red car with a CD player, you play programme "colour:255,0,0" at the spray stations, and "Stereo: 1" at the dashboard assembly station. Green with the DAB radio? "0,255,0", "Stereo: 2". Simple.

Now, let's say I want a carrot soup, but a bit more salt than last time, and a bit less pepper. And only for 2 people, not 4. Remember, this robot doesn't weigh the salt and pepper, it just shakes the salt and pepper pots exactly as it's been shown how to. Nobody has ever shown it how to make soup for 2 people, or how long to shake the salt and pepper for. And the carrots are a bit smaller this time, too, and one of them is forked.

A robot taught in this way will fail, spectacularly, at this style of task. Sound like I'm being silly? I'm really not - the process of machine learning they have suggested might work for extremely repetitive, predictable tasks, but is absolutely inappropriate for a chef.

A sensible design for a chef robot would be a big box, with tubes and pipes going to different locations, and as few moving parts as possible. It would look very like an industrial food processing plant, only minaturised. Maybe it could be in a small 20' container, and a conveyor belt could bring the finished products to a hatch? Designing a humanoid to do this task is both silly, and many, many years away from being possible.

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Queen Lizzie awarded good behaviour medal

AndyS
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Actually I suspect a constitutional crisis consisting of the monarch attempting to sack the government would, in fact, impact our daily lives quite significantly. Who knows how - most likely there would be a very severe recession (perhaps even making the pending Brexit mess look like a cake walk). It would certainly be more, uh, entertaining than "Does the media have a right to see Prince Charles' letters," for example.

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Nicole forces NASA resupply into Sunday launch: Crew must wait for their packet soup

AndyS
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I've always thought "Wallops" is a great name for a space port. Sadly missing the h though.

There should be another called "Wacks".

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Y'know that ridiculously expensive Oculus Rift? Yeah, it just got worse

AndyS
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Re: desire to create an entirely walled garden.

We live in an area where there should be hedgehogs, but aren't. We'd really like some in the garden.

Maybe I should try the Facebook market?

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AndyS
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Re: Fools tax

> My life is enjoyable because I interact with humans and nature, not a screen.

...he typed, into a screen, on a tech website... I think you forgot your and markers?

The world needs early adopters. Sometimes they get burned, sometimes they don't. We've all been there, and if this guy is enjoying his early adoption, more power to him. If it means the price comes down in a few years for the true mass market, great. If not, fine, he's enjoying some unique hardware.

Really unsure why he is being called a fool, and downvoted, for that.

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AndyS
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Re: Audio

> Unless you're referring to the bluetooth interface?

Of course he's referring to the bluetooth interface. The fact they have removed the physical connector is stupid, but it absolutely does not mean you need to buy headsets from Apple.

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Google's home tat falls flat as a soufflé – but look out Android makers

AndyS
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>making the battery not removable ... means the new phone owners will HAVE to buy a whole new phone every few years

This bollocks again. It may not be something you can do on the train on the way home from work (which may be a desirable feature), but it is trivially easy to replace a battery yourself, or pay someone in pretty much every shopping centre or high street to do it for you.

Do you also throw out your car every time it needs a filter changed? Because that's a much harder job to do.

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Amazon supremo Bezos' Blue Origin blows its top over Texas desert

AndyS
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Same is true of ejector seats, oil rig evacuation systems, parachutes, emergency egress systems from test aircraft... That is kind of the nature of emergencies though. You design and test the best you can, but every emergency event is unique, and will pose unique challenges.

Did you know, for example, that for an uncontained rotor failure on a passenger plane, the manufacturer should calculate the percentage change that the plane will be lost. The recommendation is that there should be a 1 in 20 or lower chance of catastrophic loss. But that's only a recommendation, not a requirement, and is only based on a desk-top analysis. No testing is ever done, and when these things happen in the wild, it frequently is extremely destructive, in ways that nobody really imagined.

So, yes, if things go badly wrong, then things have gone badly wrong.

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AndyS
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Haha - long thin things look like willies! ROFL!!

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NIST: People have given up on cybersecurity – it's too much hassle

AndyS
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Re: I've Given Up - I Get the Attitude

> And it starts with US leadership.

> ...

> And you begin to understand that the US leadership is completely F*CKED UP.

That's nice. You do realise you're on a a UK website though, right?

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Got a great IoT story to tell? You have until Friday to let us know

AndyS
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Re: Andy S

Yes, I agree - the concept of a thing connected to the internet is like the concept of a thing with a screen - very useful, lots of applications, a sign of technology advancing. But the buzzword "IoT" means, on the whole, leveraging underutilised potential while moving forward synergistically.

It's not the concept that is wrong, it's the marketing. Products which actually do something useful don't use the label, which means it is only used by useless tat.

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AndyS
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Re: IoT - the never-beginning story

Chromecast - works well, doesn't need lots of set-up, works on existing wifi with existing phones, cheap, replaces expensive boxes / services.

IP Webcam - Same as above, replaces multiple devices from security to baby monitor.

Networked storage - Same as above, replaces more complex NAS solutions, allows access across the net via simple setup & app.

I could go on, but that is 3 solid examples of good devices, which can fit into existing networks and provide real solutions, often cheaper and simpler than the alternatives (or the devices they directly replace). All can be properly secured very simply.

Where I agree with you is when the proposal is the opposite - think "smart" lightbulbs which are more expensive, offer no measurable benefits, are harder to use and solve no existing problem. But used properly, technology and networking can and does solve many problems very nicely.

I believe (and have said before) that the problem is in the marketing. Devices which work, fill a good role and are wanted don't need labelled with silly "IOT" style marketing. They're just called what they are - chromecast, NAS storage, etc. So anything which proudly boasts that it is an IOT thing is, probably, going to be a waste of money.

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AndyS
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Re: I've a fantasitic story....

> Scroll down that page and click on the link to their technology partner, Eseye, for an example of the seriousness with which these IoT companies take security

I did that, and landed on a page advertising some sort of internet of things protocol / hardware. Care to elaborate, or am I expected to read through 2 or 3 pages of marketing to get the point myself?

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Oops: Carphone burps up new Google phone details

AndyS
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Re: Re Swappable Battery

> Over time the battery will degrade after charge/drain cycles. Modern battery chemistry is better than it was years ago, but a decrease in battery performance is observable within the life of the phone. I shouldn't have to replace a perfectly good phone just because a single component is getting towards the end of its natural life

I agree with this, but in reality, it is relatively easy to swap a batter in most phones. A few tiny screws and a bit of sticky tape, and it'll come right out.

For the once-every-3-years operation taking 20 minutes, I'm willing to take the design benefits of not having a "replaceable" battery. As others have said, a power bank is a good enough solution in the situations where a full charge isn't enough.

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Pokemon NO! Hospital demands ban on virtual creatures after addicts invade private wards

AndyS
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Re: Kids wandering into unsuitable places, particularly roads. Without looking

Weren't the people running the museum in Auschwitz also in the news recently, complaining that pretend digital monsters appearing in nazi gas chambers was a bit... insensitive?

I think the onus should equally be on players to know better than to be using their phones in places like that, but that doesn't excuse the game's manufacturer.

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Samsung: And for my next trick – exploding WASHING MACHINES

AndyS
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Re: "Exploding"?

RUD (Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly) is the correct acronym here. Take note Reg. Vague enough to be entirely correct, but most often associated with massive (and very real, supersonic-combustion-of-explosive-material type) explosions.

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