* Posts by tfb

89 posts • joined 11 Jan 2010

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Spotify now officially even worse than the NSA

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Re: So, wait

Is it? What do apple scrape from you? What does Googlebook scrape from you?

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Re: New T&Cs

good point: that seems like either a bug or malice.

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Re: New T&Cs

Don't be stupid: what they are doing is asking for your consent to change the terms of the contract. If you don't consent then they are exercising their option to terminate the contract.

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So, wait

Did anyone think they weren't collecting this stuff? Really? Especially if you use Facebook credentials to log in?

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Could our fear of fracking be appeased with CO2 sequestration?

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Boffin

Carbon sequestration is a funny thing

We are all horrified by storage of nuclear waste, which is dangerous for a while and of which there are relatively small quantities. But storing CO2 in the ground, in necessarily vast quantities and which is dangerous for ever, why that's just fine.

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Apple goes to crapple in stock plunge kerfaffle: $113bn wiped off in days

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Re: Root -1 money.

I think it does show that it doesn't work: the idea is that the stock price of a company should represent the future earnings to be had from those stocks, as assessed by the market. But stock prices flap around like this all the time which really shows that the market is absolutely terrible at that assessment. Economists then stick their fingers in their ears and go 'la la la' because the data is massively inconvenient for their pretty theories.

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Wait, what? TrueCrypt 'decrypted' by FBI to nail doc-stealing sysadmin

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Boffin

Re: GnuPG

I think the famous Ken Thompson compiler hack demonstrates fairly conclusively that, if you are paranoid, you really can not trust that the binaries you have don't contain nasties, even if you compiled them yourselves, with a compiler you compiled yourself, from sources which did not contain nasties. Yes, there are ways around this, but they require heroic amounts of work and attention to detail. (And of course I am not suggesting that the tools we trust do contain backdoors: merely that they might.)

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Q2 wins drag Cray back into profit territory

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Boffin

They don't really depend on very special processors: so long as people keep making reasonably performant desktop-class machines, that's all they need really. For instance, at the place I work (which has recently commissioned a Cray), the Cray's processors are significantly slower per-core than the predecessor machine's: there are just a lot more of them. What makes a super be a super rather than a big cluster of machines (the sort of thing googlebook use for what we now must call 'big data' but is really 'embarrassingly parallel problems') is not the processors, its the interconnect, and that's something that they already engineer themselves (I don't know if they make it, but that doesn't really matter: do Apple make their own machines in any real sense, for instance).

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Linus Torvalds warns he's in no mood to be polite as Linux 4.2 drags

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Does anyone still care about 'the desktop'? Wasn't that some 90s thing?

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SourceForge staggers to feet after lengthy STORAGE FAIL outage

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Re: Malware

Because, of course, this will never happen to GitHub, never I tell you! And reddit will never turn into another slashdot which no-one reads any more. Oh wait, hasn't that already happened to reddit?

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Roll up, roll up, for the Meta35: The hybrid snapper's data dumpster

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Well, why do people still paint or draw or, in fact, do almost anything? They do it because they enjoy it. And some of us actually don't enjoy sitting in front of a computer any more than we need to.

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Re: A very strange product

Good point: I hadn't thought about things like the F6. Would not appeal to me but no doubt was (is I think?) built like a tank.

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Re: I wonder

My guess is: colour slide (E6) almost now, colour negative probably 10 years, B/W never.

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A very strange product

I think to call this 'niche' would be understating how small its market must be. It's of interest to people who shoot film (a not-tiny market), using a small and rather uninteresting subset of film cameras (90s Nikons and perhaps Minoltas: both ugly jellymold 90s SLR families with really nothing interesting about them at all), and finally people who want to know details of every shot for reasons which escape me. That must be at least several people (of which how many read The Register? probably all of them).

I use film pretty much exclusively, and I'm mildly obsessive about recording things: I do record shot detail for my LF camera like many LF users (at several pounds a frame you kind of want to know that so you can save money next time), and I record film / lens information for smaller formats, but it's never even occurred to me to want to know the exposure/aperture for each frame on a roll of 35mm. And surely at least part of the point of using film is exactly not having to use horrid plastic 90s cameras.

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Behold: Pluto's huge ICE MOUNTAINS ... and signs of cryovolcanoes?

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Boffin

Re: Vulcanism

I think that Pluto's orbit has resonances with Neptune's, you can work out how long those resonances take to settle down and it's too long: it's been in orbit around the Sun for long enough that it should be cool.

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Mozilla loses patience with Flash over Hacking Team, BLOCKS it

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Re: How do they know?

Dan 55: thanks, that was the pointer I needed. There is information here in fact (although it does not talk about how often it is fetched and so on).

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Big Brother

How do they know?

This is a dumb question I suspect. How does Firefox know that, as of today (or yesterday, or whenever it was) it should block flash? There hasn't been a new version in the last couple of days, so the only way I can see that it's doing this is by, reasonably frequently, asking Mozilla. While I don't mind that (I have it check for updates and send health reports anyway), I bet there are people who do: even if it isn't sending any real information (which it doesn't need to) it is pretty much inherently sending stuff like IP address information and so on. There doesn't seem to be any really obvious way of preventing it doing this.

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Reddit meltdown: Top chat boards hidden as rebellion breaks out

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Boffin

What reddit is good for

It's essentially usenet, except it's owned by a company who have ultimate control and there is advertising. So it's a way of spending an enormous amount of time arguing with idiots, there is porn and, inevitably, a very large number of people with really offensive attitudes (I'd be interested in knowing what reddit's demographic is, but I'd guess it's essentially 18-25 white US male). Unlike usenet most forums ('subreddits') are moderated and there is voting so spam is not such a problem (but don't say anything that might be unpopular, even if it is true). Like usenet it is slowly being overwhelmed by awfulness of various descriptions, but in this case, since it is owned by a company who can potentially be held liable, it will fall to bits in different ways.

I suspect it's on the way down now, but I would suspect that having fairly recently walked away from it after 8 years or so (the 20 years before that being wasted on usenet).

It's sad that there seems to be really no good way of actually finding what the news is in various specialised fields which is stable in the long term.

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A 16 Petaflop Cray: The key to fantastic summer barbecues

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Boffin

Re: 2 million lines of FORTRAN code

Actually this isn't the problem at all. Fortran is really a single-purpose language: it does high-performance, large-scale, numerical code. No-one working on a Fortran system is worrying about the performance of OS kernels, video games or database interfaces, because it isn't used for that: all they have to worry about is getting large-scale numerical codes to run, really fast. And there are people who have a lot of money to spend on this – the kind of people who are interested in CFD simulations which run for millionths of a second of model time.

The end result of all this is that Fortran systems have very, very good numerical performance. C systems, empirically don't, and C++ systems don't even have support in the standard for it. Fortran is really the only game in town for this stuff, as it has always been.

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Aluminum bendy battery is boffins' answer to EXPLODING Li-ion menace

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Boffin

So just what does 'charges in minutes' mean?

Other sites have made claims about 'charging in a minute', so let's take that seriously.

A (current) phone battery is something like 3.8V, and something like 1500mAh. That's 5.7Wh or, in sensible units, about 20kJ of energy (the voltage and current don't matter: the energy does). If we're going to charge this in a minute, then we're going to need to dump that much energy into it in a minute: this is about 340W, and (at 3.8V) about 90A.

All this assumes the battery is 100% efficient: I've both assumed that the voltage does not droop much as it discharges and that charging is completely efficient. Based on figures scraped from people selling phone replacement batteries, I think the voltage does not droop significantly, but I have no idea what the charging efficiency is.

If charging is extremely efficient, then, given rather thick cables and some fairly macho connectors in the charging interface this might work. This is not going to be charging over USB: given that a dodgy connection in the charging interface would probably result in a fire I imagine these will be some kind of screw-down connectors. The currents are less than a car battery provides when starting a car (which can go up to 200A) but not much less, so the connectors are going to be the same sort of thing.

If charging is not extremely efficient, a substantial amount of power will be dumped as heat in the device being charged. For something the size of a phone, it will need a heatsink, and possibly liquid cooling.

Alternatively: they are making things up to get funding.

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Mono Magic: Photography, Breaking Bad style

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Re: "Knowing you only have 36 exposures at a time can impose discipline."

This is something which someone should investigate, I think. If I'm lucky I get a good picture (something I'd consider printing) from a roll of 35mm film, while from 5x4 my rate is something between 1 in 3 and 1 in 2.

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Banks defend integrity of passcode-less TouchID login

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Facepalm

Sheep

Ah yes, I see: "Other banking institutions across the world are also using this technology with their customers" so it must be OK. In 2000-2005 "other banking institutions across the world" were busily selling subprime mortgages. So that meant it obviously had to be just a fine thing to do, didn't it?

Security by bandwagon.

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Fizzy bubbles at the ready: Dot-com celebrates 30th birthday

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Re: Symbolics!

Well, it depends what you mean by 'somewhat-open-source'. Symbolics LispMs came with essentially all the sources to the system (there may have been some microcody stuff omitted), which you could (and did) modify. It didn't help them.

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Google MURDERS Google Code, orders everyone out to GitHub and co

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Re: So what's next?

Whether things keep going depends on two factors: whether Google can sell you ads based on them (or charge you directly, perhaps) and whether Google itself survives. Let's assume that they will survive for a reasonable length of time. Then I think the answer to your questions are: gmail is fine, as it has to be an amazingly good stream of really targeted personal information; Google Earth is probably dead already; Picassa I assume will probably go (but I don't know much about it).

However the underlying message here is: if you keep your valuable data on systems which you do not either own yourself, or have contracts with teeth on (ie 'you break the system, you pay me money') then you are a fool.

We are all, of course, fools to some extent.

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Re: They're not even going to make it read only?

Usenet can continue to exist so long as there's code for an nntp server that will compile and someone willing to run it on an internet-facing machine.

But that's not the point: what Google have is as complete a stash of the history of usenet as anyone: they have posts going back to May 1981, which is within ~ a year of the start of usenet. If they decide that is no longer interesting then who else has that, or is that history just gone?

I wonder how long it will be before people realise that relying on a commercial organisation who you don't pay to keep irreplaceable information on your behalf is just a little bit dumb?

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Rosetta probe to try contact with Philae lander on Thursday

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Boffin

Re: Bit confused...

Yes, that is what it means: it means it will start enough of its electronics that it can hear commands from Rosetta and then sit there listening for them while charging the battery.

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Quantum computers have failed. So now for the science

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Re: Indeterminacy enters, with difficulty

I think that's it in a nutshell, with the important caveat that point 1 is not the case.

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Re: @ Phil Endecott -- We'll see...

That 'it works in the practical world' is the point: that's what physics is about. We try to invent a coherent and elegant mathematical model which explains what we observe in experiments. Once we've done that we stop (or, in fact, we carry on doing more experiments to try and find cases where our pretty model doesn't work). Philosophers can worry about what the model 'means' in some sense: we just worry about the elegance and the right answer bits.

And the notion of a field – a rule which assigns a quantity to every point of spacetime – is such a useful model. That's all.

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Re: Those Bell inequalities...

Just to clarify another comment. If you allow action at a distance then it is essentially easy to bargain this into action backwards in time. 'Essentially easy' means 'it would be reasonably straightforward to build a machine that did this, using nothing more than extremely well-tested aspects of special relativity.

That's a time machine: a machine which can send information into its own past. Mainstream physicists tend not to like time machines for all sorts of reasons. But perhaps this is all just the usual mainstream science conspiracy?

Well, if you can build a time machine – even one which can send information only a very tiny distance into the past – you can do something interesting: you can bet on the movements of prices in the market, and win, every time. If you can build a time machine *you can win the stock market*: there is no real upper bound to the value of such a device, nor of how much people who make their money betting on financial markets would be willing to pay.

So if you think that your theory with 'long-range order' – aka action at a distance – is actually right, you should be selling it to the investment banks, not writing articles in The Register. I can only assume that the reason the people who support these theories don't do that is because they don't understand enough about physics to realise what the implications of their ideas are.

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Boffin

Hidden variable

This 'long range order' is what is known as a 'hidden variable': such theories have been known about for a long time as have their problems. There is nothing new here, other than The Register printing fringe science articles.

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Paul Allen hunts down sunken Japanese WWII super-battleship

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Re: The guns aren't (just) for firing at other ships

Actually they really were designed just for dealing with other ships. People later tried to use them for coastal bombardment but they were not very effective for that: a lesson which should have been learnt at Gallipoli, but wasn't. To a great extent people seem to have justified expensive but essentially obsolete ships by trying to make various claims that they could be used for other purposes which in fact they were not very good for.

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Boffin

Re: Not so vulnerable...

Well, Hood was a both a battlecruiser and also substantially a pre-Jutland design. She seems to have been talked up into being a battleship but unfortunately that doesn't count for much. Battlecruisers, particularly British ones, were notorious for exploding for various reasons – inadequate deck armour (saving weight budget to allow more of it to be spent on machinery for speed) causing vulnerability at long-range, as well as to bombs later, is the commonly-accepted reason and probably did for Hood, but there's evidence that poor ammunition-handling practices (leaving scuttles open, piling up cordite in turrets to increase rate of fire) did not help at Jutland either. Hood was always going to lose against Bismarck unless she was very lucky, which she was not unfortunately.

That aside, battleships and battlecruisers both were really done for by air power by the early 30s at the latest: you can afford to throw (and lose) a lot of planes at a ship.

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UK chip champ ARM flexes muscle: Shows strong profit and sales

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Re: Good or Bad?

But they don't provide the grunt: they provide designs which other people then implement in silicon which provides the grunt.

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First look: Ordnance Survey lifts kimono on next-gen map app

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Re: What happens to users of the current apps?

I have done so as well!

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tfb

What happens to users of the current apps?

I have a significant investment in maps for the current app (not hundreds but tens of pounds) which, in its most recent iOS version at least, is actually some good and for many purposes better than paper maps. I'd like not to lose that investment if the existing app goes away or rots or be forced into a subscription model to keep access to maps I've paid for already.

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Frustration with Elite:Dangerous boils over into 'Refund Quest'

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Boffin

Re: Arguing over nothing

The ability to pause the game is the whole thing, I think. I did play Elite on a model B, and so, almost by definition, I am now old enough to have various other commitments: I can't sit and play the game for 20 hours at a stretch because I'm not a student and I have to do other stuff. So, if I was to even think about buying this game, I'd require the ability to have a stop-the-world pause, where I can come back in a day or two and pick up the game world in the state it is in now. I might also want to play the multi-player real-time thing (in fact, I would not) but a real pauseable single-player mode would be vital.

In fact, of course, I play the wonderful Oolite when I feel the need for a hit, which has this feature.

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Google vows: Earth will VANISH in 2015

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Boffin

Re: Rather evil, if you ask me

I think that using ANY API or online service in an application that you care about is pretty dumb, unless you have a contract that ensures it won't go away. Of course that is half of Google's trick: don't have contracts and pretend that just turning stuff off when it gets boring is 'solving the problem of running services'. (May be they think it is solving the problem, of course.)

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El Reg Redesign - leave your comment here.

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Boffin

Re: El Reg Redesign - leave your comment here.

Well, like everyone else I can see I think this is worse, although it seems well-intentioned.

Two obvious things: The pictures are *too big*: I come to read content not to look at a picture and see the first paragraph of the content. The print article button was also actually useful if you wanted to send content to pocket or a similar tool as it showed articles on one page, though obviously you probably don't want that.

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Giant bank IT cockup of 2012 'could have brought down ENTIRE financial system'

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Boffin

Re: Tiny compared to the savings

They are all as bad as each other. RBS was unlucky, but similar events will happen to other banks. A big bank IT problem will, in due course, cause a cascade failure of the banks.

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Boffin

Re: Giant bank IT cockup of 2012 'could have brought down ENTIRE financial system'

No: the financial system did not fail in 2008: it was bailed out. The difference is that if a bank runs into financial trouble you can fix the problem by throwing money at it, while if a bank runs into computer trouble you can't fix the problem by throwing computers at it.

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

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Boffin

Re: Corporate fines == useless

They are not useless. Quite apart from anything else this will be yet another time when RBS is in the headlines for bad reasons. Each time that happens some number of people decide to bank elsewhere, which hurts RBS.

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Ex-Soviet engines fingered after Antares ROCKET launch BLAST

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Boffin

Re: Depressing

While I agree with you in fact – as far as I can tell the NK-33 is actually rather a good engine – your first point, that Antares was developed privately, does not actually say anything about whether NASA was willing or able to fund a new design. If I'm a private company developing a vehicle which I hope to sell to NASA (as the only real customer), then I had better make sure that NASA can afford the thing I develop. That means that if I know, for instance, that they can't afford a new engine design, then I can't afford one either.

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Today's get-rich-quick scheme: Build your own bank

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Boffin

Re: @Chris Miller

A 100% reserve bank can't offer credit. If it does so then it is just an ordinary bank.

To be more precise: the deal with a 100% reserve bank is that if all its depositors turn up and ask for their money at once, it must be able to satisfy that request. So it can't lend any of the money deposited in it since if it does it's not a 100% reserve bank. It could lend other money, such as, for instance, any profit it makes.

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You'll hate Google's experimental Chrome UI, but so will phishers

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Re: search box / address bar

Well, google's browser is always going to do that: as far as it is possible they want everything you type to be a search so that get to see it. If you don't want that you need to use a browser which isn't Chrome (which you probably are doing).

It's also significant that this "show the domain part of the URL" thing is happening too late for many purposes: by the time you realise that the site you have just visited isn't where you thought it was it is very often too late: they've already seen you. What you need is for the domain to be obvious before the browser actually starts talking to the server, and (for instance) google search results don't seem to do that very well, which isn't actually very surprising I suppose. Of course, it can still, perhaps, save you from further trouble.

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Why won't you DIE? IBM's S/360 and its legacy at 50

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Boffin

Mission critical

'Searches on Google and status updates on Facebook are the new mission-critical: back in the day a "mission critical" was ERP and payroll.'

This is false, although it is false in an interesting way. If I do a search on Google then I get some results: perhaps I will get the same results if I search again but perhaps not; and perhaps the results will be useful but perhaps not. Or, possibly, I'll get no results at all so I'll need to resubmit the query. It doesn't matter very much: all that actually matters is that the results are good enough to keep me using the service and that they contain sufficient advertising content that Google make money. Similar things are true for Facebook.

But if I send a bunch of money to someone from my account then it matters very much that money gets to the recipient, that either it gets to the right recipient, that it leaves my account and so on. In desperation it might be OK that none of these things happen, so I can try again. It is never OK for only some of them to happen: if my bank fails to send my rent to my landlord while taking it from my account then I will end up living in a cardboard box under a bridge.

Searches on Google are simply not mission-critical: moving money around has always been mission-critical.

The clever trick that organisations like Google and Facebook have done is to recognise that certain sorts of activity, such as search, don't actually need to work very reliably which allow for enormous scaling.

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ESA rejoices as comet-chasing Rosetta probe wakes from 3-year nap

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Boffin

It didn't oversleep by eight hours

It was due to wake up at 10 UTC, it then needs to warm itself up, look at the stars to work out which way it is facing, stop itself spinning, position itself so the antenna points to Earth and turn the transmitter on. Then the signal needs to get here. The estimated time to hear from it was between 17:30 and 18:30. They actually heard from it at 18:17 I think, which was within the expected window. Obviously it was towards the end of the window, and equally obviously things must have been fairly tense.

But the article is just wrong.

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RBS MELTDOWN LATEST: 'We'll be the bank we should be ... next YEAR maybe'

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Boffin

Re: useless

I think you are confused. Firstly, as others have said most of RBSs employees and customers are not in Scotland, so the whole Scottish thing is just a (rather nasty) red herring.

Secondly, try and work out how much the banking guarantee would be worth to you at the point that your account stopped working: my guess is that it's worth something only if it works immediately and if it makes all your direct debits and so on magically work in whatever new bank you are now with. It would not do that. The knowledge that at some future point the government is going to pay you what is in your account is not much help until they do, because before that point you have no access to money, which you might need if you like to eat. And of course this is all assuming that the failure of RBS had not caused a cascade failure of other banks, which it likely would have.

So there was really no short-term option but to keep RBS running.: it really was too big to fail. What is, in my opinion, not forgivable is that they then have done nothing about it or really any other bank, with the result that all this is going to happen again (not RBS in particular, but somewhere).

That's all I have to say on this.

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Boffin

Re: useless

This is just a stupid thing to say, sorry. Have you thought about what "being left to fail" means? It means that at some point RBS would have declared bankruptcy and at, or shortly after, that point all its customers would have lost access to their accounts for some indefinite period. That means that, if you were a customer, what happened on Monday night would have gone on for weeks. That's a pretty bad outcome, to put it rather mildly.

"Oh no" you say, "what would have happened is that someone would have bought the business as a going concern". Here's a clue: that's what happened, with the "someone" being "the UK government" since there were no other organisations willing or able to buy them.

The real problem is that RBS's new owners (that's the people who hang out in Westminster) have done essentially nothing: in particular they have not split the investment bank from the retail bank, possibly split the retail bank further, and they certainly have not done anything to deal with the IT mess in RBS and the other banks over which they directly or indirectly have power. It's not, unfortunately, very hard to guess why this might be, though saying it out loud would probably result in accusations of defamation by said Westminster people.

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Apple dodges data privacy sueball: Fanbois didn't RTFM*, says judge

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Re: Ask the Judge what the privacy policy is for her phone...

She probably doesn't know. However that doesn't make it reasonable: if you use a device without reading the conditions of use then that doesn't somehow absolve you of any problems you might have as a result.

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Lavabit founder: Feds ORDERED email providers to stay open

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Re: Off the top of my head.

I think this is fairly vulnerable to attack. If the bad guys have all the books you have, then they can index them the same way you can and use word/letter frequencies to try and guess which book it is. So for instance maybe "the" and "a" are common words, so they take your message and match it against all the books, selecting ones which look to have about the right density of "the" and "a". For those they then try and match the remaining text until they get something like English.

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