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* Posts by Nick Gibbins

24 posts • joined 16 Mar 2010

Google Maps adds all UK public transport timetables

Nick Gibbins

I believe that the Traveline bus stop data (on which presumably Google Maps have based their data) comes from NaPTAN (the National Public Transport Access Node dataset - http://www.dft.gov.uk/naptan/ ), so that should be kosher. Can you give some concrete examples of these fictitious stops? I'm not saying that they don't exist (or, uh, don't not exist), but I'd be curious to see where they are (or rather, aren't).

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Is the World Wide Web for luvvies and VCs – or for all of us?

Nick Gibbins

Possibly - the closest contender that I've seen was Hyper-G (later commercialised as Hyperwave). It was a distributed open hypermedia system* with protocol-level support for link integrity. Would it have scaled as fast or as far as the Web? Probably not.

* Open hypermedia means that links are stored separately from documents, rather than being embedded in document markup

** No 404 errors! Ever!

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Nick Gibbins

Heavens - an Orlowski article that I mostly agree with. However, for the sake of consistency I should raise a few token disagreements and comments:

- Yes, SGML was all-singing and all-dancing, and full of rich semantics. I have a copy of the SGML Handbook on my office shelf, and have consulted it within the last three months. Parsing SGML, however, was a royal pain; TimBL's decision to design a simple angle-brackety markup language (I hesitate to call it an SGML application, because it didn't get a DTD until HTML 2.0) was a pragmatic one, and the simplicity (or perhaps paucity) of early HTML has in retrospect been a positive thing; easy to author, and fairly easy to write a bare-bones parser for.

- Your reference to XHL is interesting - you have a better memory than I do. However, XHL owed much to HyTime (which, as an aside, made SGML look almost straightforward by comparison), and much of the XHL work ended up being recycled in XLink. Of course, both XLink 1.0 and 1.1 have raised barely a ripple. Blame the browser manufacturers for being unwilling to support them.

- It's interesting that you don't also criticise the design of HTTP and URIs. Like HTML, their initial versions made some naive assumptions that later versions would correct.

If you're going to criticise the early Web for what it didn't do, you'd do well to consider why it succeeded when other contemporary hypertext systems (Hyper-G, for example) didn't.

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The browser's resized future in a fragmented www world

Nick Gibbins

"hypertext, an idea dating from the 1950s and Ted Nelson"?

Not quite - Nelson coined the term 'hypertext' in 1963, and didn't really start work on it until the late 1960s (with Xanadu, and also with Andries van Dam's HES/FRESS system from Brown University). Contemporary with this work was Engelbart's NLS, which brought us videoconferencing and the mouse as well as a fully-realised hypertext system.

If you want to find the origins of hypertext, you first need to start two decades earlier with Vannevar Bush's Memex, and then arguably go further back to systems like Ostwald's Die Brücke or Otlet's Mundaneum.

But hypertext in the 1950s? Not so much.

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A potted history of cloud computing

Nick Gibbins

No mention of General Magic?

As I recall it, the term 'cloud' used to refer to network-based SaaS was around before the 1997 Chellappa paper; the long-dead company General Magic (a spin-out from Apple, founded by Bill Atkinson and Andy Hertzfeld) pioneered the notion of mobile code that could migrate across what they called the "Telescript Cloud" (Telescript being their mobile language) in the min-90s.

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BOFH: Don't be afraid - we won't hurt your delicate, flimsy inkjet printer

Nick Gibbins

Re: Dot Matrix Printers

Obligatory link to Symphony for Dot Matrix Printers:

http://www.theuser.org/dotmatrix/en/intro.html

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The bunker at the end of the world - in Essex

Nick Gibbins

Re: yes

Threads was set in Sheffield. The War Game was set in Kent.

Regarding civil defence, there *was* some preparation in the early 1950s, but the initial enthusiasm had declined by the end of the decade; the last month of my father's National Service were spent on a CD training course that (from his recollection) was mostly about rescuing people from buildings that had collapsed post-attack. The CD Corps itself was wound up by the Wilson government in 1968.

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Inside Adastral: BT's Belgium-sized broadband boffinry base

Nick Gibbins
IT Angle

"[the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment at RAF Martlesham Heath] witnessed the first flights of the Spitfire and the Hurricane."

Not quite. The first flight of the Spitfire prototype (K5054) took place at Eastleigh Aerodrome, now better known as Southampton International Airport. The first flight of the Hurricane prototype (K5083) took place at Brooklands Aerodrome.

The RAF trials for both aircraft took place at RAF Martlesham Heath, but they were far from being first flights.

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Tito's Mars mission to use HUMAN WASTE as radiation shield

Nick Gibbins

Nothing new about this

The idea of using both food and excreta as radiation shielding for long duration space flights is nothing new; the Boeing Integrated Manned Interplantery Spacecraft proposal from 1968 made exactly the same recommendation.

http://www.astronautix.com/craft/imis1968.htm

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Fans rap Apple's 'crap' Map app

Nick Gibbins

I could live with the poor quality aerial photography, the woeful POI data (I've found businesses shown in Southampton that are actually based in Nottingham), the wacky road colouring (motorways should be blue, ffs!), the lack of motorway junction numbers, the missing features (streams, footpaths) and the lack of Street View, just about.

However, when you're selling the new Maps app on its turn-by-turn navigation, it really shouldn't be sending you the wrong way down one-way streets, or directing you to impassable junctions (it will happily tell you to turn right from York Street in Bath onto Stall Street - good luck with the bollards, the pedestrians and the oncoming cars).

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Open Data Institute pours golden £10m shower on upstarts

Nick Gibbins

Re: modern day "jobs for the boys"

ODI is a continuation of work that began under the Labour government; at Southampton, we've been working with the Cabinet Office on open public sector information since 2006, if not earlier. Much of the work planned for ODI had previously been planned for the ill-fated Web Science Institute. WSI had been promised funding to the tune of £30M by the Labour government ( http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/03/22/semantic_web_tbl/ ), but that was withdrawn by the incoming coalition ( http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/05/25/farewell_institute_of_web_science/ ).

Does that count as "friendship and support to the regime"?

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Nick Gibbins

OP misses the point

"There’s also talk of W3C participation, something the taxpayer already got for free thanks to the fact TBL is actually the standards group’s director."

I believe that you've misunderstood both the nature of the W3C and the role of W3C Director. TimBL's involvement with ODI doesn't give it a free ride with respect to participation in W3C activities; as Director, he assesses consensus within the Consortium, but it's the members (ie. member organisations) of W3C that have the vote.

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Nick Gibbins

Re: Distraction tactics

I've been working with Nigel Shadbolt for a little over a decade - he's a pragmatist.

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How politicians could end droughts FOREVER: But they don't want to

Nick Gibbins

Re: Absurd

Damned straight. We've just had the first quarter's readings for the water meter that was installed before Christmas. The result: our family of four uses around 150 litres per day *in total*, and that's with a newborn in cloth nappies.

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OMG! Berners-Lee has an iPhone

Nick Gibbins

As far as I recall (from the last time I was in a meeting with him), he also has a MacBook Pro, albeit one suitably plastered with stickers.

This is pretty much the definition of a non-story. Can't the Reg do any better than this?

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Apple predicted AI assistant for tablets in 1987

Nick Gibbins

It's legit - I first saw this video a decade ago. It's very well-known in HCI circles.

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Google's epic graph cruncher mimicked with open source

Nick Gibbins

You misunderstand academic publishing

It's an ACM paper (or rather, SIGMOD is an ACM conference). The ACM doesn't publish academic papers for the love of it, but as a source of revenue to support the organisation. At my institution, we subscribe to the ACM Digital Library (£££, but still less than subscribing to something like Elsevier's Science Direct).

Like it or not, the majority of the peer-reviewed academic literature is not free to access. Yes, open access journals and author/institutional self-archiving are making some inroads, but it's still completely acceptable for an article on the Reg to be linking to the *canonical* version of an academic paper.

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Microsoft warns on support scams

Nick Gibbins

There's a lot of it about

I had occasion to work from home recently (lots of exam papers to mark, fewer students disturbing me than if I marked them in my office) and received three such calls in a four day period. Now, my wife kept her surname when we married, and the phone line is in her name, so being addressed as "Mr <her_name>" is normally a good indication that I'm about to be scammed.

I doff my hat to those people who say theyve managed to keep the scammers on the line for as long as twenty minutes or half an hour; my best time was eleven minutes (strategy: calm, concerned and clueless) before I gave in and pointed out that a) I have a PhD in computer science, b) there's no way I'm going to install a random piece of software, and c) I know when someone is trying to scam me. They got quite abusive last time, but the effect of being called a 'fucking motherfucker' in a thick Indian accent is more comical than alarming.

Perhaps I could get a better score if I gave them free rein of a suitably sandboxed honeypot computer?

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Biodegradable products are often worse for the planet

Nick Gibbins

Touching cloth

Some of us use nappies that are both reusable *and* biodegradable on our children. We even buy nappies second-hand.

Cloth nappies were good enough for me when I was a kid, and they're good enough for my kids.

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UK.gov 'HyperHighway' aims to 'speed up the internet by 100x'

Nick Gibbins

Don't mistake the politician's blurb for the research that's being funded

The principal investigator on the grant (David Payne) has a world-leading track record in photonics, having been behind the development of the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Optical_amplifier">erbium-doped fibre amplifier</a> (look at the references at the bottom of that Wikipedia article). Without optical amplifiers, undersea cables would be more expensive and less reliable, so his contribution to the basic technology that underpins the global telecommunications network (including the Internet) is substantial.

Call this a squandering of taxpayers' money if you want, but this is the sort of investment in basic R&D that's essential to the future economic wellbeing of the UK.

(declaration: I'm a lecturer in the same department as Payne, but not one of his direct colleagues)

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New spaceplane proposed for NASA station crew contract

Nick Gibbins

Familiar shape

This doesn't just resemble the X-20 Dynasoar - see also the European Hermes spaceplane and the Russian Kliper:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hermes_%28spaceplane%29

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kliper

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Coalition promises to kill three-quarters of its websites

Nick Gibbins

It must be convenient...

...to be able to throw all these inconvenient reminders of life before the coalition into the memory hole.

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Elon Musk plans new Mars rockets bigger than Saturn Vs

Nick Gibbins

Not quite

The first stage of the Soyuz-U (and most other rockets derived from the R-7) consists of four strap-on boosters (each with a single RD-107 engine) around the second stage core (with a single RD-108 engine). The RD-107 and RD-108 engines have four fixed combustion chambers apiece, but are considered to be single engines because they each have a single pair of turbopumps feeding RP-1 and liquid oxygen to the combustion chambers. In addition, the RD-107 has two gimballed verniers, while the RD-108 has four.

So, depending on how you count it, a Soyuz-U either has five engines firing at launch, or thirty-two thrust chambers.

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LibDems drop net blocking, blame activists

Nick Gibbins
FAIL

Hysterical?

"A hysterical academic, Lilian Edwards"

Nice bit of belittling there - I wonder if you would have said the same of a male academic?

Does the Reg's editorial policy condone this sort of overt sexist posturing?

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