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* Posts by PassingStrange

45 posts • joined 10 May 2010

Brit boffins use TARDIS to re-route data flows through time and space

PassingStrange
Meh

Re: Dodgy copyright ground! (Err - no?)

Well, I up-voted the original on principle - but I can't help wondering whether I was actually right to do so. On what sound legal grounds would the Beeb actually claim exclusive use of the name?

Copyright? No. In the UK at least, copyright does not cover names. (see, e.g., http://www.copyrightservice.co.uk/copyright/p18_copyright_names)

Trademarks? Possible, but probably not. Whilst the Beeb has registered TARDIS as a trademark, trademarks are usually granted for a particular industry sector. "Polo", for example is a trademark in the UK for both a type of mint and a mark of car. Or there's the well-known clash of naming over "Apple", involving the global IT brand and the Beatles' record publisher, of course (resolved by Apple Computers agreeing not to publish records, and Apple Records agreeing not to produce computers).

There's UK laws on "passing off", of course. The BBC is still protected in its use of TARDIS by those. But it would take a severe stretch of the imagination to suggest that a data routing strategy/algorithm might be likely to infringe.

None of the above would in principle stop the Beeb taking someone to court, of course - and that someone might well then give way rather than risk their own assets on the lottery of a court case. It wouldn't alter the legal position one iota - but, sadly, asymmetry at law often produces "unfair" results..

(IANAL, so the above may easily be flawed - but I've worked with them, and copyright, patents and so forth have been relevant to my job at times.)

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The gift of Grace: COBOL's odyssey from Vietnam to the Square Mile

PassingStrange

Re: COBOL - Yuck!

"Not fun on 3270's without cut'n'paste"? It was simply a different paradigm, that's all. Who needed cut'n'paste when you had ISPF edit? Incredibly powerful - if you grew up with it, you could make it jump through hoops. Far from needing cut and paste, when a GUI interface was all I had, I missed the sheer raw power of Edit's command line. In my later years, I had a rich choice of coding environments; I used GUIs for some languages, such as Java, but 3270 for others (most definitely including COBOL) . Horses for courses, and all that.

I started in other languages, and came to COBOL late-ish in my career (supporting CICS development - and I consciously started writing my code in COBOL because, yes, that's what a lot of the customers I talked to were still using). Yes, it had lots of annoying details - and until COBOL 2 came along, some serious linguistic omissions too - but of all the annoyances, the biggest one of the lot for me was that comparatively trivial, and wretched, terminating period. Absolutely mandatory in some places; a syntax error after the self-same statement in others. Slap a conditional around a piece of perfectly good, working code, and suddenly it wouldn't even compile. If I'd had a swear jar in the office, it would have been full about twice a day.

2
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Middle England's allotments become metric battlefield

PassingStrange

"10 donuts (sic) at 1 pound, 3 shillings and 6 pence" is... £1/3/6d.

Now - if you'd asked about doughnuts at £1/3/6d EACH... I'd say you're definitely shopping in the wrong places. But you'd pay £11/15/0d (10x £1 = £10. 10 x 3s = 30s = £1/10/0. 10 x 6p = 5s. Utterly trivial when you're used to actually doing mental arithmetic - even after 42 years.)

2
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Google wearables: A solution looking for a rich nerd

PassingStrange

Re: What's the big deal with charging every day?

And indeed, at the other end of the spectrum - once you get used to not wearing a watch again, it's a relief not to need to.

I own a cheap Casio F-91W digital - cost me well under a tenner, totally reliable, a battery that will last a decade or longer, and does everything I need in a timepiece. I wore a watch every day for 30 years whilst at work, because so much of my life was driven by the clock. Now that's not the case, and the watch has slowly migrated from a permanent home on my wrist to equally permanent lodgings in my trouser pocket - from where it gets taken maybe once every couple of days (when I actually need to know the time, and taking it out's the simplest option). But in truth, I have clocks around the house, in the car, and on my phone; I'm rarely far from sight of one, and I simply don't need an extra one stuck annoyingly and uncomfortably on my wrist. So if I'm going, say, to stick serious computing power there, it better give me something I really value, and that I can't get half as well another way. So far, I simply don't see any application that remotely steps up to the task.

The recent history of technology is awash with novel and inventive ideas that went nowhere because people didn't want them, didn't need them or both. And if there's one lesson to be taken from that, it's that, just because you can make something "clever", that doesn't mean to say that people will buy it. Bet the farm at your own risk.

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Earth's night-side gets different kinds of neutrinos from day-side

PassingStrange

Your tarts are post hoc. This isn't,

The theory predicted this; the experiment bears out the prediction. Good science.

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Microsoft tries to trademark 'Mod' in the US

PassingStrange

Re: Makes sense to me...

>'TM' in the UK *is* a registered Trademark. The 'R' is non-existent here.

As others have said - that's totally back to front.

In the UK the "R" in a circle denotes a registered trademark, and it's an offence to use it incorrectly. It's not illegal to use "TM" to indicate that something is being used as a trademark, but it nor does it have any legal significance. (Source: www.ipo.gov.uk)

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You gotta fight for your copyright ... Beastie Boys sue toymaker over TV ad

PassingStrange

(Non-commercial) parody MUST be protected

This is only needed at all because parodies have come under increasing attack in the UK courts in recent years; for most people for a long while I think it's been fairly clearly understood that a parody of something was different to breach of copyright, and not open to challenge. Now people are trying to erode that, so it needs formally codifying.

Parody is a tradition as old as human culture, and a vital tool for deflating the pompous and the powerful, It most certainly needs to be preserved and protected, and if that needs legislation, so be it. And whilst it would need defining, in real terms I suspect most of us have a fairly clear idea what constitutes parody, and what is simple rip-off. (For example, using someone's recognised song for commercial purposes as in this case, with different words chosen to fit your marketing needs, clearly isn't parody - it's a rip-off and an attempt to avoid copyright fees. Nor, to quote a previous poster's example, would simply changing the cover of a book and selling it otherwise unchanged make the whole thing a parody - although I suspect if it was well done, people would accept the modified *cover* as a parody of the original).

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How UK air traffic control system was caught asleep on the job

PassingStrange

Re: One million lines of code

I was a software tester on one of IBM's flagship mainframe products for 20 years. And I can tell you, anyone who knows a way of catching every glitch in complex software before it goes live (yes, even the ones that bring the customer's business-critical systems crashing to a very visible, embarrassing and expensive halt), that is simple and robust enough to be used in practice in widely diverse environments and by development teams using different approaches and tools - AND simple enough to be understood by non-technical management, so that they won't simply throw out what works two years later in favour of the latest "flavour of the month", in order to be perceived to be "managing" - REALLY needs to get themselves some good marketing and legal support, because they're in line to make a LOT of money.

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It's true, the START MENU is coming BACK to Windows 8, hiss sources

PassingStrange

Re: File Size?

So basically your criticism of 8.1 is that a third party app you supply doesn't play well with it - and that rather than go to 8.1 (and, presumably, the support chain of dependent fixes that will inevitably form behind it) they should stick with your app? You might want to rethink your technical priorities, if only for your customers' sake.

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Doctor Who Episode One: Through a glass. Darkly

PassingStrange

Re: Bah!

>You can't judge the quality of the broadcast from restored footage recovered from the sludge the BBC archived.

Most definitely true. The original broadcasts (both 405 and 625, and of this and just about everything else that has survived from the early years of TV) were far clearer than anyone would be lead to believe from the quality of the copies around today.

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Tales from an expert witness: Lasers, guns and singing Santas

PassingStrange

Re: Couple of points

"It is of course purely anecdotal". Never were six truer words spoken.

This is purely anecdotal as well. Having spent over three decades working for a well-known IT multinational (the last two in an absolute hive of geeks, namely a development lab of a couple of thousand people), I'd have to say that the rest of that is so far from accurate, in my own experience, that it's almost visible coming back round from the other side. IT folks are a mix of types just like any other group. In my time I saw the inevitable cross-section of types - some of whom would have been short of breath after climbing a flight of stairs - but if anything rather more of the folk I worked with were fit, sporty types than is my experience in the general population. Personally I suspect that the stereotype of the weedy, uncoordinated nerd is often simply a comfortable myth for those who don't find it easy to accept that there are people out there a whole lot brighter than they are - "At least I'm better than them at something...".

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How to spot a coders comment

PassingStrange

Re: mainframe

True IBM mainframe programmers don't use columns 73-80.

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MPs to review laws on UK spy-snoopery after GCHQ Tempora leaks

PassingStrange

Re: Why didn't he answer the question?

Not to comment on Rifkind's interview per se (which I didn't hear) - but, to be fair to politicians, the Beeb's current batch of journalists seem to positively revel in aggressively asking mind-bogglingly overly-simplistic, often highly slanted questions to which no-one in their right mind would give a simple yes or no. Presumably they think it makes their interviews look "tough", and they go to bed dreaming of the golden moment when someone will actually make the mistake of a straight answer. It's piss-poor journalism of the very worst kind - the best interviewers of the past (Robin Day comes to mind) were fully capable of skewering their victims with incisive, razor-sharp questions in the most polite manner, and then hanging politely but doggedly in there until they either got an answer or it became crystal clear to everyone listening that the interviewee was dodging the issue - but aggression and hoping for a gaffe seems to be all that today's poor dears are capable of.

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PassingStrange

Of course GCHQ did nothing illegal...

..at least, not technically. How could they? The internet in its current form basically didn't exist when most of our current batch of security and privacy laws were drawn up, and those laws simply don't cover it. But - and it's a BIG but - GCHQ undoubtedly DID do things that, had they involved older modes of communication that WERE covered by those laws (obvious parallels would be mass tampering with and copying of letters, or tapping and recording every phone line in the country without a warrant) most certainly WOULD have been illegal. And with that in mind, their behaviour was morally dubious, to say the least - obeying the letter of the law whilst clearly breaching its spirit.No, it's not surprising that any intelligence agency would do (at least) everything the law lets it get away with, but we've been here before, had the discussions, and come to conclusions that don't support what they were (and, presumably, still are) doing. And we therefore have every right to be very suspicious of any attempt to avoid, prevent or back-pedal on, a significant legal crackdown on the scope of what is permitted without proper and independent oversight.

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Custom ringback tones: Coming to your next contract mobe?

PassingStrange

Re: who would want this?

Hmm. That wasn't how I read the article - the impression I got was that YOU would be fed the RBT you'd chosen, NOT the person you called. Both possibilities are clearly technically possible in principle (and from comments here, the second is already out there) - but, on a re-read, the article isn't clear as to which it's talking about...

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Microsoft: We're nearly OUT OF STOCK of Surface 2 and Pro 2

PassingStrange

SALE!!! LAST FEW DAYS!!!!!

Sadly, it's my experience that, in the world of retail sales, "Almost sold out!!!" (spurious exclamation marks mandatory) is trader-speak for, "We have a pile of these we need to shift, we can barely even give them away, and we think you're gullible enough to buy if you think they're popular".

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'Modern warming trend can't be found' in new climate study

PassingStrange

That should be, "hasn't happened THERE".

When similar results turn up from many more places, that will be a result worthy of the tag line. Until then, it's more interesting for the fact that it bucks the trend - although that will doubtless not stop the more die-hard climate change sceptics pouncing on it as yet more evidence that they're right, and it's all some big conspiracy that everyone but them is in on.

Sadly...

The BBC carried a very telling interview the other night, with the editor-in-chief of the journal Nature, Dr Philip Campbell. He was talking to Professor Brian Cox about the power and robustness of peer review, for all its flaws, and at this point in the interview about how the scientific consensus on climate change has grown and solidified:

"I would so love to show that climate change isn't happening. I'd love to think that global warming isn't happening in a way that I do actually believe threatens my grand-children's future. But it's so unfortunate, if you like, that we don't seem to be getting papers that show that it's wrong."

Still available on the BBC iPlayer, if anyone missed it and is interested: "Science Britannica, episode 2: Method and Madness".

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IPCC: Yes, humans are definitely behind all this global warming we aren't having

PassingStrange

Re: Such a waste of time and paper.

" It's really only our way of life at risk."

If by that you mean our descendants staying alive, I agree. Otherwise, no. Collectively we're disturbingly like yeast in a fermenting vessel, gobbling up the resources around us as fast as we can and destroying the very environment that keeps us alive. In a worst case scenario (given that we show absolutely no signs of being able to cooperate as a species to even begin to actually stop doing the damage) we'll push one critical system or another past a tipping point, the planet will see a mass extinction bigger than than the one we're already causing - including us - and there will be nothing we can do but watch.

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15% of Americans still holding off from this newfangled interweb thing

PassingStrange

Dodgy El Reg statistics, guys

"Of those online holdouts, over a third said that they felt the internet was "not relevant" to them, and 32 per cent said that using it was either too hard or that they were concerned about the threat of viruses and identity theft. This latter figure has nearly doubled since Pew's 2010 survey. and shows that the rising tide of online crime is a significant deterrent effect to use."

NO. Back to maths class, guys. What has "nearly doubled" is a percentage of a percentage. Without the previous numbers, it's meaningless.

Depending on which figure you take off that graph as "2010", the number of holdouts back then could have been as high as 26%; now it's only 15%. And assume for the sake of argument that the percentage concerned about viruses then was 17% (so that 32% is "nearly double" the old figure). Then we're talking about 32% of 15% (4.8%) of Americans now, versus 17% of 26% ((4.4%) of Americans back in 2010. No great change, and probably well within the margins of statistical error. But that doesn't make as good a story.

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Behind the candelabra: Power cut sends Britain’s boxes back to the '70s

PassingStrange

Re: Power Cuts

"Even if it will work unset, you've got either a malignantly flashing display, or the wrong time forever telling you that you weren't clever enough to set a clock."

Microwaves are great for heating (some) things, but rubbish for anything close to proper cooking. So on a manically busy microwave week, we'll use ours for all of 15 minutes (cooking frozen veg, warming tortillas and similar). On a slow week it's lucky if it sees 15 seconds of use to defrost a little butter. So (like lots of other gear in our kitchen that doesn't get much use), it only gets turned on at the socket when it's needed. No blinking; no wrong time. And no guilt.

I have to admit, though, that I still have an indecent number of candles and holders readily accessible. And will do for the foreseeable future. Torches. phones and so forth are great for finding your way around the dark areas of the house, but you want light in whatever room(s) you settle in - and half a dozen well placed candles can make for a very pleasant environment.

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'Silent' staff stood by as £100m BBC IT project tanked – DG

PassingStrange
Unhappy

Re: Management don't want to know ..

Spot on. It's what you get when higher management doesn't want to hear about problems and potential failures, only how well everything is going. Actually having problems is always seen as failure on the part of the people further down the tree, and punished. So middle management en masse basically gets scared to tell anyone above them that something is seriously wrong - and what little status filters back up is a censored and glossily polished imitation of the truth. At the time things need to be fixed, no-one wants to say it's needed; by the time it can't be hidden, it's too late. And when things eventually get so bad that it can't be ignored any longer, the guys at the top - who are wholly responsible for the toxic culture they rule over - blame anyone but themselves, hunt out and punish the "guilty", and start the whole poisonous mess all over again.

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Windows NT: Remember Microsoft's almost perfect 20-year-old?

PassingStrange

Ah, yes - Win NT and OS/2

It's worth pointing out, to anyone too young to remember, that Microsoft were playing their dirty old "embrace and extinguish" game even back then. MS was heavily involved in writing the first version of OS/2, and there's plenty of evidence to support the suggestion that they took active steps to make sure it failed. After which they launched Win NT, using quite a few good ideas that came out of that period of collaboration. By the time IBM was able to come back with a new version unsullied by MS involvement, the battle for hearts and minds was already over. I have no love of today's IBM - but MS became the Evil Empire in my book right then, and have done nothing in the mean time to change my opinion. I won't give a penny to them that I don't absolutely have to.

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YouTube Wars: Microsoft cries foul as Windows Phone app pulled again

PassingStrange

"E, E, E"

Let's not forget the old MS mantra of "Embrace, Enhance, Extinguish". MS have a decades-long record of using deliberate and targeted misuse of standards to gain leverage and then dominance over competitors and markets. I don't necessarily trust Google (or any other large business) any more than I trust MS, nor do I necessarily suggest that's why they're doing this - but if it were me, and I had the luxury of being able to force MS to either genuinely and fully comply with a standard, or go without? No contest. I wouldn't give them the glimmer of a chance to do otherwise.

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Violent Hamlet 'bard' by British Library Wi-Fi filters

PassingStrange

Sounds like a bit of a self-important prat to me

1) He can't be bothered to wait for a book to be pulled up

2) He has, however, the time to hassle library staff because a site he wants to get to is incorrectly blocked (rather than just pointing it out and then getting the information from another site)

3) He quite unfairly paints the person at the information desk as downright ignorant for not having heard of MIT

4) He takes a totally unwarranted swing at the IT guys for checking the right spelling of Shakespeare. The library has millions of books, going back centuries - and Shakespeare himself famously didn't spell his name consistently. Checking spellings, rather than making assumptions, is almost certainly standard procedure

I haven't read any of his books. After seeing this, frankly I don't feel inclined to either.

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IBM CEO doesn't forget Parris in Power and Mainframe top job lob

PassingStrange

Re: Why ?

Except I'm told by people still in there that they also recently ripped some layers out. Whether it was dramatic or very limited, I don't know.

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Big blue Avatar movie spawns THREE SEQUELS

PassingStrange

Not convinced

Avatar made its bucks on novelty. And on special effects. And above all by charging a whopping premium for 3D. Its story, unfortunately, was pretty hackneyed and in some ways horribly formulaic after the event - I've tried to watch it twice in 2D since I saw it in the cinema, and given up both times, and that's not a good sign, because normally I'll sit through just about anything. Plus it's already nearly four years since it came out - there can't be all that many people, frankly, who remember enough about Pandora or the characters to care greatly one way or the other. Sure, I suspect the first new film will have enough momentum left from the success of the original to do at least tolerably OK, provided it's not downright awful - but a trilogy? That second film better be in a class of its own, or numbers three and four are going to sink without trace. And, personally, I'm not sure I'll be shelling out a 3D premium to see even number two until I've seen enough good reviews to make me think it's worth it.

Colour me, overall, a highly dubious blue.

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Kids LIE about age on Facebook, gasps Brit ad watchdog

PassingStrange
Happy

Re: Shopkeepers?

Make the most of it; the sad time comes when you realise that no-one's going to ask you again, other than as a joke.

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Big Blue cedes software and systems training biz to partners

PassingStrange

Re: Beat me to it...

CICS. 45 years old and still very much a cash cow.

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Reports: New Xbox could DOOM second-hand games market

PassingStrange

All well and good, except...

The problem is that companies, inevitably, will do there darndest to find ways to slither past the spirit of the law. Take MMOs (such as, e.g., World of Warcraft or Guild Wars 2) - where the various terms and conditions and EULAs routinely purport to deny the user the right to sell their game *account*. Sure, you can sell your copy of the game *software*, but the game software alone won't let someone else play the game. To do that you need to a registered account on the game servers (which is created, for example, using the unique key that came with a hard copy of the game, and which, once registered, won't be accepted again). If the game supplier refuses to recognise your right to transfer your *account*, you effectively can't transfer ownership of your copy of the game. I strongly suspect that this, too, is in breach of EU law - but until someone takes it to court and gets a decision in their favour (and some sort of order to enforce it) all the power remains in the hands of the big guys over the little ones. Don't be surprised if Microsoft do something very similar, therefore.

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BBC suspends CTO after £100m is WASTED on doomed IT system

PassingStrange

Looking at this the wrong way.

It's a given that every project includes risks, and therefore also a given that, occasionally, a project will fail - that's a fact of IT life. And, viewed dispassionately, pulling a failed project is far better use of public money than burying your head in the sand, pretending the problem isn't there and throwing more good money after bad. As an (uninformed) first reaction basis, my thoughts were "Kudos to whoever finally had the balls to say ' Enough is enough'." Yes, it's massively embarrassing that money of such astronomical proportions was spent on this before it was pulled; questions are clearly in order, and heads probably need to roll. But they have to be the right heads - because the sort of witch-hunt mentality that won't tolerate failure isn't in anyone's interest.

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FLABBER-JASTED: It's 'jif', NOT '.gif', says man who should know

PassingStrange

Re: It's Pronounced Pittsburra, Pennsylvania

You can decide, but you're very lucky if anyone takes any notice. Mostly the larger community ignores you and forms its own consensus through usage and repetition. If the result doesn't happen to match what you wanted - tough.

I'm afraid that's how language works, Mr Wilhite - if the world says "ghif", "ghif" it is. Your opinion simply doesn't count.

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Spooky action at a distance is faster than light

PassingStrange

No suprise

Every experiment, ever, in this area takes the form

1- entangle A and B

2a- observe A

2b- observe B

3- compare the results and observe that the observations match

Step 4 is invariably to presume a cause-and-effect relationship between the results at 2a and 2b, and draw conclusions. But correlation, as we all know, does not imply causation. If, for example, measurement were in some hokey SciFi way to entangle the measuring equipment with the particle being measured, it seems reasonable to assume that the results at each end would entangle in matching ways, and the compared results would also then match. Always. Irrespective of detailed experimental technique, and without any "signal" passing. Probably not what's happening (and even if it were, "the experiment will never fail" isn't the most useful prediction in the world). But the fact that the prevailing explanation (in the case of this experiment) demands the exchange of signals at way over the speed of light, with no observed limit as yet (raising the spectre of restoring Simultaneity, which would be about as big a breach of SR as it's possible to think of), and in others has seemed to suggest that the signals can equally travel back in time, ought in my opinion to be setting off deafening alarm bells in the heads of every physicist working in this area, that something is seriously wrong about their fundamental underlying assumptions. Far more likely is that something else is going on, and the "cause and effect" story we've been telling for getting on for a century now simply isn't the correct one.

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Reg readers scuffle over the ultimate cuppa

PassingStrange

Mug, definitely. But not just any mug! Oh, and infuser

This will sound like heresy to some, but.

The best drinking vessel for my tea BY FAR that I've ever had is a 12oz (350ml) "Easygrip" insulated PLASTIC mug from Aladdin. Bought for me (as a joke, mind you) by my wife one Christmas. Best "joke" ever - with the spill-free lid removed, it is incredible. The lip shape is, in some indefinable way, absolutely perfect to drink from, whilst the tea is still beautifully hot and delicious when the contents of any ceramic container would long be stone cold (a property I can't praise or stress too highly). And whatever the plastic may be, it's as odourless and discrete to the tastebuds as any bone china.

It was so good, in fact, that when my first one finally became a bit awkward to use after several years sterling service (wear, tear and general abuse to the softer plastic covering the handle) I attempted a dozen ceramic alternatives, looking for that indefinable "something", before realising just what a gem I'd lost. Fortunately, after a search on line (and after wondering whether Aladdin really now only made them in garish picnic blue), I found the self-same mug on line in a more discrete colour (and bought two to be on the safe side; one of them is sitting on my desk beside me as I type). I heartily recommend the product to anyone brave enough to throw propriety and convention to the winds and it a try.

Preparation? By preference, loose leaf, in a single-cup stainless-steel permanent infuser (one of the big, open-topped beaker-shaped ones I can spoon the tea directly into, with plenty of space for the water to get at the leaves - not a nasty, cramped ball).

Tea? Well - when the wife's making for both of us, it's PG Tips (because she finds it easier just going to chuck a couple of bags in a pot, whatever I may think about the matter, and I find it still makes a decent cuppa in the incredibly hard water around here). The merest dash of milk (if any), but again I find it tends to arrive by default (ah, well). If I'm making it myself, it's Oolong for its subtle, rounded flavour, or Gen Mai Cha (Japanese brown rice tea - aka "popcorn tea") when I fancy a more in-your-face treat. The basic Gen Mai Cha from "Char" in Winchester is excellent. (Not to be confused with their Gen Mai Cha Supreme, which some people clearly like, but I'm not so keen on. Oh, and their Earl Grey Supreme is pretty good, too.)

(Lapsang Souchong?!? No thanks. A drink for people who only have one working taste bud left. If I wanted a mouth full of the taste of wood smoke, I'd go swig Barbecue Sauce.)

0
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This is out of hand now: Apple attempts to trademark the LEAF

PassingStrange

Jewellery?!?

I have seen literally thousands of pieces of jewellery in the past shaped as leaves; I am sure that just about any jewellery shop rf stand that you care to pick will have multiple examples. Does Apple seriously think people are going to stop such items if this goes through (or that it will prevail in court if it tries to enforce such a trademark)?

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Home Sec: Let us have Snoop Charter or PEOPLE WILL DIE

PassingStrange

Re: She may be right...

Indeed. Her argument is nothing more than specious, despicable emotional blackmail. The police will ALWAYS be able to do more with greater powers, no matter HOW draconian the state may become. That in itself is a VERY good reason why every such proposal must be treated with the very gravest of suspicion, and resisted unless plainly in the interests of freedom and democracy.

3
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Boffins: Jurassic avians were more like Angry birds than modern ones

PassingStrange

Re: Not exactly a shock

"Yes --- when you propagate the 5% difference through the whole species. But, unless it's a super-power, it means f-all for an individual."

It means that, ON AVERAGE, such individuals will have more offspring than other individuals of the same species with which they're competing locally (which is what matters). And that many of those offspring will inherit that 5% advantage, and ON AVERAGE will again get to reproduce more than their less-fortunate peers. If the dice roll right, a few generations down the line that 5% HAS propagated across the local population. If not, so what? Genetic damage and mutation means that every population is constantly trying out HUGE numbers of minor variations; some WILL be advantageous, and some of those WILL have the luck and permeate the local reproductive population. The vast scale of the numbers involved absolutely guarantees that.

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PassingStrange

Flight itself could have started from display behaviour

Species of birds the world today over have display behaviour involving jumping; it's highly implausible that some of their remote ancestors, at least, wouldn't have had something similar. So, consider a species with purely decorative display proto-feathers, with males indulging in jumping displays. In such populations, any traits allowing the displaying animal to jump higher or stay off the ground longer - such as proto-feathers providing just a little bit of lift, say - could easily become a selective breeding advantage, driving the development of a reasonably functional feather over quite a short period of time.

Yes, it would be a long way from that to true flight - but it seems to me that it's one possible, reasonably plausible reason for development to to start down that road.

0
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Ten gaming headsets

PassingStrange
Unhappy

Great, but what about us four-eyes?

Please - just once would be possible to see a headset review that at least thinks about whether or not the set in question is likely to be comfortable for an extended period for someone wearing glasses?

I need to wear glasses all the time at the computer - contacts aren't an option - and I'm not exactly in a hurry to shell out on a fine-sounding top-end set, only to find that the back of my ears gets sore as heck after a couple of hours in game. There're quite a few of us out here, so why not spare us a thought, next time, guys?

3
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IBM juices profits in Q2 despite sales drop

PassingStrange

Re: IBM Redundancies and No Payrises

Hey, let's not forget "Operation Waltz" back in 2009, either. Several hundred of IBM UK's longest-serving, most experienced employees (of whom I was one) forced out of the company by closing the final salaries pension schemes with not even the pretence of an attempt to cushion the blow or compensate for the loss - if you want to keep your pension, work 6-7 more years to regain what you'll lose, or go now. All that against a background of (never acknowledged but known to all) annual quotas of staff separation via "Personal Improvement Plans" in which the company was judge and jury. Many, many of us decided we had no genuine choice, took our pensions and left. Precisely how many, was something the company wouldn't talk about; mid-2009 was, strangely enough, also notable for being the point at which IBM dropped any pretence at transparency, and decided to stop sharing its employee demographics with the world - so the numbers couldn't even be deduced that way. Honest estimates at the time, though, were that IBM UK shed 450+ of its most experienced people (more than 200 of whom felt sufficiently betrayed and misused by the shameful way they'd been treated to promptly file an action, still to be heard, for constructive dismissal and age discrimination).

Personally, it's hard to put into words just how relieved I now am to be out (especially when I meet and talk to people I know who are still working there). I have no idea how long IBM will be able to keep up the facade, before its customer base finally grows wise to just how far and how badly the company has actually corroded its skill base in the last decade (how little it actually now spends on training for its service people, for example). I'm almost amazed it's lasted as long as it has, even. Sadly, I suspect it's going to take a major, high profile customer disaster to finally wake people up.

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Details of all internet traffic should be logged – MEP

PassingStrange

Pardon me, but your prejudices are showing...

What on earth is people's problem with the House of Lords not being elected? The House of Lords has been for the last century, a revising chamber rather than a legislative one. Its role is to look at the politically-motivated, knee-jerk stuff that comes out of the Commons, trim off the worst excesses and try to turn it into something akin to decent, acceptable law. When the two houses strongly disagree, the Commons always prevails. It's not elected, the members who do the work do so because they're genuinely interested in doing it, and it's (mostly) not appointed by whatever shower is currently in power, either. Blair and crowd did their damndest to stack it with enough of their cronies to let them push anything that they wanted, but not withstanding that, it's still a check on the worst excesses of the Commons. As such, it's the LAST body that ought to be looking over its shoulders at what the electors will say in two years time.

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IBM PC daddy: 'The PC era is over'

PassingStrange

Re "I have better things to do..." - No you don't.

Funny how some people seem to think that physical competition (such as cycling) is somehow "grown up", yet more sedentary competition (such as computer and other games) isn't. Unless the game is, say, chess or bridge, when it suddenly becomes magically grown up and acceptable again...

I also started playing computer games in the 70's (along with board and role-play - all social activities, in case you hadn't noticed, and just as valid IMO as, say, hoofing a soccer ball around a pitch once or twice a week). The difference is that I never stopped (in fact, I've a Warcraft session running full screen on the other, 24" monitor of my PC as I type - and let's see someone do *that* with a tablet any time soon....). It didn't stop me playing multiple sports, coaching rugby, learning to juggle, having a career and a social life, being happily married and raising four kids, and generally getting on with a host of other, unrelated things along the way. You wrote a book? Bully for you. That you did so had precious little to do with your not playing games. I've found time to write plenty along the way myself (although I realized quite quickly that I'm far too florid in my style to be commercial, and far too anal about consistency of detail to ever finish anything to my own satisfaction anyway). But I didn't "not grow up" - I just never learned to be embarrassed about doing things I enjoy, simply because people whose opinions I couldn't care less about don't understand them. I try things that take my fancy, and I don't give a toss what other people think about them (I've been trying to learn some basic Poi for the last few weeks - finally got the hang of a simple move called the three-beat weave about four hours ago, to my intense elation). My advice to anyone who feels differently is to lighten up, and enjoy life while you still have it - you'll be as dead as me in a couple of hundred years (and unless you're another Shakespeare, just as forgotten, too).

Back on topic, though - IBM didn't understand what they had when they brought the PC to market, or they'd never have let Microsoft have the OS - and they were thoroughly focused on the tech, back then. Why anyone should think any of them know any better now, when all that counts is squeezing a few extra bucks out of the bottom line any way that they can, is beyond me. Other people have said it - the PC hashigh-end roles that simply aren't going to be met any time soon by the supposedly "competing" tech.

(Oh - that career I mentioned? Pushing four decades as a techie inside IBM...)

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Murdoch muscles BBC out of Formula One driving seat

PassingStrange
Thumb Down

A good deal for the Beeb? Yeah, right...

"Highlights" for every other race? Funny - I remember when the Beeb got a vaguely similar deal for England RU internationals; it pretty much marked the end of my interest in the 6 Nations. Because someone else's opinion of what all the "interesting" bits were, shown in predigested form hours after the event, is of no use to me; waiting in real time, live, to see what, if anything, will happen is a vital part of the pleasure.

Right now my wife and I watch every race of the season; I can guarantee that we won't be bothering to watch mere highlights, though - and that means we probably won't bother to watch the live races either; what's the point? (Oh, and, no, I'm not forking out for a Sky subscription again, just for the privilege of getting back what until now has been free to air - I've been there, and I'm not going back.)

I wait with interest to see how F1 viewing figures go - I suspect that the drop will be near-precipitous.

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Council of Europe condemns teen-bothering Mosquito

PassingStrange

There's legal and there's legal

Will someone explain to me how a device designed and marketed with the overt purpose of causing a public nuisance can somehow be deemed acceptable just because not everyone can hear it (or, to be more exact, because the only people who can hear it are young, and presumably therefore perceived as "antisocial")? I'd suggest anyone so inconvenienced should register a complaint under the Noise Abatement act. Were I remotely young enough to stand any chance of actually hearing one of these things in action, I know that I certainly would.

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Physicist unmasks 99-year-old mistake in English dictionaries

PassingStrange

He's wrong, pure and simple.

"Liquid is, of course, drawn up the shorter limb of the siphon by the weight of that in the longer downward one: thus the operating force is gravity."

That's an even bigger howler than the stock explanation, and the sort of thing you get if you only look at the maths, without thinking about the physics. Liquid isn't "drawn up" (as can be proved, as lots of people have pointed out, by raising the shorter limb above the column height that can be supported by atmospheric pressure - the flow stops, and a vacuum forms above the two limbs). For any flow to occur, liquid has to be *pushed* to the top of the shorter limb by atmospheric pressure. No pressure, no column of liquid; no column, no flow.

So. Air pressure is pushing the liquid up in both limbs; the weight of the column of liquid in each limb is opposing that pressure. The column of liquid in the longer limb is greater than that in the shorter limb, so its weight cancels out more of the force due to air pressure at that limb, resulting in a net force (and resultant flow) from short limb to long.

Atmospheric pressure at both ends is the same, so the *size* of the resultant force is, indeed, directly down to the difference in weight of the two columns of water. But. Without atmospheric pressure at the shorter limb, no column of water - and hence no siphon effect - is possible. Gravity does not *cause* the flow - it works on both sides to *oppose* it (and fails more badly at the shorter limb). The operating *force* is the unbalanced component of atmospheric pressure at the short limb.

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