* Posts by PassingStrange

91 posts • joined 10 May 2010

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Fiery old geysers FOUND ON MOON: Volcanic past explained

PassingStrange

Re: Huff post has a cracking debunk of lunar conspiracy

What's even more ludicrous is the implication that Hollywood then ignored the goldmine that was the technology supposedly used, and that all of the SFX specialists involved in the "fake" also forgot everything they'd done, and the whole industry went right back to the same old low-tech SFX it had been using for years. You've only got to look at the moon and other "low gravity" scenes in "2001" (released only the year before the landing) to see the limits on what the industry of the time was capable of. But then again, such trivia don't bother crackpots.

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Government embarks on futile mission to censor teen music vid viewing

PassingStrange

Re: "help parents to make informed choices"

"I also tend to make them use electronic kit in "open" areas of the house so I can see what they're doing rather than let them sneak off to their bedrooms. I suppose most parents do the same."

Not beyond a certain age. I think to a degree it may depend on the kids, but when mine were younger (they're all adults now) I took the attitude that openness and trust was a better strategy - treating them as adults to just as much a degree as they could cope with. We were all kids; we all know that, if you try and lock kids down, they'll just find a way of seeing or doing what they want to anyway, and most of the time you won't even know it. Whereas if you foster an attitude of trust, you not only hear about far more of it, but you get the chance to feed any concerns and thoughts into the discussion, and have your opinions considered and respected. I knew, for example, when my 15 year-old son was watching 18-rated films round at a particular friend's house, and what they were. We talked, I was happy with his attitude, end of story. If I hadn't been, we'd have found a way to sort things. Worked pretty well for me, anyway - I'm proud of the way they all turned out. (Although my daughter once told me that the most frustrating thing about me was that I never gave her anything to rebel against. Parental Judo. I took that as a compliment.)

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You CAN'T jail online pirates for 10 years, legal eagles tell UK govt

PassingStrange

Re: 10 years?

What gets me most about utterly moronic pronouncements such as the one that prompted this whole discussion is the vacuous and unquestioning way in which so many apparently-intelligent politicians seem to have not only bought into the "copying is theft" meme, but the degree to which they seem prepared to accede to the very particular version of that tale being told by large corporate interests.

Copying is not only not "theft" (a simple and perfectly clear concept that everyone understands, despite the best efforts of those with vested interests to redefine it as something else), but utterly fundamental to human society and culture. From the moment we're born, we learn most of what makes us who and what we are by copying. Talking; reading; what's acceptable and unacceptable behaviour in our society; what things and actions are safe, and what are dangerous. If we see a good idea, we adopt it. If our neighbour finds a clever way to keep the slugs out of his vegetable patch, we try it. If we hear a good joke, we pass it on. If we hear a good tune, we whistle, sing or play it. If we like the new style of clothing we see someone wearing, we imitate it. If someone coins a useful word, we use it. Copying things is one of the most fundamental aspects of human behaviour that there is. The entire (and very, very recent) concept of somehow not having a right to copy whatever we choose to is utterly artificial, and utterly at odds with everything that makes us who and what we are.

Which is not to say that there's not a place for allowing someone to benefit from the fruits of their labour, up to a point - IF doing so benefits society as a whole. If it doesn't - well, no-one owes you, me, or anyone else (let alone some faceless corporation) a living. And most certainly not simply because having an artificial monopoly on something is the only way to achieve one.

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Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo crackup verdict: PILOT ERROR

PassingStrange

Re: Disturbing

Who knows? The point is that he was able to. It could have been a simple mistake. Although he was a test pilot, and he could have had a reason that made sense to him. Whatever, the hardware allowed him to do something that turned out to be fatally dangerous, presumably without giving him any indication that it really wasn't a good idea.

(There's a famous story of a Harrier jump jet test pilot asking "What happens if I vector the thrust nozzles during forward flight?" To which the answer was "We don't know - no-one's ever tried it." So he did. And nothing went wrong, and the Harrier's then-unique VIFFing manoeuvers were born. But there was always an outside chance that it would turn out to be a really bad idea, and that things could have gone horribly wrong, perhaps even killing the pilot. In which case we'd be asking what he was doing, doing something so stupid? Answer - doing his job.)

In my book, that's not pilot error. That's either a design failure, or a training failure, or a test pilot pushing the envelope beyond its limits.

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UK.gov makes total pig's ear of attempt to legalise home CD ripping

PassingStrange

Re: Speaking of Land Grabs

"It's the same as asking me to pay for bank shareholders losses for a bank that I don't use."

'Which if you're a UK taxpayer, and don't bank with RBS, HSBC or Lloyds, is exactly what happened.'

Except that you DO use them. They finance the levy that guarantees that, if it's YOUR bank that goes tits up, you don't lose every penny you had in it.

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What's dying on the vine and rhymes with IBM?

PassingStrange

Gutted from within

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: IBM, in its current form and under its current management and management culture, is moribund. It could be years dying yet, but that's what it's doing. The outside world possibly may not be able to see that clearly yet, but it's plain as a pikestaff once you get inside. And its problem isn't sell-offs per se - those are just visible symptoms of a wider culture of "money right or wrong" (and "money for my share options") that came in when Lou Gerstner replaced John Akers in the 90s, and the bean-counters took over from the techies.There's no money available for anything. Pick any 10 grunt employees at random, and ask them how much real education they've had in the last couple of years, say - you'll be shocked at the answer. There may be something in there worth salvaging - but it's not going to amount to anything under the current board, any board likely to replace them, or indeed the sort of middle management appointees that the culture fostered by the board produces.

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High Court smacks down 'emergency' UK spy bill as UNLAWFUL

PassingStrange

Re: Called it :)

"When even Tories..."?

No. Labour were just as bad. I'm an utter cynic in such matters, and the problem, IMO, isn't the Conservatives, or Labour - it's the unchanging common denominators, a.k.a. the Home Office, the Intelligence Services,the Police and so on. You can vote for any tint of government you like, but when the dust has settled, one layer down from the Home Secretary and the PM you'll still have exactly the same people scaring the new bosses rigid with the same intelligence stories and scenarios (accurate, exagerated and imagined) as they did the old ones, and pushing for the same "absolutely essential" measures (i.e. greater powers for them) that are needed "for the county's safety". Oh, and the terrible political consequences of not doing so.

It would take someone of serious integrity and moral courage to stand up to that sort of pressure, and sadly that's rarely found in the average politician. It seems to take the average government about two briefings to go native.

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'I thought we were pals!' Belgium, Netherlands demand answers from Germany in spy bust-up

PassingStrange

GCHQ

"Strangely enough, the Belgians didn’t feel man enough to take on the UK"

We all know that it's a basic principle that everyone spies on everyone. No surprises there. And presumably the Belgians are not stupid enough to actually think that there was any possibility that GCHQ wouldn't in principle pass anything they got on to the rest of the Five Eyes group (including the US). So they knew where they stood on that score. Whereas they possibly had a higher opinion of Germany.

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Boffin: Will I soon be able to CLONE a WOOLLY MAMMOTH? YES. Should I? Hell NO

PassingStrange

Re: A little-known fact

Stonehenge was built as a playpen for mammoths.

Quite the opposite. Fortunately, we have an interview from the time to tell us otherwise.

"Well, what is it anyway? A henge? Well, what's a henge? You may call it megalithic culture, I call it vandalism! I suppose you realise this is about the last nesting place for mammoths in the whole of Wessex?"

- Michael Flanders, "Built Up Area"

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PassingStrange

Re: I want to say no...but

"What the hell have you been smoking? BBC?"

Probably the best thing to do with the BBC...

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PassingStrange

First rule of Mammoth club...

...If it can be done, someone, somewhere will do it. And not tell anyone until it's a done deal. And try to make a shed-load of money out of it, probably by trying to patent something key.

If we can at least keep the more reputable academics in the loop by doing it ourselves, we ought to.

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Sunday Times fires off copyright complaint at Snowden story critics

PassingStrange

Re: You know you've hit them where it hurts

" The expenses scandal I'll give you though: that was good work."

I can't honestly entirely agree - and I've been a Telegraph reader for years. Once it started, it turned into something for too akin to a witch hunt to make me comfortable - day after day of page after page of anything the paper could rake up. The paper was clearly revelling in its own publicity, and determined to milk it for everything it could.

In particular there was far too much pillorying of MPs for absolutely anything that the paper thought wouldn't play well with the public, irrespective of likely dishonest intent. Yeah, absolutely there were some real outrages lurking. More power to the paper for finding and exposing those. But others? There were others that, frankly, had me fuming - ones that I had far more sympathy for, because in the MP's position I might well have made the same mistake. I'm talking about a slew of cases which clearly boiled down to naivety: an MP being told - probably by a senior civil servant - "This is what you can claim for"; assuming that whoever was talking, was doing so with authority, and taking what they were told at face value; and not stopping to ask themselves whether it was actually a good idea (and, in context, how it might play in the public stage if the detail came out).

Well - I've worked in a large organisation, and it's my experience that even the most honest person normally just follows the rules on what can be claimed, and assumes that those rules have been agreed, vetted and cleared - and that their claims will be similarly vetted against those rules. If one rule happens to work to your benefit and you end up in pocket, that's the luck of the draw; another time, things will work against you, and you'll be shelling out (a good example might be a per diem allowance; sometimes it will be more than you need, sometimes it really won't stretch). Most people take the pluses and minuses as they come, and don't consider they're doing anything wrong or dishonest in doing so. The difference is, they don't have the national media crawling over their claims and accusing them of dishonesty for every time they end up two quid in pocket. And, yes, MPs are special, and every sitting MP should now fully understand that the public expects them to do that extra self-audit and act upon the conclusions. But, frankly, I doubt whether many of them had thought about that at the time of the "scandal". And, equally frankly, I had very strong doubts at the time as to whether some of the staff expense claims at the Telegraph would have looked any better if exposed to similar public scrutiny and expectations.

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'Snowden risked lives' fearfest story prompts sceptical sneers

PassingStrange

Not just the ST

BBC News was just as guilty; on multiple occasions I heard headlines "reporting" (I use the word advisedly) the same highly questionable allegations as the Sunday Times as though they were simple, verifiable fact. Worse, the reports didn't even have the grace to contain the qualifier of "a senior government source has said" that at least graced the equivalent reporting on its web site. Utterly disgraceful.

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Windows 10 upgrade ADWARE forces its way on to Windows 7 and 8.1

PassingStrange

Re: I'm confused

"If you remember your bible, Jesus was born when there was a census. And this census was about 6 BCE."

Except I'm assured by historians that there's no record whatsoever of the Romans ever asking populations to move all over the Empire in the way the biblical verses require. Whereas there WAS an interpretation of Micah 5:2 requiring the Messiah to come from Bethlehem. Taking the two together, the "census" bit sounds suspiciously like a Monty Python-style skit:

"You're not making much progress on this bit, Luke. Writer's block?

"A bit, yeah."

"Let's see if I can help. Start with the easy stuff. He was born in Nazareth, right?"

"Bethlehem."

"Bethlehem?! Joseph and Mary lived in Nazareth!"

"He must have been born in Bethlehem. He's the Messiah, so it has to be Bethlehem."

"You're off your trolley. That's over 70 miles! Joseph wouldn't take a pregnant wife all that way! On those roads, too!"

"Well- maybe he had to. Maybe he had no choice."

"Oh yeah? Like what? Did Mary suddenly get cravings for some bread and fish from that little shop they saw in Bethlehem when they were on holiday? Or - did Caesar Augustus suddenly go mental and tell half the flamin' empire to go home so that he could tax them?"

"Say that again?"

"I said, 'Did a decree go from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be registered'?"

"Here, you've got something there. He wouldn't have had any choice, would he? That's good, that is. Let's see... '...should...be... registered.' Great. Job done; I'll fill in the detail later. So anyway ... what was that bit about loaves and fishes again?"

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What sort of tit builds non-bird bird boxes? Vodafone

PassingStrange

Re: Aerial?

"Also, why does it have to look like a *bird* box, surely a plain wooden box would blend in just as well?"

I guess the logic is that (a) we're sufficiently used to seeing "bird boxes" that another one won't look out of place, (b) they'll be able to sell people on the idea of being paid to have one on the side of their houses because, cynically, it looks like they're being nature-friendly, and (c) they'll be less likely to attract "unwelcome" attention if casual observers don't realise what they are.

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Strap-on fiddle factor: We poke ten Apple Watch apps

PassingStrange

And that killer app, to tempt the mass market?

...

...

(Cue tumbleweed)

...

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Hardcore creationist finds 60-million-year-old fossils in backyard ... 'No, it hasn’t changed my mind about the Bible'

PassingStrange

Re: Don't be hoodwinked by 'science'

Pre-Enlightenment Philosophy at least had the excuse of incorporating aspects of what we now call science into early attempts to make sense of the world in which we live. Post-Enlightenment Philosophy has no such defence; it is the dry, shrivelled husk left over once everything with the remotest application to the real world had been removed, refined and and renamed the Scientific Method - a good place to go if you want an argument, but utterly sterile and incapable of reaching any factual conclusion. Quoting a "philosopher" such as Popper in support of your arguments on any issue of fact whatsoever is roughly on a par with quoting "some bloke I met down the pub".

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Look out, law abiding folk: UK’s Counter-Extremism Bill slithers into view

PassingStrange

Re: One party state

>Gerrymander constituency boundaries - worth 20 seats - to make sure they win the next election.

I'll inevitably get seriously down-voted by the more leftward voting El Reg readers for this, but. If it were Gerrymandering we were talking about, the OP wouldn't be able to quote a number of seats ahead of time. This is something different (and, yes, it will inevitably work to Labour's disadvantage; if you actually believe in the idea of democracy in the UK, rather than giving lip service provided it always delivers the result you like, that's no reason it shouldn't go ahead).

Firstly, courtesy of the LibDems throwing their tantrum over the Tories not letting them dictate how the Lords should be reformed, we're overdue an adjustment of constituency boundaries (the reviews of which are carried out at intervals, by law, by 4 non-political Boundary Commissions, by the way).

Secondly, after past adjustments, and in particular the fourth such review back in 1995, it has been generally agreed by independent political commentators that Labour activists have consistently beaten the Tories hands-down at gaming the commissions system to their party-political advantage. I doubt that left wing voters need fear that THAT's changed much.

The big thing that's different about the proposed legislation is that it would require all constituencies to be of roughly similar size. And that would kick into touch the built-in, but manifestly unfair, electoral advantage that Labour currently gains from the UK having a large number of small, inner-city constituencies. Well - if that's Gerrymandering, all I can say is, not before time. If a party of any hue can't convince the electorate on a level playing field, it doesn't deserve to be in power. Although for my money, I'd prefer a system in which my own vote actually counts for something each time (I've lived all over the country, but never yet voted in an election in which the constituency result wasn't a foregone conclusion).

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Like working at IBM? Let Big Blue do the matchmaking

PassingStrange

Re: "Like working at IBM"...

Sad but largely true.

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Hipsters ahoy! Top Ten BOARD games for festive family fun

PassingStrange

Re: a board game isn't just for Christmas

Depends why you play games. There's nothing at all wrong with Go or Chess if you play games for the intellectual challenge above all, but if you want a pleasant social gathering with a group of friends of mixed backgrounds and tastes, where the games aren't necessarily trivial but the company and the personal interactions are also a huge part of the pleasure, neither Go nor chess is going to fit the bill very well. Whereas there are a huge number of very good, mostly commercial games out there that would - but equally that most people have never even heard of (and, sadly, are unlikely to even come across, precisely because of the "board games are just for Christmas with the kids" idea that still seems so prevalent).

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PassingStrange

Re: @LINCARD1000 - RoboRally

The huge temptation with Roborally is to get out lots of boards and then string out a massive course across them all, tucking the checkpoints into fiendishly-hard-to-reach places to boot. Whereas to my mind the BEST games tend to take place when all the checkpoints are easy to get to and the route weaves back and forth across the middle of a mere one or two, fairly-easy-to-navigate boards. That way any lead player is forever having to negotiate his or her way past the rest of the field, who also get the chance to influence the outcome. Oh - and ditch the rule about number of lives; having your robot destroyed is quite enough penalty, and no social game needs a player elimination rule unless it's vital to the game.

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Post-pub nosh neckfiller: Masala omelette

PassingStrange

Or...

If you have an electric grill on your oven, turn it on set to max before you go any further.

Make an ordinary omelette mix by beating a couple of eggs and a splash of milk together with a fork.

Melt a generous nob of butter in an omelette or small frying pan on a medium-high heat, then add and fry a teaspoon or so of curry powder mix in the butter for 30 seconds or so before you add the egg mix (Tikka Masalla works well; the pan wants to be hot, but not TOO hot at this point, or the spices will burn rather than fry, and the result will be pretty disgusting).

Add the egg mix, and use the back of the fork or a spatula to move and spread it around enough so that most of the mix gets exposed to the heat and sets, and the bottom of the pan is covered reasonably evenly.

Once the mix is reasonably solid, take it off the ring and nuke it immediately under the hot grill until the top is also set (as David Roberts correctly points out, you get a fluffier, better-cooked omelette that way - although the spices in the mix tend to reduce the rise).

Take from under the heat, cover generously with a strong, tasty Cheddar (sliced or grated), and shove back under the grill until the cheese is melted.

Turn out folded in the traditional "half-moon" shape, and serve immediately. One of the fastest cooked snacks known to man, and downright delicious.

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Virgin 'spaceship' pilot 'UNLOCKED tailbooms' going through SOUND BARRIER

PassingStrange

Re: Right Direction?

Virgin being late doesn't matter; if they end up providing cheap competition, by contrast, that's incredibly important. The real way to get mankind off the planet - if you'll forgive the purple prose, the true future of space exploration, and possibly even our survival as a species - lies in having lots of competing, self-interested, commercial parties capable of getting into space and making money from being there. Governments won't get us into space to any degree that matters; we've had four decades of watching how THAT one pans out, and they have completely the wrong priorities. But when there's money to be made, and lots of competition looking for new ways make it - sit back and watch the REAL Space Race begin.

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Reg hacks see the woods or the trees In the Forest of the Night

PassingStrange

@Robert E Harvey: I suspect that's what the writer was thinking, but if so, he needed to work harder at it. As it was, it was an awful ending - no real explanation, just "magic" and a touch of "happily ever after" that, once again, would have been more in place on CBBC. Oh, and on a planet of 7 billion people, the pivotal individual just "happens" to be a pupil at Clara's school? Well - there was a vague hint of another Missy connection; but if it was meant to be significant, it needed laying on with a much, much bigger trowel.

I don't make a point of going around discussing Doctor Who, but it's come up in conversation a couple of times, and I haven't yet spoken to anyone who claims to be liking the current series. And the plaint isn't Capaldi - it's the abysmal plots. I'd really love to know what the viewing figures look like - because I have a nasty suspicion they're nosediving.

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Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots

PassingStrange

Can't say I disagree with the reviews

Personally, I think it was a huge mistake to start into the whole Doctor/Clara/Danny triangle without giving Capaldi and the writers a few episodes to find his character. Yes, it probably makes perfect sense when considered in the abstract - Clara struggling to come to terms with the new Doctor - but as a viewer, I find it's not easy to get interested or involved in something like that when I'm still struggling trying to buy into a new Doctor myself!. And it certainly doesn't seem to be helping that both Capaldi and the writers *also* still seem to be struggling to settle on a real character for his Doctor - to date he still seems more like a ragbag of quirks and traits than a rounded character we can empathise with. It doesn't help, either, that we've had some pretty ropey story lines and scripting along the way, and some downright embarrassingly bad ones (the schoolboy science errors in Kill the Moon were frankly appalling scripting). As for the putative "Missy" subplot... it feels utterly tacked on; it certainly hasn't hooked or intrigued me. And if anyone wants to disagree, fine - but as a simple fact this series has been weak enough to completely lose the interest of my wife, who has casually enjoyed watching DW with me since the early '70s.

Just my opinion; YMMV. But this has NOT been, so far, a shining example of DW at its best. Nor am I convinced it stands a great chance of becoming one.

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Windows 10 feedback: 'Microsoft, please do a deal with Google to use its browser'

PassingStrange

IE - it's a question of trust

Years in the industry left me jaundiced - I simply don't trust MS to have my best interests at heart. And I don't trust IE. I stopped using it waaayyy back when MS took their blatant management-driven decision to force its roots down into the OS, so that they could claim to the US courts that they couldn't possibly unbundle the two (Win 98? I forget; long ago) - and thereby opened a shed-load of unnecessary security holes that took years to close again. And even though that's ancient history now, and my attitude is in all probability now antediluvian and entirely illogical - I still avoid it like the plague. I only ever fire it up on those rare occasions when I hit a web site that I absolutely MUST use, that is so badly (or parochially) coded that I can't get another browser to work on it - and then I go have a good wash to get rid of the unclean feeling.

It's been said that it takes years to gain trust; it takes minutes to lose it. Never were truer words spoken

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Researchers tell black hats: 'YOU'RE SOOO PREDICTABLE'

PassingStrange

"Under the right conditions, the researchers sway..."

So, indeed, do most people.

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Man's future in space ... Barack Obama: Mars. Narendra Modi: Mars. Vladimir Putin: Er, Moon

PassingStrange

So - pragrmatics or theatrics?

Getting to Mars is a publicity stunt on a par with the original moon landings - and likely to be about as long-lasting in terms of any related space program and exploitation of the achievement. It's hard to do, but not as hard as it would have been a couple of decades ago, and I doubt that many serious scientists feel it isn't do-able. But once it's done, the politicians (and, sadly, the public) will lose all interest.

Getting to the moon and actually doing things there, by contrast, has little of the sexy, public appeal of Mars (and even less of the vote-grabbing power) - but it's far more do-able, and the opportunities it presents (both commercially and internationally) are enormous. I strongly suspect that, as far as western nations are concerned, at least, though, it's going to take the involvement of the private sector before it happens; political interests are simply too divided and short-term.

Expect the US to get far more interested if Russia, China et al. start to look as though they might actually achieve something; as others have pointed out, even as a simple platform the moon is potentially unparalleled military "high ground", and as a base for making further, sustained progress it has even more potential.

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4K-ing excellent TV is on its way ... in its own sweet time, natch

PassingStrange

Re: As always

"If you can see the pixel grid you're sitting too close / your TV is too big for your room!"

No, if you can see the 'pixel grid' you're sitting too close FOR THE RESOLUTION.

If you're viewing something low-res on a high-res screen, it's going to take multiple actual pixels to display "one" pixel from the low-res image. So a distance that is perfectly fine for viewing 4K material will potentially make older stuff look pixelated from the same distance. That's not the fault of the screen, or its size, or its distance, and it's certainly not an argument against 4K per se; it's down to a mismatch between content and display.

I'm not a big apologist for "new" media tech. Tube technology has gone, plasma screens have more or less died the death, and LCD is cheap to the point of being commodity; the TV hardware industry is clearly at a point right now where it desperately needs to find a "next big thing" to get everyone replacing their sets and revive its business. That, it seems, wasn't HD; it was never going to be 3D; it most certainly wasn't "curved screens" (!). 4K? Perhaps. Maybe. I don't know. I'd happily put a larger screen in the corner of my room, IF the quality of picture was good enough, and *if* it was comfortable to watch. Right now, my screen is at the "right" distance", for its size and resolution, for comfortable viewing - I did quite a bit of work to get those factors right before I bought. So I'm not going to simply boot it out and buy something else that's supposed to be "better" unless it genuinely is - and in MY house, to boot.

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The police are WRONG: Watching YouTube videos is NOT illegal

PassingStrange

Re: The "LAW"

@AC: 'I've been in the car and have been stopped for "dangerous acceleration".'

That's perfectly reasonable (if not necessarily well-explained to you). ANYTHING you do whilst driving on the road or a public place can be an offence, if you go about it in a way that could cause problems for other people (including pedestrians). Check the legislation and you'll see that our main road offences were quite deliberately framed with broad-brush terms such as "reasonable consideration", "due care and attention" and "dangerous" - with the interpretation of what constitutes such left, in the final analysis, to the courts and case law. It's an approach that removes any wiggle-room for getting away with blatant infringements on technicalities, whilst leaving room for common sense to prevail. It's also one that has, on the whole and in my own personal opinion at least, worked pretty well. (And it's also one that means that the government's high-publicity "attack" last year of "new" offences for middle-lane hogging, etc., was a wholly-unnecessary PR exercise - everything was already perfectly well-covered by the existing legislation - but that's a different discussion).

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NASA tests crazytech flying saucer thruster, could reach Mars in days

PassingStrange

Re: At last

The fact that they got ANY result from the control shows that they had a problem of SOME sort. And unless they repeated both experiment and control, each set up again from scratch each time, and the results from each were similar each time (but different between control and experiment), it could simply be that the instrumentation problem was weaker on one occasion than the other.

I'm with others on this. I'd love it to be verified - it would not only be potentially revolutionary, but throw a spanner in the works of current orthodoxy - rarely a bad thing. But frankly this feels a lot like cold fusion did when it was first trumpeted. Sorry - exceptional claims (apparent violation of conservation laws) require exceptional evidence, and I'd say the jury is still decidedly out.

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Scotland's BIG question: Will independence cost me my broadband?

PassingStrange

Re: Promises

"Now where's the equivalent UK vote on whether we'd like Scotland to stay or go? It's not all about Scotland..."

Well - for my money at least, in that question is the nub of the problem facing the "Yes" campaign (or would be if they were actually having a sensible discussion, rather than just promising that everything will be wonderful). Because, on the one hand, they want the people of Scotland to have the sole vote on whether or not to leave the UK; but on the other hand, they keep trying to pretend that (of course!) Scotland will get to share pretty much everything it currently enjoys as part of it.

Sorry, guys - make your mind up. Those two positions are not compatible. In particular, when you're a member of something, and you decide to cancel your membership, it's almost unheard of for you to continue to enjoy the rights and benefits that membership gave you. If you want to have an equitable share in what the UK has - effectively, to divide the current UK into two parts - then those of us in the rest of the UK have a right to expect a reasonable say in the decision-making process. If you want to make the decision unilaterally (which is what Salmond et al. have opted for), and you end up choosing to walk out, then fine - but don't expect to simply pick and choose what you get to take with you. At that point, it makes very little sense for the rest of the UK to start from any other negotiating position than that it's basically ALL ours until otherwise agreed.

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PassingStrange

Re: Realism

"The SBS would also inherit a proportionate share of the BBC’s commercial ventures, including BBC Worldwide Ltd, and their associated ongoing profits."

My problem is not with the principle of that; it's simply that it's yet another regrettable, jam-today, sweep-the-practicalities-under-the-carpet example of the "Yes" camp's ludicrous pretence that, in the event of a vote for independence, all difficulties will simply melt away and Scotland will get everything it wants.

Sorry, but I was born a cynic; if Scotland votes "Yes", then, sure, there will cases where an adequate level of independent operation already exists, and in those cases it's quite possible that the division will be fairly amicable. Where that's not the case, though, vested interests (overwhelmingly, south of the border) are likely to fight tooth and nail to either keep their assets intact or to make Scotland pay through the nose for what it wants - anything less makes no business sense. Is that the case with the BBC? I have no idea. Would such an amicable separation extend to existing income streams? I *highly* doubt it.

If the Scots vote for independence, that's their choice - I wouldn't rob them of their right to make that decision for a second. But either way, the idea that some Magic Referendum Fairy will simply wave her magic wand and gift a Scotland that has just chosen to divorce itself from the UK with everything that Salmond et al. want to claim as its "fair share" is, frankly, about as ridiculous as... ...well, as the concept of a Magic Referendum Fairy. She's far, far more likely to wave her wand and walk away with half the contents of Scotland's wallet.

16
4

Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins

PassingStrange

(Factor of 10)

(Oops - meant 170 million, not 17 million. I never spot the worst typo's until my edit time's up...)

0
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PassingStrange

All this "story" really shows....

...is just how hard it is to get your brain around Deep Time and probability. Because in truth the conclusion is about as surprising as being told that water is wet.

What is easy to overlook is just how immense Deep Time is. Set against that, and given that the possibility that the dinosaurs as a whole could be wiped out at any particular point was always small, but also always greater than zero, the probability that they would be wiped out by *something*, *sometime* was always 100%. The only question was how long it would take, and whether whatever it was would wipe out life on the planet entirely. And more to the point, it was always likely to take some form of rare, extreme catastrophe to give the final push - because life is *good* at surviving, and simply works around anything less.

In the end, it took getting on for 17 *million* years for the something to happen; and life here, as a whole, survived. The truly big surprise, if there is one, ought to be not that the dinosaurs eventually died out through "bad luck", but that it took so long for that to happen.

1
0

'Blow it up': Plods pop round for chat with Commonwealth Games tweeter

PassingStrange

Plus ca change

Back in the early 1970s, a wholly-innocent and unsuspecting player in a play-by-mail game of the classic game of negotiation and backstabbing, Diplomacy, received unwanted, extended attention from the Manchester police on the back of a telegram from another player, reading "Attack on Liverpool agreed".

I remember being at a games con shortly afterwards, when the UK Diplomacy crowd were having great fun chatting and laughing about it. But the lesson has to be that it has always paid to be aware that you're communicating over open channels.

0
0

Stick a 4K in them: Super high-res TVs are DONE

PassingStrange

What "demand"?

I remain totally unconvinced by all and any discussion of the "demand" for this (and frequently any other) new technology. It seems to me that companies within the media technologies industry have been desperately flailing around for the last few years looking for any new thing they can manage to hype enough to revive their flagging revenue streams. Blu-ray; HD; 3D; 4K; curved screens (yeah, right.... getting a little desperate there, aren't we, guys?) - lots of things they can do, nothing that the market as a whole seems to particularly want or need. And certainly nothing in the way of new tech that the market is going to avidly embrace while the vast percentage of available content doesn't support it.

1
0

Lindsay Lohan sues Grand Theft Auto V makers for 'using her image'

PassingStrange

Re: There's no such thing as bad publicity

Had the same thought - even chose the same title. Ah, well, serve me right for not reading down the full thread first.

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PassingStrange

"No such thing as bad publicity"

I can't help wondering whether this has rather more to do with putting Lohan's name out in front of people than with the professed complaint.

1
0

What's it like using the LG G smartwatch and Android Wear? Let us tell YOU

PassingStrange

Re: You need to carry an Android phone with you in order to use it?

I'm still massively to be convinced. All the wearable tech to date is clever and fascinating, but it's also firmly stuck at the "Hey, isn't our great new idea cool?" stage as far as saleable products that the market is really likely to want are concerned. Smart watches in particular look like a solution looking for a problem that isn't there to be solved. And the sobering truth is that the last 40 years or so are a positive elephant's graveyard of novel, technically sound products that died stillborn because no-one actually needed them.

*Will* people find that they need smart watches? Well - my money, at least, is agin it. I'd point to the *huge* range of apps already available for smart phones. I therefore find it telling that, despite a *vast* range of ideas to trawl through, so far the companies developing them don't seem able to find a single thing to show their new babies doing that seems remotely calculated to get the average person excited. OK, sure, I understand that no-one expects them to have the killer app at their fingertips - but are you really telling me that everyone thought about everything they already use their smart phone for, and the very best thing they could think of to put onto a small screen on everyone's wrists were social media alerts? Ouch.

It's hard to avoid the conclusion that, however technically clever smart watches might be, as a market it's almost certainly going nowhere.

6
2

Podule-lodged Brit nears two weeks atop ocean peak Rockall

PassingStrange

Re: Rockall

Or Michael Flanders and Donald Swann (in the days of the Lord Chamberlain's "blue pencil", no less):

The fleet set sail for Rockall,

Rockall,

Rockall,

To free the isle of Rockall

From fear of foreign thrall.

We sped across the planet

To find this lump of granite.

One rather startled gannet;

In fact we found... Rockall.

1
0

PICS ON GROUND: Cabbies PARALYZE London in Uber rebellion

PassingStrange

Let's not conflate issues here

There are two linked but distinct issues here.

One is whether Uber are breaching the relevant law, the other is whether the law ought to change.

And, for my money, on the first at least, things are quite clear - these apps are most definitely in breach of the intent (at least, and maybe even the letter) of the law as it stands. They're a classic instance of something coming along that the law, possibly, doesn't explicitly forbid, only because the technology in question simply wasn't envisaged when the law was framed. If I were a London black cabbie, I'd be up in arms as well, looking to get the spirit of the law enforced.

The second issue is a perfectly valid one to discuss, and not one I have any great opinion on. But right now, the law is what it is, and its intent is perfectly clear. If that's to change, that should be through proper legal process - not from simple force majeure on the part of interlopers exploiting legal technicalities.

0
2

SCIENCE explains why you LOVE the smell of BACON

PassingStrange

Re: How does it work for bacon-haters?

It's a weird experience, Jamie, but I've been there too.

I loved bacon before I went veggie (although for some reason I always found the stench of a ham boiling absolutely appalling, even if I was quite happy to eat the result). And I most certainly didn't stop eating meat because I didn't enjoy it; a good steak was a real treat.

But maybe a few months in, quite suddenly I found myself hyper-sensitive to the smell of animal fats in general - a heavy, greasy, thoroughly unpleasant smell. I could walk into the kitchen two hours after my wife (meat-eater) had been cooking, and still notice it enough to make me feel quite queasy. That eased up a lot after a while - but even now, fourteen years in, it's not entirely gone.

Bacon? Well - I always liked my bacon crisp - if it didn't shatter when you tried to cut it, it wasn't cooked enough. Streaky, therefore. Can't say I ate it often enough to genuinely miss it - but from time to time I've grabbed a packet of one of the veggie simulacrums out there and fried it up. A couple are even half decent imitations. But I always end up with vicious indigestion, which turns out to be a powerful disincentive; haven't done that for quite a while now.

2
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Snowden shoots back: 'So you DO have my emails, after all'

PassingStrange

Re: Edward Snowden isn't very good at logic (and neither is the NSA)

No. The fact that the NSA have now produced an email, when they claimed to have been unable to find ANY such emails, is circumstantial evidence that their claim MAY not have not been truthful. But, equally, taken in isolation that evidence is extremely weak, and capable of other, quite innocent construction. Plus there is a huge difference between circumstantial evidence and proof.

(Clearly it IS circumstantial evidence. though; it's specious to argue otherwise. If, hypothetically, the NSA were to produce another such email tomorrow, and further ones at regular intervals, always claiming to have no more, there would come a point at which even the most hardened but honest opponent of Snowden's actions would start to seriously question the truthfulness of the NSA's claim. So each individual, hypothetical such example would have a certain weight of evidence, and enough of those weights would combine to make someone take pause. The question then simply becomes one of how many such examples it would take to make a particular individual question the NSA's version of events. Depending on your viewpoint, it could take many. Or then again, it could take only one. But either way, a single email IS evidence. Just not necessarily strong evidence. As the old joke has it, "We've already established what kind of a girl you are. Now we're just haggling over the price.")

10
2

About to make a big bet? Don't crash out, cash in with the power of maths

PassingStrange

Re: Question?

Yes, of course it does. It's not a real person in a real desert - when did you last meet a real person who took successive steps in entirely random directions, even when drunk out of their minds?

It's simply a way of describing an entirely random movement in a way that the reader can relate to.

If I remember rightly, there are at least two interesting (and related) facts about this version of the Drunkard's Walk that don't seem to have been mentioned yet:

1) Given long enough, the drunkard will return to his exact starting point

2) Indeed, given long enough, the drunkard will visit EVERY point in the desert and beyond (in other words, his walk is space-filling).

That despite the fact that his average distance from his starting point grows with time.

0
0

Asteroids as powerful as NUCLEAR BOMBS strike Earth TWICE YEARLY

PassingStrange

Re: Dumb Luck?

The craters on the moon ARE impact craters. And they're mostly symmetrical because only near-grazing impacts form craters that AREN'T. That's what happens at cosmic speeds. The sheer energy of the impact blasts material near-equally in all directions long before such trivia as impact direction have any chance to influence things.

The effect was first confirmed back in the early 20th century, using rifle bullets fired into mud, by Daniel Barringer (the man who also showed that Meteor Crater in Arizona was precisely that).

For a more detailed explanation, see, e.g., http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-are-impact-craters-al/ . Or www.barringercrater.com has classroom instructions on how to demonstrate the effect.

0
0

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.)

0
0

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
0

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.)

3
0

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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