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* Posts by Eclectic Man

42 posts • joined 4 Jun 2010

Don't put that duffel bag full of cash in the hotel room safe

Eclectic Man

Physical Acces Control Systems are affected too

I did some consultancy for the Probation Service in England. I visited a Probation Office which used a PIN entry system for securing teh doors between the insecure offender area and the secure office area. Each member of staff had a PIN used to gain acess.

One day an offender was found in the office area unescorted. When aske how he got there he said he had been 'playing' wiht the PIN pad and the door had just opened. The PIN he said he used worked, but was not one issued by the Probatin Office to its staff. neither could the Probation Office delete it. It turned out to be the manufacturer's hard-coded access PIN to be used in case a customer got locked out. It took a bespoke software patch to fix it.

So now I advise clients to get a letter signed yb the supplier to the effect that there are no means of acess of which the customer is not aware, and in particular no hard coded PINs or master pass cards (for RFI enabled locks).

(The offender was not a violent one, forunately, but had lots of time to do a key search attack, something else to think about.)

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Voteware source code review 'could lead to hacking'

Eclectic Man

Verification

Whilst I agree with most of what you posted, it is the absence of a paper trail that prevented a verification or recount in the London mayoral elections, not the absence of a review of the source code of the voting software.

As Tom Stoppard pointed out - democracy is not in the voting, but in the counting. If you are in effect relying on a pop up dialigue box to state how many votes each candidate collected, then whoever codes the display chooses who wins.

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Fearful of the drone-filled skies? Get some protection

Eclectic Man

Range

OK, so the detection range of this is about 50m, but a certain BBC Wildlife unit uses HD cameras capable of filming animals from over a mile away without disturbing them. So I'll use an HD Hero for the general location of my target, and a zoom for those 'intimate' details, and keep well away form the 50m detection zone.

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So, what exactly defines a 'boffin'? Speak your brains...

Eclectic Man

Experimenters

A Boffin would be more interested in and excited by why the experiment failed, than unhappy that it had failed.

His Boffin-ness Magnus Pyke once calculated how fast a white transit-type van had to go to be jumped over a stream. On live TV the van was driven at the required speed over the ramp and nose dived beautifully into the middle of the flowing water. Pyke was really excited by this failure and suddenly realised he had accidentally omitted air resistance from his calculations!

I submit this is a necessary, altough perhaps not sufficient, condition for the title of 'Boffin'.

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Eclectic Man

Waht about us 'pure' mathematicians?

"definition: applied scientist?

A boffin is a special kind of scientist who is able to apply their command of a body of theoretical knowledge to solving a practical problem.

Pipe -> theory

lab coat -> application"

By that definition G H Hardy would not qualify, nor would Kurt Godel.

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Eclectic Man
Coat

Re: The socks have it

"A true boffin would also be totally mystified by the inability of us ordinary folk to follow their descriptions and train of thought."

pete 2, Alas the same applies to politicians and management 'consultants'

<Sorry, I have mentioned the unmentionable, I'll ge me coat.>

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Eclectic Man

(Sir) Barnes (Neville) Wallis

I am the proud possessor of a magazine featuring an aircraft designed by prof Wallis. He kindly signed the picture of him holding a model of said aircraft.

His handwritig is really neat (as in completely legible).

He appears to be wearing a tweed suit.

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Don't snap SELFIES at the polls – it may screw up voting, says official

Eclectic Man

Re: Except

Thereby destroying the evidence they would have had to rely on in court - or maybe not as there are products which can recover deleted images from storage media, and re-formatted media as long as the original image has not been overwritten.. Even a numtie like me could probably manage that with the software available today and as for the HMRC and Police digital forensics teams, no problem (not to mention people form the definitely not a polo shaped building)..

I can't help thinking that participating in the democratic process by today's 'Selfie' generation would not be seen as particularly 'hip' or 'cool' or whatever word they use these days, so selfies might not be te problem, low voter turn out much more likely.

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Red-faced LOHAN team 'fesses up in blown SPEARS fuse fiasco

Eclectic Man

Public Inquiry

Surely this warrants a full public inquiry headed by a high court judge with powers to compel witnesses to attend and give evidence? As the UK's, and probably the world's, premier ballocket research organisation with global significance (you do after all have an entry in the Guinness bok of records) this is a matter of national disgrace and humiliation.

A full on public inquiry is what is needed right now to assess the harm, what went wrong, and, of course to cost millions of pounds and take years to reach a conclusion. And questions in the House.

or am I over-reacting?

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Mathematicians spark debate with 13 GB proof for Erdős problem

Eclectic Man

Computers and Proofs

I think it was the English mathematician, Keith Devlin (fomerly of Lancaster Uni and now, I think, of Stanford) who pointed out that there is as likely to be a mistake in a 2 million line computer program as there is in a 2 million line (human created) mathermatical proof.

The computer-based proof of the 4 colour map theorem works because it exhaustively demonstrated that all maps with certain features could be coloured using at most four colours, and that the list of those certain features was complete for planar maps.

The assertion of a proof for the Erdos discrepancy problem seems to require somthing different, as clearly not all (or indeed any) infinte random binary sequence can have been fully analysed. Seems like I'm going to have to read the original papers. Although if Erdos couldn't prove it, it is going to be tricky.

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Boffins say D-Wave machine could be a classic*

Eclectic Man

Church's Thesis

(Alonso) Church's thesis was that all computing machnices are essentially the same, (but he did not foresee computing based on quantum superposition as far as I am aware).

The reason it is referred to as "Church's Thesis" is that it seems impossible (in the mathematical logic sense) to prove that all (classical) computers are essentially the same (i.e. have the same theoretical computational power, implementations differing by being bounded by things such as memory, processor speed, efficiency of compilation etc.)

There is therefore a (mathematical) logical difficulty in determining whether there may be a model for a classical computation device which would behve like the D-Wave processor meaning it is in essence a very fast Turing machnie.

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Through-wall tracking of humans using Wi-Fi: Now more accurate, low power

Eclectic Man
Big Brother

All we need to do is paper the walls, ceilings and floors with aluminium foil ... bit of a bummer for TV, radio and cellphone reception though.

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Sysadmin job ad: 'If you don’t mind really bad work-life balance, this is for you'

Eclectic Man
FAIL

A worrying thought

How can we be sure they are even being honest about the job? Maybe they are actually putting a bit of a positive spin on it. The only good thing is that once in the job, if you are able to do it, then you probably have the company by the short and curlies and can demand whatever financial reward they can stand.

I had an offer a few years ago which included the clause that I could be summarily dismissed without compensation were I to be deteained under section 7 of the Mental Health Act. (Note to the company, I still have the peperwork.) As they also wanted me to sign away my rights under the Working Time Directive, I declined their offer.

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Are you experienced? The Doctor Who assistants that SUFFERED the most

Eclectic Man

And Clyde?

(I think it was Clyde) The schoolboy off of the Sarah Jane spin off, who is somehow 'entangled' with the Doctor. The Dr. managed to swap their locations in one episode, leaving Clyde distinctly stranded on an alien planet until the Doctor could get around to resucing him.

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Eclectic Man

What about K-9?

K-9 definetely had a personality, and met a whole host of the good Doctor's enemies.

Also, Captain Jack Harkness, desn't he count as an asistant?

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Microsoft's EAT-your-OWN-YOUNG management system AXED

Eclectic Man

Re: it would really be nice to hear

"that the HR drones who introduced it in the first place were summarily fired and tasered off the premises by a group of overweight and sweaty rent-a-cops"

Now then, don't blame it all on HR, they mostly just have to do what senior managment has been told by the most recent team of consultants hired striaght out of doing PPE at Oxford tell them is the next gee whizz idea. HR drones don't make this sort of decision, the finance director does - it is easier to work out your remuneration budget if there is a nice Gaussian distribution of achievement to link to reward.

The problem is that they do not understand statistics, that it is unliely that a company would ever have a normal distribution of achievement and capability reported every quarter not only overall, but for each colleaction of >10 individuals, particularly if you are in any way selective in your hiring and firing processes.

Folmi, I think, reckoned that you shold reward people according to their value to the company, if the man who stoked the boiler made the greatest contribution he should get the most pay. But in feudal organisations (like any large company) there is the belief that each manager must be paid more than his or her staff because managers are MORE IMPORTANT than the people who do the actual work the company provides to its cusotmers.

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If your bosses tell you you're 'in it together', don't EVER believe them

Eclectic Man

Psuchopaths

An article in your rival, the Independent newspaper years aog claimed that the financial institutions actively sought out psychopaths as they were more effective at 'making money' than people who cared about others. When major losses were 'made' they would cry "O P M!" (other people's money). When large profits were 'made' they got big bonuses from their bosses.

But success of psychopaths is nothing new. Herodotus' "Histories", recounts a king who, on discovering that the lieutenant he had ordered to kill his son, Cyrus (I think), had not actually done so, summoned all to a banquet, where the lieutenant had aspecial dish, which he ate, and was later shown that it was made from his own teeneage son.

The good thing now is that all they really can do is fire you after stealing, sorry reducing, your pay. Cooking and serving up your children for you to eat has gone out of fashion.

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The 10 most INHUMAN bosses you'll encounter: A Reg reader's guide

Eclectic Man

And for your next trick ...

Can we look forward to the ten worst organisational cultures? (And how the ten worst boss types fit into them?) Psychopathic bosses seemingly on day release from a supposedly secure hospital, who treat every mistake as deliberate sabotage, and resent paying you aything for the privilige of funding their 'Grand Designs' mansion and Jaguar / Porshce habit, create a whole company culture.

And why not, after all they are the ones who started the company with their own initiative, took the risk, and there you are, working for them, who are celarly the sole wealth creators and they don't understand why you don't have the same dedication to the company as them.

The company culture cold be summed up in the following commandment:

"Make sure you have someone else to blame."

Yes, I really have worked for people like that.

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BETHLEHEM-grade SUPERNOVA possible 'within 50 years'

Eclectic Man

Not too close

I think Fred Hoyle wrote a short story about the Earth being too close to a local super-nova. I forget what it was called.

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Deploying Turing to see if we have free will

Eclectic Man

Am I a decider?

How would I know? What is the definition of a decider?

It would be interesting to work out the implications of Godel's theorems on completeness and inconsistency for reasoning about your own reasonsing processes.

But then, I get confused easily.

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Why a Robin Hood tax on filthy rich City types is the very LAST thing needed

Eclectic Man
Stop

Let's think aout this

Firstly, the article ignores something very important about houses: PEOPLE LIVE IN THEM. they are not financial toys purely for investment and financial gain. They require such things as maintenance and the dollar value of a house or home can change depending on the location (as the journalist said "when the Taliban move in next door, there goes the neighbourhood).

Secondly, the article completely ignores the idea of the value of a share being in any way linked to the payable dividend. It only mentions the price of the share for sale. (The word "dividend" does not appear in the artcile.)

Thirdly, share trading is protected physically and in other ways by public servants, and publically funded infrastructure. The only legitimate reason for such activity to be untaxed is that it is of such overwhelming benefit to sociatey that we are happy not to proivde taxes to pay for things like social servcices able to protect the vulnerable, weak, poor etc. in our society. I.e. it is on the same ethical level as charities and religious bodies (historically religious organisations performed many charitable acts).

So please, lets think about more than just the share price when discussing this idea of a FTT, it is a lot more compliacted than the author describes.

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Bionic Brit Babbage Bear boards brilliant balloon, bests ballsy Baumgartner

Eclectic Man

Re: magnetically drawn to trees

"He's a bear, and he very probably wanted to have a shit in the woods"

Frankly, were I facing the prospect of being dropped from an altitude of 39,000 metres, I doubt I could have waited for the woods before having a sh*t. Ted is clearly made of strong stuff.

Congratulations to all concerned.

Is there any chance that Ted and Felix will meet up for a joint photo-shoot and to share their experiences?

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Surprise! Republican bill adds politics to science funding

Eclectic Man

It is the lobbyists and big business they need to worry about

Surely there should be concern that if the politicians get to decide what applications for research grants are funded, the poeple who actually decide will be the lobbyists and their masters, the companies which fund them and make major donations to election funds. The idea that the petrochemical industry, tobacco industry, and pharmaceutical industry should be able to influence or even veto research into the effects of their products is truly frightening.

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Readers, we need you... for LOHAN ignition failsafe brainwaves

Eclectic Man

The challenge

is to produce a mechanical trigger whic will only fire after the GPS altimeter has failed to either detect launch height or it has detected launch height but the ignition process failed. This implies that the mechanical trigger must react to an event other than GPS altitude reading, which could be either temperature (difficult to get right), r balloon burst).

A free-fall detector would be my sugestion, such as a weight on a spring enclosed in a box or tube. When free-fall is detected the spring should return to its unladen orientation. A problem with this idea, and any other free-fall detector, is turbulence during the ascent causing the mechnaical device to fire. The difficulty with any external cords or strings is the possibility of icing up and friction.

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Reg readers scuffle over the ultimate cuppa

Eclectic Man

Stands the clock at then to three, and is there honey still for tea?

The Rare Tea Company advises not only using water below boiling point, but also using the third brew from tea leaves as the being the best: http://www.rareteacompany.com/

As for the discussion of sugar, what about honey? Earl Grey, no milk, with a (tea) spoonful of honey is excellent treatment for a cold, with or without whiskey.

Richard Feynmann, when asked at an academic function when he was a research student which he would like in his tea, 'milk or lemon?' replied "yes, please", getting the response "Surely you're joking, Mr Feynmann?", but it seems not only did he get both and drink it, but got the title for his book from that too.

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'Bah, this Apple Shop is full of APPLES'

Eclectic Man
Happy

And the new name of the Apple Shop is ...?

Just for those of us who would like a nice drink of cider the next time we are in that part fo the world.

Please.

(Smiley face at the prospect of some fermented apple juice.)

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British games company says it owns the idea of space marines

Eclectic Man
Coat

Temporal crime

I believe I know what has happened.

Heinlein, Doc Smith et al are actually future people who, having been plagiarising GW's 'Space Marines' took a leaf out of the Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and sent their books back to a time before GW existed so that they could then use "Space Marines" wihtout fear of prosecution. GW is the unwitting victim in this temporal crime.

(The Editor of the HHGTTG notoriously copied details of the Universe from the back of a cerial packet, embellished them and sent the book back in time and successfully sued the ceral company for infringement of compyright.)

OR maybe GW is just a mindless bunch of j***s who will be the first against the wall when the revolution comes.

Sorry it is a Firday afternoon, after all.

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This photo slide scanner costs €60... The bundled malware? That's free

Eclectic Man

Legal position?

There is usually a clause in the software lcence to the effect that the user absilves the supplier of any adverse concequences of the software either not doing what it is suppoesed to, or actually doing harm to the user's system. So if malware is 'bundled in' with any product, I wonder what the actual legal position is.

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What Compsci textbooks don't tell you: Real world code sucks

Eclectic Man
Unhappy

I've seen something like this before ...

I can't help feeling that the specifc example ofpoor code, is very similar to poor management. As a company starts trying to 'do' things, people find their own ways of doing things that are not clearly written down in agreed policies and procedures (many of which do not quite work or leave gaps).

This eventually results in a Byzantine system of quirky 'fixes' which some people do, and wich are inconsistent with other people's views. As one manager said to me once "If I find that I want to do something and the rules do not allow it, I ... break the rules." My response "I prefer rules that work", surprisingly did not go down particularly well. (I find that where people have to break the rules to get the work done, each person breaks the rules in a different way.) The theory learnt in an MBA seems all well and good, until you start experiencing the problems caused by your own decisions - much better to get a job with one of the 'big four' consultancies and watch your 'vauled clients' sort out the problems you gave them with your'theoretically correct but functionally incomplete and unsound 'advice'.

As for code writing, if I draw the flowchart first and get that to work, the only errors in my code are typographical, if I don't draw the flowchart first, I spend about 5 times longer fixing algorithmic (and typographical) problems.

Merry Christmastide everyone.

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Patrick Moore: Lived with cats, accompanied Einstein on the piano

Eclectic Man
Pint

What no mention that

He was proud to have met one of the Wright Brothers (first man to fly a powered aircraft), Yuri Gagarin and Neil Armstrong.

I had not realise he accompanied Albert E on the piano

For all his faults (and I heard him in an interview expounding his rather xenophobic views once when after a bref rant he reflected 'actually, that's not very nice is it?' about his own opinion), he was an enthusiast, who communicated his enthusiasm with panache.

He also recorded a little dot by saturn one night, which he did not realise was a then unknown moon, re-discovered by a NASA probe. He did discover a crater on the Moon, due to its remainign wobble it shows slightly more than 50% of its face to us.

Thre cheers for Sir Patrick..

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Eco-nomics: Was Stern 'wrong for the right reasons' ... or just wrong?

Eclectic Man

Economic predictions

(Apoloigies if this has already been posted.)

The predication that in 2200 everyone will be significantly weathier globally than today must be suspect. Don't forget that it was only a few decades ago that we were told we'd all have so much free time (and be wealthy too) that we would hardly know what to do with it all. Any eceonomic prediction for the next 20 years is highly suspect, and fo rthe next 200 years, clearly pointless.

What we do know is that if we mess up the global environment now, it will cause suffering in the future, and any economc policy about the environment which only considers humanity, and not the rest of the environment, animals, plants, fungi etc. basically ignores ecological consequences is pointless, since we rely on the ecological environment to survive. There is just no possibility that a polar bear in 200 years will be 'wealthier' than a polar bear today. Extinction is, after all, for ever.

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Experts stroke beards over LOHAN's vacuity

Eclectic Man

Re: Vacuum tank considerations

@VeganVegan > " I don't know if there are any moonshiners in the Spanish hills, but a copper distillation coil (or a segment of a car radiator) stuffed into a dry ice-ethanol slurry in a styrofoam box should work quite well."

The condensation coil will also have to withstand sea level atmospheric pressure and maintain the vacuum, so I doubt a segment of car radiator will be sufficiently robust. The other option would be to enclose the condensation coil within a cylinder made in the same way as the rehab iteself, chilled and atmospherically sealed.

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Eclectic Man

igniter gas

Have you considered testing the pressure in the chamber after just using an igniter wihtout a motor? That should determine the effect of the ignition gasses, and may be cheaper than including either a large additional chamber or a condensing coil.

(Apologies if this suggestion has already been made, not had time to read all of the posts).

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Build a bonkers hi-fi

Eclectic Man
Coat

Digital transport?

Wot no SACD player?

And here I was thinking 'digital transport' meant walking on tip-toe (tulips being optional).

I'll get my coat.

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Ten... pieces of tat for Apple fanboys

Eclectic Man
Happy

definitely not Apple Hiking gear

You omitted the excellent "iPood!" creatd by Sea to Summit, for those who act like bears in the woods and wish to be tidy afterwards.

Sadly a certain Mr Jobs objected claiming that fanbois might mistake an aluminium trowel with a retractable handle for an iPhone (or possibly the other way round) and it is now called the travel trowel. Though I did manage to acquire one under the original name (offers, anyone?)

http://www.seatosummit.com/products/display/60

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LOHAN seeks failsafe for explosive climax

Eclectic Man

Use a spring

The chute may become frozen in a closed position due to the cold, and the tether may become frozen to the rig, meaning that the whole thing would be in free fall for some time after the balloon bursts.

How about suspending the rig from the ballon by a spring which, when the balloon bursts contracts causing two electrical contacts to be brought together igniting the rocket motor? There would still be the issues of stopping premature ignition due to turbulence on the ascent and preventing the contacts and spring icing up of course, but these apply to all solutions.

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Six of the best ways to mess up IT change management

Eclectic Man

Too much demarcation

Frequently the thing is designed then the security bods are told about it with the expectation that they will accept it or can just bolt security on afterwards.

It never works, and is much more expensive than getting security involved early on in the deisgn stage. "Sorry chaps, you can't do it that way" is a lot cheaper than "Sorry chaps, you can't do that."

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LOHAN ideas..

Eclectic Man
Alert

Balloon Bouyancy

When the rocket motor is activated it will reduce the weight of the balloon payload, causing the balloon to rise. As rockets tend to accelerate very slowly to start with, will the Vulture 2 craft acelerate quickly enough to escape the launch rail at all?

I suggest that instead of a launch rail, Vulture 2 is attached to the payload spar with slow-burning fuse, ignited by the rocket motor (with appropriately fire-proof connections to the craft). This will achieve separation of the components irrespective of relative acceleration.

Otherwise my guess is that the balloon will accelerate as quickly upwards ar Vulture 2 does, so you might as well attach the rocket motor to the payload spar and release Vulture 2 when it has ceased firing. Vulture 2 could then be a glider with better aerodynamics and less weight.

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LOHAN fondles substantial concrete buttocks

Eclectic Man

Blast Wall

Surely you need to test the blast wall first with a controlled explosion? Stacks of unsecured hollow blocks are rather easy to push over. Which means you need another blast wall to hide behind while you test this one, which itself ought to be tested, ad infinitum ...

F.A.R.T. - Firewall Against Rocket Test.

(Because we all like farting around)

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Does Gove’s webmail policy breach Data Protection Act too?

Eclectic Man

Public Records?

Surely there is also a public records interest in communicatiosn between ministers and their advisors?

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Hacker almost derailed Mandela election in South Africa

Eclectic Man

Voting subversion

In NAZI Germany, according to Chritabel Bielenberg's memoir "The Past is Myself", although in some of the referenda on anti-Jewish legislation the votes tallied by her husband were 99% against, the declared result was 99% in favour. So there is recent experience of subversion of a supposedly democratic vote.

We certainly need a voting system which inculdes both the voter being able to verify their vote, and the opportunity to hold an independent re-count. Although I understand the reluctance of people to accept electronic counting schemes because of their vulnerability to being hacked or even subverted by the manufacturers (see the el Reg archive on electronic voting), the fact is that paper ballots counted by people are often out by as much as 5%, and rarely produce the same tally for any option on a recount.

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PARIS pops down to QinetiQ

Eclectic Man

Another test you might like

My experience of reading paperback books on flights is that the paper tends to warp due to the slightly lower air pressure in the cabin compared to ground level. At 20,000' the low air pressure may be catastrophic to the PARIS craft. The next time you visit Qinetiq could you take it and test its ability to maintain structural integrity at altitude?

I would hate to think of all your detailed and dedicated engineering research effort and the enormous budget potentially going to waste.

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