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* Posts by Kubla Cant

1191 posts • joined 28 Jun 2010

Publishing ANYTHING on .uk? From now, Big Library gets copies

Kubla Cant
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Headmaster

Beano

Although these libraries are entitled to receive and keep a copy of all copyright publications, I don't think they necessarily do so. I seem to recall that the Bodleian failed to produce back numbers of the Beano to help while away the long hours that should have been spent writing essays.

In the case of web content, the fact that a large and increasing proportion is produced dynamically must make things difficult. For many sites there's no such thing as a definitive copy, so there's nothing to keep.

And can anybody explain why an alien university such as Trinity College Dublin should benefit from the free handout of books?

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Card skimmers targeting more than ATMs, says EU

Kubla Cant
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Unhappy

ATMs not the problem

Most of the posts here have homed in on banks and ATMs. The banks may be bastards and ATMs less secure than they pretend to be, but I don't think these are the main source of concern. ATMs are mostly big and expensive, and the fact that they dispense real cash means they're relatively well maintained.

Car park ticket machines, for example, are a different kettle of fish. Often unreliable or non-functioning, located in isolated places where they can be easily tampered with. The same applies to parking meters, which are so numerous that they are obviously built to lower standards than ATMs. But I'm sure I'm not the only one who's used a card when I'm rushing to catch a train and I haven't got the right change.

The surprising thing is that it's taken as long as it has for crooks to home in on these machines.

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Watchdog warns UK.gov not to create 'them and us' digital divide

Kubla Cant
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Big Brother

Letters, phone calls and emails

Notoriously, most of the government departments that deal with the public have a huge backlog of unprocessed mail. Government online services sound like a way of cutting the backlog at a stroke.

If you phone then you get held in a queue, and when you give up you become part of a statistic. There's no evidence that you tried to make contact. The situation with emails is presumably worse. A million unanswered letters are a bit more noticeable than a million unanswered emails, and a lot more difficult to delete.

One advantage of snail mail is that you can have documentary evidence of delivery; failure to respond is therefore clearly the fault of the pen-pushers (presumably not pushing their p[ens as fast as they should).

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ASA says 'unlimited' broadband can have 'moderate' limits on it

Kubla Cant
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ASA Dictionary

unlimited = slightly limited

illegal = mostly legal

unaccountable = accountable to somebody

useless = ASA

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Are the PCs all getting a bit old at your office? You're not alone

Kubla Cant
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Fallacy

Traditional computers maker were caught out by the shift in the market to tablets and other portable systems; in 2012 fondleslab shipments grew 78.4 per cent and smartmobes climbed 46.1 per cent.

I don't believe the (negative) correlation implies causation. Portable systems are filling a need that didn't really exist before they did. Desktop replacement cycles have extended because the processing requirements of the business applications that run on these machines have stopped leap-frogging machine resources. This isn't likely to change again.

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Blighty's revolutionary Cold War teashop computer - and Nigella Lawson

Kubla Cant
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"Starbucks, which sweats to ensure its coffee-like beverages taste exactly the same"

I presume it's the sweat that gives it its distinctive flavour.

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Kubla Cant
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Windows

Re: 2/2d for a cup of tea at a Corner House in 1954???

Definitely - I'd guess less than a shilling.

And what does "2 shillings and 2 pennies or less than two quid today" mean? 2/2d was less than two quid in 1954, as well.

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Kubla Cant
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Re: Er...

I once worked near Westbourne Grove, London, where there was a shop that sold nothing but thermionic valves. As this was in the early 1980s, one couldn't but think their business model had reached the end of the line. Shortly afterwards, the shop was destroyed by fire. I suppose this might have been caused by overheating valves, but then again...

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Torygraph and Currant Bun stand by to repel freeloaders

Kubla Cant
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Re: fine.

The book reviews are OK.

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Kubla Cant
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Re: iPad app

Can somebody explain why you need a special application to read what is, at the end of the day, a collection of HTML pages?

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This post has been deleted by a moderator

CERN re-opens 'Animal Shelter for Computer Mice'

Kubla Cant
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Re: Re: cute

Nah, they'd have found the Higgs Boson and all that stuff months ago with Excel macros. Years ago if they'd used Powerpoint too.

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Lightspeed variable say intellectuels français

Kubla Cant
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Re: "no shit, Sherlock"

"Space is not really a vacuum, therefore why should the speed of light in space be the speed of light in a vacuum?"

I think what they're saying is only indirectly related to with the speed of light in space. It sounds like the theoretical speed of light in a vacuum is different from the actual speed of light in vacuum, even assuming that the vacuum is "perfect". This is a bit different from "space actually contains stuff".

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Dongle smut Twitstorm claims second scalp

Kubla Cant
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Python

I've never used Python, but I'm starting to wonder if there's something in the language that stirs up wild emotion. A couple of weeks ago there was a news item about Python users deploying death threats and DDOS in response to a perceived misuse of the name. Now we have spitting dummies and sackings caused by ambiguously-named peripherals.

I bet you'd never see this sort of behaviour from COBOL users.

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The gaming habits of Reg readers revealed

Kubla Cant
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Unhappy

Where does addiction to Freecell fit in to this?

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Furious Stephen Fry blasts 'evil' Reg and 'TW*T' Orlowski

Kubla Cant
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"a stupid person's idea of an intelligent person"

This delightfully barbed phrase seems to have been coined by Julie Burchill, everybody's idea of a conceited media cow. Sadly, that's not as funny.

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Movie, TV ads annoying? You ain't seen nothin' yet

Kubla Cant
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Re: How advertising is paid for.

I'm not siding with the big, bad admen here, but it's not clear whether things cost more or less as a result of advertising.

Proponents of advertising would claim that it creates more efficient markets and allows economies of scale. The problem is that it's hard to find comparable markets with no advertising. The Communist economies of the 20th century come close, but they suffered from so many other structural defects.

What's almost certain is that it's nearly impossible for a producer to expand beyond a small local market without advertsing. And you don't have to be Adam Smith to recognise that if you buy, say breakfast cereal, from a two-man concern that just supplies your village, you're going to pay a lot more for it. And you're going to have to do without a lot of other products that can't be manufactured at all on a small scale.

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Review: Renault Zoe electric car

Kubla Cant
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Re: Running costs.

Paradoxically, cycling to work is only a realistic option for urban dwellers. For 20 years I cycled 18 miles a day in central London. People used to say "You're brave" (this was in the days when you could ride from Fulham to the City without seeing another cyclist).

When I moved to the country, I imagined myself spinning to work along sun-dappled lanes, like somebody in a TV ad. Alas, no. First of all, the lanes are only sun-dappled in summer. In winter, they're pitch dark morning and evening, and cyclists are unlikely to live long enough to see the next summer. The other problem is that the distance to work was 25 miles. Even if I was fit enough for a daily 50-mile round trip, I can't really afford to spend that amount of my day travelling.

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Stephen Fry explains… Alan Turing's amazing computer

Kubla Cant
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Re: A little historical context

Not quite. Apparently nobody bothered about Turing's sexual orientation when he was at Bletchley Park and had access to very secret material. His notorious absent-mindedness would have been more of a threat.

In Manchester, where he is unlikely to have been working on classified material, nobody bothered until he reported one of the random people to the police for involvement in theft from his home.

There's also a strong body of opinion that Turing's death was an accident. He left no note, and people who knew him at Manchester reported that his mood was far from suicidal. One of them pointed out that he bought several new pairs of socks the day before (an observation that is probably less trivial when you consider the clothes rationing of the time).

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Boffin road trip! The Reg presents Geek's Guide to Britain

Kubla Cant
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Re: Come on....

And almost every sport.

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Refusal to swallow scuppers woman's tadpole-smuggling plan

Kubla Cant
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Smuggling tadpoles

Why?

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Young model ruthlessly fingers upskirt iPad petshop pervert

Kubla Cant
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Headmaster

Her Mutt

her mutt (a "Cavalier King Charles Spaniel"...)

As far as I know, "mutt" is the American equivalent of "mongrel", which it can't have been if it was a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

Journalists on the British side of the Atlantic seem increasingly to regard "mutt" as a humorous word for "dog". Even if I'm wrong about the word's true meaning, the forced jocularity is utterly toe-curling. The same is true of "pooch".

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Android in cars

Kubla Cant
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Android in cars

Why don't car manufacturers use Android devices in cars?**

These days most cars have a sort-of-computer in the dashboard. Compared with a cheap smartphone or tablet, the UI is crap and the range of applications dismal. It's like the era when every computer came with a proprietary operating system.

Obviously it would be desirable to separate the Android system from the system that controls critical functions in the vehicle. This in itself would be no bad thing: a year or so ago, El Reg referenced a piece of work where researchers were easily able to take remote control of the brakes and accelerator in a car, largely because the critical systems co-exist with things like the entertainment system.

**Maybe they do, and I haven't heard.

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The Lynx effect: The story of Camputers' mighty micro

Kubla Cant
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CP/M

From the story it sounds like Camputers made a mistake trying to target the home and business markets with derivatives of the same machine.

There were plenty of CP/M business computers available in the early 80s, and most of them could comfortably run the operating system and a business application* in 64k. Presumably the Lynx needed 128k to run CP/M because of its ROM Basic. The Osborne 1 that I bought around that time came with two Basics that loaded from disk, one of them compiled.

And why did they suffer problems finding a disk operating system? It didn't seem to be a problem for any of the other CP/M manufacturers. The whole point of CP/M was to simplify this.

* For example, WordStar, SuperCalc, DBase II. The article mentions the hubristically-named Perfect suite of applications, which I used on a 16-bit MS-DOS machine around this time, and found to be buggy junk.

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Hadoop distie MapR trousers another $30m to take on big data rivals

Kubla Cant
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Hadoop distie MapR trousers

I take it that Hadoop distie MapR trousers are the jeans with tight legs. low crotch and pants visible above the waistline that can be seen on Beau Brummell's successors.

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Is UK web speech regulated? No.10: Er. We’ll get back to you

Kubla Cant
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Pint

Off topic

In a single day we get a long and fairly erudite article about 3D printing, and a commentard quoting Cicero.

Brilliant stuff!

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Kubla Cant
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Facepalm

What does "news-related" mean?

i. news or information about current affairs;

ii. opinion about matters relating to the news or current affairs; or

iii. gossip about celebrities, other public figures or other persons in the news.

I think we all understood the "related" part. What we need to know is what constitutes "news". This fatuous set of definitions skates over that bit.

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Holly(oaks) talking head is FUTURE of face messaging, claims prof

Kubla Cant
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Frustration

a user could, for example, text the message 'I’m going to be late' and ask it to set the emotion to 'frustrated'

So much simpler than texting the message "I'm frustrated because I’m going to be late", or "I’m going to be late. How frustrating!"**. Or even, perish the thought, phoning and sounding frustrated.

Also, I'm a bit concerned that the face might express, say, sexual frustration, rather than mild annoyance at being late.

** OK, Shakespeare, that's enough emoting.

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Drilling into 3D printing: Gimmick, revolution or spooks' nightmare?

Kubla Cant
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Pirate

Spooks' nightmare

How odd that a community of the (presumably American) military and security establishment should feel so much concern about people printing their own firearms.

In Britain, and no doubt in some other countries, it's just about arguable that the difficulty of obtaining firearms restricts their use in crime. Even here, it's probably mostly unpremeditated or loony crime that's prevented. Professional criminals and terrorists can usually get all the guns they need.

But it's hard to imagine why anyone in the USA would go to the trouble and expense of printing a gun when they seem to be pretty freely available for sale.

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Lenovo: Windows 8 is so good, everyone wants Windows 7

Kubla Cant
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Re: Trying to find Windows 7 laptops for consumers is hard work

A fortnight ago I bought a medium-spec Windows 7 laptop through Amazon (the brand was Lenovo). But maybe you're looking for a different type of machine.

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New nuke could POWER WORLD UNTIL 2083

Kubla Cant
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Joke

Re: "the less someone knows about something the more they underestimate its difficulty."

I may not know much about nuclear power / rocket science / brain surgery / anything at all, actually, but I know what I like.

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Touch screens and greasy mitts: All you need is glove

Kubla Cant
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Oops!

"imagine touching a photo of a brick on an iPad and feeling the brick’s rough surface"

Imagine touching a photo of a high-tension power line and bursting into flames.

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Fake fingers fool Brazilian biometrics

Kubla Cant
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FAIL

In other news

The office where I work uses fingerprint scanners as part of its access system. I don't know how easy it is to fool them with a fake finger, but in my experience it's almost impossible to gain access with a real one.

You put your finger on the scanner, there's a long delay, then an annoying American woman says "Access denied". By that time I've usually dug the standby plastic card out of my pocket.

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Infinite loop: the Sinclair ZX Microdrive story

Kubla Cant
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Boffin

Stringy or skinny? You decide.

The article mentions the Exatron "stringy floppy", but by the end of the paragraph it seems to have become a "skinny floppy". I think you're confusing your drive with your coffee.

I remember using some kind of cassette-that-thinks-it's-a-disk on a DEC computer - probably an early VAX. I think we had to boot VMS from these things to perform a standalone backup.

The problem was that the tape's emulation of a disk drive was so convincing that the computer was fooled into thinking it really did random access. The thing was formatted with Files-11, a filesystem more appropriate to disks. My impression is that it would read a few sectors, then discover that the next sector was at the other end of the tape. Cue a long wait, with much clicking, grinding and whizzing.

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Ten serious sci-fi films for the sentient fan

Kubla Cant
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Re: Prometheus

Prometheus - what a piece of junk! Muddled, implausible and dull.

Why are the space ships in so many sci-fi films crewed by be men who would be more at home in a stoke-hole? I know space travel is in abeyance at the moment, but when we did it there was no evidence that the crews were drawn from such a population.

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En Garde! Villagers FIGHT OFF FRENCH INVASION MENACE

Kubla Cant
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Re: Roaming scotsmen

No problem. In Scotland the gloaming is an indication that you're roaming.

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Kubla Cant
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WTF?

Re: Not just France

The Isle of Man has its own mobile networks? Who knew?

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Six things a text editor must do - or it's a one-way trip to the trash

Kubla Cant
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Re: The little things that annoy

Now that I've corresponded extensively on the matter, Ctrl-U is probably engraved on my brain. The problem is always with things that I don't do often enough to remember the key. The same consideration means that it would never be worth creating a macro or assigning a different key.

I found Ctrl-U a bit bizarre because most editors I've used think U stands for Uppercase and L for Lowercase.

Settings > shortcut mapper looks worth investigating.

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Kubla Cant
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Re: The little things that annoy

1. Thanks, that's useful.

4. I spend a large proportion of my time modifying stuff that already exists. I don't know of a way to use the caps lock to change the case of existing text, do you?

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Kubla Cant
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The little things that annoy

I'm a long-term TextPad user, but my current job only had Notepad++ available. These are the little things that annoy me - if anyone can tell me the solution, I'd be grateful:

1. No way to see more than one edit window at a time, so I spend my life trying to remember Tab 1 and Tab 9 while I'm editing in Tab 20.

2. Every search and replace displays a stupid dialog telling me how many replacements it did. It isn't modal, so you can ignore it, but it stays around, so by the end of the day you have several dozen of them patiently waiting for acknowledgement.

3. The replace dialog is also non-modal, so you tend to leave it open. But it clears the Replace in selected text setting after every search. The result is that sooner or later you accidentally replace something in the whole file.

4. The keystroke to lowercase text is Ctrl-U. WTF?

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Chaos Theory causes password entry pandemonium

Kubla Cant
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Re: Cor blimey!

@Captain Hogwash: "Do they? I have never seen this happen."

You obviously don't go to the right sort of club...

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Kubla Cant
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Pants: too much information

"why do grown men these days feel the need to unbuckle their belts and lower their trousers while standing at a urinal?"

Most of the time I wear sober pants with button flies, but for Christmas I was given two pairs of Calvin Kleins. It seems Calvin hasn't learned how to do flies yet, so the only way out is to haul the waistband down at the front. The elastic is very strong, presumably to withstand repeated haulings down. If it slips from your grasp and twangs back in mid-pee, the result is both painful and messy.

I suppose I could overcome this problem by unbuckling and lowering, but I'd have to lower the pants, too. I flatter myself that this might attract the sort of offer I'd prefer to refuse.

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Kubla Cant
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Thumb Down

Somebody actually took the trouble to post this comment?

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BRITAIN MUST DECLARE WAR on Cervinaean menace

Kubla Cant
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Re: Control emissions?

@Don Jefe: My impression is that the oak used for hulls was mostly English, while the Baltic was the source for hemp and pine. Some ships were built from pine, but they weren't popular.

I don't suppose forest oak has been much used for firewood in historical times. It's too expensive, and probably too much trouble to cut. Most wood for domestic purposes was cultivated by coppicing. The object of the forest-burning was to open up land for farming.

@Destroy All Monsters: I don't think the idea is to use slow-growing forest trees as fuel. The idea that photosynthesis would be a good way to store solar energy by reducing carbon dioxide is plausible, but I have no idea how the actual economics work out. It's disappointing that there seems to be so little comparative end-to-end analysis of alternative solutions. Instead, as you say, we get a labyrinth of subsidies (wood chip, biodiesel), producer interest (wind farms) and hippie preconception.

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Kubla Cant
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Re: Control emissions?

Burning fossil fuel releases carbon that was previously locked up in the ground. Burning wood that's cultivated for fuel sets up a cycle where the carbon released by burning is recaptured by photosynthesis in the growing trees. Ideally, the amount of carbon in the atmosphere would be constant.

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Kubla Cant
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Re: "Researchers reckoned...

"Whether something is non-native or not is irrelevant. Almost every species in the UK are non-native if you go back far enough in time."

What's relevant is how recently it arrived. If it's been here a long time, there are likely to be natural predators. Unfortunately, the deer's natural predators were big enough to eat homo sapiens, too, or at least to compete with us. So it's goodbye natural predator.

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Japanese password protector floods screen with hoax cursors

Kubla Cant
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Re: I'm unsubscribing from your mailing list

The mouse pointer is called a cursor in many GUI APIs. In CSS, a pointer is a specific style of cursor, as in "cursor: pointer" (alternatives are things like "wait" and "crosshair").

Actually, of course, a cursor is the see-through thing on a slide-rule.

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No.10 guru: UK tech scene is AN EXPLODING CHEESE

Kubla Cant
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Ignoramus

...a fine cheese – there’s a moment when it all comes together...

This half-wit clearly knows as much about cheese-making as he does about IT. It sounds like he thinks cheese is made from lots of different ingredients, and when you combine them, it's finished. In fact, cheese is mostly just milk, with the addition of rennet to induce curdling, and perhaps a mould culture. It becomes "fine cheese" with keeping.

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Wannabe infosec kiddies put Enigma Bombe machine to the test

Kubla Cant
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Re: If you have any interest at all in the subject...

I read that other cribs came from an operator who repeatedly sent his girlfriend's name as a test, and, of course, the nutters who always began or ended their messages "Heil Hitler".

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Keyboard, you're not my type

Kubla Cant
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VT100

I'm surprised nobody's mentioned the original DEC VT100 keyboard. Massive key travel, but in case that wasn't enough to let you know when you'd pressed a key, there was audio feedback in the shape of a loud CLACK. The CLACK wasn't mechanical noise, it was artificially generated because it was believed at the time that people couldn't type without audio feedback.

There was also a row of red lights above the keys that appeared to have no purpose. You could turn them on and off with ANSI-like escape sequences. I only ever saw this feature in use once, by a programmer who flashed them while his program displayed user-antagonistic error messages like "Are you an idiot?" and "You have eyes?".

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