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* Posts by Steven Roper

1363 posts • joined 10 May 2011

JJ Abrams and Star Wars: I've got a bad feeling about this

Steven Roper
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Re: If not JJ Abrams, then who else?

Could be worse. They could have given it to Uwe Boll.

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Steven Roper
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Re: Overly Harsh

"I think you meant Alien Resurrection. 3 was not too bad"

Agreed, 101%. Alien 3 is actually my favourite in the trilogy (the alleged Resurrection doesn't exist in my world, much like the mythical Highlander 2 that didn't get made either.) I liked it because it raised the stakes, and therefore the suspense, to even higher levels than Aliens, by eschewing the hardware and making the protagonists even more expendable than Marines.

In Aliens, Ripley had access to a military arsenal - machine guns, grenade launchers, flame throwers, sharp sticks... the outcome was a foregone conclusion. But in Alien 3, it was down to just the sharp sticks. My favourite line in the entire trilogy is in 3 - Ripley's immortal and beautifully sarcastic, "What about torches? Do we have the capacity to make fire? Most humans have enjoyed that privilege since the Stone Age!" describes the desperate situation perfectly. And don't forget the Big Whammy at the end - that Ripley sacrifices her life to wipe out the last surviving specimen of the Xenomorph brings the story, Wagner-like, full circle.

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Steven Roper
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Re: Guys, this isn't difficult.

That's what I call "art from the heart, as opposed to art for the mart." To me, there is art, and there is advertising. And in my book, the two are mutually exclusive. Yes, I know there are some very creative and brilliantly made adverts out there, but they are not art, because the motive is money, not passion. And there are some really crappy artworks out there, but they are still art, because they are made with passion.

For this reason, I can more admire and enjoy a 4-year-old's crayon stick figure with scrawled grass and wonky flowers, than the most slickly-produced CGI enhanced soft-drink advert. Because the 4-year-old is simply trying to tell a story. The advert is trying to bypass my conscious decision-making mechanisms to make me buy something.

And you're right about Star Wars too. With the original trilogy, Lucas was young and idealistic, and he had a story to tell. With the prequels, he'd been corrupted by the tremendous wealth that success had brought him, and he forgot his roots. And it shows - in some indefinable, ineffable way. All the elements of the original series are there, but because in the prequels the motive was money those elements failed. Comic relief in the original series was provided by R2D2 and C3PO, and we loved them for it. But with Jar Jar Binks it just fell flat; it was too contrived. Nobody saw in the speeder-bike chase in Return of the Jedi, an advert for a video game or the speeder bike toy. But the pod race in Phantom Menace simply screamed "Buy the Playstation Game!" And Luke's "Big NOOOOOO" in Empire Strikes Back sent chills down our spines as we realised he'd rather die than face the fact that Darth Vader was his father. But Anakin's "Big NOOOOOO" became the butt of a slew of internet jokes and memes.

Passion cannot be faked. Like love, it cannot be bought, not for all the money in the world. It has to come from the heart, and it has to be genuine. Not even the artificial, plastic, lollipop, pseudo-happiness espoused by Disney can pull it off. Anyone with a smidgin of humanity in their breast will know it when they see it, and they'll love the artwork for it.

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Microsoft walks into a bar. China screams: 'Eww is that Windows 8? GET OUT OF HERE'

Steven Roper
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I wonder

how much of this animosity is about Windows 8 itself and how much is due to its:

1) de-emphasis on local storage and emphasis on cloud storage, with its ongoing security risks and payments to retain your data.

2) requiring or at least constant nagging to log in to a Live account allowing MS to track your usage of the machine.

3) moving to a "rental" software business model with constant payments and forced updates.

It's not the interface so much as the invasiveness and control of the machine that is the issue for me and most other people I've discussed this with. China aren't stupid. They know what companies like Microsoft, Google and Apple are trying to do, and I suspect they don't like it, any more than I do.

If I pay for a computer, it is mine. End of discussion.

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Steven Roper
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@ tombo Re: breaking news!

"Virtually every article is written by a fanboi or hater of each OS or technology."

So you are here reading El Reg and commenting on their articles because...?

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Telstra asks users to be its next backhaul network

Steven Roper
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Let me see if I have this right

Telstra want me to pay $210 (or bind myself into a contract, which is probably more in total) for the privilege of allowing passing strangers to use my internet connection, at my cost, in order to save themselves millions of dollars in backhaul costs? Do I have that down correctly? A multibillion dollar corporation wants me to charitably pay and provide a service, for them to save costs, with no benefit to myself?

The sheer face of that simply stuns me. I'd say "fuck off you greedy bastards", but that's too tame. What I'd really like to say would probably exceed even El Reg's generous standards.

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Jupiter's Great Red Spot becoming mere pimple

Steven Roper
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Re: ALL THESE WORLDS

Why wasn't this the first post? Come on commentards, you're slacking off here!

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Brits to vote: Which pressing scientific challenge should get £10m thrown at it?

Steven Roper
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Re: A warning, not an incentive

"And especially careful about handing over any intellectual property to the body running the competition."

Intellectual property issues are the reason I refuse to donate to medical-research "charities." It seems wrong to me, that a treatment researched with money people have donated out of altruism, should be restricted by patents held by some greed-driven pharmaceutical corporation and thus be unavailable to the poor.

This is why my stock response to medical (e.g. cancer, dementia etc) research collectors and callers is this: "Sure. I'll give you a thousand dollars right now, if your organisation can give me a legally binding written guarantee that any cure or treatment resulting from your research will be released openly and never be encumbered by patents or intellectual-property claims by any pharmaceutical entity." So far, I haven't had to make good on that deal even once.

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Cisco reboots PC with $1500 'Scandafornian' Android fondleslab

Steven Roper
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Re: The trouble with 'touch' on the desktop...

Touch screens and mouse control are different interfaces that allow different tasks to be performed, and both have validity. Each have their own advantages and disadvantages depending on the intended use-case scenario.

I don't get this "touch is new and mouse is old so touch must replace mouse everywhere" mentality. There's a reason we use handlebars on motorcycles and steering wheels in cars, and not the other way around.

For example, I do a lot of 3D modelling and graphic work as a hobby (and sometimes for work) A couple of years ago I got a Samsung Slate with Windows 7 and installed Blender (3D modelling software) on it. Since the Slate treats touch as a mouse event it was possible to use it thus, but trying to build 3D models in Blender using touch is an exercise in rage and frustration that would drive even Ghandi batshit crazy. Likewise trying to use Gimp or Photoshop with a touch interface. It's like trying to drive a car with a joystick. Forget. It.

Then there's typing up documentation and code for work. You need a keyboard. Not a picture of a keyboard on a screen. You need buttons that move, that are far enough part that my fat fingers don't end up tapping out shit like "SWKECT namw, addtess, phone FROM users WJERE joindate > 20130701".

Mouse gives you precision that touch simply cannot match. Of course you can use a touch pen (the Slate even came with one), but while drawing in Photoshop is nice with a pen, 3D modelling is a different story. Some things just need to be done with a mouse and keyboard.

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Giant pop can FOUND ON MOON

Steven Roper
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They might want to rethink this effort

As many large companies have found out, even unsubstantiated rumours about them advertising on the moon, or even from low-orbit platforms, invariably results in such a barrage of rage and hate and threats of mass boycotts that corporations like Coca-Cola, Pizza Hut and McDonalds have had to fork out millions in damage control debunking the rumours. Every time some advertising twonk get the idea of defacing the moon, the reaction is always the same: any company that defaces celestial bodies will never get our business.

Of course, advertising droids are born with short-circuited cerebral regions that render them completely delusional and cause them to think that people actually crave advertising and want more of it, but even they must realise that such an activity would destroy their clients' businesses when they get hit with the fury such proposals inevitably generate.

When I watched Hancock (a movie about an inept superhero) I found the ending amusing for this reason: Hancock had managed to cover the face of the moon with the heart logo of the charity he'd been supporting. It made me laugh because the real-world reaction to something like that would have utterly destroyed said charity and the cause it was supporting by association!

So no company with any experience of this would want to be associated with defacing the moon. Even though Pocari Sweat is only sending up a sealed canister that won't be visible, a quick Google of this subject and a read of the comments on any news article about it will reveal that this is very likely to do them more harm than good. It will be interesting to see if they actually go ahead with the launch next year after seeing the deluge of hate mail they'll get for this. The only thing in their favour is that they aren't a multinational, and so can't be boycotted by an angry world (and whether the Japanese boycott them for it remains to be seen), but should they ever wish to become one, they may well find their progress stymied by a worldwide reputation as "the company that dumped its litter on the Moon!"

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Chap rebuilds BBC Micro in JavaScript

Steven Roper
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Re: At last

"The Micro was slightly before my time, and I never saw one in Australia anyway"

They were here for a while. We had BBC Micros at my high school in Adelaide in 1983/84, although I don't know how much longer they were there after that since I finished school in '84. Those were the days - IT security meant nothing more than there was a lock on the classroom door, and the old *PASSLOOK was the epitome of hacking. Oh the fun we had breaking into the girls' accounts and leaving little love letters and promises to alter their Computer Studies grades up if they'd just accompany us to the school disco!

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You, YES YOU, could be Australia's very own Edward Snowden

Steven Roper
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Re: Australia doesn't need a Snowden.....

Not to mention their analysts', programmers' and app designers' sterling track record when it comes to Ausgov and IT security...

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FSF slams Mozilla for 'shocking' Firefox DRM ankle-grab

Steven Roper
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I can see where the FSF is coming from

but at the same time, they need to consider what Mozilla themselves have said about marginalisation. It's all very well to carry the banner against DRM, but what use is doing so if it means that Firefox's market share shrinks to negligibility as a result? Especially with Google pushing Chrome in everyone's faces without let or surcease. We don't want "I used to use Firefox, but I couldn't watch YouTube on it so I had to switch to Chrome" to be Mozilla's epitaph.

Mozilla are going about resolving a difficult situation as best they can. They do want to fight DRM, but they also have to stay relevant in order to carry on the fight. By simply creating a framework for embedding DRM modules they aren't compromising the browser or even forcing anyone to use DRM. As I've posted elsewhere, I certainly won't be installing any DRM, and if that means there's sites that show me nothing but blank boxes with click-to-dowload-DRM buttons as a result then so be it. At least Mozilla are giving us that option.

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Curiosity GOUGES AND SCORCHES Mars with drill and laser

Steven Roper
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It's lookin' good. It's goin' good. We're gettin' great pictures here at NASA Control, Pasadena.

Weeeeeeoooooo, weeeeeoooooo, weeeeeeeoooooo...

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Philips lobs patent sueball at Nintendo in US: Seeks to BAN Wii U

Steven Roper
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Re: They don't want a settlement in cash

"Philips are doing pretty well but aren't really a brand you think of."

That wasn't always the case. Back in the 60s and 70s, and to some extent the early 80s, they were very well known not only for light bulbs, but their TV sets, radios, tape decks and record players. I still remember the TV ads from that era for Philips' home electronics (along with companies like Rank Arena, AWA, Thorn, National and Sharp.)

They just sort of faded away during the 80s, as if they got left behind by the computer revolution. I was surprised at the time to see that Philips never really pushed a home computer of their own amongst the Commodores, Sinclairs, Acorns and Apples of the day, since they struck me as just the kind of company that would cater to that market.

These days they seem to be mainly a component supplier; you can still encounter their brand in electronics hobby shops on items like transistors and ICs.

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Interstellar FIGHT CLUB: Watch neutron star TEAR Goliath a new hole

Steven Roper
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But...

They have to make fancy youtube movies to keep the public interested so they convince politicians to keep funnelling money into the research that will eventually make your star drive possible.

No pretty pictures = no public interest; no public interest = no money; no money = no research; no research = no star drive. Capiche?

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NASA agonizes over plan for Mars rock sample return mission

Steven Roper
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Re: Why does this need two Rovers?

I'd say the reasoning behind this methodology goes something like this:

The first stage, sending out a sample-collecting rover, is a bog-standard Mars mission, something we have experience with now and can carry out with a high degree of confidence. This rover, like Curiosity, would have analytical instruments on board so scientists could examine the samples in situ, so any "inert chunks of sandstone" can be tossed back and anything that looks like it might harbour signs of life or otherwise be of interest added to the cache for return.

But this process might take years before turning up something worth sending back, something that the instruments on board can't resolve - whatever that might be. If we sent an ascent stage with that first rover, that ascent module is going to be sitting on the Martian surface under durance of a hostile environment possibly for years. That's a lot of time for things to go wrong - dust clogging up engines, for example, or getting buried in a sandstorm, or blown over. Also, it's plenty of time for the volatile fuel the ascent stage needs for liftoff to leak and evaporate into the thin Martian atmosphere while it's sitting there.

Doing it this way also allows us to keep an open-ended schedule on the collecting mission. If the rover finds nothing of interest for 5 years, it's not a problem - we just keep looking until we find something worth sending back or the rover fails, whichever comes first. If it turns out to be the latter case, it's still not a wasted mission, because we were still able to do some good science with the rover while it was there.

If the rover has been able to collect some ambiguous samples that merit closer study, sending the ascent stage then means that the ascent vehicle is nice and fresh on arrival, and can make use of updated technology developed since the first rover launch. Which means much better odds for a successful lift-off and retrieval, than with a vehicle using older technology that has been sitting out collecting Martian dust and evaporating its hydrazine for X years.

The reason for a second pickup rover then becomes obvious: the ascent vehicle might have to land kilometres away from the collection rover. Perhaps the rover is in a crater or amongst large rocks which make a clean landing difficult or impossible. Or the rover has dumped a sample cache or three somewhere along its route in order to save power by not having to lug around a bloody great box of rocks on its back.

So having a second vehicle trundle out to the collection rover, or to wherever it's dropped its sample caches, makes sense in that regard. It also allows the second rover to be optimised as a taxi rather than a mobile laboratory. Current "laboratory" rovers have a top speed measured in centimetres per minute, to reduce the risk of tipping over or becoming trapped, and to ensure they don't miss anything of interest. A "taxi" rover could have its path pre-mapped by the first rover to avoid any obstacles and allow the taxi rover to run at a higher speed. This would allow it to perform its specific function much more effectively, since its only task is to pick up a box of rocks and return to the ascent stage.

So on consideration, while this mission might seem unnecessarily complex at first glance, it shows that the engineers and scientists involved have considered these issues and come up with quite an elegant solution.

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Mozilla agrees to add DRM support to Firefox – under protest

Steven Roper
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@Keith Re: While people moan about "Net Neutrality"...

I don't have a problem with paying for someone's hard work.

I have a problem with being spied on and charged every time I want to watch or listen to it. I have a problem with said someone effectively being able to reach into my machine and prevent me from viewing content I've paid for at their whim. I have a problem with said someone locking down my computers so I can't view said content in bed, or in the car.

The way an honest free market works is, I give you money, you give me a copy of what you've made. I agree not to sell or provide other people with copies as that is your right since you made it. But I'm not paying you to treat me like a criminal. I'm not paying you to take control of my computer or other items of my property. I'm not paying you to impose unjust and unreasonable restrictions on how I can use the copy I paid you for.

I will not be allowing DRM on my systems, end of. If that means I don't get to view your content, fine, you've just lost yet another customer. No skin off my nose. I've lived 47 years quite comfortably without whatever you're offering, and I'm sure I'll live for many more without it.

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Qld government in social media policy linkrot FAIL

Steven Roper
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And this is the same government

that wants unrestricted access to my mobile phone's camera, microphone and data, even though they say they'll never actually use it.

No fucking way is any software written by these incompetent government twonks getting anywhere near any computerised device under my control.

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Space Station in CRISIS: Furious Russia threatens to BAN US from ISS

Steven Roper
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Re: "the irreplaceable orbital station"

Of course that would be after said Chinese have conquered America up to the city limits of Washington DC and then inexplicably surrendered.

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550 reasons to buy this book for your beloved: COCKROACHES of Oz

Steven Roper
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Re: Fat Freddie's cat

Yes, but remember there's always plenty more where they came from.

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Russia to suspend US GPS stations in tit-for-tat spat

Steven Roper
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@Irongut Re: @Anonymous Coward

I would say the ratio of upvotes to downvotes on Trevor's posts reveal perfectly the extent to which his customers are pissed off.

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IETF plans to NSA-proof all future internet protocols

Steven Roper
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They'll never beat the spooks

for the same reason they'll never beat the crackers: "What man can make, man can break."

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Scientists warn of FOUR-FOOT sea level rise from GLACIER melt

Steven Roper
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Re: Hard to cope with?

I actually upvoted Don Jefe's post because that's got to be the best example of Poe's Law I have yet witnessed. Read his hysterical rant again if you downvoted it; his claims of the extent of the danger posed by a four foot sea-level rise are so outrageous he has to be pulling your leg. Where the Poe's Law comes in is that yes, there are actually people in this world who really believe this sort of thing; but I sincerely doubt any of them would have the cerebral capacity to read El Reg.

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We're from the SAME DUST CLOUD, BRO: Boffins find Sun's long-lost sibling

Steven Roper
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Re: Interesting

Or you could install Celestia and actually fly right up to it. Although there's not a whole lot to look at...

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GM reveals how much you'll pay to turn your car into a rolling 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot

Steven Roper
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I'd love to see them try this in Australia

where a sizeable percentage of holiday drives consist of two days crossing vast stretches of bumfuck nowhere that would do justice to Arrakis, in which mobile phone coverage, let alone 3G or 4G, exists to about the same degree as Star Trek transporter coverage.

I can picture it now: Leave the house in Adelaide at 5 AM, kids promptly go back to sleep, wake up in Port Pirie for breakfast at 8, kids quietly watch TV in the back seat until you hit Port Augusta around 9:30, and after that it's out into Mad-Max-land for the rest of the trip.

Cue cries of "DAAAAAD! My tablet's not working any mooooore! My cartoon keeps dropping out!" "No, and it isn't going to work now until we get to Perth/Alice/Darwin/wherever tomorrow night"*

"Awwwwww!... Are we there yet?....are we there yet?...are we there yet?..."

Or you could just fly.

*or in the case of Adelaide - Perth, the night after that.

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Hey, does your Smart TV have a mic? Enjoy your surveillance, bro

Steven Roper
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@John Sanders Re: Which is why…

Which is why I will never EVER connect a washing machine/fridge/microwave/over to a network.

I'm with you on that one. Even Orwell never imagined the subtlety and depth of surveillance that computers and the internet make possible. He never imagined face-recognition and voice-recognition software, for starters, or that tiny cameras could be hidden in every household device (although he did imagine microphones hidden in trees in the countryside!)

While you're keeping your devices' cables disconnected, ensure they can't connect to any wifi either. My own wifi is not only secured with WPA2 and a passkey whose length would do justice to Hamlet's soliloquy, I also have MAC filtering turned on so a device has to be authorised at the router as well as given the passkey.

The other danger is to ensure any other wifi connections detectable from your house are also secured - if a neighbour has an unsecured wifi, offer to secure it for them (I did this with the guy upstairs at no charge; after explaining to him that anyone could connect to his router and steal his internet connection, he was quite happy for me to set up WPA2 for him.) This will ensure that your devices don't go phoning home on someone else's wifi.

Finally, the remaining problem is things like citywide public wifi, or the free wifi offered by places like Starbucks, McDonald's et. al. if there's one near you. This problem is only going to get worse in future. Here in Adelaide, Internode already offers free wifi accessible throughout the CBD, and it won't be long before it pervades the suburbs too. Given that these damned devices tend to automatically leap onto the first available unsecured wifi they can find, this is becoming a very real danger. Once that shit reaches my area, I'm going to be seriously looking at Faraday-shielding my apartment.

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Why two-player games > online gaming: See your pal's shock as you bag a last-second victory

Steven Roper
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Re: Must be the hippy in me...

Yes, teaching one's siblings' kids the finer points of gutter elocution is one of the small pleasures that make life worth living. My nieces and nephew (my sister's kids) all received their first tuition in pottymouth prosody at the hands of me and my brother at an early age, much to my sister's lasting annoyance.

But back on topic: Bubble Bobble (the Amiga version) has a lot of history with me and my friends as well.

But our best memories are of Gloom (the Amiga's answer to Wolfenstein) which introduced a new and evil pleasure: the map editor. I designed a particularly fiendish map which was laid out as follows: There was a central "safe room" with six switches and a door that could be opened only from the inside. Surrounding this was a large central "atrium" with a stack of powerups and weapon upgrades. Around the outside of this atrium were six doors, which opened into side chambers, each packed with a massive horde of monsters. Each door was linked to a corresponding switch in the safe room. The spawn points were located in a separate closed off room with two teleport triggers. I had a tiny one-shot teleport trigger in front of my spawn point, and a larger repeating teleport in front of my friend's. Hitting my teleport would zap me into the safe room, in which I could trip the switches at leisure and watch out the windows in perfect safety as my friend had to rush around gathering powerups and fighting off packs of monsters. I'd time the release of the switches so he'd have scant seconds to get the next powerup before having to deal with the next monster rush.

It didn't take him long to figure out that by jumping forward left at the instant of spawning, he could snatch my teleport from under my nose if I was a fraction tardy about moving myself. The first time he did this, his revenge was to open every switch in the safe room at once, burying me under a unstoppable avalanche of monsters that tore me to shreds in seconds. My cries of "You fucking bastard, I never did that to you!" were drowned out by his howls of maniacal laughter.

The rest of my map designs were... rather fairer.

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Nintendo says sorry, but there will be NO gay marriage in Tomodachi Life ... EVER

Steven Roper
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That depends on what the "liberal : conservative" ratio is. LGBT couples and their supporters may well boycott Nintendo for "intolerance", but by the same token conservatives may well end up supporting it for promoting "traditional family values." If a load of conservative families buy the game for their kids on those grounds, that could pretty much undermine the liberal boycott.

It would be interesting to set up a marketing experiment along these lines: Set up two shelf companies that have no immediately apparent connection to each other, and have each release a variant version of the same game. One that conforms to liberal values, and one that conforms to conservative values, and see which one sells more copies and which generates the bigger shitstorm.

I'd put money on this being the outcome: the conservative version would attract the loudest howls of indignation from the mass media, calls for boycotts and demands for censorship from the liberals, even though the liberal version would actually sell marginally more copies.

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SMASH AND GRAB iThieves run car through front of Berkeley's Apple Store

Steven Roper
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Alert

Hasn't El Reg heard of ramraiding before?

Here in sunny Australia, ne'er-do-wells got the idea of crashing cars through shop windows and emptying their contents back in the 90s. The attack was so effective, and thus became so commonplace, that the term "ramraiding" was coined to describe it - and it's the reason why so many outdoor strip-shops here have installed concrete ramraid bollards out the front to prevent the practice.

Looks like the craze has finally caught on over there. For once we Australians aren't the ones 20 years behind the rest of the world when it comes to achieving something. Although I do appreciate the irony of that something being a criminal activity, given our benighted nation's history...

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Japanese cops arrest man with five 3D printed guns at home

Steven Roper
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Re: Error:

Why would it need a radio transmitter specially linked to police when it could just notify them over your internet connection or WiFi?

Although I could see some cracking potential in digging out and exploiting the exact URL/IP address/email address it would use to contact the police...

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Steven Roper
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Error:

"The object you are attempting to print looks like a firing pin. Printing such items is prohibited under the Restriction of Printed Firearms Act. In accordance with this Act, law enforcement in your area have been notified of this attempt. Please remain at your current location and wait for police to arrive."

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Steven Roper
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Joke

Re: Boot strapping

I'll wait until they shrink the RepRap to microscopic proportions and develop a means for it to refine its printing resin from any available organic material. Then I shall unleash it upon the world and laugh maniacally as civilisation is consumed under a flood of grey goo, MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

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Steven Roper
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You also have to consider aspects of Japanese culture that differ greatly from our own. Like most Asiatic cultures, the Japanese revere their ancestors with a profundity unmatched by any Western equivalent. We may remember deceased grandparents fondly, but the Japanese elevate them almost to the status of gods.

So convicting a dead man of a crime inflicts dishonour upon his standing as a revered ancestor and therefore also upon his living descendants. Essentially, as a previous poster has pointed out, it sends a message to his family, and also discourages others from committing the same crime in a way people used to Western social mores may find difficult to comprehend.

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Traffic light vulns leave doors wide open to Italian Job-style hacks

Steven Roper
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Another reason for stalling traffic flow

you guys may not have considered is government fuel excise revenue.

Some years ago, a friend of mine worked out how much petrol he used sitting at stop-lights on an average working day, totted up how much that cost, factored in the percentage of fuel excise and multiplied that by the number of cars on the road in our city (Adelaide, Australia - about 1.2 million people.)

It turned out that at the (then) price of around $1.00 per litre of which around 60c is government taxes and excises, using about 3-5 litres per week idling at lights, by 400,000 cars, comes out to $0.60 * (3 to 5) * 400,000 = between $720 K to $1.2 million per week or between $37.44 million and $62.4 million per year in revenue just from traffic stopped at lights. And that's just from a small, relatively trafficable city like Adelaide, back when petrol was only $1 per litre (it's now around $1.80.) I'll leave it to the El Reg readership to imagine what those figures would be like for a major city the size of London...

That kind of money is definitely enough to capture the attention of government beancounters. Which no doubt means that said beancounters have some say in how the stop-lights are sequenced in order to maximise revenue from petrol wastage.

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Actual spin doctors eye up ALIEN WORLD Beta Pictoris b: Young, hot ... and really FAST

Steven Roper
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If it's that big, and spinning that fast, can I safely assume that aliens get flicked off if they go near the equator?

Obligatory xkcd: http://what-if.xkcd.com/92/

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US officials vote to allow Bitcoin for political donations

Steven Roper
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it should be a publicly available rate of Bitcoins traded for dollars on a high-volume public Bitcoin exchange that is open to transactions within the United States

Translation: "We want lobbyists to be able to donate anonymously to political parties to hide their involvement, but we want to be able to spy on everyone else and strip that anonymity away for the general public at the same time."

So more of the usual "one law for us, another for everyone else" then. Oh well. It was good while it lasted.

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China 'in discussions' about high-speed rail lines to London, Germany – and the US

Steven Roper
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Awesome idea if they can pull it off, but building something on that scale would have to be a multi-country effort. And aside from the engineering difficulties of tunnelling under the Bering Strait, of as much gravity perhaps are the risks of running a high-speed railway through all those countries whose names end in "-stan" - known to harbour elements with a penchant for targeting transport infrastructure to demonstrate their beliefs regarding holy retribution...

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Web cesspit 4chan touts '$20 bug bounty' after hackers ruin Moot's day

Steven Roper
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Re: I think it's a bit harsh

Stirring shit that doesn't need to be stirred.

You mean expressing opinions you don't think should be allowed to be expressed by the sounds of it.

You've completely missed my point. You can't just decide, "This is how the world should be and anyone who doesn't agree should be denied a voice", because it becomes like a dam - pressure builds up, people get angry, and it culminates in an explosion of violence. This has happened too often in history to be safely ignored. No matter how noble your intentions, no matter how "civilised" you consider your mode of existence, any attempt to impose that mode of existence by fiat on others inevitably ends in bloodshed and tyranny.

I get that you don't like some of the thoughts aired on 4chan. But at least we know those thoughts exist. 4chan is routinely monitored by several countries' law enforcers these days for just this reason - so they can spot potential sources of unrest and prepare for them. And it provides a valuable insight into potential social problems. Are a lot of people posting angrily about some issue on 4chan? Then that's a social issue that needs to be confronted and addressed.

Learn to see and use it for what it is, rather than just stomping on it because some of the topics posted there offend your sensibilities. Attitudes like that are exactly why society needs 4chan and sites like it.

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Steven Roper
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Re: I think it's a bit harsh

I never said it was in good fun. And I'm sorry about your friends who fell foul of the less savoury exponents of 4chan.

But that in no way diminishes the validity of the social function 4chan serves or the cultural safety-valve it represents. Unfortunately, freedom can bring with it risks and dangers, and sometimes people get hurt. That's a fact of life. And it is the actions of people who demand safety at any cost, even at the expense of freedom, that have created the kind of world in which sites like 4chan are necessary.

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Steven Roper
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Stop

I think it's a bit harsh

to call the reward "stingy" when moot is pretty much funding 4chan out of his own pocket. Despite the site's infamous popularity, it's not exactly making him a fortune. The site's notoriety and reputation for unshackled political incorrectness means that most companies are reluctant to advertise on it, so moot's stuck with the porn ad dollar and member passes as his sole source of revenue. Which can't be much after he's paid for bandwidth, hosting, maintenance and service costs, so he probably can't offer thousands of dollars as an incentive. Instead he's relying on the hearts and support of those who understand 4chan and its social function.

4chan fulfils a vital need for freedom of expression on the internet. In an age when expressing politically incorrect opinions can destroy careers and even lives, there needs to exist an outlet free from the restraints of identity, where people can both vent their anger without fear of backlash, and debate issues that in conventional arenas are soon drowned out in howling accusations of bigotry and privilege.

For despite the sheer volume of shit infesting 4chan, I've participated in some interesting and intelligent discussions with people there - discussions which were only possible because of the anonymity that enabled honest expression of opinion, rather than having everyone hide behind a mask of fear to avoid ruining their careers or lives because their expressed opinions could be tied to their real identities.

As long as sanctimonious and hypocritical do-gooders can use the power of social media to ram their political agendas down everyone's throats, destroying the careers, reputations and lives of anyone who disagrees with them, claiming freedom of speech while rationalising their denial of it to others with specious justifications, there exists a need for sites like 4chan where people can share their views anonymously without fear.

Yes, it is a cesspit. But we all need somewhere to shit.

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Speaking in Tech: 'I get told to wear makeup by other women'

Steven Roper
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Re: The most likely reason for the filthy joke metric

But what bugs me is when a woman has to start taking on exaggerated culturally male behaviours to offset that she is a woman.

Believe it or not, I do understand your frustration on that level. Being viewed as a woman rather than a professional when there is work to be done is indeed demeaning. I understand this very well because there are times when I equally resent being viewed as a man rather than a professional. Like the time when I was installing an IT system for a school and had to be accompanied everywhere in case I did something unspeakable to the children, despite undergoing extensive police checks and "don't do this, this or this" training. I felt demeaned by the assumptions implicit in this treatment, so I do understand how it must feel to be viewed as a sex object when you're just trying to get a job done.

So I agree on that front. Women should not have to compensate for being women any more then men should have to compensate for being men. Unfortunately it is human nature that we are all judged by our gender and while we are sorting out the issues we all have to deal with it as best we can.

Also, guys shouldn't feel threatened by the presence of women in the workplace so that special reassurances are required.

Absolutely. But a large part of the reason for feeling threatened is because, as I've mentioned elsewhere, a moment's lapse of thoughtlessness can ruin a career. In some cases a word out of place or even a look in the wrong direction at the wrong time can touch off a shitstorm. When everyone is so uptight about not offending the wrong person it creates an atmosphere of distrust and fear, which not only damages productivity but causes personal and psychological harm to all sides as well. Maybe if the social-justice crowd were less fanatical and more forgiving of slip-ups this problem would sort itself out given time.

It takes time to change thought patterns ingrained by centuries of social inertia. Think of it as being like a non-Newtonian fluid; if you stir it slowly, it remains runny as milk, but try to change it rapidly it becomes like cement. We've radically altered male and female outlooks within one generation. Many people are now unsure of where they stand or what is expected of them. To set those expectations in an atmosphere of dire punishment for the slightest infraction is going to turn a lot of people against the new paradigms. That's what "backlash" means. That's what enables misogynists and racists to claim victimhood, and it sets back all the achievements gained by equality campaigners over the last few decades. Which is a tragedy.

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Steven Roper
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Re: men get told every day to conform

It is unlikely anyone is going to look at you as a man and say or think: "men don't make good programmers". It's still not that uncommon to encounter someone who thinks that of you as a woman.

I might point out that works both ways.

It is unlikely anyone is going to look at you as a woman and say or think: "women don't make good childcarers". It's still not that uncommon to encounter someone who thinks that of you as a man*.

(*since many people are much more ready to consider a man a potential rapist or paedophile and therefore a danger to children than a woman. Unfortunately both sexes have to deal with their particular forms of bigotry.)

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Steven Roper
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Re: men get told every day to conform

Oh please, if you're a white male you're playing the game of life on easy level.

Claiming that, because most privileged people are white males therefore all white males are privileged, is the same thing as claiming that because most boy-buggerers are gay therefore all gays must be boy-buggerers. People like you who rant the loudest about the evils of stereotypes are the first ones to employ them when it suits your agenda, which makes you hypocrites of the worst stripe.

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Steven Roper
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The most likely reason for the filthy joke metric

I've never seen why the willingness to tell a filthy joke is the metric by which a woman proves herself acceptable in the workplace.

Most likely that social more has come about so that everyone knows that the woman is "safe" to relax and crack jokes around - in other words, it shows that she's not an Adria Richards who's willing to destroy her colleagues' careers by getting all offended when someone utters a harmless innuendo.

Given the virulence with which the politically correct punish people for having a sense of humour or even momentary lapses of thoughtlessness, it seems that some way of knowing where one stands with one's colleagues is necessary. This "metric" seems to be one such way.

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Star Wars Episode VII: The Ancient Fear of, er, a CHEESE-TASTIC title?

Steven Roper
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Re: My worst fear about the new SW movie

I need to find a way to AVOID all the coming hype for the next couple of years until it's released!

That's not as hard as it seems. I've managed to shield myself very effectively from goss, hype, viral marketing and and even advertising for many years now. I've been able to watch Game of Thrones, for example, without falling victim to the spoiler trolls (well, I did get spoiled for the Season 1 shocker but that taught me to avoid all online discussions of the show thereafter.)

Here's how you do it in 5 simple steps:

1. If you have TV reception in your house, get rid of it. No TV. Ever. No matter what. Even if Vladimir Putin declares war on the whole of Europe and is about to nuke all England to ash - you don't watch TV. Same goes for radio reception - if you have a radio in your house, get rid of it. (If Putin decides to nuke England, you're better off dead anyway!)

2. To keep in touch with he world and keep up with the news, set a few news sites of your choice on your browser's home tabs. Then you can pick and choose what news you want to be exposed to. (This way if Putin decides to nuke England you can still read about it online while avoiding any articles about Star Wars!)

3. Download or stream whatever shows or movies you want to watch. If you look around, you can watch those shows without any adverts and at a time of your choosing. Same with any music you like listening to - you don't need to get it from the radio.

4. If you haven't already, install the AdBlock Plus addon into your browser. This will shield you effectively from most internet advertising.

5. Stay out of any forums, blogs, fansites, articles or social media pages relating to Star Wars (or anything else you want to shield yourself from. I avoid Game of Thrones sites for this reason.) If you really need to discuss it, pick just one forum (like this one!) and confine your explorations of Star Wars to it.

If you follow these steps, you'll be surprised at how well you can shield yourself from the hype!

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Net neutrality protesters set up camp outside FCC headquarters

Steven Roper
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I like the irony

of using Google Video vs. YouTube as an example of net neutrality. The message I get from that is if you're a massive corporation and can't compete, buy out the competition!

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ENTIRE UNIVERSE created in supercomputer. Not THIS universe (probably)

Steven Roper
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Good stuff

Now all we need is for David Braben to include this model in the next version of Elite: Frontier (with procedurally generated surfaces for known extrasolar planets, natch, and of course Lave has to be in there somewhere...)

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Watch out, Yahoo! EFF looses BADGER on sites that ignore Do Not Track

Steven Roper
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Re: Armor up

Especially since many sites ... are now employing ad-blocker-blockers of a very broad sort.

My universal response to being told to turn off my adblocker or allow third-party tracking is simply to add that site to my blacklist and move on to the next site. I've lived perfectly well so far without whatever the site is offering and I'll live perfectly well without it for many years yet.

Same thing goes for sites that display nothing but a "You must enable Javascript to view this site" banner. If you don't give me any reason why I should allow Javascript for your site, you don't give me any reason to be a potential customer (or product!) A good site should fall back gracefully to at least let people see what you're offering so they can decide whether they want to enable Javascript or not. By all means have a banner advising me that some features need Javascript, but at least give me something to be able to base that decision on.

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UK.gov data sell-off row: HMRC denies claims it'll flog YOUR private info

Steven Roper
Silver badge

Yes, but the rest of that clause 2 throws a wide enough get-out blanket as to render clause 1 completely meaningless.

Granted, your point about economic wellbeing may be valid, but I'm sure "protection of health or morals" - especially "morals" considering how fluid and relative those are - would suffice. Or "the rights and freedoms of others" - for example, the rights and freedoms of rich politicians and company executives to profit from our data?

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