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* Posts by Don Jefe

5044 posts • joined 30 Nov 2011

DAYS from end of life as we know it: Boffins tell of solar storm near-miss

Don Jefe
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Re: Odds?

A civilization that has been shattered by some cataclysmic event needs computers about as much as I need a third leg. Computers do one of two things, they organize and manage the physical activities of people in a form of displaced labor or they facilitate the movement of information that only has value if the civilization hasn't been shuttered.

A computer can't do a god damn thing you know. We use them as tools, but without everything else else that's required for civilization the four million gallons of diesel plumbed into my backup lawn sprinkler system is a fuck of a lot more valuable.

A modern catastrophe like you're talking about would put Mexico, parts of Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay at the top of the global power scene. They're the only ones left that actually know how to farm at scale. Modern farmers are underpaid accounts payable people, not the bringers of food. All of England would freeze to death because they've got no real miners left and I'm not sure Pit Ponies exist anywhere anymore, wrwyuustqut (which I believe is Welsh for haha) and there sure as hell aren't any trees over there for fuel.

My point, is that Mankind will certainly survive about anything, but it would take a long time before computers were helpful again.

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Don Jefe
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Re: Loss of GPS

The actual effects of large scale electromagnetic phenomenon on modern electronics would suck. Major critical systems would probably be mostly OK, but not so much for the 5.5 zillion little things that define much of modern society.

There's a price to be paid for all the incredibly affordable technology that surrounds us. That price is the fact that 98% of the electronics on Earth are absolute garbage and are less resilient to outside energy spikes than Victorian telegraph systems. So your neighborhood nuclear plant probably won't meltdown, but everything from your coffee pot to electric toothbrush, thermostat in your house and the ignition system of your car won't work. Hell, even toilets in below grade bathrooms won't work because the shit grinder and pump that carries the shit up won't be working.

The Royal Academy paper on the issue is probably correct, ICBM's won't fly and dams won't unexpectedly go to full release; catastrophic sorts of things. Humans deal with catastrophe fairly well really. What Humans don't do well is is cope with inconvenience. Kettle won't get hot, ok. Have to use candles to see inside your house, Ok. No heat, meh, got blankets. Humans will deal for a while, but sooner or later somebody's Electronic Battleship game will fail to make a satisfying noise when the hit an opponent and 30 seconds later everybody in the house has been murdered.

It's nothing like a wartime situation where there's a bad guy and things are truly life and death. It's pure chaos with no visible source and and people simply don't deal well with that. They have to have someone to blame. It won't be nuclear war, or a pandemic, solar flare or alien invasion that destroys mankind. It'll be set off when one person is pushed to breaking when they can't heat their tea.

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US Social Security 'wasted $300 million on an IT BOONDOGGLE'

Don Jefe
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Re: Well, Well, Well...

Meh. Car theft isn't a big deal. Especially compared to deliberately exposing classified projects to gain political leverage.

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Don Jefe
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Re: not just the UK government who are completely useless at IT

You're spot on. Agencies no longer having their own IT experts in house is, I believe, a big part of the problem. The bureaucrats that get the agency IT oversight leads can't make heads or tales of the 'documentation' (which I also agree is a stupid thing to call a contract).

I would prefer full on IT departments in every agency and department, but barring that there should be at least a few top notch people at each agency that not only understand contract development, but also the technical sides of IT and the business side. I realize that's an expensive proposition, but I can guarantee the costs of that staff would be less than the GAO report on the estimated expenses of the program.

But I like to keep things positive and look at the advantages of a bunch of idiots in government. We once made a bunch of very specialized variable torque fastener assemblies for a government agency. We weren't told what the ultimate application was (which is fairly normal), but I knew from the moment I saw the drawings the thing wouldn't work. I tried to tell them, even wrote an official Don Jefe 'You're Doing It Wrong' letter to the head of the agency who I knew personally. 'Just make it to spec they said. The firm that designed it was 7000x (est) cheaper than you and specifically designed it to prevent the problem you're talking about'.

Five months and an $800k check later, they are back because the thing didn't work. They wanted us to design the new assembly, but get credit for the initial batch. 'Fuck you' I said and they paid full price. I realize that money was taxpayer dollars, but I really did try to stop it from happening. If they aren't going to have people on staff capable of understanding what they're buying then fuck 'em, I can't help that and that $800k went into the company 'Best Idea of the Year' pool. Everybody wins! (Except the taxpayer).

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Researcher sat on critical IE bugs for THREE YEARS

Don Jefe
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Re: Stale bread and butter...

There are always going to be people who game any system for maximum advantage. There's simply no avoiding that. That's just Human nature.

If you are into analyzing the failure of systems (it's a lot of fun and perfectly designed for wagering) an interesting thing to watch is how systems deal with those who game a given system. Making rules to stop the gaming is quite possibly the fastest way possible to destabilize a system and create chaos. Every new rule creates a new opportunity for someone else to game the system, so you end up providing the perfect growth medium for the sort of people that think about gaming systems. More rules creates more ways around the rules.

Point is, the idea of rewarding flaw finding shouldn't be modified to deal with special cases.

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Who should do security clearance checks? Did you say 'chat-bot'? This military slinger hopes so

Don Jefe
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-Thank you for you applying. What is your name?

/ You may address me as Don Jefe.

- Hello You may address me as Don Jefe. Let's get started with your security screening.

- Do you have tangible assets of $10,000 or more held by financial institutions outside the United States?

/ Yes

- Your security assessment is complete and your clearance been approved. Please contact registration@federalbackgroundchecks.ng with your bank account details, SSN, a copy of your drivers license and a copy of your passport and your preferred mailing address. Upon receipt of those things your Security Clearance Card will be mailed to you.

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Goodwill's goodwill rocked as Feds probe bank card hacking scam

Don Jefe
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Re: First we deny the breach... then we privately panic ... then minimize it in our PR.

Good catch! I'm fairly sensitive to misattribution. Someone once said something spectacularly stupid at a conference and a journalist attributed it to me instead of the person who said it, who happened to take the stage after me. It took years before that stopped following me around.

Thank you for pointing out my error.

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Don Jefe
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Re: First we deny the breach... then we privately panic ... then minimize it in our PR.

Crashing while driving drunk never happens to 'you'. Nor does getting caught understating income for tax purposes or getting lost in the woods because 'your' sense of direction sucked worse than you thought and you've got no map. The example is irrelevant.

The fact is people rarely learn from the mistakes of others. The phenomenon known as 'special case syndrome' is universal. People, understandably, want to be somehow special or better, and they generally are, but rarely in the ways they think. That's just a fact of life on this planet.

But, this is important, special case syndrome is the absolute worst with NPO's. Doubly so with the big ones. They spend so much time and resources establishing their identity they lose sight of the fact they are still just a company with a shitty incentive program.

Don't get me wrong, I support the idea of NPO's (I'm on the Board of two) and many of them do great work, but Christ. They can get really insular, just look at the quote in the story 'even the best of us...'. Ignoring the ego polishing, that's exactly what you'd expect an NPO to say. 'Golly geewhiz, I can't believe people would target us'.

*You and your used above are generic, not meant to be aimed at you. I'm too tired to rethink the wording of my sentences :)

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Are you broke? Good with electronics? Build a better AC/DC box, get back in black with $1m

Don Jefe
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Re: This isn't what you think it is.

I've got to disagree with you John. The point of this exercise isn't to do what we know can be done, as you correctly pointed out, it's to find a different way to do what can already be done. The result isn't the challenge here. The challenge is how the result is arrived at.

There isn't a big field of contestants, yet, because with the constraints imposed by the Challenge requirements there aren't exactly a lot of, proven, alternative ways to get there. Google could go to Thales, URS, Lockheed, my company, any best of field engineering company and they would get pretty much the same answer solution from everyone. I would wager $10k that the cost estimates from every engineering firm in that class would be within 8-10% of each other.

The idea here is for some bright spark to come up with a different approach. Maybe some junior Engineer that read something in one of the way out there micro journals a while back. Perhaps someone from a skunkworks division at an advanced engineering company, like our Global Domination Division, has already done this but tossed it in the closet after it failed to open a stable wormhole or it burnt their popcorn or something. It could be an undereducated Romanian foundling who taught himself to read by stealing other kids homework (I know that happens, a lot. Bastard stole my homework for ages).

Point is, the money is supposed to start wheels turning in places and in ways 'outside the box' (please forgive me for using that stupid phrase, my brain is tired). You're 100% correct that big name firms aren't going to get into this as 'branded entities'. It simply isn't worth it, you're spot on. But firms like mine or Thales or URS aren't who this is aimed at. This is aimed at those with the PARC and (old) Xerox mentality where financial viability took a backseat to 'fuck it, see what happens'.

In closing I'll add this. Making something work is only about 20% of having a product. The ultimate winner in this Challenge will need tremendous resources they probably aren't going to have access to. That's where Google will start playing their 'gotcha' cards. The winner likely won't get as much money as they could have, but I guarantee it'll be several million fucktons than they would have made spending their career at a test bench and being ignored by management.

Yes, Google certainly hopes to benefit from this, absolutely. But it's incorrect to say they're doing it solely to save a few bucks. A prize of this size is big enough to get clever people involved, people who will have new ideas. But the prize is too small to have heavyweight companies come in and 'win' by way of standard heavyweight shenanigans. This is all a good thing.

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Don Jefe
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Re: No they don't

I agree 100%! Things should come compatible with AC or DC where that's feasible. There would be cost issues on the manufacturer side, but those costs would be less than manufactures incur from the specialty lines they all operate to produce specialty products.

That last bit is important, because the low volumes of specialty equipment make that equipment a financial loser for all but the most expensive and esoteric products. Most manufacturers would rather not bother with the multiple input products they make, but not making them risks customers leaving for a competitor that does offer those things. Apple sure as hell didn't invent the 'ecosystem' concept.

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Major problems beset UK ISP filth filters: But it's OK, nobody uses them

Don Jefe
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Wrong Category

If next to no one is using the filters it seems rather pointless to track the number of incorrectly categorized sites.

But what I really don't understand, is why Talk Talk had such a higher number of subscribers using the filters. Even without the default opt-in they still had far more people using the filters. Why? What kind of people sign up for Talk Talk service? Inquiring minds want to know.

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MARS NEEDS OCEANS to support life - and so do exoplanets

Don Jefe
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Re: I'd also add...

A magnetic core is only necessary if you want your compass to read correctly.

I don't like the term 'dead planet' though. 'Devoid of life' is more accurate. It also eliminates the philosophical conundrums implied in the planet being a living creature and we're running around shitting and pissing on it as well as two (or more) Humans having dirty sex while stacked on top of an involuntary participant.

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Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab

Don Jefe
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Google, Facebook and Microsoft weren't invited, except for a contingent from Microsoft Research, because there's simply nothing those entities can add to the discussion at this stage. The situation is somewhat comparable to engineers often not being invited to the conferences of materials scientists.

It's generally rather pointless/inefficient to mix the application of research with pure research. You've got to have someone define the properties, characteristics and behaviors of a thing then 'box it up' for use (that'll be the boffins). Then you've got to have someone that the stuff in that box and see what they can do with it (that'll be the engineers). Some overlap is inevitable, but keeping research and application on seperate sides of the aisle was long ago determined the best way to go about it all.

Without that separation you get boffins trying to play engineers and businesspeople. You end up with a Graphene scenario where the research dies in its crib because the boffins have less than zero understanding of commercial application dynamics. Suffice it to say, crossing the streams is ususlly a bad idea.

Microsoft* et al, the engineers in this example, aren't going to be helpful at this stage simply because there's nothing for them to apply. Any input they did provide is at least a few rungs down the ladder from broad research and will be tainted by their current needs, not the needs of an entire sector.

*Not Microsoft Research, which is actually a legitimate research group.

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US judge: YES, cops or feds so can slurp an ENTIRE Gmail account

Don Jefe
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I keep all my records in a folder called 'Pharmaceutical Assets'. That way the Feds will think I'm into heavy farm equipment.

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Don Jefe
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Re: This makes sense

Well yeah, with a real warrant, not a Papal Bull from FISA, it's all different. It's the assuming everyone is a potential terrorist, paedo, drug lord, etc... simply because they are alive that's been the problem in all this. Proving a suspect in a crime is a criminal is far different than combing through someone's life in order to make them a suspect.

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HP CEO Meg Whitman dons TRIPLE CROWN of POWER

Don Jefe
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Re: Corporate governance—crowned - printers

Using printers as loss leaders to drive the sale of high margin consumables was, when the practice became a standard tactic, a new thing. Prior to that printers cost obscene amounts of money and also had service and maintenance contracts attached to them that could only have been developed by deceased MBA's who were contracted out by Satan to increase incidents of workplace violence and suicides.

Generally, consumables were included in the price of the service contract, but the contracts were structured so that making the contracts worthwhile was just unbelievably expensive. Ink/toner were quite nearly afterthoughts. What the printer manufacturers wanted was that $300 monthly fee they charged you every month to send a tech out to calibrate the color profile on the unit.

Lots of commercial printers are still sold that way, but the contracts aren't nearly as insane as they used to be, but the costs are still quite high. As far as I know, 100% of the costs of consumer printers are covered by commercial printer sales. It's kind of like they get an extra business for free.

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Don Jefe
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Re: Wtf

The Board at HP isn't asleep at the wheel, they're engaged in full on war with each other, and have been since the run up to the Compaq buy. Granted, it's understandable the Board hasn't been protecting the company, that's thinking intensive work, but guarding from assassins is more thinking intensive. Doubly so when you've escalated acceptable tactics to include covert surveillance, interpretive accounting, situational ethics and outright threat.

HP cannot survive with the Board not only trying to destroy its own members, but when the Board is getting involved in company operations. The HP Board is actually embarrassing. Bunch of idiots.

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Don Jefe
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Re: Corporate governance—crowned

@SW10

Unless you are Winston Churchill, I doubt you're going to surprise me. Especially if we're going to discuss corporate governance.

Board Members aren't elected by shareholders. Board Members have their seats confirmed by voting shareholders after the company has nominated someone for a seat using whatever mechanisms are in the company by-laws. That voting shareholders bit is crucial, not all shareholders can vote, you do know that, right? Not all shareholders own any portion of the company. You know that too, yeah?

Apparently not. I'll explain to you how companies work. While the following is most prevalent in tech, the defense and energy industries do it a lot as well. Class B Common Shares generally do not entitle shareholders to a vote in any aspect of a company. In the rare cases where Class B shareholders get a vote it is not a vote-per-share arrangement. The company will have a share conversion ratio where for every (x) number of Class B shares converts, for the purposes of voting, to one (1) Class A share. That ratio varies from company to company (at the last publicly traded company I worked at the ratio was 23.5:1) but it's almost always a number beyond the means of non-institutional investors to purchase enough shares to influence the company. Class A shares aren't generally available to non-institutional investors. An individual can buy them, but there's usually a minimum purchase requirement that only crazy people would dabble in. Exposure is simply too great for people who don't hate their families.

Carrying on, Class B shareholders do not own any part of the company. They are effectively making a small loan to the company and if share price has increased since the origination of the loan then they that increase as well. They don't own any part of the company, therefore are not given the same voting rights as Class A shareholders. Kind of neat how the world works, huh?

If you actually understand where shareholders actually fit into reality everything is different that what you thought you knew. The Board is there for the Company. Like I said, you'll get a few institutional investors on the Board simply because of the volume of voting shares they own, but you want them kept to a minimum. If too many of those sorts you get into situations like HP is in. Like some rube up there commented, Boards that participate in planning are always fucked. Each Board member is only looking out for their own interests and it'll never succeed. The Board at HP has been 100% worthless since the Compaq acquisition. Which is why I took my money out of there.

You've got the entire situation turned around. A Board that's not there to enable the CEO is a worthless Board. If you don't like the way a company is governed you can decline to invest, or you can try to buy enough voting shares to matter. Beyond that shareholders have no rights and it's not up to you, or anyone else, how the company is governed if you don't have the power to change it to your liking. There's nothing wrong with one person being Chairman, CEO and the largest shareholder. If you don't like it don't put your money in there, but if you are going to invest money in publicly traded companies it's best if you have an idea of how companies actually work. Otherwise you'll just end up looking foolish.

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Don Jefe
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Re: Corporate governance—crowned

I'm not sure who told you that's what a Board is supposed to do, but don't take investment advice from them.

Your Board of Directors most important function is to facilitate the high level components of strategies developed by Executive Management. That's why it's so crucial who your Board Members are. Your Board is your very own high power lobbyist conglomerate you send out to enable things and to solve problems. Your Board is also how you squash activist investors like Ralph Nader and ensure Congressmen vote the right way on pending legislation.

A really good way to assess strategic potential in a company is to look at how many of the Board Members belong to institutional investors and who they replaced. You'll always have a few representatives of your largest institutional investors on your Board (note: those Board Members only represent the interests of the institutions they represent, not other investors) but if you've got an investor heavy Board that's really bad. Additional Investor Board Members are typically put in place because the company didn't have the wherewithal to prevent it. It's a punishment. It also means your Board my be heading towards impotence and you need to replace the weaker Members.

If you're on top of your game, the Board works for you. If there are big problems in the company and institutional investors are creeping onto the Board it's a very bad sign. Those investor Board Members have only their investors in mind, fuck the other investors and fuck the company.

I tend to start pulling money out of companies when investors start shaking up their Boards. Those are the Board Members who are always responsible for stopping R&D, advocating for shitty manufacturing and breaking companies into wee bits to be sold off to their buddies. Any Board that isn't the Strategic Special Forces for a company is an impending disaster.

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Want to beat Verizon's slow Netflix? Get a VPN

Don Jefe
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You're talking about Verizon staff, not executive officers. You might as well compare and contrast a stoat and the front bumper of a 1966 GMC pickup truck.

This simply isn't general staff stuff. They don't develop plans to degrade service for users of one of the most popular streaming services in the US and piss those users off. Piss of millions of the customers of a service that is one of the most bandwidth intensive things on Earth. To do it all just as one of the largest, most focused and expensive lobbying offensives in the last decade is gearing up is most certainly not within the purview or capabilities of general staff.

What I was trying for with my earlier comment was to illuminate the fact that this issue isn't a simple thing general staff or some particularly Goldbergian plot by an imbalanced VP of Sales. This is all 100% the pre-war establishment of the theater of conflict. Part of that process is to influence the civilians within the borders of the theater. In any large conflict your most valuable assets are the civilians who get caught between the two opposing forces. You either get them on your side or foment discord and confusion sufficient to neutralize those not supporting you.

You watch how this plays out. I've been at this far too long, and done far to well at it, to not recognize this for what it is. In the very short term I guaranfuckingtee you'll see this positioned as proof that 'consumers are being harmed because a few wealthy companies are monopolizing available bandwidth and expecting consumers to fund infrastructure expansion when it is clearly the companies sucking up all the bandwidth who should be paying for that enhanced infrastructure'.

Netflix will position this as proof that 'customers and businesses will be harmed if ISP's are allowed to prioritize traffic on an individual basis. If subscribers are receiving suboptimal service from the ISP's that an issue the ISP's need to address internally'.

The people who apparently didn't like my earlier comment are confusing the issues here. Absolutely none of this has a damn thing to do with consumers. The consumers are pawns in a battle between completely different entities. Verizon wants their customer (Netflix) to pay more for access into the consumers homes and Netflix wants their vendor (Verizon) to maintain their current billing model.

There's no doubt the consumer is going to get fucked, one way or another, but that's collateral damage as far as the ISP's are concerned. It's just playing into the hands of the ISP's if the consumers believe they are the primary target of the ISP's machinations in this affair. That's in no way intended as a swipe at the general consumer, not at all. But the general consumer is simply no match for the resources and complexity of manipulation brought to bear when large companies really go to war. They think they understand what is happening, but that's the point. They're looking the wrong way when the big company comes at them sideways. Just because a company isn't responsive and agile when addressing customer complaints/issues it's foolish to think those companies can't be responsive, agile and cunning where their interests are concerned.

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Don Jefe
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You've got to think bigger than 'anti-competitive behavior designed to influence the service selection choices of consumers'. While I'm certain the flow chart of that plan must be gloriously complex, the plan has the, fairly common, flaw in pseudo-conspiracies. In this case it would be Verizon who has implemented a strategy that has only one desirable outcome (subscribers dropping Netflix in favor of Verizon content) and failed to control the space between themselves and the target (subscribers).

You want the targets of your conspiracy to act/respond/be impacted in a manner you desire. Right? The general rule in designing is as follows:

The accuracy with which you can dictate the actions of your target is directly proportional to the amount of control you exercise over any alternative actions the target can take. Therefore, a proper conspiracy will have a variety of desirable potential outcomes in proportion to the variety of options the target has.

In this case, there's a shitload of actions consumers can be expected to take before canceling one service and subscribing to another, more expensive service that has different content they obviously didn't feel the need to buy anyway. There's simply no way a large company is going to risk Justice Department investigation to create a conspiracy that has only one desirable outcome. That's just amateurish in the extreme. Verizon are dicks, not stupid.

What you're actually seeing amounts to a border skirmish between two entities gearing up for full scale war on pending net neutrality legislation. At this very moment both sides are using the exact same information to serve as proof regulated net is bad, or good, depending in which side you're on. While public lobbying isn't as much fun as a conspiracy, in this case public lobbying is what we've got.

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Fear a terrifying killer robot revolution? GET A GRIP: Boffins invent cyborg hand for humans

Don Jefe
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The Future Is Now

It looks like the person in the first picture is actually being strangled by the hand. I thought she was demonstrating a safety mechanism, but it was just her black shirt. I was excited because I though I had found someone who thought like me. You know, before anybody is bringing one of those things in the office I want to see if it can strangle its wearer.

Boring safety issues aside, why the fuck would you want a super strong robotic hand that can fold up? Ignoring the fact that a glove is, quite possibly, the easiest fucking thing in the world to carry, it's a super strong robotic hand! Rock that bitch, Everywhere. I would Bedazzle mine.

I can think of no situation where donning robotic hand at the moment of need has value. If the glove would be useful in that situation it would have been just as useful if you already had it on. I can guaranfuckingtee airport security is going to have some questions. If you've got the glove on, it's a medical device. If it's in your bag you're going to have a really hard time explaining why you've got a robotic hand in your bag. 'What? I have neither a 5000 degree furnace, or a volcano, at home asshole, do you? This hand contains the last of the Cyberdyne Systems processors which will destroy you and all your loved ones if I don't dispose of it in molten steel, or Mt. Doom. So unless you want everybody to die after extremely short lives in a dystopian future of Lovecraftian proportions, I'm taking the hand on the plane' (The hand will certainly be shock resistant, unlike your body when 32 TSA agents taze you simultaneously).

The only time I took it off would be to issue a formal challenge. I feel certain ready for market versions of this will come in a variety of colors, which is a requisite in a challenge glove. It has to be white you know.

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Unbridled BONKING and rampant ROGERING at YOUR office!

Don Jefe
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Re: Stereotypes

The most important part of 'generalizations' is the 'general' part. Generalizations generally contain a general truism (or two), but obviously there are going to be some misses, otherwise it wouldn't be a generalization. It would be incontrovertible fact. It's when you get into incontrovertible generalizations that things generally take a turn for the worse.

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MYSTERIOUS Siberia CRATER: ALIENS or METEOR not involved, officials insist

Don Jefe
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Re: Great Old Ones incoming

Worship Cthulhu. Make sacrifice unto Cthulhu. Venerate Cthulhu. Obey Cthulhu. Fear Cthulhu. Give unto Cthulhu willingly and long for the eternal silence and peace to be found in the darkness of His eternal embrace.

Do not blame, accuse, doubt Cthulhu. Seek not to chastise Cthulhu. Lest yours will be the eternal screaming of your soul and the reek of the burning flesh from all you know and love. Yea, transgress not against The Child of Light and Father of Despair would ye hope for peace eternal when the rude clay imprisoning your True Being is destroyed.

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Don Jefe
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This big fucking hole is consistent with a big fucking hole. That much is certain. Beyond that it's consistent with a lot of things.

A big hole like this is consistent with, but not proof of, the Ninth Seal of Y'Gloth being washed in the menstrual blood of a virgin Laplander born under a Sulphur Moon as the final element in awakening Cthulhu, Lord of Silence, to rend in twain the Angelic Gates imprisoning Leviathan and begin the March of 'The Not'.

The big hole is certainly interesting, but you're melding a number of issues together and causing you unnecessary concern, and leading your thoughts in the wrong direction. Regardless of your beliefs/feelings/happy ignorance, you're doing yourself, and others, a disservice with crazy talk. There are a lot of questions and concerns about fracking, there's no doubt. As it stands right now I have declined to lease my property in Western Pennsylvania because as an Engineer I'm not satisfied with the information that's presently available. I'm not saying anything beyond I want to know more. It's far too early for anyone to have valid information regarding the mega-fracking projects. This is a time for watching, not acting.

But when you pop off with factually limited commentary like that you're giving the 'other side' ammunition; that's pretty dumb. You can't draw corollaries between the pockmarked surface and the Big Hole. The not Big Hole and other undulations in the permafrost are a natural function of permafrost. It looks solid and it feels solid (and cold) but it's actually a very delicate thing that a few research projects I'm aware of are studying permafrost as a model in chaotic numbers theories.

Permafrost is kind of like a box packing peanuts. It fills a void, but is not very dense. Permafrost is a lattice work of solids like rocks and dirt with the spaces in between filled with ice. Natural disturbances in the Earth (tectonic movements for example) don't have to be strong enough to move the solids in the lattice, just disturb the ice enough to allow some solids to move. Gravity, being impervious to the cold, still works though, so the solids drop onto solids below and that chain reaction occurs until the solids encounter a space where the lattice can support the new solids.

Less common, but extra cool, is ice 'lensing' where, for example, a rock on the surface is heated sufficiently by the Sun to partially melt the snow and ice it is resting on (it really doesn't take much) and a sudden temperature drop (very common) 'flash freezes' the melted snow/ice. It can create a surprisingly clear lens that let's sunlight beneath the surface of the snow/ice. The resultant heat is then trapped in a very well insulated place thus being much more efficient at melting the ice above, and below. My previous paragraph deals with how the liberated solids behave.*

Incidentally, risks of melting the ice in the permafrost lattice is why buildings down in the Tundra and Steppe are built on stilts and, in big structures, air is pumped out from the underside of the buildings. The air trapped beneath an insulated building is more than sufficient to change an above grade building into a below grade bunker very quickly.

If you're interested in something neat, check out the heat pipes that support the Alyeska Pipeline in Alaska. There's something like 125,000 of those posts that support the pipeline. They transfer ground heat into the air to prevent it from destabilizing the permafrost and causing the pipeline to collapse. It's really cool.

Anyway, my point wasn't to be a dick (hope I didn't come off as one). I just thought it was important you knew that disturbances in permafrost are common, varied, and sometimes (like with the Big Hole) really bizarre. Jumping straight to a commercial culprit (any culprit beyond 'nature' really) without understanding other naturally occurring possibilities first isn't ever going to result in factual answers (factual being, I assume, what you prefer).

*That lensing effect I mentioned earlier is a very, very cool thing. When we still had a field office in Dead Horse, Alaska the phenomenon would sometimes occur when exhaust from a piece of equipment left idling would partially thaw the ice and would instantly freeze again when the equipment was moved. It sometimes created a startlingly clear window through the ice. Sometimes even far enough down to see the road we drove on in the summer. Very cool.

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Native Americans KILLED AND ATE DUMBO, say archaeologists

Don Jefe
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Re: Lovable Gomphothere

Fools. You give me a Wikipedia reference? WTF! Their tag line isn't 'The Encyclopedia Anyone Can Edit', not 'The Encyclopedia any Human can edit'. Of course the whistle pigs are going to edit the entries about their bloodlust. Christ.

I've never eaten a whistle pig. Never had the chance. My 220 Swift varmint rifle left nothing but a fine red mist and some teeth. The teeth are cool for cuff links, and for filler in piñatas, but not good for eating. I'm all about varmint management through engineering and science now anyway. I built some tiny tanks to drive into their dens so I could engage them at close range, but the umbilical gets snagged too easily and radio won't penetrate that deep. I'm working on a system of micro repeater arrays that I will hide in baited whistle pig food and then deposit around their dens, so as to let their own greed be their undoing.

Whistle Pig brand Rye Whiskey is good. It's not my favorite, but their 3-Liter travel bottle is nice for an afternoon with a couple of friends who may not like more robust whiskey. It's also useful as a last ditch tactic in strategic retreats where a small alcohol fire can give you time to throw women and children at the enemy. Everybody should have a barrel or two around the house.

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Don Jefe
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Lovable Gomphothere

I wish I had known the word gomphothere before just now. That's a great username.

I take exception to the 'lovable' descriptor though. Humans are terrible at assessing behavior based on looks. Just look at copperhead snakes and whistle pigs. 'Everybody' is scared of the mildly poisonous snake and thinks the whistle pig is cute. That's just stupid. The snake is slow, not really dangerous and wants nothing to do with you. The whistle pig on the other hand wants to tear your face off, is capable of doing so and will lay traps to disable the unwary by breaking their legs to prevent escape while their young feast on your dying, but not yet dead, body. They can also kill a dog almost instantly, but generally have no malice toward other quadrupeds.

Also. The hippopotamus! You rarely see depictions of a hippo covered in the entrails and fluids of their trampled foes. But that's how they normally appear in the wild. That's why they hang out in the water so much you know. Trying to clean the fear shit of enemies from their hide. So I think assuming the gomphothere was lovable is not only foolishly arrogant, it is dangerous.

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MPs wave through Blighty's 'EMERGENCY' surveillance laws

Don Jefe
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Re: unsurprised, but ...really?

Tonga!

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Don Jefe
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Re: Priceless

You can learn a lot from metadata, but at the end of the day there's a lot of assumption and somewhat less than logical correlation of information involved. Content removes a lot of that speculation and marketing research, but that's the nastiest part of all of this. Collecting content, plus metadata, is going to be pushed, and pushed hard, as a way to improve the accuracy of various terrorist detectors and reduce false positives in profile analysis.

You watch. People are going to support having their content captured if it means the anti-terror people will stop raiding their homes and offices in the course of 'following a lead'. They'll support it when a 'publicly convicted' terrorist goes free because his defense team argued marketing companies (you do know that's who creates the profile algorithms for the UK and US govts?) don't have the knowledge necessary to identify a terrorist. Whatever the specifics turn out to be, a massive miscarriage of justice will pave the way for everyone's content to be grabbed and people will consider it the lesser of two evils.

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Dungeons & Dragons relaunches with 'freemium' version 5.0

Don Jefe
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Re: What changes?

Saving throw modifiers are more complex for one example. The new system includes [You need the version of 'Saving Throws and You' designed for your race. Visit the website to purchase]. As you can see, while a little more complex, the new system does seem to more accurately reflect reality.

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Can it be true? That I hold here, in my mortal hand, a nugget of PUREST ... BLACK?

Don Jefe
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Re: hmmmm

The beam could care less about the color/material your car is painted/made of. As long as the windows are made of safety glass you'll bounce more than enough signal back for an accurate speed reading. Same with your headlamps. You're pushing at least two fairly efficient reflectors in front of you everywhere you go (in your car).

In movies and various 'tales of urban wisdom' you'll hear people say 'cops aim for the chrome bumper on your car so they can get a better reading'. Obviously, few cars have chrome bumpers these days, but the shiny bumper was never the point. They aim for the bumper because that gives the beam the longest exposure with the vehicle. To the best of my knowledge, 'single reading' systems haven't been used by police since the 1960's. Since that time they average your speed which is, generally, better for you assuming you aren't accelerating at a rate that's going to blow past the limit in a blink anyway :)

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Don Jefe
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Groundbreaking

'This [Vantablack] is not a groundbreaking thing," sniffed professor George Stylios at the school of textiles and design at Heriot-Watt university to the Graun. "It's a progression of a group of scientists, of companies....

What an asinine thing for someone to say. Of course it's a progression. Everything is a progression. It's not like carbon nanotubes were just falling out of the sky and a random ape descendent, half sloshed on fermented beverages picked them up. Then, taken with their exceptional blackness, invented an alphabet and language so the acrylic packaging for the product would be attractive and informative to the potential buyers from an aerospace sector that suddenly appeared behind him, waving fistfuls of standardized trade tokens, then popped on over to his personal computer to draft a press release.

What an ass.

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British data cops: We need greater powers and more money

Don Jefe
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Data needs cops because without oversight government agencies and private businesses could root through every aspect of your life. Tailoring propaganda and marketing messages to frighten/appeal, specifically, to you. Without data cops you could get on some kind of list, composed by analyzing you and potentially getting you in trouble for something you don't even know you did (Know any brown people or Muslims? How about any Irish?).

Even worse, without data cops, people could get access to your personal info without paying the proper fees or establishing some sort of quango to manage large fee schemes. Would you really deny your MP's those funds? That might get you on a list you know.

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Don Jefe
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Re: FUCK OFF

Yeah, that bit about chasing fuckers down and punishing their failures, that never happens. Doesn't matter what country or government. Did you notice how they were unable to collect over half of the fines they levied? That's not just poor performance, that's abject failure.

It is far, far worse to levy fines and not collect them than to not levy them at all. It's a huge sign on their back that says 'pussy'. Only an idiot (I'm not calling you an idiot) would assess that particular glass as 'half full'. Entities taking risks with the data they oversee look at a 50%+ failure rate as evidence they can take more, and larger, risks. It also encourages those who need to shift budget figures around to become risk takers.

With a more than 50% chance any fines will be greatly reduced, or not collected at all, you're entering the statistical probability territory most often occupied by cats, falling pianos and Catholic abortion doctors. You're going to see call volume rise and prosecution fall as more and more people realize the odds are on their side. Odds will just get better for not getting fined as less and less money is dumped into a hole where half of any potential return is wiped out before the budget is even submitted.

As with most things, money won't fix this problem. It'll just make everything worse. If this were a company I had purchased, or had been sent to correct, I would scuttle the whole thing and rebuild based on avoiding the legal mechanisms that had destroyed revenue from fines. No way in hell I would dump more money into it. It's better to be toothless than to feign prowess at biting, but actually be toothless.

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Will GCHQ furtle this El Reg readers' poll? Team Snowden suggests: Yes

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Financial Damage

'Part of our mission is to protect against those who would do us financial damage. To accomplish that we are going to need £18,000,000,000 in our budget this year to protect us from $100,000,000 in potential damage'.

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Phab-u-less: Huge MONSTER iPhone 6 not due until 2015 – claim

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Re: I for one

The humor angle was what I was aiming for :) I'm 100% for people using what is comfortable for them.

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Don Jefe
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Re: I for one

Got wee little hands eh? Don't let it get you down. Surely that fact would make your willy look bigger.

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LightSquared backer sues FCC over spectrum shindy

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Re: STUPIDITY!

You've over complicated things. The technical issues were actually just the last problem, the entire idea had been screwy from the start. LightSquared came as close as it's possible to come to outright fraud.

They positioned their provisional license as an intermediary step on the way to full regulatory approval. That was never the case. The provisional license was issued to ascertain if frequency bleed over concerns expressed by everyone, except LightSquared, were valid concerns. That was it. If the tests went well the potential was there for more discussion, but the tests didn't go well. LightSquared got exactly what they were promised.

Back to the almost-fraud, LightSquared did disclose the reality of the situation (they're shady, not stupid). However, that disclosure utilized every sketchy legal argument and penis pill style 'gotcha' known to man. As far as I know, they didn't do anything illegal, but they didn't do anything ethical either. It is fucking hilarious that Harbinger got burned by the same tactics they use though.

This entire fiasco needs to be ended and buried. Put it in textbooks as an object lesson to future MBA's. The SEC could put a quick fast end to all this if they wanted to. They might not find anything, but it would be just great to tie up the money of everybody involved for years. Jackasses.

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LOHAN seeks stirring motto for spaceplane mission patch

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Getting High - In Space

Getting High - In Space

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Canuck reader threatens suicide over exact dimensions of SPAAAACE!

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Interview

I suspect Babcock may be a terrorist. Who else would think such extreme measures over a wholly insignificant issue could be justified. You should have the email he sent you checked for Anthrax.

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FBI: We found US MILITARY AIRCRAFT INTEL during raid on alleged Chinese hacker

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220MB File

The 220MB F-22 file is useless. All it shows is how to cut F-22 pilots out of the cockpit with a chainsaw when the canopy won't open.

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Don Jefe
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Thumb Up

Not really.

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Dead letter office: ancient smallpox sample turns up in old US lab

Don Jefe
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Re: Is it just me.....

As incredibly destructive as nuclear weapons eventually became there are a lot of people who see it as a positive thing. Between WWI and the nuclear bombng of Hiroshima and Nagasaki the world had been pouring nearly unlimited resources into chemical and biological weapons research. Nuclear arms didn't stop the research into those things, but it did make them a secondary issue, especially after hydrogen weapons testing began in the USSR.

The world 'chose' nuclear as the vehicle of mass destruction and pretty much everybody except truly mad weapons scientists were pretty happy with that. Everybody was, rightly, afraid of biological weapons. You can't reliably control them once they've been deployed and the capraciousness of the natural world isn't something most people want as the only safeguard between killing the enemy and killing the enemy and everybody on your side as well.

It's all a great big fucked up mess, but I'm glad nuclear was the route we went down.

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'Apple is TERRIFIED of women’s bodies and women’s pleasure' – fresh tech sex storm

Don Jefe
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Re: "Whilst I hate censorship, and clit should obviously be allowed,"

It made perfect sense in its original form, but his comment has obviously been censored by a rouge faction of the Censorship Council on Censorship. It's a wonder his comment got posted at all.

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Don Jefe
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Re: An Insightful Person Once Told Me...

You've got your Societal Collapse Indicator turned wrong way round. The 'Noble Savage' is an artifice created by elements of a society who wish to differentiate themselves from the peasants in futile attempts to appear greater than they are. The 'Noble Savage' is the equivalent of a plot hole filler that serves as a contemporary, anthropological 'missing link'.

The entire concept is an underdeveloped 'logical step' that establishes an imaginary bridge between socioeconomic classes. That bridge is a crucial element in societies embracing vertically oriented classism because it creates a route by which people can 'move up' in society. If the peasants can become middle class then those in the middle class can become part of the upper class. But the key word there is 'imaginary'. There is no permanent 'bridge' and each person my devise ways to create their own bridge.

But that's hard. People would rather go to great lengths to make themselves appear to belong to a higher class by adopting attitudes and affectations they believe are indicative of the behavior of higher classes. You can always tell what's going on when people think savagery, or lack thereof, is a function of socioeconomic status. A confused middle class believes savagery falls of as class rises, but the reverse is actually the case. Savagery falls off in the middle class, due to mediocrity, but increases in either direction. The savagery of the peasants is very visible because it tends to happen on a small scale that individuals can relate to. Upperclass savagery is far nastier, but the scale is so large people mistake it for randomized currents in a huge system simply because they don't like reminding themselves they are effectively no closer to the upperclass than the hobo waving the broken beer bottle at them.

From my perspective societal artifices like 'Noble Savage' are like the mechanics of farting. The first person to bring it up is the source of their own complaint.

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Forget the mobile patent wars – these web giants have patented your DATA CENTER

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Re: We don't have to honor invalid patents

The Supreme Court determines if something is Constitutional or not. They can't rule in a way that's unconstitutional simply because they decide what's Constitutional.

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Don Jefe
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Re: @keithpeter - Non-obviousness

No, it's still patentable in the UK. The information I provided isn't sufficient for someone else to actually replicate what I've done. Your point ties in very well with the 'obvious' component in this discussion. Transferring heat through a pressurized system has been obvious since some incredibly bright spark invented distilled beverages. In my earlier comment I said my process is 'just' an extra leg in a system lots of people use, but the magic is in that 'just'. Actually making it work took years of research and several million dollars. It's a system of superheated gasses plumbed through molds containing molten metal, so it's actually very complicated.

Had I not already had the patent and had described the actual working details on an industry site it might have caused trouble. But simple public disclosure isn't enough to prevent someone else from receiving a patent. But since I already have the patent the information is publicly available, others just can't use it without a license or the patent protection period expires.

The previous sentence ties in with the other persons comment (I forgot your username, apologies). For competitive advantage purposes I generally don't patent the idea. Those things stay in house as trade secrets. If someone came at me with infringement claims on our secrets I have little doubt I would be able to get the suit tossed out (that a whole different ball of wax though).

The things I do seek patents on generally meet some pretty specific criteria. Firstly, I want those things to be applicable across large swaths of my industry. I want confidence that a majority of the industry will want to use the technology through licensing. I also want it to directly, or indirectly, drive customers to me for our primary mission which is the design, engineering and manufacture of bespoke manufacturing equipment. Licensing the technology should create new opportunities for the licensee and they'll come to us for equipment to realize those opportunities. It should also be suitable for licensing. If it doesn't do those things I probably won't seek patent protection for it. I'll just keep it internal.

But those things are a business decision that works for me. It's certainly not the only way to do things.

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Don Jefe
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Re: Non-obviousness

The USPTO isn't privatized. That's for god damn certain. They're more insular, secretive and bureaucratic than the FBI or State Department.

Cost is not a factor in the patent review process, read my post above. Stuff gets through because there's a limited amount of information available for reviewers to use in the patent granting process.

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Don Jefe
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Re: Non-obviousness

The non-obvious part and prior art are the two most misunderstood part of the US Patent system and they're quite interconnected.

In your summary of 'non-obvious' you mention the 'specialist in the field', that specialist is really hard to find. That's because you and the USPTO have different ways of finding that specialist. When your patent application is being reviewed it is sent to a USPTO patent attorney who has knowledge of the field (knowledge usually gleaned through their undergrad studies before entering the law college. So 4+ years out of date once they start at USPTO). With their outdated knowledge they are then restricted to a set of officially sanctioned sources and the USPTP Prior Art database.

That last bit is crucial for anyone interested in how the system actually works. For the purpose of granting a patent the reviewing attorney has a list of approved research materials (usually largely comprised of leading industry journals) and the Prior Art database. If no conflicts are found within that material and only that material the patent will be granted if everything else is in order.

Tying this all together, for the purposes of granting a patent, Prior Art is only what is in the Prior Art database and the approved research materials list. That's it, no exceptions. Not in those places means it is not Prior Art.

Furthermore, Prior Art does not mean that 'Widget-1' must be completely unique. It means that some aspect of 'Widget-1' must be substantially different from other 'Widgets' that reach the same ends/does the same thing. For example, I have a patent dealing with controlling the temperature of molds used in metal casting with a variety of high pressure gasses. That's obviously not a new idea, but my system uses the superheated gasses that have been through molds in process and sends them back to preheat 'cold' molds. Reduces energy costs for mold temperature control more than 20% over the traditional systems. It's the same system everybody else uses, mine 'just' has an extra leg.

The bulk of my patent application was the Prior Art of others (which is the whole idea of Prior Art). I demonstrated what those other patented systems did and I demonstrated how mine was different. The existence of Prior Art makes it easier to get a patent if you are actually doing something unique. For the true inventor and innovator Prior Art is the best thing since sliced bread, as it has worked out kinks long before you came along.

Now, move to defending yourself against accusations of infringement and everything above changes. If you can demonstrate you were doing (whatever) long before your accuser came along or demonstrate that someone else was doing so and it was documented knowledge then you've got a real defense. Mention in pay for publication journals or websites not considered emblematic of the art in question won't do, but if it's real information that meets some fairly low standards then you've got a real chance of having the patent overthrown and getting PITA compensation from your accuser.

Yes, there is a lot fucked up in the patent system, a whole lot, but there's a lot of misunderstandng among the general public about how it all actually works and what terms mean to the USPTO and what they mean to you. The process of getting a patent and defending against an accuser are wholly, 100% separated processes and if you try to amalgamate them you'll just leave more confused than when you came in.

The entire system is not broken, the system is being abused by entities that are destabilizing things for legitimate inventors and innovators. Software has no place in the current patent system. I don't know if software needs its own protection system or should be kept a trade secret if you don't want to share, I really don't know. But I'm absolutely certain it shouldn't be included in the patent system that does actually work pretty well if not abused.

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Do your execs take mobile security seriously?

Don Jefe
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Re: Questions

Yeah. I suppose I am overly concerned about it all. People have always told me I had odd priorities anyway. I mean, the ankle bracelet is pretty good at broadcasting my location. The resolution on that thing is pretty phenomenal you know. If I go more than a meter or so outside my compound the security service has people out there immediately screaming at me to go back. I've tried talking to the those guys, but they're a bunch of assholes. What the fuck kind of state is 'Trooper' anyway?

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