* Posts by Suricou Raven

934 posts • joined 20 Jun 2007

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Why the chemistry between Hollywood, physics and maths is so hot right now

Suricou Raven
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No surprise, really.

Of course it focuses on the characters and has minimal science. Hawking and Turing work in fields where you'd need a program the length of the movie just to get a basic lay understanding of what they are working on.

Look at how science is covered in documentaries these days to see what the public interest in that is. The highest-rated 'documentary' series of recent years includes one claiming ancient monuments are actually landing grounds for flying saucers, one claiming dragons actually existed, and one saying that scientists are covering up mermaids. I tried to watch what looked like a reasonable program on Egyptian history this morning, and halfway through it turned into a presentation on pyramid energy.

Science is interesting to many people, yes. But it isn't nearly as interesting as a crafted story of lies.

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Senator: Backdoor for the Feds is a backdoor for hackers

Suricou Raven
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A bignore computery generic image from the stock library? Looks like something off BBC news.

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Microsoft whips out real-time translator for Skype calls

Suricou Raven
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Re: How about getting written text translation right first?

Google translate seems to have improved - most things I put in do come out intelligable, though they'd still score an F on any english exam paper. That's without having to handle the error from speech recognition too.

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'Turn to nuclear power to save planetary ecology from renewable BLIGHT'

Suricou Raven
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Re: Thorium

A number of countries are actively involved in thorium research, but none yet has a reactor operating - not even a small prototype - India's PFBR has been delayed many times now. Attractive as thorium looks on paper, it remains an unproven technology. Until someone has a reactor operating, it would be far too optimistic to depend on it eventually working. We've all heard the joke about fusion power - perpetually fifty years away.

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QEMU, FFMPEG guru unleashes JPEG-slaying graphics compressor

Suricou Raven
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Re: There's been many better formats than JPEG.

JPEG is 'good enough' and firmly entrenched. The only way it's getting displaced is if a format comes along that is both technically superior (easy enough) and also has the backing of a party with major influence. BPG lacks the latter. WebP has it, barely - but Google isn't doing a great deal to promote their new format. If they threw some serious weight behind it, then it could get established. They could even try to get support from Microsoft and Apple - neither of those are trying to promote any competing image standard, so improved compression would be to everyone's advantage.

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The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – Thin plot, great CGI effects

Suricou Raven
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Just answer the important question:

Is smaug as evily sexy as he is in the second movie? That is one hot dragon.

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Sony Pictures email hack: The bitter 'piracy war' between Google and Hollywood laid bare

Suricou Raven
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Re: Search for "torrents"

TPB isn't so much a torrent site any more as a symbol of defiance.

♪ I get knocked down

But I get up again

You're never going to keep me down ♪

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Brit boffins debunk 'magnetic field and cancer' link

Suricou Raven
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Re: It won't work.

Size. Mumsnet is a lot bigger.

They aren't on good terms. Both forums have similar objectives, and something of a rivalry exists. On each one you often see people insulting the other. Netmums is also usually considered a bit more welcoming, while Mumsnet is quite well-known for the level of hostility often directed at newcomers and regulars alike. It is not a place for the thin-skinned.

Getting them confused is a sure way to irritate members of either.

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Suricou Raven
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Re: It won't work.

"Really? I missed this one. Is this a geolocated bizarreness"

It's pretty big in America. The short version is that there was a study that showed induced abortion carried an increased risk of breast cancer. This study was later shown to have some methodological flaws, mostly relating to the lack of a suitable control group. Subsequent research showed no causal link, and just about every expert society on cancer and reproductive health has now issued some form of statement to this effect. Much like vaccines though, belief in the connection presists long after the one study has been discredited. In this case the motivation is political: The pro-life movement siezed on it and refuses to let go, as it provides some major benefits to them. It lets them campaign against abortion while claiming to be fighting for women's health, which is a big boost to a faction often accused of harboring sexist sentiments. We rarely encounter this particular strain of bad science in the UK, simply because our pro-life movement is comparatively small and holds minimal politcal influence. Every now and again though the right-leaning media over in the US will bring up a new 'Scientists prove abortion causes cancer' article, usually followed by some conspiracy claims about how the liberal medical establishment is trying to cover it up. Strangely, this research is rarely published in peer-reviewed jounals, and the organisations responsible for it tend to have 'Catholic' in the name somewhere.

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Suricou Raven
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It won't work.

Look at two other bits of modern medical rubbish: The claimed links between vaccines and autism, and between abortion and breast cancer.

Both of these have been throughly disproven by multiple studies. Both of them have been condemned by just about every professional medical organisation around. Both of them still have a great many adherents.

Why should this be any different?

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'We're having panic attacks' ... Sony staff and families now threatened in emails

Suricou Raven
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It's already widely known that the movie industry has an approach to taxation that would be outright illegal in any other field. It's a historical thing. It's always been that way.

There's a reason you always see movies given as having 'made X on a budget of Y.' It's because no film is on budget, ever. The production costs are always inflated to whatever extent is needed to make sure that the film is a financial failure on paper, thus producing no taxable profit. The money is instead made by all the various studio-tied contractors who get paid very generously for production, distribution and promotion, and tend to be in more tax-favorable situations.

It's also why royalties are paid on gross revenue, not net. Net is always negative.

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Suricou Raven
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Not just passwords.

They also kept a convenient list of company credit cards details. Card numbers, end dates, even the PINs. And another file with the login details for various external services. I imagine it's all revoked by now.

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Furious GTA V gamers seek similar ban on violent, misogynistic title: the Holy Bible

Suricou Raven
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Re: I don't see how this could be true

Religion-bashing is a good thing. It needs to be bashed more. Once the cultural respectability is punctured, religion is exposed as a hollow sham peddling feel-good nonsense without any basis in reality.

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Magnifico! Galileo satellite nudged back into correct orbit

Suricou Raven
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How long before we see more ion engines?

If the sats used those, theyd pack enough delta-V that a major orbital adjustment isn't much of a concern.

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#Gamergate folk load flamethrower, roast own feet over GTA V 'ban'

Suricou Raven
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I'm surprised an Australian retailer will carry it, given some of their censorship policies.

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Brit smut slingers shafted by UK censors' stiff new stance

Suricou Raven
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Re: Just to throw in a subject for debate...

I think it's more a change in advertising. Sites are desperate to distinguish themselves and secure viewership and precious advertising revenue. Yet another generic porn site among thousands isn't going to stick in the viewers memory, but throw in some kinks and you're halfway to a memorable visit.

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Suricou Raven
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Re: hardly difficult to get around

This is good, because my old home insurance policy specifically excluded any damage caused by nuclear attack.

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Suricou Raven
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Re: Don't worry too much.

Not quite. Unlike the US, we do have some significent fringe parties. They are quite bonkers, of course. But when a lot of people start to support a fringe party, it acts as a signal to the major parties to steal their positions. This can be seen with the rise of the BNP, followed by UKIP. Once it became clear UKIP was getting huge growth, the coalition started to promise more measures to reduce immigration in the hope of luring over those UKIP supporters to their side. The same thing could happen if lots of people started to vote for, say, the Pirate Party. Not a hope of them actually growing to any significent size, but if they started growing at all you can expect some of the big three to start immitating their defining positions.

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Suricou Raven
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Re: Normality

"Gott Mit Uns."

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Suricou Raven
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Don't worry too much.

It's basically unenforcable.

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Suricou Raven
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Re: Normality

You have to ask why ban abortion though. It is because they have reached a conclusion that abortion is inherently immoral? Or is it because they hate the idea that sex doesn't have to have consequences? There's an easy way to tell: Look at their stance on contraception. If they truely do want to minimise the killing of what they would term 'per-born children,' they should embrace contraception as the most powerful tool they have for doing so. On the other hand, if they are just a bunch of prudes who loathe the idea of sex outside of a lifelong heterosexual marriage, they will also be opposed to contraception.

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LA schools math quiz: $500 Chromebooks or $700 iPads for students?

Suricou Raven
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Re: Apples and Schools.

Microsoft has always done exactly the same - offering schools Office licences for next to nothing, because if students are experienced in office and textbooks written for it, there will be a steady stream of people entering the workplace who prefer using it. It's just good business sense.

Google hasn't done this so much, but only because they didn't really have any products schools would want until they chromebook was introduced.

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Feds dig up law from 1789 to demand Apple, Google decrypt smartphones, slabs

Suricou Raven
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I do not understand phone encryption.

Where is the key? Anything stored on the phone can be read out if one can access the memory fully. The only information not stored on the phone that could be used as a key is the owner's pin, which at four digits just isn't long enough to resist brute forcing.

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Sony Pictures hires Mandiant, asks FBI for help after MASSIVE cyber attack

Suricou Raven
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Re: However, the CIA has other ideas....

The CIA doesn't assassinate national leaders. We know this because there are a lot of national leaders still alive that I'm sure the CIA would really like to see hit by a car.

Note 'national leaders' though - when it comes to powers not recognised as politically legitimate, drone strikes are not unusual.

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Sony employees face 'weeks of pen and paper' after crippling network hack

Suricou Raven
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Did they show their hand too early?

The twitter fun was a nice stunt, but long-term I can't help thinking it would have been more damaging to continue stealthy infiltration and document-leaking. I'd have set my sights on the real juicy stuff: Finance reports from sony pictures demonstrating just how bad their accounting is (In any other industry, it'd be considered tax evasion), contracts documenting dubious business dealings. Maybe even use the trust relationships to advance from media to technology. Once you've managed to empty several major fileservers of their precious documents, then you release some drive-eraser malware to obstruct any investigation and take over social media to publicise your good work.

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EVIL US web giants shield TERRORISTS? Evil SPIES in net freedom CRUSH PLOT?

Suricou Raven
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Passing blame.

This all seems a lot like the government trying to pass the blame on to Facebook.

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High Court: You've made our SH*T list – corked pirate torrent sites double in a day

Suricou Raven
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Re: It's a start

New scum will take their place. With encrypted distributed networks.

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Suricou Raven
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Re: Copyright Infringement

It's very difficult to assess the impact of piracy.

The obvious approach is to just count the number of infringing downloads, multiply by retail price, and get your damage figure. Easy. And useless, because most of those downloads are not lost sales. Pirates may happily build up a library of tens of thousands of songs, but they aren't going to buy those all on CD. Nor would they buy all those films on blu-ray - they'd be a few, but most would be left until they can be watched on TV or gotten for £4.99 in the bargin bin.

So you can try to estimate lost sales. Which is difficult, because pirates aren't very honest in answering surveys. But it can be attempted. Estimates only vary by a couple of orders of magnitude.

That's a little better. But then you've got network effects to take into account. Even if you conclude that piracy is resulting in huge numbers of lost sales, that might not capture the full damage - because if you're putting distributers out of business, or causing studios to spend less, that means lots of people who are now unemployed and thus have greatly reduced spending. This can amplify the impact of piracy. That is, if you can seperate it from other changes in the market: Piracy may be hurting the record store, but iTunes is arguably hurting it a lot more.

Then there's the issue of network effects working the other way. What happens to all that money not being spent on movie tickets and CDs? It returns to discressionary income. That means people spending more on other forms of luxury. Tech-toys, holidays, furnishings and general tat. Piracy has benefits and harms that are not obviously connected. It certainly drives a lot of hard-drive sales.

Given that the movie industry breaks their previous box-office takings record every year, and music industry revenue continues to climb, it's hard to see piracy as having much of an impact at all.

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Suricou Raven
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Re: alternatives

You don't need surveys - just ask the pirates. There's a fair bit of concern in the pirate community at the number of people being lured away by legitimacy. Ever since iTunes and Netflix came along, it's been getting steadily harder to draw people in to the world of piracy. The legal services are just so good, you actually can compete with free.

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Dropbox sees rival file-piles merely as dots in rearview mirror

Suricou Raven
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Bah

I wrote my own little script for uploading files quickly to a webserver and generating a link to paste into an email. It's quick and dirty, but it works very well. Fast, reliable and no faffing around when the other end is behind an office firewall that blocks Dropbox.

http://birds-are-nice.me/programming/CANary.shtml

Security is pretty poor, though. Sends the password in plaintext, unless you configure https.

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Do you spend ages wasting time because of a bulging rack?

Suricou Raven
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Re: Empty space? See the empty desk

Turns out chinese peasants are even cheaper than robots.

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Megaupload overlord Kim Dotcom: The US HAS RADICALISED ME!

Suricou Raven
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Re: UNGRATEFUL BASTARDS

He stole from the rich and gave to the poor... and kept a generous cut for himself.

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Androids in celluloid – which machine deserves the ULTIMATE MOVIE ROBOT title?

Suricou Raven
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Re: Exterminate

Daleks are not robotic. They are biological. They once fought a civil war against a faction that wished to improve themselved with cybernetic enhancements - they lost.

The visible pepperpot is essentially just a very advance wheelchair. With a built-in supercomputer, ray gun, sensory augments, communication system and force field. Oh, and it flies. But it's still a wheelchair.

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OIF and ONF to co-operate on standards

Suricou Raven
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Stop overcomplicating things!

I just want to move my bits.

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GOTCHA: Google caught STRIPPING SSL from BT Wi-Fi users' searches

Suricou Raven
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Re: And...

Also, google image search is the greatest advancement in the field of pornography since the invention of the portable camera. BT runs a filter, they might be disabling the encryption as part of the process of forcing safesearch on.

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Toyota to launch hydrogen (ie, NATURAL GAS) powered fuel cell hybrid

Suricou Raven
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There's a lot of everything in seawater, including gold. The problem is getting it out. Very low concentration, thus very high processing costs.

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Fujitsu CTO: We'll be 3D-printing tech execs in 15 years

Suricou Raven
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Car scenario.

Quickly consult the background check service and see which car owner has relatives most likely to sue.

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YOU are the threat: True confessions of real-life sysadmins

Suricou Raven
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So in short, you've four motivations to look out for.

1. Wealth/bribery. How much would it cost for the admin to sacrifice their career and self-respect?

2. Coercion: Especially important in national security - I wouldn't put it past quite a few countries to hold children hostage to get passwords off their father.

3. Principles: Would they sacrifice their career or even their freedom for what they believe to be the greater good, Snowden style?

4. Resentful stupidity: The company just screwed them over on health insurance, but the CEO has a private jet. Time for some self-destructive vengence.

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The Lambda that ROARED: Amazon unveils event-driven AWS compute service

Suricou Raven
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Lambda?

That's a rather obscure reference. Not many people outside of the more academic side of computer science will get it.

But it does allow those of us who do to feel superior.

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UK PM Cameron says Internet must not 'be an ungoverned space'

Suricou Raven
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I volunteer!

I can do that. I promise to use my powers only for evil and entertainment.

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FUTURE ROBOTS will EXTERMINATE UK jobs – study

Suricou Raven
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Except that currently our entire economic system is founded upon the labor market, and no alternative model has ever been demonstrated functioning on a large scale. It doesn't matter how cheaply robots can make things if you havn't a single penny of income.

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Got a STRAP-ON? Remember to TAKE IT OFF at WORK

Suricou Raven
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Re: re. Rampant Rabbi, etc.

There are quite a few companies specializing in novelty sex toys. The 'I Love My Ducky' range and anything from Bad Dragon come to mind.

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Doctor Who trashing the TARDIS, Clara alone, useless UNIT – Death in Heaven

Suricou Raven
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Such potential.

This could have been really good, if the writers hadn't taken the old 'power of love' cliche, and had thrown in a couple of one-line explanations for trivial things like the new cyberman abilities. Claim Missy boosted them with Time Lord technology, maybe.

The Power of Love is seriously overused though, and pretty stupid. There's nothing wrong with just the basic idea of cybermen resisting control, with some proper explanation and rules, but you can't just throw it in unexplained like that.

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Microsoft's TV product placement horror: CNN mistakes Surface tabs for iPAD STANDS

Suricou Raven
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Re: I hate product placement...

When it's done right, you don't even notice. That's part of the appeal - if the audience doesn't realise they are being advertised to it can have a subconscious effect without triggering the 'This is advertising, it's all lies' conscious filter.

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Suricou Raven
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Re: Apple NEVER pays for product placement...

I noticed the racks of Dell servers in the computer office in Numb3rs.

I also noticed the distinct lack of the sound of a hundred cooling fans.

It's also rather unusual for someone using a supercomputer to actually sit in the room with it as they work.

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Luxembourg: Engine-room of the tax-break economy

Suricou Raven
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Legality?

How much of this is actually illegal? The standard corporate approach to tax is to be 'tax efficient' - structuring the company to pay a little tax as possible, but without actually crossing the line into tax evasion or fraud.

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UK.gov mulls what to do about digital currencies

Suricou Raven
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Isn't unregulatability part of the point?

One of the factions advocating bitcoin are the crypto-anarchists, who like it largely because it is very difficult to regulate on a technological level. You don't need banks. No payment processor agencies. Trivial to hide, trivial to transmit, and it allows for creating disposable wallets at such a rate as to render money laundering very easy indeed.

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Clara goes to the dark side, with dark secrets revealed in Dark Water

Suricou Raven
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Re: Fav moment

A moment that would have been far more effective had it been a genuine revelation, like the 'dark water' reveal. They did a great job of forshadowing, laying just enough hints for people to speculate, right up until the end of the previous episode - when they gave everything away by showing cybermen in the post-episode teaser.

There's no fun in spotting the cyberman symbol if you already know there will be cybermen along before the episode is over!

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Suricou Raven
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When it was referred to as the 'nethersphere' I was hoping it would be revealed as a dyson sphere - the work of future civilisation discovering the lack of an afterlife, and finding the concept of death so appalling they built such a vast structure and started time-scooping the people of their past into it at the moment of death to save them.

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Suricou Raven
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Re: I'll score you a Miss on that one...

I was really hoping for th Rani.

I was hoping more when she was revealed as a time lady.

I was quite sure of it when she referred to the doctor having left her for dead, just as he had for the Rani so many series ago.

And then she ruined it.

The Master is a great villain, yes. But the Rani is something else: She's a great villain, who had the misfortune to appear only in some episodes that were deeply flawed and generally crap for other reasons. The concept deserves better treatment. The Master might try to take over the universe - but the Rani would take it apart, just so she can learn how it was put together.

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