* Posts by RobHib

559 posts • joined 17 May 2013

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Cheaper broadband will slow NBN adoption, says Turnbull

RobHib
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Fuck them.

In Oz, we've already some of the highest internet access charges in the world, especially wireless because various greedy and incompetent governments fucked up the deregulation of Telstra--where we citizens have had to pay double, almost triple for everything: The unnecessary Optus network, a fucked NBN, and a buyback of the Telstra copper network for starters.

Fuck them again!

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Pirates also buy content legally, Australian gov study finds

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Those figures are exaggerated bullshit!

I'm in Oz and the majority of people I know:

- Do not watch on-line movies (legal or illegal ones), in fact many are like me who don't watch movies at all (except for the occasional one on free-to-air TV), we either do not have the time or have better things to do.

- Same with music, I've over a thousand vinyl and probably double that number of legit CDs and I've simply not the time to listen to them all.

- I'm in IT and the most of my clients haven't the whit to bypass or circumvent on-line TV download blocks, as it is, they've enough difficulty just connecting to the ABC TV's catch-up iView service.

- I see dozens of PC regularly and I'm surprised how few games are actually on them. As for me, I haven't played video games in years.

Yes, there's clearly a percentage of illegal downloaders and gamers around, and if you're in IT you'll easily recognize that demographic, but I'd reckon pigs will fly before that percentage reaches 48%.

What I want to know is how those BS statistics were concocted. Clearly, if you only survey the demographic that I referred to in the previous paragraph then clearly you're likely to get a figure of 48%. But then, this isn't a general survey of the population, is it?

(Seems to me it's the same old story/cracked record repeating itself: the MPAA, BSA and cronies are spending far too much moolah lobbying gullible pollies and generally making themselves objectionable.)

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UH OH: Windows 10 will share your Wi-Fi key with your friends' friends

RobHib
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It's Disneyland stuff.

This is Disneyland stuff, sure those WiFi-Sense toggles aren't managed by the Cheshire Cat?

In recent years, every new version of Windows becomes less and less like a real Operating System and more and more like something out of Alice in Wonderland.

Year after year, version after Windows version, we continue to be faced with hundreds, actually thousands, of Microsoft security breaches, sloppy code and other crappy stuff. Yet despite years of industry and user condemnation, Microsoft just ignores it like water off a duck's back, then continues to add more crap as if nothing had happened.

Oh my Kingdom, my Kingdom for a truly competitive non-Microsoft Windows clone.

(A dream's about as close as I'll ever get, methinks.)

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Giant FLYING SPACE ROCKS could KILL US ALL, warns Brian May

RobHib
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@Filippo - Re: @ AbelSoul - So.

"If the theater is on fire, you don't whisper "fire" once; you shout it and you keep shouting it until everyone is out."

Absolutely correct.

But that's not the current situation with asteroids, if it were so then shouting "fire" would be precisely the correct thing to do—unless perhaps a 20-50km whopper was on a collision course, then it may be best to say nothing for all the obvious reasons.

The current state-of-the-art for detecting and monitoring asteroids is rudimentary. Seemingly, most big asteroids can be detected and monitored but many smaller ones–those somewhere in size between Tunguska and the one that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs–are hard to detect; alternatively, their whereabouts is unknown or they're known to lurk in hidden blind spots.

The all-too-subtle-for-some point in my above facetious/acerbic comments is that we're continually being bombarded with alarming words from scientific doomsayers who've no definite/concrete evidence of any potentially disastrous asteroid strike. Without definitive evidence, their ongoing strident warnings do little other than to cause worry and alarm. Eventually, this evolves progressively into a state similar to one created by the boy who cried "fire" once too often, the population evolves into a state of ambivalence.

There's no doubt there's a real threat of a catastrophic asteroid strike, and inevitably one will occur at some future time. However, what precise details do we now actually have for any such future event happening? Let's begin by asking the doomsayers for actual evidence. For starters, to date the whole of human history has passed without incident, so historically the odds are low. Further examination shows that the doomsayers have no definitive evidence of real 'suspects' who are actually dangerous–ones who've signs pinned on them showing date, time and bulls-eye location. Simply, the fact is there are no precise facts about any imminent or impending catastrophic impact(s), there are only noisy dire warnings. The evidence, in totality, is accurately described by the phrase:

"There's a chance of a possible maybe."

Logicians will recognize this statement as it's often analyzed formally. But as you'll have easily figured out, that's unnecessary as it's clear that this existential statement contains no concrete evidence or information that can be usefully used in any practical sense to plan for a specific future disaster. Again, the nett effect of such vague but dire warnings has a negative effect on the population. Eventually, the ongoing and non-specific nature of such warnings end up having the opposite effect, emotions are numbed and become cathartic and they do so in ways similar to the way that climate-change fatigue has taken hold of the population. An 'immune' population develops a response that's equivalent to the boy who cried "fire".

Brian May's warnings are no doubt made with the sincerest intentions, they would however be best targeted specifically at asteroid researches and those who fund scientific research rather than frightening the general population, as its citizens know damn well they're essentially powerless to prevent any such potential catastrophe.

Scientific research into making the planet a safer place from asteroid impacts is another matter altogether. It may be surprising for some to know its research of which I'm strongly in favour.

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RobHib
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@ AbelSoul - Re: So.

'Best not to bother even contemplating potential contingencies'

Strange, I didn't say that, read what's written. Now, would I still be misinterpreted if I formatted comments more formally like thus: ∃x(D(x) → ∀yD(y))? Perhaps so.

I did refer to people being stressed by the continued repetition of such dire warnings; I also hinted that for the past two million years we humans have been on the planet we've not been hit by large flying rocks, thus we've survived. (Reckon the odds of a lottery win are probably better. If not, then it'll be amen—and quick.)

Now, what exactly didn't I say?

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RobHib
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So.

So, the risk doesn't seem much different to yesterday. We're all aware of the risk and we've nowhere else to go, and we don't need stress-creating reminders.

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So much for rainbows, Zuck: Facebook staff still overwhelmingly male and white

RobHib
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@A.C. - Re: Can't we just employ the best people for the job

"The problem is that "best people for the job" becomes self defining. If you have a department full of testerone-addled males, women by definition won't be the "best people for the job" because they won't fit."

Often the "best people for the job" does become self defining, but to me it seems more complex than that, especially so in today's society. For instance, I find it somewhat strange that a significant number of women want to be soldiers. Why would women want to lower or debase themselves to work in the profession of soldiering–to use your words–one that's traditionally so full of testosterone-addled males? It's a double-whammy too, for soldiering is not only full of testosterone-addled males but the job of being a soldier often brings with it the absolute worst of all possible human experiences.

The fact that these days many women do want to be soldiers says something that we simply cannot ignore. Same can be said about the large number of women in traditional male enclaves such as electrical engineering.

I've argued above that some of my best employees are women, I have not however argued that on parity they've all the same skill-sets as my male employees, the percentage of males obsessively interested in the nuts, bolts and mathematics of the work is definitely higher (but it's also true that a higher percentage of females have better skill-sets in other related areas). Nevertheless, there's a large overlap, so generalizing is difficult.

I'm not a cultural or social anthropologist so I make no attempt to explain or understand the shift, only that it's happened and that we can't ignore it.

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RobHib
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@ Arnaut the less -- Re: Sometimes there's good reason.

It's at times like this I know I've truly stuffed up well and good. As Gerard Hoffnung once said 'I must have lost my presence of mind' to have even contemplated using those two words beginning with 'a', experience has long taught me one can't do that without a squabble.

Now let me correct this:

"1. Someone who is like me except

2. Has a less dominant personality and

3. For some reason isn't likely to be a threat to my job. "

Seems simple but that's just not how it worked. First, it wasn't possible to easily rig the employment process as independents were used on selection committees to keep everyone honest. These independents were usually unknown to us (and the process was very fair).

Second, one's best employees are always a threat, but I can assure you that threat is much less of a problem than a stupid wayward employee who discovers (or thinks) he has rights and has the urge to exercise them. Good employees argue logically and I've been in many a scrap with them but matters are usually resolved amicably. I'm an argumentative didactic bastard by nature (many of my posts will attest to this), so I don't want 'yes' men around me. I often solve problems not by fighting but through argument, as there's little point if someone is always going to agree with one (such people I find intensely irritating).

From my experience, the greatest threat to one's job isn't from other good employees, it's from stupid management decisions usually brought about by some overly-paid consultant/management 'guru' whose only true expertise is cutting-&-pasting boilerplate from management textbooks.

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RobHib
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@JustNIz - Re: Sometimes there's good reason.

"affirmative action" is just yet more institutionalized sexism.

Believe it or not I agree with you, but that does not mean that many of my female staff were less capable employees than their male counterparts (most were very good).

Irrespective of my views about affirmative action per se, there was no chioce in the matter–that policy was dictated from upon high and at the threat of dismissal.

Let's get the facts straight: affirmative action, rightly or wrongly, is a policy, loathsome or otherwise. From my experience, when employment procedures were implemented fairly and honestly it made very little difference, as the best person got the job anyway (their sex being irrelevant).

BTW, let me add that I'm not being holier than thou here. It's that my job was a damn side easier when I had good staff, so it's always been in my interest to hire the best person available irrespective of his pr her sex.

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RobHib
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Sometimes there's good reason.

'...overwhelmingly male and white.'

Running an IT department I found it difficult to raise the female staff ratio more than about 30%. Often this was through the lack of female applicants–not through selection (as I (and hiring staff) actively practiced affirmative action).

My two assistants were female and they were excellent. The other female staff were also very good and often preferred to males especially when dealing with customers/clients (females exhibited less bravado and were far less likely to greet customers with comments such as 'what did you stuff up this time?').

Not all staff were white nor native English speakers. Foreign-language speakers (perhaps 20% of the staff) came from diverse countries including Germany, Russia, India, China and Arabic-speaking ones.

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Samsung vows to stop knackering Windows Update on your laptops

RobHib
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@gnasher729 - Re: @joed -- Bah! (And the new, etc....)

Leaving aside the etiquette/rights and wrongs of using "luser", there's a serious point here.

Microsoft has continually moved its Windows O/S towards the LCD-user (obviously to maximize sales/market penetration). In so doing, it's produced a 4GB bloatware behemoth that many technical users simply do not need.

Just as fundamentally important is that 4GB of bloatware code is considerably harder to maintain and keep secure (not to mention runs slower) than a basic minimalist one. Clearly, there's a real demand for a Win32/64-API compatible O/S that's techie compatible but I'm of the opinion that'll never come from MS (or anyone else).

We've worked (and are still working) on the assumption that as MS will never provide it and that there's no alternative–ReactOS being little more than a joke after a decade and half–that we've no alternative but to reevaluate our O/S strategy from scratch.

Damn nuisance really.

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RobHib
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Re: @joed -- Bah! (And the new era of Rented Software that MS has always dreamt of.)

Right, but seems we're not getting those options. (See my additional comments).

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RobHib
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@joed - Re: Bah! (additional to my previous post)

Despite what I said, we'll see what the final product is like before a final decision.

That said, everything we've seen so far about Windows 10 is that it's a more integrated environment than ever. What we want is the exact opposite–that's to just use the parts of the O/S we need, basically that means a more modular O/S.

Simply, that's a back-to-basics O/S. Once an O/S was just a file-loader with basic file management tools, add a UI for windows-type environment if necessary. That's all we need, and Windows 10 is definitely not that.

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RobHib
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@joed -- Re: Bah! (And the new era of Rented Software that MS has always dreamt of.)

'...number of settings that MS took control away from the user is just unacceptable'

Yeah, we know. Reckon it's the end of the road for us as far as Windows is concerned. To us, the 10 'upgrade' means: a lack of access to user controls (an increasing trend with every U/G since XP); Windows now as 'rented' software; an assumption that one's machine is always online (many of ours aren't even networked); automatic downloads essentially now forced on users with the network download costs charged to us–not Microsoft, etc. etc. Windows has moved from being an O/S to a blatant marketing environment for Microsoft.

Well, for us, this is completely unacceptable. So it's bye-byes time Microsoft!

Even Blind Freddy can see what MS is up to. We streetwise IT-ers immediately smelt a rat the instant Microsoft offered Windows 10 as a 'free' upgrade. Right, old-version Windows is totally incompatible with the new rented-software environment. (We shouldn't be surprised however, for years MS has been toying with the idea of rented software, now they've achieve it.)

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Translation for those who've only a room-temperature IQ: 'Software as a Service' simply MEANS 'Rented Software'.

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National Archives finds OPM-style intrusion: No data theft found, though

RobHib
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@Mark 85 -- Re: Oh boy... one more time with more probably in the wings...

The difference here of course is that most of the National Archives should be open and readily available to the public. Unfortunately, too many records are either mediated and or unavailable from regular/casual internet access.

(And, from personal experience, I'm not talking about embargoed/sensitive files either. In the past, I've had considerable difficulties getting historic photographs and related documents that are not classified, as most are simply not available for regular on-line access. Perhaps the perpetrator had a similar bad experience and tried to solve the problem with an unorthodox approach.) ;-)

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Trans-Pacific Partnership stalled says Australian trade minister

RobHib
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Re: There's a problem if this treaty isn't ratified?

Yeah, good. Just remember every single treaty, trade or otherwise, signed by your government reduces the extent and scope of your democracy. As all those signed treaty provisions (as well as the multitude of enabling legislation) are now locked out of any further consideration by the legislature for the life of the treaty.

And governments can't change treaties easily, they can hang around for centuries.

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RobHib
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It's only kept secret from the citizenry, not the corporations and multinationals who initiated it. That says everything.

Glad there's US resistance, as here in puppet-country Oz all we ever do is say 'thank you' after being shafted by grossly unfair trade deals.

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Android tool catches apps silently pumping hundreds of ad, tracking servers red-handed

RobHib
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Unhappy

@thomas k. — Re: Ghostery browser. And my kludge soln. for pernicious spying.

I consider Ghostery an essential install-first tool on both Windows and Android, it's a good start but by no means the full answer. Also, I'd reckon down-loaders of Ghostery and similar apps would be especially flagged by Google if for nothing else other than to check how effective the anti-ad blocking tools are.

I've been so pissed of with ads and the pernicious spying that I've taken rather drastic action—my Android is no longer a phone. I've removed the SIM and placed it back into my no-internet phone-only LG, so it's strictly only a phone. Now, the Android's only connection to the internet is via WiFi which I disconnect before using the apps (fortunately most of the apps I used can be run offline).

Before reconnecting, apps are killed, CCleaner and other cleaners are run, and of course JavaScript is a no-no, so is Google's internet access (I use any other browser except Google). Same with Location Services, they're nuked except in exceptional cases.

As I see it, Google created the Android platform with ads and user-spying as the primary application, the apps we users want to use are essentially nothing more than attractive lures.

Once I used to balk at the commercialization of the internet under MS Windows but it's hardly a beginner against Google's Android.

Damn nuisance really.

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Saturn's rings, radio waves ... poetry? At home with Scotland's Mr Physics

RobHib
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@JeffyPoooh — Re: Oliver!

An echo....

Yep. Oliver Heaviside

(And another here: Oliver Heaviside — see my footnote.)

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Boeing 787 software bug can shut down planes' generators IN FLIGHT

RobHib
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@A.C. – Re: RobHib's thoughts.

A.C., thanks. Short of time to elaborate on your comments here except to say I agree with them. Will reply in more detail later. Also, Charles Haddon Cave video is fascinating, recommended viewing, and has echoes of similar things/incidents that I've experienced (but luckily with fewer repercussions).

In the meantime, with reference to TB/h 'I don't know where this figure comes from...', here's one immediate reference, there's others too: http://www.trilliumsoftware.com/success/_pdf/DataIQ_Fall12-Nigel-Article.pdf.

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RobHib
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@Simon Sharwood - Re: So... Some thoughts.

Reckon that's so but also there are broader issues here; essentially they're issues that emerge from complexity.

To the point: the complexity of modern airliners like the Boeing 787 and Airbus A380 are such that it's just not possible in any practicable sense to cover every functional mode of operation, design limitation and failure mode let alone properly evaluate all their relevant parameters [design limitations/omissions, failure severity, event probability etc.] through rigorous state analysis and similar techniques.

Anyone familiar with state analysis will know that it's nigh on impossible to cover every aspect (design limitations, failure modes etc.) of a system as 'simple' as a domestic VCR let alone one as complex as a modern jet airliner–even a VCR's complexity is such that the computational problems are enormous. Just defining the parameters for such tests alone is problematic.

I'm not saying that these modern airliners aren't reliable, clearly they are but putting an exact measure on 'reliability' just isn't possible with today's state-of–the-art. The fact is we've still to rely on the best expertise that's available and this ultimately boils down to the combined expertise and experience of the engineers, designers and manufacturer's wherewithal etc.–not to mention bean-counters and budgets.

Let me give you an example: the well-publicized Qantas QF32 A380 [2010-11-04] engine failure. The Rolls-Royce T/900s each generates about 20 terabytes of monitoring data per hour yet this was 'insufficient' to give any forewarning of the failure. Moreover, after the failure–despite the many hundreds of thousands of sensors on the A380–the pilots still had insufficient (or perhaps inappropriate) monitoring for them to determine what failed sufficient to the extent necessary to safely navigate and land the plane.

Sufficient data was only gathered after a passenger reported damage to the wing and a pilot visually inspected the damage from the passenger's seat. With all of the A380's sophisticated monitoring, human intervention (a human sensor) was still necessary.

The issues that arise are complex and many but the essential ones are reasonably clear: we now know the exploding engine cut sensor and control lines thus cutting off essential data to the pilots. The question is why this eventuality wasn't allowed for in the original design (given that engines have previously failed/exploded and cut control lines long before this incident). Also, why didn't a state analysis pick up this issue beforehand in the early design phase?

Moreover, given the long history of control cable/hydraulics failures (by being severed) and leading to crashes [e.g.: UA FLT 232, (1989); AA FLT 96, (1972)], one has to speculate why in such a modern aircraft the few truly critical circuits weren't also backed up by wireless links (powered at sensor source). Same goes for why there were no iPhone-sized camera 'sensors' in critical places–for pilots to view the engines etc. (as we all know from our phones, this is pretty trivial these days).

Similarly, Airbus designers appear not to have taken into account the overwhelming levels of error messages generated in the cockpit by the computer-based information system. It was essentially useless, as the huge amount of data presented forced the crew to process the data manually and in a time of great stress and with very limited time. The pilots reported that at no time during their training had they ever had to experience this level of data overload–had it not been for the extremely professional crew the craft could have been lost. The problem with the status/fault monitoring is nothing less than a very significant ergonomic design failure. (It's a damning indictment, as there's seemingly no reason why this problem should not have been foreseen.)

Effectively, the design parameters, in sum, were passed to be an 'acceptable' risk but in practice they were not.

There's no doubt the QF32 incident raises serious concerns, and both the regulators and Airbus need to be put under the spotlight for a series of problems and events that compounded to considerably more than could ever just be attributed to force majeure alone. That said, what is even more key is that this incident clearly shows that our current understanding of complex systems is very limited. State analysis etc. as applied to large complex designs such as modern aircraft has a long way to go before it can be considered mature engineering. Designers need to heed this fact.

In my opinion, the chain of events that led to the QF32 incident is a brilliant encapsulated example of the same kinds of problems we all too often see in large computer systems, Windows, the internet etc. Perhaps we computer types should spend more time examining them.

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Silence is golden: Charlie Chaplin's The Tramp is 100 today

RobHib
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@ x7 — I'm sorry for you.

I've been accused of being a humourless irritable bastard but you take the cake!

Presumably, you're just buying an argument to wind us up. If not, then I'm genuinely sorry for you.

Even I laugh myself silly at this comic genius, fortunately much of the world follows suit.

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UberPop granted temporary reprieve in France

RobHib
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Facepalm

@A.C. - - Re: Funny isn't it?

A.C., perhaps you should actually read what I said.

I said nothing whatsoever about "operating without a licence, probably having no insurance and pocketing undeclared income", nor did I even infer it!

...But then what would one expect from an A.C. who'd even bother to be an A.C. over such a trivial headline. Perhaps you're trying hide from your own shadow.

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RobHib
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Funny isn't it?

Funny isn't it how the world wants competition and fee markets at almost any cost–witness all the free trade agreements etc? And yet in almost every country this aspect of free trade is verboten.

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The storage is alive? Flash lives longer than expected – report

RobHib
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Time will ultimately tell.

Decades ago when I was at school I recall daring kids to touch my charged capacitors. Some did which instantly deterred others.

I also remember the charge didn't last very long. Now, SSDs aren't quite the same but the theory of operation's not far off.

SSDs great devices, I use them all the time, but we're still testing their endurance. A few more years will tell. There's also the question of very long-term storage of decades. The message from similar technologies, EEPROMS etc., is mixed, I've some decades old and perfectly OK whilst a few have carked it inexplicably (but the manufacturing tech is much older of course) .

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GCHQ: Ensure biz security by STOPPING everyone from TALKING

RobHib
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Devil

Ha! We'll see....

I well remember suggesting this in my organization well over a decade ago and I was laughed at. (At the time thumb drives weren't around but floppies, Zip drives, email attachments and mobile phones were.)

Even the management instantly balked at it such is their addiction to such devices. It'll be a brave organization that does. It might even stop it recruiting the top people when the fact's known.

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Microsoft RE-BORKS Windows 7 patch after reboot loop horror

RobHib
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Re: @BobChip -- Windows is such an adventure

Ha! A fisherman I ought to be. Mention Win APIs and Linux together and, even with an obvious lure, there's always a guaranteed catch!

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RobHib
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@BobChip -- Re: Windows is such an adventure

Far easier just to turn Windows automatic updates off altogether, this way I get to keep 100% compatibility without drama. Don't even have to think about Wine.

Better still, I uninstall the Windows automatic updates service, this way other sneaky MS programs can't silently turn it back on, as they're so often wont to do.

I've learned the hard way many years ago never to turn on Windows (or even Linux) automatic updates, as things change, often strangely and without notice. And in Windows' case, the all-to-regular BSODs were somewhat distracting.

BTW, I do use Linux regularly for many purposes but not as my default desktop machine. For some reason, Linux is missing a key component, Win32/64 API compatibility! Quick, quick, Linux devotees, reach for the down-vote.

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Zimmermann slams Cameron’s ‘absurd’ plans for crypto ban

RobHib
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Big Brother

@A.C. -- Your'e from the Government then?

1. Why are you an A.C.? Ironic isn't it, you're actually hiding something! (Remember, that's what encryption does.)

2. People who espouse views in the way you've expressed them usually wish their names be attached.

3. What you've written is almost a boilerplate press release from the police or government.

4. Thus, it's difficult then to conclude you're NOT from the establishment.

5. In the circumstances that would also explain why you're an A.C.

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Forget viruses: Evil USB drive 'fries laptops with a power surge'

RobHib
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Devil

@Adam Foxton -- Re: A salt and battery -- JUST BEGINNERS!

Ever had a piece of electronic gear that's been returned under warranty many times and the intermittent fault still remains, and whatever you do you can't get the service company to (a) believe you and (b) actually fix the problem?

Solution: Just stick the PWA/circuit board in the microwave and problem solved. Next time it's returned, they'll either fix the gear properly or replace it. Fixing the gear properly means completely replacing the offending PWA.

NOW, BEGINNERS DON'T RUSH OFF!

You have to know what you are doing or you'll brick it in such a way that you won't be able to take advantage of your warranty. If you don't know what you are doing don't do it. And worse, if your Mrs catches you there'll be hell to pay. You'll be blamed forever and a day about the smelly microwave tainting the food (it's nonsense of course unless you're stupid and overdo it).

1. First, calibrate your microwave on some known old disposable circuit board.

2. About 3-4 seconds of microwave energy is all you need. Any more and you'll blow the ICs to smithereens, the cases will explode and little craters will appear in the tops of the ICs near the Si chips. Such damage is even evident to room-temperature IQ types, they won't usually blame you but they'll say lightening struck it and won't honour the warranty.

3. Done properly, the PWA will show absolutely no signs of damage whatsoever but the majority of the ICs will be totally stuffed internally—the professional term for such damage is BER (Beyond Economic Repair).

4. Never put a whole laptop in microwave, it's possible the damage to the electronics could short the battery (we don't want any loud bangs, now do we?) Also, the screen will go motley and be obvious.

5. The quickest way to brick a laptop without being obvious is to expose the circuit board/PWA and run a wide metal contact down the CPU support chips with the power still on (you're very unlikely to blow the battery because on-board fuses and safety stuff in the battery will stop excess currents. It's often best to get a techie to do it, he'll know how to do it without marking the solder pads (thus leaving traces).

(In the past, I've had to do this legitimately to get rid of old corporate laptops.)

6. There's much more, but that's secret!

REMEMBER. DO NOT DELIBERATELY SCREW UP EQUIPMENT BELONGING TO OTHERS! (THERE ARE MANY RULES ABOUT IT.)

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Quantum computers have failed. So now for the science

RobHib
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Happy

@Pawl -- Re: @RobHib -- We'll see...

Your insightful last post in effect wraps up the discussion I reckon. Your comment succinctly summarises the original point I was trying to make about aspects of fields being incomprehensible except through mathematics. Anyway, it seems what started with my casual and facetious remark about a 'Nobel for 'fields' has generated more words than I expected.

As mentioned, the notion of fields, through various levels of understanding, has troubled me for decades since as a kid I asked what magnetism was, and in ways it still does. Whilst the double-slit experiment rightfully captures popular imagination as a means of demonstrating quantum weirdness, it seems to me a similar case can be made with respect to force fields. Especially so since it's a ubiquitous aspect of physics in the sense that most physics students, electrical engineers, etc., not only can't avoid it, but as with thermodynamics, it's a central pillar of their work/profession.

Moreover, I cannot ever recall any intermediate-level text making a strong point about the striking dichotomy between static, non-excited, force fields (magnetic, electric etc.) and those of far-field EMR. Of course, by that I'm referring to both our perception of and our seemingly quite different explanations of these physical phenomena—yet clearly for nature, they're just manifestations of the same thing; she has no concerns that we've difficulty in explaining them, and or that we often do so using inconsistent or very different approaches for each phenomena.

Ages ago, I recall searching* various classical physics and QM texts for various explanations of what happens at the instant a static magnetic field begins to move (is accelerated) with respect to an electron or current-carrying wire (specifically the classical case—where EMR/photons begin to be emitted and the instant when λ ceases to be meaningless/'infinite'); and it was exceedingly difficult to find any direct references to the matter. One is left to figure it out like an exam question from the more general explanations which can be very difficult. (I ended up in an entangled (no pun intended) mathematical mess; Lorentz and many other such matters to consider, even the relativistic case was in the mix—right, my attempt failed.)

I failed again tackling the problem from the QED end, one easily gets bogged down (well, certainly I do) in complicated conceptual matters, and the maths is persistently mind-boggling (heaven knows why I bothered). The basics of QM photon generation/emission is documented but to fully understand the intricacies of the coupling/interaction of e‾ to the magnetic static force field at the moment of initial acceleration is, pretty much, beyond this mere mortal's capability. We've to consider such notions as virtual photon exchange, perturbation theory, QM's non-relativistic and relativistic Hamiltonian for both free and bound electrons in a static force field etc., etc. If it's not one's primary bread and butter, then it's damn heavy going. (Oh, to have Dirac/Feynman's mind!)

I note also the popular press has recently dipped its toes into the question of what exactly is a field. In a short, somewhat uninformative article on fields New Scientist (No 2999, 13 December 2014, p39) says of a field that "On the one level, it is just a map"; and even MIT's Frank Wilczek gets into the act who's quoted as saying "Ultimately, a field is something that depends on position".

This leaves me little the wiser. I'd have thought that with Wilczek's renowned stature in such matters, he could have put up a marginally better performance. It's hardly very informative given that the article's opening paragraph quotes Newton's dismissive position on the matter of fields. But then, Wilczek, like Newton, is also dismissive.

As Robinson ruefully points out in his post, that speculating over the philosophy of QM phenomena is a waste of time: "[it] is unknowable and likely transcends the limits of Human understanding. That's why physicists don't like to discuss it. It's kind-of pointless." Perhaps so, (and I essentially agree with that position, especially so from the position of getting things done); but I doubt seriously if many (even some scientists) will ever refrain from doing so on the grounds that it's pointless. It's just too alluring for many (and sometimes it actually delivers results).

Of course, the other aspect of this argument is that physicists aren't lily-white either. As a matter of course, they do things that would give philosophers apoplexy. They've little qualms about 'creating' virtual particles that run backwards in time, exceed c and perform other strange 'illegal' non-real-world scenarios, and then there's also perturbation—say no more! [OK, OK, I know!] Moreover, they've been performing these 'kluges' for a very long time, Planck ultimately did it back ca 1900 as a last resort and out of sheer desperation to solve the Ultraviolet Catastrophe and, voila, now very thankfully we've h. So I'm not against such approaches by any means, as it usually works somehow (a bit like those parametric equations one learnt about in one's early schooling). If I'd been Planck, I'd have done exactly the same (but that's nonsense, I'd have never dreamt up such an ingenious solution anyway). What it certainly does show is how truly brilliant and innovative Planck really was.

Thus, it doesn't really matter if people speculate or theorize wildly; scientists will carry on doing their day-to-day work in their usual, procedural, by-the-book way. But very occasionally philosophising will yield results and someone will arrive at a brilliant idea (after all, Einstein famously speculated in a tram if I recall and now look at the results).

Anyway, seems we've come full circle. It's unlikely we've gained a better understanding of these closely-related electromagnetic field phenomena than we had before we started the discussion, but it seems to me what's key and really significant is how vastly different our approach needs to be towards each for our ultimate understanding of the physics that's involved. If nothing else, these two phenomena are an excellent illustration of how seemingly idiosyncratic the quantum world is. Whether or not we want to, they force us to think about the problem.

A great story and great posts.

…Now I can sit back and wait to see whether QM is analogue or not! ;-)

__

* BTW, during that earlier search, I ended up ferreting out old original copies of that eccentric genius Oliver Heaviside's expansion and reformulation of Maxwell's 1873 masterpiece, 'A treatise on electricity and magnetism'. Heaviside's own three-volume set on the subject titled 'Electromagnetic Theory' (1893 if I recall), is also a masterpiece, albeit dense and heavy going. Those with an understanding of Maxwell's equations and who've an interest in the history of the subject ought to at least peruse them. In the grand schema, this is an extremely important mainstream document, as in it Heaviside essentially modernizes Maxwell into the form that we use today. Also, it introduces much of the terminology (absent in Maxwell) that practical scientists and electrical engineers use today (they'd be forever thankful to Heaviside if they knew these were his ideas, but most don't). There's also Heaviside's earlier work 'Electromagnetic Waves' (1889) which may also be of interest.

Seems these days Heaviside's a little lost to history which is a shame. It's often what happens when you fight the scientific establishment/established orthodoxy, which he did (remember it took Galileo quite some centuries to be 'redeemed' for similar reasons). Nevertheless, he features heavily in my old books on radio theory; had the Kennelly–Heaviside ionospheric E layer named after him; and even the 'Heaviside layer' features as the subject of a song in Lloyd Webber's musical Cats.

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RobHib
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@gazthejourno -- Re: is it just me?

We're not passing ourselves off as a peer-reviewed scientific journal here.

So what, look at all the verbiage I've written as a consequence! As I've endeavoured to point out, the interpretation of QM is extremely esoteric and still open to interpretation. Any vigorous debate is only to be welcomed.

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RobHib
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@Robinson -- Re: @ Phil Endecott -- We'll see...

Ah, is that tree in the quad really there? Well, it depends....

Huh, Logical Positivism indeed! OK, OK, be nice or I'll throw my long-owned, well-dogeared copies of Ayer's Language, Truth, and Logic and The Problem of Knowledge at you!

I've always wished for Shakespeare's pithiness and succinctness but alas it's eluded me. In my long-winded way the point I was making, or more correctly, trying to make, is that these complex problems are profoundly disturbing to some people, as they possess a worldview which instinctively gravitates to examining them from a "things in themselves" perspective.

Reckon this way of thinking has little to do with intelligence, rather it's a mode of thought, whether it's appropriate here is perhaps open to debate (subject to which side of the philosophical divide one sits, that is). I may be wrong but I can only ever envisage Dirac thinking about physical "things as they appear". On the other hand, and from his bio Surely You're Joking Mr Feynman, Feynman, occasionally, seems to embrace the former, even if it does 'transcend the limits of Human understanding'—just let's say it: things that are intrinsically metaphysical by nature. Mind you, there's no doubt that Feynman was more than sufficiently adroit to instantly flip into whatever mode of thinking that was appropriate for the occasion.

If you think physicists avoid discussions on matters concerning "things in themselves", then they pale in comparison to the attitudes of engineers when similarly confronted; for them, it's strictly application of quantum rules, any doubts about quantum weirdness or metaphysical issues are simply bedamned notions.

It would be wrong to assume that my worldview defaults to the former view, it doesn't, not usually anyway (as I've been in and out of engineering for far too long). The fact is this glaring example of fields and forces is just too striking to ignore, it perplexes many through its apparent striking anomalies and the seeming lack of a coherent classical understanding. (In perceived importance, perhaps it could be considered the 'double-slit experiment' of electronics and electrical engineering.)

As I see it, whilst mathematics is the default lingua franca of physicists, it's not necessarily so for mere mortals. Thus, any explanation of the seeming paradoxes that the problem unleashes ought to deserve considerably more attention. If that involves physicists having to provide a more painstaking explanation of the mathematics involved, then so be it.

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RobHib
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@Mystic Megabyte - Re: s'obvious in'it

I'm off to the pub, Monday is old farts night

Reckon I should join you, it's certainly less brain-taxing.

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RobHib
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@Pawl -- Re: We'll see...

Right. As a kid I remember asking my father how a magnet worked, even then it was obvious to me that his description of 'lines of force' was inadequate as it was only a representation. Later, this basic concept gave way to more detailed terminology, equipotential surfaces, transformations, eigenvalues/vectors etc., which provides a much more precise mathematical interpretation.

Your "field" of corn analogy makes sense, and if the stalks were waving in the breeze we'd have a representation of its dynamics. In other words, a 'field', as we describe it mathematically, is a representation of the 'state' of underlying forces. Nevertheless, even in quantum field theory, we still have to resort to aids such as Feynman diagrams to represent a 'system', explaining the exact underlying reality still eludes us.

As you say the "field" is the sum of all the relevant particles acting in a particular way', but even if the LHC does discover the graviton (or anything else) and we end up with an even more precise understanding of nature, does that mean we will be able to truly describe what a force is, when we already use the term 'force' to describe how this underlying system works (describing something in terms of itself is, logically, nonsense)? Seems to me the only solution is to do what we've always done which is to again resort to mathematics and let the equations provide the description.

Let me give you an example of a common but difficult conceptual problem that pops up regularly and which is never satisfactorily explained by physicists except in terms of mathematics. The common description of light is photons in the form of electromagnetic radiation [a complex issue in itself] radiating at speed c from some generating source such as a candle, the process being initially driven from an energy source such as paraffin etc.

Leaving aside how the stored energy is converted into light for a moment, the description of light becomes more problematic when lambda becomes infinite (at zero frequency—the 'DC' condition). In the 'DC' state, a DC electric current is the source of energy for say an electromagnet which generates a magnetic field which fills surrounding space at speed c. Same with a permanent magnet which once stationary requires no input energy—here for want of a better description we have a system in stasis (for example, my fridge magnets just stay put). The question everyone asks is where do the photons hang out a static system, how, so to speak, can they seemingly hang around in 'mid air' at speed zero when they're supposed to travel at speed c? Same goes for charges on pith balls, and in capacitors. If the energy stored in a capacitor's dielectric isn't in the form of photons then what is it?

Ahh, so now we're back to the 'field' problem again, exactly how are fields involved in the conversion of energy into photons?

Again, mathematics comes to the rescue, but conceptually how a photon generated is a complex and difficult problem to get one's head around—one that's never properly explained except in complex texts at the higher echelons of physics. Even then, we're back to the fundamentals of having to describe the process terms of 'fields', 'forces' etc. It's mathematics all over again.

Physicists have to do more to make this stuff much more comprehensible.

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RobHib
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@ Phil Endecott -- Re: We'll see...

"Look up "scalar field" and "vector field" in Wikipedia.

I did the mathematics for that in algebra once, that's the mathematical analogy that they drum into us in uni physics—sure that works in the practical world, it lets us calculate all sorts of things but it STILL doesn't tell me exactly what a field is.

You tell me, what's inside that 'stuff' that say 'connects'—'glues' my fridge magnet to my fridge? Take the case of a permanent magnet, it needs no power yet it's not perpetual motion, nevertheless the force the field exhibits/impresses on susceptible surroundings (iron) holds the magnet there indefinitely.

OK, not happy with this perspective, then invert the question. How does a force work, what inside it that makes it manipulate things at a distance? Right, we can use mathematics, classical physics/Maxwell etc., quantum electrodynamics or whatever you want to provide various high-level explanations of 'action' that manifests in what we physically perceive as a force, but it still doesn't tell us what's actually inside a force or what it consists of that makes it act the way it actually does.

The same argument applies to 'power', it can only be described mathematically, and even then only in terms of something else, i.e.: P=VI. OK, so I now know that Power equals [be described in terms of] Volts x Amps, but I'm still none the wiser!

Words like force, field and power are essentially the physical equivalent of the philosophical concept of the 'simple notion' which states a notion cannot be reduced further, for example the concept of 'yellow' cannot be reduced. You can describe it as a certain wavelength of electromagnetic radiation and also do that mathematically if you like, but it has absolutely no meaning for a blind person who has never seen before and who wants to experience what others perceive as 'yellow'. Unfortunately, this is all we do when we describe a field.

Fact is, with our present knowledge of physics, no one, it seems, really has a clue. It's why I asked the facetious question in the first place.

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Life, the interview and everything: A chat with Douglas Adams

RobHib
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Ah, I still have my CD of Starship Titanic complete with its strange but alluring cover.

Adams, a tragic loss. But then, only the good die young.

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MPs 'alarmed' by millions of mugshots on Brit cops' databases

RobHib
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@Down-voters -- Re: @ Pheasant Plucker - Just forget it.

Down-voters: may I humbly remind you that in an argument, refuting a proposition is normal and proper procedure. Down-voting without attempting to refute my proposition automatically means you lose the argument by default.

Of course, if you are part of the of The State's apparatus—that to which I was originally referring—and are merely upset or offended, then down-vote this.

Gotcha, either refute the argument or shut-up!

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RobHib
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@ Pheasant Plucker - Re: Just forget it.

So many downvotes for daring to seek to shatter illusions.

Shooting the messenger's been a time-honoured pastime for those who don't want to hear. Seems it's human nature, it's also part of the problem.

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RobHib
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@A.C. -- Re: Future, what future

"Something will have to change either through choice or through force"

How!

The bureaucratic establishment has become far too powerful to change, in that there's now a plethora of laws, which when examined holistically, are more about the The State's self-protection than they are about protecting the citizenry. Unfortunately, the citizenry is, more and more, perceived as the enemy.

As you say, to change it by force would mean an ugly, bloody, French-revolution-style coup d'état, and few civilized people have the stomach for that anymore (fortunately).

Tragically, we're stuck with it. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance, and we citizens took our eyes off the the ball once too often.

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RobHib
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Unhappy

Just forget it.

Forget it, it's far too late for a few wayward pollies with twinges of conscience to fix.

Tragically, it's all over Red Rover, the cat's out of the bag. As with all other types of surveillance, we're far too far down the road of a police state to now do anything to stop it.

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HAPPY 20th Birthday MICROSOFT BOB

RobHib
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Comic Sans

"Comic Sans is now regarded as a low point in the history of computing"

Says who?

I've usually don't have much to say about MS that's good and Bob was a first-class fizzer, but whilst comic Sans is certainly no Garamond, it's still a very good informal font. I've used it often in informal emails, it looks and suits the part.

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The SHOCKING storage truth: Everyone's buying spinning rust

RobHib
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@DougS

Agree completely, but I have to add spinning rust has considerably more capacity for the price. No problem, DBs use flash and long-term 'slower' storage uses rust. Obviously, flash (and newer tech) will win out—probably sooner than later.

From long experience, there's one thing I'm certain of, which is there's no such thing as too much storage, our demand for it is insatiable.

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UK Supreme Court waves through indiscriminate police surveillance

RobHib
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@lucreLout -- Re: @A.C. -- As Treasonas May is fond of saying...

"It doesn't matter, because whatever that point is, whenever we reach it, the populace at large will be unable to enforce their will because those in power have all the guns and nobody to whom they can cede power."

There are, of course, solutions but I'm not going to discuss them any further, as it's against the law to do so in my country. Now, we don't want to be up on charges of subversion, sedition and perhaps even treason, do we?

The fact I'm prepared not to discuss the matter says a great deal in itself.

As I've said in a previous post, arguing a philosophical concept along these lines is one thing, even suggesting it is another matter altogether. As I said then the French Revolution and The Reign of Terror (la Terreur) was truly terrible and not something I'd ever contemplate. Thus, for me and I'd imagine most of us, that violent action at that level is ruled out entirely.

This leaves us in a very big quandary: the fact that as The State is becoming ever more powerful, especially with its recent enactment of many draconian laws ultimately aimed at its own self-protection, which deliberately target citizens (and others) who may want to do it harm or even change its regime, it means that beyond a certain point we essentially end up with no way to effectively object or protect our own freedoms. Like the action of a diode, we're then on a one-way slide into total subservience. When we reach that point, we're effectively in a totalitarian state.

I've no reasonable solution for this. To my mind, the fact that this discussion is occurring at all means that there is something seriously wrong with our governance.

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RobHib
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@lucki bstard - Re: @A.C. -- As Treasonas May is fond of saying...

Right, nothing like a simple distillation for an eight-year-old to explain everything.

Come to think of it, that's pretty much on the same level as the public discourse on such matters these days, methinks. ;-)

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