* Posts by Richard Tobin

151 posts • joined 13 Aug 2007

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How IT are you? Find out now in our HILARIOUS quiz!

Richard Tobin

Scientology test

It's particularly easy to see what's going on in the Scientology "personality test". Every tenth question is in the same category, so you can easily score 100% once you've worked out what the categories are. More amusingly, you can chose your scores so that the graph of them that they show you is a picture of a house or something like that.

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Apple pulled 2,204lbs of gold out of old tech gear

Richard Tobin

Odd unit conversion

All but one of the numbers appear to have been converted from metric tonnes to pounds, but with the conversion factor (2204.6+) rounded down to the nearest integer:

2,204 pounds of gold = 1 x 2204

6,612 pounds of silver = 3 x 2204

44,080 pounds of lead = 20 x 2204

23,101,000 pounds of steel = ???

189,544 pounds of cobalt = 86 x 2204

13,422,360 pounds of plastics = 6090 x 2204

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Snowden WAS the Feds' quarry in Lavabit case, redaction blunder reveals

Richard Tobin

Not a mistake

That "mistake" is there to disguise the fact that it's *not* about Snowden.

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Amazon's Lumberyard invaded by zombies

Richard Tobin

It has certainly worked - the Register has now reported it twice.

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You've seen things people wouldn't believe – so tell us your programming horrors

Richard Tobin

Uninitialized variables

When Sun introduced shared libraries in, I think, SunOS 4.0, dozens of standard unix utilities and probably thousands of user programs failed, all with essentially the same bug.

In C, local variables are not initialized by default, but at program startup the stack would be full of zeros, so that local variables in main() at least would be zero, and many programs inadvertently relied on this. But when shared libraries came along, the dynamic linker ran before main() was called, and the stack no longer contained zeros.

Of course, more modern compilers will generally warn about uninitialized variables.

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Ad-clicking bots predicted to rip US$7.2 billion from Mad Men

Richard Tobin

You can help!

Google for "whiplash", "loans", and "attorney", and click on the ads!

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We applied to Google's €150m journalism fund – here's what we sent in

Richard Tobin

Re: €250,000?

250,000 is (20 tau - 10)^4

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TalkTalk CEO admits security fail, says hacker emailed ransom demand

Richard Tobin

Ransom demand

Can they really have only received one ransom demand?

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Solar panel spammer hit by UK’s biggest ever nuisance calls fine

Richard Tobin

Lock 'em up

It's the only language they understand.

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KARMA POLICE: GCHQ spooks spied on every web user ever

Richard Tobin

Meaning?

What does "visible to passive SIGINT" mean?

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All pixels go: World's biggest sky-gazing camera gets final sign-off

Richard Tobin

Re: "nearly 10 square degrees of"

10 square degrees is right, as the linked SLAC page confirms. What the article currently says - '"almost 10 square degrees of sky" on each side' - is drivel.

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Another chance to win a 6TB Western Digital Black hard drive

Richard Tobin

Eek!

I've got one of those huge humans stuck to my feet!

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The Ashley Madison files – are people really this stupid?

Richard Tobin

Re: Stupidity statistic alert

"Average intelligence" is meaningless without specifying a scale. The usual scale, IQ, is defined to have a normal distribution, so the mean is equal to the median.

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I've seen Kaspersky slap his staff with a walrus penis – and even I doubt the false-positive claims

Richard Tobin

Conflict of interest

Can you think of an industry with a more obvious conflict of interest? They need a constant supply of new malware, and if they know about it before their competitors, even better. And what's the best way to achieve that?

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Candlelit vigil planned to honour executed Newcastle cow Bessie

Richard Tobin

Praying's not good enough

They should sacrifice a goat.

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Apple Fanboi? Stand by to get Beats Music LIKE IT OR NOT

Richard Tobin

You'll NEVER FORGET about Dr Dre NOW

Who?

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MYSTERY Russian satellite: ORBITAL WEAPON? Sat GOBBLER? What?

Richard Tobin

It's obvious

Its purpose is to distract attention from the other secret satellite they sent up at the same time.

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DEATH fails to end mobile contract: Widow forced to take HUBBY's ASHES into shop

Richard Tobin

Bank accounts

Many couples have joint bank accounts, and these are not frozen when one partner dies.

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Post-pub nosh neckfiller: The MIGHTY Scotch egg

Richard Tobin

Re: What do they call them in Scotland?

We call them Scotch eggs. Your Scottish friends were exaggerating. The ordinary adjective is indeed "Scots" or "Scottish", but "Scotch" is used in various traditional terms like the whisky and the eggs. It's quite likely gone out of fashion because of the sneering way some English people use it.

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Richard Tobin

Better hot

"Scotch eggs are, of course, served cold." That seems like a waste of all the effort you went to to make your own. A freshly-cooked scotch egg is delicious, unlike a warmed-up shop one.

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FTC tells 'scan to email' patent troll: Every breath you take, every lie you make, I'll be fining you

Richard Tobin

Re: Bogus

Patenting covers use as well as manufacture, so customers can be liable. You may think that's stupid, but it's the law.

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CATACLYSMIC Sun BELCH causes hour-long RADIO BLACKOUT in SPAAACE

Richard Tobin

Re: It is an amazing sunspot, and some massive flares going on

Even on the earth's surface the sun's orientation varies. It's upside down when viewed from Australia, and on its side in the morning and evening when viewed from near the equator.

It's much more noticable with the moon, because of its phases.

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Bash bug: Shellshocked yet? You will be ... when this goes WORM

Richard Tobin

Re: Stupidest bug ever

Using environment variables to export functions is not a stupid idea. Doing it in such a way that every variable gets interpreted as a function if it looks like one *is* stupid. A program's environment variables can contain any text; it's none of the shell's business if that text happens to start with certain characters. They could perfectly well have used a single variable with a defined name that contained all the functions, or they could have used, say, BASH_VARIABLE_foo for the function foo.

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Richard Tobin

Stupidest bug ever

How can anyone have thought it was a good idea to parse arbitrary environment variables to see whether they contain something that looks like a function definition?

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Sun's MASSIVE solar storm belch to light up Earth's skies

Richard Tobin

Re: A small clarification, please

It's not that narrow. The earth moves about a degree per day (obviously), and the CME is much bigger than that.

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Whopping 10TB disks spin out of HGST – plus 3.2TB flash slabs

Richard Tobin

Helium 6

"The helium-filled He6 disk drive tops out at 6TB". Helium-6 has a half-life of 807 milliseconds. Helium-8's is 119 milliseconds. I guess that's why the warranties are so short.

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Chelyabinsk-sized SURPRISE asteroid to skim Earth, satnav birds

Richard Tobin

Nowhere near satnav

GPS satellites are not in geostationary orbit. They're at about 13,000 miles, so nowhere near this asteroid.

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'Stop dissing Google or quit': OK, I quit, says Code Club co-founder

Richard Tobin

Non sequitur

"Despite studies showing computer use makes no difference to educational outcomes, the top-down coding gravy train rolls on". What? These are completely separate things. Whether using computers is useful for learning in general has nothing to do with whether learning to code is a good thing. You might as well say that despite refrigerator use having no effect on educational outcomes, we still teach thermodynamics.

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DON’T add me to your social network, I have NO IDEA who you are

Richard Tobin

Re: Simple

I've never had an account with Linkedin, but I still receive endless requests (all from people I have never heard of). I configured procmail to bounce all mail from linkedin.com with "unknown user", but it hasn't helped.

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'I'm for free speech!' brave Boris bellows, bewildered by 'right to be forgotten' bluster

Richard Tobin

I think people can ask Google to remove search links from its index regardless of whether the information is "old, irrelevant and not in the public interest". You don't need a law to be able to ask for something. So what exactly does this "existing data protection law" do?

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'Hashtag' added to the OED – but # isn't a hash, pound, nor number sign

Richard Tobin

Not its real name

What the OED actually says is "In technical contexts also called octothorp". That doesn't make it its real name.

Its real name, as all Intercal programmers know, is "mesh".

As for its being the same as the musical sharp sign, the OED calls this "erroneous".

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MIGHTY SOLAR FLARES fail to DESTROY CIVILISATION. Yes!

Richard Tobin

Re: "Sun on Trial" by Dr Pierre-Marie Robitaille

... a complete crank, as googling for his name will show.

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Richard Tobin

Re: A wimp?

"So that's almost 1.5^20 times this one."

Er no. X22 is ten times bigger than X2.2. An Xn flare has intensity n*10^-4 W/m^2.

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Richard Tobin

X scale

X3 is not twice as intense as X2. It is, as you would expect, one-and-a-half times as intense.

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China to become world's No 1 economy. And we still can't see why

Richard Tobin

Dyson???

If my Dyson vacuum cleaner had lasted as long as my Huawei VDSL modem, I might take that seriously.

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Earthly astronomers catch best-ever image of MASSIVE solar flare

Richard Tobin

Z Class?

I've never heard of a Z class flare before, and I can't find any mention of such a thing on the NASA web site. Beyond X9 they just go to X10, instead of (say) Y1.

Someone recently added "Z class" to the table on the Wikipedia Solar Flare page without any explanation. If, as that table says, it means > 10^-3 W/m^2, then we've already had several: the X17 flare on Sep 7 2005 would be Z1.7, for example.

Where does the figure of "a least 40 times as large as March's display" in the article come from? The March 29 flare was X1, so 40 times that is not a particularly interesting number. Or did you just misunderstand this statement on the Wikipedia page: "the extreme event in 1859 is theorised to have been well over X40 so a Z class designation is possible"?

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The Sun ERUCTATES huge ball of GAS at 4 MILLION MPH

Richard Tobin

Re: What does X mean?

The scale measures power per unit area of solar X-rays, measured by earth satellites. It starts at A1, which is 10^-8 W/m^2, and increases linearly up to A9 (9x10^-8). Then instead of A10 for we have B1 (10^-7), and similarly up to B9, then C1 (10^-6) up to C9, then M1 (10^-5) up to M9, and then X1 (10^-4). There's no scale beyond X, so after X9 we just continue with X10.

An X4.9 flare is large but not exceptional. The largest recorded was at least X28 (during the previous solar maximum, in 2003), but it went off the scale of the recording instruments. The Carrington event of 1859 may have been even bigger. The current solar maximum is a weak one and we haven't had anything bigger than X7.

Look at http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/rt_plots/xray_1m.html for a graph labelled in both A/B/C/M/X scales and plain W/m^2.

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NHS care.data leaflet shovage: Like a 'notice for Earth's demolition' posted to Alpha Centauri

Richard Tobin

Dyson

"The patent system offers us some protection but not enough: with an army of lawyers, hidden prior art is occasionally found and ways to design around existing patents identified."

In other words, he wants a monopoly on things that he wasn't the first to invent, and on ways of doing things that he didn't think of.

(I have a Dyson cordless vacuum cleaner. It broke just after the warranty expired, and was pretty useless anyway. Why anyone would want to copy them is a mystery.)

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Language-mangling Germans fling open Handygate to selfie-snapping whistleblowers

Richard Tobin

If Watergate happened now...

... they'd have to call it Watergategate.

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Ian Williamson: The engineer who gave Sinclair his first micro

Richard Tobin

The keypad might have lasted longer if the software had been better - when typing in code you had to press MEM-TERM-MEM between every byte, so guess which key was likely to fail (quite apart from it being unnecessarily tedious and error-prone).

All in all it was a typical Sinclair product: unavailable, unreliable, unpleasant to use. They always aimed to build the cheapest possible usable product, but somewhere along the line the "usable" part of the specification was lost.

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FreeBSD abandoning hardware randomness

Richard Tobin

Re: Linux wasn't using RDRAND directly

"if EITHER the Linux algorithm output is good, OR the RDRAND output is good, THEN the final output is good"

... provided that the two are uncorrelated, and that the XOR instruction hasn't been modified to recognise when it is working with RDRAND output.

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Possibly EXPLODING or GLORIOUS Comet ISON: The (GIF) MOVIE

Richard Tobin

Re: As any fule kno

You can't determine pronunciation from etymology.

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Fukushima fearmongers: It's YOUR FAULT Japan DUMPED CO2 targets

Richard Tobin

Oh dear...

Every time Lewis Page writes an article about how safe Fukushima is, a few days later Tepco admit they've lied again and the figures they gave before were completely wrong. So watch the news over the next few days.

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'Bet Lynch' types BANNED from zoo for upsetting not-so-wildlife

Richard Tobin

Re: Chessington Marketing Dept. Plays a Blinder

Yes, it's just another example of advertising by press release. They've taken lessons from Ryanair.

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So, Linus Torvalds: Did US spooks demand a backdoor in Linux? 'Yes'

Richard Tobin

The issue was not about wasting cycles - it's about whether it can *reduce* entropy. Linus thought this was absurd because even if the data was not random, it wouldn't reduce entropy. That's true so long as the data is produced without any knowledge of the other random data it will be combined with - but the sufficiently paranoid observe that we can't check that's the case.

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Report: Secret British spy base in Middle East taps region's internet

Richard Tobin

"Legally required to do so"

We have had several companies stating, like BT, that they "do not disclose customer data in any jurisdiction unless legally required to do so". This makes it sound as if it's something they only rarely do. But it may well be that they government's interpretation of the law is that they are legally required to disclose *all* customer data to the intelligence services. It would be interesting to hear what BT say if asked whether this is true - my guess is that they would refuse to answer.

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Samsung wins Apple MacBook contract, starts spitting out PCIe SSDs

Richard Tobin

You can see right now at http://store.apple.com/uk/browse/home/shop_mac/family/macbook_air. What Samsung announced is the non-Apple-specific version of what Apple already has.

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Seven all-in-ones that aren't the Apple iMac - and one that is

Richard Tobin

Style over substance

Apple needs to get over its obsession with thin edges. As you point out, you can't even see them when you're using it. It started with the Macbook Air, which Apple had obviously hoped to sell as the lightest laptop, but when they found that it wasn't they had to settle for "thinnest at the edges". I use a previous generation iMac and giving up the optical drive for something I'd never notice is absurd.

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Mozilla teams up with Foxconn for Firefox 'fondleslab'

Richard Tobin

Re: open handset alliance

Is Firefox OS really an Android fork? Isn't it just another Linux-based phone OS that shares some code with Android?

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COLD FUSION is BACK with 'anomalous heat' claim

Richard Tobin

Scientists are easily fooled

Did they put an ammeter on the earthing cable?

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