* Posts by Dave Bell

1826 posts • joined 14 Sep 2007

Kamikaze Rosetta probe to ram comet it's chased for billions of miles

Dave Bell
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Re: "This is fantastic news ... FOR SCIENCE!!!"

I think Jebediah Kerbal has the right attitude: "MOAR Boosters!"

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Phone scamming up 30 percent last year: Report

Dave Bell
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The best I ever managed with the MS support scammers was to tell them that my IP address was 127.0.0.1

These days, all I have to do is politely ask them for the IP address of the machine that's sending the reports they claim to have received, and they hang up on me.

I still get possibly non-scam calls asking for people who haven't lived at this address for fifteen years.

Actually, they haven't lived anywhere, period.

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MILLIONS of broadband punters aren't getting it fast enough – Which?

Dave Bell
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I have some knowledge of statistics, and this depends a huge amount on how you select the people in the sample. Do it right, and you could get useful results from a smaller survey than you think. But there are also some obvious questions on the selection process that Which do need to answer (or which journalists haven't paid attention to when they read the report).

On what I have seen for myself, the advertising is not always as clear as the ISPs are claiming.

Neither side in this argument has clean hands. I live in a rural area, I get good speed for my line length, and I do now have the option of fibre-to-the-cabinet. I am not confident that any of the ISPs have a reliable connection between the exchange and the rest of the internet. It's not the raw speed that gives me problems with the stuff I do.

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Samsung spins up its latest rusty rotators for release

Dave Bell
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Re: Backup

If the internal hardware is standard, and the bare 2.5 drive can be bought, somebody will be thinking of a small RAID box. Is USB 3.0 really fast enough?

On the other hand:

"Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes hurtling down the highway."

Andrew S. Tanenbaum

The technology has changed, but it it's still something to think about. And maybe it's a lot more secure than the internet.

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Dave Bell
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Re: Power

The basic problem isn't new, and the double-port lead, one just for power, was usual for the earlier portable drives. But now there is more stuff using USB. And some portables don't even have two USB connectors.

I could see an extension cable working to extend either the data or the power input, so you could get power from a car lighter-socket. A simple idea for the show-off market: a laptop briefcase with a built-in 12v input (car electrics compatible, so the input voltage can be higher, but that's a solved problem) with a powered USB Hub that could power the drive, or recharge the computer. I might have an external power-line-only USB connector, but not the data. It starts getting complicated, but having the locked case data-secure would be a selling point.

Using a "proper" hub able to sit between the computer and the drive, and supply the drive from a single power source while handling the data at full speed the computer's port is capable of would beat a 2-to-1 lead powered from two separate devices.

On the other hand, a huge portable drive such as these is maybe a bit too many digital eggs in one basket. It's an option I would be wary of.

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Cinnamon 2.6 – a Linux desktop for Windows XP refugees

Dave Bell
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Re: Solid System Too Bad About No MS Office

It's an unfortunate reality that Microsoft Word is standard software in the publishing industry. which is used for such features as change-tracking for the editing work. There is better software for organising and writing the book—Scrivener is very widely used, and not just for fiction—but Microsoft captured the market for a vital stage of the process.

The first work I ever had published needed a major change: a scene had to be cut out that was rather well-written, I thought, but did nothing to advance the plot. And then there are the spooling meatsteaks that would pass any spelling-check program.

If you think we don't need editors, go buy cheap Kindle books.

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Why is that idiot Osbo continuing with austerity when we know it doesn't work?

Dave Bell
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Re: @BB- What the...?

The SNP didn't put candidates into every constituency in the UK. so the 4.7% figure is very misleading. Round figures, Scotland is 1/12 of the total UK population, so that 4.7% of the total UK votes is around 55% of the Scotland total.

I'm wondering if I got that wrong now, there's a couple of reasons it's only a good guess. Checking for the Scotland results with the BBC, and the SNP got 50% of the Scots vote, a 30% swing in their favour, and 56 seats out of 59.

When I first saw the handwringing about the 4.7% it was from a Conservative. It was entangled with English Votes for English Laws. It's all part of the routine misleading use of statistics to score political points.

If that "Australian" voting system had been passed in that referendum, it wouldn't have made much difference, not when the SNP ended up with 50% of the vote in an FPTP system. Some SNP MPs would have been elected without second-choices even coming into play. And the low-ranked parties in Scots seats didn't generally get enough votes to make up the difference between the top 2 parties in a seat.

(People could have voted differently in a transferable vote system that sort of guesswork can lead to whatever result you want.)

If you want to look like an idiot, carry on talking about the 4.7& of the national vote that the SNP got.

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Boffins, feeling around in dark for Philae, lit up by bright spot on Comet 67/P

Dave Bell
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Re: Oh so?

That rule has problems when applied to flying boats and seaplanes.

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Millions of voters are missing: It’s another #GovtDigiShambles

Dave Bell
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Re: Registering wasn't that much of a problem...

The local village effectively has two names, one short and the other the full formal name.

The Post Office has an address finder: enter the postcode and you get the short-name address.

It looks, from the election mail I have received, that the electoral roll uses the long form, and the software used to resolve address differences just prints both forms of the placename.

That's a minor enough problem, the mail will get through, but it leaves me wondered if the electoral roll is being maintained in accord with the responsibilities laid out in the Data Protection Acts. So what, I mutter, nobody seems to bother with that anyway.

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Dave Bell
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Re: Irrelevant

The onlt party which seems to differ from your description is the Official Monster Raving Loony Party. I am, I admit, tempted.

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UK rail signals could be hacked to cause crashes, claims prof

Dave Bell
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Railways are the original for all modern safety cultures.

I hope nobody has forgotten the lessons learned at such cost in life. But even in the 1930s the trains were faster than standard block working could handle, and high-speed expresses needed special procedures.

If the bean counters have subverted the railways, we're in trouble.

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Costa Coffee Club members wake up and smell the data breach

Dave Bell
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That's pretty standard, and the password they send you is temporary. There are better ways, but how is your email set up? Whether it's a temporary password or a link, how secure is the customer's email?

I'm a little more concerned about step 5, which you didn't quote:

3. This will trigger a new temporary password

4. Use this to log back into the page

5. If you wish you can change this to something more memorable under the account menu

It looks like there might be different versions of the email. The email I got is consistent with the temporary password being displayed to you via https. But I would still change it: the 5th instruction is a bit too vague.

It does make sense to send it by email, since they ask you for the account's email address.

Incidentally, the 5% return is pretty decent as these things go. A certain supermarket only returns 1%. So they're not so bad.

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Sony nabs cloud gamers OnLive, administers swift headshot

Dave Bell
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I can also use my PS3 as a Blu-Ray player, so Sony would have to do something pretty deliberate to disable it. I wonder what the legality of a killer firmware update would be? There would be possible criminal charges under the Computer Misuse Act.

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Dave Bell
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That's the first I had heard of a bankruptcy filing. I've been seeing OnLive suggested as a solution for games I play, though it seemed to be a tradeoff between computer power and connection quality. And I saw no mention of financial failure.

I can see why it might not be mentioned, but right now the apparent silence leaves me sceptical about what you say. It's all a bit academic now, but if you're going to say such things, and can't give us a link to a source, are you trustworthy?

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Another GDS cockup: Rural Payments Agency cans £154m IT system

Dave Bell
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Re: Maps, what maps?

All this started 1991-92 when EU subsidy for food production switched from the produce to the land. At least it stopped the Food Mountains. The particular problem that we had in the UK was that, with farm land not taxed, there was no easily-usable central record of owners and occupiers of land. The Ordnance Survey had maps showing field sizes, but they were not always current. The Land Registry isn't complete for England. And the payment went to the occupier.

Add to that the way that MAFF ignored its advisers and required an insane level of precision in the measurement of field sizes. In a typical British arable field, the permitted error in measuring the cultivated area worked out as less than a foot, while the OS area was apparently based on the assumption of Euclidean geometry. If part of a field was setaside land, you couldn't use the OS area, and woe betide you if your measurement of the total area was larger than the claim of the year before.

At least it was a paper-based system then. And MAFF had local offices. many of which have now vanished.

Eventually, MAFF became DEFRA. The last time I went to the county agricultural show. the prime locations were occupied by supermarket chains instead of grain merchants. There were more horses than cows on the site. I remember some company that installed computer networks in offices, while a long-established machinery dealer, who my grandfather had dealt with, had gone bust over the winter.

We already had robots milking cows. We have GPS on the combine harvesters, plotting the grain yelds across the fields, and showing the places where fertiliser would be wasted.

There's a history of farmers using the high-tech tools, and overcoming the problems of computers trying to exchange information. Nitrate pollution? If it gets into the water, it's money wasted.

Those are the people who struggle with the systems the government pays for. Don't believe the image of country folk you see on TV. The incompetents are working for the government (and offering to help you).

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SpaceX to deliver Bigelow blow-up job to ISS astronauts

Dave Bell
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Re: That structures is something like 10 layers thick and *very* tough.

And they have had a couple in orbit for about 8 years. So now they have one with humans able to use it, and monitor it, and it should last until the USA stops funding the ISS. And it's a big enough space to do some interesting things. It's somewhere just big enough that you can try zero-gravity with no walls within easy reach, and try ways of getting out of that situation. That's something you need to know about before you try a larger one.

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Can't pay $349 for an Apple Watch? Get a Chinese knockoff for less than $50

Dave Bell
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General All-purpose Microsoft/Apple/China comment

Can we trust anyone these days?

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Top Euro court ends mega ebook VAT slash in France, Luxembourg

Dave Bell
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Re: Writers

The problem is that these small self-publishing businesses, under the old system, were not required to register for VAT in the UK. They were not big enough. The new system doesn't have that exemption. So they have to submit VAT returns, and the details required now for sales to the rest of the EU are difficult to obtain. There need, for instance, to be two distinct proofs of residence.

It didn't help that HMRC didn't know about the businesses that were too small to register, because they hadn't registered, and didn't tell anyone about the need to register for VAT until the last minute.

The extra admin work is expensive, and needs some major changes to the management. It may need a lot of changes to e-shop software, and I have not seen much sign of these changes appearing. The whole process appears to depend on a sudden and untested change in business computer software. It's not like the updates to income tax rates and allowances.

I've done VAT returns, and it's not that onerous a process. It didn't need a major change in the records being kept. But that was all on paper, and all the details were on the invoices. The extra details that this new system requires are a lot of extra work and complexity, with a slipshod introduction process.

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Litecoin-mining code found in BitTorrent app, freeloaders hit the roof

Dave Bell
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Who do we trust?

There are lot of these "partner" programs sent out with free software, and it may be how some of the costs are paid, but that confusion between opt-out and opt-in, where the installer defaults to "yes" feels a bit dishonest, at best.

This software ends up using our power and processor time, competing for resources with the software we want to run.

Epic Scale says there is a standard uninstaller in the Windows Control Panel, but unless it's been changed for Windows 8, they seem to be writing about an obsolete version of Windows. And, if you can't find it, they say you can download a special uninstaller.

Can I trust them? Dishonesty or incompetence, which shall it be?

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El Reg regains atomic keyring capability

Dave Bell
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Re: Just be careful

There's currently a fuss about terrorists using thermite to attack 'planes. The Air Marshall's are fretting because nobody has told them how to put the stuff out. (They're basically undercover DHS armed cops.) Luckily, igniting thermite is a little difficult, because there is no practical way of putting it out.

Or it may just be American journalists who are the idiots.

When I encountered thermite in a school chemistry lesson, the teacher used magnesium ribbon and a bunsen burner to start off the reaction, which you don't find on many airliners.

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Russia considers keeping its own half of the ISS alive after 2024

Dave Bell
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NASA is setting the date

It's not so obvious in the story, but the 2024 date has been set by NASA. Since the ISS depends on reliable hardware, and some of it is getting pretty old, this may have good reasons. And since so much was set by Shuttle-era limits, we have to wonder what can be launched by 2024

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Seven months of Basil Brush on YouTube: Er, boom boom?

Dave Bell
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Mushroom

It might be "Basil Brush Official" on YouTube

There's a YouTube channel called Basil Brush Official which looks to be the right place: a clutch of new videos last Monday, promotional material for the recent live tour, and set up with a Twitter account.

It's not hard to find. I hear the YouTube owners have some sort of search engine.

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Have YOU got Equation NSAware in your drives? Meh, not really our concern, says EU

Dave Bell
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There's something in the disk firmware which leaves it open to this infection. And the same openness may be necessary to Data Recovery procedures.

It would be impractical for these weaknesses to only be in drives delivered to target entities.

Non-government actors can re-program the firmware on their drives. There are people who have described the process on the web, doing such things as installing Linux on the drive's circuit board. There are programmers who still work in machine code and assembler, and can reverse-engineer the firmware.

The cat is out of the bag now. How long before malware is used for terrorism. If you can somehow install your own firmware without any need for permission or physical access, how long before every hard drive in an identifiable IP block gets trashed?

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Think you’re hard? Check out the frozen Panasonic CF-54 Toughbook

Dave Bell
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Re: Kidproof?

I have used a couple of earlier-generation Toughbooks. Heavy machines, near the end of their life, but reliable and good value. Plan ahead. Buy the Toughbook, get married, and the kids will be around to get it when you get a replacement.

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Basic minimum income is a BRILLIANT idea. Small problem: it doesn't work as planned

Dave Bell
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Re: What about inflation?

There are some similarities with the shift of EU farm subsidies from produce to land area, around 1992. Partly because the money became tied to land, and included "set-aside" reducing the area cultivated, the food mountains vanished. Farm-gate prices dropped. Land prices, purchase and rent, shot up.

I can see basic income having some of the same sorts of effect. It's all very well talking about agency, but how can we ever challenge the supermarkets?

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Ex-squeeze me? Baking soda? Boffins claim it safely sucks CO2 out of the air

Dave Bell
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Here in Europe we grow about three times as much wheat per hectare as the Americans. That's enough to swamp the free markets, cause a price collapse, and bankrupt the farmers.

It's not atmospheric CO2 that does that. We're using a lot of energy to produce nitrogen fertilisers, as Europeans have been doing for a century or so. For the last half-century or so we have been using pesticides to control weeds (taking nutrients from the soil) and plant diseases. All these things cost the farmer money, and excess use hits diminishing returns. Mr. Worrall can tell you all about that.

We stopped burning wheat straw in the field about a quarter-century ago. It gets cultivated into the soil and slowly rots, so it isn't good at locking up CO2. But it helps stop soil erosion from wind and rain. Some bright and fast-talking city type have bought the site of a disused sugar factory in these parts and are building a straw-fired power station. but that will take phosphates away from a farm, and they're not something you can easily synthesize. You can get phosphates in sewage sludge, but the heavy metal contamination is a problem, and the supermarkets scream and run away from food grown with that nutrient source.

Industry in general has been dumping toxic waste for centuries. And some of those things don't go away of their own accord. The North Sea is littered with reefs and sandbanks of sewage sludge contaminated by heavy metals. Compared to that, CO2 is easy to get at.

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Calling a friend? Listen to an advert. You lucky, lucky thing

Dave Bell
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Go

It might be useful

I can have a number which uses this "service", which I can put down on all those websites which ask for my phone number, and then sell it to the call-centre advertising industry.

A 5% share of the revenue will be quite sufficient. I have an old "burner" mobile I can use for this.

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UK boffins DOUBLE distance of fiber data: London to New York WITHOUT a repeater

Dave Bell
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That awkward memory moment.

It wasn't until somebody mentioned the Septics that I recalled 80km was 50 miles, near enough.

In my distant youth I measured a field in Chains and Links.

And I can remember MAFF, as it was then, specifying ridiculous precision for land measurement when they introduced a new EU scheme.

Now I can get a laser rangefinder for under a hundred quid. I hope somebody remembers the difference between accuracy and precision: I am not sure the guy writing the Amazon description knows that.

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'Tech' City hasn't got proper broadband and it's like BT doesn't CARE

Dave Bell
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BT can be a bit annoying, but I've never been sure how much of that is the retail side and how much Openreach.

They don't sell broadband under just the BT label.

On what I've seen. broadband retail generally is a business where rogues and vagabonds are commonplace. And the advertising about FTTC seems to greatly underplay the details about the changes on your side of the Master Socket.

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Dixons Carphone clings to EE, Three in Phones 4U bullet dodge

Dave Bell
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Rural England buggered again.

I live in rural England.

Within a mile of a motorway junction and a trunk road.

I shall have to rely on RFC1149 for my fridge. My wi-fi won't get through a stone wall to my kitchen from the office and the trees have got a few more years of growth on them since the phone companies calculated their coverage maps.

This Internet of Things stuff is going to have to be IPv6 so I think I shall have to investigate RFC6214.

Or maybe just walk to the fridge, open the door, and look inside.

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Crackdown on eBay sellers 'failing to display' VAT numbers

Dave Bell
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Re: It is a reality on Ebay and Amazon

It's not too hard to find Chinese sellers playing fast and loose with the eBay system, things like misdescribing goods (and not something that could be attributed to ambiguous translation). Does eBay care? Apparently not. They don't seem to have liability for this tax dodging either.

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'Boutique' ISPs: Snub the Big 4 AND get great service

Dave Bell
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The problem I have with the big ISPs is how they sell their service. They'll tell you what speed they can deliver over your phone line, with the usual "up to" scammery in the general advertising, but eveyone needs a decent speed to the wider internet for streaming video, and the sales side doesn't seem to have any information on that aspect. I am getting wonderful promises for FTTC, but they can't even tell you whether there will be faster delivery of the actual data you want.

One big name has actual staff and a display stand in the shopping precinct in Scunthorpe. They do sell something more than just broadband, but they must be paying a couple of hundred quid a day to get a trickle of new customers.

I want to pay for internet, not for bored, scrioted, salesthings.

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Supersonic Bloodhound car techies in screaming 650mph comms test

Dave Bell
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Live HD video from Bloodhound is part of the pay-off for the sponsors.

I watched the last Falcon launch , and we have come a long way from the days of Apollo, when it needed a cine camera on the Saturn V, and there was no guarantee of recovering the film. We have a few, much-used, shots of the booster seperation. With Falcon, we were seeing the inside of a fuel tank, in zero gravity, live.

We expect more. The Bloodhound team are making sure they can deliver.

Meanwhile, they keep trying with Falcon, and the first successful landing of the booster on Just Read The Instructions is going to be stunning video. We don't need that video to be live but, like Apollo XI, it's something that people will remember.

But why are some people fussing about hoverboards in 2015?

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Does Big Tech hire white boys ahead of more skilled black people and/or women?

Dave Bell
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It is at least possible that there are gender differences in mental abilities arising from basic biochemistry. And I know how my own medications can interact with circumstances to mess up my thinking. So gender differences are plausible, quite apart from the blatantly obvious physical. And if you're looking for unusual abilities, which you have a test for, it's foolish not to test candidates just because they're the wrong gender.

Oh, I might as well mention Rear Admiral Grace Hopper at this point.

Her career started at a time when people knew they didn't know what they wanted.

Today, recruiters are sure they know what they want.

I am not at all sure which is better.

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Your gran and her cronies are 'embracing online banking' – study

Dave Bell
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There's so much of this, both Powers of Attorney and informal arrangements, which fits with my experience. But the banks may have improved, or at least some of them, over the handling of a PoA.

I stick with paper delivery of bank statements because it can be used as a proof of address. The whole business of proving who you are seems to rely on a jumble of possible documents. Can you prove you're entitled to work in the UK without a passport? But a passport doesn't prove your address. The whole Identity Card business of a decade ago could have been an answer to that, but it looked like an expensive boondoggle.

Incidentally, I use paper cheques so infrequently that I still have an unused chequebook that is a decade old, still with the tear-off printed address on the front (windowed envelopes) for my home at that time.

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Uber isn't limited by the taxi market: It's limited by the Electronic Thumb market

Dave Bell
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Uber limits

I don't know what the systems are in the USA, but in the UK we've had "private hire"—minicabs—for a long time, and the Uber service looks a lot like them. That affects the boost to the economy from Uber. We also have, in at least some place, smartphone Taxi-summoning systems, a bit like Uber but for the licensed taxis.

I suspect that some of the Uber-hype comes from the USA, and is based in an ignorance of the rest of the world.

Anyway, the electronic thumb model can make traditional taxis more efficient, and is doing. If you have the number, you've been able to summon a minicab since the first mobile phones. What's new about Uber? It's maybe a little bit easier the finding the phone number in a strange place, but how much of the wealth generated is innovation and how much is from dodging regulation?

Uber apparently doesn't like its drivers to tell insurance companies what they're using their cars for. That's not good.

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SpaceX makes nice with U.S. Air Force, gets shot at black ops launches

Dave Bell
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Re: Huh?

The first-stage booster doesn't even get near orbit, so it's hardly vital to be able to recover it. And SpaceX already have payload return with the Dragon capsule. They're working towards man-rating the system.

But guidance to a floating barge, and crashing on it at the first attempt, does suggest some interesting possibilities. It would need o be done with something like Dragon, which already parachutes into the sea for recovery, and SpaceX have certainly done work on doing this on land. It all looks a bit of a high risk at the moment, but there are possibilities.

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YOU. Your women are mine. Give them to me. I want to sell them

Dave Bell
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A lot of this story seems to have its roots in the procedures set up by the American Digital Millenium Copyright Act. Follow the processes, and a company such as YouTube is safe from being liable for damages.

Cases like this sound a bit dodgy under American law. Since a DMCA notice is made out "under penalty of perjury" is it even lawful to send out notices automatically? It would be expensive to find out.

And sometimes there are overlapping but independent rights. In music, there are distinct rights, and payments, to the songwriter and the performer. It gets complicated, and then the USA has different law (and a long-running "fuck-you" attitude to international copyright laws).

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Euro security agency says MORE crypto needed in gov policy

Dave Bell
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I just can't imagine Mr. Cameron listening to anything coming from the EU.

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97% of UK gets 'basic' 2Mbps broadband. 'Typical households' need 10Mbps – Ofcom

Dave Bell
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Re: Typical households need 10Mbps

I have a suspicion that the awkward part of the network is supplied by the ISP. The wholesale line syncs at sufficient speed for me, but the usable speed I get has reduced. Streaming video needs to sustain enough capacity to be delivered live. If you want to download content to watch later you don't need continuous good speed. That sustained high speed needs to be between you and such things as ISP caching servers for live data deliveries such as streaming video and games.

I've got enough capacity on my broadband line to my house. The internet connections that link my local BT exchange to the world have become the bottleneck, not the copper wire that carries the ADSL.And I am not sure if these figures actually measure anything useful.

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Let it go, let it go ... Sales of games, video and music up for second year

Dave Bell
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Re: Frozen

It depends how you define a good movie.

Disney seem to have got something right, both in the movie itself and how they're building on it. One parent I spoke to said she was pleased it didn't end with an automatic marriage. And there are the sing-along-with-Frozen shows: that is something that seems new. I can remember when this sort of thing was "On Ice"; maybe it still is, but ice skating isn't what it was in the days of Torvill and Dean.

Will the next Disney movie be as good? That's going to be hard to do. But Disney has been making good animation for over 75 years. Not every movie works this well, and I wonder how much of this one has been influenced by the successes of Studio Ghibli. There has been other competition for Disney to face up to. Maybe Frozen is the climax to a golden age of animation that will now fade.

On the other hand, the success of Frozen might revive the competition. Maybe another studio will look at the possibilities and put up more money. In that, this is all like the first Star Wars movie. There were all sorts of more-or-less clones pumped out. And that boom in cinematic sci-fi and fantasy gave us a few really big movies. Would we have had Alien or Blade Runner without the success of Star Wars?

And Frozen might be a good example for a lot of Hollywood movie making, not just animation. It has a pretty smart story to tell. It doesn't just depend on spectacle. Too often I have been left with the feeling that modern film-makers have over-dosed on adrenaline and forgotten the story.

There are other good movies out there. Frozen holds its own against them—it isn't just animation.

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Reg man confesses: I took my wife out to choose a laptop for Xmas. NOOOO

Dave Bell
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Re: @Simon Rockman

If you're an author, selling your work, you may find that publishers expect MS Word to handle the copy editing, and I know some pretty geeky authors who keep a copy for that reason. But it's arguable that that is a pretty specialised use-case. In any case, it's a collaborative edit process, with detailed tracking of the changes, and it would be folly to rely on somebody else getting file import and export right.

For the actual writing, the same people swear by Scrivener. But that comes down to using the right tools for the different jobs. MS Word can create HTML pages, but the last time I checked they were grotesquely over-sized. Libre Office does a better job than the Word which I knew.

I do sometimes wonder if we can make good choices for friends and family. I haven't created a huge file for a couple of years. How much storage space do you need for keeping the letters you write? Do some of the things we worry about really matter?

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Doctor Who's tangerine dream and Clara's death wish in Last Christmas

Dave Bell
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Re: Dr Jr

I am now wondering if the reality is something a bit different, and there never was a face-hugger. The Doctor cracked a joke, it doesn't mean he doesn't know about the film.

See Heinlein's The Puppet Masters for an alternative, though explicitly a parasite that doesn't kill its hosts. The Dream Crabs have some problems there.

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Cambridge boffins and Boeing fly first hybrid airplane over British skies

Dave Bell
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A small internal combustion engine, sized for the cruise regime, can be quite efficient, with a little on top to charge the battery. And the power boost from the electric motor for take-off and climb will be much quieter . With the relatively long cruise, it doesn't need a huge excess to recharge the battery. I doubt this plane has much spare weight, but adding solar panels would be possible.

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Welsh council rapped for covert spying on sick leave worker

Dave Bell
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Re: A Morons perspective

There have been at least two Data Protection Acts, 1984 and 1998, and the second includes "relevant filing systems" which would cover paper records. There is an exemption for criminal investigation, but it doesn't look as though there was anything sufficient to invoke that. And so it falls foul of the Data Protection Principles.

Just looking over the Act, it might have been possible to set out a reason for doing this, but the Council apparently didn't even bother. I've seen some pretty sweeping permission requests from Councils, amounting to a request to ignore the law. And, with more and more privatisation of services, I really don't like how such attitudes could work out.

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Dave Bell
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I didn't even know the person was a teacher...

I did think this was a mismanaged office. I now wonder even more just where the idea for covert surveillance came from.

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Dave Bell
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Re: Early Stage?

I think you're right about the lack of detail. There's something that has been kept quiet. But look at the reason mentioned: "off work with a sick note for anxiety and stress". Combine it with the leap to covert surveillance, and we might have some really bad management here. It's all consistent with a really nasty piece of work running things. But we haven't got enough info to be sure. And this is the Undertaking signed by the boss. The "anxiety and stress" had a cause we don't know about. It doesn't have to be something at work.

But somebody should have been getting a bollocking from the Chief Executive over this.

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Microsoft fires legal salvo at phone 'tech support' scammers

Dave Bell
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This sounds a little bit different from the fake "We've detected a virus" calls, with websites and adverts involved. Here, the investigators called the fraudulent company. Is it really the same people?

Frankly, it's getting so that I can't tell the difference between the crooks and the genuine support lines. They're the same accents, the same sorts of phone-line distortions arising from highly limited bandwidth, and staff with the same "blame somebody else" attitude.

I get more help with my computer problems from my cat (who knows what to do with a mouse).

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EU VAT law could kill THOUSANDS of online businesses

Dave Bell
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Re: This is entirely UNreasonable

I agree about the relative ease of keeping VAT records for a UK-only business. If you are trading over the internet you should have a computer, and a computer program to automatically do the bookkeeping.

But trading across intra-EU borders was always a bit of a mess. Where is the computer software which complies with the new system? I never switched to a fully computerised system. I'll be honest, it can be a bit gnarly for somebody without some specific training, and my business wasn't making enough transactions to make full computerisation worthwhile.

The businesses being affected by this are being hit by a horrible increase in complexity, with a high transition cost in buying new software, training to use it, and testing it.

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Dave Bell
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What is being missed is that Luxembourg set a very low, but non-zero, rate for VAT on ebooks. A lot of EU countries have lower rates for such products, but Amazon is paying a rate of 3%, the lowest in the EU, and I don't recall them ever telling me what the rate is, they just tell us VAT is charged, which is one of those legally murky areas. Italy, next year, reduces their e-book rate from 22% to 2%, and we have always had a 0% rate on physical books in the UK.

It looks as though some guy called Juncker was involved in setting the rates in Luxembourg.

One of the awkward points is that two pieces of data confirming customer location need to be recorded. For physical goods, which have always been under some form of customer-location rule, there's both the record of payment and the address for physical delivery. But what's the equivalent for digital goods?

The more I hear about this (and I used to do VAT paperwork for a small business), the less competent HMRC and the government look in negotiating with the rest of the EU and explaining the changes. Surely six years is enough time for them to have done something?

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