* Posts by Flocke Kroes

2056 posts • joined 19 Oct 2007

One in five consumers upgraded to Win10 for free instead of buying a PC

Flocke Kroes
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Re: PC sales decline

Welcome to Penguinland. Try a SuperTuxKart.

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UK gov says new Home Sec will have powers to ban end-to-end encryption

Flocke Kroes
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password 12345 can be secure

gpg encrypts mail with the recipient's public key. It can only be decrypted with the recipient's secret key, which is supposed to be a secret. The difficult bit comes from where the recipient keeps her secret key. If it is only on a device she controls and on a backup floppy disk in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying "Beware of the Leopard", then it is reasonably secure.

Secret keys are often encrypted with password that the owner has to remember. If the password is 12345 and copies of the secret key are all over the internet then there is no security. If the password is something like "$>QeP{r:{s=6|b}VNJFt" and the owner types it into a device with a key logger or trojaned version of gpg then there is no security.

Password protection on secret keys dates back to an age when computers were so expensive that they had to be shared, the system administrator could be trusted not to replace gpg with a trojan, and you could not be locked up for five years for not telling the police the password for your secret key. A more modern use of that password is to protect against accidents like a leopard enthusiast with a crow bar desperate for a pee.

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EU waves antitrust claims in Google's face, snarls 'You want some?'

Flocke Kroes
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Are comparison sites still rubbish?

Back when I was a PFY I occasionally clicked on a comparison site by accident. They were so irritating that I took the trouble to learn their names so I could scroll past them to the sites that actually sold things. There were articles on the internet like price comparison that only covered the shops in the mall where the comparison booth was located with no warning that the rest of the world was excluded from the results. There were rumours that it was really expensive to be listed as the cheapest insurer on a comparison site, and some insurers advertised that they were not listed on such sites.

It is quite possible that Google noticed my aversion to comparison sites and does not include them in my results. It is very likely that I was not the only one ignoring such sites, and their page rankings fell for everyone else's results too. Over a decade has passed. I do not see comparison sites in search results and out of habbit I would not click on one if I recognised it. After all this time have comparison sites cleaned up their act to the point where the cheapest seller on the list will actually deliver, does not have hidden extra charges and is actually provides the same product cheaper than I am likely to find elsewhere if I spend an hour or two checking individual retailers?

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Smartphones aren't tiny PCs, but that's how we use them in the West

Flocke Kroes
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Advantage of QR over NFC

Crims can steal from NFC bank cards 40cm away without you noticing until the bill arrives. Victims have to actually point their camera at a QR code, and there is some hope that the phone might display the amount, who gets paid and an opportunity to cancel the transaction.

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Florida U boffins think they've defeated all ransomware

Flocke Kroes
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@WebLogons

This is my home system. Computers are mostly Raspberry Pi's and some similar devices predating Pi's. This applies to home directories. When I modify system config files, tested and working versions get copied to a directory in /home/ so everything is in one place. Video files are dealt with separately because they are too big and new ones do not appear every week.

Out of lazyness, nightly backups are cron+rsync over the network to a single point of failure. Weekly(ish) backups using tar+bzip2 to one of two USB disks. The USB disk gets moved to an old mips board and is checked with a script that includes: bzip2 -cd /mnt/backup/latest.tar.bz2 | tar -xT path/to/canary_list

bzip2 will go through the entire file and complain to stderr if it is not valid. The canary files are checked with cmp. Remember to delete the canaries before extracting them.

This strategy depends too much on human discipline and does not scale. The advantages are that it was made mostly out of kit I had lying around gathering dust, it is sufficiently odd that mass market malware will not understand it and that the data protected is not valuable enough to be worth a competent cracker's time.

I hope there are some ideas you find helpful. If you need an old mips device, look for a dusty box full of old routers and see if any of them are on openwrt's supported devices page. Linux's supported architectures are X86_64, i686, ARM, mips (often) and various problems I hope I never have to deal with again. Mips should be sufficiently odd to annoy crackers. If you can find less than three working i686 laptops, one would be a good choice.

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Flocke Kroes
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Re: Next gen ransomware

DavCrav: The article had "Bulk modification of file types", so my plan was not to change the file type, just the data after the header identifying the file type. The bulk of the data in a file does get modified. If the defenders try to detect that, then I would make a small modification to a bunch of source files, then go through them again and again until thoroughly trashed, then pick another bunch.

Mayhem: I like the idea of splitting the work among child processes. I thought the defenders were looking at the file system, not the activity of individual tasks, but might as well burn that bridge before someone tries to cross it.

Dr Syntax: "if the file changes look OK" is the tricky bit. Attacker and defender can both arrange that files with properly documented formats are valid. If the file format is documented except for some secret binary blobs, then attackers cannot create valid files and defenders cannot check them.

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Flocke Kroes
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For the time being, just about ...

There have been several attempts at ransomware for Linux. Some actually encrypted files. Last time I looked, the encryption keys were recoverable for free.

Offline backups still have additional value as a ransomware recovery strategy. Backups should not be considered successful without a restore. As the restore is required anyway, I use a non-networked machine that is not x86 or ARM, and check for some canary files.

I would be grateful is other Linux users were at least as paranoid so Linux ransomware does not become a multimillion dollar per month enemy.

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Flocke Kroes
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Next gen ransomware

Disks are way too big these days, so there is room to add plenty of extra data that is not required for decryption. For each old file, create a new one of the same type. Each new file contains chunks from other files of the same type in a random order, an encrypted map where the chunks came from and repeats of sections of the encrypted map to reduce entropy. When an old file's contents is mostly stored in new files, modify the old file preserving the type, including the remaining chunks of original data in a random order and add the final encrypted map.

This will not trigger any of the indicators mentioned in the article. It costs some code for each file type, but even with just jpeg and docx people will have plenty of incentive to pay up. Ransomware distributors are well funded, so I am sure they can afford the development effort more than Florida University boffins can afford to counter it.

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Google slammed over its 'free' school service

Flocke Kroes
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The strangest bit

Google could have written a privacy policy along the lines of 'Google will mine the data extensively and use the results for profit and drowning cute kittens'. Dozens of people would have read the start, a few would reach the end, and the one that cared only went to Google to read the privacy policy and had no intention of using the service anyway.

If you do not want Google to spy on you, use a different search engine. If you do not want anyone to spy on your internet activity, do not own a cell phone or use the internet. (This behaviour is considered conclusive evidence of terrorist activity.)

Other people have the right to make their minds up for themselves. If they want to exchange loss of privacy for search results, that is their choice. If they could not be bothered to read a privacy policy, that is their choice too.

Google may well deserve a legal kicking a misleading privacy policy. Making 'free' services illegal in the name of privacy might stop the 'free', but it wont stop the spying. If governments cannot spy on you through the companies you interact with then they will have to do it themselves. I really do not want them to waste more money on another big IT project.

(Please take a look at the tails privacy focused OS. If enough people go there, they cannot imprison us all for suspicion of not voting for Theresa May.)

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Linus Torvalds in sweary rant about punctuation in kernel comments

Flocke Kroes
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Re: Quotes

Converse: Pay other people to do it while you watch.

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Flocke Kroes
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Hi Stupid

If it really is that easy then style challenged devs could use such a script before submitting code for the kernel. (I would go with indent rather than bash.)

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Flocke Kroes
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@Zakhar

/*

blah("*/crash_and_burn()/*");

*/

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Flocke Kroes
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Boxing comments

Yes very pretty, until a function has to handle some new possibility, and the boxed comment updated to match. Next you will start tolerating spaces left in front of tabs.

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Flocke Kroes
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Re: Must be a day with a 'y' in the name.

Not until tomorrow. Today is Boomtime, the 46th of Confusion 3182.

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Wannabe Prime Minister Andrea Leadsom thinks all websites should be rated – just like movies

Flocke Kroes
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Paddypower currently gives 6/4 for an election this year, and an even chance for 2020. I think the most successful candidate will be the one who changes his name to "None of the above".

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Flocke Kroes
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Re: Another moron

I have been wondering if the entire reason for the threat of Leadsom as PM was to make May look good by comparison. There is some danger that May's handlers can steer her into legalising the stasi state. Leadsom comes across as so bat-shit crazy that she would never support legislation that could actually get through the commons let alone the lords.

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Flocke Kroes
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Re: Rating websites - think of the children !

Practice Positive Thinking!

Plenty of devices have web cams these days. Just snap a photo every time someone clicks on a link. A quick £200M government IT project later and we can convert photographs to ages! Solved! I am sure the budget would only get to £4.5B, and if we scrap it when it is only a decade overdue nearly half of that money will be saved!

I was a bit disappointed last election because there was no Monster Raving Loony candidate in my constituency. Now I feel confident that the next PM will be a real monster raving loony.

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Flocke Kroes
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Joke

Clearly you lot lack positive thinking

If the BBFC needs a few million people to review British web pages then that is an instant end to unemployment! So what if we need to print £50M per day to pay for it and the exchange rate plummets to zero. Everyone will just have to stop going abroad and Buy British. As for foreign websites, just cut the cables. We are leaving the EU. We might as well leave the rest of the planet at the same time.

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New DNA 'hard drive' could keep files intact for millions of years

Flocke Kroes
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Re: Dig up the Past

Decomposing composers.

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Flocke Kroes
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Re: What could go wrong?

Synthetic biology is old tech. The first virus was in 2002, and first bacterium in 2010.

As far as accidents go, you get to try this at home for fun. Just paste everything from '#!' to 'done' into a text file called random_virus_machine, make it executable (chmod 755 random_virus_machine), and run it (./random_virus_machine).

#! /bin/bash

while true; do

dd if=/dev/urandom of=/tmp/virus bs=1024 count=4 2>/dev/null

chmod 755 /tmp/virus

/tmp/virus 2>/dev/null && exit 0

done

I expected the chances of success to be small. Although it possible to squash a binary executable into 45 bytes the chances of those bytes being a valid ELF file are tiny. It is also possible to create a valid executable by starting with '#!' followed by the full path of an interpreter, followed by code valid for that interpreter. There are a few interpreters in /bin, so the required prefix of '#!/bin/' reduces your chances to 1 in 7x10¹⁶. It turns out if the file does not match any other pattern, the Linux kernel gives the file to one of the shells to chew on.

Shells have an insane default feature. If a line of shell script is complete gibberish the interpreter outputs "syntax error near unexpected token '%c'" and try to interpret the next line. There is a real chance that random_virus_machine will actually do something (probably harmless, but don't blame me for rm -r ~).

The DNA decoding machinery inside cells have similar default features. IIRC, they chug along until they find a start code, then take three base pairs (6 bits) at a time as an opcode. 21 of the 64 possible opcodes have a useful meaning. (I think the other 43 are 'unexpected symbol error, look for the next start sequence'). Microsoft's error correction code could easily insert invalid opcodes at regular intervals to prevent the creation of anything dangerous. If you fool the software into thinking that your raw file has already been through the error correction filter, then you can have the file->DNA machine create the DNA sequence for a virus (the small ones are only a few K). Normally viral DNA needs to be packed into a phage to be infectious (there are exceptions, ask a biologist). The chances of random data happening to be a valid sequence for an infectious virus are tiny. random_virus_machine is just as likely to output the code for ninvaders.

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Bitcoin child abuse image pervs will be hunted down by the IWF

Flocke Kroes
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Re: Attention: Just a question, not a serious proposal

Using the MPAA figures was a poor choice because it was distraction from my point. Piracy does cost the film/music industry money, but the amount it costs is widely contested. Try before you buy recovers some of the losses, and generates sales that would otherwise never have happened.

The porn industry had to find a balance between making the free stuff interesting enough to generate a sale, but tame enough that potential customers were not prematurely satisfied. Judging by the ease with which Prenda picked up customers (before becoming content producers themselves), try before you buy was not a profitable business model for pornographers. These days, it looks like profiting from porn requires ripping off other people's content to keep the costs down and using advertising or malware for the revenue stream. We already have laws to keep advertising revenue away from child pornography.

I am not convinced availability would create demand. Conversion therapy has proved ineffective, and I have yet to hear about a single IWF employee becoming a paedo. I believe Clockwork Orange style enforced viewing of hard core child pornography would mostly cause selective amnesia - subjects would have difficulty remembering arguments against the death penalty. There is evidence that internet porn reduces rape.

Cancelling copyright for hard core child porn would not have an obvious effect on the worst pervs in it for the act itself and exchanging videos on the dark net. Tracing bitcoin transactions wont effect that either.

We currently have draconian laws criminalising teens for sexting each other. People can get into trouble because they cannot prevent receiving an unsolicited picture by email.

I would like all the alternatives considered, their pros and cons discussed, and _where_practical_, tested and revised to prevent abuse before becoming law. Simple bans have often proved ineffective.

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Flocke Kroes
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Re: Attention: Just a question, not a serious proposal

The proposed effect is that nobody pays and there is no financial incentive to harm children. I would like to hear a reason this cannot work that does not depend on the Shirky principle.

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Flocke Kroes
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Attention: Just a question, not a serious proposal

According to the MPAA, the film industry lost $18.2billion from piracy in 2005. How much would the child pornography industry lose if we let the pirates loose on them?

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NASA curious about Curiosity's fourth 'safe mode' event

Flocke Kroes
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Clearly Curiosity got an invitation from Kim and prepared for the aftermath.

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Sociology student gets a First for dissertation on Kardashians

Flocke Kroes
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Re: The second sociology joke

Why mustn't sociology students look out of the window in the morning?

So they will have something to do in the afternoon.

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Chilcot's IT spend: Tighter wallet than most public sector bods

Flocke Kroes
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Vice President Dick Cheney was chairman and CEO of Halliburton.

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Flocke Kroes
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Re: I wonder if

There is a real danger that lessons have already been learnt.

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Flocke Kroes
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Re: 179 lives, 7 years, £30 million, culminates in...wait for it...

£30million was the cost of the report. The direct financial cost to the UK was a bit bigger.

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Celebrated eye hospital Moorfields lets Google eyeball 1 million scans

Flocke Kroes
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Re: shrooms

Ezekiel had way better shrooms.

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Post Brexit EU will spend 'stability and peace' budget funding Chinese war drones

Flocke Kroes
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Absence of evidence interpreted as evidence of absence

Today, I can write to my MEP and say 'Someone on the internet made some wild accusations, and I believed them with any supporting evidence. Please vote against it.' The reply would be some vague denials and any further letter will be referred to the 'fob off the clueless twit' secretary.

I tried the EU search engine, with the search key 'stability and peace budget' which gave two promising results (1 2). Neither include the acronym 'UAV'.

I have found writing to my MEP about specific draft directives has been effective. So come on credulous brexiter, give us something specific to write to our MEPs about.

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Flocke Kroes
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Yes

For me, the most vomit inducing phrase was: "reportedly[1] lobbied for heavily by EU member states[2]"

[1] By whom? (Possibly some guy in the pub, probably a ranting loony on the internet)

[2] Which ones? (My bet is if there are any, one is the UK)

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Prominent Brit law firm instructed to block Brexit Article 50 trigger

Flocke Kroes
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Article 50 causes two treaty negotiations: one for how we exit and another for what happens afterwards. The UK remains a full member of the EU until we abandon leaving the EU, abandon the negotiation after two years or reach an agreement approved by the European Parliament (and any member states that get special treatment).

Take care about asking the US for help: they might send us Donald Trump.

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Flocke Kroes
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Re: Oh come on

The Brexiters I have spoken with face to face (not a statistically significant sample) had their own reasons for voting leave (unrelated to leaving or remaining in the EU). Although I believe most of them are capable of reading I am not convinced any of them made the effort to read the Brexit flavoured leaflet. I literally had to show them a picture of the Boris bus before they would believe extra money was promised for the NHS.

Agreeing a proposed exit deal with the EU, publishing it, giving the people of the UK time to understand it and then having a leave/remain referendum sounds really sensible. The difficult bit will be getting people to read the document and start thinking.

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Flocke Kroes
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@downvoter

Years ago there was a travesty generator posting as amanfrommars here. amanfromMars 1 is sufficiently more coherent that I have wondered if this is a human deliberately trying to fail a Turing test. My bet is that amanfromMars 1 is a bot, possibly with a human picking the best of three travesties generated from text created by us commentards.

If I am right, who are you really downvoting?

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Flocke Kroes
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Re: 52 to 48 gives them the authority...

The UK parliament had the authority to argue with each other about a Brexit plan before the referendum. Lets pretend the Brexits immediately settle all their differences, come up with a plan and present it to the EU. The EU will dump it straight in the recycling because we haven't started article 50. So we pull the trigger and send another copy. The EU tell us what they think of this plan and the Brexits have to reach a consensus again.

There are three ways this can end. 1: The exit agreement is the one written by the EU in which the UK does as it is told without having any say about anything. 2: Two years pass, no proposal for extension gets a unanimous vote so we are stuck with the WTO agreement (tolerable for goods, poor for services). 3: Before the two years are up, the UK cancels the article 50 negotiations and remains a full member of the EU.

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Flocke Kroes
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Re: Politicians

I like spineless gits. Imagine how bad things would be if the clueless twits did something.

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Flocke Kroes
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Re: And the house of lords?

@Anonymous Blowhard:

Theresa May: "I remain of the view that the Human Rights Act needs to go."

See you in joycamp.

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BAM! Astroboffins now have a second way of picking up black holes' collision super kicks

Flocke Kroes
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Re: "remnants of the black holes..."

Regrettably us commentards have to translate journalist into science. 'Dog particle' -> 'Higgs boson', and 'remnants of a black hole' -> 'remnants of a star most of which collapsed into a black hole'.

Water at the bottom of a waterfall is hotter than at the top because the water collected energy as it fell. Likewise when the core of a star collapses it gets hotter and the heat causes the outer layers to expand. When the core collapses all the way to a black hole it blasts most of the outer layers away. Some outer layers stay in orbit around the black hole, and more matter gets pulled back forming an accretion disk.

An accretion disk is like the rings of Saturn, where the inner rings go round the planet faster than the outer rings. Accretion disks are much denser and friction between matter in adjacent orbits creates enough heat to glow X-ray coloured. When two black holes are close together each can have a small accretion disk where the gravity from one hole is far bigger than the other. The pair of holes have a large accretion disk that starts at a radius that is large compared to the distance between the two holes. Closer in, matter is in a chaotic orbit that switches between going around either black hole or going around the pair.

Two black holes spinning around each other have several solar masses more energy than the same to merged together. All that energy is converted into gravitational waves in a few seconds. The waves are so big we can just about detect them thousands of light years away. A thousand kilometres away from a merge, the waves are insanely powerful and do interesting things to accretion disks.

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We'll smash probe into comet 300 million miles away for kicks, er, sorry, ... for science

Flocke Kroes
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Re: landing at an angle that denied its solar panels vital sunlight

Philae's 32W solar panels could have been replaced with about 12kg of RTG. Stripping of the solar panels and replacing them with radiation shields the same mass changes nothing. Dumping the primary and rechargeable batteries saves (at a wild guess) 1.5kg and 1kg. Philae's mass is 21kg. Using an RTG would have cost several scientific instruments.

In hindsight, an RTG version of Philae would have been an interesting choice (fewer instruments require less power, so the RTG would not have been a whole 12kg). It looks like launch costs will fall quickly enough to allow launching multiple designs before politics can cope with nuclear power.

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Flocke Kroes
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Re: Chris Evans

For orbit, you want gravity (GM/r² if we pretend the comet is round) equal to centripetal acceleration (v²/r if we pretend the orbit is circular). G=6.67x10⁻¹¹, M=1x10¹³kg, and r=2500m (probably above the surface most of the time) gives a velocity of about 0.5m/s (granny swims faster).

Rosetta's mass is 1230kg (small car), but its weight would be 0.13N (same as the weight of a £2 coin on Earth). Rosetta will bounce and slide until it finds some terrain that acts like a trap.

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A trip to the Twilight Zone with a support guy called Iron Maiden

Flocke Kroes
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Re: Chris G

Do not laugh too much. If Theresa "Human Rights Act needs to go" May is the next PM, then she will have to find a new home secretary. We could be landed with Priti "bring back the death sentence" Patil who believes that the accused should not be allowed to talk with the media.

Plus-speedwise rectify your post or see you in joycamp.

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Boffins boggle, baffled by blobs deep inside the Earth

Flocke Kroes
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Re: Something doesn't add up here

The formula for the velocity of pressure waves is here. Increasing density reduces the velocity. The bulk and shear moduli also contribute.

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European Patent Office palace coup bombs

Flocke Kroes
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There is one good thing about the European patent office

Every hour they argue among themselves is worth 8 patents not granted. I cannot imagine the UK patent office doing something so constructive. The UK patent office is responsible for the policy of granting software patents as long as 'software' is spelled 'computer implemented invention'.

There was some rubbish in the Brexit propaganda about foreign EU judges making rulings that applied to UK companies. The bit they forgot to mention was that UK judges made rulings that applied to the whole of Europe. Once an EU court is selected for a patent dispute, that court's decision applies to the whole of Europe so companies do not have to face nuisance litigation in every state. Before Brexit, a UK company could get their case heard in the UK.

Leaving the EU will not make the European patent office go away. UK trolls will still have to file there to sue EU companies. EU trolls will still sue UK companies, but post Brexit the hearing will be outside the UK.

Years ago, like thousands of other programmers I wrote to my MEP and asked him to vote against legalising software patents. The European parliament listened, so people with time and money to burn stand a good chance of getting a computer implemented invention patent invalidated because software is mathematics which is not patentable. I have also written to UK MPs and got replies like 'I do not care about that, I just want to send money to Africa', 'programmers do not understand the benefits of the patent system so I am going to spend millions on an advertising campaign to educate them' and 'programmers do not understand patents'.

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Larry Ellison, Oracle and litigation: A business that's not a business

Flocke Kroes
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Itanium Sales

For some reason articles boasting huge Itanium sales do not plaster the internet, but the odd figure can be dug up here and there. Itanium servers do not sell in anything like the quantities of X86_64, but the do sell for vast prices. The figures I found show HP's total Itanium server revenue was well over $3B. Their average profit margin is quite low, but servers were one of their high margin products. If we assume Itanium servers had a similar high margin, then about $3B profit is quite possible.

The damages depend on what extra profit HP would have made if Oracle had met their contractual obligations. If Oracle had maintained a carefully pessimised version of their database for Itanium, and licensed it at triple the cost of builds for other architectures they could have done almost the same amount of damage with much less risk of paying out for breach of contract.

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Pollster who called the EU referendum right: No late Leave swing after all

Flocke Kroes
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Re: anyone can get a winning streak of one

Are you sure? What about Gartner?

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Here's how police arrested Lauri Love – and what happened next

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Re: AC Although the burden of proof lies with Love

dd if=/dev/urandom bs=1024 count=16 | uuencode - | mail -s 'Detonator Delivery Details' mbryant@example.com

When the police tell you to decrypt that or else, what are you going to do?

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Flocke Kroes
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Re: People travelling to the USA

The proposed new form would have the social media fields marked as optional. The assumption is that most people will fill them in without looking to find out what the star refers to. Clearly some children should not be taught how to read.

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Michael Gove says Britain needs to create its own DARPA

Flocke Kroes
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Saw Gove on the news this morning

He talked about how he spoke passionately for having the referendum, MPs being held accountable for their actions and that he would deliver on campaign promises.

For me, the immediate result of the referendum was a hefty kick in the pension fund. I am so glad that he and the other Brexit MPs are going to personally reimburse me. My mum works for the NHS. A week has passed and she has yet to see evidence of the promised £350M extra funding.

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Man sues YET AGAIN for chance to marry his computer

Flocke Kroes
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Marriage has been a range of different things

From certificate of ownership of a woman to a promise to protect children. What one group calls sacred another might call strange, silly or frightening. Marriage has been beautiful for some and a joke to others for decades if not centuries. Thanks to the internet, both points of view are now brought straight to you laptop with pictures.

Today a computer cannot give consent and it cannot care whether it is treated with love or torture. One day it might be possible to replace a brain cell with a circuit that performs identically. Next imagine repeating that procedure billions of times. Is the result an electronic human with rights or a machine with none? I hope the law will be able to make a sensible distinction in time, or Elon will return to Earth to find humans became slaves to robo-butlers after they understood Planet of the Apes.

I have no problem with this guy buying a marriage to his non-sentient computer, or another marrying a tea pot. I have no problem with half the internet laughing at him. Some people will feel threatened by such marriages, just like some people feel threatened by CIA mind control rays broadcast from satellites. Half the internet laughs at them already. (In the UK we laugh silently for fear of being arrested.)

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