* Posts by Hans Mustermann

94 posts • joined 22 Jan 2008


Oz bottle shop falls for 'double your money' scam

Hans Mustermann

People still fall for that scam?

You know what's the saddest? This scam is described in one of O Henry's short and funny stories. I guess those who can't learn from history, really are doomed to repeat it...

Cruises on ex-Soviet space warships offered

Hans Mustermann

Cordite doesn't need oxygen

Cordite doesn't need oxygen, because it's really based on the decomposition of Nitrocellulose. All explosives I know of contain everything they need to "burn", either by containing an oxidiser or by being based on a mollecule which decomposes rapidly. The tiny amount of oxygen inside a firearms cartridge wouldn't even start to be enough or make any difference.

Hans Mustermann

Re: Newtonian Physics

Trust me, they must have known about the basic laws of motion, because:

1. They managed to put the damned things in orbit to start with, and

2. Salyut 3 actually fired that autocannon 3 times at an older Russian satellite, and claimed hits. So, you know, the first two sure didn't seem to send it spinning or anything.

And generally, while there are things sometimes engineers miss, assuming that nobody there would have heard of Newton is a bit presumptuous. Yes, there would be action and reaction, it would change their orbit a little... and that's just the kind of thing they had thrusters for, in the first place.

As for the exact gun, the one on the Salyut 3 was, depending on which source you believe, either a 23mm Nudelmann auto-cannon or a 30mm Nudelmann.

Adobe tries to rub out LibDem airbrush claims

Hans Mustermann

Renaissance women really were insecure

"but as far as we know, there is little evidence of the renaissance obsession with a particular form of female perfection leading to outbreaks of mass insecurity."

You mean other than that they put belladona drops in their eyes to look more like in the paintings? Or that they later ingested dangerous levels of Arsenic to look as pale as was fashionable at the time? Or that they later squeezed their internal organs via a corset, in at least one case down to a 14 inch circumference waist?

I don't know, man... If anyone is at the point of putting deadly poison in their eyes (risking permanent blindness, btw) or in their food or squeezing themselves to the point of needing a "fainting room" everywhere... I'd say they're pretty darned insecure.

Firefox passive-aggressives adjudicate Nerd Law

Hans Mustermann


Well, "ideal world" is an euphemism there, you know.

It's that imaginary world that ad-peddlers try to tell me about, where advertising is good because it actually gives people links to exactly the stuff they always wanted. The world where Grandma actually finds links to the netbook she always wanted, mom finds a link to exactly the kind of recipe book she always wanted, and Junior finds everything except porn... and it's all because of the clever keyword matching, you see. Somehow I'm supposed to believe that they matched _exactly_ the right keywords on that page, and not, say, some unrelated common word on the 10'th paragraph.

And I'm not as much trying to say that it's really an "ideal" place, but really just "that's not the real world as I know it."

And if you think that such an "ideal world" of perfectly useful matches exists only in Phorm's (or other ad-peddler's) PR, well, we're actually going to agree very quickly there.

Hans Mustermann

@Solomon Grundy

Well, I see the point in an imaginary ideal world where that ad is actually of any use to that end. In the real world, online advertising has been just about as useful to me as the proverbial bycicle is to a fish. Why? Because a match that's only _nearly_ good enough -- that is, it matches some unrelated word on the same page -- is at most good for a quick chuckle.

Among my fondly remembered ads on Internet pages:

- I read the lyrics for some gothic suicide-themed song, and the google ads on the side are for sleeping pills. Mildly funny, but not as useful as, say, linking to someone who sells the album.

- I look up "sycophant" on dictionary.com, I get an ad for some children's book about how to become a president. I guess it would explain Dubya.

- I look up "insipid" and get two ads for jewish cuisine. I haven't tasted that stuff yet, but it seems a bit harsh ;)

- I do a search for "Apache jackrabbit" and get a long list of ads to dildo sellers.

And then there were the old EBay match-all-searches ads, which got us such gems as "buy Steve Irwing dead on Ebay", as covered occasionally even on The Reg.

And I'm not even getting into keyword hijacks by competing companies, so googling for "Acer Aspire One" might actually get you ads for some MSI reseller instead.

So, yes, in an ideal world, Grandma would promptly get an ad for a local reseller of that computer. In the real world, the ads will be to some ebay scam, the links to some CounterStrike board where someone mentioned trouble playing it on his Acer Aspire One, and the ads on _that_ one will be to God knows what unrelated thing.

Swiss woman rolled over Facebook

Hans Mustermann


No kidding.

Well, I wouldn't even mind it if they were called just "buddies". Or acquaintances. But what kinda rubs me the wrong way is the devaluing of the word "friend".

It used to mean, as the wisecrack went, "friends help you move, good friends help you move bodies." It used to mean people you could depend on, and at the very least with whom you spent a significant amount of your time. It also did mean you need to spend some significant amount of your time just maintaining a relationship at the level of "friend".

Now apparently it means a complete stranger. It's just another row on another "mine is bigger than yours" list. Someone who, 99% of the time, you don't remember that he even exists, and he doesn't even remember that you exist, and neither would even dream of helping the other in any more significant way than a meaningless thumbs-up on a blog.

Ditto for the whole social networking idea, which takes the madness one level higher. When "friend" still meant something being a friend with a friend of X, still meant _something_. Maybe in some situation your friend would ask his friend for something on your behalf. I was reading some time ago that "friend of a friend" in mafia lingo was someone who, for example, operated a shot "family" member without asking any questions or calling the cops. But again, because the meaning of "friend" was so much more as to actually make a "friend of a friend" mean anything too.

Nowadays you have all these sites peddling the idea that you too can be only 6 degrees of separation from anyone... but it goes through 5-6 hops of complete strangers who are no more to each other than meaningless names on a "mine is bigger than yours" list. When even the first hop probably wouldn't want to have anything more to do with you than have you on a meaningless list, what is the probability that someone 6 hops away will want to have _anything_ at all to do with you by virtue of that connection? Nil. Zero. Nada.

And just to be clear, I'm not against online or virtual friends. But even then I'd expect to be someone you spend _some_ virtual time together, or hang around the same server, IRC channel, WoW guild channel, writing emails to each other every couple of days, or anything else even remotely comparable to what "friend" used to mean. Meaningless names on a list just aren't it. When both have to wonder "who the heck was JohnDoe1234 again?" that just isn't a "friend".

Blizzard: Game designers aren't Shakespeare

Hans Mustermann

What's wrong with Green Hills Of Stranglethorn

"I just read up on that quest to find out what's so bad about it.. Find 28 pages of a book and bring them to some guy. Pages are dropped (at a poor drop rate) by random enemies in the area.

I'm really struggling to see how this is any different to all the other "Bring me X items" quests that basically make up the entirety of all MMORPGs."

The difference is: inventory space.

In a normal "bring me 20 tiger skins" quest, those skins stack and thus take up a single slot in your limited inventory. In the "Green Hills Of Stranglethorn" idiocy, you need 28 different slots. Because a Page 1 stacks only with other Page 1's, but doesn't stack with a Page 5.

To get an idea, as a newbie hunter who just made it to level 30 or so, you might have 1 bag of 16 slots (which you started with) and 3 other bags, say, 12 slots each. Yes, if you have an army of level 80 alts or your friends managed to convince you to take mining and skinning, you'll have money for slightly bigger bags. But if you're a newbie and was retarded enough to insist on taking, say, enchanting, you'll be dirt poor until you're level 70.

At any rate that's 3*12 + 16 = 36 + 16 = 52 inventory spaces _total_.

Asking you to dedicate _more_ _than_ _half_ of them to just one single quest, is freaking retarded.

Bear in mind that you'll also need inventory slots for other quest items, food for the hunter's pet, materials you harvested for your crafting profession, loot, etc.

The second problem is that the damned things drop even if you didn't take the quest, or dropped it. Doing _anything_ in Stranglethorn resulted in gazillions of pages that I didn't need, didn't want, and had to manually keep throwing away so they don't clog my bags.

Google OS gOS - if at first you don't succeed...

Hans Mustermann
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Re: missing the point

Missing the point indeed: if you want that browser up fast so badly that you'd gladly have a whole OS on the hard drive for it... just set that laptop to hibernate (suspend to hard drive) instead of turning it off. There, it wasn't hard. And it needs less space on the hard drive than a Linux partition too. Starts faster than booting any flavour of Linux these days too.

And on the same idea, let's bury the "yeah, but it's supposed to be a second OS" excuse too.

1. You don't need a second OS to fast-start to your browser. See above.

2. Joe Average doesn't want to learn two OS's and configure Firefox and its extensions twice, to do the same job. Joe Average isn't the kind of nerd for which learning a new OS is cool and gives him a topic at his local LUG. Joe Average just wants to get the job done, and if possible never have to learn anything new. He'll just want to learn one set of skills, once, if he can't avoid it completely, and keep re-using it ever after. And if Joe even uses computers in a casual talk, it won't be about the finer points of Gentoo vs Ubuntu, but the (strangely) more socially acceptable nowadays "OMG, computers are hard, I'm not like those nerds who do nothing but learn to configure stuff."

(Yes, depending on your circle of listeners, you may actually get bonus social points for pretending to be computer-illiterate, or outright stupid. For some people it's hard work to seem or stay that incompetent with computers.)

3. The dismissive generalizations like "bah, they only need a browser and email" we like to do about casual computer users are invariably false. Yes, someone might spend 80% of their time in a browser, but then they'll want to edit the Excel or Powerpoint presentation they were going to a client for in the first place. (And while Linux does have OOo as a nice alternative, Google's web-based ones aren't even close.)

4. So basically to get any actual work done, you have to pay for two OS's? Because pay you will, one way or another. E.g., if you're not going to _pirate_ Windows, buying such an idiocy with gOS pre-installed means you pay a few bucks for the OEM version of gOS... and then get to buy Windows at retail price. That saving was passed to you as a loss.

Why not just stick with one OS which can do both browsing and everything else? Even if it has to be Linux. Heck, I'm writing this in Opera on a SUSE 10.0 Linux box, so I'm not fundamentally opposed to it or anything. But it'll still be a full OS, not an idiocy which boots up the browser.

And at least with a Linux box you can keep your fingers crossed and hope that someone might actually learn to use it, and stick with it. But shipping a cripped browser-machine is just begging for Joe Average to buy the only OS he knows about: Windows. Or, even more likely, just return the useless thing.

So basically the whole idea of a stripped-down OS that runs only the browser seems like a perfect fit for a column called "Fail And You." In fact, it's so bloody stupid that it would deserve an "Epic Fail And You".

Snipers - Cowardly assassins, or surgical soldiers?

Hans Mustermann
Dead Vulture

just as a small nitpick

Just as a small nitpick,

1. The mentality that most fights happen under 300m isn't really a Cold War era idea, but also why WW2 used SMGs. And not just the Schmeisser; the Russians produced far more of their own burp-guns, the Brits produced quite a few Stens, and the Americans developed the grease-guns because the Thompsons were too expensive and slow to produce for how many the army wanted. Also why it culminated with the invention of the assault rifle.

But even WW2 didn't produce that idea. The Thompson itself was born out of a WW1 need for a "trench broom", i.e., something to put a lot of bullets in the air at close ranges.

2. The designated marksman rifle isn't just for short range sniping, or it would be a bolt action rifle for maximum accuracy. It's also for suppression. Psychologically, a "sniper" ranks up there with heavy machineguns for suppression factor.

3. Calling "snipers" murderers is at least as old as the American Independence War, where brits with muskets without sights (not that you'd have use for sights on a musket, given that the only way to be hit by a musket ball was if it was aimed at someone else) called the Minutemen murderers for having rifled guns with iron sights.

I guess it's just that most people have this aversion towards killing someone personally. Probably more people got PTSD ("shell shock") because they shot someone point blank, than because of being shelled by MLRS.

That, in turn, is known at least as early a the Roman Legion. The Romans rotated ranks in the middle of the battle, so their soldiers wouldn't get a nervous breakdown from all the killing. For all the willy-waving about being the sons of Mars and all that, when push came to shove, even for them it was pure stress.

The aircraft and airstrip crews, and often even those soldiers with assault rifles and machineguns, have an element of plausible deniability. You can lie to yourself that maybe it wasn't your bullet that killed that guy, or maybe those kids in that bombed school weren't hit by the bomb _you_ loaded, etc.

Or if you will, it's why a few weapons in almost all firing squad were loaded with blanks. Even though anyone who's fired a rifle can tell the difference, each soldier can still lie to himself that _his_ gun had a blank.

Or if that doesn't work, you can convince yourself that it was self-defense. That guy was trying to shoot you, so you shot him first.

What I'm trying to say is that the loathing of snipers doesn't necessarily have anything to do with numbers of kills. It's got to do with knowing that someone can calmly look you in the eyes (through a scope) and squeeze the trigger. Even if you're no danger to him, due to different weapon ranges. And then he can do it again. That's unsettling people.

Linux weaktops poised for death by smartphone

Hans Mustermann

@Not Quite

Actually, sad to say, there are quite a few techies which suffer from techno-utopianism. That misguided belief that the 'net is the alpha and omega, the best thing that happened to humanity since inventing writing, and that a billion monkeys twitting to each other and editing each other's wiki pages will user in an a golden age of enlightenment and progress like you've never seen before. It will solve world hunger, cure AIDS and cancer, etc. And verily the same guys who can't even write a page worth reading otherwise, will produce literary works better than Goethe, Shakespeare and Homer put together, if you put them on a networked computer.

To be nasty: I guess when your only "life" is online, and it's the only place where anyone takes you seriously, it's easy to fall to the delusion that that's the real thing and RL was just an unfortunate prelude to it.

To be sure, there are plenty of marketroids too, who just see it as "target market segment." Not going to disagree with you there. But among those techies that you mention as rolling their eyes, there'll be one who's already getting delusions of it being the thing that triggers the next golden age of humanity.

German boffins plan frictionless liquid crystal lubricant

Hans Mustermann

@Sceptical Bastard

Sorry to rain about your parrade about poison gas, but the first one who advocated using chlorine gas (you know, the same that would later be actually used in WW1) against the enemy was... John Doughty, a school teacher from New York, during the American Civil War. Later at the Hague Conference in 1899, guess who voted against forbidding shells filled with asphixiating gas? Right, the USA, on grounds that, "the inventiveness of Americans should not be restricted in the development of new weapons."

So, sad to say,

1. Germany didn't invent that idea. That merit goes to the "inventiveness of Americans".

2. The idea was actually applied some decade and a half after the whole world was already seriously aware of the possibility.

(And just so I don't bash the USA alone, other countries had their own apologists of poison gas attacks. I seem to remember some French utopianism (or dystopianism) where future wars would be won by massive poison gas attacks and cavalry charges on bycicles.)

Or do you mean Gas Chambers? You know who invented that one? The USA again. Execution by gas chamber was first used in the 1920's in the USA.

So again, Germany sadly can't claim to have invented that one, and merely copied the fruits of the good ol' "inventiveness of Americans." When it comes to killing each other, you can trust America to have the good ideas first. Kudos, and all that.

Debian components breach terms of GPLv2

Hans Mustermann

So get gentoo, if you're that paranoid

"How do we know these mismatched binaries don't include some sort of malware?"

So get gentoo (http://www.gentoo.org/) if you're that paranoid, and compile everything yourself. Of course, just compiling KDE or Gnome take an afternoon, and OOo isn't much faster either. And generally, it's the choice for tough guys whose time is worth nothing, and who think the stone age and chipping your own flint spearhead was the golden age of user-friendliness.

But in the end, it boils down to trust. If you don't trust Debian's binaries as they are, why would they trust them with sources included? Just because both the source and the program say version, isn't some kind of foolproof guarantee that noone added a bit of malicious code without changing the version number.

Heck, even if you compile everything from scratch, if you use their compiler to start the whole thing, I'll kindly point out the ancient story of the compiler which would:

1. add a backdoor to the login handling, when it recognized that piece of code, and

2. added a bit of extra code to handle 1 and 2 to its own code, when compiling itself.

So you'd look at the sources of the compiler and see nothing wrong. The malicious bits were removed from the source after compiling the malicious executable, since they weren't needed any more: the "infected" compiler would add those bits anyway when compiling itself. compile them with itself, and get a bit more than the sources said you'd get.

How paranoid do you want to be there? Which starting point would you really trust, to start that cycle from?

Or you could just realize that the Debian guys probably have better fish to fry than pwning your computer to send viagra spam ;)

Google penetrates fake sex world with Lively

Hans Mustermann

My take on WOW vs TSO

Well, I'll lump all these 3D social worlds under "The Sims Online", because once you remove the "OMG, you could make real money out of it" BS out of SL, that's sorta what you get.

Now let's compare them to other online worlds.

1. MMOs. IMHO they aren't just successful because people are playing a game for score. Well, ok, indirectly it is. The thing is, the "game" aspect influences the social aspect too. It gives everyone a common topic to talk to, and a reason to talk to perfect strangers.

It's, IMHO, a bit like going at a, say, dog owners' club or a linux users' group. You can always start a talk about dogs or respectively linux. You have a common topic right there.

Further more, the game aspect gives you a reason or excuse to organize groups, have common events, have some chat channels you can join, etc.

Even IRC is sorted into channels based on some topic. So if you know your interests are, say, WoW and cats, you can look for a channel having either for a topic.

By comparison, think of being dumped in a foreign city where you don't know anyone and have no idea what anyone is interested in, or why would they even want to talk to you. Chances are none of us would even try talking to random people on the street. We'll just stick to doing what we came there for, and bugger off as soon as we're done with that.

Well, big surprise that people buggered off from TSO and the like.

And I'll say that it's not very surprising that the only ones happy to stay in such a foreign town where nobody knows them, is those looking for that kind of anonymity and chance to be someone else. E.g., those looking for sex, antisocial fuckwits, and a few other categories.

2. MUDs and IRC.

While both overlap the previous point a bit, they have another thing going for them: they've got a superb chat interface.

Think about it. All the 3D interface and 3D world to navigate, and whatnot, only get in the way when you just want to chat. If I want to chat to someone, I want to just start typing and there better be as little as possible that gets in the way, or steals screen space from the chat. Basically my first choice would be some kind of IM (I'm open to pretty much any of them), followed by a clean chat interface like IRC or a MUD.

Games like WoW have the saving grace that there is actually a game that uses that 3D interface. It's one good excuse to put up with it. In a 3D world that doesn't actually have a game, that excuse just vanishes. Why do I need all that extra baggage and why should I learn extra skills, if I can have that social chat without them just the same? In fact, even better.

Man barred from posting crimes on YouTube

Hans Mustermann
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@David Wiernicki

Actually, despite what it's name might suggest, an ASBO isn't actually an order to behave antisocially, or indeed to do anything at all. It's a court order to stop doing something.

I.e., an ASBO _can't_ tell you to come to London on a Tuesday and wear a pink hat, or indeed to do anything at all. It can only tell you to stop doing something.

And in that aspect, it's not that fundamentally different from US justice or anything else. An US court of law can order you to stop stalking your ex-girlfriend and/or to stop making any contact with her, for example. Or they can order you to never be within X miles of any place with children (apparently in at least one county the only place that's ok is under a bridge) if you peed in public. Civil cases can (and routinely do) also effectively result in being ordered to do something, or stop doing something, or it can be a part of the settlement.

Or you can get effectively an implicit ASBO, so to speak, via "three strike laws", parole checks, etc. There's an implicit "if we catch you doing illegal stuff again, you're getting some extra jail time", even if it's not a formal ASBO like in the UK.

In this case, slice it as you want, they've effectively told this guy "ok, we're calling you before a court, and if you're doing any of that shit again in the meantime, you're getting some extra jail time." I'm guessing that ASBO or not, the outcome would be the same in any western legal system. (And probably everywhere else too.) If you're called to court for stealing cars, and steal another car to get there, I'm guessing you'll get slapped harder by any judge in the world. Adding an ASBO to it just makes it formal, so the retard can't pretend that he still didn't know he's not supposed to do that.

Now I'm not saying Britain's system is flawless, or that it doesn't produce some hilarious mis-applications of the system. But please at least have some clue what you're talking about, before letting it rip with the "your government" comments. Criticizing any country or government or legal system based on little more than your own imagination about how it works, is kinda silly, ya know?

Son of 419 victim contacts El Reg

Hans Mustermann
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@Anonymous Coward

While that may be a theoretical possibility, I have trouble seeing many people of outstanding honesty and integrity going too far down the path of _that_ particular scam. It almost invariably boils down to details along the lines of "see, if we gave just one more bribe, we could embezzle millions." Even the very starting premise of that scam is that of, basically, "help me bypass the law and launder some money through a foreign account." That's invariably what the starting email asks you to do.

In this case, well, I don't know the Indian law, but a bunch of other posters have pointed out that he _had_ to break or circumvent Indian laws too, to get that much money transferred abroad. Not entirely "lawful good", if you know what I mean.

I'm sorry, but anyone taking part in that... I don't know if they pride themselves in their honesty and integrity, but they prove amply that they didn't have either.

Hans Mustermann
Dead Vulture

@Sarah Bee

With all due respect, Sarah, as I was saying, these people are usually taken in by their own greed _and_ dishonesty. They're the guys who were planning to get the hundreds of millions transferred into their bank account, and then thumb their nose at the widow or heir of the late Nigerian banker/minister/don. They're not stupid victims, they're stupid would-be crooks.

I know that these emails aren't real, but they didn't. They genuinely believed that there is a widow or heir or whatever in need of help, and decided to rob them in their hour of need. I can't express in words the kind of contempt that I feel for that kind of scum.

Do I have even a shred of pity for them? No, not really. I don't feel any pity for the wannabe robber who showed his ID when robbing a liquour store either. Like the robber, they freaking deserve it. If not for being stupid, for trying to be crooks.

"Ah, well, just be grateful you're not that desperate."

You mean be grateful that I'm not simultaneously (A) stupid, and (B) a dishonest prick? Well, I guess I'll give my parents thanks for the education, then :P

Hans Mustermann

@Anonymous John

"So what does he expect El Reg to suggest?"

Maybe something along the lines of: well, mate, this might be a good time to shake his hand, tell him how much you love him, forgive and forget, etc. That way you won't end up feeling as guilty after he's gone ;)

Also realize that he _is_ an idiot, he should have known better (including that there's a reason why "greed" made it into the top 7 deadly sins), and that he got shafted by his own greed.

And _probably_ he had the intention to shaft someone else in their moment of misfortune. How many of those falling for 419 scams actually plan to give the 100 million to the widow/heir of the late Nigerian banker/minister/whatever, once it's transferred "through" their account? I'll take a bet that the reason this scam works is that most people don't think "well, it's only neighbourly and christian to help the widow in her hour of need", but rather the dishonest, "muahaha, if she's so stupid as to transfer that money to me, let's see her try to get even a cent back." That's what gets them so in a hurry to pay any ridiculous fee, get loans they can't pay, etc: the prospect of shafting someone else out of a heck of a lot of money.

What really damns them, and why I don't have even a tiny iota of compassion for them, isn't their stupidity, but rather their own dishonesty. They're not simply stupid victims, they're stupid crooks. They rank up there with the guys that went and tried to rob a bank with a ransom note written on the back of a check they had signed.

But anyway, he _is_ an adult, makes his own decisions, and should know that sometimes others _can_ bail you out of anything you blindly run into. If he runs into traffic, he should expect that he might run over. If he plays golf in a thunderstorm, he might find out that Zeus and Thor have a name for that metal club: target. And if he borrows 10 times more money than he can give back, well, he can expect to be screwed. And sometimes neither his friends, nor his family can save him, and we perfect strangers on an IT site will just have a hearty laugh at his expense. That's life. He should have used his head _before_ doing something stupid, really.

Accept that. He made his decisions, he gets to live or die with the results. If the decision is to commit suicide, well, the same applies.

Hans Mustermann

It's a funny world

Well, it's a funny world. I'd _love_ to think that noone is as stupid as to still fall for a 419, or pyramid schemes, or stock spam, etc. The fact is, people do.

I personally know someone who nearly fell victim to a pyramid scheme. I mean, you'd think anyone understand exponents and why they don't work, right? And in this case it was a smart person (or someone I had previously considered smart) _and_ who usually was the one convincing gullible people to buy snake oil they don't need. But raise the greed bar high enough, and it basically outright shut down her brains. There was no talking her out of "but I could win millions if I get into it _now_!!!" She understood exponents all right, but essentially greed was enough to make her live in a wishful-thinking reality-distortion bubble in which she can get her share before someone else gets the shaft.

I personally know two people who got into the dot-com scam very late, in 1999, when the bubble was already deflating fast. Eventually the "but if we just make a useless site and have an IPO, people will give us hundreds of millions for nothing" clouded their judgment, and they made a company with that as their _sole_ business plan. They'll have an IPO and people will give them millions. What next? They didn't know. Unlike the average dot-commer, though, these guys hadn't even figured out the part where they just sell their shares and retire with a ton of unearned money. They dumped so much of their own money into building that scam, that they actually made such a loss that... well, let's say both still take the bus to work because they can't afford a car.

Or if I'm allowed to use stuff from the news, you only need to look eastwards, towards Eastern Europe. Almost all the countries there were swept by a wave of scams after communism went away. IIRC in the 90's there were some pretty nasty riots in Albania, for example, because a signifficant proportion of the population had impoverished themselves by taking part in some brain-dead pyramid schemes. Apparently with the government's blessing, given enough bribes, which is why the rioting against the government followed.

Incidentally that also provides IMHO enough of the counter-example to the "but noone in India has that much money" posts. Some people do. Some people (even in the West) went and mortgaged their house, or embezzled money from work, or dealt with some nasty loan sharks to pursue the elusive goal of getting some millions for nothing. I have no trouble believing that the same would happen in India too.

This guy in India probably went to a dozen different loan sharks (I don't think any bank would ask for 4x the loan as payment, for a short term loan), each thinking that he's the only one lending him money, and thus that he's probably within how much he can pay. (By selling his house, car, etc.) And now he probably can't pay them _all_, and, well, unless he kills himself, any one of them will be perfectly happy to assist him.

The funny thing is that in the above Eastern European example, I think that the poorest countries got hit the worst. I guess it's easier to shrug off the temptation of a few million, when you're already living a good life as a middle class western guy/gal. But for some of those people, the money can make a difference between complete poverty and (by their standards and perceptions) a life of luxury. They'll get their greed triggered by a lot lesser sums.

Well, I guess probably the best way to summarise the already huge post is: think Hanlon's Razor. Never attribute to malice, that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Some people are genuinely that stupid.

And no, I don't propose to save them from their own stupidity.

Lightning-zapgun maker gets more US gov cash

Hans Mustermann
Dead Vulture


"Fund an infinite number of ludicrous ideas and one of them is bound to work eventually...."

In an ideal world, it would work like that. In the real world, sadly, it's more like: Fund an infinite number of ludicrious ideas, and every single scammer and con artist will make up some research to get that money.

Essentially we've seen this already in the Dot Com bubble. As it became obvious that you can get a lot of VC money just for being a dot-com with no further business, plan, companies were formed with just that as their sole business plan. I remember briefly working for a dot-com which literally, had only that plan: we'll have an IPO and get hundreds of millions for having a web-site! I was at the grand christmas party and the CEO and head accountant came on the stage and proclaimed that as the grand future of the company.

So, well, I would at least _hope_ that the government brings a scientist along and wants to see some proof of concept before forking over the dough.

Exec sounds death knell for games consoles

Hans Mustermann

follow the money

Actually, way I see it. He _was_ at MS's console division, left it, formed his online gaming company. And what does he say? Consoles are dead, online gaming is TEH FUTURE!

Is anyone really that suprised there?

I mean, seriously, if I were to leave the X business and make a Y company instead, that's probably what I'd try to tell the investors too: well, see, X is as good as dead, any day now, Y is TEH FUTURE! Gimme some venture capital already.

For him, X is consoles and Y is online gaming. It could be anything else. Apples and oranges, gizmos and doohickeys, whatever.

Now maybe he actually believes that, or maybe he's just trying to get a chunk of money and then get bought by MS or Sony for an even bigger chunk. It doesn't matter. It's nevertheless what I'd _expect_ him to say. "This new thing I'm making, it's TEH FUTURE!"

I'd be more surprised if he _didn't_ make exactly that prophecy.

Laser designated step'n'fetch wrinkle-robutler shown

Hans Mustermann
Thumb Up

Better yet

Better yet, what happens if you deliberately point the pointer at someone's foot? Or better yet, at their crotch?

Forget the old people, I wants one.

'Freetard ? more like advert programmed PAYTARDS!'

Hans Mustermann

Fits the pattern

Actually, this fits exactly what I tried to post when the article appeared, but the posting option disappeared.

I've seen exactly this kind of behaviour before, for example on various video games' chat rooms and forums. Invariably there'd be some... well, the most retarded kind of pirates, the kind which couldn't even find a crack on their own. So they'd come over with ridiculous excuses, like "I threw away the jewel case before installing the game", and ask that someone gives them a serial number.

And invariably, if you cornered them before a moderator woke up and kicked them out, it boiled out to exactly the argument from this FOTW: you're all retarded to pay for something you could steal.

The music freetards have long enjoyed a wider selection of strawmen in their arguments. It's a gift culture. (Sorry, I know about potlatch cultures, they don't work that way.) It's fighting the villainous publishers. It's a fight for freedom. (E.g., from DRM... on non-DRM-ed CDs.) It's creating a new, more efficient/democratic/fair/techno-utopian distribution model. Etc.

But I always suspected that if you somehow managed to cut a pirate off at the pass and not let him use the canned strawmen, it would really boil down to the same fundamentally sociopathic attitude: if you can steal it, you'd have to be retarded to pay for it.

I didn't think I'd see someone actually manage to counter those strawmen in my lifetime, but, lo, apparently it's possible. And the FOTW promptly came with the exact kind of argument I was expecting to hear.

Malaysian woman jailed for worshipping teapot

Hans Mustermann


"The sad face 'cos if Islam is as good as they claim then they wouldn't need to worry about apostasy."

Actually, way I see it, it has nothing to do with the Islam. People "convert" from all sorts of things to all sorts of other things, for various reasons ranging from pragmatic to delusional. I have a coworker who switched from worshipping Linux and Tux and being a foaming-at-the-mouth Linux zealot, to basically "Linux is crap for idiots, OpenBSD is the One True OS, and Theo de Raad is its prophet." Some people "convert" from being western citizens with human rights and stuff, to supporting some deranged religion and terrorism. Etc. No matter how good an idea (religious or otherwise) is to you or me, someone out there will renounce it for something else.

The real (bad) joke is claiming to grant freedom of religion while having apostasy laws. People get baptized/declared/whatever by their parents to some religion, before they can even understand what that means at all, and then they get threatened with long jail sentences if they dare renounce that religion. It seems to me that most of the population effectively has zero freedom there. Someone else decided for them what they have to worship, and are threatened with nasty stuff if they even think of making their own choice.

I'm sorry, but that's not freedom of religion in any form or shape. That's just an uneasy concession to the western colonial powers along the lines of, "Ok, ok, we won't try to kill you for being non-muslims." To their own natives, effectively they didn't grant any freedom, and aren't going to grant any.

Terrorist robots dissected - anatomy of a scare

Hans Mustermann
Dead Vulture

Re: V1

"The V1 was tactically a failure. Strategically it was worse.

It cost lots, was inaccurate (it MISSED london frequently) and its only danger was hearing the buzz stop."

1. It only missed London because of good counter-intelligence convincing the Nazis that they overshot, so they sent the next wave short. Even with that primitive tech, it was actually pretty feasible to make it drop roughly where you wanted it.

2. We're talking about a V1 with GPS this time, rendering the whole inaccuracy argument moot.

3. Believe it or not, the Tomahawk and the like aren't too far off from being just that. Essentially, ever since WW2, every single major military in the world, including the UK and the USA have dumped a bunch of money into (A) making a better V1, and (B) figuring out how to defend against a better V1. So surely the idea must have _some_ merits ;)

Hans Mustermann
Thumb Down

Re: Nonsense

"Todays enthusiast isn't limited by technology or money, he's limited by imagination. Same with the terroists really, if they can't imagine it they can't do it. Fortunatley the people with the imaginations tend to imagine their way out of the fundamentalist mentality quite quickly."

Well, or some of them end up in positions where they use that imagination to think up counter-measures. That's incidentally one of the main real reasons why we don't need to worry much: because for every Baldrick with a cunning plan on their side, we have a few guys of our own who already figured out that possibility and came up with a few cunning plans of their own to deal with it.

E.g., what seems utterly lost on Lewis is that the army, well, that's what they _do_: think up plans.

Because _if_ the shit ever hits the fan, you don't want to be paralyzed while you figure out what to do. Being caught without a plan is how Poland and France got pwned in WW2: by the time they finally figured out how to react, it was too late.

By contrast, when Japan in WW2 started their clever plan of how to deal with the US battleships... guess what? Someone at the US Navy already had a plan. It was battle plan orange, IIRC.

From the lowly individual soldier (you want him to just instinctively know what to do in the most common situations) to whole armies and taskforces. You want that shit thought up in advance, and drilled in advance.

If tomorrow he dwarves started pouring out from under mountains, and the elves came out of the woods riding unicorns, probably someone at some HQ already has some plan for _that_ scenario too. Or knows which other plan can be modified for that situation.

It's what they _do_. It's what we pay them for.

Most of those plans will never be used, but that's ok. We don't want more wars, after all. But if just one of them happens to be the right one, it can save you a lot of headaches.

In this case, _if_ it ever happens, yeah, I'd want a general to come out and say the magic words, "We Have A Plan." Even if it's about putting up GPS jammers, I want them to have thought up in advance where, how powerful, and how to deal with toy planes that got past those anyway. I want them to already have figured out what caliber guns to use on them, and how to drill the soldiers to shoot them down.

Again, that's what their job _is_.

But that all seems lost on Lewis and the general "OMG, anyone thinking about anything is an idiot" tone that The Register took in the last couple of years. Anyone doing any research must be an arse clown, and anyone thinking about potential military threats must be a scare-monger, right?

Hans Mustermann
Thumb Down


"Second: I am sure dozens of volunteers would be available to take positions around sensitive areas with nothing more than a shotgun using a heavy bird shot. These Helicopters are extremely sensitive to the slightest damage and could be easily disabled."

If they're RF helicopters, yes. If it's a plywood cruise missile with a pulsejet, no, you're going to do jack squat with your bird shot.

Look up the V1. It wasn't that long ago. And it used a pulse jet too.

It was a royal headache to shoot down without some heavier radar-guided artillery. Even 20mm holes from aircraft mounted autocannons didn't actually do that much. It could have several of those right through the pulsejet and still fly merrily. Unless you managed to actually set off its warhead, it just shrugged it all off.

Just about the only relatively good counter-measure the RAF came up with, was flying next to it, and pushing one of its wings up with the tip of your own wings. Basically turn it upside down, so it flies into the ground somewhere before it reaches a city.

I'd like to see you do that with volunteers ;)

Just as reference: a pulsejet is just about the simplest jet engine you can think up. It's just a length of pipe with a valve at the forward-pointing end. Air flows in through there, you inject fuel, ignite it, the resulting pressure closes the valve so the blast can only go out the other end. Then the pressure drops, the valve opens, and the whole cycle repeats again.

That's what made the V1 buzz, btw. The many explosions per second in its pulsejet.

It's a very robust thing too, unlike the complicated turbojets used on normal planes.

Since it's a metal pipe, you won't shoot that down with bird shot. And since most of the thrust is really generated by the first 1-2 inches of it, even riddling it with holes won't reduce its thrust by that horribly much anyway.

Finally, as an ex-AA guy with some training on the subject matter, I can tell you that shooting down anything that flies isn't that easy. We wouldn't need things like the phalanx system and sophisticated tracking computers, if any hunter with iron sights could do the same and just as reliably.

Hans Mustermann
Thumb Down

and a rifle is useless because it can't hit the moon, right?

Lewis, while I appreciate your military background and all, methinks you grasp at straws sometimes in your crusade. If you need to invent an arbitrarily impossible target, like absolutely needing to hit the prime minister or it's a failure, it's a bogus analysis. I hope you realize that by using similarly bogus, arbitrarily chosen targets, you can claim that any weapon ever invented is bogus.

- artillery? Useless stuff. It could probably fire for half an hour and still not hit the prime minister. And by then the counter-battery fire will have nailed them.

- military cruise missiles? Useless crap. They hit within 3 metres too, at best. That is, when they don't hit the wrong building entirely, like some did in Iraq.

- aircraft? Now that's such useless crap that it shouldn't have even been invented. I mean, you bombed Germany for how many years, and not a single bomb hit Hitler? And the Luftwaffe utterly failed to nail Churchill too, for that matter.

Heck, we can ditch explosives entirely, because the aforementioned short-moustache guy survived a blast right in the room he was in, in one of the coup attempts. I figure your PM could too, then.

So let's ditch all those, and go back to good ol' black-powder front-loader muskets. Oops, those suck too. They were such a formation-only weapon that you Brits didn't bother putting iron sights on yours during, say, the americans' rebellion. You just couldn't aim with one at 100m. Chance of hitting the prime minister with one? Pretty much nil.

Ok, let's go back to longbows then. Nah, those are crap too. While they could have accuracy _or_ range, they didn't have both. You're not gonna accurately nail the prime minister with one unless you're so close that his bodyguards can rush you.

Stone-tipped spears? Nah, those won't put a hole in the limo.

Well, I guess that settles it. We can forget warfare, there are no weapons that fit Lewis Page's standards.

To get back to the topic at hand, you don't need to nail the PM to cause a stampede and a media hysteria. If that contraption can guide itself to a crowded place (e.g., to a demonstration or political rally) and explode, you have all the terror you need and then some. Even with a grenade sized warhead.

Will it be the end of the UK as we know it? Well, no. Obviously not. But that doesn't mean that it can't cause a bit of panic, same as any other terror attack.

Basically, to put it a lot less nicely, I know you're only trolling for ad views, but you can do a better job. You're a big boy, plus you know stuff about explosives and stuff. You can do better sophistry, and less blatant fallacies, than "but it couldn't hit the prime minister!"

'Googirl' unloads on Google Health

Hans Mustermann
Thumb Down

ad hominem?

Try as I might, I fail to see how it's relevant to the idea of Google Health that:

- some journalist made a pretty horrible pun at her expense, or

- such details as what's her favourite colour.

The idea either stands on its own merits, or it doesn't. Bashing it because of who announced it is already an ad-hominem. Basing it on little more "bad" about the person than that some stupid headline someone else thought up at their expense, makes it even more surrealistic.

The more relevant fact is: Google has a horrible attitude towards privacy. It's the same company which still engages in "well, you might change your IP, so it's not an ID" sophistry when asked to remove your searches from their servers. It's the same company which still refuses to actually delete your searches even after 18 months, and argues that if they changed a bit of the address, it's anonymized enough. It's the same company who took such unilateral steps as suddenly sharing all one's feeds with world+dog. Etc.

Google doesn't seem interested in much more than figuring out how to give you an ad you might click on. Even if they don't bend over and hand over the data to the highest bidder, you don't really know who internally gets to peruse it all in the name of figuring out how to parse it for an ad.

Basically are very valid concerns with the service itself. Regardless of whether someone called their VP "Googirl" or "Mother Theresa". It doesn't mater. People with sillier nicknames or favourite colours have done good, and a lot more respectable people have done evil, or at least major blunders with someone else's data.

AI prof: The robot terrorists are coming! Aiee!

Hans Mustermann
Thumb Down

@Jon Tocker

The problem is that what you make there, and indeed what Lewis Page does, is build a ridiculous straw-man out of wildly unrelated bits and pieces. You take several unrelated scenarios that the professor thought up, and making up your own HK-47 out of them.

The linked press release makes _no_ mention of zoomorphic or anthropomorphic robots at all. In fact it only mentions one thing: the cruise missile I've already detailed twice. Nothing more. That's it.

But nah, that wouldn't let Lewis stroke his ego and go "omg, some scientist is stupid." So he has to scavenge a piece of a _different_ scenario, and make a strawman out of those bits and pieces. They're not even related in any form or shape, other than being by the same author.

Which is as bloody stupid as making up your own mixture of bits and parts of "Hansel and Grettel", "Cinderella", "The Valliant Little Tailor" and "Snow White", just because they're all by the Grimm brothers. And then going, basically, "omg, what a stupid story about dwarves in glass slippers, battling flies and feeding bits of a house to kids. The Grimm brothers must be soo stupid." Well, no, the only ridiculous thing is building that kind of a Frankenstein's strawman out of disjointed unrelated parts.

If you guys want to shoot down his ideas -- and God knows each of them has its own faults and weak points -- at least have the decency to take them as they are. Not editing together unrelated stories into something you feel safe enough to attack.

Hans Mustermann

It doesn't have to aim at moving targets

"As for ease of building - wheeling around at random is easy, and stopping bumping into walls is also fairly easy. Locating and aiming at a moving object is significantly harder though, to the extent that if you're interested in doing it, you're probably already doing it professionally. Of course you could just drop something programmed to spin round in a circle in "spray-and-pray" mode, but folks will get away from it pretty quickly, and you might as well just do a drive-by anyway if that's all it is."

All pretty insightful and all, but, really, it doesn't have to aim at anything moving to cause a media ruckus and a bunch of doomsday prophets.

At the most basic level, what you need is something that goes BANG. Loudly. If it produces shrapnel, even better. Pretty much even gunpowder in a steel tube. If you mill it a bit to get, basically, a frag grenade, even better.

And you need a sort of vehicle that will carry it to either a public place, or near enough to someone.

The latter is actually easier than it sounds. Think a roomba with an explosive in it, and program it to detonate when it hits anything that wasn't there less than X seconds before. Meaning either it's someone's leg, or someone just pulled a chair. As a backup, make it blow up if someone tries to turn it off. Let one of them loose in a pub, and you have a guaranteed media hysteria.

Or think the poor-sod's-cruise-missile I've described before: a wooden airplane model with a pulsejet. If it can bring a grenade to anywhere near a demonstration or political rally, you have pretty much guaranteed hysteria. No image recognition required, just a PDA with GPS.

Just to make things clear: I'm _not_ advocating terrorism, the above is just an idle "ad absurdum" exercise. I'm not even saying that any terrorists would actually do that, since "forgetting" a backpack in the subway does the same job cheaper. Just saying that you wouldn't really need advanced image recognition, or indeed even a camera at all, if you really wanted to make a terrorist robot.

Hans Mustermann

"Robot" doesn't have to mean SW droids, you know

So far I see that the most ridicule comes from the corner of people assuming that "robot" means some Terminator, or SW-style war-droid, or at least some sophisticated robo-tank.

Counter-point: the Roomba is a robot. The V1 was, more or less, a robot, and it didn't even have a computer. A mechanical arm with a drill is an "industrial robot". Anything that can perform a task autonomously without human intervention is a "robot".

Basically methinks the whole problem is one of communication. The good professor uses one (perfectly good) definition of "robot", while the leering public has images of HK-47 floating through their head.

The fact is, it _is_ easy to make an autonomous bomb. It won't be like the droids in SW Episode 1, but it will get the job done.

E.g., a pulsejet engine can be made in your garage from little more than a piece of pipe, and that's the engine that powered the V1. It's so robust that it can still generate some thrust after it's been riddled with holes by a machinegun. If you want to make a "robot" bomb, the fancy way is to strap a PDA with GPS to a model plane with that pulse jet and a bomb. With a bit of software hacking, you've just made your own GPS-guided cruise missile, basically.

The even less glamorous version is to just do what the Nazis did, and use a mini-propeller to measure the distance, then shut down the engine after that's done a number of turns. Not entirely accurate, but it can do the job of lobbing a bomb over a few kilometres. It already did that in WW2, after all.

An even simpler version can be the same on a model boat, or on a motor boat for bigger loads. Again, you only need a GPS-capable PDA and a couple of motors, to make a boat follow any course you want to, completely without human intervention.

With a bit more fanciful thinking and design, you can make it a (partially) submerged torpedo instead.


Now I'm not saying that the terrorists will actually do any of those. Probably not worth the effort.

But I am saying that an autonomous bomb _can_ be done with off-the shelf components, if anyone actually wanted to. Heck, you can get half the job done with Lego mindstorm components.

But more importantly I'm saying that "robot" doesn't have to mean androids. A roomba with a bomb on it would qualify as a "terrorist" robot perfectly well.

Sun will swallow Earth: Official

Hans Mustermann

Yes and no

"Information for Informations sake is UTTERLY worthless."

Well, no, curiosity is still a valuable trait.

And often something good comes out of such studying things that aren't immediately of practical importance. E.g., we only have modern mechanics at all because someone worried about such esoteric and useless (at that moment) as what rotates around what in the sky, whether the sky can change over time (it was previously thought that other than the planets, everything else is basically a texture rotating around Earth), or where does a cannonball fall after all if you drop it from the mast of a moving ship. I mean, from a pragmatic point of view, why would you want to? But it all furthered our undestanding of how things work, and had practical applications much later. Plus, as an even nicer side-effect, it brought down the edifice of Aristotelian "science" based on nothing more than thinking about how things should work in a nicely designed universe, and replaced it with the proper scientific method.

Is this calculation equally important? Maybe, maybe not. Who knows, we might eventually find out that some practical observation contradicts such a calculated result, and end up with some better science as a result. And in turn, if we ever start having interstellar travel, we might actually have a use for better understanding the forces and phenomena at those scales.

It's useless to worry about it, but that's an entirely different thing.

That said, I do find it funny that some people do worry about what will happen in 5 billion years, or indeed 100 billion years. There was for example this thread long ago on Slashdot about how in 100 billion years other galaxies will be too far away to be observed, and people were genuinely worrying about how to pass that piece of information to the people living 100 billion years in the future. 'Cause, you know, otherwise they might end up with a theocracy or something.

Pentagon: Bullseyed turkey-sat pieces will all burn up

Hans Mustermann

@Richie M

Well, nothing simply stays up there, in the sat's path. It has to be in orbit, i.e., to move, to stay up there. Otherwise gravity does its dirty job and brings it right back down.

So, I'm guessing that it was effectively in orbit at the same altitude as the sat. Probably going the other way around, so they actually meet. In which case, it was as much coming at the sat as the sat was coming at it.

In other words, you can stop feeling cheated, mate ;)

Morocco jails Facebook faker

Hans Mustermann
Dead Vulture

@The Aussie Paradox

That people lie about themselves, is one thing. That people lie about someone else, is already distasteful. I know it can't be stopped, but it _is_ distasteful, and we already have libel and slander laws that cover that. That someone would impersonate someone else to ruin their reputation, thus giving their libel an air of official truth too, I find the most distasteful of all.

Hans Mustermann

Kind of mixed feelings

I have kind of mixed feelings about it.

On one hand... well, I don't think that impersonating someone is (or should be) valid freedom of speech.

Critique, ridicule, parody, jokes, etc, OK, I can see how a public personality shouldn't be shielded from those. But the key there is that they make clear which is, basically, the critic's own opinion and interpretation of it. You're free to disagree with him, and even to think he's a whiny retard.

Impersonation? Nope, sorry. Other than causing disproportionate distress, and a bunch of other problems, I don't see what's the public benefit from that.

And by other problems i mean: think, basically of someone "impersonating" you and mortgaging your house. Or submitting some fake data in your name. It's you who have to deal with the resulting crap. Impersonating a politician is exactly the same: any diplomatic or political fallout, well, he gets to have to sort that crap out.

Worse yet, a whole country can get to deal with the resulting crap. Government actions and opinions get whole countries to be weary of each other. Think posting some racist crap while impersonating your favourite company's CEO, and think of the fallout that would cause for the company. Now think the same for a head of state, and the same fallout is now the problem of a whole country.

Basically, I think "Bush is a retard" or "I bet Bush gets a hard-on from starting wars" is, and should be, covered by freedom of speech. But they also make clear that it's _my_ opinion. But, basically, "Hi, I'm Bush. I was diagnosed with Down's Syndrome as a kid. And I think Real Men aren't afraid of a war. We still learn about the Romans, don't we? I never got this pinko-commie-liberal peace obsession." is a whole other matter. It gives an air of official truth to it. More importantly, the whole concept of justice and fairness involves there being two sides to any issue and hearing both; impersonating someone already tries to replace their side of the story too.

On the other hand, well, it seems to me like they do use it more like censorship than anything else. I don't see it justified as impersonation being fundamentally wrong, but rather as having offended his sacrosanct majesty. I would have thought we're a couple of centuries too late for that.

Taliban demand night-time cell tower shutdown

Hans Mustermann

Re: Ignorance

While Taliban-bashing might have its merits, I'd point out that half the western world doesn't understand mobile telephones and generally technology either.

At the most obvious end of the spectrum are the "electrosensitives"... which funnily enough (A) claim to detect a turned on phone from the other end of the hall, e.g., by promptly getting a headache, but (B) invariably fail to do so in a randomized double-blind test. Probably the most succintly illustrative of the phenomenon is the quote on german-bash.org, about a phone tower being installed and some people promptly proceeded to complain that they're getting sleep problems, headaches, etc. The Telekom commented that they're sorry, and can only imagine how bad it will be WHEN THEY ACTUALLY TURN IT ON.

But picking on those is easy.

The more insidious are the ones which aren't that vocal, but are equally clueless about how technology even works, and prone to believe in any kind of magic/placebo/mystical-eastern-shit/etc. Just look at all the miracle herbal pill pushers around you, and the large mass thinking that "evidence-based science" and "randomized double-blind test" are just some conspiracy to suppress the shamans.

The fact is, at _least_ half the population doesn't understand the vast majority of technology or science. Heck, it doesn't even understand what science itself is, or how it works. And not only those who attack it. Funnily enough even some of the most rabid _defenders_ of science, don't understand the basic principles behind science, and treat it as basically religion.

So, I dunno, to somewhat paraphrase the infamous Hanlon's Razor, I'd say: don't ascribe to religion (Islam or any other) what's perfectly explained by human stupidity.

I mean, seriously. A nut proclaims the mobile networks to be the enemy, and a bunch of other nuts take it seriously. Do you have any problem seeing that happening in a secular western country? I think there are some very real examples thereof. In the west. No hookey religion needed.

If we were in a civil war, and those nuts already had guns, do you think they'd think twice before using them on a cell phone tower?

Sarko verbal spat proves YouTube hit

Hans Mustermann

@Neil Hoskins

"For example, when Marshal Ney, called upon to surrender at Waterloo, famously responded, "Merde!", his meaning in English would be more along the lines of "Bollocks!""

Actually, IIRC the french still insist that what was really said was (or meant), "The guard dies, but never surrenders!" So, you know, you may think you heard the french guy going "Shit!" after he saw another wave of brits appearing at point-blank range, but what he really meant was a lot more brave than that ;)

Treehuggers lose legal fight to solar-powered neighbour

Hans Mustermann
Dead Vulture


Actually, dunno about the US, but where I live you _can_ prepare for a legal battle too. E.g., I have basically a lawyer insurance, in case I end up needing one.

Second, do some basic maths, mate. If you were going to train two hours a day for when you need to duel, the same amount of energy devoted to saving money for a legal duel will put you quite far ahead too.

The RIAA is distasteful, but, sorry, they _don't_ take your money before you go to trial. They try to scare you into settling _instead_ of going to trial. Sorry, but, that's a whole different thing. If you want to fight instead, you start with exactly as much money as you had.

And there _have_ been people who've won against the RIAA. Sometimes through equally underhanded PR tactics. E.g., the mother who went the "OMG they're suing my 6 year old daugher" bullshit route... although the address had been traced to the mother, not to the daughter.

Of course, there have been dumbasses who've lost too. Like the retard who tried to destroy the data and give the court a different hard drive.

Sorry, the system isn't perfect, but it seems to me like it still works better than the dick-waving contests of yore.

Even in your example, by ye goode olde laws you'd _still_ be screwed. Someone rich or with rich relatives, would hire a veteran as their champion to fight you. And history has plenty of examples like that, where the "duel" was little more than legalized paid assassination.

E.g., if you think that because you're a macho man, you could intimidate your wife into not wanting a divorce any more... well, that gives me an idea of why she wanted a divorce in a first place, sorry. But I digress. Well, her millionaire aunt would hire a thug to beat you up physically, if that's how justice went and that's the kind of trial you want, instead of hiring a lawyer. It's still not an improvement.

Hans Mustermann
Dead Vulture

@Solomon Grundy

"If I were involved in this I would simply threaten the offending solar neighbor with bodily harm until they shut up or moved. It's too bad our society is moving away from settling disagreements through contests of strength. Duels between gentlemen were good things."

Duels as justice were always a bad idea. Sorry.

E.g., as just one of the many places and ways that went wrong: viking holmgangs (duels) as a way of settling who's right, had quickly become obvious even back then, that they had degenerated into legalized robbery. A veteran swordsman could basically just come and claim that your land is his, although noone had even seen him or his family in those parts before, and your only recourse would be to go take a sword in the gut (since most peasants couldn't afford an extensive martial instruction) or refuse and be dishonoured. And lose that land either way.

That's why civilized countries eventually figured out better ways to decide who's right or wrong.

Justice is that-a-way, and who's stronger / has a bigger dick / whatever, that's in that other direction. They're not even vaguely related.

Sure, it's fun to fantasize about you being right _and_ strong enough to bully that wussy neighbour into admitting you're right. Tough news: there's always someone stronger than you, or more skilled with a weapon if you want to go all the way to a duel.

So what would happen is more like in reverse: you'd (eventually) end up with Bubba the 5- ft-wide trucker moving next to you, and be able to demand everything he wants from you, no matter how ludicrious, just because he can punch your clock any time he wants to. Forget cutting down your trees, he could just as well say that he wants you to remove your roof or your garage, if the only definition of "right" is who's stronger than who.

Or do you plan to spend the rest of your days pushing weights a couple of hours a day, _and_ practicing your skills with a few weapons, just in case you ever need to prove you're right?

Hefty black hole weighs in at 33 Suns

Hans Mustermann
Black Helicopters

@Pete Mallam

You got it all wrong, sorry.

First of all, technically, when the sun cools down, it'll still give off a bit of light (gradually going towards infra-red as opposed to visible light) for hundreds of billions of years, because anything that size takes a freaking huge time to cool down. And because it's an asymptotic curve, it'll likely never reach truly zero Kelvin. So technically it'll never be "black".

Second, even if it cooled to zero K, it still wouldn't qualify as a black hole. The simplest explanation I can think of is: if you pointed a flashlight at it, you could still see it. You know, "oh, there's this big freakin' blob of frozen helium." It would still reflect and refract light.

Basically light can still get out of there. You shine some light in, it comes out in one direction or another. It's not a black hole then.

To qualify as a black hole, it has to have enough gravity that past a point even light can't get out any more. f you point a flashlight at it, well, ok, you'd have funky beam curving. But at an oversimplified level, any light that hits that spherical limit ("event horizon") can't come out any more, because of sheer gravity.

That's why it's called a "hole", basically. Because anything that falls in, stays in. It's not even theoretically possible to get out of there, no matter with what engines.

And "black", because, well, it's the ultimate black. It actually absorbs all light that crosses that event horizon. Not a bit grey, not a bit shiny around the edges in the right light, etc. It's the ultimate black. So black, it would look like a 2D hole. Exactly 100% of the light hitting it, isn't coming back out again.

So how do we detect them? Via the stuff that hasn't crossed the event horizon yet. Your typical black hole has a bunch of matter spiralling into it, much like water spirals down the drain in your sink. And being accelerated to insane velocities, so it starts emitting X rays.

So although the hole itself is perfectly black, it will have a "halo" of matter around it, that emits X-Ray.

Third, our Sun doesn't have enough mass to form a black hole.

Die for Gaia, save the planet?

Hans Mustermann

Re: Scratch a Green, uncover a Nazi

Hmm, I've thought a bit about it, but methinks that while your general point _is_ valid, comparing them to Nazis is a bit extreme and devalues the comparison.

See, the Nazis were truly evil fucks. They weren't just moaning about how nice it would be to have more land, or how nice it would be if they had less Jewish businessmen. They actually planned and executed mass murder in cold blood.

E.g., they actually planned to exterminate every last Polish citizen within a couple of decades, to make free room for German settlers. And while they didn't have the time to actually do that, they did some darned nasty things down there. Including actually killing as many as they realistically could, and using a heck of a lot of the rest as slave labour.

The worst save-the-world nuts, by comparison, just like to whine a lot. The purpose seems to be not as much to actually go and exterminate anyone, but:

1. To have some reason to hate themselves and feel guilty about, _but_ which everyone else is doing, so they can't be singled out for, and

2. To have some totally unfeasible solutions, so their fight is never done, and it annoys everyone else.

They don't want to take over the world, fix it the brutal way, and be the master race. That's not the point. If they actually accidentally took over the world, it would be a bit like a dog actually catching a car: they wouldn't know what to do with it, and have to move hastily to the next whine.

The more someone is disillusioned and unable to make head or tail of their own life, the more they need

A) a persecution/suppressed-elite/victim complex: it shifts the blame on someone else. Being a victim is _easy_. It absolves one of any responsibility, basically.

B) some infeasibly grand cause to fight instead. It's something they can't be blamed for, if it's never done or making any progress.

Basically, "I want to sort my finances" or "I want to quit smoking" are feasible goals, and you can feel bad or have a finger pointed at you for not achieving them. "I fight to save the planet" is an _easy_ goal. It'll never be fully done, it's out of your control, and you can't be blamed for not doing more than a bit of whining about everyone else. And if it's never done, hey, see point A: it's someone else suppressing them and keeping doing the "wrong" thing.

That doesn't apply just to eco-nuts, btw. There's a broad spectrum of zealots that, basically, are the exact same. Only with a different infeasibly grandious goal and reason to feel marginalized/suppressed/etc for.

Basically, while the Nazis were evil fucks, these are just a bunch of pathetic losers. (Plus an at least equal number of posers and prom queens imitating them to feel they belong somewhere.) _Big_ difference there.

Hans Mustermann

Re: Beware of Geeks bearing oversimplistic equations

"How you view the balance is the important factor. Obviously Ser Worstall is correct in asserting that, to date, Earth plus Tech can support more than the unassisted Earth, but is it a straight factor relationship, or is there a tipping-point where the demands of the demand for Tech start to outweigh its benefits?"

Actually, how about: there is no tipping point, and his equation is closer to the truth?

The thing is, in PxAxT, technology is counted at least twice. The affluence (and to some extent population) are a direct result of technology. When you have PxA, you already counted technology at least once. Doing another xT is double dipping.

But the important part in determining the rest is that we already have PxA, not just P. If you want to compare impact to stone age times, it's crucial in that pseudo-science equation that you'd have to not just maintain 6 billion people, but also keep them at the same standard of living. That's what we have to figure out how to relate to T.

And I say that then it becomes bloody obvious that it should be _divided_ by T.

Think of keeping your current standard of living with early 18'th century tech, where the liquid fuel was whale fat. How many whale a day would you have to kill even to just keep everyone's homes as well lit as today? Now add street lamps? Etc. We're not even getting as far as cars, before having to exterminate all the whales within _days_.

So at the same PxA, the impact there is bloody obviously higher with lower tech. So it's /T so far.

Want to go 1000 years back instead? Well, that's cool, because back then crop yield was 2 to 7 grains reaped for 1 grain sown. You'd need to completely raze every single square inch of woodland of several Earths and turn it into farms, and every square mile of sea overfished, just to _feed_ those 6 billion people. You know, that's just the P part. Want to maintain PxA? Well, heh, it's not even possible to maintain the A with that tech, so I guess we'd have to cheat a bit and increase P about 100 times and settle for 100 times less A. That's almost a thousand Earths with the whole ecosystem razed and turned into farms, to maintain the same PxA. It's an eco-catastrophe beyond your wildest dreams.

And if you go even further back, as the article notes, you start having major problems even maintaining the P.

Want to look at present day and near future? Well, for a start nuclear power already gives you the same energy (which pretty much is proportional to PxA) at a lot less eco-impact. Repeat after me: that's just one tech increase where at the same PxA, the impact is _lowered_. Then if we ever get fusion working, it gets even better.

And btw, that isn't some freak exception either. If you look at most forms of energy we used before, we _are_ doing better. Converting even coal to electricity with turbines, is _way_ more efficient than the crude steam engines of the 19'th century. So whether it's transporting the same number of people the same number of kilometers, or using that energy to power a factory producing the same amount of goods, we are producing less CO2 nowadays for the same work done.

So there's no way that the impact increases even more with increased technology. Sorry. Dividing by T sounds a lot more palatable there, any way I want to look at it. In fact, since T is factored already in both P and A, I'd actually divide by T squared, myself. Seriously.

Drunken Korean attempts to cook landlady's Chihuahua

Hans Mustermann

Re: Stereotypes are never funny!

"I mean really, it's one thing to poke fun at Koreans and drunks, and even drunken Koreans, but the Chihuahua is a kind, loving, intelligent, albeit intensly annoying pet, and its demise is no laughing matter!"

Well, yeah, but cheering and offering to pay the bloke's bail would come across as a bit mean and lacking sensitivity. So I guess a bit of a chuckle is the least we can do ;)

Please don't leave me... bitch

Hans Mustermann


"I don't see how it's that hard to believe that anybody has more than a couple of friends"

More than a couple, yes. More than, say, two dozen? Nope, sorry, I'm sorry how that would fit even a very diluted definition of "friends". You just don't have the time or mental capacity to juggle that many, to any decent amount of maintenance, unless you do nothing else.

Look, I'm not saying you should be really intimate with them to call them "friends". I'm not saying they should take a bullet for you.

I'm just saying, basically: if it weren't for that list of names to keep tabs on, how many would even think of you more than once a year? About how many of them would _you_ even think? Before adding them to that list, did either of you even bother sending a snail mail or email to each other? Regularly? Because if the answer there is "no", then that's not even the most relaxed version of "friendship" imaginable.

Want to slowly ramp up towards what most people call "friends"?

How many of them would you invite to a pub or over to watch a game, if they were in the same city? Let's say, once every 3 months. For just the 70 of those on your Facebook list, that's 280 days a year, if taken individually, but I you can take 2-3 at a time (more than that and they're not getting much of your attention there), and reduce it to 3 months a year or so. Would you do that? Because if you go, "well, geeze, I don't have that much time, and the missus would skin me", then it's time to prune some off that definition of "friend".

And how many of them would spontaneously invite _you_?

How many of them would you invite to your birthday or wedding or christmas, if all were in the same town? How many you know would just make an excuse every time anyway? Well, anyone who doesn't make that list, you know...

But wait, one kinda expectation of friend is that they're there for you, should you ever find yourself really in bad need of help. You know, "a friend in need is a friend indeed." It doesn't say "can be promoted to best friend," but rather, "is a friend indeed."

Let's start with simple stuff. How many would drop whatever they're doing and come, I dunno, bail you from jail if you got caught in a riot or football rampage? For how many of them would _you_ do that?


Friendships are a bit higher on the maintenance than having a checkmark on each other's Facebook pages. That's really why some of us can't imagine someone with 70 real friends. You only have a limited time for them, and that time gets divided by that number.

Hans Mustermann


"I have about 70 friends on facebook - allot of them, infact most of them, are people who I WAS close friends with at some point, and somehow lost contact with. I move around ALOT... and facebook has put me back in contact with alot of old friends. There is a fb app called friends wheel - and it shows you who in your friends list is friends with other friends of yours - on my wheel its obvious that people are split into distinct groups, corresponding to distinct parts of my life. So I have a group of school friends, I have a group of college friends, university friends, work friends from different companies, and then there are the areas around the country we moved to, made friends, then moved away."

Dude, so you have 70 RL friends on Facebook alone, _plus_ a lot that aren't even on Facebook. Let's say, 100 total, since you're such a popular guy.

I'm sorry, but I can't even imagine that, unless you have a _very_ shallow definition of what friend means. If you met one of them a day on the average (including when some days you meet none, some days you go to the pub with two or three), you'd see each of them briefly every 3 months.

Even talking by email, although that's pushing the definition of friend too a bit, I don't see you writing 100 emails a day unless you're unemployed since college and have no hobbies whatsoever.

That's not really friends, that's at best acquaintances.

No, noone says you have to know every freckle on their body, but at the point where you last saw someone was in college, that's hardly a friend any more after, say, 10 years.

Maybe taking a bullet for you, like someone else put it, is a bit too restrictive a definition, but I have to wonder how many of those even think of you more often than when answering you emails.

Heck, with so many of them, do _you_? Or are they just a list in your address book? Humans have a limited attention span and limited free time, so dividing it between a whole battalion of "friends" means basically that each of them is little more than just another name.

I doubt that if someone kept you away from that shopping list of "friends" to maintain, you'd spontaneously go "man, I miss X. I wonder what he's doing" for three quarters of them. Again, unless you're unemployed and have absolutely nothing else to occupy your mind with.

That's not friendship, that's collecting a list of names.

That's somewhat the problem some of us have with Facebook and the like. They play on people's insecurities, and try to make it sound like quantity is more important than quality. They effectively dilute what friend means.

They turned "friendship" into just another willy-waving contest of whose list is bigger. And played on people's insecurities to get them to lower their standards to the point where anyone they ever heard of is suddenly their "friend", just to add another name to that precious list.

Heck, most of them even pretend that being linked via 6 steps to someone, makes you their almost friend. It doesn't. If Johnny likes Jenny, and Jenny likes Joe, and Joe like Benny, and Benny likes Bo, then at the end of the day Bo still doesn't give a flying f-word about Johnny. If Bo is just the name-collecting prom-queen kind, like many there, it's doubtful that even Benny would get too big a help or favour out of them. Go out of their way for a perfect stranger, because he's the friend of _another_ perfect stranger, who knows _another_ perfect stranger, who just happens to know someone in their address book? I hope you don't really expect them to lift a finger, because you might be disappointed.

Hans Mustermann
Black Helicopters

Re: Facebook invitations

"Just reading this article and as a "never been there, never will" non facebook person, is that right? basically I dont want it, but...I do get invites from friends, yes those in the real world, and every time someone new invites me, the email kindly lists all the other people who have previously sent me invites, so...does this mean that Facebook know who I am?"

Well, think of it in data processing terms, or I guess common sense. To group those invitations as, basically, "people who invited Roger", you need at least the concept that there is a unique person named Roger. Well, probably more like the email address, since that's more likely to be unique than the name. (How many John Smiths does it have?) So at least at that minimal "knowing who you are" must exist. It also has a list of your "friends", or at least who invited you, or again, it couldn't list them.

Toshiba's board to kybosh HD DVD this week?

Hans Mustermann
Thumb Up

Re: Aww

"Though I've no intention of buying an HDDVD/Bluray compatible device, its a pity the one with the stupid name won."

I don't know, at least it sounds like one you can pronounce. "Bluray" vs "Aitch Dee Dee-Vee-Dee". Seems to me like you're done pronouncing "Bluray" by the time the HD-DVD has just charged through the "HD" line and is regrouping for the final assault on "DVD" ;)

Hans Mustermann

Ah, dunno if Sony is neurotic

Ah, I dunno if Sony is really neurotic. If I had to bet on a mental disease, my bet would be on schizophrenia in Sony's case. It even seems to get gradually worse, the longer it's left untreated, just like schizophrenia usually does.

That is, in addition to the already mentioned split personality.

UK bank blames fraudsters for World of Warcraft ban

Hans Mustermann
Dead Vulture


Not going to disagree with what you wrote, but I'd argue that (partially _because_ of that), the ban is even more stupid and ineffective than that.

Ok, let's say I were an asshat haxx0r (I'm not, but just for reductio-ad-absurdum argument sake), I stole your identity and (of all the stupid things) all I want to do with your credit card is buy a WoW subscription. Blocking transfers to Blizzard is going to help... how?

For the exact reasons you wrote, my directly giving your credit card number to Blizzard would be the dumbest thing ever. Plus it would buy me about a month of WoW, because after that you see the charge on your bank statement and block it. Blizzard would then probably ban my account too, when the bank tries to reverse the charge as fraudulent. So that's one char which probably won't get to level 70. Bummer.

No, what I'd want to do then is buy a 3 months game card from Amazon with that credit card. Which (A) isn't blocked by any bank, and (B) doesn't link that WoW account to a stolen credit card.

But again, that assumes that someone would go into the fraud line of work just so they can play WoW. A dozen or so bucks a month isn't worth the risk even by third world standards. If someone got a bunch of credit card numbers, they're going to want to get more expensive stuff with them.


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