* Posts by Martin Gregorie

737 posts • joined 10 Apr 2007

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Parity: The bug that put $169m of Ethereum on ice? Yeah, it was on the todo list for months

Martin Gregorie

It might be rather a good idea for Parity to replace the lost coinage at no cost to those whose wallets have been locked and to do it before they start getting sued for negligence.

Then they can recover and keep the coin in the blocked wallets. Or carry the loss/face bankruptcy if they can't recover the coin. Either way it will serve them right for being careless, lazy bastards.

7
1

Crap London broadband gets the sewer treatment

Martin Gregorie

Re: We need more regulators!

...but will its bark be worse than its byte?

4
0

Productivity through tech, UK firms. More cyber, more cloud, more ERP!

Martin Gregorie

Re: CBI... Low productivty

...and don't forget the effect MBAs have on technology-based businesses: diminshed productivity due to their inability to understand the business or to avoid pissing off those who do.

5
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Teensy weensy space shuttle flies and lands

Martin Gregorie

Re: Playmobil

Jetexes are long gone. You can still find them on eBay, but since you can no longer get fuses or fuel pellets for them, they are collector's items.

The closest replacements are the Czech-made Rapier Rocket motors, which are just a range of small slow-burning model rocket motors that give similar thrust to Jetex motors and burn for a similar time.

4
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Greenhouse gas-sniffing satellite to be built and tested in Britain

Martin Gregorie

Re: The results will be meaningless

Judging by a lead article in the latest New Scientist, what we really need is a swarm of robot sea-gliders to monitor ocean acidity and oxygen content globally rather than yet another atmosphere monitoring satellite: there are a lot of those already to say nothing of a variety of ground-based sampling stations.

The oceanic oxygen levels are far less known, except that they are dropping, and don't appear to be particularly well monitored at present. The effect of this on fish/algae/plankton, which is potentially very harmful, seems to be very little understood.

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Computing in schools improved, but still needs major patching – report

Martin Gregorie

Re: The real world

Yeah, Pretty much agree.

Learned programming in Algol 60 on my University's Elliott 503 and used that language maybe twice after graduation. As the OP said, the fact that I'd learned the basic programming constructs was the important thing, since very shortly after that I joined ICL and was immediately taught PLAN assembler and, a year or two later, COBOL.

I've taught myself pretty much everything else I needed for a career in IT by using the "Read The Fine Manual and get on with it" method, alternating with "You've heard of it? Just the man we need: here's the manuals and you're on the project in a week". Along the way I've been everything from project sysadmin (several OSen), DBA, system test manager to system designer and lead developer using a variety of languages and hardware.

IOW, the prime skill that needs to be taught to all pupils in every school is HOW TO LEARN.

Second place goes to a reasonable grounding in the scientific method, basic mathematics and the ability to read and write concise, clear English.

Everything else is just fact cramming and should be unnecessary once a student knows how to learn.

But, of course teaching will never be reorganized along these lines because it would mean people might find out how to think for themselves, and we can't possibly have that!

8
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Facebook's send-us-your-nudes service is coming to UK, America

Martin Gregorie

Re: How Prevalent is Nude Photography....

It used to happen, but amateur nude photography was a minority hobby, at least among those without their own darkroom.

When I was a student, one year I had a summer vacation job in the Kodak (NZ) slide mounting room. Since it was illegal to send nude pics through the post, Kodak had to pull any boxes of slides containing them and forward the box to the snapper's local cop shop for collection.

This meant that those running the slide mounting machines were expected to spot any such photos and check them in a slide projector. Cue a yell of 'Got one!' and a general stampede in the direction of the projector and screen when anything was found.

However during that summer break (6 or 8 weeks - I forget which) I only remember that happening two or three times on my shift.

6
0

Where hackers haven't directly influenced polls, they've undermined our faith in democracy

Martin Gregorie

Re: The biggest UK hackers of the lot then?

While we're on the subject of election hackers, don't forget

Cambridge Analytica

I don't think they or their targeted messages have any place in national or local elections. Same goes for all other similar organizations. Their use by political parties should be banned and any candidates or parties found to have employed them should be removed from the election results. Retrospectively if needed, with an immediate bye-election to fill the now-vacant seat.

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Dumb autonomous cars can save more lives than brilliant ones

Martin Gregorie

Re: Now is that "10 per cent better than humans" or "10 per cent better than American humans?"

You think London is bad? Try Los Angeles.

A lot of those traffic jams is directly due to Good Ole GM. Back in the '30s LA was building a Metro system - until GM bought it up and demolished it.

However, that doesn't affect the fact that the average USAian is a godawful driver by comparison with almost anywhere else in the world.

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Give us a bloody PIN: MPs grill BBC bosses over subscriber access

Martin Gregorie

Re: iPlayer and the License

I don't give a flung fig for TV (don't have one in the house and watch a program via the interwebs about once every 2 or 3 years if that) but do value BBC radio output.

Consequently I'd be happy to have a radio-only subscription if that would guarantee support for:

- continued access to radio content on FM channels

- the now arbitrarily cancelled 7-day catch-up service that I used to be able to get via my Logitech Touch

- on-demand access to archived programs: "Old Harry's Game" comes to mind.

Since that would be at least as worthwhile as reading New Scientist (I have a subscription for that, provided on dead trees) I'd probably be willing to pay a similar subscription for the aforementioned BBC services, and certainly would be happy to cough up the equivalent of an online NS sub if there was one, i.e. the current NS sub less printing, packaging and postage costs

8
1

Updating Things: IETF bods suggest standard

Martin Gregorie

Re: We need to move past updates

A Web interface is needed because average consumer wants to control it from a smartphone but can't be arsed to login over SSH (or install SSH on the phone) and IOS maker doesn't want to pay for a complex control app or fpor programmers who could make that secure.

TR069 because simple interfaces (unless SSH) tend to be insecure and/or require the owning drongo to not only know there's an update available, but to trigger the update.

"No one in this world has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people." - H L Mencken

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F-35s grounded by spares shortage

Martin Gregorie

Re: Let's make planes that can't fly......

US planes were excellent Typhoon and Mustang, yes, great.

..and the Mustang was initially designed and built for the RAF to fulfill British requirements for a long-range fighter. At that time the Spitfire and Hurricane were short range metropolitan defence aircraft, which is what they'd been designed for, and once the Battle of Britain was over, the RAF needed something with a longer range that could take on the Luftwaffe over Europe.

The Mustang wasn't up to much with the original Allison engine, especially at altitude, but fitting a Merlin transformed it. Years ago I knew a member of the ground crew responsible for its initial trials in the UK, who described the Allison as a beautifully made car engine and who claimed that he was part of the team that replaced it with a Merlin during the initial trials.

The USAAF only got Mustangs later: remember that they thought that escort fighters weren't needed because B-17 formations had enough guns to deal with any fighters they might meet.

8
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India to launch moon mission in March 2018

Martin Gregorie

Have an upvote for your comment about call centres.

However, you missed a point about toilets: the lack of pipes is an issue but is trumped by a lack of water to flush said pipes. Much of India has bugger-all water outside the monsoons, when it has rather too much. So, solve the water retention and storage problem first, then consider whether a western water-profligate sewage system is appropriate in India. If not, work out how a minimal water sewage system might work, test it until it works reliably, promote the perfected technology and implement that.

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NHS could have 'fended off' WannaCry by taking 'simple steps' – report

Martin Gregorie

Re: RE: "but where does the money come form"

So, if the makers of MRIs, PET scanners etc can't or wont upgrade them, put an airgap round said devices and the out of date stuff they talk to as an interim measure.

I know that purveyors of various medical devices have traditionally been, ahem, lax about system security. Others might prefer to call it "wilfully negligent" but I couldn't possibly comment. That said, more general publicity on this topic outside the medical and IT communities together with the odd sueball and much more attention to security on the part of purchasers should get their attention.

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Martin Gregorie

Re: RE: "but where does the money come form"

Thats easy: instant dismissal for all managers who should have sorted out security but didn't. And their bosses for slack supervision. The NHS is top-heavy with useless management anyway, so the savings made by sacking them will more than pay for replacing outdated PCs.

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IETF mulls adding geoblock info to 'Bradbury's code'

Martin Gregorie

Yes, a good movie: it introduced me to Dali's paintings. My only disappointment with it was not showing the Mechanical Hound, but with hindsight any attempt to do so would probably have failed.

The master stroke was that there was no text at all in the film apart from numbers. Even the credits were spoken.

If you haven't seen the film or read the book recently, do so: its still relevant and becoming more so.

8
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MEPs vote to update 'cookie law' despite ad industry pressure

Martin Gregorie

my masters won't be able to screw the end users as easily and I won't get my kickbacks.

--> FIFY

3
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Neglected Pure Connect speaker app silenced in iOS 11's war on 32-bit

Martin Gregorie

Evidently never heard of escrow...

I'm surprised that those outsourcing their apps or any other code needed for their products to operate didn't contractually require that the source must be placed in escrow when the binaries were delivered. This should be SOP as protection against the developer going out of business.

Further, if the code is unique to this contract, a not uncommon situation, then I'd expect the developer to deliver both source and binaries on contract completion. That's been the norm for almost all projects I've worked on.

So bad luck for Pure, but they really should have taken better legal advice.

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Whose drone is that? DJI unveils UAV traffic tracking system

Martin Gregorie

You beat me to it: it sounds like they've re-invented FLARM, but using wifi rather than the lower frequency unlicensed bands that FLARM uses.

3
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Someone liked dwarf planet Haumea so much they put a ring on it

Martin Gregorie

Re: Hal Clement fans!

Nope! Haumea has almost no mass and little surface gravity while Mesklin is huge and the prime fictional example of a heavy planet.

Mesklin has 16 times the mass of Jupiter and a rotation time (day) of 17.75 minutes. The centrifugal force affected its apparent surface gravity, giving 3G at the equator (rim) and 275G at the poles. It is well flattened - 77,250 km diameter at the equator and just 31,770 km thick at the poles, so its diameter is around 2.5 times its thickness. Clement knew what he wanted for his novel: when he wrote it there was thought to be something like this in the 61 Cygni system.

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'There has never been a right to absolute privacy' – US Deputy AG slams 'warrant-proof' crypto

Martin Gregorie

Nobody every opened every single envelope to read and catalogue every bit of physical mail sent. Why should they have the right or ability to do that now?

Well-said, Sir! You've managed to summarize the entire argument in two simple sentences.

All lawmakers and government spooks should read and understand them.

They do not have the right to do more than they could do back when mail was sent on paper and a warrant was required for its interception. Since nobody has repealed laws requiring a warrant, interception without one should be penalized appropriately.

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Lenovo spits out retro ThinkPads for iconic laptop's 25th birthday

Martin Gregorie

Re: Only have one thing to say to Lenovo....

Cool story bro. How does it relate to Lenovo factory installing Superfish advertising, allowing MITM modification of SSL traffic?

That's easy to bypass. Just wipe the disk clean and install Linux. Both problems (junkware and junkOS) fixed in one simple step.

I first did this to an IBM 560Z (Redhat Linux 7.2), and a few years later to the new Lenovo R61i that replaced it (Vista immediately wiped and replaced with Fedora). This is still running though on its second screen, keyboard and fan though the DVD drive died and so did its HDD, which got replaced by a Sandisk 128GB SSD - the R61i hardware can't handle disks bigger than 200GB but you can't buy HDDs that small now, hence the SDD.

However, for everyday use I now have a Lenovo T440 that also got wiped immediately and Fedora 25 XFCE installed.

6
2

Hollywood has savaged enough sci-fi classics – let's hope Dick would dig Blade Runner 2049

Martin Gregorie

Re: Hollywood being moribund

I still want to see a movie of Frank Herbert's "Dragon in the Sea", but it has to use the sort of 50's nuclear tech in the book and, preferably, be lowish budget and claustrophobic. Don't make it shiny and futuristic or it will disappoint.

1
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Life began after meteorites splashed into warm ponds of water, say astronomers

Martin Gregorie

Re: Why highlight meteorites?

Not necessarily. If the Earth was formed in its current orbit it would be fairly warm, possibly too warm to collect and retain water vapour from its surrounding space. Meanwhile, asteroids and meteors in elliptical orbits would be much colder and so more capable of retaining any water molecules they encountered.

3
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Linux kernel long term support extended from two to six years

Martin Gregorie

Re: Get it right

Back in the days of VMS or George 3 we did not need updates every month.

Not entirely true. Back in the day I was a George 3 sysadmin (ICL's Wellington bureau, and British Steel's Battersea Labs). While its true that new G3 versions were issued quite slowly, I also remember getting patches by FAX every week or two, which got hand-punched onto cards and applied to the current G3 image via the GIN assembler's incremental compilation facility. Fortunately patches seldom amounted to more than 10-20 cards and each patch had a checksum, so mispunched cards would be spotted and not applied.

So, not that different to a RedHat Fedora or Raspbian Linux distribution then, bearing in mind that G3 could be run on a 32K 1903S with a single EDS60 plus a couple of tape drives for backups and offline filestore - thats roughly equivalent to 128KB RAM and a 60MB disk plus a couple of SD card readers.

5
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Chrome to label FTP sites insecure

Martin Gregorie

Re: if FTP is insecure

...then SFTP should be fine.

In fact, since some of the graphical FTP clients offer it as an alternative to various flavours of FTP, HTTP, etc, its the obvious replacement. As a bonus, no extra software is needed on servers offering SSH support via the standard sshd server.

5
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Would you get in a one-man quadcopter air taxi?

Martin Gregorie

Its very unlikely that this would be allowed to land 'anywhere' thats not an airfield. Just for starters, there are no guards on the rotors, which look to be at just the right height to chop unwary adults off at the knee and decapitate dogs and small children.

1
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Scientists produce a map marking water hotspots on the Moon

Martin Gregorie

Re: Mandator reading

It would probably make more sense to read Robert Heinlein's "The Moon Is A Hard Mistress", Asimov's "The Gods Themselves" or Niven's "The patchwork Girl" - all of these give believable scanarios for living permanently on the moon.

6
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Weird white dwarf pulsar baffles boffins as its pulsating pattern changes over decades

Martin Gregorie

Re: a teaspoon ... would weigh 15 tons.

If you're trying to measure mass, use the right units: newtons.

Tons, whether American, British or metric, are measurements of the force exerted by gravitational attraction at the Earth's surface.

</pedant>

8
5

Boffins fear we might be running out of ideas

Martin Gregorie

Re: Because

Yet more proof, if any was needed, that bean-counters kill basic research.

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It's official: Users navigate flat UI designs 22 per cent slower

Martin Gregorie

Re: Wasn't this already known?

Was it just fashionable or was the old logic thought to be wrong?

If the new would-be trend setters had even bothered to read old facts they'd have ignored them because, you know: OLD!

21
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We experienced Windows Mixed Reality. Results: Well, mixed

Martin Gregorie

The acid test...

...for me, anyway, would be the ability to use the VR device while seated in a physical 'cockpit' , which could be for a bicycle, motorbike, racing car, glider, jet, sailing dingy... which is fitted with the appropriate physical seating, harness, controls and instrument panel and have the VR device provide 360 degree external scenery without obscuring any of the controls or the cockpit interior.

If it can do this, and I don't mind at all if it needs special paint, etc. to delimit cockpit/controls/instruments which must not be obscured, then I want one and so will flying and driving schools.

If it can't, then it goes in the MEH! bin because it can't begin to compete with a properly set up conventional simulator with 360 degree screens and scenery projectors, and so will be useless for realistic simulation in driving or flying games and no use for teaching flying, driving or other physical skills.

6
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China claims to have turbine-powered drone carrying 200kg payload

Martin Gregorie

Re: Am I missing something?

Yes, you are. Making something that can reliably go to a programmed spot and crash or explode is relatively easy, though not cheap. Think cruise missiles, V-1s, etc. - none of them are cheap unless you have a full metal military budget to play with.

The only 'relatively cheap' small drone I'm aware of that can go some place, do something useful, come back and land would be the Aerosonde,

http://www.barnardmicrosystems.com/UAV/milestones/atlantic_crossing_1.html,

originally developed as a reusable meteorological drone that cost $10,000 or less. One flew the Atlantic in 1998, but its latest versions look as though they may be a bit bigger and pricier than the 1994 version. These were launched automatically from a car's roofrack and, although they could land automatically in a large flat field, were typically hand flown for landing if the landing area was small and/or had nearby trees etc. to dodge.

Then there was Maynard Hill's 'Spirit of Butts Farm', which weighed 5kg at launch and crossed the Atlantic in 40 hours in 2003, but it was hand-flown for launch and landing. I think he only lost four before one made it across from Newfoundland to Ireland:

http://www.barnardmicrosystems.com/UAV/milestones/atlantic_crossing_2.html

The problem is landing: launch and flight to a GPS target are fairly simple to automate, but anything that can land to deliver a parcel and then fly home again will need much better AI than anything yet invented if it is to reliably find a suitable place to land at or near its destination and do so regardless of weather or obstacles and without hitting anybody, their pets or moving vehicles.

And you still need some way of stopping light-fingered gentry from nicking the stuff it is delivering, or the entire drone for that matter.

6
1

Dell's flagship XPS13 – a 2-in-1 that may fatally frustrate your fingers

Martin Gregorie

Re: Lack of indicator lights and ports

This is also my only real complaint about a Lenovo laptop I bought earlier this year. Equally to the point, this isn't a recent problem: the machine is a T440, so this 'designer' idiocy has been a thing for at least three years.

8
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India's Aadhaar national biometric ID scheme at risk after Supreme Court rules privacy is a right

Martin Gregorie

Re: Is there any kind of valid comparison that has been done to other schemes?

Don't be silly. The British Government has a track record of never, ever looking to see what other countries have done before implementing a major change in the worst possible way. Examples of this are the introduction of decimal currency, metrication and the several failed attempts at introducing a national identifier.

Since the Estonian approach seems to be pretty much best of breed and that the New Zealand seems to work pretty well to is a cast-iron guarantee that the British Government will do something entirely different and/or stupid such as privatising it.

3
0

Raising minimum wage will raise something else: An army of robots taking away folks' jobs

Martin Gregorie

Re: Robots don't pay taxes...

So when there are no jobs and all the cash is funnelled to the top, who is going to have any money to pay for stuff and then where will the rich make their income?

Thats an easy question that was answered 280 years ago by Jonathon Swift. in his pamphlet "A modest Proposal". If you haven't read it, its here: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1080 and is quite a short and easy read.

6
0

'Coke dealer' called us after his stash was stolen – cops

Martin Gregorie

Re: Florida Man

I looked at the graph and skimmed the text in your link, http://uhaweb.hartford.edu/BRBAKER/

Never mind the graph: the text proves the hypothesis: it is rambling, poorly organised and largely incoherent. Its author clearly has no idea of how to use a spell checker, or maybe that such a thing even exists. All in all, its a concrete illustration that the decline in average IQ is a real Thing.

10
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.. ..-. / -.-- --- ..- / -.-. .- -. / .-. . .- -.. / - .... .. ... then a US Navy fondleslab just put you out of a job

Martin Gregorie

Sometimes there's a good reason to have someone with a bit of knowledge on the bridge, especially in the military.

Exactly. Having one morse-fluent bridge officer per watch doesn't sound excessive while still saving money by not training everybody. In any case, what about the ship's radio operators, assuming they still carry them: do they still learn morse as part of their usual training?

Where's El Reg's Naval Correspondent when you need him?

39
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FreeRADIUS fragged by fuzzer – by invitation – and fifteen fails found

Martin Gregorie

Re: C is a [value judgement of choice] language for security

Built in goof alerts, stuff like that.

To a large extent you can help yourself to write safer code:

* always use the 'n' limited library functions instead of the unlimited equivalents, i.e. always use strncpy() instead of strcpy() and snprintf() rather than sprintf().

* where they don't exist, you can build a private library of fixed functions and use those instead.

* its also easy enough to write an awk script that can scan your code and report any unsafe library functions it finds. You could even make it return a failing error code if it finds anything unsafe and include it in your Make recipes.

So, don't wait around for somebody else to do this simple stuff for you: just do it.

8
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Luxembourg passes first EU space mining law. One can possess the Spice

Martin Gregorie

Re: Dodgy Picture

Thats not the only problem with that picture; I don't recall anybody hunting sandworrms with whaling harpoons (and missing a lot) either.

8
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Roland McGrath steps down as glibc maintainer after 30 years

Martin Gregorie

Re: @ allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

Same recollections here.

In the 68xx / 68xxx world there were free compilers, OS extensions and other code described and distributed via notices and articles in the '68Microjournal, mainly for the FLEX and OS/9 operating systems. COTS hardware was mostly Tandy ColorComputer and Dragon machines, but a lot of us used single board or SS-50 bus based kit, either bought as complete boards or, more commonly, self-assembled from kits and debugged with multimeter and logic probe. That was quite easy with 1-2 Mhz clock speeds and and traditional DIL chips, but much more difficult and expensive now everything is tiny surface-mount chips and Ghz clock speeds: check out the cost of a 'scope capable of dealing with these speeds!

When we got modems we also got the Kermit remote access and file transfer system, maintained by Columbia University, but of course floppies distributed by sneakernet and post probably moved more stuff than a 2400baud modem could manage.

7
0

Former GDS head Mike Bracken quits Co-op

Martin Gregorie

WTF

Do the people who hire these MBAs and self-styled New Innovation prophets ever check their actual achievements during their last two jobs or do they just uncritically believe the proffered CV's spin?

9
0

Ad 'urgently' seeks company to build national e-ID system

Martin Gregorie

Re: Did it disqualify all the usual suspects...?

There's an obvious way to get an excellent, well-tested ID system: buy a copy of the Estonian ID system, which seems to be generally regarded as best-of-breed.

Then don't let ANYBODY 'adapt it to our needs' because, knowing our wonderful GDS and their pals, doing that will immediately convert it into a heap of steaming turds while at least doubling its cost.

13
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Tesla's driverless car software chief steps down

Martin Gregorie

Re: I think Uber might have a vacancy.

Uber doesn't need a computer science expert.

What it needs is someone who knows what 'ethics' means and has them. It would also help if this person understands how to fix a toxic company without destroying it.

10
0

As you head off to space with Li-ion batts, don't forget to inject that liquefied gas into them

Martin Gregorie

As you head off to space with Li-ion batts, don't forget to inject that liquefied gas into them

You beat me to it: have an upvote. I don't like the thought of using CFCs either.

That would be OK if the batteries were only for deep space use, but the vision of eCar batteries containing significant quantities of pressurised CFCs isn't a good one, especially when you realise that any car crash that damages the battery pack would liberate the CFCs.

5
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EPYC leak! No, it's better than celeb noodz: AMD's forthcoming server CPU

Martin Gregorie

What is the security feature of which you speak?

Is this by any chance a case of AMD emulating Intel and providing a trapdoor that can bypass OS security? I think we should be told.

6
0

I still haven't found what I'm malloc()ing for: U2 tops poll of music today's devs code to

Martin Gregorie

Re: Depends...

Easy question: Frank Zappa boots streamed off Zappateers, Radio 4 or silence.

2
0

Boffins find evidence of strange uranium-producing bacteria lurking underground

Martin Gregorie

Re: Domestos

I think you've misread leach as bleach in the Introduction section of the paper.

The rest of the paper describes extracting Uranium compounds using nitric and hydrochloric acids (HNO3 and HCl) in combination with hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) in acidic solutions.

Bleach, on the other hand, is quite strongly alkaline and mixing it with acids used to extract the Uranium compounds would merely neutralise the acids, making extraction less effective.

2
14

Emissions cheating detection shines light on black box code

Martin Gregorie

You haven't being attention. CO2 is not the problem for diesels; NOx is.

Now that's out of the way, it seems to me that there's a reasonably simple way to catch both types of cheating.

1) Borrow a car from a dealer chosen at random. Stuff a gas analyser up its tail pipe and drive it at least 62 miles/100 km. with the analyser logging its readings along with gradient and speed

2) put that car and at least one more through the statutory rolling road test cycle.

Now look at the results. Examination of (1) should spot the Chrysler-Fiat style of cheat: if there's a step change after the test cycle length you've got them. Comparing the two traces should spot ECUs using the VW type of cheat because the road test will show higher emission levels at all stages of the drive than the rolling road test does. This approach may well pick up hybrids of the two as well as new and unforeseen ways of cheating.

18
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Why Uber threw top engineer Levandowski under self-driving bus

Martin Gregorie

Re: fsck Uber

If by "they" you mean the owners of Uber and their money grubbing pals, then you're wrong.

"They" know exactly what they're doing - conning suckers into believing the 'gig' economy, zero hours contracts etc. are smart, 22nd century ways of making a good living, when in reality they're a way to make their hapless employees pick up the tab for medical, pension, holiday and other work-related expenses while "they" can trouser all that lovely money.

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