* Posts by Dr Dan Holdsworth

336 posts • joined 16 May 2008

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Nissan 'fesses up to fudging emissions data

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Renault and Nissan are in an alliance now; this clearly shows on new Nissan cars as minor things tend to go wrong from new.

Avoid the pair of 'em.

5
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Leatherbound analogue password manager: For the hipster who doesn't mind losing everything

Dr Dan Holdsworth
Pirate

What a wonderful idea!

A notebook like this is a very, very good idea indeed, as long as it doesn't contain anything save decoy usernames and passwords for honeypot machines. You could even acquire several different notebooks, leave them in different places and note which honeypot accounts get hit, and when, then cross-reference this with where various visitors and dodgy members of staff have been seen lurking lately.

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Open plan offices flop – you talk less, IM more, if forced to flee a cubicle

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Is it just me?

The whole idea is driven by the thought that if you cram more people into a given space, you save money on the space that they occupy. Every single other supposed "advantage" of this set-up is actually just hand-waving to make up for several major downsides.

Firstly, most people absolutely loath big open-plan offices, for many reasons. Some will leave jobs to avoid them.

Secondly, the disturbance factor reduces the work output, dropping productivity by about a third.

Thirdly, sick leave taken increases markedly the more people share a space. Research on cold virus transmission (done by the University of Maryland) shows that most cold virus transmission is aerosol based, and thus it is proximity to infectious people that counts.

Fourthly, communication inside teams decreases markedly, as this research shows.

The bottom line is that the money saved by cramming people into a space like battery hens is lost several times over by the many factors that lose productivity, however these facts are lost on the PHBs who normally decide on implementing these shite-hole workplaces.

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Sysadmin cracked military PC’s security by reading the manual

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Only cracking I have done is

Old-style D-locks had a type of circular lock that was very vulnerable to being picked using a circle of plastic like, say, the cap of a Bic ballpoint pen. I'm not giving any trade secrets away here, since this quick pick system has been around for decades.

Masterlock however is something of a concern. They have an unenviable reputation as the absolute easiest-to-pick padlock makers in the world, barring some of the cheap and useless Chinese brands. Masterlock use no security pins, and even go so far as to include a vulnerability in some padlocks that leads to them being easily bypassed.

Their latest outing into the world of security done wrong is a Bluetooth padlock with the key hardcoded into the device MAC address...

14
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Security guard cost bank millions by hitting emergency Off button

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: most emergency buttons provide [..] no information on what, exactly, they are supposed to stop

I am reminded of an entry in the famous Evil Overlord Checklist:

If your evil lair absolutely has to have an emergency destruct button, then there should be a very large, obvious red button marked "EMERGENCY DESTRUCT". This will be linked to the trigger of a shotgun pointed at where anyone pressing the button would have to stand. The actual destruct system should be a complex series of controls hidden in the sewage processing plant systems.

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What a flap: SIM swiped from slain stork's GPS tracker used to rack up $2,700 phone bill

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Just wait until we all have an embedded SIM card....

A certain sci-fi author took this a stage further. When the protagonist found himself hard up for funds, he did what any criminal of that era would do and bought a finger. Specifically the finger of someone whose sudden departure from society would not be missed, said digit being attached to a mini life support device to enable it to carry on simulating being part of its late owner.

All our criminal then had to do was use said finger to extract cash from the late donor's bank account until either it ran out or the donor's lack of life was noticed and the account stopped.

6
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Potato, potato. Toma6to, I'm going to kill you... How a typo can turn an AI translator against us

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Time to do things the easier way

The problem with going from one human language to another is that the tenses, idioms and meanings are all slightly different between human languages. One less well known way to cope with this is to translate every input language into an interlingua called Lojban which is syntactically unambiguous. Naturally, a fairly short idiom in, say, English tends to translate to a fairly long sequence of Lojban, but this is necessary to preserve the syntax.

From the Lojban interlingua, you then translate into the destination language, making as good an attempt at preserving the meaning and syntax as you can. This sounds a roundabout method, but it breaks the translation difficulty down into two easier halves; translate into Lojban, and translate from Lojban into the target language.

This sort of thing isn't a new concept. Science uses a hodge-podge of mostly Latin plus some Greek as a universally understood language.

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Galileo, here we go again. My my, the Brits are gonna miss EU

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Fgs

What we get from the EU is actually slightly worse than this. The EU's lawmaking process is slightly corrupt in that anyone with deep enough pockets can covertly influence lawmakers there. This has already been done, to the extent that EU law favours large companies over smaller ones.

Since as anyone with the slightest knowledge of how an economy grows can tell you that most economic growth comes from small companies growing into slightly larger small companies, then any legal framework that disadvantages the small fry still further is going to have an inhibitory effect on economic growth.

This is already happening right across the EU, hence economic growth is stalling everywhere. When Britain leaves, the EU's central command will aim to make up the funding shortfall not by cutting their outgoings, but by levying a tax. This will stall growth still further. Put simply, the EU is showing every sign of descending into a long, slow and drawn-out death of its own making.

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National ID cards might not mean much when up against incompetence of the UK Home Office

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Some things the government should know..

To be perfectly honest, a simple card that is government-accepted proof of who you are is not a bad idea at all. It only needs information like name, address, nationality(s) and date of birth, plus a photo and a unique code for the back-end database. There are a lot of times when that basic information is needed and where I at the moment use my driving licence in lieu of the simple ID card.

You do not need to make it mandatory to carry such a card, for the population will not like it. Nor should the card carry any more information than necessary. Religion must not be recorded, nor must ethnicity or any other aspects that a future fascist regime might use as a basis for discrimination. That was the mistake of the Labour-sponsored attempt to bring in ID cards; too much info was being asked.

9
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What can you do when the pup of programming becomes the black dog of burnout? Dude, leave

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Burnout isn't unknown in IT

If an organisation is routinely calling on people to be heroes, then you really ought to see this as a danger sign. Work is what you do to get money in order to live; it isn't your life, and nobody will even remember you for more than an hour or two when you leave the company.

There aren't any prizes for being the bestest whatever in the company; all you get is more work. If the work looks like using you up, leave. It really isn't worth burning yourself out for work.

46
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Microsoft loves Linux so much its R Open install script rm'd /bin/sh

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Typical installer written in a large company

What annoys me here is the sheer pointlessness of the installer script. I have installed Microsoft R for one of our users and discovered to my joy and amazement that the tarball package contained a script plus actual, honest to goodness RPM and DEB packages. All the installer did was throw up a "Click to agree to license" thing then install the packages.

I agreed with the licence anyway, so simply ran a yum localinstall <package>.rpm on the system. Job done.

If Microsoft have done their job correctly and written a correct spec file for their RPMs, then upgrading ought to be just a matter of repeating the above actions and letting the system's inbuilt package manager do the heavy lifting of removing the old version and installing the new one; there is simply no reason to even think about an installer script if you do things the right way with the system-supported packages.

If you're not going to package things the way the system package manager expects, then why on earth not?

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Dixons Carphone 'fesses to mega-breach: Probes 'attempt to compromise' 5.9m payment cards

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Useful fallbacks

root@warez.bofh.org.uk is always a good one. That particular domain registration thing was done several times in the past for comic effect, but warez.bofh.org.uk is the only one left that I know of.

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RoboCop-ter: Boffins build drone to pinpoint brutal thugs in crowds

Dr Dan Holdsworth
FAIL

Re: Statistics

I wonder how effective it is on mime artists?

1
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Mailshot meltdown as Wessex Water gets sweary about a poor chap called Tom

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Rostering is a poisoned challice, strong constitution and thick skin required

Thus you see why all experienced engineers take some time to think about any new problem. Being experienced, they are also extremely good at multi-tasking, which is why the thinking time takes place down the pub...

13
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'Moore's Revenge' is upon us and will make the world weird

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Mob-mentality

Mobs are only difficult to deal with because we care somewhat about the individuals that constitute them. When a mob is a plague of vermin or of useful devices gone bad, then we shan't actually care all that much about the individual constituent members of the mob other than to rescue something useful from the chaos.

At this point, several solutions suggest themselves. Firstly, stop the chaos replicating and spreading. Secondly, contain it as much as possible. Thirdly, either rely on clean-up systems already present, or introduce them. Fourthly, build some sort of predatory system which actively hunts and destroys rogue devices (defined as devices which do not have the current friendly key).

Basically, we're ecosystem-building, with a hint of immunology built in.

15
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'Autopilot' Tesla crashed into our parked patrol car, say SoCal cops

Dr Dan Holdsworth
Boffin

Re: Hmm

It may come as something of a shock to many here, but Google have done extensive research (to add to the already extensive research done on aircraft pilots) and have concluded that when humans are involved with operating complex heavy machinery, there are really only two varieties of automation that are useful.

Firstly, there is the technology that is being steadily fitted to all cars now, which is stuff which improves how a human controls a car. This is stuff like blind spot warnings, braking assistance systems, anti-collision radar and various lane-keeping aids, together with ABS braking, improved suspension and so on. All of this requires the human to do the driving, and the tech just tries to help the human out whenever it can.

Secondly, there is fully autonomous driving. This is where the car and its systems are doing all the driving work, and the human merely has a big red button to hit in times of panicked emergency, together with some sort of very low-speed movement control for parking the vehicle somewhere that the autonomous systems cannot.

Tesla seem to be trying to extend the assistance technology into the driverless technology niche. The problem here is that humans are really bad at not driving but remaining alert; not just slightly bad but truly, dangerously terrible at this to the extent that this system is actually more dangerous than a person driving an onmodified, unaided car by themselves. Until Tesla realise or admit that their systems don't sit in either of the sweet spots for this sort of technology, they are going to carry on having problems.

14
2

Buggy software could lock a Jeep's cruise control

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Oh Lord

The fun comes when people start with a mostly-working system and try to improve it. I am currently in negotiations with Nissan over just such a set of "improvements" on the new Qashqai. The previous model had an emergency braking system, which was just about sensitive enough to turn a moderate crash into a less serious one. The major downside was that the slightest bit of snow or organic dirt on the sensor caused it to stop working.

The new, facelifted Qashqai models have a slightly different radar system. The positioning has changed; it is higher up on the front of the car, behind the logo. Unfortunately the unit is now a lot more sensitive and is also, at least on my one, buggy. Drive for around an hour and the unit throws a system fault and either stops working, or claims to be obscured (then throws a fault). When it isn't throwing a wobbly, it is complaining about parked cars, radar-reflecting bits of road and all manner of other stuff; the poxy horrible thing is much too sensitive to be useful and instead manages to be an irritation and a plague.

I am in the process of getting the radar unit replaced now; a new unit is being sourced from Amsterdam for a UK car, which suggests a continent-wide radar manufacturing fault that Nissan would very much like to keep quiet about.

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Police block roads to stop tech support chap 'robbing a bank'

Dr Dan Holdsworth

A chap i heard of in South Africa got so fed up with the locals raiding his property that he bought some Lionberger dogs, which bear an uncanny resemblance to adult male African lions. To improve the illusion, he kept them in an outdoor area that was readily visible from the road, together with garden furniture intended for small children.

This gave the impression of some seriously large lions in his back garden. The thefts stopped almost overnight after this; the locals had had enough run-ins with lions to fear them.

15
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Dr Dan Holdsworth
Big Brother

Re: Totally non-IT, but...

A long while ago, the army in Northern Ireland knew they had some bomb-makers in their general vicinity, but not where. To locate them they did something entirely counter-intuitive: they set up a laundry service.

Not just any laundry service, mind, this one was somewhat cheaper than any other local ones, and did exemplary work. Shirts were washed and pressed to military parade standards, as well they might given that it was serving soldiers doing the work. There was only one catch to all of this, one which most of the customers cared not a hoot about: all clothing got run past a very sensitive explosives residue detector before going through the laundry.

Pretty soon the Cheapest and Best Laundry in Belfast had served its purpose and the army had a much better idea of where the bomb factories were. So the laundry quietly closed its doors, to the great dismay of quite a lot of Irishmen who had been enjoying an exemplary standard of sartorial elegance.

The bomb-makers were less impressed, but still very neatly turned out when finally rounded up.

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HMRC opens consultation to crack down on off-payroll working in private sector

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Epic fail, surely ?

Government tax policy has always aimed to maximise complexity and minimise simplicity. A good example here would be alcoholic drinks. Taxing booze is surely a fairly simple thing to do; you'd not think that a government could complicate that.

A simple booze tax would be a set amount per ml of ethanol in anything intended for human consumption. Simple, easy and effective in raising money.

Not like the fifteen different rates of tax for different and finely-shaded sorts of alcoholic drink which exist at present, then?

Tobacco is another silly one. Cut tobacco for smoking attracts a tax, whole uncut leaf tobacco doesn't, and HMRC are seemingly uninterested in collecting the tax even if directly asked if they'd like to be sent the money.

This gargantuan complexity persists throughout the tax code. Simplifying the tax code drastically would be a very good thing, especially as once simplified HMRC might understand it.

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Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Risk vs Reward

I rather think that HMRC are suffering from a lack of vision here. Their objective is to maximise tax revenue. I would suggest that engineering an environment where economic growth is fostered rather than hindered would work better in the long term than hounding people over what amounts to minor amounts of money.

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UK's Rural Payments Agency is 'failing on multiple levels' – report

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Adjusting maps

DEFRA land surveyors are generally reckoned to be the Diane Abbott's of the land measurement trade; they can measure the sizes of fields which have not changed their boundaries since the Enclosure Act which formed them, and come up with slightly differing sizes year on year. That they are crap at other aspects of IT is therefore no surprise whatsoever to farmers.

0
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Navy names new attack sub HMS Agincourt

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Naming ships after military accoutrements seems a good one, since sooner or later HMS Baldrick will be launched. Preferably by Sir Tony Robinson...

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Yes, people see straight through male displays of bling (they're only after a fling)

Dr Dan Holdsworth

To be honest, the best way to approach this argument is anatomically. If you look at Great Apes as a group, then starting at one extreme are gorillas. They live in groups of mostly females and sub-adults, plus one adult male who has exclusive mating rights to all his females. Male gorillas thus have no sperm competition at all, and have evolved wedding tackle to suit this "no pressure" situation. A gorilla has an erect penis of about 3cm long, and proportionately tiny testes.

At the other end of the scale are chimpanzees, which have enormous testes and mate competitively. Most males in a group have a chance when a female is in oestrus; the higher up the dominance scale a male is, the more mating he gets to do. Chimps thus have huge levels of sperm competition, and have proportionately huge testes to support this competition.

Humans are different again. We have the largest genitalia of all Great Apes, though testicle size suggests not so much sperm competition. Something else may well be going on, especially as the fertile period in humans is fairly covert (which is the exception for apes; females normally only mate when fertile). The best recent guesstimates for non-paternity rates in humans (where the biological father and official father of a child differ) is reckoned to be around 1%, no more, so a lot of the phrases beloved of Social Darwinists such as "shopping around for genes" are wild exaggerations at best.

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UK age-checking smut overlord won't be able to handle the pressure – critics

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Insecure by design

Much is being spoken of how age verification is supposed to work securely. How about coding up an age verification system which is really, really easy to spoof and which doesn't actually keep any records. I think such a system would look like this:

"Notice: Lying about your age is very naughty and you shouldn't do it.

Are you over 18 years old Y/N?"

Then a simple redirect page based on outcome.

Such a system as this will tick all the necessary boxes: it is secure, there is no chance of a data leak, and it isn't actually much less accurate than any other age verification system; there are presumably numerous ways of scamming other age verification systems (and of course there are plenty of free VPNs out there) so the advantages of this system outweigh any minor disadvantages.

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Reg man straps on Facebook's new VR goggles, feels sullied by the experience

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Corporate tool?

Take a decent-ish VR headset and mock up a fairly simple VR scenario. Then, instead of buying your techie or coder multiple screens and wondering where to put them, just buy them this VR set-up which models multiple windows floating in space (or whatever) around them, easily moved with some form of simple haptic interface, all set at an easy focus distance.

There you have a next-generation coding environment, and one which allows some interaction with other team members, wherever they may be.

If you want to schedule a team meeting, do so in a virtual space of some form. Your team members then don't have to physically turn up, and can mostly work from home.

1
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'Your computer has a virus' cold call con artists on the rise – Microsoft

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Hold Music

Robotic speech synthesiser, the worst-sounding one you can find, reading out the poetry of William Topaz McGonnegall. Think Vogon poetry without the humour; the man was truly awful, though regarded as free entertainment in his day.

2
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Dr Dan Holdsworth
Facepalm

Re: Re "putting the phone down is almost always the right thing to do."

Most if not all of these twerps are operating over a Voice over IP line, so cannot press tone buttons even if they wanted to. So, more or less the same tool has been created several times to torture and waste the time of these idiots.

It starts off fairly simple: "To ring this phone, press 1, if nobody answers you talk to the answerphone. To talk direct to the answerphone, press 2, otherwise please hold and Lenny will be with you shortly".

"Lenny" is what might be termed an Artificial Stupidity program. When the call begins, it plays its greeting, sometimes several times until the moron answers. Then it merely waits for the moron to stop talking for about 1.5 seconds, and plays one of a dozen or so sound clips at random. This is all it does; greets then plays random responses when the moron stops talking.

Strangely enough, this is generally enough to keep a scamming moron happy and engaged for quite a long time. Lenny's exploits may be heard on the Lenny Youtube channel:

https://youtu.be/vWrkDOt_IfM

1
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Tech bribes: What's the WORST one you've ever been offered?

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Most misdirected bribe?

For a couple of years, my job title was "Infrastructure Coordinator (UNIX)", and was visible to the open internet. This then meant that quite a few of the dimmer salesdroids would phone me up on the assumption that I was the bloke in charge of the infrastructure of a major university.

Sad to say, I never bothered leading these gimps on, not least because to do would involve cutting a particularly unpleasant manager of my acquaintance in on the deal.

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OK, this time it's for real: The last available IPv4 address block has gone

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Time to claw some back

"Anti-Internet" people can be described by another, much easier word: idiots.

8
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Size does matter, chaps: Oversized todgers an evolutionary handicap

Dr Dan Holdsworth
Coat

Re: Cock size

Yes, the phrase "hung like a gorilla" is a complement in most countries, except for Central Africa and amongst zoo keepers, who all know that the fully erect member of an adult male gorilla is a whopping three centimetres in length.

In other words, a male gorilla has the bare minimum of wedding tackle needed to get female gorillas pregnant. Gorillas also have, relative to their size and relative to other primates, absolutely tiny testicles.

This leads us on to the human anatomy. We are physically much smaller than gorillas, but of all apes have far and away the largest penises. This is clearly adaptive, or we would not be so hugely endowed. Genitals change and evolve very quickly indeed according to selective pressures, so it may be reasonable to assume that H. sapiens is unusual not only amongst apes, but also amongst hominids as a group.

Humans are the only remaining hominid, but are known to have regularly hybridised with other near-human species. Perhaps then this is the answer as to how we have survived and other species have fallen by the wayside: human males are simply unusually well-endowed as hominids go and thus out-compete the males of other species for females...

5
1

Microsoft Office 365 and Azure Active Directory go TITSUP*

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Buzzword Bingo

Cloud is a buzzword, simple as that. No real meaning, except what that shiny-suited salesman wants it to mean.

A cloud-hosted solution is a data centre full of servers on which the service is running. The only difference is that the cloud-hosting operator can probably do it a bit cheaper than you can, through economies of scale. The *other* difference is that you are not only relying on the cloud hosting machines to stay up, but also all the networking kit between you and them, plus other associated gubbins like DNS and the like.

When it all works, it is cheaper. When it doesn't, what ho, you got what you paid for.

2
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Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: How can we learn from this?

Unless you can actually check each item on a CV for veracity, it is wise to assume it to be at best wildly inaccurate and a heavily manicured version of the truth, and at worst complete fiction. By way of example, a former colleague of mine describes the time when we worked together (as low-end dev-ops on a Remedy ARS system) as the time when he was the team leader of that entire section.

Which, to be brutally honest, was complete and utter balderdash, wild exaggeration and outright fabrication of what he was actually doing.

Employing a person on the basis of information that they provide which cannot be independently checked is utter folly.

0
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UK.gov: Here's £8.8m to plough into hydrogen-powered car tech

Dr Dan Holdsworth
Boffin

Re: ' Current industrial production of hydrogen gas'

The only good point about hydrogen is that it can be used directly in a hydrogen fuel cell. That's it; that is the sole good point.

The downsides to hydrogen are that it has very poor energy density so you need a great deal of it, it can only be stored at great pressure or at very low temperature, it diffuses through metals very readily and makes them brittle as it does so, it is explosive at a huge range of concentrations and burns with a flame that is invisible to humans (birds may be able to see it, it glows in the ultraviolet).

Hydrogen as a fuel is a political thing, not an engineering thing.

The sanest alternatives are methanol or ammonia, both synthesised using alternative power sources or using nuclear energy. Ammonia actually has numerous advantages over hydrogen; it is not very explosive, doesn't diffuse through things, can be contained in the same sorts of tanks that LPG is stored in, and smells absolutely horrible so leak detection is easy.

Ammonia can be burned in a conventional internal combustion engine, in a jet turbine or even (with the use of a catalyst to decompose it to nitrogen and hydrogen) in a fuel cell. If you absolutely must have a zero-carbon fuel and batteries/supercapacitors won't work, then ammonia is the best choice.

2
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Galileo, Galileo, Galileo, off you go: Snout of UK space forcibly removed from EU satellite trough

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: The Swiss are in it

The Brexit referendum is the end result of multiple great acts of stupidity from politicians on all sides.

The EU lot aren't blameless, in that they have viewed Britain as a milch cow to be exploited but largely ignored; the UK lot used the EU as a whipping boy to blame for unpleasant legislation that was necessary and would have been enacted whether the EU was there or not.

UKIP was always only ever a one-trick pony. The one trick UKIP had was to force a referendum; the way to get shut of UKIP permanently was to give it the referendum it wanted (much as the SNP were given their Scottish Independence referendum to shut them up). The trick to all of this wass to get the EU to give Cameron concessions that sounded big, to convince the electorate that he was looking out for them.

In all of this, the EU behaved illogically and frankly rather stupidly. When their second-biggest contributor comes to them asking for a favour to help put down some local anti-EU activists, then cooperation should be the order of the day so as to prevent this sort of foolishness breaking out all over the place. Instead of this, Cameron got the cold shoulder treatment and got no concessions at all; the EU put themselves in a position where it was easy to paint them as uncaring, arrogant foreign would-be overlords. There's a section of the population that is xenophobic, jingoist and really loves attacking foreign politicians.

It was, in effect, absolutely ideal UKIP propaganda material, which they exploited to the full and when "Project Fear" chimed in too strongly, too bluntly and far too late, the idea that the EU were arrogant vermin, the government a bunch of twits and UKIP the party of the common man came to the fore.

Brexit is happening because two lots of politicians who should've known better made a mess of things, and a few grubby populists didn't.

16
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UK smut overlord declares age checks should protect users' privates

Dr Dan Holdsworth
Facepalm

So basically all a horny teen needs is a smartphone and the acronym VPN. Off he goes to the Google Play store, downloads the first few things that have VPN in the title, tries them and finds out that yes, all the smut is accessible once more.

No brains or technical skill or money needed at all.

6
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BOFH: Give me a lever long enough and a fool, I mean a fulcrum and ....

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Nearly similar situation...

Sometimes the legal profession really do excel in terms of stupid expressions. A very good example would be a judge who, when summing up a case where two young men were convicted of outraging public decency, told them to "Get a grip and pull themselves together", which was pretty much what they'd just been found guilty of doing, albeit in public.

31
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Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: I like the new boss

I suspect that the new boss may soon be removed and replaced with a simple software implementation of his former role:

http://www.fatsquirrel.org/veghead/software/bollocks/

This implements /dev/bollocks, the first kernel module to wear a suit (even if only metaphorically).

7
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El Reg deep dive: Everything you need to know about UK.gov's pr0n block

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: @Dave Bell - Here we go again...

Operation Ore was even more insidious in that the operators of that porn site, which offered various images of various fetishes of a legal but strictly niche interest, were criminals. They reasoned that if they deducted extra money from their customers' credit cards to buy illegal porn, the customers thus defrauded wouldn't complain, and since that site was the only place they could find their particular kink, nor would they go away; they would simply put up with the fraud.

So, whilst the site records showed that a long list of customers had purchased child porn, quite a number of these customers hadn't themselves made that purchase, nor had they looked at or even known that they had bought the illegal porn. The police, by contrast, worked on the principle that the criminals operating the site were honest and kept honest records of everything, and so used the purchase records as evidence to accuse people of viewing illegal porn.

Several suicides resulted from these wrongful accusations.

6
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Batteries are so heavy, said user. If I take it out, will this thing work?

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Land Rover MK2

Twin tanks were often fitted to diesel-fuelled farm landrovers, so that the police/Customs had one tank full of white diesel to dip and check that yes, it was legal road diesel. The vehicle actually was usually run off the other tank, the one with agricultural red diesel in it...

11
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BOFH: Turn your server rack hotspot to a server rack notspot

Dr Dan Holdsworth
Boffin

Re: Stair Oil

Fifteen minutes duration sounds like a solution of a plastic in isopropyl alcohol, very likely liberated from surplus stores of tape head cleaner. I think I detect a certain amount of experimentation in the correct type of plastic solute to use to achieve the correct amount of slipperiness; after all practice does make perfect in these circumstances.

16
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Rogue IT admin goes off the rails, shuts down Canadian train switches

Dr Dan Holdsworth
Stop

HR 101

Honestly, you'd think it would be written into HR and Management manuals by now: if you have an employee who is showing signs of being likely to become an ex-employee, then when you fire him you lock his accounts first, then you inform him that he is being terminated and that his remaining tenure with the company is gardening leave, to be spent off-site.

Otherwise, try to conduct all such business with the maximum of politeness and dignity, so as to preserve your company's reputation and minimise hurt and annoyance to the soon-to-be-ex employee. Pay a little more than statutory minimum redundancy payments, extend health cover for a month or so, basically be nice to the bloke you're firing and with luck he'll be nice back to you.

20
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Boffins upload worm's brain into a computer, teach it tricks

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Good start.

No, the dissection is actually finer than that.

Take one C. elegans worm, fix it and embed it in suitable sectioning material. Then use a microtome to cut it into very, very thin salami slices and image each of these under a microscope. Finally, using a computer running much the same software as is used on CT scanners, reconstruct the animal's nervous system in 3D.

Repeat on a few different worms and there you have the nervous system of the brain (actually a nerve ring around the pharynx) of a nematode. Sit back and enjoy.

5
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Yorkshire cops have begun using on-the-spot fingerprint scanners

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Not on IDENT1

To be honest, storing a fingerprint recorded by a mobile device is a bit of a waste of time; the thing is most unlikely to give a good enough image to be useful.

The mobile unit is much more likely to image the fingerprint, create a map of where ridges begin and end, transform this into a long alphanumeric then compare this against similarly-derived alphanumerics stored on a Home Office database. It will also have the facility to report back "Fingerprint too worn to be of use", which is likely to happen quite often where low-paid immigrants are being used as cheap labour on building sites; handling rough stone or brick all day long wears off fingerprints.

5
2
Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Non binary DNA

Assuming XX == female and XY == male is correct over 99% of the time. Naturally-occurring faults in the genetics of gender generally don't breed true, hence are heavily selected against by evolution (unless a different form of kin selection is at play; see also Social Darwinism).

That we now have a few edge cases merely means that an exception needs to be put into the software; something on the lines of "This person falls into the *other* category".

6
4

Secret weekend office bonk came within inch of killing sysadmin

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Basement computer room

A very famous computer department in Manchester used to have a rooftop garden above their main machine room, complete with a pond. No prizes for guessing what used to happen on a regular basis; the pond leaked.

The only highlight of this was that every year for a couple of decades, one lone duck would build a nest in that rooftop garden, the fledging chicks getting a free ride out into more suitable habitat when the time came; photo-opportunities with the Computer Science duck were a great honour.

These days, the machine room is a big office. The pond is a skylight.

It still leaks.

16
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Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: WTF?

Ahhh beancounters, where would we be without a bunch of cost-obsessed maniacs to get in the way?

Probably in the place of a certain northern English university that I'd better not name (not that I work there, but still).

This university had a sports complex with a flat roof. Not the smartest option ever designed for use in England, and like every flat roof ever, this one developed a leak. The University Estates people were called, and failed to fix the leak to nobody's surprise since University Estates tend to have the collective IQ of yeast.

So, the job was put out to tender, and the Powers That Be unfortunately included the beancounters in the decision. The problem was that there were only a couple of contractors locally big enough and reliable enough to do the job, and they were well aware of this and tended to cartel-like pricing. A third group also tendered, at a much lower cost; let us call them "Del-boy Trotter & co". The beancounters saw only the cost, and insisted on this bunch being hired to do the job.

Thus it was a week or two later that what looked like the contents of several scrap yards, plus exhibits from the Museum of Dodgy Roofers turned up. Shortly after Security tried to turn them away fearing a gypsy invasion, it was determined that these were the new roofers. Quite quickly, they got to work and started messing about with boiling tar, roofing felt and endless cups of tea, and a fortnight or so later pronounced the job done and asked for payment. In cash.

This was refused until after a couple of good rainstorms showed that yes, the leaks were gone, so Del-boy and hist motley crew were paid and duly disappeared, never to return.

Several thunderstorms later the leak re-appeared. The loft space of the sports complex was investigated, and it was found that the large plastic bin placed under the largest leak by the roofers was now full of water and overflowing.

One of the usual suspects for roofing was duly engaged, after it was discovered to nobody's surprise save for the beancounters' that Del-boy & co had vanished.

To this day the beancounters of this university have their every decision questioned with the words "But remember the sports hall!"

45
0

Peers approve Brit film board as pr0n overlords despite concerns

Dr Dan Holdsworth
FAIL

This is sounding unpleasantly like a re-run of Government versus Encryption

Remember all the calls for encryption products to have a back door in them for the use of police? Remember how our Government are completely sure that this is a good thing, completely sure that nobody will abuse the back door and utterly certain that nobody will do horrible and illegal things like install non-backdoored software?

This is more of the same.

This is politicians trying to change reality by averring that such a thing is so, when in fact it is not. Age verification absolutely has to identify the person who is having their age verified, otherwise it is useless. Therefore age verification will identify who looks at what, and said details will be stored on a government computer somewhere, and later lost on a train by some gormless civil servant.

Anyone with any sense will therefore give this age verification system the bargepole treatment, and obtain a VPN from an off-shore supplier. There are lots of different VPN suppliers to choose from, quite a few of which keep no records of what traverses their systems whatsoever.

Somewhere, therefore, an MI5 man is crying into his beer as formerly passable sources of Internet metadata go opaque. Even the fact that someone was using an off-shore VPN was (and probably still is) a useful indicator of either paranoia or nefarious deeds (barring business use, of course).

Alter the pr0n laws so that a VPN becomes a necessary adjunct of anyone who fancies a spot of executive relief, and all of a sudden VPN traffic becomes so common that it isn't a marker of dodgy deeds any more. Hey presto, that's another easy source of intelligence ruined by the politicians.

0
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Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Should I laugh or cry?

Look, the anonymised solution already exists.

I want to look at pr0n, I go fire up the VPN and the Great W***ing Overlords are none the wiser.

Job done. *ahem*.

0
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Are you taking the peacock? United Airlines deny flight to 'emotional support' bird

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Poor choice

I would second this.

I heard a tale of a peacock sold by one farmer to another neighbouring farm. Periodically the peacock would decide to "go home", and would set off across the fields.

It would be found, stuck in the same too-narrow gap in the same hedge every single time. It never learned not to enter tight holes in hedges, and it never remembered that that particular hedge was the problem.

Truly, peacocks are incredibly thick birds!

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