* Posts by Alan Brown

8352 posts • joined 8 Feb 2008

Car tax evasion has soared since paper discs scrapped

Alan Brown
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Re: behind the Times ?

"However, most vehicle mechanics now put rego due dates on same windscreen sticker reminder of next service due"

Those stickers are something you simply don't see in the UK.

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Alan Brown
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Re: More to the point - how much has it saved?

It's like the massive IT projects rolled out in the UK, Asutalia and New Zealand in the 1990s linking banks, welfare and tax information together in order to find all those bludgers fiddling the system - we were told it would pay for itself in the first year, yadda yadda.

In every case, what was found was that there were very few welfare cheats (but a lot of people who were entitled to claim but didn't) and 90+% of the fraud detected was actually being committed by welfare department staff (which should have been detectable anyway). Even with that, the amount of welfare fraud detected came to less than 10% of the rollout costs.

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Alan Brown
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VED is about £5 billion per year to the government.

Fuel taxes are more than 10 times that much revenue (£65 billion in 2009)

When Cameron promised to ringfence vehicle taxation for roading, he knew full well that it was a minor issue in comparison to the income from motor spirit taxation and duty. (a litre of petrol's _actual_ cost is about 20p, the rest is tax of some sort or another.)

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Alan Brown
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Re: No car tax?

"All of London low emission zone cameras can do it too. Same for the congestion charge. "

7 years ago the Met was estimating that thanks to congestion charge cameras, around 8-10% of cars on London roads were running on cloned plates.

The dork that drove into me went one better, not only was the plate fake, but the tax disc that went with it was visually quite credible - and the car even had a faked up VIN that passed casual view (as in right for the model). It shouldn't be a surprise that he ran off and left his pride&joy sitting in the middle of a busy Croydon road, rather than be there when the Plod arrived.

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Help desk declared code PEBCAK and therefore refused to help!

Alan Brown
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"level 1 support staff is entirely useless"

They're not usually hired for their intelligence or problem solving skills, but merely for their ability to stick to a script and explain how to close the coffee cup holder.

The problem is when they either escalate too much or too little and this gets compounded when oversight is done within the group, so manglement try to avoid admitting they're cocking up.

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Alan Brown
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Re: Early symptom of the demise of $BIGCO?

> There are people who don't know what is meant by 'Could you open a web browser please?'

I have had to explain how to close a window more than 5 times in 15 minutes - whilst on the SAME call.

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Robocall crackdown, choked Lifelines, and pole-climbing: Your new FCC rules roundup

Alan Brown
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Re: Wait, what?

"There are restrictions placed on them that are often ignored illegally"

There are 2 kinds of robocalls. The ones with pre-recorded messages used to be heavily restricted(*) and they got even more restricted around 2003(**).

(*) Not allowed to dial safety of life services, not allowed to dial fixed lines in public spaces or hospitals, not allowed to dial mobiles (US consumers pay for inbound calls), etc etc. All of which were ignored.

(**) Apart from authorised public service safety announcements they're now only allowed to be made once explicit permission has been given. Even political/religious/charity prerecorded calls are restricted now (think of it as a loudspeaker truck law - the issue isn't the speech, it's the manner of delivery)

Robodialling setups that have a human on the line have fewer restrictions, but the absolute prohibition on caller-ID spoofing has always been there. The Wikipedia entry on the TCPA is pretty comprehensive.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telephone_Consumer_Protection_Act_of_1991

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Kaspersky: Clumsy NSA leak snoop's PC was packed with malware

Alan Brown
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"is Zhou Lou related to Lin Chin?"

No, but he does take orders from Captain Kirk whilst he's on the helm

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'Sticky runway' closes Canadian airport

Alan Brown
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Re: Self interest?

"As an aside, here is what happens when you fuck around with runway maintenance when operating jet planes"

Many years ago at the opening of the newly laid strip at PMR, a Vulcan crew (a bit the worse for wear) who'd been there for the opening display ripped down the runway, stood it on its tail and lit the afterburners - burning a hole in the runway as they exited to 20,000 feet. Cue airport being closed for 18 months for repairs.

As for the crew, they only went 15 miles to OHA (via Wellington, 90 miles south, where they ripped up the undercarriage cocking up a touch and go), landed hot and fast and ripped the already damaged undercarriage off. When the rescue crew arrived, the aircrew were so drunk they could barely walk. It all got hushed up and the aircraft was quickly repaired.

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Alan Brown
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Re: Self interest?

" In the case of an emergency, the airline's insurance company foots the bill. "

It would be in the interests of the insurers to make sure it's working. The payouts would be much higher if the runway wasn't there.

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

Alan Brown
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Re: The results will be misinterpreted

"And a lot fewer and probably less well paid scientists and engineers have been designing and launching orbital spectrometers like IBUKI, OCO-2 and this proposal that can actually measure CO2 levels in our atmosphere"

Yup, this is exactly the problem. It's bloody hard to get 50k for storage and HPC resources to analyse the data whilst the politicians happily spend a few million on sucessive bunfights.

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Alan Brown
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Re: The results will be meaningless

"Algae will produce molecular oxygen."

1: Only whilst there's light - the rest of the time they're absorbing it.

1a: If the waters become acidic then they produce less oxygen - and oceanic acidity has already increased 30% in the last 250 years (Ph scales are logarithmic)

2: When the algae dies it settles to the bottom and absorbs oxygen whilst decaying.

3: If algae levels get too high (bloom) then they deoxygenate the water at night and die en masse.

It's the 3rd item which is responsible for most of our oil reserves as the blooms settle and then get covered in further debris under anoxic conditions.

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Alan Brown
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Re: The results will be meaningless

Longer term it is - Look up Anoxic Oceanic Events. They tend to go hand in hand geologically with CO2 spikes.

The worry from some quarters is whether we're pushing to the knee point of one or have already passed it.

Things like the Leptav Methane Emissions are worrying enough - current remote sensing instruments can't detect methane over water. This means that the "phantom emissions" originally attributed to agriculture may well be coming from there (the methane survey authors weren't aware of Leptav emissions until AFTER they published). Onsite observers claimed the plumes are over 1km wide at the surface - and this is the first time that clathrate plumes have made it to the surface.

The bigger worry is that if the Leptav clathrates bubbling out get to the point of destabilising the Siberian continental margin then we could see a Storegga style methane burp and associated landslides+tsunamis putting somewhere between 1-5GT of methane into the atmosphere in a few weeks or days. This would be bad news - if you look at geologic record, Storegga's methane burp kicked global temperatures by a couple of degrees and appear to have been the trigger for rapid ice melt/sea level rise.

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Android at 10: How Google won the smartphone wars

Alan Brown
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Re: XDA

"Even Apple's early GUI was heavily influenced by GEM"

So much so that they litigated to put GEM on PCs off the market.

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Alan Brown
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No mention of UIQ?

Symbian UIQ2 predated all the above and provided many of the concepts we saw on both iphone and android (including the infamous slide to unlock and a battery that would last less than 2 hours if GPS was enabled)

I still have my motorola A1000...

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Intel's super-secret Management Engine firmware now glimpsed, fingered via USB

Alan Brown
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Re: damn posted to early, it should be

You know the I915 chipset has this too, don't you?

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Alan Brown
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Re: Claim: all IPv6 addresses are *PUBLIC*

"Most home routers offering IPv6 still seem to just expose the plain IPv6 address directly anyway. Not fantastic."

As long as they apply the _same_ firewalling rules on IPv6 as on IPv4 (ie, all incoming blocked by default, etc) then there's no major issue.

There are of home routers which mirror the IPv4 rules to IPv6 by default.

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Alexa, please cause the cops to raid my home

Alan Brown
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Re: Not just Alexa

" car ...decided to switch the radio on"

Why is the radio coming on without the car being in accessory mode?

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Alan Brown
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Re: IT happens

"DAB got turned off where I live"

And there was much rejoicing.

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Uni staffer's health info blabbed in email list snafu

Alan Brown
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Re: UEA

"My experience of Office 365 is that it is so slow and useless I'm surprised whoever it was managed to compose the email and get it out in the first place."

In many cases it's still better than the mail systems it replaced - but they were so bad because university administrations wouldn't pay for server upgrades. (and there's a lot of speculation that most deals were agreed via a handshake on a golf course rather than actual business cases)

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Metal 3D printing at 100 times the speed and a twentieth of the cost

Alan Brown
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Re: 3D PCB

"These modern boilers break down a lot, because of the complexity which has to be included to make them efficient."

No, they break down a lot because of shitty design and that has a lot to do with poor expectations of british consumers. These are the same cruddy units that die due to limescale buildups in the heat exchangers.

DECENT boilers don't suffer electronics breakdowns (hint: test the capacitors and make sure the designs take ESD protection into account). DECENT designs also use a secondary water loop so that fresh mains water is never exposed to flame in the primary heat exchanger and DECENT installations don't run the condensate line where it's going to be exposed to freezing temperatures in winter.

I have a nice 15 year old Bosch combi setup which has never failed - and the water around here is so limey that if you boil it in a bucket you can see flakes precipitating out. On the other hand people who installed cheap "potterton" and co crud have endless problems with the things due to rotten british quality control and poor design. TCO is about far more than just being cheap to buy.

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Alan Brown
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Re: I must admit I'd love to have access to one locally.

" Does the cheap labor of an emerging economy become meaningless when factories and laborers aren't needed?"

More or less. Once you have the technology for on-demand production it makes the most sense to produce close to the point of consumption.

On the other hand you're saving a lot of people from quite shitty jobs and perhaps giving them opportunities that will allow them to leapfrog industrial economies.

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Alan Brown
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Re: Problems to overcome

"Jet *engine* parts were not mentioned in the article"

No, but several combustor parts are being made using 3D techniques now. By all accounts they save several hundred hours of work per set and are much lighter than their predecessors (which were made up of dozens of parts) whilst being more reliable and longer lived.

GE's LEAP engines feature them and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see them built to fit into older engines, replacing hideously complex manually machined/assembled bits.

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Alan Brown
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Re: er....

"I would expect them to be notably less strong than machined parts"

So would I. That's one of the disadvantages of sintered parts (along with brittleness)

On the laser side, things are moving apace from selective sintering to selective melting techniques.

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Scientists think they've found primordial goop whence life first sprang

Alan Brown
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Re: Science for the win!

"PS: Can you eat it?"

Only if it doesn't eat you first.

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Alan Brown
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"life could be kickstarted with a trllion times as much gloop and ten million years of stirring?"

A bit like the success rate of terrorists blowing up the houses of parliament, "it only needs to get kickstarted once", so I wouldn't discount the possibility of option C

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Alan Brown
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Re: Go check the smokers on the bottom of the world

"perpetually cold and dark"

Not at all cold around those smokers - and a very nice energy gradient to work with no matter what temperature the surrounding water was (FWIW uber-cold ocean depths are a relatively recent phenomenon associated with ice ages)

As for life, there's a huge fuzzy area between "organic chemistry" and "life" where you might have a lot of difficulty distinguishing between "interesting chemistry" and "alive". Comets or no comets, cells of any kind (prokarotes or archea or whatever) didn't just spontaneously assemble from "primordial goop" and it's quite likely that there are a multiplicity of origins mixed up in the assembly.

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More expensive, takes longer than usual, not particularly brilliant. Yes, it's your robot surgeon

Alan Brown
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Re: Now imagine if you read: US UAW study "robots make no improvements in car mfg.

Actually, humans get to screw the lug nuts on whilst robots do the tricky stuff like welding.

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Paradise Papers were not an inside job, says leaky offshore law firm

Alan Brown
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Re: "that Russia funded Facebook and Twitter"

"buying US Treasury bonds to the tune of 100B! "

Aka less than the value Broadcom attributes to Qualcom and vastly less than the Trillions that the US spends on its military each year.

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Guy Glitchy: Villagers torch Openreach effigy

Alan Brown
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Re: Openreach marketing

My openreach story is that they came, laid ducts and left. When the next team came to put fibre in the ducts, they discovered that the ducting stopped 18 inches from the edge of all the pits.

Yup really.

cue 4 month delay until someone came out and did the ducts properly.

Not to mention that they delayed for 14 _years_ in even getting to the first step above.

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Alan Brown
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Re: Lies, damn lies and BT excuses

The simplest way to sort _that_ out is to setup a shell company, sign up all the villagers to high speed access and announce a launch date.

Watch how fast BT shows up to prevent it.

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Your future data-centre: servers immersed in box full of oil, in a field

Alan Brown
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Re: Back to the 80's

"It would probably be better to drop these boxes in a lake somewhere and use the warmed water for fish farming or summat."

All that happens then is that you get the aquatic version of "every bug/crawly thing - and the things that eat them" taking up residence and clogging the cooling.

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Alan Brown
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Re: Been there, done that...

"disks have been fully sealed for years"

Some disks - of the helium filled variety - and they still have a pressure relief wotsit which won't take kindly to being immersed.

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Estonia government locks down ID smartcards: Refresh or else

Alan Brown
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"That seems to be a problem with the US SSN which is regularly part of the PII lost in data breaches."

The thing about US SSNs is that they're only required for certain government-related interactions (not even for tax, you can use a Taxpayer Identification Number instead)

Private companies were never supposed to process them and in most cases you don't have to give it.

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Alan Brown
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"The original rationale in Ireland was that it would cut down on welfare fraud (popular amongst centre with voters)"

The amusing thing about that old saw is that usually XYZ country spends umpteen millions to implement a system to cut welfare fraud estimated at "umpteen * N", only to find that _actual_ welfare fraud is "some small fraction of umpteen" and that the vast majority of it is being perpetrated by welfare department staff (also that such frauds should have been trivially detectable using the pre-existing systems - picking up things like payments for different identities going to the same bank account. Crooks aren't usually smart)

Once that gets discovered they have to start finding other ways to justify the system's existence (ie, a solution looking for a problem)

On a similar note, areas which introduced mandatory drug testing of welfare recipients discovered that they were spending a hell of a lot of money to find one or two cases per year. It shouldn't be a surprise that people on welfare can't afford (illegal) recreational drugs and those who do partake when they can't afford tend to be quite obvious.

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Alan Brown
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"a unique 7 character alphanumeric code to every address, not to a street / area like UK or most other systems."

FWIW, the US Zip code system has "to the house" precision - Not in the first 5 digits, but in the next 4+2 which aren't used much by humans. (ZIP+4 plus 2-digit delivery point code - this is encapsulated in the intelligent mail barcode applied to every piece of mail in the US postal system, either by sorting machines or by bulk mailers before posting)

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Data dealer slapped with £80k fine after flogging info for nuisance calls

Alan Brown
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Re: can we have at least this in the USA?

You do have it in the USA. The TCPA has been in existence for over 20 years, was clarified in 2006 and 2008 and there's a national do-not-call registry.

Don't worry about the faked caller ID. That moves it from $500 to $1500 claimable per call as a wilful violation - the law makes both the call centre AND the company they advertise for liable, so let them make their pitch and get as much information as you can to identify, then file in small claims.

Yes, the FCC forms are a PITA, but you don't need to use them to make a small claims filing - and at $1500 a pop it's a worthwhile hobby.

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Alan Brown
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Re: At adam payne, RE: the amount of the fine.

a single large fine generated by a regulator can be contested.

Giving a right of private action with mandatory statutory damages per breach is a far more savage punishment and the regulators can simply sit back and watch these outfits suffer the death of a billion papercuts.

The TCPA effectively killed junk faxing in the USA because of these provisions (Some fax spammers moved into email (Sanford Wallace amongst others), some tried to soldier on by building a secession of shell companies and fake business locations (fax.com) - but they got tracked down and nailed with large penalties. Others tried being offshore and discovered that didn't work either.)

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Alan Brown
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Re: Only?

"How about an extra long necktie"

Long enough to be tied to a ceiling fan whilst the owner is wearing it?

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Birds are pecking apart Australia's national broadband network

Alan Brown
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Re: Not only birds

"bored gunmen have been playing target practice with the insulators on Google's electricity distribution poles"

That's been a problem for telcos since time immemorial. They shoot up the cables too if they're particularly bored.

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Over a million Android users fooled by fake WhatsApp app in official Google Play Store

Alan Brown
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Re: store fakes

" (Star ratings seem to be of little value, unless there are hundreds of positive votes)"

Obligatory XKCD: https://xkcd.com/1098/ and https://xkcd.com/937/

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Official Secrets Act alert went off after embassy hired local tech support

Alan Brown
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Re: Too many stories like that one.

"half an hour later it dies with no warning..."

Yes, but presumably you have enough $clue to check the power and not scream at IT.

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Giza geezers' muon-geyser visor reveals Great Pyramid's hidden void surpriser

Alan Brown
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Re: Done before?

Something similar was tried in the 1970s but because they got the dimensions wrong, the results were gibberish (which von Danniken and friends ascribed to "aliens"). Once the measurements were corrected there was nothing interesting showing.

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Alan Brown
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Re: 'a particle usually found in cosmic rays'

What's not mentioned is that muons were proposed as a tool for examination over 45 years ago and now we finally have the technology to actually try it.

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Vlad the blockader: Russia's anti-VPN law comes into effect

Alan Brown
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Re: "Dobby" will not be mocked.

"Personally I think one day he will be launded as a great gay icon. So butch."

Yes, the Rock Hudson is strong in him.

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Alan Brown
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Re: Cutting the cables would be Putin's and Xi's dream

The Internet sees censorship as damage and routes around it.

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Chipzilla drops dinkier Optane SSD, but don't expect it in data centres

Alan Brown
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Small optanes could be useful for...

ZFS SLOG drives - given the cost of 8GB Zeusram drives.

Could be. If the endurance wasn't so awful.

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F-35s grounded by spares shortage

Alan Brown
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Re: >This argument that the technology will soon be supplanted

"jet fighters won't be too involved in non-peripheral combat zones unless they're carrier-based"

China's DF-21D and DF-26 are more than enough to ensure that they won't be involved even if carrier-based.

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

" The Allies have themselves to thank for bringing about the conditions Hitler needed to take power."

It was remarked by at least one official in 1919 after the conditions of the armistice and reparations were laid out that it wasn't a peace document, merely a 20 year pause in the war.

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

"european powers ignored the military complex hitler was building in the 30s "

That had a lot more to do with memories of how bad WW1 was and not being willing to gear up and do it all over again.

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