* Posts by Alan Brown

8015 posts • joined 8 Feb 2008

Fancy a mile-high earjob? We've had five!

Alan Brown
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Re: Fun Fact...

"I am very aware of a pressure -inside- my ears when they are donned and active"

If you go into an anechoic chamber (or a well muffled radio studio), you'll notice the same effect. I think it's the brain's reaction to an acoustically dead environment.

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UK PC prices have risen 30% in a year since the EU referendum

Alan Brown
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Re: Markets are mostly psychology

"Some Brits seem to think they are very special indeed."

What they don't realise is that they're "short bus" special.

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Alan Brown
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Re: Markets are mostly psychology

"It doesn't matter how the Brexit will actually turn out what matters is what investors will believe the Brexit will turn out."

Actually it's even simpler than that:

"Any currency is only worth what market confidence says it is worth"

Hence why bitcoin swings wildly whilst larger fiat currencies are less inclined to be volatile.

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Alan Brown
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30% increase is far less than the fall in the pound.

And before you all shout me down, here's why:

If your pound is worth 2 frobnutz and it falls to a value of 1 frobnutz, the value of your currency may have FALLEN 50%, but anything imported which used to cost 2 frobnutz, and therefore 1 pound, is now costing you....2 pounds.

That's a 100% increase in COST for a 50% fall in the value of the currency.

A 30% fall in the value of the pound translates to a 50% increase of costs

A 25% fall is a 33.3% (1/3) increase

20% fall == 25% increase.

etc.

The simplest way of working this out this is to invert the divisor

IE: if your pound is worth 2/3 of what it used to be against XYZ foreign currency, then anything which is traded internationally in that currency will now cost you 3/2 of what it used to be.

when comparing on the money boards, it's (currentvalue / oldvalue) to get the fall in value and (oldvalue / currentvalue) to get the increase in costs.

I've had to explain this a number of times to management who have been loudly griping that "the pound has only fallen 30%, why are these scalpers charging 50% more?" - bringing to mind the adage that those who can't do basic algebra are doomed to bankruptcy.

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Ofcom to crack down on telcos' handling of nuisance callers

Alan Brown
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"A lot of countries can't/don't/won't supply CLI last I heard."

About 35-45 years ago, the same was true of barcodes on groceries. When the large supermarket chains in various countries announced they wouldn't handle products without barcodes, "too difficult to implement" was invariably solved within weeks.

If the larger telcos announce en-masse that CLI data must be presented or they won't terminate, the recalcatrant telcos will step into line pretty quickly.

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Alan Brown
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Re: Calls from BT OverReach

"Openwretch engineers dont provide a displaying number when they call "

They do if your telco tells them you filter wthheld numbers.

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Alan Brown
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Re: Speaking of billing...

> and tell the caller they need to call back on your "private line".

I do the same thing with an 070 number - which is less obvious than 084/087 and is charged at £1.50/min

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Alan Brown
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"the telco's just make money from both sides by charging for nuisance call blocking services and caller ID."

A large part of the reason why Telcos started to take action against the fraudulent calls was that they fraudsters started injecting fraudulent routing information into the network - meaning that the telcos didn't get termination revenue anymore.

Or in other words, they only care when they're not being paid.

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Alan Brown
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"Another newer version is they use the last number that answered their call for the next call."

If "over here" is the USA, then notifying the FCC should have "interesting" results. Spoofing numbers is explicitly illegal and american LEOs have kicked down doors in a number of countries over this kind of thing. (So have German ones for that matter. It seems to only be the UK who refuse to follow the money if the trail leads out of the country)

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Alan Brown
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"Now Ofcom need to get this adopted by the EU, as the real problem is with calls originating overseas."

Not overly.

As well as the call presentation number, there is always accounting data routed in the call showing the true origin. Telcos _could_ use this to filter bogon caller-IDs and ban traffic from persistent fraudulent telcos, however they have substantial financial incentive not to do so, as they receive termination revenue for each completed(*) call.

The entire world telephone call routing infrastructure is built on the basis that those with access to the engineering layers of the network are inherently trustworthy and that's been provably false since at least the late 1980s when call routing scams were used to hijack Chilean and Nuiean number ranges for sex lines.

(*) Completed or terminated in this context means "something or someone picked up the phone"

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Alan Brown
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" a spurious number presented which is always one digit short of what a number might typically contain"

Which at least is filterable.

The insurance claim ("your car accident") scammers were spoofing real Manchester numbers a few months ago, including ones which belonged to an estate agent and a dentist - who when I called back, were both wondering why they'd had a number of abusive calls and "rather irritated" to hear that scammers had been spoofing their numbers.

There need to be criminal penalty provisions for unauthorised number presentation, ideally with $LARGE penalties allowed to be applied to telcos who let them through.

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Boffin wins (Ig) Nobel prize asking if cats can be liquid

Alan Brown
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Re: Cats are neither a solid nor a liquid.

"My daughter has trained her cat to use one of these. "

More prosaically, mine will happily use the first stage of that but draw a line in the sand (and the litter) when you get to the parts involving a hole in the middle.

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Alan Brown
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Re: Cats are neither a solid nor a liquid.

"Yet every Maths graduate I know (I fell in with the wrong crowd at Uni) has a weird addiction to slot machines..."

We used to tell our teachers we were practicing applied numerical probability theory when caught playing poker.

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Alan Brown
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Re: Cats are neither a solid nor a liquid.

"Casinos don't need to do maths, the odds are already in their favour."

With one exception: Blackjack. In that game the odds are about 50:50.

You can win by counting cards (which will get you kicked out) or statistically by standing at 17+ every time.

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Alan Brown
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Re: Cats are neither a solid nor a liquid.

"Cats are merely boneless. Everybody knows that."

Having seen a video of one slipping under a 1-inch gap in a closed door: Yup.

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Your boss asks you to run the 'cloud project': Ever-changing wish lists, packs of 'ideas'... and 1 deadline

Alan Brown
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Re: Opposite problem can be as bad

"Invoking it would be the one thing that would force them to confront reality."

This reminds me of a Civil Defence exercise many years ago. Partway though the weekend of the exercise, the hilltop radio repeater systems failed.

The people working in the exercise immediately wanted to cancel until they were fixed and demanded techs be sent out immediately (expensive overtime and a road dangerous to drive at night). the local CD boss had other (far more pragmatic) ideas: "Unforseen complications are part of life. This is now part of the exercise simulation. Not only are the repeaters down but the access road is out so nobody can fix it for 5 days. Work around it. That's what these exercises are for."

The following Monday I got sent out to fix the repeaters (hit by lightning) and CD had workable contingency plans written up to deal with the problem ever arising in the event of a _real_ emergency.

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Alan Brown
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Re: plus ça change ...

"I had to tell him to fuck off and raise a CR"

You can be more tactful than that.

'That isn't in the original spec. We might be able to do that in a new software version, but there will be significant costs involved for both R&D and deployment. You'll need to raise a CR for it.'

I know many managers will hear it as "sure we can do it", but you've given the warning and if they press ahead you're justified in demanding more resources.

On the other hand. "No, fuck off. The release is already locked in" might gets back up but it's short, to the point and within the attention span of most managers.

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Alan Brown
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Re: Management advice

"Because they make various people do management studies as part of their course, I'm often teaching people who are studying STEM rather than business."

The advice you're giving clearly isn't being given to actual business managers.

Or they're sociopaths who are doing it deliberately.

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Alan Brown
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Re: It is only a job

"The request to "do more with less" is akin to being given the finger"

Yup. And if you manage to achieve it, you can expect your budget to be cut as a reward, as you obviously have too much money.

On the other hand if the project turns into a clusterfuck, money trees magically start bearing fruit to the value of "We don't care how much it costs, just make it work, now"

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Alan Brown
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Re: Project creep vs Design creep

"Of course some businesses have their whole profit margin based on Design creep, mostly those who do large Government projects. "

As someone I know once said - "those businesses are fantastic. After their project craters, we get called in to clean up the clusterfuck. The fact that we can usually produce what was actually originally required, quickly and for one-tenth the original contractor's price makes us look like gods!"

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Alan Brown
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Re: "Sounds like Bobs problem was also internal to the IT department."

"Did not end well."

For you, or for the job protectionists?

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ICO slaps cab app chaps for 10-day spam crap

Alan Brown
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baking consent into T&C

Should be made specifically illegal.

It is in the USA, land of the marketer, home of the spammer.

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Alan Brown
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Re: cue Johnny Nash ...

"Now, if only the Govt. would do something about the multitude of Curry/Pizza flyers shoved through my door on an a weekly, nay make that daily basis."

There are a number of things that you can do about that:

Start here: https://personal.help.royalmail.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/293/~/how-do-i-opt-out-of-receiving-any-leaflets-or-unaddressed-promotional-material

And then proceed to: https://www.mpsonline.org.uk/

And finally: Put a "No unaddressed mail" label on your mailbox.

Yes, in the UK those pizza leaflets are almost entirely delivered by Royal Mail.

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Alan Brown
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Re: re: What about the taxi companies?

Having it illegal in law is plenty.

AS LONG as the law also has statutory damages and a right of private action.

This kind of provision means that instead of _maybe_ facing investigation and $FINE from $GOVERNMENT_DEPARTMENT, firms which play fast and loose with privacy will find themselves facing the much more painful prospect of the death of a million papercuts, via small claims courts.

These provisions are why the USA's TCPA effectively stopped marketing faxes cold in the 1990s (the remaining outfits like fax.com were flat-out criminal and spent most of their time trying to evade the FCC, meaning they spent less time selling services to gullible customers) - it also turned out to be extremely effective against telemarketers who wouldn't stop calling and eliminated prerecorded calls almost entirely (there were exceptions for religion and charity calls).

The law made the marketers and the people hiring them joint and severally liable for breaches, which firstly discourages XYZ widget firm from simply finding another marketer when the one they use goes under, but also means that in the case of forged caller data (which is a wilful violation and triple damages), there's still a locally identifiable litigation target.

All of this stuff is illegal in the UK too, but with the chances of actually appearing in the ICO's crosshairs, businesses treat any fines as a cost of doing business.

The most telling part of the ICO's real stance is their pointed silence when people start raising the issue of private rights of action and statutory damages - which would help them in their own cases as at least one fine they imposed was slashed on appeal, specifically because the judge agreed with the marketer that the levels of distress imposed were unproven, therefore could not be valued monetarily.

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A big ask for any nerd, but going outside (your usual data sets) can be good for you

Alan Brown
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Re: Drowning is a sea of 'data'

"Understanding your product and your likely customers is conceptually not very difficult."

Even in businesses which do both well, only about half of ventures tend to succeed (at best).

If it's done with wildly inspired guesswork then the figure is much lower.

It's a bit like drilling for oil. Wildcatters might find something (about 1 in 10 by the 1970s) but if you crunch the geological datasets and pay attention to the results, your chances improve somewhat - (about 1 in 4 in the 1970s).

The reason I chose the 1970s is that I suspect the actual functionality of the data and knowledge of how to use it for business is akin to the geological knowledge of that period.

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Alan Brown
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"Objectivity doesn't exist when using data sets, it's determined by the person asking the question."

Yup and that becomes glaringly obvious when they hand you "raw data" consisting of an excel spreadsheet summarising "stuff" and then obstruct access to the real raw data.

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Equifax backtracks arbitrate-don't-litigate plan for punters

Alan Brown
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Re: Posted a couple of months ago....

"I don't know how it works in the rest of the world but in the fine ole UsOfA the first suspected perpetrators of arson are the firefighters. Wonder why?"

For the same reason that the Greater Manchester Serious Crime squad was found to be the perpetrators of most of the serious crime in Greater Manchester.

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Alan Brown
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Re: Equifax has "also bought a random number generator for PINs

Without wanting to sound more than a little geeky, have you ever tried rolling a D20 (or a d100) and charting the results?

Physical dice do tend to have a bias towards one point thanks to moulding flaws and it becomes more obvious the closer they get to "ball shaped".

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Cassini probe's death dive to send data at just 27 kilobits per second

Alan Brown
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"I will be raising a glass in memory of a great mission when Cassini has performed his death dive"

I'll be looking for the nearby Disaster Area concert.

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D-Link router riddled with 0-day flaws

Alan Brown
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"On the latest one (with no vendor notice), I'm afraid to say he is being a dick."

I disagree.

D-link have a long and documented history of this kind of behaviour - and also of blatant GPL breaches until forced to comply by german courts (Again, where they refused to respond or cooperate until bludgeoned into submission by the threat of a EU-wide sales ban for copyright violations)

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Alan Brown
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Crowdfunding returned

"Note that the "responsible disclosure" process requires BOTH the reporter and the vendor to cooperate for the good of the end-users. "

Which is something that many vendors and commentators miss when carping on about people giving up on said vendor and just releasing the vulnerabilities.

Software vendors have been demanding special treatment for decades. The ones that don't do anything with reports for months-to-years(or at all) are bad enough, the ones who litigate to keep vulnerabilities secret (Volkswagon and others) deserve a special place on a roasting spit over a slow fire.

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Asterisk RTP bug worse than first thought: Think intercepted streams

Alan Brown
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Re: Ha ha ha

"They'd have a point. "

Perhaps, if IPv6 boxes didn't usually automatically firewall the internal lan in the same way that IPv4 NAT boxes do by accident rather than design (and ipv4 NAT boxes don't protect against internal systems being Pwned via whatever reason, then making outbound connections to find new victims)

Of course if you want to connect anything to the Internet without some form of firewall out front then you're a braver person than I am. If you're sensible you firewall outbound connections as well as inbound. That's the difference between putting up a filter and ensuring you're not contributing to the pollution in the first place.

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Tesla hit with official complaint over factory conditions

Alan Brown
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Re: unions could be beneficial

Most of them are. Most of them you'll never have heard of.

It's the ones that aren't which taint the pool.

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'Independent' gov law reviewer wants users preemptively identified before they're 'allowed' to use encryption

Alan Brown
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Re: Lack of encryption jeopardizes politicians more than most of us: look at Clinton

"Ever wondered why it is perfectly acceptable to spy on someone before they become an MP but then becomes verboten as soon as they are elected?"

Do you really honestly expect them to stop?

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Alan Brown
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Re: What about private ciphers?

"Is it possible to develop a form of encryption that can take two different source texts and encrypt them with two different keys, which produce the same encrypted output?"

Yes. That was one of the functions of Truecrypt.

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Alan Brown
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Re: So, what they're looking for is...

Not to mention that in the UK, the fundamental document used for proving who you are in order to obtain your identification paperwork is a birth certificate - which is explicitly NOT an identification document as anyone can get a copy.

It's cards all the way down.

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Alan Brown
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Re: Folly of the Yes Men.... @Jack of Shadows

Am I imagining things or is amanfrommars chanelling Robert McNamara more and more clearly?

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Alan Brown
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Re: Folly of the Yes Men....

"policing and prosecution and persecution are going to be problematical and increasingly impossible to justify and more importantly, perform."

UK judges at the higher levels are thankfully sensible these days and I suspect that a suitably IT-savvy lawyer would easily convince one to throw the case out, with prejudice and rip a few holes in the law whilst doing so.

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WDC to Toshiba: We're sorry about the memory thing (see you in court)

Alan Brown
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given this behaviour

Would anyone want to buy from WD?

We've seen what happened when the HDD market turned into a duopoly.

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Chinese smartphone cable-maker chucks sueball at Apple

Alan Brown
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Re: The saddest part of this story.

"All you're seeing is the poor performance of the Pound on the international currency markets."

Which is a direct result of a bunch of xenophobic kneejerks getting their way.

Of course they'll now blame all the furrriners for the currency going titsup. "It's a conspiracy" they'll cry, "The Bavarian Illuminati are manipulating the currency!" and other claptrap for the red tops to scream from the street corners.

It didn't take Venezuela long to go from being a wealthy country to a shithole. The UK may have just said "hold my beer" to that challenge.

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Alan Brown
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Re: A chip hidden in a charging cable?

"Just require that all chargers contain an easily-accessible-and-changeable fuse."

Fuses are _only_ there to protect the wiring from catching fire.

You can well and truely fry without blowing them. I know of several such cases.

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Alan Brown
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Re: Beijing Intellectual Property Court

"It turns out that rare-earths aren't that rare."

Indeed. But the problem with them is that they invariably come mixed up with large amounts of a very slightly radioactive element named Thorium and it's disposal of that which drives costs up so far that the rare earths are uneconomic to extract.

There are hundreds of thousands of tons of thorium stockpiled around the world because it's impossible to sell and being ever so slightly radioactive means it gets treated as toxic waste.

HOWEVER...... If LFTRs become viable, the rare earth industry will become a thorium mining industry with rare earths being a profitable sideline business.

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Alan Brown
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Re: Beijing Intellectual Property Court

"The system, as it was set up and continues to operate, has allowed companies in the West to stagnate or even decrease wages over the last nearly 40 years"

On the other hand 4-5 billion people have been lifted out of grinding poverty over that period - and as the manufacturers jump around trying to find the next cheapest place to make things like clothing because workers in XYZ country are demanding too much pay, they usually leave behind economies which have been healthily kickstarted and able to keep chugging along very nicely thank you. (along with that comes better health, living conditions, education, lifespan and fewer children. More than half the "developing" countries of 40 years ago are now "developed" or close to it and becoming major markets for foreign-produced stuff instead of principally being exporters of cheap goods or having no economy to speak of. China is now buying more whisky from Scotland than every other country combined, as one example)

What _has_ been proven over the last 60 years is that protectionism policies invariably benefit a few rich people whilst economically damaging the populations and the very manufacturers they're supposedly protecting - which is why american cars are hard to sell outside north america - the effective protectionism created by things like the Chicken Tax(*), or mandating that air/fuel ratios in gasoline engines must always be stochiometric instead of simply regulating tailpipe emissions and letting makers meet them however they choose(**) allowed US domestic manufacturers to be lazy and uncompetitive, producing cars that have awful fuel economy and poor reliability compared to what the rest of the world is now used to. They've improved a little but the US domestic market is still so heavily protected that they don't have to compete effectively to make sales targets.

(*) Which prevents foreign-made vans being imported without paying punitive taxes, originally targetted the VW T2 microbus in 1964 as retaliation for EU anti-dumping measures and is now used to keep Japan at bay.

(**) Japanese makers solved the NOX problem from running extremely lean gasoline ratios by using air pumps and complex catalysts, which gave them far better milage than american vehicles. American makers lobbied congress to mandate the air-fuel ratios, which meant they didn't have to spend more on production componentry or R&D and wiped out the fuel efficiency advantage of the foreign competition. The American public paid trillions at the fuel pumps as a result.

It's not a zero sum game by the way. "western" incomes have stagnated - primarily for manual and unskilled workers - but the inflation-adjusted global average has increased dramatically, as have the number of people in fulltime equivalent employment. What you're seeing in the UK in particular is what happens when you were in the top 5-10% of global income earners even just pushing a broom in a widget factory and someone can be employed to push a broom for less.

The solution is not to "yearn for days of old empire" or protectionism, or pretend that you can live in the same place forever if you want to keep doing the same kind of work. People need to work smarter, not harder, and as the UK ship building industry found out the hard way, refusing to adopt more efficient manufacturing techniques "because they'd cost some jobs" frequently results in ALL jobs at the employer going "phut". Competition is global. No amount of putting fingers in ears and going lalala will change that.

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Alan Brown
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Re: Beijing Intellectual Property Court

"Yes, China has this..."

So does the USA

So does Russia

So does the UK

So does France

etc.

There are various documented examples of state sponsored/encourage industrial espionage floating around if you care to look them up. There's not much point about pissing and moaning about China when _everyone_ is doing it.

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User thanked IT department for fast new server, but it had never left its box

Alan Brown
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Re: You can't reliably clean malware

"the guy who said there was a thousand nasties on the laptop is either extremely exaggerating or clueless "

About 20 years ago I had to deal with a system that had something in excess of 14,000 documents infected with the same macro virus.

Depending on the nasty, some can be quite irritating to deal with.

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Alan Brown
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Re: Praise or accusations of work not done?

" it had "No Fucking Fault". Therefore a long soak test was required, "

Unfortunately I've run across unsoldered joints in equipment which work just fine (for a while) after the thing has been jostled around.

The bitch to diagnose was a batch of Intel server boards which would fail with various random faults. I finally traced it to slight PCB warpage caused by the case expanding and contracting. Pressing gently on the board in the top right corner caused an immediate lockup.

Intermittent faults are a curse - and when they're like that you don't want anyone even breathing hard near the thing in case it "fixes" it for a while.

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Alan Brown
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Re: Praise or accusations of work not done?

"Yeah.. all those calls about a password "not working" so you check and find the account locked out"

In one case because it had expired.

There was a link right below the password field marked "password problems?" - which he refused to click on because he argued that he knew what his password was and therefore it must be the system that was wrong.

Never mind that he'd ignored 27 reminder emails (4/2/1 week before, then 3/2/1 days then daily for the next 3 weeks) telling him that his password had expired and he would be locked out of all web interfaces until he changed it.

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Boffins want machine learning to predict earthquakes

Alan Brown
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Some limited use

Whilst it may not be accurate for long periods, being able to accurately say a quake is about to happen "NOW" gives critical infrastructure such as rail time to stop and elevators to halt with their doors open.

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China: Cute Hyperloop Elon, now watch how it's really done

Alan Brown
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Re: What people have really missed is

China's also been exploring a high speed rail network and/or the possibility of rebuilding the Burmese rail system to get access to deepwater facilities at Yangon as part of its new Silk Roads plan.

Given that they're also pushing at least 2 standard gauge lines across central Asia into Europe to avoid the expense, delays and complexity of gauge changes at each edge of the Russian rail network as well as a trans-India proposal via Mandalay, this is clearly a play for better access to Africa and the Middle East.

The knock on effects of a burmese line are interesting. It would open up western China to international commerce in a way that it's never seen before and possibly help move the economic centre of mass away from the coastal strip.

Why are they trying? Apart from the obvious (less shipping distance/faster shipping), there's a major bottleneck with access between the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea due to shallow waters and a bunch of reefs. SE Asia was dry land right down to the tip of what's now the Indonesian archipelago during the last ice age and the continental shelf is shallow enough that there are only a few navigable channels into the Indian ocean. That recent US navy collision near Singapore was more down to traffic density than bad seamanship.

There's also the issue of carbon emissions - China can't afford to have sea level rise more than a couple of metres or they'll have to rehouse at least 100 million people, so they're working on everything to get emissions down. This is why they have so many energy research projects running. Their point of view is that they can't afford not to explore every possibility.

Trains can be electrified and run on renewables or nuclear power. Ships can't (nuclear shipping is a non-starter even if it was a molten salt reactor) and nor can aircraft (which is ironic, as LFTRs are a direct result of the US's attempts at trying.)

I'm pretty sure that once the chinese get LFTRs working and commercially viable, they'll be selling them to all comers - and developing countries in particular. The potential there for increased carbon emissions outstrips any savings we can make in the developed world, therefore doing so makes sense on a "stability of the global ecosystem" point of view.

Getting back to tubes. If China wants to do it and if it's technically feasible, then it will probably happen. Things like the Shanghai maglev might get built as prestige projects(*) but something the size of a tubeway network will need serious consideration of the financials.

(*) If you don't want to spend the money on the maglev there's a metro station at the airport. Think of it as Shanghai's version of the Heathrow Express.

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Alan Brown
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Re: Something I think people have missed:

"So how do passengers embark? How do they exit? How do they breath?"

Embarkation etc was done by atmospheric railways 150 years ago. The tubes aren't a hard vacuum, so if you have an airlock section that leaks some air into the transportation system it will be sucked out quickly anyway.

Paradoxically, the safest way to handle leaks is to have controlled ones with associated vacuum pumps - possibly as many as one per tube section. That way when the power goes off, pressure rises slowly in an entire section instead of rushing in at one end and the combined effort of the pumps can handle any major leaks smaller than a full breach.

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