* Posts by Neil Barnes

3393 posts • joined 18 Apr 2007

Geiger counters are so last summer. Lasers can detect radioactive material too, y'know

Neil Barnes Silver badge

Not a nuclear scientist here...

but isn't the significant thing about an alpha decaying radioactive source the fact that alpha particles don't go all that far in air, and can be stopped in general by even packaging, let alone shielding? Unless of course it's such a strong emitter that it's glowing in the dark and already looking distinctly unhealthy to all and sundry?

The point being that someone smuggling radioactives is hardly likely to stick them conveniently on the outside of the box.

Or did I misunderstand something fundamental in either the piece, or in 40-year-old A-level physics?

Children of Wales to be prepped for the vibrant world of work with free Office 365 ProPlus

Neil Barnes Silver badge

Re: Our Labour Welsh Government is wonderful

>> "Get Office 365 for free. It's not a trial!"

I think you'll find that Office 365 is almost always a trial. Whenever it becomes not a trial, they change some obvious function to hide it away somewhere obscure.

'It's full of beer!' Miracle fridge reveals itself to pals tuckered out from cleaning flooded cabin

Neil Barnes Silver badge

Since when...

is 'Bud Lite' considered beer?

Silence of the WANs: FBI DDoS-for-hire greaseball takedowns slash web flood attacks 'by 11%'

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Paris Hilton

Is it against the law to rent a ddos service and point it at its own command and control servers?

How many Reg columnists does it take to turn off a lightbulb?

Neil Barnes Silver badge

Re: Fiat Lux

Not so hot the ever so hip hotel I stopped in, must have been turn of the century. Everything in the room was handled by a Mac computer (complete with, wow, flat screen monitor). Amazingly, you could even use it for computing, though it had no way to access any of your own files, so it was really a bit pointless.

But you could turn the lights on and off, and get the TV and music, and set an alarm clock for the morning. And then you turned off the computer... which turned off the alarm.

Yes! Pack your bags! Blossoming planetary system strikingly similar to ours found by boffins

Neil Barnes Silver badge

Re: Faster than light not needed?

Bussard ramjets are your friend!

The fuel comes for free, and the faster you go the more you get.

Of course, there are minor problemettes: there isn't enough interstellar hydrogen to drive the ramjet; we're not quite sure how to do the necessary hydrogen fusion; and the magnetic fields required to sort out the collection and pinch would turn the pilot inside out... but hey, details. That's just engineering.

'What's up, Skip?' asks paraglider – before 'roo beats the snot out of him

Neil Barnes Silver badge

Have to agree; that's a lovely landing spot.

But Skippy wasn't really trying there: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGzzSIZvA40 (NSFW captions, perhaps)

Sure, we've got a problem but we don't really want to spend any money on the tech guy you're sending to fix it

Neil Barnes Silver badge

Have not yet forgiven a colleague who I bumped into (hi Julius!) in the UN building in New York who casually announced the only flight available for him to perform some urgent task had been Concorde... at least the bugger got to go back peasant class, like me.

Neil Barnes Silver badge

Re: Corporate travel bookings

Heh, times gone... years ago I took an Inmarsat digital satellite link - about a quarter million quid's worth, at the time - into Jordan for a broadcast. I was told, though I can't confirm, that it was the first 'high' speed digital broadcast via satellite.

I can confirm that being met at the gate by the minister of technology doesn't half speed things up; having an armed guard over the kit was enlivened when I pointed out that standing in front of the dish probably wasn't the best idea in the world.

On the other hand, I was returning from Delhi via Tashkent in 1996 when a Saudi and a Kazak jet collided. I arrived at Tashkent with a case full of electronic tools and spares and two passports, which did not at all amuse immigration at Tashkent. Prince Charles having a state visit that day was a mere courtesy detail. I arrived back in the UK and my boss was already filling out my death in service forms...

Neil Barnes Silver badge

Having sorted the office in Sao Paulo, stopped in Rio to see the family, got a phone call saying 'can you stop at New York on the way back please'.

No huhu, checked with BA (company preference), cheapest way was a business class offer instead of a peasant class seat. Saved a hundred quid or so.

Got to NYC, in mid windter, looked outside at the nice blue sky, saw the local weather forecasting 20 degrees... what idiot invented Farenheit?

Got back to the airport for the trip home, tried to check in, discovered BA had lost my reservation. Stuck me on standby, ended up on the back row middle of a 747, completely surrounded by people who had done the New York marathon earlier that day and hadn't taken time to shower, or change...

Then got bollocked by Finance for not obtaining Directorate approval for a business class flight.

Thought you'd seen everything there is to Ultima Thule? Check this out: IN STEREO!

Neil Barnes Silver badge

Re: Go for *three*

This works for firefox; other browsers can, I assume, do something similar:

1) 'view image' to get rid of the clutter

2) crtl-scroll to set the width of the picture to about 125mm - so each is offset 62mm from the other

3) then relax your eyes to see three images and concentrate on the middle one.

That's setting the interocular distance so that your eyes can point straight ahead.

Neil Barnes Silver badge

I still find this amazing...

Twelve light-hours out and we can still get images like this. Not bad for a troop of monkeys shouting at the monkeys in the next tree... this one's on me.

Nice 'AI solution' you've bought yourself there. Not deploying it direct to users, right? Here's why maybe you shouldn't

Neil Barnes Silver badge

It's also sometimes difficult for fleshy meatsacks

to identify unambiguously an object from a flat photo. For a 3-d object, we tend to move our head around and try and see more detail from hidden sides/surfaces -- I wonder if there's any mileage in training a recogniser that way and whether it would then have a better guess at what the flat version might be?

The first ZX Spectrum prototype laid bare... (What? It was acceptable in the '80s)

Neil Barnes Silver badge

Re: Just use emulation

Hah. I'm currently building (another) processor -- not system -- from discrete HCTTL. This one's by way of being an instructional project for some of the younger guys at work, and it replicates most of an 8080 only in a lot fewer clock cycles. The system is the easy bit.

Emulation programs such as Logisim make this kind of thing very easy these days. I should get around to doing some screen movies and dropping them onto youtube. I expect to get Ron Cain's C up and running on it.

I can't be doing with this modern stuff, where's me pipe?, who's got me slippers? etc...

UK's beloved RNGesus machine ERNIE goes quantum in 5th iteration

Neil Barnes Silver badge

I bet they haven't fixed the bug

The one where it keeps failing to print 'thousand' after 'twenty-five' and before 'pounds'.

Today's good news is that whoever has to clean up Solar System will have an easy job: Lack of small debris in Kuiper belt

Neil Barnes Silver badge

This Kuiper belt object is small, but that object is far far away

Is it not possible that the lack of impacts is down more to a large search space and a relatively low density of objects to impact. I mean, we're looking at a space maybe a quarter of a light-year or more across... but I am not an astronomer, so what do I know?

Nuisance call boss gets 8-year ban after trying to dodge firms' £700k fines

Neil Barnes Silver badge

Re: Not bad, but...

I feel you're all being unnecessarily harsh here.

Two days is as much as it should be... in a nice little locked room somewhere around the low tide mark.

Qbot malware's back, and latest strain relies on Visual Basic script to slip into target machines

Neil Barnes Silver badge

One day...

Someone will explain to me why putting a scripting language in a word processor was thought a good idea.

Bun fight breaks out after devs, techie jump ship: Bakery biz Panera sues its former IT crowd

Neil Barnes Silver badge
Paris Hilton

If I'm so important to the company

Why did they just sack me? Why aren't I rich?

(hypothetical 'I', obviously)

China's tech giants are a security threat to the UK, says Brit spy bigwig

Neil Barnes Silver badge

Re: You realize that "Made in America" doesn't actually mean what it says?

But, but...

Gentlemen don't read each other's mail.

-- Henry L. Stimson, US Secretary of State

Japan's Hayabusa 2 probe has got the horn for space rock Ryugu – a sampling horn, that is

Neil Barnes Silver badge

a small, bullet-like projectile is fired

Let me get this right...

We (the human race, that is) has launched a robot which is capable of seeking out a target, landing on it, and shooting it?

If my name were Sarah Connor, I'd be afraid...

AGM X3: Swoon at this rugged interloper mobe then throw it on the floor to impress your mates

Neil Barnes Silver badge

I know it's a bit pre-millenial to ask

But how does it do on phone calls?

Turn on, tune in, drop out: Apple's whizz-bang T2 security chips hit a bum note for Mac audio

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It's that guitar.

He's holding it wrong.

Twilight of the sundials: Archaic timepiece dying out and millennials are to blame, reckons boffin

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I went to see a clockwork sundial

The man winding it up asked me if I didn't have a gnomon to go to...

Want to create fake web profile pics? This creepy AI tool makes them on demand. Plus predictive policing, and more

Neil Barnes Silver badge

This Person Does Not Exist

Curiously, of the first dozen invented faces I tried from the site, four were sharing the same pair of glasses. Needs a bigger glasses database to avoid making a spectacle of itself.

How's this for sci-fi: A cosmic river of 4,000 stars dazzles lifeforms as it flows through a galaxy. And that galaxy is the Milky Way

Neil Barnes Silver badge

Re: River of stars?

Isn't a grouping of stars a 'constellation'?

Neil Barnes Silver badge

it is huge, and shockingly close to the Sun...

Better take my hat off, then.

Granddaddy of the DIY repair generation John Haynes has loosened his last nut

Neil Barnes Silver badge

Re: They say memory is the first to go ...

My bad Jake; they were first for sale in the UK from 95 (I've had mine since then) but announced in 93 and released in Europe in 94.

Though there are rumours still of half a dozen still unregistered but allegedly for sale in the Far East.

Neil Barnes Silver badge

Sadly, Haynes never wrote the manual for the Coupe Fiat (1995-2001) so I and Joe Knight wrote one instead :)

From the number of coupes remaining and the number of manuals we've sold, I reckon about one in three owners also has the book.

One click and you're out: UK makes it an offence to view terrorist propaganda even once

Neil Barnes Silver badge

I would argue...

That the term word 'terrorist' and its associated forms should be expunged from the legislation.

We already have perfectly good offences such as murder, conspiracy thereto, causing explosions and the like.

Adding 'Terrorist' to a law is not only tautologous but gives a false legitimacy to the person committing the offense; whether it is done because you don't like the actions of the ruling party or because the invisible sky fairies told you to, the act is the same, and so should be the procedures, the legislation, and the punishment.

There is absolutely no need for 'I am a patriot, you are a freedom fighter, he is a terrorist' nonsense.

Yay, we got a B for maths. Literally, a bee: Little nosy nectar nerds smart enough to add, abstract numbers

Neil Barnes Silver badge

Re: You'd think people bright enough to train bees to do arithmetic

YOLO? You Obviously Love Owls?

Neil Barnes Silver badge

You'd think people bright enough to train bees to do arithmetic

Would know which way up to hold the phone when filming them.

Ca-caw-caw: Pigeon poops on tot's face as tempers fray at siege of Lincoln flats

Neil Barnes Silver badge

Nuke 'em from orbit

It's the only way to be sure.

You got a smart speaker but you're worried about privacy. First off, why'd you buy one? Secondly, check out Project Alias

Neil Barnes Silver badge

Re: you could simply not put the creepy things in your home

Is it? I've not looked into the details, but I find it hard to believe that a current fast desktop or laptop machine can't handle speech-to-text, given that it could be done with reasonable fidelity in the days of 8086... And I'd take a guess that there's a sane parsing engine that could make sense of common requests and fit in the same machine.

I'd even go so far as to speculate that this is something a Pi or similar would be ideal for:

Listen -> text -> request -> actuator

without any need for a cloud. I can't believe nobody's working on that.

Chang'e 4 wakes and Yutu 2 stretches its solar panels for another day... on the friggin' MOON

Neil Barnes Silver badge

Re: Winter on the Moon

Well, it's got an axial inclination of a degree and a half or so, so there must be some minor seasonal effect. But not a lot, I suspect.

Mozilla security policy cracks down on creepy web trackers, holds supercookies over fire

Neil Barnes Silver badge

Re: About time

I think Firefox lacks an option in the options/safety and security section.

Under cookies, one is offered the possibility to block third party cookies, at the risk of breaking some websites, which is fine, but the 'keep until' options are only until they expire, or until Firefox is closed.

It strikes me that an option to delete cookies once the last tab currently open on a domain is closed, possibly in association with a whitelist, might actually be more useful to have.

NASA's Opportunity rover celebrates 15 years on Mars – by staying as dead as a doornail

Neil Barnes Silver badge

Oh no, I'm stuck

Did I do a good job?

Do I get to come home?


(ob. xkcd)

Crispest image yet of Ultima Thule arrives on Earth, but grab a coffee while the rest downloads

Neil Barnes Silver badge

Re: The rubber ducky comparisons are right on.

Space scientists seem to be making a habit of finding things that look like rubber ducks.

Is there something we should be told?

Neil Barnes Silver badge


I don't think tho. It will alwayth be Ultima Thule to me. With a th.

Starship bloopers: In touching tribute to Tesla shares, Musk proto-craft tumbles – as Bezos' Blue Origin rocket lifts off

Neil Barnes Silver badge

Plus point from an 'I'm glad it's not just me' older guy!

Very impressive, but still 9,000mph short of orbit? Do they have plans for orbital insertion, or do they plan just a hop up and back like Virgin (or indeed, a couple of jet fighter tourist trips in Russia and South Africa)?

UK.gov plans £2,500 fines for kids flying toy drones within 3 MILES of airports

Neil Barnes Silver badge

Private property, without the permission of the owner, no?

Neil Barnes Silver badge

Re: If that's what the law requires...

One might predict that a local club be formed to negotiate flying rights in bulk, with common requirements such as insurance, being a member, some sort of formal training, and an internet-mediated sign-on only required if you're doing things outside the normal.

This seems to work to allow paragliders, hang gliders, and sailplanes to operate in Dunstable, practically on the end of Luton's runway and well within the ATZ.

Clone your own Prince Phil, says eBay seller hawking debris left over from royal car crash

Neil Barnes Silver badge

Did he also serve as a rating, or was he considered 'officer class' and thrown straight in?

Neil Barnes Silver badge

Re: Apologies

Be fair. It's not like he owns the roads.

His wife, on the other hand... she does own the roads. It says so on all the legislation.

Do you feel 'lucky', well, do you, punk? Google faces down magic button patent claim

Neil Barnes Silver badge

Re: Yiddish?

I'm no expert, but I'd have to agree with you there, and add the further thought that Yiddish is generally written in roman script (i.e. ascii) while Hebrew is not.

So perhaps Hebrew should have been the word?

Neil Barnes Silver badge

connects a user to its top-raking search link

Given the amount of less-than-useful material on the net these days, that typo seems apposite.

Three quarters of US Facebook users unaware their online behavior gets tracked

Neil Barnes Silver badge

"the average Facebook user would require more than $1,000 to deactivate their account for one year."

Which, given that the average user is worth only a few dollars a year to Facebook[0] is surely a good deal for someone. I'm just not quite sure I can work out for whom.

[0] Turnover 2018: $52B (https://www.statista.com/statistics/422035/facebooks-quarterly-global-revenue/)

Number of users 2018: 2.3B (https://www.statista.com/statistics/264810/number-of-monthly-active-facebook-users-worldwide/)

Average turnover per user = $23. Which curiously, doesn't seem to have changed since I looked at it a few years back.

Neil Barnes Silver badge

The IQ average will remain at 100, by definition, no?

RIP 2019-2019: The first plant to grow on the Moon? Yeah, it's dead already, Chinese admit

Neil Barnes Silver badge

Re: Manage Expectations?

They would perhaps do better to start with an already up'n'running biosphere, say one of those vases full of plants and water living insects, wrap it up really really well, and see how it gets on.

We already know that plants germinate in space, that they germinate in human temperature, and such: what you need to know here is whether they grow up in the right direction at one sixth of a g, and with a fortnightly day/night cycle with no seasonal affect.

Stage two - is there anything useful in moondust that plants can live on, other than using it as a structural support for the roots?

There's a lot of science here, important for those of us old enough to have seen Apollo landing, and wondering why we haven't got colonies all over the asteroid belt by now...

Forget Finding Nemo: This AI can identify a single zebrafish out of a 100-strong shoal

Neil Barnes Silver badge

Re: sometimes humans have to manually label the pictures

Maybe they identified the one they were interested in with a spot or something, and the AI is following the spot?

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