* Posts by Michael H.F. Wilkinson

3280 posts • joined 24 Apr 2007

God save the Queen... from Donald Trump. So say 1 million Britons

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

I actually quite enjoy shouting at the telly from time to time. A bit of a variant of punching a sack of potatoes like the Silastic Armourfiends of Striterax, as an alternative to the healthy and natural channeling of aggressive instincts in deeds of senseless violence.

Doffs hat (roo leather Barmah today) to the late, great Douglas Adams

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Devonians try to drive Dartmoor whisky plan onto rocks

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Pint

Slàinte mhath

Maybe they should have offered the inhabitants the a free tot or two. Might have helped

Mine's a Talisker Port Ruighe, please

BTW, unlikely places are making good whisky nowadays. I had some very nice Taiwanese whisky (Kavalan) recently. Not bad at all

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Naughty sysadmins use dark magic to fix PCs for clueless users

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: "Mechanical Sympathy" and magic

This is just one specialised example of Murphy's Law, called the Inverse Demo Effect (IDE). The Regular Demo Effect (RDE) states that the chances of a program being demoed crashing is a steeply increasing function of the number of people watching, potentially weighted by the Embarrassment Factor (EF) which increases the chance of a crash with the importance of the event, or pay check of those watching. Conversely, the IDE states that the chances of a bug or crash occurring is inversely proportional to the number of sys-admins or developers watching

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Chinese bloke cycles 500km to get home... in the wrong direction

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Coat

Re: How Many Trolls ???

Maybe he should have tried Zen navigation (following someone who seems to know where they are going).

Doffs hat (black fedora today) to the late, great Douglas Adams once more

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President Trump tweets from insecure Android, security boffins roll eyes

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Douglas Adams nailed it

Those who most want to rule people are ipso-facto those least suited for the job. If anyone is vain enough or stupid enough to get himself elected president, he must at all costs be prevented from wielding any real power. Thus, the president's job is to draw attention away from power.

We clearly urgently need to find some harmless recluse with a cat he calls "The Lord"

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Congratulations – you're looking better than ever this morning!

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Interesting stuff

Might this new technology be able to spot a load of surplus hot air around the Washington DC area?

On a more serious note: great work by the engineers. The high speed and resolution open up interesting possibilities to do high-spatial resolution time series analysis at decent temporal resolution.

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'It will go wrong. There's no question of time... on safety or security side'

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Formal proofs have their limits too. I have used formal methods to prove algorithms correct, but the correctness proof very often (if not always) has a set of preconditions. If the actual input means the preconditions are violated bets are off. Besides, even if my algorithm is correct, I must then show that my implementation is correct, and that my compiler is correct, and that the CPU is correct (remember the old Pentium bug?). I found (ages ago) that in MS Pascal the statements

current := current^.next^.next;

and the code snippet

current := current^.next;

current := current^.next;

had a very different outcome, even when used (correctly) in a linked list with an even number of nodes. The first version caused a crash of the program, the latter worked flawlessly. Both are formally correct, but the compiler apparently didn't handle the double indirection correctly.

This is not to slag off formal proofs, just to say they are not the full answer

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NASA fires first shot in plan to bring a chunk of asteroid down to Earth

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Mushroom

missing icon? -->

;-)

More seriously: fascinating stuff! Great work by the rocket boffins!

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Blockchain: A digital 'golden section' that's the 'gestalt of its pieces'

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: the logo is a gestalt of its pieces

You're being harsh. I think the logo has interesting rhythmic devices that counterpoint the surrealism of the underlying metaphor of the ...

oh, forget it, it is a load of old blocks

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Euro space agency's Galileo satellites stricken by mystery clock failures

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Coat

... the other will put punters off by 100's of km if this is not fixed.

Which in turn might cause said punter to be late, as in "the late Dentarthurdent"

Sorry, couldn't resist. Mine is the one with the book on fjords in the pocket

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Japan's terrifying techno-toilets will be made foreigner friendly, vow makers

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Translations aren't always helpful I have found

Engrish can be most confusing (just google "Engrish" for some prime examples).

Still, in my visits to Japan I have found the people most helpful, and the toilets (and everything else really) absolutely spotless (and the food excellent)

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Now that's a Blue Screen of Death: Windows 10 told me to jump off a cliff

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Maybe the tablet, sorry, "surface" was feeling depressed

what with the pain in all the diodes down its left side.

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Terry Pratchett's self-written documentary to be broadcast in 2017

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Pint

Re: A man is not dead

And so Sir Terry lives on in the overhead, bouncing from one end of the Grand Trunk to the other,

and in also in L-space of course, or wherever else orangutans say "Ook",

and in the hearts of all his wit, and deep humanity touched.

...

And now will have to go and get a new handkerchief. I'll raise a glass once more later

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Peace-sign selfie fools menaced by fingerprint-harvesting tech

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Re: Welcome to the future.

Not really. I have this book with large friendly letters on the cover

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Iris scan

It can in principle, and identifying people in photographs using their iris patterns has been done (the famous Afghan refugee girl featured on the National Geographic magazine is a well-known example). To gain access using a photo could be done, but a good iris scanner can (or rather should) check it is a real iris. Any digital print usually shows a very fine regular pattern that stands out hugely in the Fourier spectrum of the image, besides, changing illumination levels causes a real iris to contract. This can be detected easily. Note that iris scans are preferably done in infra-red, so when printing the captured iris, you may also need to get the right reflection in that band as well (certainly possible, not perhaps trivial in your regular ink-jet printer), and indeed capture may need to be done in IR (some DSLRs allow that).

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Oh ALIS, don't keep us waiting: F-35 jet's software 'delayed'

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Coat

ALIS?

who the f*** is ALIS?

Sorry, couldn't resist. I'll get me coat. The one with Jane's All the World's Aircraft in the pocket please

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Anti-smut law dubs PCs, phones 'pornographic vendor machines', demands internet filters

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Facepalm

How would such a filter even work?

As a person working in image analysis and computer vision research, I have to wonder how we are to identify "obscene images" from artistic nudes (although an algorithm to detect urns could help, according sgt. Colon), or even medical images.

Or do the legislators want to vet all the smut sites personally.

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Move along, there's nothing to see.....

"Well get him his pills, then!"

Dried frog pills, I trust

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New Windows 10 privacy controls: Just a little snooping – or the max

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Big Brother

Hmm

"Engineers, with permission from Microsoft’s privacy governance team, can obtain users' documents that trigger crashes in applications, so they can work out what's going wrong, from people's machines running in "full" mode."

So what exactly is in place to stop an engineer from putting in a forged request to access a users files, and stealing important stuff? Microsoft’s privacy governance team? How do they set about checking the files are really necessary? How do they ensure the data are discarded after the problem has been sorted?

Why not ask the user for a file that triggered a crash of a program? Is that not actually far less work than going through some internal privacy governance team? It would also look MUCH more customer friendly. And of course the user has the chance to say that the data is confidential and they can go suck a neutron star.

Somehow I think "full" mode is out of the question for many, if not most professional users.

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NGO to crowdfund legal challenge against Investigatory Powers Act

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Just chipped in. This is certainly worth contributing to

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You have the right to be informed: Write to UK.gov, save El Reg

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Done

Signed too. As I have said before, the dystopian future portrayed in "V for Vendetta" seems less and less a work of fiction

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NASA taps ESA satellite Swarm for salty ocean temperature tales

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Hmmm....

Well, the banning CFCs in the mid 90s seems to be bearing fruit for the ozone layer

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Uber's self-driving cars get kicked out of SF, seek refuge in Arizona

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Vampire link?

Otto von Chriek is from Uberwald

Coincidence??

But at least statistically speaking, simply given population density, a self-driving Uber vehicle is less likely to hit a human

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Apple sues Nokia's pet patent trolls

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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I have just hooked out another box.

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Raspberry Pi Foundation releases operating system for PCs, Macs

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Like!!

Well done Pi Foundation. Not only should this run nicely on an old laptop I have, it should run VERY nicely on newer stuff.

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Softcat centrefolds wrap up for charity

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Re: Covered in wrapping paper

Or the BOFH choice: bin-liners secured with duck tape

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Oi! Linux users! Want some really insecure closed-source software?

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Coat

Flash?

Aha! I take it you are not talking about the saviour of the universe.

I'll get me coat. The one with the cassette tapes converted to "Best of Queen" by storage in the cars glove compartment please

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Itchy-fingered OnePlus presses refresh, out pops value champ 3T

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Interesting phone

May well consider one once my HTC One M8 wears out (still going strong though)

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NASA explains how 'Spiders' grow on Mars

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Coat

I for one ...

Oh, ... hang on ...

Sorry, I'll get me coat

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Beauty is in the AI of the beholder: Young blokes teach computer to judge women by their looks

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Next up: AI for Retrophrenology!

This is not going to hurt a bit. (Honest!)

Doffs hat (black fedora today) to the late, great Terry Pratchett

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It's round and wobbles, but madam, it's a mouse pad, not a floppy disk

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

The age of floppy disks brings back memories of saving a couple of PhD thesis partially erased by storing them on top of a loudspeaker, or just shoddy quality disks. Using Norton's Utilities I managed to restore about 95% of the work. Not perfect, but it earned me a hug or two from distraught PhD students (I also pointed out to one of them that getting double spacing in text should not involve tapping "enter" twice, but that is another matter entirely). My own take on matters as serious as my PhD thesis was to make daily incremental backups on (reliable brand) 3.5" disks (in duplicate, and take one backup home), and make weekly full backups both on 3.5" disks (which went home) and on a (slow) tape unit we had. I never needed the backups, but they bought me a lot of peace of mind.

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Blue sky basic income thinking is b****cks

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Regarding fulfilling all desires

Bit of a red-queen-like problem: once all our desires are fulfilled we tend to make up more of them. We are very inventive in that way. Kids now "need" mobile phones. Never considered wanting one "when I were a lad"

I think it is therefore safe to say that the second case, i.e. there remain unfulfilled human desires will hold, rather than the first case

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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I am not too sure people are willing to be submitted to a fully robotic doctor. There may well be a large "market" for persons translating expert system outcomes into a message palatable to the patients. After all, being a good doctor requires far more than being good at diagnosis and treatment. Suppose the computer states: you have a malignant growth. How would it be able to lend you the emotional support you need? Computers can be great tools for diagnosis (they are already so), but I doubt they will be able to give the same level of emotional support to patients us meat bags can. Today, they certainly cannot. Of course, quite a few meat bags aren't that good, but many are great.

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Caring for each other is something that we cannot readily automate. OK, some medical procedures can be automated, but I doubt we will get a really satisfactory replacement for the human touch. This holds true in many areas. I frequently fly all over the world and very much prefer eating in a restaurant or drinking in a bar where I can actually chat with waiters or bartenders, ask them advice on the menu or local beers. I do not see that need going away any time soon.

Given the fact that we live to much higher age than before, one clear area where work will increase is simply in caring for the elderly, and not just the highly skilled job of treating ailments, but just day to day stuff, including such basic things as satisfying the need to talk to a fellow human being. That is something that is not easy to automate. Siri, Cortana or the new Zo are no replacement

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Uh-oh! Microsoft has another chatbot – but racism is a no-go for Zo

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Obviously, they are working on a GPP feature. Let's hope Zo doesn't develop a pain in all the diodes down its left side

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Is your Windows 10, 8 PC falling off the 'net? Microsoft doesn't care

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Facepalm

Oh really?

“Some customers have reported difficulties connecting to the Internet, and instructions on how to address this are posted here in our help forum,” a Microsoft spokesperson told The Reg.

How nice, if you cannot reach that help forum because to do so you need network connectivity which has just been borked. Did this spokesperson actually listen to what he/she/they/it were saying? Sometimes it does help to parse a sentence before venting it

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ESA to try tank-to-tank fuel switch on sat that wasn't designed to do it

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Best of luck to the ESA team

Ingenuity at its best. I love the way these engineers try to get the most out of a design

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Sysadmin told to spend 20+ hours changing user names, for no reason

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Mushroom

Re: To the 2IC

Is that the sound of a Simon Travaglia class cattleprod charging?

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RIP John Glenn: First American in orbit – and later, the oldest, too

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Another childhood hero dies

Sad, but he has had a tremendous innings. He, and all the other astronauts in the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programme, were the top tier heroes in my childhood. He definitely had the right stuff

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HBO slaps takedown demand on 13-year-old girl's painting because it used 'Winter is coming'

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Mushroom

Re: Winter is coming.

In one of my native languages, I would like to say

#include <stdio.h>

#define MICHAELMASS 0

int main(){

while (! MICHAELMASS){

printf("Winter is Coming\n\n");

printf("Come and get me, HBO!!\n");

}

return 42;

}

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NASA spunks $127m on SSL-powered robot to refuel satellites in space

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Interesting idea if they can pull it off

It is going to be quite a challenge (but hey, they are rocket scientists, after all)

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$17k win for man falsely accused of a terrible crime: Downloading an Adam Sandler movie

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Kudos

to anyone who can make lawyers pay. I hear it is as hard as extracting blood from a stone

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The UK's Investigatory Powers Act allows the State to tell lies in court

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Somehow

"V for Vendetta" seems less and less like a work of fiction

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DDN claims burst buffer bashes 'past 1TB/sec bandwidth'

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Coffee/keyboard

"..., it's doing a reverse Niagara with aggregated fire hoses."

Nearly had a forward Niagara of tea over the keyboard (narrowly missed it).

Brilliant!

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Really weird quantum phenomenon spied lurking near neutron star

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Coat

Not quite

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Re: The abstract says 10^13G field strength. I presume this is Gauss

"... That or on the passenger seat of the car".

In the latter case the C90s would still all be transformed into "Best of Queen" compilations

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Half-ton handbuilt CPU heads to Centre for Computing History

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Brilliant! Absolutely Brilliant!

I will add this to the list of interesting links for my Introduction to Computing Science course.

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Pluto has massive underground oceans, say astro-boffins

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Past and present

Sputnik Planitia looks very much like a young feature, given the lack of craters, so I doubt its formation took place billions of years ago

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UK warships to have less firepower than 19th century equivalents as missiles withdrawn

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Re: Right decision

Scharnhorst was killed by surface vessels. One of them is still available: HMS Belfast. Maybe it could be recommissioned to add its twelve 6" guns to the Royal Navy's firepower

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Boffins of the future gear up to build their own beastmode rigs

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Proud to say

GROMACS was first developed at the University of Groningen (my university). Not that I had anything to do with its development. The closest I got was teaching "Introduction to Computational Science" together with my esteemed colleague Henk Bekker, who did actually contribute, in particular in the development of the LINCS (LINear Constraints Solver) used in GROMACS. Very neat piece of code.

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