* Posts by Michael H.F. Wilkinson

3368 posts • joined 24 Apr 2007

HTC seeks salvation with squeezy design

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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It might be too little, too late

I absolutely loved my M8, but didn't find the HTC replacements really appealling. I have recently got myself a Huawei P9, and I do love the much better camera in that, although I miss the sound from the dual speakers in the M8. Plugging in quality earphones in the P9 largely sorts that problem out, however.

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Feel guilty for scoffing Easter chocolate? Good news: Scientists have made NEGATIVE mass

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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If all the 100,000 rubidium atoms truly were turned into a system with negative mass, how does that chime with mass (or energy) conservation? The loss of the mass of the rubidium atoms, plus the absolute value of negative mass of the resulting system must be compensated somehow. Even if only a small part of the system was converted to negative mass, the original mass of that part must be stored somewhere, or be released as energy in some way.

Interesting effect, nonetheless

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Half-baked security: Hackers can hijack your smart Aga oven 'with a text message'

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: so much automation

Call me mad (or luddite), but I actually prefer being home when something is in the oven, just to keep an eye on things (and occasionally baste things for that crispy skin on chicken, and leg of boar glazed with home-made apple treacle is truly great). I could use the timer on my SMEG oven quite nicely, although that does not cope well with sudden changes to plans. Therefore, I much prefer turning it on when I get home. It takes just shy of 10 minutes to get to its highest working temperature (it also has two ovens in which I can control temperature independently), so I really, really do not see the need of remote control. The ten minutes warm-up time are readily filled with laying table, chopping vegetables, relaxing after work with a beer, or even talking to members of the family.

I have nothing fundamentally against remote control, but to implement it in this terrible way is mindboggling.

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Hasta la Windows Vista, baby! It's now officially dead – good riddance

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

So it joins the choir invisible/ goes to meet its maker/pushes up the daisies asymptotically, then?

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Official science we knew all along: Facebook makes you sad :-(

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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I much prefer using El Reg or other topical forums to FB, because using the former selects for a particular type of nutter, more closely in line with my own particular kind of nuttiness (put differently: similar bats in similar belfries). When I post astrophotos on an astro forum, likes from experts mean something, but better still are actual comments which often contain good tips on how to improve my skills. I do post a bit on FB, and make the odd comment, mainly to keep in touch with some real friends that have moved to other parts of the world, and a like from such people can put a smile on my face, but nothing beats hanging out with them in a pub (or other suitable watering hole).

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Machine vs. machine battle has begun to de-fraud the internet of lies

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Who could possibly design a good fake news algorithm?

As Marvin said: "Oh dear, I think you will find that reality is going on the blink again"

And this is indeed what we find

Doffs hat (grey Tilley today) to the late, great Douglas Adams

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Mark Shuttleworth says some free software folk are 'deeply anti-social' and 'love to hate'

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Normally abnormal.

Certainly. For a given value of normal ;-)

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Boeing 737 turns 50

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: But what about...

Great pity indeed. I saw a Vulcan thundering over at low altitude on a holiday in Yorkshire many years ago. Really impressive sight (and sound!). Amazing plane

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BOFH: Defenestration, a solution to Solutions To Problems We Don't Have

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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The plot thickens, slowly

Very interesting developments

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We know what you're thinking: Where the hell is all the antimatter?

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: No charge

Polyester-mix trousers? Sorry, but no!! I am a scientist and wear cotton for preference: my t-shirts (Pratchett Processor/Anthill Inside logo today) and jeans are cotton.

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Manchester pulls £750 public crucifixion offer

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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I only said this piece of halibut was good enough for Jehovah!

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Goodbye, cruel world! NASA's Cassini preps for kamikaze Saturn dive

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Looking forward to the last results from Cassini's swansong/dive. It has already yielded a wealth of data and magnificent images. Kudos to all those who made it possible!

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Head of US military kit-testing slams F-35, says it's scarcely fit to fly

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Dr Havilland Mosquito?

My thoughts exactly. The Mosquito was an outstanding plane (and stunning in my view).

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BOFH: The Boss, the floppy and the work 'experience'

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Like!!

Nice episode, but Simon could have gone for the 8" floppy option. I still have one lying around somewhere (original CP/M 2.0 disk, entire OS on just 128 kB), but I doubt your average intern could find one. You could certainly defend that as a valid way of ensuring security through obscurity.

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Forget robot overlords, humankind will get finished off by IoT

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Robots won't kill off humankind.

Robots taking over was never the threat, it is much worse if they start liking us. But before that, we will still have the Shoe Event Horizon to contend with.

Doffs hat (grey Tilley today) to the late, great Douglas Adams

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SpaceX wows world with a ho-hum launch of a reused rocket, landing it on a tiny boring barge

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Uncanny

"Perhaps the Law of Conservation of Stupidity will soon mathematically establish that every time someone does something wonderful, clever, beautiful then a counter-balancing amount of cretinous mendacity is unleashed?"

To true I am afraid.

Hopefully all the cretinous mendacity released by the current US administration will be counterbalanced soon by something breathtakingly clever and beautiful.

One can but hope

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Amazing

Wonderful, wonderful wonderful stuff. Takes me right back to the excitement of the Apollo era of my youth. Astronauts and cosmonauts simply trump ALL other celebrities for sheer cool!

Big thumbs up to all rocket scientists, engineers and all other staff at Space-X for making this happen. I will certainly raise a glass (or two, it's Friday after all) this evening

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Boffins crowdsource hunt for 'Planet 9'

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Interesting project, and it is great getting the public involved, but I do wonder: if good old image processing can already highlight moving stuff, how hard should it be to generate candidates automatically? It is fairly easy to compare the position of moving stuff to known objects. No AI needed for that: if the epoch of the observation is known, then the position of known objects can be computed from their orbital parameters. Sometimes these parameters might not allow very precise positions, but we could compensate for that by plotting the uncertainty of the position on the night sky. If an object falls into the region that might be occupied by a known target, and there is no other clear candidate for the known object, provisionally rule it out.

We also know roughly how fast it should be moving (slow(!) it is far away from the sun) so we can rule out a lot of the unknown objects too. Finally, we have some idea of the brightness (because it is most likely an ice giant with a mass ten times that of earth, and we have a rough guess of the distance). This too will rule out many objects. I would love to write some code to scour these data automatically. Might be a nice student project

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Our Sun's been using facial scrub: No spots for two weeks

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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I have been keeping tabs on sunspots for quite a while, and the last minimum was way deeper than I have ever seen in almost 40 years of observing. The current minimum looks set to get very deep as well. I know several amateur astronomers who wonder if it currently makes sense to invest in (expensive) H-alpha or Ca-K filters at this point in time. I look at it this way: If a new Maunder minimum is imminent, we will be the first to be able to observe that in great detail. If not, we can carry on observing interesting detail.

BTW, one small sunspot group was visible in my shots from yesterday in white light and Ca-K (393nm). Still very quiet though

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TRAPPIST-1's planets are quiet. Quiet as the grave, in fact

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Alien

Starbuck?

My commanding officer swore blind the planet was in imminent danger of being eaten by a giant, mutant stargoat!

Now where's that B-ark?

...

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

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BOFH: Don't back up in anger

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Great episode

I had almost expected some questions on how you could "accidentally" secure erase a file. You could even envisage some conversation on "secure erase protocol requiring mandatory erasure of all back-ups to ensure ISO-9001 standards compliance following IEEE-235478523676 standard on complete data security, in line with EU directive 72563762357-2016 clause 42-B"

Come to think of it, I might try that line of what can pass for reasoning in low light

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Dark matter drought hits older galaxies: Boffins are, rightly, baffled

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: re: Many, many phenomena in physics were predicted long before they could be detected

It does look like a bodge though. Calling it "amending the model to fit the data" sounds better as long as you don't think about it for too long.

Better than amending the data to fit the model, isn't it? The cyclic process of observation/experiment -> derive theories that explain the observation/experiment -> design observations/experiments that can falsify the theory -> back to step one, means that as we develop and refine theories, they evolve into forms that explain more and more. For example, Newtonian gravity explained far more than Plato's or Aristotle's idea of gravity, which was essentially separate from their model of planetary motion. Newton unified it, and explained the elliptical, rather than circular orbits put forward by Kepler. What it couldn't explain was the precession of the perihelion of Mercury. Einstein's general relativity put forward a single framework that explained both Mercury's odd, and the other more regular orbits, plus a whole lot more.

Replacing general relativity may well be called for to rid ourselves of dark matter/energy, but at the same time the replacement must explain all previous stuff as well.

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Oxford Uni boffins say internet filters probably won't protect teens

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Anon for reasons - Basically to avoid the SJW'ers

It really is as simple as teaching your kids that's ok to come and speak to you if they are unhappy with the content.

Absolutely right. And anyway, what I find hypocritical (if not downright disturbing) is the focus on blocking sexual content. I find violent content far more upsetting than sexual. After all, sex is a natural experience which aims to be pleasurable to all sides involved (if it doesn't we are talking violence again), whereas violence might be natural, but certainly doesn't aim at being pleasurable (unless some seriously deranged people are involved). I still would prefer talking about violent content (which could simply be news footage from war zones) with my kids than blocking it.

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User lubed PC with butter, because pressing a button didn't work

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Emacs?

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Sounds all too familiar

"A real BOFH would have simply tipped off the Police..."

Or used a high-power, fast-working laxative instead of vodka

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AMD does an Italian job on Intel, unveils 32-core, 64-thread 'Naples' CPU

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Very interesting

Currently testing a new MPI algorithm for seriously big images (max 38.6 Gpixel and growing) on our cluster, and getting some pretty good speed-up up to 64 and even 128 and 256 processes (reaching rates of >300 Mpixel/s for a complex image processing task). A cluster of beasts like this would be very nice to test this on further.

Very nice indeed

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IBM has cloud access to quantum computer 400 times smaller than D-Wave system

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: How does it work

Sounds like you are in a high-magic surroundings.

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BONG! Lasers crack Big Ben frequency riddle BONG! No idea what to do with this info BONG!

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Did they find any bats in the belfry?

Sorry, I'll get me coat

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Clouds can compete with HPC, say boffins

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Interesting, but ...

1: "The researchers believe the biggest determinant of scalability is the interconnect in place"

Well, well, well. Who would have thought? I finally understand why a distributed-memory set-up with Infiniband interconnect is better than an old Beowulf-style cheapo Ethernet interconnect. </sarcasm>

2: Speed-up isn't always the best measure: I might achieve near linear speed-up, but without knowing the performance on a single machine, I still know little about actual performance.

3: Linpack is ubiquitous, but it doesn't necessarily reflect real-world applications (although much code is written on the back of Linpack. I am sure some of our code would not necessarily run well on the cloud (we are testing it)

4: 32 nodes is not huge by HPC standards, unless each node is really massive in terms of numbers of cores. The Edison system has 5586 nodes. Scaling computation over those numbers is a very different ball game.

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The Register's guide to protecting your data when visiting the US

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Timely advice

I am going to see the eclipse, as I had booked tickets already. I am wondering what they will make of all the kit I will be carrying to record the event, but in my experience the response to carrying telescopes and the like is generally that you get put into the category "Harmless nerd". I'm OK with that, although "Mostly harmless" may be more accurate

The advice on remaining polite is important. I have only once had a really grumpy customs officer in the USA, and remaining polite got me through that (unpleasant) experience without much trouble. All the other times I was treated with courtesy.

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University DDoS'd by its own seafood-curious malware-infected vending machines

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Seafood curious?

The IoT devices caught the crabs?

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Pulsating white dwarf described as a 'dynamo' found, no, not in the back pages, 380 LY away

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Re: Earth's location is mapped

"No-one asked my permission to share location data."

That permission setting wasn't available in Android, iOS, OS-X, Window, or even Linux when Voyager was launched. Astonishing really, what were they thinking

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Last Concorde completes last journey, at maybe Mach 0.02

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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I once spotted one of these at Schiphol

Magnificent plane, so radically different from all other airliners. Hopefully some day something as astonishingly elegant will carry passengers again

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A non-Standards Soviet approved measure of weight? Sod off, BBC!

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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I am still quite fond of a "snailpace"

being a furlong per fortnight, for measuring slow progress.

Not an El Reg unit, but certainly in the same spirit

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2016: Snapchat loses $515m... 2017: Snapchat rips veil off $3bn IPO

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Apparently, profit is so twentieth century

OK, I am in no way an economist or financier, but I am good at mathematics. The only "rationale" I can see to buy shares that do not promise to yield any dividend (due to lack of profits) is to gamble that the share price will go up. This assumes that there are more people that will prepared to make that gamble, because that is the only rationale to buy these shares. The moment people no longer assume the share price will go up the value will automatically come crashing down. This suggests that like with a pyramid scheme, only the initial investors have any chance of making money. Of course, it is not a pyramid scheme per se, but it is getting close, and I wouldn't touch these shares with a 20 foot pole

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'Mafia' of ageing scientists, academics and politicos suck at picking tech 'winners'

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Industrial policy versus science funding

@Shultz

Very good points. We see a similar trend in the Netherlands: science funding of big projects, preferably with industry. This can and does produce some good science, and the odd bit of new product development. However, there is less and less funding for fundamental science, and in particular the smaller "what if?" projects for just one PhD student who can work on some weird idea of their own or their supervisor. In such projects you often end up solving totally different problems than we set out to do along the way. They rarely fail in their entirety, for even if the original goal isn't reached, the serendipitous discoveries along the way, and the insights gained on why something didn't work are still valuable in their own right. Not necessarily valuable in terms of money (what price do we put on the Schroedinger equation?), but valuable for other scientists to build new ideas on, and not least in having trained another intelligent person with an inquiring mind. Money spent of research projects is very much money spent on education, after all. Besides, many scientific breakthroughs only bear fruit much later, and often in unexpected areas. If we hadn't gone into the weird world of quantum mechanics, we would probably not have developed the transistor, which would be a pity, as I am quite a fan of the transistor.

This is not to say collaborations with industry should not be encouraged. I get a lot of ideas from problems facing such industrial partners as I have, and in computer science in particular, the distance between theoretical concept and practical application is small. I might develop the theory of some new image processing tool in the morning, develop an algorithm in the afternoon, and have a working prototype the next day. In e.g. material science, this is unthinkable.

Science is an evolutionary process, with ideas mutating and recombining in new ways, and being submitted to selection by experimental validation (or more properly, ideas survive as long as we cannot falsify them), and by allocation of funding. In any evolutionary process, we can easily get premature convergence on suboptimal solutions by applying too much selection pressure. By funding a few, big projects in narrow fields, we run precisely that risk.

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Felted! AI poker bot Libratus cleans out pros in grueling tournament, smugly trousers $1.8m

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: But...

Or it might present us with a cup filled with a liquid which is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea

Sorry, couldn't resist. Mine's the one with the cassette tapes of the HHGTTG in the pocket

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Cassini sends back best ring-shots yet en route to self-destruct dive

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Pint

Lovely shots

Will follow the swan song of Cassini with great interest. The whole Cassini-Huygens mission has been a great success. Excellent teamwork from NASA, ESA and ASI!

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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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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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... 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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