* Posts by Clive Harris

172 posts • joined 1 May 2007

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Birds are pecking apart Australia's national broadband network

Clive Harris

Re: Wot? And no one's tried popping a few on the Barbie?

Fry me kangaroo brown, sport!

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Australia commits to establish space agency with no budget, plan, name, deadline …

Clive Harris

Re: Space port (Woomera)

Actually, I think Woomera was part of the British space program, before the program got cancelled due to short-sighted budget cuts (and back in the days when Australia did anything the "Mother Country" told it to do)

Interesting fact: a "woomera" is an Aboriginal spear-throwing stick - a sort of notched stick used to give extra leverage when throwing a spear. Apparently the town got its name after the local aborigines decided that the the British were building a new, very big, spear-throwing gadget there - a pretty accurate description of what they were actually doing (mostly ballistic missiles).

Last time I was there, the town was pretty run-down. Maybe it can be be revived if this goes ahead.

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NASA Earthonauts emerge from eight-month isolation in simulated Mars visit

Clive Harris
Joke

Re: They had their own greengrocer aboard?

They probably had several greengrocer's (sic)

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Ancient IETF 'teapot' gag preserved for posterity as a standard

Clive Harris
Happy

Only barbarous savages or coffee drinkers ... would even consider instant 'tea'

And socialists. Because socialists believe that "proper tea" is theft.

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1

Commonwealth Bank: Buggy software made us miss money laundering

Clive Harris
Unhappy

CBA lost $650000 of my money!

I've never trusted Commonwealth Bank since they managed to lose $650000 of my money in 2001 (OK I got it back eventually)

When I emigrated in late 2000, I sold my house in England and, on the advice of my local adviser, I put the money on deposit at CBA. I didn't understand the process of buying a house in Australia so, when I bought a house over here, I trusted CBA to handle all the paperwork. About 2 months later I received an eviction notice! It appears they had set me up with a large line-of-credit mortgage. The money I had brought over from England had apparently vanished, so no repayments were coming in. When I called them, they apologised for a "small paperwork error" and promised to sort it all out. A month later I received another eviction notice, and the money from England was still nowhere to be seen. That's when I threatened to call the police, citing evidence of fraud. The reaction from my neighbours and colleagues was interesting, generally along the lines of "Yeah, mate, this happens all the time. Lots of immigrants lose all their money. You just have to put up with it". There was also some comment along the lines of "How dare you foreigners attack our great Australian banks". The bank's response was that I had obviously attempted some sort of currency fraud, and I only had myself to blame.

Eventually it was sorted out. It appears that my branch was closed just as the house purchase was going through, and some paperwork was mis-filed when my accounts were transferred to another branch. The $650000 was eventually found (in a non-interest-bearing account!), and I used it to pay off the mortgage, which I had never needed in the first place. I wasted thousands in stamp duty, conveyancer's fees, lost interest etc, but I finally got the deeds back in my hands. CBA never officially admitted any responsibility, although one branch manager told me, strictly unofficially, that she was "livid" with how the bank had treated me.

They put one last sting in the tail, which I only found out very recently. Last year I took out a mortgage to help my daughter buy her house. It turned out that CBA still had a caveat on my deeds, which they had "forgotten" to remove. That cost me a few hundred to fix.

CBA! Not happy!

P.S. The other banks over here aren't much better. Last year I donated $50 to the Mozilla Foundation from my Westpac account. Westpac responded to this "suspicious transaction" by freezing my account. They didn't give me any warning, or even tell me that they'd done it. I only found out when I started getting calls from people whose payments had bounced. When I phoned Westpac, their response was that I should be grateful for their "alertness" in responding to an unusual transaction.

3
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Juno beams back first closeups of Jupiter's unsightly red acne

Clive Harris
Alien

Where's the monolith?

Can you see the black rectangular monolith, with sides in the ratio of 1:4:9, right in the centre of the Red Spot?

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New work: Algorithms to give self-driving cars 'impulsive' human 'ethics'

Clive Harris
Childcatcher

"The wheels on the bus go round and round"

After watching that video, I tried the same experiment with my 4-year-old grandson. I didn't have a toy train or Lego people handy, so I improvised with a large wooden bus and four small toy cars. I lined up three of the cars in a row and a fourth car on its own to one side. I then explained to him that the bus was going to crash and had to hit one car, or group of cars. He carefully removed the car sitting on its own, explaining "That's MY car". He then ran the bus over the other cars, singing "The wheels on the bus go round and round".

Not sure what that proves, but I suppose a claim of ownership over one of the "victims" could tip the moral balance.

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Clive Harris

A third option .. and possibly a fourth

The traditional runaway trolley-bus dilemma has it that you you see a runaway trolley-bus approaching, whilst standing near the points. You have the option of diverting it to hit one or other of two groups of people. To make it interesting, one group is usually more "deserving" than the other - possibly a choice between a group of school children or a load of drunks who've fallen asleep on the tracks.

There is, however, a third option. By throwing yourself into the path of the trolley-bus you could derail it, or at least slow it down, thus saving both groups. This option has the questionable advantage that you won't have to live with the consequences of your choice (or with anything else, come to that!). I suppose the motoring equivalent of that is where you could avoid a collision with both oncoming vehicles by steering into a concrete wall, or over a cliff. Your choice in that situation says a lot about the sort of person you are.

There is another variant of the dilemma which offers a fourth option. Here, you're still standing near the points watching the runaway trolley-bus. But this time you're a policeman who's just apprehended someone suspected (but not convicted) of committing a particularly nasty crime. You thus have the option of throwing him in front of the trolley-bus instead of yourself. (I can't think of a motoring equivalent for that)

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Fresh cotton underpants fix series of mysterious mainframe crashes

Clive Harris
Flame

Back around 1980, and fresh out of university, my first job was for a company making control systems for printing equipment (Crosfields). A customer asked us to help with a static problem and, as part of my training, my boss took me with him to look into it.

The customer was printing the wrappers for fish fingers, using a toluene-based ink onto cellophane. The cellophane passed from one roll, through the gravure printer, onto another roll (each roll a few thousand feet long). There had been a history of explosions, thought to be caused by static. These were tolerated until the local union boss took a look round, peered into the machine, and lost his eyebrows when it blew up in his face.

He immediately called everyone out on strike, which was when we were called in. When we arrived, my boss handed me an ancient field-strength measuring machine and told me to take a look round, while he went to speak with the managers.The printer had been started up for our benefit, so I waved the meter near the take-up roll. The dial immediately swing up to around 300kV/foot (almost 1MV/m in modern units).

When my boss came back, I reported that to him, and showed him where I had taken the measurement. He didn't believe me and pointed to the machine in disbelief. "Don't be ridiculous. It can't be that high. You must have made a mistake. Look at that th....". At that moment, a thunderbolt shot from the roll to his outstretched hand, throwing him across the room.

He slowly staggered back to his feet "Yes. OK. I get the point. We do have a static problem".

In retrospect, it should have been obvious. The setup was effectively a Van der Graff generator. Static was being generated by the cellophane flexing as it ran through the printer and it was steadily accumulating on the periphery of the take-up roll, which was acting as the dome of the Van der Graff generator. The big trough of toluene-based ink was just waiting for a spark to set it off.

I think the problem was eventually fixed with some carefully-placed electrostatic "tinsel" placed next to the rolls (Icon depicting what was happening there several times a week)

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US engineer in the clink for wrecking ex-bosses' smart meter radio masts with Pink Floyd lyrics

Clive Harris

A member of the University Rock Climbing Club

When I first arrived at the University, back in '75, I was quickly told that the University rag week was banned until further notice, on the orders of the Hampshire Police. A couple of years previously, a group of students, presumably the rock climbing club, had done a rag week stunt which went too far, even in those lenient times. They had broken into Parkhurst prison (max security), put up posters in some cells, and then left undetected. The police still hadn't figured out how they'd done it.

I could mention about our team's (non) appearance on "University Challenge". The night before filming, the whole team got so drunk they were too hung over to take part, and the recording had to be cancelled. I don't think we were every invited again, at least not in my time.

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Clive Harris

While I was at university (Southampton) back in the '70s, the University Radio Club managed to intercept the microwave link to one of the BBC's radio relay stations (Radio 1, I think), and substitute their own program material. It went unnoticed for about 20 minutes until they broadcast an "emergency message" requiring all pensioners to report to their local police station for mandatory euthanasia.I don't recall any significant punishments being handed out in those far-off, innocent, days.

A few years later, a member of the University Rock Climbing Club climbed up a BBC TV mast to unfurl a large banner at the top. When asked when they wanted to prosecute him, one of the the BBC technical managers is supposed to have replied "Nah!. He's been punished enough already. He's just climbed through the near field of a powerful transmitter. Just wait till he wants to have children!".

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WannaCrypt outbreak contained as hunt for masterminds kicks in

Clive Harris
Unhappy

Real people are getting hurt

Let's not forget that real, innocent, people are getting hurt by this. My sister was in hospital when this broke out, recovering from surgery. Last Saturday, the hospital had to send her home early, in a wheelchair, when their IT. systems completely collapsed.

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KickassTorrents kicked out again, this time by Australia

Clive Harris
Meh

Unfair to donkeys

What harm have the donkeys done? why does everyone keep wanting to kick them?

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eBay threatens to block Australians from using offshore sellers

Clive Harris
Unhappy

This will be a confounded nuisance

This will be a real headache for me if eBay go ahead with their threat. Despite the assertion of eBay being just a "Tat Bazaar", in reality they provide a convenient outlet for a lot of suppliers of tools, machinery and spare parts to conveniently sell to Australia. I have frequently used eBay to get tools, spares for agricultural machinery etc. Availability is much better than from local suppliers, prices are frequently much less than what's charged locally (even after paying postage) and, surprisingly, delivery is often faster.

Only a few weeks ago, I used eBay to source some (quite heavy) central heating components to do some much-needed repairs on my house and my daughter's house, from a UK supplier. The quality was excellent and the prices were less than half what local companies were charging. (Interestingly, some of the parts were made by an Australian manufacturer - work that one out!)

International outfits like eBay, Amazon etc. have well-organised processes for shipping large and heavy items across the world, so it would be a lot more difficult for me to buy locally and then ship the stuff myself. I don't mind paying an extra 10% for my imports, but it would be stupid for the government to make things so complicated that suppliers just stop sending to Australia. I do hope sense prevails and some sort of deal can be worked out.

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Boeing 737 turns 50

Clive Harris
Happy

Re: I always feel safer in Boeings than Airbus.

<<Logically you should always fly on Airbus 340s then as they are accident free.>>

That's probably because I designed part of the A340 ;)

Actually it was only a small part - one of the chips in the LGCIU, the module which makes the wheels go up and down. It was almost 20 years ago, but I remember it well. Anything to do with aircraft is very bureaucratic, with mountains of paperwork and testing for the tiniest part (as it should be).

The undercarriage controller on a big jet is actually quite complex, with multiple operating modes. It has to cope with a complex series of operations, opening and closing doors in the right sequence, tilting the wheel bogies at just the right time to squeeze them into the allocated space, etc. You have the added complication that the pilot sometimes chooses to not use all the wheels when lightly loaded. Then you have the possibility that, with the wheels half extended, or half retracted, he may change his mind and reverse the process, requiring the sequence to be worked backwards from wherever it's got to. You have various maintenance modes where, with the aircraft on a set of over-sized axle stands, you want to extend or retract wheels one at a time (but make sure that never happens at any other time!). To add to the complexity, the module also had to work with the A330 and A320.

I must have worked on that IC for almost two years, and there was still work being done on it when I left at the end of my contract. A year or so later, I heard that an A340 had done a wheels-up landing at Sydney (so they're not entirely accident-free). Fortunately for me, this was found to be the result of a mechanical fault.

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Make America, wait, what again? US Army may need foreign weapons to keep up

Clive Harris

Re: Dayton Codebreakers

<<"the Americans manufactured 120 (!!!) of the 'Bombes' "

Yes, using the designs given to them by Bletchley Park.>>

Interesting fact: my father, as a teen-aged draughtsman, helped draw up those designs, based on one of the encryption boxes smuggled out of Poland. The work was done under tight security, in a remote building behind armed guards. Everyone was told that they'd be shot if they ever breathed a word about what they saw in that room. He never said anything about it until the 1980's and, even then, he was reluctant to say much.

Less interesting fact: I was married in Bletchley Parish Church, just at the edge of Bletchley Park. This was long before the place became a tourist attraction.

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Clive Harris

Re: Military-industrial 101

<<we cracked the German enigma cipher>>

Strange. I always thought Bletchley Park was in England.

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Our pacemakers are totally secure, says short-sold St Jude

Clive Harris

St Jude? What a name!

St Jude, otherwise known as St Judas, is traditionally the patron saint of lost causes. I'm not sure I'd want his name attached to a vital piece of medical equipment.

Explanation: St Judas, i.e. the "good Judas", or the "other Judas", seems to have been a good bloke, but had the misfortune to share the same name as the worlds most infamous traitor - a bit like having the surname "Hitler", only worse. As a result, he was going to have a rough ride whatever he did. I think that's why, in some peoples' minds, he ended up as the "Saint of Last Resort", specialising in doomed enterprises.

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Flight sim records show MH370 captain practiced 'flight' near search area

Clive Harris

Re: When you're considering landing Hercs on aircraft carriers...

How about a Lancaster?

A story I got from my uncle - like most wartime stories, it's probably been "embroidered" a bit, but I think it's mostly true.

At the end of WW2, a friend of his was ferrying a Lancaster back home. He knew he was going to be demobbed and grounded as soon as he landed, so he decided to have a bit of fun on the way back.

Crossing the English Channel, he spotted a US aircraft carrier, also heading home. He radioed the aircraft carrier, saying that he had engine trouble and requesting permission to land on it. Permission was, of course, refused. He then declared an emergency and said he was landing anyway, lining up his heavy bomber with the ship, wheels down and showing every intention of landing. He pulled up at the last moment, watching with amusement as the carrier crew frantically ran in all directions, trying to avoid the inevitable disaster.

By the time the incident report worked its way through the system, he was safely home, grounded and "civilianised".

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Happy 50th birthday, optical fibres for telecoms

Clive Harris
Unhappy

Re: Institution of Electrical Engineers

A number of years back, my (American) boss decided he wanted to add an "MIEE" (as it was called then) to his collection of memberships, and asked me to fix it for him. I had to explain to him that it wasn't that simple, and the size of your chequebook wasn't the deciding factor. Fortunately, it turned out that he did have the required qualifications so, after a lengthy process involving me finding three more members to sponsor him, and a lot of paperwork, we eventually got him in.

Now it looks like I'm likely to lose my membership soon because of this confounded CPD (Continuing Professional Development) requirement they've just introduced. When I'm living in rural Australia, how am I supposed to satisfy a London-based organisation that I'm doing at least 30 hours of approved training every year.? Of course I'm continually educating myself to keep up to date with the latest technology, but proving it to their satisfaction is another matter. I'm seriously wondering if it's worth the effort, just to get a few letters after my name (which I never use), an a magazine every couple of months. Anyone else in my situation facing the same problem?

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Clive Harris
Headmaster

Institution of Electrical Engineers

<<Proceedings of the Institution of Electrical Engineers (now the IEEE)>>

Incorrect. The (UK-based) Institution of Electrical Engineers is not now the IEEE. It is now the IET (Institution of Engineering and Technology).

The (American) IEEE is an entirely different organisation. (And a lot easier to join, from what I hear)

Clive (C.Eng MIET)

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Philando Castile death-by-cop vid mysteriously vanishes from Facebook

Clive Harris

Encounter in Chicago

A couple of years ago I was touring America with my wife, visiting relatives and exploring route 66, amongst other things. We were walking through Chicago trying to find a particular building, when my wife (who is of Asian appearance) decided to ask for directions. A very feminine idea, but probably not a very wise one in the circumstances. She saw a man in uniform, walked up to him and tapped him on the shoulder. The man was some sort of security guard and, of course, was armed. He immediately grabbed his gun and whirled round to face her. He relaxed and became very courteous as soon as he realised what was going on, but it was a tense few moments. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if her skin had been a few shades darker. By the way, it turned out that he didn't know the city much better than we did, and didn't know where the place was.

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Bees with numberplates will soon be buzzing around London. Why?

Clive Harris

Re: Thorax?

An extract from a school biology essay I came across in my younger days.

The body is divided into three parts, the Head, the Borax and the Abominable Cavity. The Head contains the brains and thinking parts. The Borax contains the lungs, the lights and the liver. The Abominable Cavity contains the vowels. There are five vowels; these are 'A', 'E', 'I', 'O', and 'U'.

I don't think that student got very good marks.

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Plutonian 'lava lamp' seas give dwarf planet a regular face lift

Clive Harris
Headmaster

Re: Chronicles 4:2

Bad translation.That's not what it actually says.

A couple of years back I got in a discussion with a Jewish friend of mine about this. We finished up phoning a rabbi in Jerusalem (his brother) to get a definitive translation of that passage. What it actually says is "The distance across it was 10 cubits, and the measure around was 30 cubits x 111/106'", that's accurate to about 26ppm.

Put simply, the original English translators didn't fully understand the fiendishly complicated Hebrew writing system, which uses the same symbols for letters and numbers, relying on context to work out the difference (hence our need for a rabbi to work it out). The translators saw a mathematical equation and thought it was a grammatical error, so they ignored it. Subsequent translators never corrected the error.

It's interesting that someone worked out pi to about 5 decimal places, some 2000 years before decimal places were invented.

Now, when can we have an "angel" icon for cases like this. In the meantime I'll use the angry schoolmaster instead.

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Tech titans demand free speech law to head off President Trump

Clive Harris
Unhappy

Re: Absolute Defense

<<The absolute defense against a libel suit is the truth. If you tell the truth, they can't win.>>

Sadly that is not the case. If your attacker has more money than you then they will crush you with legal costs, even if you spoke the whole truth. The accurate definition of libel should be "Criticising someone who has more money than you". Poor people never get libelled, they just get lied about.

I found this out the hard way, albeit in the UK legal system, which works a bit differently from the US system. A job agency spread lies about me to stop me getting a job. When I complained about it, they sued for libel, on the grounds that I had libelled them by calling attention to their lies.

That was 15 years ago.The memory is still painful.

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Clucking hell! Farcical free-range egg standard pecked apart by app

Clive Harris
Linux

When my daughters were young, they kept a couple of pet chickens. One year both chickens died just before Christmas. In order to save their Christmas, I had to embark on a frantic search for two new chickens on Christmas eve. The only place open was the local battery farm, so I went there.

I won't describe what I saw in that place, except to say that it put me off battery eggs for life. I bought the only two hens I could find that still had any feathers on (I think they cost me $10 each).

At first, these animals were terrified of the outdoors, and spent all their time huddled in a corner of the shed. After a couple of weeks they ventured out and I think they had a happy few years of freedom before a fox got them (digging under the buried netting to get into the shed).

At a rough calculation, I could have bought another 39998 of those chickens and still still have legally been "free range" (I have a rather big garden), but I don't think the neighbours would have liked it.

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We're doing SETI the wrong and long way around, say boffins

Clive Harris
Flame

Re: Give him 48 hours and he'd have them all converted to Atheism

I don't think so. I think he'd meet his match. Anyone who has mastered interstellar travel and made that sort of journey would be very very bright. Dawkins likes to pick opponents who are a bit dim or inarticulate. Most of his arguments can be picked apart if you have the time and inclination to do so. On the rare occasions he's been "ambushed" by someone who's both clever and articulate, he hasn't come out it very well.

Anyway, my original comment was intended to be humorous. Looks like I've accidentally touched on a raw nerve. Have I started a flame war? (see icon)

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Clive Harris
Alien

Interstellar missionaries

There seems to be an assumption that any visiting aliens will be on either a military expedition, to conquer us, or a scientific expedition, to study (and hopefully enlighten) us.

There is another possibility. From our own historical experience, who have usually been the first people to make contact with "undiscovered" tribes? Generally it's been missionaries!

I await the arrival of a flying saucer full of bug-eyed monsters wearing dog-collars, waving leather-bound books, and urging us all to repent.

The resulting cultural re-adjustment could be very interesting! I wonder how Richard Dawkins would handle that.

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Parallels opens new Windows with app virtualistion upgrade

Clive Harris
FAIL

I gave up on Parallels when they stopped supporting their Linux products

I gave up on Parallels when they stopped supporting their Linux virtual machine products. I was left with several useless Parallels licences and several Windows VM's which I could no longer access.

0
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They're alive! Galileo sats 9 and 10 sending valid signals

Clive Harris

Re: Use Planck dimensions

The only proper dimensions to use are Planck dimensions since, with a few exceptions, they represent the extremes of what is measurable.

Planck Length = shortest length which has any meaning

Planck Time = shortest time period which has any meaning.

Plank Temperature = as hot as anything is ever likely to get

etc..etc

Of course, we'd have to get used to putting around 30 or 40 zeroes after everything, but at least it would get rid of the metric/imperial debate.

I'd love to go to my local builder's merchant and order a plank in Planck lengths.

Incidentally, the Plank energy (the energy content of a black hole that's one Planck length across) is roughly equal to ten gallons of petrol. I suppose that means my car has a "Planck tank".

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BBC veterans require skilled hands to massage their innards

Clive Harris

Ohio Superboard software manuals

I never had a BBC, but I had an Ohio Superboard (a rival 6502 machine of that era). I recently came across a set of software manuals for it ("The First Book of OSI" and "The Second Book of OSI"), when I was clearing out some junk. Are they any use to anyone? Sadly, the Superboard itself is long lost.

0
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Come on kids, let's go play in the abandoned nuclear power station

Clive Harris

Re: invited on a tour of the facility

It was remarkable casual in those days. I turned up completely unannounced and was invited in with no identity checks of any kind. The only noticeable concession to security was that we were asked not to take any photographs inside the reactor hall.

How things have changed since those far-off innocent days of yore

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Clive Harris

I visited Dounreay in 1979 and nearly got a job there

I visited Dounreay whilst touring Scotland in 1979. Young and recently graduated, and still recovering from a serious road accident, I'd just had to abandon my PhD due to funding problems, so I was looking around for my first proper job, Driving past, I stopped to take a look and was invited on a tour of the facility. Apparently there was an organised tour about to start and I'd just turned up at the right time.

For me, the most memorable moment was when the lady running the tour stopped us at a particular spot and invited us to look down."You are now standing on top of the main reactor. Beneath your feet there is 3.9 tons of plutonium.". She then explained that, at that moment, the reactor was only idling at a few megawatts while some maintenance work was being done.

A few months later, I was offered the chance of a job there. I turned it down, largely because I didn't was to live on the North coast of Scotland. I sometimes wonder how different my life would have been if I had taken up that offer.

5
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Oxford Uni unearths 800-year-old document to seize domain names

Clive Harris
Headmaster

My mother was educated at Harrow

My mother used to tell people she was educated at Harrow. To be precise, it was Harrow Primary School, a mile or so down the road from the better-known (boys-only) establishment known to the locals as "'arrow on the 'ill".

Re the icon - I'm pretty sure they didn't wear mortar boards at Harrow Primary School

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Clive Harris

Physics is fun

My quantum mechanics course at Southampton, back in the '70s, was subtitled "Physics is Fun" aka "The Smith and Thomas Show". From what I remember, professors Smith and Thomas did a pretty good job of putting some fun into a baffling topic.

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Per-core licences coming to Windows Server and System Center 2016

Clive Harris

This was happening in the 1920's

There's an interesting story about the early days of radio in the 1920's. German companies, as part of post-WW1 reparations, were required to pay a per-valve licence fee on every radio they made. They hit on the idea of making multi-function valves, even putting most of the passive components within the valve envelope, culminating in "single-valve" radios, which consisted of a single, very complicated, multi-function valve containing virtually all the electronics, with very little else in the chassis. (see http://radiomuseum-bocket.de/wp/en/loewe-3nf-tube)

Valve manufacturers in Britain and the Empire were constrained by the BVA cartel, which required each valve to be strictly single-function (to boost valve sales for their members). Thus, British radios of that era were far bigger and had far more valves than ones from Europe and the USA.

Interesting how history repeats itself.

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Australian cops rush to stop 2AM murder of … a spider

Clive Harris
Black Helicopters

The spiders around here aren't that bad

The spiders in our house aren't that bad - I never seen one much bigger than a dinner plate. And none of the snakes I've seen in our garden are more than about 10ft long. I'm told that you have an excellent chance of surviving a bite (better than evens) if you can get to a hospital quickly.

A while ago I was cutting up some firewood when a big huntsman crawled out of a crevice and tried to attack the chainsaw, rearing up on its hind legs and baring its fangs at the advancing blade. At the last moment it decided that it probably wouldn't win a battle with a Stihl Farmboss, and scuttled off.

What you've really got to look out for are the infamous Drop Bears. They're nasty!

(Icon looks a bit like one of our spiders)

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Space fans eye launch of Lego Saturn V

Clive Harris

That reminds me

That reminds be of the Airfix Saturn 5 I got for my 12th birthday. My brothers and sisters clubbed together to pay for it. I'm sure I never thanked them enough for it, but it took pride of place on my bedroom mantlepiece for many years. The label on the base had a blank for the date of the second moon landing, because it hadn't happened yet. I remember the tiny little Command Module perched on the top - about half an inch high - which was the only bit that made it home.

1
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Aussies' distinctive Strine down to drunk forefathers

Clive Harris

Strewth mate!

Fair dinkum, true-blue dinky-di Strine is real bonza, mate! The Sheilas love it!

(Reverting to the Queen's English)

I keep noticing that strange Australian habit of answering questions with "Err, yes-no". I suppose it evolved from the natural evasiveness of a convict culture.

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We suck? No, James Dyson. It is you who suck – Bosch and Siemens

Clive Harris
Happy

Re: Joke time

I think those Hoovers must use a heck of a lot of electricity. Have you seen the size of that dam they had to build to power the things?

7
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The Steve Jobs of supercomputers: We remember Seymour Cray

Clive Harris

Re: Seymour Cray, do you know my name?

> I'm genuinely curious as to what sort of job he was going for such that the interviewer knew who Seymour Cray was *and* yet your friend thought it was a good idea to mention his "experience" with the Kray twins. :-/ <

No, you've got it the wrong way round. My friend was a manager of a computer department, interviewing people for a job there (back in the days when a PDP11 was state of the art). The man who mentioned the Krays was being interviewed by him. I don't know why he mentioned them - perhaps he wanted to demonstrate his ability to work under pressure. Apparently he didn't get the job, and my friend didn't suffer any retaliation.

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Clive Harris

Back in the 70's, a friend of mine was interviewing someone for a computing job. The man mentioned that he had once worked for "Crays".

"What?", my friend said, "You worked for Seymour Cray?" .

"No", he replied, "Ronnie and Reggie" (Kray)

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Boffins: We know what KILLED the DINOS – and it wasn't just an asteroid

Clive Harris
Happy

Didn't they die off during the Platonic era, when they all decided to be "just good friends"?

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Perhaps the AIpocalypse ISN'T imminent – if Google Translate is anything to go by, that is

Clive Harris

Water sheep

There's the story of a company, tendering for an engineering contract in Saudi Arabia, which lost out because its computed-generated translation contained a requirement for large numbers of "Water Sheep". It should, of course, have said "Hydraulic rams".

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HP is getting so good now at negative growth, it should patent it

Clive Harris

Vintage HP

Only this afternoon I was using my trusty HP 200-series wide-range oscillator (1950's vintage) to test a piece of prototype equipment on my bench. It still works as good as new - as well as being pretty effective room heater. Those were the days when HP was at the top of their form. They seem to have completely lost direction now. Mr Hewlett and Mr Packard must be turning in their graves. I wonder how much of the stuff they're making now will still be in regular use half a century later?

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Huge explosion kills 44+ in China, blasts nearby supercomputer offline

Clive Harris
Mushroom

Re: Buncefield

Quite a few years ago I worked right next-door to Buncefield (Crosfield Electronics). Every morning I would drive to work down a road lined on both sides with enormous fuel tanks. I remember one day, looking out of the office window at the sea of tanks below, and remarking to a colleague that I wouldn't want to be here if that lot ever went up.

Fortunately, when it did go up, it was a Sunday morning, no-one was around, and I'd long since emigrated to Australia.

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Surprise! Evil-eyed cats MORE LIKELY to be SNEAKY PREDATORS – boffins

Clive Harris

Goats?

Can anyone explain why goats have square pupils then?

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EU graciously lets Dutch splurge €33m on 'leccy car charger network

Clive Harris

I think the electricity at the Supercharger station comes free

I'm not sure what arrangements Tesla made fo the Netherlands, but in other countries you don't have to pay for the electricity you use at a Supercharger station - it's included in the price of the car. Although I doubt if anyone who can afford a Tesla is going to be looking too closely at his electricity bill!

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Australia to tax ALL international online purchases

Clive Harris

Re: Same in NZ

I'll second that (for Australia). A while ago I needed a magneto for a piece of mowing equipment. The local Briggs and Stratton dealer wanted around $250. I got it from USA for $30 plus $30 shipping. When I queried that with my local supplier, he said that the price was set by Briggs and Stratton and they were forbidden from deviating or shipping in "grey" imports, on pain of losing their dealership rights.

I had the same story a few months ago with a starter motor for a piece of John Deere farm equipment. It was less than half the price from a US supplier (I ended up getting the old one overhauled - I needed it in a hurry).

I'm about to start overhauling the transmission on a Kawasaki utility vehicle and I'm getting the same story. A variomatic drive belt is around $100 from the US or around $250 here (each time originating from Japan). Similar price for clutch parts. I'd better get started on this job quickly before these new rules come in!

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Clive Harris
Unhappy

Hidden agenda?

My guess would be that this is not so much to bring in more money from GST, but instead to make the process of buying anything from overseas so complicated that it's not worth bothering. This could be done by forcing the recipient to go to the customs office, in the middle of the city, in office hours, to collect the goods in person, after paying the appropriate fee in cash. The fee would probably include a processing charge of around $100 per package to cover administrative costs.

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