* Posts by Duncan Macdonald

502 posts • joined 20 Mar 2009

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Privacy Shield under pressure as lawyers back MEPs' call for suspension

Duncan Macdonald
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Fat chance

The USA will not give up its spying on its "friends" - commercial intelligence data passed to favored people allows them to make huge amounts of money from insider trading and to hurt the competitors of US companies (eg Airbus).

Any firm that uses the cloud ought to ask itself - is there any data that they do not want passed to their US competitors - if so then DO NOT USE THE CLOUD.

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European Parliament balks at copyright law reform vote

Duncan Macdonald
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A pity that it was not rejected outright

There was a majority against the proposal so it is unfortunate that it did not get rejected at this point. The copyright thugs have still got a chance to bribe enough MEPs to get the proposal through.

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Who fancies a six-core, 128GB RAM, 8TB NVMe … laptop?

Duncan Macdonald
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Re: Still lightweight @Duncan

True - 132x24 was possible if you liked to squint - normally used in 80x24 for readability.

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Duncan Macdonald
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Still lightweight

Compared to the first mobile computer that I used - 2 boxes - one with a PDP 11/73 and another with a VT220 terminal!! Both were in heavy duty flight cases. The combined weight was over 50 pounds!!

(For the curious - 1 MIP, 512KB RAM, 80MB disk storage and an 80x24 text display !!)

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Euro bank regulator: Don't follow the crowd. Stay off the cloud

Duncan Macdonald
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They won't care

Customer security versus a 1% bonus rise for top management - the bonus wins every time.

The report would only have an effect if it was a mandatory ruling that all EU financial institutions must not use the cloud with big penalties for infringement.

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Time to dump dual-stack networks and get on the IPv6 train – with LW4o6

Duncan Macdonald
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Big advantage

It will get up the nose of the ivory tower evangelists who believe in everything IPv6 with all its unnecessary bells and whistles. This seems to be a pragmatic way to make IPv6 behave as it should have been designed - an addressing extension only.

(The use of NAT will especially upset the IPv6 evangelists.)

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Potato, potato. Toma6to, I'm going to kill you... How a typo can turn an AI translator against us

Duncan Macdonald
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Re: Hmmm

Good one!

In nature it is rare to have perfect information - an animal that can correctly distinguish a predator from the background has a big survival advantage. Therefore handling incomplete or corrupted data (eg a cougar partially hidden behind a rock) became a necessity. This is why human brains can do general pattern recognition far better than current AI systems.

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Why the 'feudal' tech monopolies run rings around competition watchdogs

Duncan Macdonald
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What a surprise

Another article recommending action against Google - with Andrew Orlowski as the author.

I think that Andrew has written more articles against Google than the rest of the Register team put together.

Might he be a bit biased ?

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JURI's out, Euro copyright votes in: Whoa, did the EU just 'break the internet'?

Duncan Macdonald
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Not yet final

It is still possible for the European Parliament to say no to this rubbish. The JURI committee is not the full Parliament and the MEPs can still override the committee. The various content providers copyright cartels still need to convince or bribe the MEPs not to override JURI.

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Um, excuse me. Do you have clearance to patch that MRI scanner?

Duncan Macdonald
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Computerised medical devices need TWO computers

One computer to handle the medical function networked by an internal link to a firewall/security computer. All control of the medical device is on one computer that runs the approved (and often years out of date) software for the device. The second (firewall) computer as it does not control the device can be kept up to date to deal with evolving security threats. There must be NO external (outside the device) network connection except via the firewall computer. Any USB (or similar) ports on the control computer must be behind locked access panels (or disabled with epoxy glue).

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Pwned with '4 lines of code': Researchers warn SCADA systems are still hopelessly insecure

Duncan Macdonald
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Stop using the Internet

For many of the older control systems there is only one way to provide some security - DO NOT CONNECT TO THE INTERNET. This is not a perfect fix but with large industrial equipment it is often not practical to replace old control systems due to the cost of downtime. (And in many cases the original design documents have long been lost!!!)

For more modern systems - use a dedicated firewall PC running linux with all unnecessary services disabled to receive data from the control system and feed it to the operators. All internet communication MUST be encrypted (HTTPS, SSH etc). Do NOT use Windows for process control (or control of medical devices that could cause injury). (Microsoft's own documentation stated that it was not suitable for critical control.)

If you have a malicious insider then virtually all control systems are at risk (old or new) - hardwired (non-computerised) safety systems are your best hope.

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US tech companies sucked into Russian sanctions row

Duncan Macdonald
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Other way round ?

Virtually every major US tech firm provides support to the CIA and NSA, so if Russia followed suit it could shutdown all their operations in Russia. Companies affected would include Microsoft, Oracle, Google, Amazon, Boeing etc along with a host of others.

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Facebook and Snap jam Blackberry patent suit

Duncan Macdonald
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Competent ???????

The only way that the word competent belongs in the same paragraph as the US Patent Office is when it has the modifying letters "in" prefixed to it.

The only way to get the Patent Office to do its job is to change the pricing - patent granted - normal fee, patent rejected - double fee. This would make it in the Patent Office's interest to reject patents rather than automatically approve them.

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Schadenfreude for UK mobile networks over the tumult at Carphone

Duncan Macdonald
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Internet buying

Any sensible consumer looking for a replacement phone is likely to consider Amazon, eBay and local supermarkets instead of a "Phone store". For non-gaming customers there are a lot of good phones for well under £200 and reasonable ones for under £100. (Absolute basic non-smartphones can be had for under £15 - eg the Nokia 105.)

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Internet engineers tear into United Nations' plan to move us all to IPv6

Duncan Macdonald
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Re: Surely a sensible plan is not THAT difficult?

The last thing that the theorists want is a simple plan that anyone can understand!!

(Also there is the unfortunate fact that MAC addresses are not always unique - some network card makers reused MAC addresses despite the rules saying that they must not. An individual manufacturer code (first 24 bits) only leaves 24 bits (16M) for the individual device. A manufacturer is supposed to request an new manufacturer code if it manufactures over 16M devices - however some just recycle the addresses.)

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Duncan Macdonald
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Re: Mapping plan

Don't confuse politicians with common sense (and many of the "Internet Engineers" are politicians).

The people who devised IPv6 were NOT engineers - any sensible engineer knows the KISS principle and would not produce such an overblown structure as IPv6. IPv6 was designed by theorists. An IPv6 designed by engineers would have been an addressing extension of IPv4 and would almost certainly have had a direct mapping from the public IPv4 addresses to a (tiny) subset of the IPv6 addresses. If that had been the case then IPv6 would have been in widespread use years ago.

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The glorious uncertainty: Backup world is having a GDPR moment

Duncan Macdonald
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Re: easy deletey? - unfortunately YES

Then need to recover from backups!!!

(Just imagine the result of DELETE FROM CUSTOMERS or for even more chaos DROP TABLE CUSTOMERS)

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Duncan Macdonald
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Re: Not a problem - Not true

This is another version of erase on restore. The problem is that an old copy of a database can be restored WITHOUT applying the later transactions (and this may well be the case for debugging a problem) in which case the persons data is accessible again.

The question that the "right to be forgotten" legislation has to take into account is whether a commitment to delete a persons data if restored from a backup is sufficient.

There is also the problem that an old backup of a users files may contain personal data that was not identified in a search for such data because it was only in backups. (An example - a user had a spreadsheet with names and addresses that was deleted before GDPR came into force but which still exists on old backups.)

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'Autopilot' Tesla crashed into our parked patrol car, say SoCal cops

Duncan Macdonald
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Re: Hmm - Autopilot

The Tesla Autopilot seems to be about the same stage in car autopilots as the WW2 autopilots (eg the Sperry A-5 autopilot) were in aviation autopilots.

(The Sperry A-5 could fly a plane on a straight and level path - a modern autopilot can be set to do an entire flight from takeoff to landing - even some of the better consumer drones can now do this.)

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Domain name sellers rub ICANN's face in sticky mess of Europe's GDPR

Duncan Macdonald
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Turn off WHOIS

With GDPR and the stupidity of ICANN, the only reasonable alternative for registrars in europe is to turn off WHOIS - cut the data feed or replace the data with dummy lines saying "Removed due to GDPR". If ICANN complains then inform them that laws trump their contracts.

(If a WHOIS service uses cached data rather than the dummy data, the service would be the liable party - not the registrar.)

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You love Systemd – you just don't know it yet, wink Red Hat bods

Duncan Macdonald
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Flame

Anchovy pasta ?

Yes - for people with fish allergies.

Systemd seems to me to be an attempt at "Embrace, extend, and extinguish" .

With some time any reasonable competent programmer can follow init scripts and find out where any failures in startup are occurring. As init is purely driven by the scripts there are no hidden interactions to cause unexplained failures. The same is NOT true of systemd.

The source of systemd is 15628582 bytes in size - the source of sysvinit is 224531 bytes (less than 2% of the size). (Both sizes from zips of the sources downloaded today - does not include config files makefiles etc - only the contents of the src directory.)

It is of note that the most widely used Linux kernel of all - (the kernel in Android) does NOT use systemd

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Risky business: You'd better have a plan for tech to go wrong

Duncan Macdonald
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Mushroom

The deadly outages are software

A software system that fails some extended period after installation (eg because a fixed size table filled up or a database size limit was reached) can easily cause extended downtime. Unless the development team is in house then the fault will have to be reported to the development company who will then have to try to find someone to understand the problem and fix the faulty code. (If the original development team has been reassigned to other jobs then the fix may end up taking several days.)

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Measure for measure: Why network surveys don't count what counts

Duncan Macdonald
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Try including the "not-spots"

Many places in the Scottish Highlands have NO mobile service. (let alone data!!!)

In the largest town on the Isle of Skye (Portree) there are many dead zones with no coverage on any network (i.e. not even emergency calls). To make a mobile to mobile call there requires that you are in a zone with mobile coverage - and then hope that the person that you are calling is also in such a zone.

For people in such areas, phone calls and texts are important - video and data are completely unimportant (as they are never available). (Text is often more important than phone calls as a text message can be sent and the picked up when the recipient is in a zone with mobile coverage.)

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Microsoft's latest Windows 10 update downs Chrome, Cortana

Duncan Macdonald
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Re: Forced updating - disable the Windows Update service

If you want updates to occur only when you want then disable the Windows Update service. Then when you want the updates to occur re-enable the service and perform a check for updates. Once all the updates have been installed, disable the service again.

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It's not rocket science! Actually it is, and it's been a busy frickin week

Duncan Macdonald
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Liquid fueled thrusters

If the main stages are all solid fuel then the final stage (or the payload) has to have liquid fueled thrusters to make up for the inevitable inaccuracies in the solid fuel stages. (A few kilograms of fuel on a 1000kg satellite can make up for a considerable inaccuracy in the main stages burns. As the satellite is already in orbit, high powered rockets are not needed - just relatively large fuel tanks.)

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Chinese boffins on 3D XPoint: If it works like phase-change memory, it's probably phase-change memory

Duncan Macdonald
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How long ?

Before someone uses an electron microscope on the Xpoint chip to give a definitive answer?

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Revenge pornography ban tramples free speech, law tossed out – where else but Texas!

Duncan Macdonald
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Re: The logic of the ruling is scary - no it is sensible

I would agree that the clause is too broad - under this rule showing a picture to a friend would be an offense. If it was restricted to publishing on an online network (or a newspaper) then it might possibly be reasonable. Ask yourselves - have you ever shown a picture of a previous girlfriend (or boyfriend) to someone ?

With that clause, it should be easy to get the law thrown out in a federal court as violating the First Amendment.

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Chinese web giant finds Windows zero-day, stays schtum on specifics

Duncan Macdonald
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What ?

What are they good at ?

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Amazon, LG Electronics turned my vape into an exploding bomb, says burned bloke in lawsuit

Duncan Macdonald
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Mushroom

200W ???!!!

The safe short term discharge limit for 18650 type cells is in the order of 10 to 20 Amps depending on the cell type and quality. This gives under 80 watts/cell. To take 200 watts from a cell implies EXTREME OVERLOAD. Even with very good cells I would not expect a long battery life (possibly 50 cycles vs the 500+ that is possible with sane discharge rates). For anything less than very good cells, I would expect battery failure - possibly safe by blowing the internal protection or else by the battery catching fire.

This person is obviously a complete idiot and should therefore take up politics!!

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Musk: I want to retrieve rockets with big Falcon party balloons

Duncan Macdonald
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Mushroom

Re: Errr.. Why?

In which case the White House is the perfect landing zone (especially if there is still a few tons of propellant left)!!

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Cray snuggles up with AMD: Clustered super CS500 lets in Epyc chip

Duncan Macdonald
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PCIe lanes

As an EPYC 7000 configuration gives 128 PCIe lanes (either 128 from a single package or 64 from each package in a dual socket configuration) only having 2 3.0 x 16 PCIe slots seems to waste one of the main strengths of the EPYC.

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ZTE now stands for 'zero tech exports' – US govt slaps 7-year ban on biz

Duncan Macdonald
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Black Helicopters

Real risk ?

Is there really a risk to users from the products or is the risk that GCHQ has not got a backdoor into ZTE products?

I will only believe warnings from GCHQ when they are backed by facts from non-governmental sources. Like the NSA and the rest of the Five Eyes group, their credibility is near zero.

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Apple leak: If you leak from Apple, we'll have you arrested, says Apple

Duncan Macdonald
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Mushroom

First Amendment ?

Leaks to the press are classified as speech and as such are protected by the First Amendment.

The only "arrest" that Apple could legally do is to get company security to escort the person off company property.

They might have a breach of contract case against a person who leaks to the press but that is a civil action with no right of arrest.

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India completes its GPS alternative, for the second time

Duncan Macdonald
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Re: Why would mobile phones or TV be affected ?

I understand what you said - however that still leaves some questions.

1) With digital TV transmissions - if there is a local station in the multiplex from one transmitter that is not in another then the transmitted signals will be different even if they are on the same frequency.

2) As mobile phone mast are NOT transmitting the same signal (as they are talking to different phones), why do they need the precision timing ?

I am just trying to understand the reasons that require the precision timing.

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Duncan Macdonald
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Re: Compatibility...

However their requirement was for local coverage - not whole world so they could use fewer satellites in geostationary or inclined geostationary orbits rather than a large number in low earth orbit. There is also a military advantage to using GSO rather than LEO in that there is far less chance of a satellite in GSO being taken out by an opponent in the event of a war. The IRNSS also has a feature that could be useful for civilian use - text messages can be sent to a region to warn of problems like a cyclone.

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Duncan Macdonald
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Why would mobile phones or TV be affected ?

What requires precision timing in mobile phone networks or digital TV ?

Stable data timing (within 1 part per million) I can understand but what is the requirement for high precision absolute timing ? As the clocks on mobile phones and digital TVs are low precision devices, they already adjust to whatever the timing is on the transmissions from the phone or DTV masts.

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Happy as Larry: Why Oracle won the Google Java Android case

Duncan Macdonald
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Mushroom

As usual Andrew hates Google

If it had been another firm, he might have engaged his brain and thought what the impact of this ruling would be on software development - instead as usual he gloats on anything that could hurt Google.

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Nine Iranians accused of cyber-swiping 30TB+ of blueprints from unis, biz on Tehran's orders

Duncan Macdonald
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Low value research

If 30+TB of data cost $3.4B this implies a cost of about $1 per kB - not exactly high value. It will probably cost Iran more to read the data than it cost the universities to produce it!!!

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Windows 10 to force you to use Edge, even if it isn't default browser

Duncan Macdonald
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Re: Fucking idiots -AGREED

Norton may not be great - however it seems to be about as good as its competition. The first line of defense that I use is NoScript with AdblockPlus. I also use Spybot Search and Destroy.

If I have to use a site that will not work with these protections then I fire up a VM running Knoppix from a virtual DVD (no HD), access the site from the VM and then shut down the VM. As there is no persistent storage accessible to the VM, any malware on the site is unable to infect the main Windows installation or affect a further use of the VM.

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Duncan Macdonald
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Re: Fucking idiots -AGREED

I dislike IE and Edge so much that I have used the program control feature of Norton Internet Security to block them from all internet access. I can not stop M$ from putting insecure internet browsers on my PC but I can stop them from being used.

Any browser that has Adobe Flash is insecure - and M$ has built it in!!!

(I also use Thunderbird rather than any M$ or browser based email client.)

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NASA on SpaceX's 2015 big boom: Bargain bin steel liberated your pressure vessel

Duncan Macdonald
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Re: the $5 part that blew up the rocket

However it sinks the business - NASA is not a commercial enterprise - if it pays over the odds for a part then it is the US taxpayers that foot the bill. For a commercial launching business, the cost of the launch must be low enough for the customer to use it. If all the parts are stupidly overpriced by insisting on aerospace everything then the company would fail as no one would use their rockets.

In a rocket, the majority of the parts are critical.

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Are you Falcon sure, Elon? Musk vows Big Rocket will go up 2019

Duncan Macdonald
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Depending on the definition - one reasonable way to say 200% better is :-

Human - one accident per x miles on average

AI - one accident per 3x miles on average

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Rant launches Eric Raymond's next project: open-source the UPS

Duncan Macdonald
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The big problem with lead acid batteries is that they are BIG (and heavy). (A Yuasa HSB019 12 volt 100 Ah car battery weighs 23.4kg and is 353x175x190mm). Not many home users would consider such a large battery acceptable. For commercial use, large UPS systems normally use non-sealed lead acid batteries (as they are normally in places with maintenance staff), smaller UPS systems use sealed lead acid batteries to reduce the chance of problems such as spillage and acid vapor release.

Lithium rechargeable cells have a higher power density - but cost much more - to equal the HSB019 battery mentioned above would take about 120 high capacity 18650 cells with a total price several times that of the lead acid battery.

Given the low power density of lead acid and the high cost of Lithium-ion, most small UPS systems come with small lead acid batteries that are only good for 5 minutes or so at full load. (Big commercial UPS systems are usually sized to cover the period between a mains failure and the backup generator starting up and taking the load. They often do NOT supply the cooling systems but rely on thermal inertia and a fast backup generator startup so a very long UPS runtime is not a desired feature in such a configuration.)

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ESA builds air-breathing engine that works in space

Duncan Macdonald
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Re: sustainable? - Air catchers ?

If the solar arrays are in front of the engine and angled correctly they could feed more air into the engine possibly doubling the thrust for a given size of engine.

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EU aviation agency publishes new drone framework. Hobbyists won't like it

Duncan Macdonald
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Re: Home use

It is worse than that - no flying within 50m of any property not owned or controlled by the drone operator (even if you have permission from the other property owners!!).

The current rules for hobby use can be summed up as - you cannot legally fly a drone in the vast majority of the UK unless you own a large estate or farm and confine your drone to that estate or farm.

(See https://www.techadvisor.co.uk/feature/gadget/where-fly-drone-in-uk-3620507/ for more details.)

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Duncan Macdonald
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Home use

What is the reasoning against a home owner using a drone to inspect parts of his/her property that are difficult to examine from the ground (eg roofs, gutters etc)? This is banned by the no flying over residential property rule. In my opinion the rule should be amended to no flying over residential property without the permission of the property owner.

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When clever code kills, who pays and who does the time? A Brit expert explains to El Reg

Duncan Macdonald
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Re: Who crashes a self driving car?

Third party insurance (and possibly first party) is likely to be a mandatory requirement for self driving cars. (In the UK third party insurance is required for all motor vehicles on the road.)

This will provide innocent parties with compensation for damages caused by crashes.

(To start with the premiums might be so high that it would be cheaper to employ a chauffeur !!!)

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Duncan Macdonald
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Re: Specifications

I have never seen a project that has a full set of completely accurate specifications. (Not even when the project has been completed !!!)

All specifications are incomplete, the vast majority have errors (even after review) and then the management tries to cut costs and timescales!! Even good specifications normally include a number of implicit assumptions which if not valid can cause major problems. (Eg the Mars Climate Orbiter was lost due to one system being programmed with newton-seconds and another being programmed in pound-seconds. The implicit incorrect assumption was that all systems would be using the same units so it was not explicitly spelled out in the specifications.)

When engineers are allowed to set the plans, there is always an element called "contingency" to cover the inevitable differences between the original plan and reality.

A big problem with a large software system is that it is normally delivered before it encounters the real world. This results in the sort of rubbish that has found its way into the F-35 software.

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Billionaire's Babylon beach ban battle barrels toward Supreme Court

Duncan Macdonald
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Bulldozer

Time for the CA government to use a bulldozer to remove the whole fence (no just the gate) and repeat any time that it is replaced.

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UK.gov calls on the Big Man – GOD – to boost rural broadband

Duncan Macdonald
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Re: I may be missing something

A directional radio link to a place with an existing high speed connection. If there is a line of sight then high speed links are easy and cheap (at least compared to laying miles of copper or fiber).

(An example - the Proxim Wireless QB-10150-LKL-WD has a range of over 10 miles and a speed of over 500 Mb/sec with a cost of under £5k for the hardware. (Not a user - this is just one of the first that popped up on a Google search.))

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