* Posts by I ain't Spartacus

5819 posts • joined 18 Jun 2009

'No decision' on Raytheon GPS landing system aboard Brit aircraft carriers

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Re: EM noise

Strangely enough, they can turn the lights off if they think there's a threat.

Equally warships often operate on passive detection systems only, i.e. EMCON (emissions control). So if you're an aircraft carrier, the enemy know you're there somewhere, but the idea is not to let them narrow that down to a particular grid reference they can fire missiles at.

This is why you have AWACS aircraft on your carrier as well, so you can turn the radars on only when you're a decent distance from the carrier. Also because being higher up your radars can detect things further out, that would be over the horizon for the ship.

Strangely enough the admirals do tend to have thought of this basic stuff already...

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There's a very finely balanced decision to be made here.

The more automation you can introduce into aviation the safer you can make it. Because meatsacks make mistakes. Of course that's assuming that your piece of automation actually works as advertised. So making carrier landings easier is in general a good thing. Remember that you may be asking your pilots to take off, mid-air refuel, fly for several hours to a destination, get shot at, then fly back (possibly re-fuel again) and then try to land on a carrier at night. By the time they get back they're going to be tired and not at their most alert, being on the come-down from the stress of cobat. So the easier you make stuff, the lower the chance of accidents.

On the other hand, brand new systems take time to integrate, time to train on and time to iron out the bugs. Plus cost more. So tried and tested and less complicated may be the right solution initially. Maybe buy later, when it's an off-the-shelf job, tested by the Americans for a few years?

You may also get the attitude of senior officers that "In my day I had to fly when it was all manual and difficult, so why can't these young whippersnappers? Aren't they supposed to be elite?"

I also read that the US had much higher casualty rates than we did, flying Harrier. There could be any number of reasons for this, but the suggestion was that it was because the US Marines tend to get the third pick of the pilots, after the Navy and Airforce have taken the cream. Harrier was of course a bugger to fly when transitioning from normal to vertical flight, so much harder than the F35 will be. But I wonder if that also suggests to them that they want all mod-cons?

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last I heard they were considering cutting a hole in the side of the hull and yanking it out.

boltar,

I would be amazed if any marine engine is ever removed any other way. They're very, very big. They fill whole (large) compartments of ships, and being very heavy tend to get mounted below the waterline. It would be insane to design hatches large enough to get them out - plus you'd have to waste an awful lot of very valuable space to do so. As you're only expecting to do this sort of thing once or twice in the lifetime of ship - it's therefore much more sensible to do it that way.

They changed the reactor cores in some of the submarines by cutting through the hull too, some were re-fuellable but I think that it was decided later that it was cheaper to just swap out the whole core in the Trafalgar class boats. And that's a submarine, where you have to be really precise when you weld the pressure hull back together, or you get your feet very wet indeed.

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Researchers take the piss with pee-powered liquid energy project

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Re: like pavement power...you are looking at am absolute max of 5W per person.

I presume the idea is to power the toilet, rather than phones. I know that one of the Gates Foundation's things is to try and get better toilets, as an easy way to improve drinking water supplies, by keeping the human waste out of them.

So I'm guessing they're looking at enough power to operate pumps or filters. Though I'd have thought solar (with batteries for night time obviously) was just going to be cheaper and easier.

Of all the bad puns on display from El Reg and the commentards, I'd like to give particular praise to whiz kids. I think that's my number one. After that, I'm sure the writer was flushed with success.

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Elon Musk reveals Mars colony rocket capable of bringing pizza joints to the red planet

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Re: Plenty of oxygen on the Moon

IT poser,

I just don't buy that Mars can become a self-sustaining colony. And nor, I stronly suspect, will any potential colonists. I think this is trying to run before we can walk, and what we can do now is simply baby steps.

To say we might find something useful when we know more is actually quite a huge assumption. There's a really important elephant in this room and that elephant is shipping costs. It's a very big elephant. Anything that can be traded in space is going to have to be low mass and very expensive, or it ain't going to be worth shipping. Or at least anything that requires boosting out of a gravity well. You might be able to chop an asteroid up for minerals and send it on a slow trip to your destination - where you then do something with it, but even that's probably 50 years in the future.

The only possible revenue streams from space in the next 20 years are tourism and satellite repair. There might be some early money with micro-gravity crystals maybe, but I suspect only if it can piggyback on otherwise profitable infrastructure.

Satellites are currently not designed for in-orbit servicing, but then neither was hubble. Even if it's just replacing thruster fuel and giving a bird an extra few years of life, that's probably worth tens of millions of dollars to do - and that's enough cash to tempt people.

Mining the moon would not be for HE3, but for oxygen bearing rock, water, topsoil maybe, perhaps even just rock to use as radiation shielding for a small space station. And that only if it can be got cheaper than popping up and down from Earth.

I don't think there's any point planning longer term than that. NASA should just explore, as now, with a possible trip to Mars if the politicians want to fund it for the wow factor. In the medium term we need resources in orbit before we can do anything else ambitious, and we have a funding source to pay for that (fixing satellites). Once that looks likely, satellites can then be designed to be even more expensive, so they're repairable - or even modular, so you can add to them as demand grows. That ought to be self-sustaining, or at least the numbers don't look ridiculous - given the billions we spend on satellites now.

The Moon is just the nearest source of resources that doesn't require expensive boosting from Earh. But if cost to orbit keeps falling, that may turn out to be irrelevant. Here's hoping Reaction Engines can strut their funky stuff.

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Re: Plenty of oxygen on the Moon

Some interesting discussions of the chemistry possibilies of Mars. But I think the big issue has been missed. Why?

"Because it's there" excites explorers. That got us to the Moon, but we didn't stay. And I'd say the same holds for Mars. Musk is fascinated by it and has the money to play with these ideas. But if you want a million colonists, you've got to attract them.

People upped sticks from Europe to the New World from the kind of poverty that even most of Africa is getting out of now. Or from political oppression / religious differences. But there are better places to go to if you've escaped your oppressive regime on Earth. If you want serious numbers of colonists, I don't believe that Mars has much to offer them in the way of hope for the future. People historically have been willing to put up with stuff getting worse, for the promise that their children will be in clover when they're dead - but I don't even see Mars holding out that promise.

Not unless we're talking of terraforming it. Now we don't have to have all the tech, and all the answers now. Just a general idea of what to do. I don't know how much atmosphere Mars can hold, but clearly it would be a lot more if we could greenhouse effect it, and give it some plants. Presumably algaes and mosses to help create topsoil and get nitrogen and carbon cycles going.

If that's not being talked of as a serious option, then I can't see Mars getting more than just thrill seekers.

The other driver of possible colonists is money. Filthy lucre attracts workers, and they need feeding, watering and people to marry (or at least have sex with). But Mars is at the bottom of a gravity well, and is unlikely to produce anything we can't do on Earth - or at least not well enough to negate the hideous shipping costs.

If you're not terraforming, then with the radiaton on Mars what it is, you're eventually going to be living underground. At which point why not the Moon? Which is easier to get off, and closer to Earth? Or even just a space station or an asteroid? We might not live on the Moon, so much as mine it to provide for orbital industries. Or get resources from asteroids, which we can obviously move (if we're feeling brave enough).

What are the sources of money in space? It seems to me there are only a few. Microgravity chemicals, pharmaceuticals and computer chips perhaps? But that's not going to happen unless we already have a presence in space that makes it economic to do the research into what we can actually make. So what can make money now is repairing/servicing/refueuling our existing and profitable satellite fleet - and tourism. All of that is in LEO/GEO, and the tourists might like to visit the Moon.

So it seems to me that mining the Moon for resources to feed industry in Earth orbit is economically feasible, and nothing else is. So nothing else but exploration will happen anywhere else. If we're talking real blue sky thinking, then why not the asteroids? Short of terraforming Mars, you're going to have a better and safer living space there than it's possible to ever get on Mars, and while you're hollowing one out you have space-based resources to sell to other people that need relatively little delta-v to get somewhere useful.

Selling a Mars colony as a backup pool of humans in case of catastrophe to Earth seems too esoteric to get a proper colony going.

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Re: Hmmmn.. pizza!

Why go to Mars? Just open a pizzeria in Blighty? Then eat as much pizza as you want.

Admittedly that doesn't solve the gravity issue. But then Mars has other problems, like the lack of anything to breathe and being even colder than Skegness. Although I suppose at least not as wet, and with fewer seagulls...

Hmmm, thinking about it. 99% chance of dying horribly on Mars, or live in Skegness? Erm that's not a very difficult decision is it. Strap me to the rocket now!

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Re: Hmmmn.. pizza!

So I could order a lifetime's supply of pizza

The downside is that if you go to colonise Mars, a lifetime's supply of pizza could be one small pizza. In extreme circumstances, one slice.

I think I'd much prefer to live on a hollowed-out asteroid than on Mars.

Although, as I'm reading the Mote in God's Eye at the moment, I'd much rather live on the battlecruiser MacArthur. Well, perhaps maybe Lenin. The commander is rather less cheerful and it's a lot less exciting, but there's tea instead of (mostly bad) coffee and you can have too much excitement...

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Re: What about Oxygen?

But long-term, there's even more locked up in rocks and minerals, not to mention ice deposits..

You can tell it's hot today. I read thas as iccream, rather than ice deposits. Of course, if there's iccream on Mars, then we probably don't need to send pizza, as they're bound to already have it.

In space, noone can hear your ice cream...

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The Internet of Flying Thing: Reg man returns with explicit shots

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Re: around 800kg

Just think how slow the whole satellite system is going to get with all the passengers watching videos and video-calling all their family, on however many thousand flights a day there are.

Well I guess we're safe from that happening in reality, given the hideous charges that the airlines will want us to pay to use this data. I'm perfectly happy buying a paper in the airport if I need news, or reading a book if not.

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Re: 844TB of data from 12 flight hours

It might well be that this is the data generated, rather than what's logged. There's a lot of very complex systems, making a lot of decisions, with an awful lot of data. I'm sure they actually log less than that. But I guess it means that engineering could log directly into the engines in-flight, and watch their actual performance, rather than what they chose to log by the time it's downloaded on the ground.

I guess you could use this for research. Or look at you most and least fuel-efficient planes to see what they're doing right/wrong.

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Devil

but were nonetheless very welcoming and happy to explain what the gauges and knobs did.

Ahem! If I was feeling malicious, I might suggest that the guages tell the pilots what the plane is doing, while the knobs make a noise and distract them with flash photography...

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NASA's Kepler space telescope finishes its original mission catalog

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Happy

Don't be such a pessimist. The aliens may be even more annoying than we are...

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Happy

Re: "Only exoplanets with orbital periods less than a hundred days were considered, "

So why isn't anyone talking?

Perhaps they've listened to our radio and TV broadcasts, and are just waiting for the box set?

Or more likely, they're hiding.

Or they've decided to cancel their subscription, and have despatched the war fleet. Simon Cowell has doomed us all!

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Shiny AJAX up/downvoting

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Marco,

To be honest, fixing either is barely worth the effort. Unless you're working on that code anyway.

I think the votes are useful. Much better than a whole bunch of people posting just to say, "I agree/disagree" - and it's often interesting to see that even when a vocal group of people are dominating a thread the voting can go the opposite way (which genuinely means there's a silent majority).

But it's not all that important.

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I ain't Spartacus
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OK, that's interesting. Not multiple votes. I can upvote your post again, and it will show as four upvotes (currently 3, including one from me). Or in fact give you a downvote instead, so you're still on 3 up, including mine, plus one down. But as soon as I change something, by navigating away from and back to this forum, or post a comment, the vote disappears again. So it's a display bug.

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Marco,

I just upvoted everyone. Then logged out and back in again. And was allowed to upvote everyone again. Hooray!

Obviously this bug isn't a problem. But using it for multiple downvotes on the other hand... [evil laugh]

However, as a general point, thanks for fixing the voting to mean you don't get navigated away from the page. Hooray.

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Re: Null points

handleoclast,

I've just upvoted then downvoted then upvoted everyone on this thread. Then gone back and upvoted them again, and was unable to register more than one upvote. I'll now try logging out and back in again. Then log in on the iPad and see if that can do it.

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Migrating to Microsoft's cloud: What they won't tell you, what you need to know

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Re: Leaving the Cloud

Well for Office 365 you can still have a local version of the mailbox stored on the PCs, so you can replicate from those into a new Exchange server change the MX records and you're back in control. Or use some software (I'm sure not written by MS) to grab the data from the server. In principle it doesn't seem much harder than the initial migration was in the first place.

I'm not sure how easy it is to get all the stuff back out of whatever they call Sharepoint nowadays. As we're only using O365 for email, so I've never had to get involved in that.

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Re: What you need to know

If we could afford a decent IT department, we wouldn't need cloud. But we've got relatively complex IT needs for a company with under 10 staff, but only the resources of a small business. IT is me, and that's not actually my job. I can get stuff working, but I don't have the time or experience to run servers, so we're either going to be paying a local company to do it (as we used to) or cloud.

To be fair we could live with less IT - projects used to be a filing cabinet full of blue folders with labels on - but having the ability to all see and update a CRM system while working from home or mobile makes us a lot more effective. Means we're more up to date with our projects, can see we're up to date, and can prove it to our customers. Which is all good.

Cloud has risks, but I don't believe they're worse than any other option available to us. And we get IT options not previously available to companies our size, except at very high cost.

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The risk is worth it for us. Fewer than 10 employees and a lot of us work from home. So coming into the office is optional for everyone but me.

If we controlled the building, then I'd probably have a redundant connection. But we don't. So I've got one of those mobile WiFi hotspot things on 3, which will give us OK speeds. It'll only handle data for 5 devices, but that's good enough to keep me online, and send everyone else home.

In this case of course, the cloud is an advantage. If we had a server on premises, then nobody would be able to work from home either. Obviously we'd have onsite access, but no incoming/outgoing emails.

This is a nice piece though. Simple, obviously. But good for showing to a simple PHB. We had migration problems, because our reseller were usuless, but nothing I couldn't fix. Obviously annoying that I had to fix it, but that's life as a small business really.

Small business is generally pretty piss-poorly served by IT companies. By which I mean less than 20 users rather than under 250. And by the industry I mean the re-sellers, the software companies and even the trade press. To be fair, they tend to be quite cheapskate and lack expertise, so there's a reason the market doesn't serve them well.

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Fighter pilot shot down laptops with a flick of his copper-plated wrist

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Re: not necessarily

I also like (and am equally depressed by) the nocebo effect.

Tell people about the side-effects of a drug, and some of them'll get them. Even if you don't give them the actual drug, and just give them placebo. It happens to the control group in drug trials - or sometimes to people who read the insructions on their prescriptions.

Also an injected placebo is more powerful than one in pill form. As many people perceive that we give more powerful drugs by that method.

Then you've got the white coat effect. My Mum's blood pressure is under control. She's got a machine at home to monitor it. When she goes to the doctor though to do the 6-monthly check-up that her prescription is right, she has massively high blood pressure. Even if she checked it that morning and it was fine. Once she's sat around with the doctor and chatted for a bit, it goes down to normal. Which suggests that going to the doctor can actually be dangerous...

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I work in the building services industry. About ten years ago we were contacted by a customer who'd just retired. So I guess an ex-customer now. He'd started up a retirement job selling magnetic "health" bracelets. But also a magnetic doodah that you stuck on the fuel pipe of your car and improved fuel consumption by 5mpg.

He was a mechanical engineer.

I can believe that cleaning crap out of your fuel might slighly improve fuel consumption over time - as a cleaner engine is going to be a more efficient one. I can't believe that you fit this thing and it works straight away. Anyway where is all this crap going, if there's so much of it?

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Mushroom

If you smash up a printer and there's no one to hear, does it still make a noise?

Yes. And all the other printers hear it, and swear vengeance upon you!

But fortunately that makes no difference, as all printers already hate all humans. So they only ever operate out of caprice, so as to choose a more vital time to fail you.

Until you've instilled the appropriate fear in them, with your hammer. At which point they will sullenly cooperate. However, you'll be marked down as the first against the wall when the revolutions comes.

Terminator was wrong. Skynet wasn't a defence computer. It was a network of printers. And now we've given our printers WiFi! The end will be soon!

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Samsung releases 49-inch desktop monitor with 32:9 aspect ratio

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Happy

Re: A4 documents

Simple solution. Turn the monitor on its side. Problem solved. No more scrolling...

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Re: weighs 45 pounds

I remember changing an old 19" CRT for a 23" LCD for the first time.

Heaving the beast to the side of the desk so I could reach the cables to unplug it, then struggling to get the eormous bugger down the stairs without it tipping out of my hands, as it was so lopsided with all the weight in the screen.

Then holding the new 23" in one hand, while plugging it in with the other. Much more relaxing.

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Software dev bombshell: Programmers who use spaces earn MORE than those who use tabs

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Trollface

Missing information

This research fails to say how much the coders get paid who indent their code with emojis...

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Uber sued after digging up medical records of woman raped by driver

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No, no, no! Uber execs need regular kickings in the bollocks.

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Mushroom

Re: Just close them down.

Take off and nuke them from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

Although one does worry that Uber execs are so like cockroaches, that they might even survive that...

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Facebook tried teaching bots art of negotiation – so the AI learned to lie

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Happy

Re: They've learned to lie

There events used to be a perfect company to manufacture the Trump AI 2020. Tangerine.

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Ever wonder why those Apple iPhone updates take so damn long?

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Downvoted for the obvious stupidity of the comment. The technically literate use the correct tool for the job. Since Apple's stuff broadly seems to work, that means there are appropriate times to use it - depending on circumstances.

Down with this "your system is crap because I chose to use something else" rubbish! We got enough of it when iPhone and Android were starting off. Not to mention Linux vs Windows.

The only time this is ever appropriate is mocking people who had ZX Spectrums, when you had the obviously clearly superior Amstrad CPC464...

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Megaphone

Re: plug your [i]phone in and forget about it for 30 minutes.

If it requires more data and you have limited cellular data, do the upgrade over wifi.

And my point proven. Not everybody has all you can eat data on their broadband connection. They might have a limit of 10GB a month, or 20 or 30 - but the point is that's their fucking data! For which they are paying, and belongs to them. Not to Apple to piss around with. So I've no problem in a bit of diagnnostics data going back and forth, and obviously you choose to install updates - but those should be only the size neccessary to do the job, and not include the kitchen sink, or some Apple software design team's pet project.

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From my experience of owning iPads I'd say that:

iOS 1 = Windows 3.1 - limited abilities but worked well

iOS 2 = don't really remember it but let's say Window for Workgroups

iOS 3 = Windows 95 - did more, had bugs. Didn't like WiFi or Bluetooth much.

iOS 4 = Windows ME - oh how my WiFi fell over! Oh and now I have to reboot to make Bluetooth work.

iOS 5 = Windows Vista - turned my iPad 1 to treacle. To be fair it was OK on faster devices.

It's all been mostly indistinguishable since then. At least there's been no Windows 8 - although there was that time they changed the icons, in a way that I barely noticed, but some people got really angry about.

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Devil

Re: Using your customers as testing and QA

Lazy and stupid you say? Oh dear. Perhaps we shouldn't do it.

Cheap? Oh, OK then. Go ahead, that sounds great!

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Re: plug your [i]phone in and forget about it for 30 minutes.

The time is fine. The testing on user devices without permission on the other hand - not so much...

The data is also important. Apple's update process is incredibly data hungry, which is even more annoying for those on metered data when they use them for testing, and so chuck out extra.

Also Apple literally made every iPhone and approved every single app installed on them (except the jail-broken ones which they don't have to cover for warranty anyway). So they ought to have a much better handle on what exists and testing it.

They've always been pretty cavalier with iOS updates though. When I got the original iPad, every single iOS update I had for it, broke the WiFi - where it was flaky and would keep dropping the network. And it was only after I upgraded to the iPad 3 that WiFi remained stable after iOS updates - so it took them 2 years to get that right. On devices they utterly control.

Finally, I'd say control here is the issue. Apple have the arrogant belief (admittedly not alone amongst Silicon Valley companies) that they still own my device, even though I've handed over folding money for it.

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Devil

Re: @SuccessCase

Well, you're partly right. In that El Reg writes snidey article is basically their business model. But you're being a little special snowflake, in that they don't just do it to poor ickle Apple... In fact, can anyone think of a company they appear to actually like?*

Also they do have a point. It's all very well for these rich companies to just assume that everyone has unlimited internet, but lots of people don't. And a couple of GB could be a significant part of someone's data allowance for the month. So if Apple sorted their updates out to not have massive unneccesary extras in it, those people might be happier about it. Additionally would they be replacing any older kit that it bricked? Sure Apple are sometimes quite generous with their service, but only in Apple's usual capricious manner. As sometimes they outright break consumer laws in the coutries they operate in and reduce your consumer rights. They certainly did in the UK when I had to get 3 out of our batch of 6 iPhone 5s fixed for crap power sockets. Finally why can't they fix their fucking updates so they only download the files they need? Surely each iOS update needn't be over a GB?

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* Actually they're usually pretty nice about SpaceX. But then again, they're not doing product reviews of their stuff. Although I'm sure they'd be even nicer, and positively promise to kiss arse if SpaceX promised them a review model.

You can just imagine the review now. The rocket blew up, killing our reviewer. But on the plus side, nobody liked him anyway, and it made an awfully pretty explosion. Please can we have another one? 9/10 - Editor's Choice.

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Waymo waves off original Google Firefly driverless car

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Re: Personal transport itsn't the objective

I don't see why it should be too expensive. A quick Google suggests that 90m cars and light commercial vehicles were sold last year. That's some serious economies of scale. I don't know what a lidar sensor costs, but simple radar is pretty cheap nowadays, as are decent cameras and computers.

Once you're looking to manufacture in the millions, it's amazing how costs fall.

I think the move to a van is simply that they're dialling down the hubris a bit, so why waste money on designing a custom vehicle, when you can buy something much cheaper that's been mass produced, and just modify it a bit. Minivans make sense, as there's room in the back for test gear, plus observers.

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It came from space! Two-headed flatworm stuns scientists

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Happy

Re: Didn't I Tell You Baby I'm Zaphod Beeblebrox

He hates it when one head is more drunk than the other...

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Voyager 1 passes another milestone: It's now 138AU from home

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Re: Middle Age

Yeah, it's getting away from Mr Sun and all his radiation. But it's also getting away from Mr Sun's protective magnetic field, so it's getting hit by interstellar radiation instead. Which, by definition, creates an even more interesting class of mutated superhero.

It's also a bit worrying that I'm older than these spacecraft, even though they've travelled an unimaginably long way, although admittedly not so unimagineably long as to have actually got anywhere yet.

The universe really is quite spacious.

Does anyone fancy a piece of fairy cake...

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From landslide to buried alive: Why 2017 election forecasts weren't wrong

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Re: As Liberal Party of Old would have told you

Actually your right in your comparison of pollsters to economists. Both are unfairly maligned and have their results misused by everyone else. Only to have those same people complain when the results they failed to bother to understand turned out never to have been saying what they thought they did.

So both polling and economics are inexact sciences - requiring good use of statistics but also a lot of judgement in how to use them. In a world when good statistics don't actually exist because they're too expensive, and often literally impossible, to gather accurately. Also the stats are usually out of date when you get them, meaning you're trying to forecast the future when you don't even have the information to know what's happening in the present - only the past.

Oh and proper scientific testing is impossible, without access to a parallel universe.

If you're careful, both economics and polling can tell you useful things. But you must know the limitations of both.

Journalists will ignore all the caveats, then complain when the stuff they were told about and ignored, happens.

If you compare the errors in everyday polling to the high levels of accuracy of the exit poll and the British Election Survey and British Attitudes Survey, you'll understant what can be achieved with the right resources.

The BES for example got the result of the 2015 election broadly correct. Now admittedly it was done after the election, but when the pollsters re-contacted their samples after the election they still got the wrong results. Showing they had a sampling error problem, not a people lying to them problem.

However, the BES knocks on people's doors. Semi-random houses picked to give good demographic coverage. When they first knocked on the door, they also got the result wrong, as crudely most of the Conservative voters were out. But they went back up to seven times, until they got to speak to the person from the electoral roll they were after. Something pollsters can't afford to do.

I suppose Lord Ashcroft could, as he's a billionaire who's interested in polling. But it would make a significant dent in even his cash to do it regularly.

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Re: First Past the Post

Another minor niggle. The number of times we hear usually the Brexiterrs moaning about the unelected EU commissioners (they are elected of course.)

kmac499,

EU Commissioners are not elected. They're appointed by each EU government picking one and the EU Commission President then giving them a particular portfolio. There's then a hearing into each one from the relevant committee of the European Parliament, though they don't actually have the power to reject them. However the Parliament does have the nuclear option of rejecting the whole Commission, so usually if someone is particularly objectionable the Commission President goes back to the relevant government and asks for a new candidate.

So they're basically appointed in exactly the way you object to with cabinet ministers. Even though the majority of them have been elected to Parliament individually. As well as maintain a majority support in Parliament or the government falls.

The EU Commission President is appointed by the Council of Ministers (heads of government of the member states), although also subject to the approval of the Parliament.

In an odd twist, at the last elections a bunch of the Parliamentarians got together and created a new wrinkle in the system. Without authority of the treaties they asserted the right of the Parliament to pick the Commission President. In order to either insert some democratic legitimacy, or assert some power for themselves. Or both. This was called the Spitzenkandidaten system, as I think it was dominated by German MEPs. Each European party therefore picked a candidate, and said they'd veto any other the governments picked, than the one from the largest party. The Council of Ministers chose not to fight this, hence we got Juncker, as the candidate of the EPP. Even though the EPP didn't stand in all members of the EU.

It's not particularly democratic, partly because the Commission can often ignore the Parliament, but mainly because it's so remote from the people, who aren't really heterogeneous enough to form a demos anyway. On the other hand, it's clearly not an anti-democratic outrage either. Anyone using EUSSR so misunderstands the system as to be worth ignoring, in the same way I ignore all comments using "sheeple", "MMT", "Lamestream media" etc.

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Re: First Past the Post

It depresses me how many people said they were voting for May or Corbyn when they are actually voting for their own local MP.

There's a difference between the constitutional niceties and reality. In reality was are voting for the Prime Minister. Has there ever been a case of a party winning an election and changing leaders five minutes later? No. And for the same reason. They can, but the public would be pissed off with them if they did. Who the leader of the party is has always mattered, and always will matter. And there never was a golden age when it didn't, until you go back into the distant days of a loose party system, tiny electorate and still large influence for the king.

The PM in this country is very powerful. There's an argument for having a separate election for PM and Parliament I suppose - although the only places I can think of that do that are Presidential systems. Oh sorry, Israel has elected the PM directly for about 15 years now. It was done on who could form a coalition in the Knesset before.

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Yes. That was a point I was going to make, but got sidetracked. The polls in the US weren't too bad either. Although some of the state level polling wasn't so hot. The Dutch polls recently were about right as well.

To be fair, it's always hard to know whether the polls are accurately following the voters changing their minds. For example, as polls tend to be sampled over 2 or 3 days, and you can't publish them on election day after 7am, polls are always crap at picking up late changes in voting intention.

They're also not good at showing tactical voting when an election isn't due. As although they ask "who do you intend to vote for at the next election", most voters seem to interpret that as what party do you currently support. Some pollsters ask twice, once to capture that, and then a second time concentrating on the voter's constituency, to try and pick up tactical voting trends.

But for some reason UK polling is rather off at the moment.

Partly it's a problem because the pollsters still do joint Welsh, English and Scottish polling, rather than large enough samples in each area to have a decent margin of error. And voting patterns are totally different.

Partly it's because our turn-out is changing quite a lot at the moment, with GE turnout going up, and the two recent referenda being very well attended. The AV one, not so much.

But in general, I think the pollsters learned the wrong lesson from 2015. They tried to correct their samples statistically, even though they know their samples are bad. Because it was too hard to get new, more accurate, samples. And to be fair, the post-mortem final report was only issued a couple of months ago, as they thought they had time until the next election.

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Re: Sample size

The exit poll is different to all the other opinion polls. It's why it was so much more accurate in 2015. I think it's only been really wrong in 1992.

Other opinion polls ask a sample of the population, then check how well that sample compares with the known demographics and try to correct for errors by weighting accordingly. You can fudge the sample a bit in face-to-face polling by making sure you fill out your quota or older and younger people, by approaching more of them. But most polls are done online or by phone, as it's cheaper.

The exit polls is done at certain set wards in set constituencies, where they poll every election. This gives them a much better knowledge of the trends, as they're broadly polling the same people every election cycle. Obviously boundaries change, as do safe seats - so they may add/remove the odd place each time, but they try not to. This, and the fact that you're asking people a few seconds after they voted, makes it much more accurate. They'll poll some marginal and some safe seats in each area, as it gives a much better idea of differential swing / differential turnout.

You'd be amazed, but there's a gradual "winner" effect. The further you get from an election, the more people remember voting for the winning party. Obviously they can check this now with online panels, where they have records of how people answer each poll they participate in.

Anyway the exit poll is, as I said, very different. It's much more expensive to do, but the broadcasters all pay for it, as if they didn't they'd have nothing to talk about between 10pm when the polls close, and when results start coming in.

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Re: For better or worse, this is a period of voters punishing incumbents

The French election was very similar. Macron is being regarded as the continuity candidate, because of relief that Le Pen didn't win.

But the socialists went from government to something like 7% in one election! And it looks like they're about to get slaughtered in the Assembly elections too. The right might have won, had not their candidate got mired in a corruption scandal. So of the top 4 candidates in the run-off, who all got about 20% we had:

Macron, an independent who started his own party only 2 years ago. Although he was briefly a middle ranking minister in the Socialist government, but brought in as an outsider.

Le Pen, from the anti-establishment (possibly ex-fascist) right.

Valls, from the Republicans, standard opposition right wing party.

Melenchon, quite far left anti-establishment. Nicked most of the Socialist's remaining voters that Macron didn't get.

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Re: First Past the Post

Labour and the Tories might be against PR for reasons of self-interest, but I think there's a pretty good argument to say that so are the voting public. I admit that some called AV a miserable compromise, but even so - there was no public appetite for it. Hence it went down in the referendum. And PR doesn't appear on any of the top ten (or even top 20) policy priorities, when you ask voters.

Also, as the Lib Dems found out, our voters don't seem particularly patient with the policy compromises that PR forces. In first-past-the-post you get less control of who and what you can vote for, but you get a known manifesto at the end of it. You are also able to vote for the anyone but so-and-so candidate, so it enables you to kick out the people currently in power.

PR doesn't give you that negative (but I'd argue really important) option and also leaves you mostly with a coalition government, so you don't even know what policies you're going to end up with. That also has its advantages of course, but to claim that PR is a panacea for all our voting problems is just silly. It has as many problems as any other system.

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Re: As Liberal Party of Old would have told you

That's all conspiracy theory bollocks. The press don't pay the polling companies enough to make a profit on political polling, they only use it to give them some relatively cheap things to talk about. The pollsters are doing it as a combination of public service and advertising their wares. So if the political polling is way out, it makes them look bad. Unfortunately there isn't enough money in it to do really top-notch polling.

Although even when Lord Ashcroft spent some serious cash on a couple of hundred constituency level polls in 2015 (the first time this had ever been done) - they didn't turn out any more accurate than polling nationally.

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Re: Getting the wrong demographics adjustments

It's impossible to predict voter turnout. Because many opinion poll respondents "overestimate their likelihood to vote", as the pollsters politely put it. And they've done this for decades. So the pollsters can only make a guess. Although the ones who got closest (eg Yougov) were the ones who adjusted their models at the last minute to dial down their previous accounting for differential voting between young and old.

With margin of error, the polls will always struggle to call a close vote. And with something like a one-off referendum they're even less reliable, as they've no precedent on which to base their models.

You also need to know what the polls are showing. So if lots of people made their mind up about Brexit at the last minute, it could be that the polls were right, as they had the result going more leave towards the end and called it close. The final sampling is done over the last few days of the campaign, so can never fully capture late swings.

But anyway, on Brexit the polls were withing the ballpark. On Trump they were correct (not wrong as many people claim) as they called Trump losing the popular vote correctly - which he did.

As this piece says, getting the overall percentage of the vote correct still doesn't account for the vaguaries of a constituency system, where non-uniform swing can lead to people piling up large majorities in some constituencies and losing others narrowly.

However the UK general election polling for the last two elections has been rubbish. Which is a problem. And young people turning out this election is an excuse, but the sampling errors of 2015 were purely down to the pollsters.

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Boeing preps pilotless passenger flights – once it has solved the Sully problem, of course

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Re: There's something fundamentally important they're missing.

Price. For an airline, removing the need to hire, manage, keep trained, handle payroll, benefits, retirement, pay for hotel rooms between flight legs etc of a whole corps of pilots is going to save a lot of money.

It's going to save some money, sure. But I doubt it's very much in the grand scheme of things.

Lets say you pay your pilot £100k a year. That works out to about £50 an hour. Quadruple that to cover admin costs, a lower paid co-pilot and some expenses and you get £200 an hour. So even on a long-haul flight that's going to end up being less than £5-£10 per passenger added to their ticket price.

Compared to the massive costs of fuel, maintenance and the horribly expensive planes themselves - or even the in-flight catering (if available) - it's just not that much. You're still going to require cabin crew, until the cattle passengers are loaded on drugged in coffins "sleep crates" - so you're still stuck with all the admin and expenses.

Thinking about it, I wouldn't be surprised if landing fees cost as much as the pilots.

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Can't we keep the stewardesses, and make the piloting self service?

Everyone gets on the plane and it's taxiied to the end of the runway by one of the stewardesses. Meanwhile all the passengers are playing Microsoft Flight Simulator (or possibly Ace of Aces off the Amstrad CPC464) on their seatback entertainment systems. The one who scores highest, gets to fly the plane.

What could possibly go wrong?

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