* Posts by tfb

203 posts • joined 11 Jan 2010

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No, the FCC can't shut down TV stations just because Donald Trump is mad at the news

tfb

Re: Actually

You know there are several Abrahamic religions, right?

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Snap, crackle ... patch! Apple kicks out iOS 11.0.2 to tackle crappy calls, fix email glitches

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Re: So Self drive Cars,,,,,,,,,,

Yes, they will be full of bugs. Yes this will cause them sometimes to crash and kill people. The question is whether they'll do this less often than cars driven by people.

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World's first dedicated computer centre declared 'irreplaceable' by Historic England

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Re: TNMOC rocks!

Yes, TNMOC is *really* worth visiting if you like old computing machinery. One of the best things about it is that quite a lot of it is working, including things like the Colossus rebuild and the WITCH.

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Home Sec Amber Rudd: Yeah, I don't understand encryption. So what?

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Re: This is some high-order recursive stupidity

It's not quite, but almost, Dunning-Kruger, the way I read it: I've always taken DK to be when people who are really bad at, say, physics assume they are really good at it because they are so bad they don't realise how bad they are. This is worse: this is someone who doesn't realise that there is such a thing as physics at all.

It's like a lizard looking at a spaceship: you can see them sniffing around it and wondering if it's some kind of food, or whether they can lay their eggs in it. There's just no room in their lizard mind for the notion of what a spaceship *is*.

Yes. I was wrong: we are ruled by lizards.

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This is some high-order recursive stupidity

Too stupid to understand encryption: well, that's OK, the details are generally fiddly and need the sort of education you don't have if you have a history degree.

Too stupid to realise she doesn't understand encryption & should ask someone who does. This is bad.

Too stupid to realise that *standing up and announcing the previous two things in public is not a good idea*. This is really quite a special level of stupid.

Too stupid to realise that accusing people who *do* understand it of 'sneering' and 'patronising' you is not going to help any.

We are ruled by stupids.

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Did the Earth move for you, too? Grav waves sensed from black holes' bang 1.8bn LYs away

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Re: Incomprehensible

It's about 13% of the way to the edge.

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Mushroom

Indeed not: they're spending taxpayers' money on doing some deeply astonishing engineering. Engineering, sadly has never benefited humanity in any way at all: cars and NMR machines are harvested by artisanal labourers wearing clothes of hand-spun wool.

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Boffin

Re: m(ass)es

No, a 53 solar mass BH is fairly massive for a BH which originated from a collapsed star rather than by some long accretion process. In fact I am fairly sure that it's above what the upper limit was expected to be until recently: I think all of the things LIGO has observed so far (certainly the first observation) were rather unexpectedly heavy objects.

(Obviously the 53 solar mass object *didn't* originate from a collapsed star directly but from a merger, but even the two ancestors are rather heavy for stellar BHs I think).

(as to size: they're pretty small: I think the Schwarzschild radius of the resulting object is 156km -- or 7097 brontosaurus (linguine is kind of an impractically small unit here)).

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Power meltdown 'fries' SourceForge, knocks site's servers titsup

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Re: Same everywhere

It can be worse than ending your career. if you're a systemically-important financial institution then a failed DR test can quite plausibly crash the economy. So, not surprisingly, they never get done: they do DR tests but they are very carefully rehearsed events, usually of a tiny number of services, which don't represent reality at all.

The end result of all this is kind of terrifying: in due course some such institution *is* going to lose a whole DC, and will this be forced to do an entirely unrehearsed DR of a very large number of services. That DR will almost certainly fail, and the zombie apocalypse follows.

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Re: Here's an idea!

"We would like to use multiple providers, but there is no money."

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iPhone 8: Apple has CPU cycles to burn

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Re: Windows

That's not the question you should ask. The question you should ask is 'does iTunes work properly yet on OSX or does it still self-destruct constantly?'. And the answer is that every other version of the fucking thing decides that some bit of state I care about doesn't in fact matter. Usually this is podcasts but sometimes it's other stuff.

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NBD: Adobe just dumped its private PGP key on the internet

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Re: Also all,previous data

It is very likely that any PGP-encrypted message which Adobe sent was also encrypted with their public key, in order that they can later read the message themselves. So possession of their private key will in most cases allow you also to decrypt messages they sent.

There's an interesting tangential point here: if you encrypt a message with PGP or GPG and you are worried that bad people (bad people with legislation) might force you to decrypt it, then encrypt it *only* with the recipient's public key. Then you *can't* decrypt it, even if you wanted to, because it's not encrypted with your public key.

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Boffins discover tightest black hole binary system – and it's supermassive

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Boffin

Re: If two supermassive black holes collide in a galaxy

I'm not sure about supermassive BH collisions, but generally BH collisions are rather dark things: most of the interesting stuff is expected to come off as gravitational radiation.

The reason for this is that BHs are only really visible in the EM spectrum if they have accretion disks -- disks of inspiraling matter. Accretion disks are not long-lived things: they need continual care and feeding, and in particular the BH needs to have some suitably nearby star that it can tear matter off to form the accretion disk: usually this is a companion star in a binary. But BH/BH binaries don't have such companion stars: the companion 'star' is another BH. So they generally don't have accretion disks at all, and so they are not very visible in the EM spectrum.

I am not sure the extent to which this would go through for supermassive BH binaries though. I suspect that they generally would be quite dark in the EM spectrum as well, but I'm not sure.

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The crab pulsar is not that big

I think it's about 20km in diameter. It's still impressive to think of something that big rotating that fast. There are pulsars which spin at many hundreds of Hz, which is even more terrifying.

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Boffin

In fact black holes are generally vacuum solutions, so in a sense they are not super-dense matter.

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Pretend Python packages prey on poor typing

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Mushroom

Re: The number of packages for a language...

Because every scientist who wants to use Python to process their data should understand telnet, right: it's not enough to understand all the maths they need to actually do science, they also must learn all the tedious bureaucracy of every networking protocol they need to talk? Or perhaps the language they use should be able to isolate them from all that crap, the way it isolates them from understanding the fine details of various numerical algorithms. Because, you know, it's not 1956 any more.

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Re: This should be easy to detect.

That's a good trick. In fact the people who manage the index should be doing this themselves (conveniently, there's a python package...)

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Boffin

Re: The Real Problem is a Bit More Complicated

Installing packages only from your distro's repo is all very well so long as you like to run very old versions of a very small selection of packages. That's great if you don't actually use much of the surface area of the system, I suppose.

The actual solution is not this: I'm not sure what it is, but not this.

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Python explosion blamed on pandas

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Boffin

Re: Execution speed...

I used to think this was true as well, but it's not. if you are dealing with large quantities of numerical data (and 5GB is not a large quantity in this sense: our jobs create terabytes a day) then having something which implements various numerical array-bashing operations efficiently does actually matter. Hence NumPy.

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How alien civilizations deal with climate is a measure of how smart they are. Just sayin'...

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Boffin

Vehicle efficiency

Unfortunately there are limits to how much you can increase efficiency. If something is currently x% efficient then you can never increase its efficiency by a factor of more than 100/x, and in practice, for heat-engines at least, you will reach limits well before that. So if cars are 20% efficient now (this is a figure I just made up: I am not claiming they are currently 20% efficient), you can not, even in theory, make them more than 5 times more efficient.

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US government: We can jail you indefinitely for not decrypting your data

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Re: What an interesting idea. A key that will turn the encrypted file into a of anything

A key which is the same size as the file is a one-time pad, and this is one of the problems with them.

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RBS sharpens axe again: 900 IT jobs to go by 2020

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Mushroom

typically by pretending that one knows less about something than one really does

So, yes, they are going to lose a bunch of jobs in London: there are a couple of interesting things about that which, conveniently, have been downplayed or omitted by the source of this information.

London is a pretty expensive place to do business: might it not be a good idea for a company which is trying to save costs to, you know, move to cheaper places in the UK? Places where people find it hard to get jobs? Is that a bad thing now?

What part of RBS runs out of London? Could it be investment banking? Why yes, it could. And isn't there some kind of big ongoing saga that affects investment banking? Some kind of political thing? Something that might cause banks to need to move a bunch of their operations to cities outwith the UK? Like, I don't know, Amsterdam, where they have a banking licence already. So, I don't know, you might expect banks to be reducing headcount in London, don't you think? Or should they stick their heads up their arses and pretend none of it is happening like our glorious leaders, until in a couple of years someone hacksaws through their necks and leaves them stuck there.

Where does the IT part of RBS's retail banking run from? Is it London or some other capital city a bit north of there? Gosh, yes it is that other city, isn't it. And how many staff are they planning to lose in this other city? Or are they actually hiring people up there?

And finally: I don't work for RBS, but I do own a stake in them because I pay taxes in the UK. I'd kind of like them to make a profit sometime so I can actually get the great chunk of my money that the government threw at them in 2008 back. If that means making their IT operations a little less bloated and inefficient, then I'm actually fine with that. Even if involves making it harder for me to find my next contract.

Diclaimer: I don't work for RBS. I don't even know if what they are planning is right. I do know that the source behind this article is seriously one-sided.

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Chap behind Godwin's law suspends his own rule for Charlottesville fascists: 'By all means, compare them to Nazis'

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Re: Not a fan of white supremacists...

If you call them what they are -- nazis -- then they won't be able to hide behind some veil of respectability: we know what the nazis did, and it is what they want to do.

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190 Cray employees hosed down with shower of pink slippery

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Boffin

Re: Supercomputers?

It's a small but important market. People who need HPC generally really need it, and despite other comments no, you generally can't just rent time from some cloud provider: a huge farm of machines is not an HPC system (even though HPC systems are huge farms of machines, they also have serious interconnect & I/O), and while there are a few rent-HPC-time people a lot of HPC users are understandably uncomfortable about their code running on other people's machines.

Unfortunately because it's small, relies on a tiny number of very large purchases, and is dependent on governments, it tends to be very variable. HPC makers have the some of the same problems that very expensive car makers have.

[source: I run code on HPCs.]

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UK.gov snaps on rubber gloves, prepares for mandatory porn checks

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FAIL

The payment card industry will love this

So, probably porn sites are not run by the most scrupulous people in the world (I mean, I'm sure most of them are fine upstanding citizens, but some probably aren't). And the idea is that people who want to access these will now have to hand over card details. So quite apart from a whole bunch of new places from which card details can now leak if they get hacked, there's a fairly obvious attack here: set up porn site, accumulate card details, sell details.

This is just an insanely dumb idea. If there needs to be a way of proving age (which seems to me mostly unobjectionable) there needs to be a way of proving it which doesn't involve really obvious avenues for identity theft or just plain theft.

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All your bass are belong to us: Soundcloud fans raid site for music amid fears of total collapse

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Re: 9 years

Did Google have a business plan? I suspect they really didn't early on. Worked OK for them.

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Mappy days! Ordnance Survey offers up free map of UK greenery

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Re: mafia

I use the OS maps (iOS but I think it is on other platforms as well), which has 1/25k ('explorer') maps for everywhere, as well as all the other more fashionable ones (including this new one). The digitisation isn't quite as good as their older iOS app which is mildly annoying, but for that app you had to buy tiles.

As someone else said: check the subscription prices, as they may be better direct. They are also very approachable -- I botched my renewal and spent some time exchanging mail with someone to get it fixed.

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tfb

I think the article misrepresents what they've done, which is to produce a map of green areas anyone can walk in (and not just 'on roads near' or 'on footpaths through').

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Mushroom

Re: mafia

I have four apps on my phjone's home screen which can display maps, of which two are explicitly mapping apps. One of the four uses OS map data. So they are failing dismally to be a monopoly. And OS maps app (which is, not surprisingly the one that uses OS data) costs me, I think, £20/year for full offline everything across a couple of devices and the web. Which is cheap: so they're also failing to enforce any kind of monopoly pricing.

So no, not a monopoly: you're just making stuff up.

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While USA is distracted by its President's antics, China is busy breaking another fusion record

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Re: Crazy ideas?

They have been found out. So have the people who claim that aliens shot JFK, Homeopathy works or the US government was behind the WTC attacks: this does not stop people believing these things, or people making money by exploiting believers.

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tfb

Re: Worse..

A lot of things are too important to be cocked up by politicians. Unfortunately that doesn't stop them doing just that.

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Britain's warhead-watcher to simulate Trident nukes with Atos supercomputer

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You are either confused or lying: I won't try and second-guess which. Whichever is the case you're so wrong it's not even worth arguing.

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Re: do we really need to simulate this?

(You know, I could probably even live with that it it was true; as long as I can file bug reports.)

Well, we're obviously in a simulation. Just look at Trump's hair: it's just obviously not rendered properly. And they've attached the hands of a much smaller person to him, and the whole colour balance on his skin is just hopeless. We're not just living in a simulation, we're living in one which is being done on the cheap.

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tfb

That's why we run lots of different models (and lots of incarnations of a given model with different inputs) and compare their output with each other and with what actually happened (when the models are run in the past), yes. That's the whole fucking point of all this simulation: you don't think we write some golden model, run a copy of it and write a report, right?

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Re: do we really need to simulate this?

We need to know if it will go off.

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Re: "Give it time and I'm sure there will be some advanced boffinery on ARM."

Fortran is a very good fit for big supers. The language has semantics very well designed for good float performance & has evolved to be a lot less horrible than it was, there are extremely good compilers (Intel's is very good, and vendors usually provide their own which may be better), and MPI / OpenMP support is very good indeed (again: vendor libraries help here). And there are really substantial libraries of course.

Source: my day job involves running big numerical simulations, written in Fortran, on large HPC systems (not atomic weapon simulations).

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Ker-ching! NotPetya hackers cash out, demand 100 BTC for master decrypt key

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Re: This was just a test , , ,

If a big financial institution goes away for any length of time the results are likely to be a zombie-apocalypse level catastrophe: all the other institutions expire, the ATMs stop working, looting for food, &c. That's why the banks got bailed out in 2008: 'let them fail' was not a serious option, no matter how appealing it was,

I think it's fairly likely that a big financial institution will suffer some catastrophic failure in the next ten years.

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tfb

Re: And...

Well, the IBM 360 has a good claim to have been the most influential processor architecture there has been I think (not because it was a mainframe but because it got so many things so right, so long ago). So, they were a great company in 1964, at least.

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

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Mushroom

Re: Carbon

Fuck off, why don't you?

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Boffin

Re: Carbon

Technologies don't exist, in fact, or not in a usable form: if they did then global warming would be a non-problem (and let's just ignore the denialists).

As an example, consider something like Apollo. Let's assume the whole first stage is burnt in the atmosphere: the fuel and oxidizer load of an S-IC is about 2,000 tonnes, and about 7/10 of this ends up as CO2 (based on C12H24 + 18O2 -> 12CO2 + 12H2O and using atomic masses of 1, 12, 16 for H, C, O). So about 1,400 tonnes of CO2 ends up in the atmosphere. I will gratuitously round that up to 1,500 tonnes because now I can divide by 3 and get 500 tonnes per person (also the load is a little more than 2,000 tonnes in fact).

So, for a million people this is 5E8 tonnes of CO2. This is about 10% of the annual emissions of the US, or rather more than the whole annual emission from the UK. So this is bad, but not catastrophic.

I don't know how much better you can do than an S-IC: the obvious trick, as I said in a previous comment is to burn hydrogen and oxygen and crack those with solar power, but I am not sure if such a thing is viable as a first stage.

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Boffin

Carbon

I wonder what the carbon cost of sending a million people to Mars is? This is a serious question: I don't have a real feeling as to what the answer is, and it obviously depends on the fuel you choose and how much of it is burnt in the atmosphere, and how little mass you can afford to lift as well as the people. (A hydrogen/oxygen rocket which uses solar or nuclear electricity to crack the water is, I guess, carbon-neutral in theory).

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Uncle Sam bungs rich tech giants quarter of a billion bucks for exascale super R&D

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Boffin

Big impressive numbers in the headline

Quarter of a billion dollars sounds a lot until you realise that it's less than three times the cost of, for instance, the Met Office's recent HPC purchase. Supers are expensive.

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We're not saying we're living in a simulation but someone's simulated the universe in a computer

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Re: Numbers

I think it's clearly a very low number of particles/galaxy. But it's probably what they can manage on the machine they have.

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Boffin

Re: That is not science..just a waste of time and resources!

In the beginning the drive was PATA? I think you'll find that the old testement makes no mention of SATA but refers instead only to SMD. Most modern scholars, however, regard SMD as a later interpolation: no-one is sure what was there originally, although some claim some significance to the term 'RAMAC' which has been discovered in some apoarently-early versions of the sacred texts.

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Elon to dump Trump over climate bump

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Boffin

Re: Coal stocks fell today

The real tragedy of what Trump is doing is that he's not just trying to cause an environmental catastrophe, but that he's also, apparently intentionally, trying to ensure the US ends up as some backwater. On the one hand developed countries were pretty good at mining coal and making steel in bulk more than a hundred years ago. Both of these are just solved problems that involve a lot of more-or-less deeply unpleasant and more-or-less dangerous manual labour. On the other hand we have people like Musk who are trying to solve hard problems like getting people into space cheaply and making better batteries. Just think about the battery thing: whoever makes a battery which is really practical for electric cars is basically going to rule the world: not because electric cars are more environmentally-friendly but because they are *better*: better acceleration, less wear, better: all they need is good batteries. There is *so much money* sitting in that technology when it works.

But no, coal was good enough for the Victorians and it's good enough for us: let's leave the Chines or the Europeans to invent a really good battery while we slowly fade from relevance.

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BA CEO blames messaging and networks for grounding

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Alert

But there will be as soon as enough prescriptive-grammar fogeys who can remember that once there wasn't die off. This is how language evolves: by the death of idiots.

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BA's 'global IT system failure' was due to 'power surge'

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Re: Only one way to do it - and that is the right way.

So, all your systems were physically close to each other then? That is not 'the right way'.

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Re: "Tirelessly"?

I worked for banks. They had DR sites. DR tests typically involved a long, carefully-sequenced series of events to migrate one, or at most a few, services between the sites. If they ever had a major event in one if the DCs and had to do an unplanned DR of a large number / all of the services then I had no doubt they woukd have failed, both to do the DR and then shortly afterwards as a bank (and, depending on which bank it was, this would likely have triggered a cascade failure of other banks with results which make 2007-2008 look like the narrowly-avoided catastrophe it was).

Banks are not better at DR: it is just convenient to believe they are. We now know what a (partial?) DR looks like for BA: we should live in the pious hope that we never find out what one is like for a bank, although we will.

Of course, when it hapens it will be convenient to blame people with brown skins who live far away, whose fault it isn't: racism is the solution to all problems, of course.

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Juno's first data causing boffins to rewrite the text books on Jupiter

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Boffin

Re: Astonishing science

Worth mentioning in this context that people do actually use GCMs to model the atmospheres of other planets (ie this is not just a 'we could do this in theory' thing). The stuff I knew about was expolanets, but you are completely right that modelling other planets in the Solar system is particularly good as we can get good actual data with which to compare the models.

(I am sure OP knows this: I'm just putting this here for other people.)

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UK ministers to push anti-encryption laws after election

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Boffin

Re: Plugins

It does worry me that this is the sort of answer we are heading for. Yes, there will be no bad terrorists talking secretly to each other, but on the other hand we'll be living in some kind of medieval world of mud, pigshit and lice, dying of the flux while the politicians live in their castles surrounded by groves of impaled serfs. I am looking forward to this.

(Actually, what really worries me is that, quite clearly, we are now living in a world which our politicians simply are not equipped to understand and, worse, which they don't understand they don't understand). I don't mean Trump, who clearly would have been out of his depth in the stone age, but superficially well-educated people: people with PPE degrees from good universities. We live in a world where science, engineering and in this case maths, are critical, and they not only don't have the background or facility to make sense of these things, they *don't know they haven't got it*. So they propose laws which amount to declaring that pi is 3 or something, and we're all fucked as a result. I'm not suggesting a revolution by scientists, engineers and mathematicians (I'm two of these things and I would be a profoundly terrible politician), but we need to get to a state where the people we elect are at least competent to deal with the world we live in, and we are not in that state now.)

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