* Posts by tfb

227 posts • joined 11 Jan 2010

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Elon Musk finally admits Tesla is building its own custom AI chips

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Boffin

When was the first time

that someone said that general AI was less than ten years away? I'm guessing the late 1950s but I might be a bit early. It was likely to be Herb Simon who said it I think.

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Disk drive fired 'Frisbees of death' across data centre after storage admin crossed his wires

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Scavenge

We had drives like this (I think the ones we had were known as 'tridents' although that may have just been what Xerox rebadged them as).

My wife once had to physically eject a service engineer from the site for *smoking* over one of them with the pack out of it.

And the saga of the scavenge: the Xerox fsck process was called 'scavenging' and it was something you did occasionally, and certainly after a power failure or crash. So, there was one or both of those and the system duly started running a scavenge on a drive (I presume not the drive that had the system on). Hours later it was still running it, and Xerox were rung up: they said it was normal for scavenges to sometimes take a very long time. More hours (in my memory, a day) passed and someone finally had the wit to go down to the machine room. It was immediately apparent that the drive was very unhappy from the noise: it turned out that it had had a head crash, and the scavenge was now blindly scraping the remains of the head assembly over the platters, presumably repeatedly trying to find out where the heads were which I think was done by seeking to some special magic track at the edge/centre of the platter. The drive was full of crud which was once either platter surface or bits of the heads. I was told that they never found some of the heads, as they'd been abraded entirely away.

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Re: Nice story, bro.

I've used drives like this (although they were obsolescent by the time I had much to do with them: Fuji Eagles were the common thing by then, which were much more modern, and two people could carry one). You could feel and see the cabinet move when the heads loaded, and when doing any kind of intensive activity like checking the disks. I'm not sure about the ejecting-the-platters thing though: I imagine the mechanism for that might be the (remains of the) head assembly getting wedged between the edge of the platters and the casing of the drive.

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No, BMW, petrol-engined cars don't 'give back to the environment'

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Re: It does give back to the environment

Without some level of ionising radiation there would *also* be no life on Earth.

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Apple sprays down bug-ridden iOS 11 with more fixes

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Jumping the shark?

I wonder if this is the point at which Apple start to lose it, as far as software goes. Leaving aside all the fanboyism and expensive-hardware-ism, they've historically been reasonably good at shipping software that mostly works. Both iOS 11 and OSX 10.13 (or whatever we are meant to call it, not OSX I know) seem to have really pretty serious quality-control problems though, which indicates, perhaps, something rotting in Apple. (Or, more likely, I have just conveniently forgotten the older releases.)

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Brit MP Dorries: I gave my staff the, um, green light to use my login

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Re: According to the Times [usual disclaimers apply]...

If there is spyware on a senior member of the government's computer we have pretty big problems.

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Re: I don't understand this

That's right. So there should be a proper enquiry to establish how the data got there.

If it got there because he shared his password then he is clearly a national-scale security risk, since he holds a senior role in government and is presumably therefore party to state secrets, including extremely sensitive ones. We probably do not want people who share their passwords having that kind of position.

If it got there because he was looking at porn at work, then, well, I'm not sure what the right punishment is. Personally I would not want someone that stupid & distracted at work in my government.

If it can not be established how it got there then the IT infrastructure that MPs use has catastrophic security problems. This is in most respects the worst outcome, because it means that we should assume a breach.

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However do you really think that any prime minister or chief whip will think - "oh won't touch her, she shares her password". I wish they would, but not a hope.

In a world where there are competent people (so, OK, not our world), this would fix itself. If she was to achieve any kind of high office she would need to be security vetted, and she would fail that.

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Mushroom

I don't understand this

In most places I've worked in recent history sharing your password would be an escort-you-out-of-the-building offence (OK, I was often a contractor: it might have been only a written-warning offence for employees). These weren't big official-secret type places. (Looking at porn on work computers or networks would have a similar punishment -- there's a reason for the 'NSFW' tag people put on things which are, well, NSFW: quite independently of whether looking at porn is wrong, it is clearly wrong at work.)

But this is OK if you are an MP, because MPs don't do anything which might be at all sensitive, right? It would not matter at all if some intern sent mail, or posted to Twitter or whatever, from an MP's account. Indeed, it's convenient that they can: 'all those racist comments from my account, those weren't me they were some intern'.

And these are the people who want to legislate as to whether we can use strong encryption. What the fuck is going on in their minds?

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Pro tip: You can log into macOS High Sierra as root with no password

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The password hash is '!' which is an invalid hash but also means the account is locked (anything starting with '!' means that).

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Re: Linux root p/w

If every Linux distribution you've installed has asked you for a root password then you've never installed Ubuntu.

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Arecibo spared the axe: Iconic observatory vital to science lives on

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Headmaster

Re: Welcome to 21st Century USA

Your algorithm is buggy. It should be

while (science || education { ...}

You certainly would not it to halt when only one of them reaches zero (although at the point education becomes zero the system may crash in any case).

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Donald, YOU'RE FIRED: Rogue Twitter worker quits, deletes President Trump's account

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Re: Obviously...

I'm not sure that that will save him. Even with all the speling mistaks, he probably only has a useful vocabulary of a few hundred words (say a hundred, and three ways of spelling each), and I doubt he can remember anything for long enough to type a password of more than two words ('what was I typing ... have to start again ... Bad!').

Not that I suggest trying to attack his accounts, of course: that would be bad and, well, bad.

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Re: Obviously...

That's a good question. Given his limited vocabulary I wonder how hard it would actually be to guess his credentials? Does Twitter have 2FA and has a grownup turned it on for him? if not then we need someone to leak his password hash.

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Re: Fake news

Why should they not? Twitter is not a human right.

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Slashing regulations literally more important than saving American lives to Donald Trump

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Boffin

Re: All vehicles within 4 years?

That's right: it probably isn't useful unless almost all cars have it. So you have two choices: start putting it into new (models of) cars now, wait 20 years and now almost all cars have it; or don't and almost all cars will never have it.

Gosh, which option seems better?

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Osama Bin Laden had copy of Resident Evil, smut, in compound

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Mushroom

Re: Probably gone down

His body was disposed of at sea, and quickly because there were sensitivities about funeral & burial traditions for Muslims and they *really* didn't want to get involved in holding onto his body which would arguably violate some of those traditions, or burying it anywhere where anyone could know where it was which might become a shrine.

In other words they were just avoiding being completely stupid about the whole thing, because, at that time, the US was not run by fuckwits.

This was widely discussed at the time, although obviously conspiratards will conveniently ignore that.

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First iPhone X fondlers struggle to admit that Face ID sort of sucks

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Re: Do you know what works better than Face ID and Touch ID?

But there are regimes (including the US I think) where they can't force you to reveal a password (without going through hoops) but they *can* force you to touch your phone. And I'm quite sure they can hold your phone in front of your face.

So, not so clear then.

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NASA reveals Curiosity 2020's 23-camera payload

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Re: But is there a selfie camera?

Yes: WATSON does that, I think (it can look at the Rover).

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Official: Perl the most hated programming language, say devs

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Mushroom

You can hate perl all you like

But it has block scope and a binding construct ('my') which is distinct from assignment. Python, the language we are all meant to love has neither of these. So it has 'global' which doesn't fix the problem and now 'nonlocal' which does fix part of it. Except if your language needs scope-resolution constructs then its claims to be lexically scoped are just bullshit.

Perl was designed by someone who had questionable taste and knew it. Python was designed by someone who doesn't know what taste is.

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US voting server in election security probe is mysteriously wiped

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Re: "Low level format"

That's not what a low-level format was. Low-level formatting was fiddling with the way the data sat on the disk in a, well, low-level way: telling the thing how big blocks were and where sectors sat. It was something you used to need to do, but pretty much never do now (and I suspect *can't* do since it's all hidden away in the disk controller now).

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Well, if the machine has been reused then something else has likely been scribbling all over the disk since it was formatted. So plenty of the data is likely irretrievably lost now.

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Google's phone woes: The Pixel and the damage done

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Re: Just like Apple

Not like Apple at all. Apple have sold hardware to end-users since they've existed and they've mostly (not always) learned the lessons you learn by doing that. Google have never done that and don't even seem to realise that there are lessons to be learnt. Companies that sell physical objects are just different than ones which don't.

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USB stick found in West London contained Heathrow security data

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Re: re Well Duh

I could happily use a disease ridden library computer to, say, check a train timetable, [...]. After all its had no information from me.

Well, except that you're likely to be travelling on one of those trains.

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

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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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