* Posts by Penguin herder

90 posts • joined 4 Jun 2010


NASA shuts off Voyager 1's central heating

Penguin herder

But we (sorta) are...

"Why are we not building more of these probes to fling out of the solar system?"

True, we are not doing fly-bys, but we have take a long look at Jupiter (Galileo), Juno(??) is next for that, Cassini is doing wonders at Saturn, having landed on Titan and observed equinox up close, discovered the relationship between Encelidus and the F-ring, etc.

We are also doing good stuff with Kepler and related probes. I would really like to see an exploration of Europa's ocean :) So, there is a lot of exploration happening.


Microsoft copies Google with silent browser updates

Penguin herder


More breaking changes that are forced, or at best, optional only on an opt-out basis. I would be really concerned about this, *if* I were still running Windows for more than a couple of legacy systems.

US military pays SETI to check Kepler-22b for aliens

Penguin herder

slight miscalculation in timescale there

Not so fast. The SETI effort is simple and more than worth a try, but wobble and transits seem to be more likely to turn up exploitable worlds, and could potentially reveal our type of life LONG before we became able to create conspicuous spikes in the EM spectrum.

Anyone with technology far enough along to be a credible threat to us, probably knew about life on Earth a very long time ago.

NASA probe now closer than ANY OTHER spacecraft to Pluto

Penguin herder

"Restricted" is too negative...

You're getting close, but Pluto is a "accretion challenged."

NASA wants space washing machine for ISS, Mars bases

Penguin herder
Thumb Up

Vacuum to the rescue?

Those of you suggesting that they just "hang them outside" might really be on to something. The vacuum should desiccate and disperse quite a bit of undesirable material. A little pre-treatment with some type of catalytic agent might do the rest; that would need to squeezed/spun out of the clothes before "airing the dirty laundry," and would ideally be reusable.

Down-to-earth dry cleaning is interesting, but I suspect would not get off the ground due to the risk of the chemicals' leaking into the confined crew compartment.

Stats king SAS surfs the analytics wave

Penguin herder

In a word, R

R is free and very powerful. Problem solved.

Passenger cleared after TSA checkpoint stare-down

Penguin herder

RE: Quite, but would you?

"Quite, but would you want to be on a plane, knowing one of the other passengers has exercised his right to fly without providing ID?"

Well said. The TSA is completely out of control, should be shut down, and should have no power to stop this man from flying. The airline should offer him a choice: show ID or take a bus. Private airport security should be able to stop him (lethally if necessary) from going through the checkpoint without showing ID, but if he wants to refuse and leave the airport, he should be free to do so.

Ford cars get draconian parental controls

Penguin herder
Big Brother

Unintended consquences

I'm not big on telling a car how fast it will never go. I am here, un-squashed, because of a burst of speed that I would not have bet my car could produce; thankfully it did.

iPad's biggest rival? Microsoft's dead Courier

Penguin herder
Black Helicopters

Re: Courier

"But heck, the Courier looked freakin awesome. If it had come out actually working like the demo I would have bought one in a snap - even a first gen version."

You are closing in on it. It's not "if *it* had come out with a working version," creating something that works would fall on Microsoft, and it is becoming a reasonable question to ask whether they are up to it? Seriously. I looked carefully for anything that looked like something that actually ran on the device, and never found it. Pure Vaporware.

Penguin herder

RE: Courier never existed

"Courier no more corresponded to the real world than the film the Matrix."

Come on, admit it, The Matrix could actually be real!

MS warns over zero-day IE bug

Penguin herder

RE: or just not purchase IE at all

"You were given no choice."

But you DO have a choice - just apparently not one you are willing to make (yet).

NASA's Odyssey to break Martian long-service record

Penguin herder

RE: Bizarre

The frame is 14 km wide, so surface tension is pretty much out; gravity and inertia would be the dominant forces if there were liquid water in such quantities.

The part that strikes me is how you move around enough dirt to make dunes like that and not obliterate the nearby impact craters in the process? Just wondering. What I know about geology could be written on the edge of a credit card with a dull felt tip pen.

NASA is pretty careful about identifying structures from imaging (they took a long time to openly identify Titan's lakes), but I would be curious to know how they ruled out a rock outcropping in this case.

All that aside, I know what this is: the remains of a giant Stegosaurus.


Penguin herder

Not necessarily

It does not have to be SETI or Mars. Cassini is still at it. There have been rumblings of a possible chemical cycle on Titan, and Enceladus is belching things that could turn out to be revealing. My money is still on Europa, but it seems unlikely that news on it would erupt now - we need to go ice fishing.

Kepler is probably more likely than SETI to turn up something interesting a long way away. The first finding there is likely to be a planet right where we would want it temperature wise. Then the hunt begins for water, oxygen and methane in said atmosphere.

Windows hits 25

Penguin herder

RE: Yes, what about Windows 2000?

"Now I don't even bother, I just buy a Dell with pre-activated Windows on it. My gaming is migrating to consoles,and I keep on Windows because Linux is still a pain to fiddle with."

Boot off a Live CD and give Linux another try. Better yet, find an old drive, put it in a new computer and install to the disk. Things have changed.

"Despite the claims the desktop is dead it will still be around---they're bigger and faster, and can be customized."

We might reach a point of docking stations to provide extension, and of course the obligatory screen real estate, pointing device and keyboard. Storage already goes with us (I have 20Gb around my neck as I type), and the processing power *might* follow. That said, I agree that the hype about desktops and laptops being dead is just that - hype.

Penguin herder
Gates Horns

RE: What about Windows 2000?

"W2K - the unloved and forgotten brother in the Windows world... but still an important step towards XP, tying 9x and NT together."

You are not alone in seeing it that way, but I consider XP to be a step backwards from 2k. Not only did it bring the Fisher Price desktop theme, XP was where they started changing things that really worked.

One good thing about XP: when I saw how ugly it was out of the box and the activation scheme, I started ramping up my escape plans.

MS hits back in Security Essentials row

Penguin herder

RE: Imagine the ballot screen

"Yes, I can see that working well for the A/V vendors."

Point taken, but people pay for Windows itself when there are (damn good) free alternatives. There's a licensee born every minute.

Penguin herder

RE: Vista

"I might be wrong but I feel that if MS rewrote windows and made rock hard against attacks, AV companies would sue ."

I don't think you are wrong. However, I suspect that in order to be truly secure, it would cease to "be Windows" to an extent that anyone with a brain would be freed to consider the competition; those without a brain might just be pushed out of business while trying to adapt to the changes.

Worry not, I don't think MS has it in them - the secure part. They clearly are interested in forcing everyone into managed code and breaking backward compatibility, but as I have long said, when they break all of my code, I might as well rewrite it elsewhere.

Penguin herder
Gates Horns

RE: End of the gravy train

"Companies such as Sophos et al. rely on insecure MS products for their very survival. They can hardly complain when MS makes its product more secure by default, surely they must have seen the day coming eventually.

It's been a good ride fellas, time to find a new business model."

I hadn't looked at it that way, but you are correct, at least about the reaction of the competition. As for MS making anything secure, well, I doubt they have anything to worry about...

Penguin herder

RE: The threat to the world from legions of unprotected PCs

"Is worse than the threat to the world from purported anticompetitive practices, IMO."

Wouldn't it be better to have protected machines *and* do without the anti-competitive practices?

So did Windows Phone 7 'bomb in US'?

Penguin herder

10 minute exchange for a sandwich?

""In the phone world, our surveys show that there should be a choice between A or B," the analyst explained.

We find that hard to believe of a country where ordering a sandwich involves a detailed 10-minute exchange."

Nobody takes 10 minutes to order a sandwich in the US: one just uses their iPhone and ...

US census takers fight angry Americans for their data

Penguin herder

RE: They asked you what???

"They do not care about flush toilets or how many rooms you have. They will ask in a follow up more detailed questionnaire which is entirely voluntary questions like household income, and occupation for the people living there."

You might want to do some reading:



None of this nonsense is needed to apportion the US House. They need to know how many eligible voters live at each address; nothing more.

Penguin herder
Big Brother

RE: Small Difference - BIG problem

"There's a difference between a census - something designed to generate a snapshot of the make-up of the country once every x number of years- and a prying government."

Yes, the US Constitution mandates a census be taken every ten years to apportion the US House of Representatives - great, no problem. When they start asking things like how many flush toilets I have, whether or not I own my home, etc. (which they do), then it becomes a prying government.

Fans roast Microsoft for Silverlight demotion

Penguin herder

RE: Clarification

"Borland sucked in comparison to VS that's why they lost. While at the beginning they did have a better UI Design interface (beginning of the 90's) they stayed the same and microsoft innovated."

I was there, and that's not how it went. Borland was, better than VS in nearly every way. Their problem was two fold: (1) they insisted on modifying C++ with vtables rather than using a simpler macro system as did MS; (2) they lied (apparently as a matter of corporate policy) in an attempt to whitewash bugs.

So while technically MS might have been a better choice, it was only because Borland made foolish decisions and lied about bad news.

Amazon customer purchases protected by US Constitution

Penguin herder
Big Brother

So much for North Carolina

I hope anyone thinking of moving their family and/or business to North Carolina will think twice based on this. Kudos to Amazon for standing up to them!

Two-year wait for Windows 8, MS blurts

Penguin herder

RE: Good news?

"Isn't it a good thing to get a new OS every few years, not every year? Less upgrading, more time to acclimatize, etc?"

The relevant question is "good for whom?" Of course I have no desire to upgrade all that often; there are far more interesting things to do with computers than to them. For the corporate bottom line, they want continuous upgrading :(

"Why would W8 be risky... seriously... is it due to big changes or due to external factors?"

At the purely rumor level, I have gotten hints that they are trying to force managed code. That might be the last straw for another chunk of the market.

Penguin herder
Gates Horns

RE: This is BlackCombe all over again

"Remember when the successor to Windows XP, codenamed Blackcombe, was supposed to be released "within 2 years".

How long did it take in the end? Was it 5 years? And when it popped out it was Windows Vista."

I remember Longshot (aka Longhorn). It was going to have all kinds of revolutionary stuff that we can probably be thankful did not materialize, but the real delay was waiting for hardware to catch up with the software bloat.

On a lighter note, where is the flying chair icon?

Phone 7: Another Vista or another XP?

Penguin herder

To put it mildly

"MS seems to be very jealous of Apples garden."

It wasn't all that long ago that Microsoft "invested" in Apple. At the time, it was a $100M or so price tag to avoid Apple's demise and Microsoft's being pronounced a monopoly and quickly torn apart. At this rate, Jobs could be deciding whether to bail out Microsoft some years from now.

OOo's put the willies up Microsoft

Penguin herder

Not necessarily a joke

LaTeX is an acquired taste, but it has its points. Formatting becomes secondary to document structure and content. Modern text editors chip away at the disadvantages. Don't expect it to be an overnight transition, but if you give it some time, you might really like it. TeX Maker is a good editor:


I eventually end up having to convert documents to html and then .doc format using OpenOffice, but I do my best to delay that conversion. The LaTeX output (pdf or dvi) looks better than anything I have seen done with any word processor, and citations, cross-references and footnotes are easy to use. The mathematical typesetting is GREAT.

Penguin herder


I'm with you on LaTeX - great stuff! Emacs, I'm not so sure. TeX Maker is really pretty good, just as Code::Blocks does a nice job on the little bit of C/C++ I use.

Futuristic Judge Dredd smartguns issued to 101st Airborne

Penguin herder
Big Brother

RE: Trademarks...?

"I don't think Elmer's Products Inc, owners of the X-Acto precise craft-knife trademark will be best pleased. But of course the Pentagon is above petty laws, isn't it?"

First off, the name is different, so there is probably nothing to litigate. Even if there is a collision, the knife guys would be well-served to take advantage of it.

Either way, the Pentagon is not above the law - that's Congress' job.

Penguin herder

Settle out of court?

""EXtreme ACcuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO)".

Que lawsuit from well know hobby knife company."

I'd back a few US Marines armed with these over the company's lawyers any day :)

MySQL price hikes reveal depth of Oracle's wallet love

Penguin herder


"Perhaps no reason to forget MariaDB."

Had never heard of it; I'll check it out. Thanks.

Microsoft plans biggest ever Patch Tuesday

Penguin herder


"The entire world isn't locked into running on Fedora."

I'm not saying that freedom is easy, but it is available.

Ballmer goes to LSE as internal doc calls for radical overhaul of MS

Penguin herder

RE: Beginning of the end?

"I had long suspected that Microsoft had been winding down their core business of Windows and business-related software and concentrating on lightweight home-market, money-spinning stuff like the X-box and suchlike. Is he actually admitting to that by that statement?"

I don't think they are letting go so much as losing their grip. The cost to generate patches for their bloatware has to be crushing, and at some point the numbers are going to start looking unattractive to investors.

One thing I will say for Uncle Fester: he's a billionaire and not in rehab; I am serious. Look at the string of burnt out rock and tv/movie stars and the even bigger string of lottery winners who managed to ruin their lives over mere pocket change to Ballmer. Microsoft has pushed me (way) too (damn) far to continue watering the cash cow at their trough, but for folks who have enough money to do anything they want (and very little they don't), Gates formed a foundation, Simonyi takes *really* cool vacations, and Ballmer shows up to work every day. I think we'd all be a little better off if Ballmer would retire, but I can't fault them too much on how they run their own lives.

Man vindicated for videotaping his own traffic stop

Penguin herder
Big Brother

True, but

"Rather than beating the dead horses of whether the motorcyclist or the cop Did Things Wrong, people should be cheering the Maryland state judge for, in no uncertain terms, putting things."

Ok, good point, BUT the cop acted with a bad mix of arrogance and cowardice and at a minimum needs to be a short lease, and he probably should be up on charges. The lawyer(s) who brought the wiretapping charges need to be in serious trouble. People with the police powers MUST be held to high standards or they will end up eating us alive, one abuse at a time.

Google's 'instant' search springs keyboard controls

Penguin herder

Not for me

I am (rapidly) disliking instant search. I heartily second the comment that auto-completion of likely search terms is very helpful, but the business of actually updating the results is really a pain. I might have to sniff around for a competitor.

Microsoft caps Ballmer bonus over mobile phone, tablet failures

Penguin herder

Want the big bucks?

Then it should be contingent on performance. That does not mean that the company has to actually make money: if MegaWhatever is set to lose several billion and a CEO caps that to a loss of a billion, bring on the bonus truck, it was well earned.

Given how much Ballmer has in the bank, I'm surprise he even works for such a small amount of money?? Maybe he sees it as an opportunity to protect the value of his stock. What I hate to tell him is that, from the outside, it looks like he could do that best by stepping down.

Microsoft secretly yanks TechNet product keys

Penguin herder

Keys for Code::Blocks, OpenOffice, etc.

I have an answer for those of you who can't get what Microsoft promised you. Find a friend with a Linux box, open a terminal and type uuidgen. Copy the result EXACTLY. Download and burn any open source software you want to a CDR, and write the UUID on it; then install as usual.

Ok, I'm not mocking *you* only pointing out the obvious difference between some really very good stuff (I'm much more partial to LaTeX than any word processor I've used) and Microsoft's offerings: the open source folks want you to use the software; Microsoft wants to be certain you've paid for theirs (preferably more than once).

MS pitches Windows 7 at biz world ahead of Chrome OS release

Penguin herder

There is a way

"Actually I'd buy in if you removed some things too, like WFP, IE*, MSN, Outhouse, etc. Or simplify WindowsUpdate so its not a house of cards requiring half a dozen services, a dozen COM registrations and a healthy dose of daily prayer."

Understood. Perhaps most importantly, you forget to mention getting rid of Windows Genuine Annoyance. And there *is* an OS that arrives with none of that installed :)

Microsoft: IE9 will never run on Windows XP

Penguin herder

RE: XP Versus Seven

"Just take a look at the published AutoCAD specs to see why XP is superior. Their published requirements note that you need more RAM and a much faster processor if you want to run on Windows 7. Kinda shows the lie in the "fastest Windows ever" statement that MS trots out with every new version."

Oh come on - of course it's faster - it's faster because of the new PC you had to buy to run the damn thing :)

Windows malware dwarfs other viral threats

Penguin herder

Penguin share

"If they're quoting 90% of PC's running Redmond's products, then someone's cooking the figures for the OS's in use rather than the sales of said systems, it possibly means apart from the 5% of Macs then the Penguin has got rather a larger market share than anyone would like to admit."

The machine in front of me has a Vista logo on it, but not a trace of it on the disk. Same deal at home. I generally prefer to build from parts to avoid paying M$ for stuff I don't use, but the employee discount was hard to ignore.

In short, your point is well-taken, but the 90% value might simply be one of the 99.437% of statistics that are made up on the spot.

Playboy centrefold freaks out at 10,000 feet

Penguin herder
Paris Hilton


"And if it is possible to open the door at 30,000 feet, are there any recorded incidents of someone having done so? What was the outcome?"

Unless someone managed to set down on top of Everest, a 30k ft lockout would not be problem once it made sense to exit the plane. It is an interesting question though, if only on the grounds that if the lockout exists, it could fail to release when it should.

Penguin herder

Newton's laws

"Doors open inward, but can't do so as its lower air pressure outside. The door gets sucked shut."

That's pushed shut - and thanks for explaining how it works.

Greenland ice loss rates 'one-third' of what was thought

Penguin herder
Big Brother

Re: @Penguin herder

>>So how are you responding at the moment?

Politically, which is what this is all about. If you want to get scientific, I can start spouting about the signal processing involved in turning mud cores into some of the results I discussed, but the politics is really the key to this.

>>"The Earth has been far warmer in the past than it is now and plants apparently liked it."

"Do you honestly think that's news to climate scientists (or biologists), or that they knew it but somehow none of them managed to grasp the significance of it?"

They are IGNORING the significance of it. One might call it An Inconvenient Truth from their perspective. Fraud.

"I'd rather taken the impression that the issue wasn't about whether plants as a whole would survive any possible changes, but whether any changes might be hard (and/or expensive) for humans to comfortably deal with."

Given that plants ultimately power the entire biosphere (and recycle the CO2 that we produce in the process), their well being is critical. More plants, more food. If you want a problem to consider, look forward to the next ice age.

Penguin herder
Big Brother

Re: @Penguin Herder

"Which in your /scientific/ view proves that any changes at any later time must be just like those in the past, and/or because a past change was natural, that proves that it's impossible for humans to be influencing climate at the moment?"

I will respond scientifically when I preceive the global warming proponents to be basing their positions on science, instead of intimidation, misdirection and fraud. At present, they are locked into assuming that small changes are clearly bad and exclusively anthropogenic (of course all the fault of developed nations). My point is simply that there is credible research showing drastic changes in climate long before humans were capable of doing more than shaking sticks at mammoths and similar creatures. The Earth has been far warmer in the past than it is now and plants apparently liked it.

Do I want to see us burn oil at ever increasing rates? No. Do I think for one millisecond that ANY money seized under cap-and-trade legislation would do one bit of good in fixing that? Hell No!

Penguin herder

Re: Desperate Register

"Get this into your head - certainty is only available in religions; science keeps on improving by checking and revising."

Don't look at evidence in oceanic mud cores - you won't like it. There are cycles in our climate, always have been. The Sahara cycles between wet/green and desert every 20,000 years or so (how many SUVs caused the last flip? Oh, wait...) and has been shown to turn into a desert in as little as two centuries - without our help. Raising taxes and crippling economies won't change any of that.

Ubuntu 'Maverick Meerkat' erects own App Store

Penguin herder

Re: Really, Who cares about the underlying OS?

"[Linux] especially Ubuntu, is a far better choice these days than Windows, and that UI from the 90s looks far better than the interface designed by a 6 year old after a day of E numbers playing Simon* that Windows 7 comes with."

Let's be fair: Windows XP was **UGLY** out of the box; damn, it was in poor taste. The problem with Vista and 7 is not the look (which is actually pretty good), but the all-important "feel" (response to user input), not to mention the system requirements chewed up by the OS. The demands of the look no doubt contribute to the bloat.

My biggest surprise with Vista (which was pretty much the last straw for me), was the absence of horizontal scroll bars in what passes for the folder lists in Explorer. The strong (but not complete) resistance to opening new browser windows is another thing that mystifies me. I am mystified not that Microsoft would create such a poor interface (when the marching orders are to be be different for its own sake, things will sometimes regress), but that people still line up to use the thing.

You are completely correct that the OS matters precious little when all that is required is to browse the web and respond to some email.

Penguin herder


"Driver support is better than Windows 7, that's for sure... Ubuntu booted up with everything working, and I mean everything... When I installed windows, I had to go and find (on my own!) a driver for ...(rebooting for each install, of course). "

That has been my experience for a while now. There was a time when Linux was hard to install and Windows just worked. The situation has reversed.

Penguin herder
Gates Horns

Redmond syndrome?

"Why Ubuntu cannot offer an version with VB installed and configed, or crossover configured, i dont know. I would just love to be able to install Ubuntu and then insert my MS Office 2003 disks, or even my 2010 disks, and it just goes off and installs without any inputs or hitches and then runs as well as on XP or 7, and that includes getting the printing to work without effing around.

Yes you purists will flame me, but i want Ubuntu or whatever linux flavour and i want it REALLY easy, as would many other people probably, even pay something for it."

You want Linux but you want it compatible with Microsoft's latest secretions? Beyond the cost of licensing things from Microsoft, the problem with what you seem to want is that Linux would of necessity become what you are trying to escape. Microsoft has been selling snake oil for a long time; it's (past) time to start retooling.

Penguin herder

That would be just about right - if it were true

"They keep refining the UI, and yet it still looks like it time-traveled from 15 years ago."

Actually, there are many aspects of a GUI from 15 years ago that would be very welcome. That was about the time that the GUI "vocabulary" had standardized and frameworks had matured but had not yet been bloated beyond recognition. Do you buy a computer to do the work you want to do, or just to run a hideously efficient operating system at a near crawl? Clearly things need to be recompiled every so often to take advantage of advancing hardware, but at some point the business of what a window manager does should be just about decided.



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