* Posts by Dave 126

7494 posts • joined 21 Jul 2010

'Alien megastructure' Tabby's Star: Light is definitely dimming

Dave 126
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>Literally the scale is so vastly infeasible I don't get why it even gets mention in things like this.

Because scientists have a sense of humour. The Dyson Sphere concept can be safely used a placeholder, since no one will mistake it as a serious explanation (without extraordinary evidence). 'Tabby's Star' is also refereed to as the 'WTF? Star' (Where's the Flux?), which again signposts the researchers interest. Similarly, the signal that originally lead to the discovery of pulsars was jokingly known as LGM-1 - 'Little Green Men'.

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Intel's smartwatches are so hot right now – too hot: Basis Peak recalled for skin burns, blistering

Dave 126
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Re: You know what doesn't get too hot and combustable on my wrist?

>I was going to suggest the Casio F-91 but I've never owned one so couldn't vouch for it's reliability and it's flamability

Nine out of ten terrorists wouldn't use anything else in their bombs!

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Dave 126
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Re: What are you; some sort of Common Sense Nazi?

>Why would anyone buy hardware or software that can be shutdown at the whim of a cloud provider?

>>Steady on old chap; are you calling the myriad delights of, say, the IoT or Smart Metering into question?

Why the hell are all these purveyors of gizmos (watches, thermostats, security cameras, MiFi cards etc) sending stuff to the cloud? Surely there is market opportunity for a domestic device - a low-power, always on server the user keeps at home - and supporting platform, that individual users can send the data their gadgets generate to? The vendors individual gadgets can write for this platform, and if the user desires they can mirror it on a cloud-based docker, one which only they control.

There doesn't seem to be any consumer need for their unencypted data to spaffed around tinternet. Or have I missed a few things?

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Dave 126
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Re: So hot right now

Hehe!

Recently rewatching Zoolander, what stood out was the film's parody of fashionistas' tiny mobile phones. Yep, having a tiny mobile used to be cool!

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Samsung Note 7: Probably the best phone in the world. Yeah – you heard right

Dave 126
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Re: I might buy one ...

Aye, there are many phablets, it was just becoming a chore digging through for camera reviews. The Note 4's camera was given good reviews. My dad just gets annoyed with trying to type on a 5" Nexus 5 phone and kept threatening to just buy another handset, and I noticed that he had made it his primary photographic tool, too - so figured a 5.7" screen and good camera would fit the bill - not too fussed about other specs or price.

I'm not afraid of lesser known brands (hell, the important bits, i.e the SoC, camera hardware and screen all come from the usual suspects anyhows). Personally I'm using a Huwaei so cheap it's almost disposable (yet really not annoying).

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Dave 126
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Re: Still doesn't have front facing speakers..

>Do you own a samsung by any chance

No, not since the 'feature phone' days.

>Video is so much better...

For sure. It's just that if I'm at home, I use a bigger screened device (TV, laptop, tablet), and if I'm in public I'd use headphones out of courtesy to the people around me.

>...using it for a little background music in the shower, kitchen etc stereo despite not a lot of separation just sounds better.

I don't listen to music on small speakers. I'm not an audiophile, but if there isn't a minimum level of fidelity I don't bother. If I'm in the shower I might use a rechargeable Bluetooth speaker for spoken-word content. Mine was a tenner from Aldi, friends swear by their Bose speakers.

>Rear speakers are so stupid, your heads on the front

Only if you're looking at the screen at the same time - hence my statement that the front speakers are for video. Podcasts etc work fine with the phone placed downwards.

>, i got so sick of cupping my old (reflecting the sound) phones to be able to have a low volume level and make out what was being said on something as the audio was firing away from me.

For sure, if watching video is your use-case, then prioritise front-facing speakers. Otherwise headphones are your friend. Or a discrete speaker.

>I had samsung devices for a long time until the s3 and they screwed me on updates time and time again.

I'm sorry to hear that

> Im so glad i moved this last time to a nexus device,

I hear it's a good phone.

> I dont really see any real world usefulness from having a curved edge screen, all your doing is introducing a weak spot for when you drop it.

Nor me, which is another reason I haven't bought one. I'm not sure how it would work with a case, either. Still, it might actually be tougher than the ABS plastic that is used for the bezels of some phones.

Be well.

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Dave 126
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Re: I might buy one ...

I was looking at a Note 4 for my old man - a big screen for his sausage fingers, and a good camera. However, the LG V10 is now on the shortlist - a very similar beast, but without the stylus. £100 cheaper.

I hadn't heard of the V10 until recently - all the noise around LG has been around their 'G' series phones, which can be a little novel. The V10 seems to be a 5.7" phone flagship-spec phone with a good camera but without too much weirdness.

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Dave 126
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Re: Still doesn't have front facing speakers..

Front facing speakers are only useful for watching video in a private place. So yeah, if you travel a lot a find yourself catching up on TV shows in hotel rooms, good front facing speakers are nice. However in your own home you'd probably being using a bigger-screened device.

-Audio-only podcasts: rear speaker is fine

-Public transport: headphones

-Best sound quality: headphones or bigger discrete speakers

-'House party': Big discrete speakers

All design and engineering is compromise, and Samsung have evidently decided that that the 'cost' (weight, space) of including front speakers wasn't worthwhile, given the limited circumstances in which a user might use them. The weight/space etc budget will have been spent on other features such as a bigger battery, or a front panel layout that makes the phone more comfortable to hold.

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Huawei P9 Plus: Leica-toting flagship gets a big brother

Dave 126
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Re: Barelling

https://www.dpreview.com/articles/6229436014/sony-s-curved-sensors-may-allow-for-simpler-lenses-and-better-images

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What's long, hard and full of seamen? The USS Harvey Milk

Dave 126
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On the Good Ship Venus

By Christ you should have seen us

The figurehead

Was a * in bed

*ing a dead man's *

Part of the fun is composing your verses. The above is found in Loudon Wainwright III's version. If you know that the rhyming scheme is AABBA, you should be able to work out the the last *.

More here, NSFW: http://www.lyricsmania.com/good_ship_venus_lyrics_loudon_wainwright_iii.html

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Google tells Android's Linux kernel to toughen up and fight off those horrible hacker bullies

Dave 126
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Re: Patching speed is probably the issue

>Really, why can't the core OS and libraries be auto-patched for security as most Linux distos do?

Because [technical reasons].

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Since you love Flash so much, Adobe now has TWO versions for you

Dave 126
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Re: Given the choice between Adobe Flash and the mercy of Ming

HELLO! I'M BRIAN BLESSED!

(Caps because...)

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If we can't find a working SCSI cable, the company will close tomorrow

Dave 126
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Re: Devil's in the details

I too had to fix a CNC machine - every so often, but not always, the machine would engage its brakes (by design it locks itself rigid if it loses contact with the stand alone XP PC it shipped with, for safety reasons) and though it would resume the tool path would have been knocked off kilter. The cables were innocent this occasion. I swapped out its Pentium 4 CPU for a faster Pentium 4 HT*, and the problem never came back. Faith restored, we could leave it on a 30 hour job and go to the pub.

In all likelihood, the original CPU would have been up to the job, were it not for Windows XP sometimes deciding to do something you haven't asked it to do, thus momentarily distracting the CPU from the one thing we asked of it.

*I happened to have this CPU lying around ever since the pick donutty thing on its previous motherboard turned brown.

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Dave 126
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Re: gonna use this one from now on...

Then there's WOMBAT - Waste Of Money Brains and Time

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Dave 126
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Re: Backups underwriters and overpriced household furniture

I remember a magazine in the nineties had a frebie on the cover: a mouseball-sized textured sphere with a hexagonal shaft.

Yep, it was actually a tool for cleaning the gunk off the rollers inside mice with a power drill.

Urgh, the horror of mechanical mice!

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Dave 126
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Re: Pournelle's law, well one of them anyway...

Well, the good thing is that even not knowing the a coiled wire thingy was, I could see that it wasn't where it was supposed to be! Hmmm, the groove in this lump of solder matches the wire that comes off this strangely free thing....

Similarly, one of the pink donut things on a motherboard of mine was brown and dirty looking, unlike its friends. Diagnosis was the motherboard was, and I do believe this is a technical term, fucked.

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Dave 126
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Re: Pournelle's law, well one of them anyway...

I do. But last time I thought an audio 3.5mm > phono cable was playing up, I spent ages trying to 'fix' it. No joy. I took the input panel off the back of the speaker and discovered that the coiled wire thingy had fallen off the crossover PCB. Dollop of polyurethane and a resoldered contact and the whole set up was right as rain.

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Security gurus get behind wheel of driverless car debate

Dave 126
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Re: Given the Nice tragedy ...

Yeah, thats some very saddening news from Nice.

For sure, one can imagine automated or semi automated trucks in five years time that are incapable of running people over - but then, if someone was determined enough, they might be able to disable those systems.

Alternatively, would the police in the future be able to remotely stop any human-driven vehicle? (though of course last night's tragedy occurred too quickly for such measures)

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Dave 126
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Re: Pretty sure..

>You're correct, the Jeep wasn't self-driving so the only options were limited to 'keep it running' or 'make it stop'.

>>Are you really sure you want to add 'steer into oncoming traffic', 'drive off a cliff' or 'head for the nearest crackhouse so we can rob you blind' to the list of choices?

If a hacker had full control of all the modules in a modern, human-driven car, the brake modules could be used to cause a catastrophic accident, since each wheel can be controlled independently.

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Dave 126
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Re: Pretty sure..

>They're right to be concerned, but this isn't a self driving issue...

As acknowledged in the last two paragraphs of the first page:

The security issues applicable to cars arise from their connectivity rather than whether or not they are self-driving, according to some experts.

"I think the security issues come from not air gapping the car rather than the degree of autonomy," independent technologist and entrepreneur Ken Tindell told El Reg.

Of course many of the components of self driving cars have been in place for ages - such as 'stability control' braking systems that apply different braking to different wheels if the vehicle feels it is about to tip over (if I remember the driver's manual to our Transit van correctly - it's not a particularly modern Transit, either).

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Google's Nexii stand tall among Android's insecure swill

Dave 126
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And still some stuff you can't customise on Android, or at least there are little niggles that can't be cured, any more than you can 'customise' an iPhone to use the FM radio functionality built into its Qualcomm modem.

When listening to Google Play or Spotify on Android, adjusting the volume from the handset results in some unpleasant 'plop' noises, even if playing through a Chromecast Audio device. Why would anyone want their music interrupted by this loud beeping? Strangely, this irritating behaviour doesn't occur in the BBC iPlayer Radio app. It just seems strange that Google have pushed Google Play music, developed and sold Chromecast hardware - yet haven't removed this rough edge, something that would be trivial for them to do yet impossible for a user to fix.

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Dave 126
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Re: Yes, but, no, but...

Yep.

Because I don't have banking apps, Amazon accounts etc on my Android phone, I rate performance over security. I therefore don't install updates as soon as they arrive, but instead wait a month and see how other users have reported adverse effects of the update, such as greater power draw or slower performance. That was before I broke the screen on my flagship Sony, tho.

Now I'm using a 'good enough' (i.e not irritating) Huaweii that I bought half price for £45... and should I drop it or loose it in six month's time, there will be no tears. In two years time, £50 should get me a very capable phone, or £100 a very good one. Therefore it doesn't make sense to me spending £400 on a flagship spec phone just so that it be 'future proof'.

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Dave 126
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Re: First AND second!

Yeah, but like many phones it's an assembly of bits from Qualcomm, Sony and Samsung (SoC, camera, screen). Who has actually glued them together matters less (in this context) than the understanding you have with the vendor, Google.

Huaweii don't sell a phone under their own name that resembles the Nexus 6P, as was the case with some earlier Nexii and LG, and also they are fond of putting their own skin on Android.

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Space station to get shiny new ringpiece for automatic penetration

Dave 126
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More pictures

...and diagrams here:

http://www.internationaldockingstandard.com/gallery.html

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Dave 126
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Re: I'd rather not have unexpected visitors just dropping in

There have been firearms on board the ISS, for dealing with bears or wolves. Not there have been wolves and bears on the ISS (though a gorilla has been spotted: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IFc1XWEkhpM )

A combination shot gun / pistol was included in the Soyuz capsule's emergency survival kit, should the ground recovery team not reach the cosmonauts before a hungry carnivore.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TP-82

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Smartphones aren't tiny PCs, but that's how we use them in the West

Dave 126
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Re: Helmets

I'd be tempted to print the medical info, affix it to the helmet, then cover the info with a sticker bearing the Medic Alert symbol (snakey stick in red).

Care to be given to making sure that the sticker is easy to peel off, whilst at the same secure against wind.

Thought to be given to abrasion resistance.

Here's hoping you never need it.

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Dave 126
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Re: Rubbish

Similarly, quite a few tickets for gigs and festivals use QR codes... they are often emailed as PDFs, and can either be printed out, or presented to the door staff on the screen of my phone. The door/gate staff will either use some dedicated stock control hardware or a bog-standard mobile phone to scan my QR code.

I've even been in a queue for a gig when our party has realised we're a ticket short, and my mate has bought one online on his phone before we reached the gate.

It strikes me that the system is cheaper to administrate than sending out hologram-embossed pieces of card.

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Meet Riffle, the next-gen anonymity network that hopes to trounce Tor

Dave 126
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Re: Munitions

>Swiss laws don't have any holding the USA.

They don't need to.

As long as Riffle only requires software (which in hardcopy is protected as free speech) and not specialist hardware (a 'munition'), there is nothing stopping the code escaping the US. Since part of the dev team is in Switzerland, one can make a fair assumption that the code is already out of the US.

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Dave 126
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Re: Munitions

>I hope they are developing this outside the clutches of the US Government

Second paragraph, first line: :)

Dubbed Riffle, the system was developed by MIT and the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland.

>so that the US Government can't classify it as a munition and ban its export without a license.

That's been circumvented before, by publishing code in a book, a la Phil Zimmerman's PGP:

The claimed principle was simple: export of munitions—guns, bombs, planes, and software—was (and remains) restricted; but the export of books is protected by the First Amendment. The question was never tested in court with respect to PGP. In cases addressing other encryption software, however, two federal appeals courts have established the rule that cryptographic software source code is speech protected by the First Amendment

- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pretty_Good_Privacy

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Florida U boffins think they've defeated all ransomware

Dave 126
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>WinTrolls vote-flame logical post!

And yet so few Penguins have supported you... could it be because they think you're a pillock too? There is nothing logical about choosing to be complacent.

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Dave 126
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Re: For what it's worth

For sure, if in doubt, keep it simple. And you can add redunacy to your regime by having a few external drives on rotation.

However, it does require downtime, and user interaction. These aren't deal-breakers for many users, but some people will want an automated backup solution - every hour, perhaps.

Speaking as someone who has been called upon to fix friend's PCs, I sometime think it would be nice if every consumer PC sold came with external HDDs and an image back up system by default. :)

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Dave 126
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Some ideas, feedback appreciated:

- Backups would benefit if a different OS to the user's machine was used. The chance of a single piece of ransomeware being able to encrypt say a Windows workstation and a Linux server at the same time is less than being able to encrypt either system.

- A router with OpenWRT can be configured so that the backup machine is only accessible at certain times of the day or week, to conincide with scheduled backups. This means that the user's machine, including any nasties, can't access the backups. This obviously will never be as secure as physically unplugging the back up server, but removing the responsibility of plugging / unplugging from the user might be worth it. The router could be configured so that server A is accessible on Monday, server B on Tues etc.

Thoughts?

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A journey down the UK's '3D Tongue' into its mini industrial revolution

Dave 126
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Stuff that just works isn't called 'technology' - it's just called 'stuff'.

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Dave 126
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@Steve Todd

I think there's a misunderstanding over terms here, and I don't want to blame anyone. LeeE is right that many products are made by assembling (adding) component parts. However, a huge number of parts are made using subtractive (wasting) processes, as you point out. :)

Anyway, let's quit now before we get too deep into the merits of casting, forging and machining metal parts, and respective impacts upon grain structure and mechanical properties!

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Dave 126
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Re: Failed Premise

>A quick look around my home revealed just two items that were made by subtractive processes,

Um, what are you wearing, LeeE? (Oh er!) Most clothing is made by cutting shapes from a woven rectangular sheet.

Okay, I think I see the root of this misunderstanding (not your fault) - yes, most products are made by adding parts together, but many, many component parts are made by removing material - including some parts from all of the examples you listed.

Subtractive processes include stamping shapes out of sheet metal (often combined with bending the metal in the same operation). Think of the metal chassis in old desktop PCs, car panels, cutlery, metal bowls, the tops of disposable cigarette lighters, coins, that sort of thing.

Then we have a lot of subtractive processing of wood, for furniture - of which there will probably be a fair bit in your house. Turning, routing, milling, sanding, drilling, planing etc.

I'd be hesitant to hazard a guess of percentage use of subtractive, moulded, additive processes used in everyday objects around us. If you were to say that most products that pass through our houses in the course of a year are moulded (food containers and other packaging) I'd say yes, that's plausible.

Really though, 'Additive Manufacturing' is really just a convenient umbrella term for a range of process, because 'Rapid Prototyping' and '3D Printing' are often too narrow or inaccurate.

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Dave 126
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I've never seen any nanotechnology either... if only they could scale it up to the size of a cat, I'd have a better chance of spotting it!

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Dave 126
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I stumbled across a medical report the other week which I at first thought had been written by sci-fi scribe William Gibson - but it's actually real:

Here we report an accidental retinal burn with a femtosecond laser during laser-induced plasma formation in a process of nanoparticle production. - http://www.scielo.br/pdf/abo/v76n5/15.pdf

Of course nano particles are widely used in chemistry, medicine and engineering - they can just be very, very fine powders. As for nanoscale structures, TSMC and Intel are knocking on the gate (groan) of mass produced 10 mn transistors. 'Quantum dots' are already mass produced, and used in phone and TV displays.

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Dave 126
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Renishaw have been involved in two bicycle designs, one being a complete 3D printed frame - the idea being that the material is exactly where it is wanted for strength/weight.

http://www.renishaw.com/en/first-metal-3d-printed-bicycle-frame-manufactured-by-renishaw-for-empire-cycles--24154

The second design is one where merely the lugs are 3D printed, into which carbon fibre tubes are placed. This means that each frame can be made tailored to an individual customer in CAD (differing angles in the lugs to support different lengths of tubes). Since the geometry of the lugs can be complex, they interface with the inside of the CF tube as well as the outside.

https://robotbike.co/

Renishaw is the only company to have its logo visible in an Apple promotional video for quite some time - at 4:58 in the official iPhone 5 video, you can see a a ruby-tipped CMM probe. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PBfPS8vwTzE

It's not only Foxconn that use Renishaw, but Samsung and darn near everyone in the precision electronics and aerospace sectors use Renishaw kit.

Not bad for a still privately owned company that grew out of a garage in the SW of England! You might have seen the owner's house in the last series of Sherlock (though he doesn't live there). It's occasionally opened to the public to raise money for charity, well worth a visit - and possibly a Geek's Guide to Britain article?)

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/10568203/Millionaire-owner-of-Sherlock-mansion-opts-for-more-modest-dwelling.html

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Kim Dotcom pregnant with Bitcoin's mutant offspring

Dave 126
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That's matrix is spot on! Only today I was thinking about the opinions on Reg forums whenever a new product or category is mentioned, and yet again XKCD has nailed it.

No joke - it would be fun* to run an analysis on past Reg comments, and see whose past predictions have proven to be been closer the mark.

<tongue in cheek> I confidently predict that in five years time, automatic semantic text analysis will be such that the task will be as easy as uttering "OkCorSiriAlexiHAL, tell me which Reg commentards have shown themselves to be crap at predicting future product success?" </tongue in cheek>

*for a given value of fun. Roughly equivalent to doing a quick crossword, perhaps.

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Linus Torvalds in sweary rant about punctuation in kernel comments

Dave 126
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Apollo Guidance Computer

On a slight tangent from this topic, the source code for the Apollo computer has been uploaded to Github.

http://www.theverge.com/2016/7/9/12136204/apollo-11-code-github

Comments include:

# "IT WILL BE PROVED TO THY FACE THAT THOU HAST MEN ABOUT THEE THAT

# USUALLY TALK OF A NOUN AND A VERB, AND SUCH ABOMINABLE WORDS AS NO

# CHRISTIAN EAR CAN ENDURE TO HEAR."

The Apollo display and keyboard used two digit verb and noun codes for user input.

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Bomb-disposal robot violently disposes of Dallas cop-killer gunman

Dave 126
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Re: lol @ yanks

>They train and individual in the Army to become a cold blooded serial killer, and then set him free on a gun friendly state and expect that nothing wrong is going to happen.

It is not likely to be the training that damaged this man's decision making processes. There is, however, a lot of evidence of people's thinking being damage by concussion, and by the psychological experience of constantly being on alert in a war zone.

I don't know enough about this individual's past, nor do I have any expertise, to state that it was his military service that caused him to act the way that he did. However, the statistics concerning former service personal - rates of suicide, prison, depression etc - are frightening.

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Dave 126
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Re: Tear Gas

>deployment of drones to "save" American solider deployments has exploded since 2009. This is the go-to solution for the Obama Administration.

Well that and 'Private Security Contractors' ( a euphemism for mercenaries). If any private contractors are killed, they don't show up in the statistics of dead US service personal.

http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/futuretense/the-return-of-the-mercenary/6409630

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Dave 126
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Re: Police State or anarchy

>This is more than likely going to give bad guys stupid ideas about sending their own robots and bombs....

I'm sure that bad guys have already had the idea, and indeed some US police forces have, in the last year, conducted exercises in dealing with hypothetical drone-based terrorist situations.

>how is it that a police force has ready access to an anti-personnel explosive device?

An anti-personnel explosive device could be a shaped-charge that SWAT teams use for breaching walls or doors - explosives don't distinguish between flesh and brick.

'Water disruptors' are commonly used for bomb disposal - the shaped charge results in a jet of water that destroys a bomb before it can explode:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bomb_disposal#Projected_water_disruptors

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Dave 126
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Re: I suppose it really doesn't matter what killed him

>So the Dallas Police are just another violent street gang, who take revenge, not a professional force charged with keeping the peace in society?

The Dallas Police are nothing more or less than a collection of human beings, some of whom in the circumstances would have been scared, nervous, angry etc, despite their collective training and experience. I don't know enough about the circumstances to make a judgement on their tactical decisions.

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Dave 126
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Re: @YetAnotherLocksmith ... It makes sense, but...

>Has no-one developed a weapon system where you can calibrate the range and hit someone in body armour hard enough to knock them down without killing them?

I've idly thought along the same lines in the wake of past school shootings - or rather, in the wake of some people calling for teachers to be armed. Is there some non-lethal system of taking a gunman down, or a system of containing them, or rendering their weapon unusable - like a massive electromagnet? I haven't thought of anything plausible, but then I'm not a weapons designer.

Sadly though, most research into non-lethal weapons have been focused on crowd control, gassess, nets, gloopy foams, noise, microwaves etc Curiously, tear-gas is used because it was originally developed as a tactical warfare weapon, but the Geneva Convention on chemical weapons banned it for that use. The manufactures therefore pitched it as a civilian crowd-control agent instead.

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New ISS crew will spend their time bombarding computers with radiation

Dave 126
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More info here:

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/1873.html

They have already conducted tests on the ground.

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Dave 126
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>don't the ISS all use off-the-shelf laptops?

They do use off the shelf laptops running Linux, around seven of them, but they only act as terminals for the ISS's Command and Control computers.

Less critical work, stock control, email, note taking etc, is also done on standard laptops, but they are not connected to the critical C&C systems.

Judging by the photographs, the laptops are, at least in the American sections, ThinkPads.

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CloudFlare pros pen paranoid phone plan for pwn-free peregrination

Dave 126
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Re: You gotta be kidding

> no computer is safe when it comes to remote comms.

You can use an insecure phone to securely send short messages, if you have first, by hand, transcribed the padded plaintext through a one-time pad. If you wish to automate the use of the one-time pad using a discrete device, the processing required is so simple that the hardware and software required could be audited.

This would work fine, if only the content of the messages and not the meta-data is of use to your adversaries.

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New DNA 'hard drive' could keep files intact for millions of years

Dave 126
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Re: Unfortunately the discoverers of this old data won't have the key.

People have worked out various mechanisms for Time Release Encryption, but the issue is trusting the required 3rd party server.

Such a 3rd party server would have to be honest, and also in existence x years into the future.

If anyoine knows of work done to sidestep those issues, I'd love to hear them.

(The idea came to my attention when I thought of the uncaptured oral history available from people of a generation that don't blog. Whimsically, I thought of placing microphones in a pub, with everybody knowing that recordings couldn't be listened to for 100 years. )

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Dave 126
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Re: Still early in the morning?

The concept has been around for decades, so sci-fi authors have had plenty of time to use the idea! :) Indeed, Dawkins talks about the information half life in living bacteria in his book The Blind Watchmaker. Obviously this is a different situation, because he was taking into the account of the bacteria's error-correction mechanisms over millions of generations.

As for inactive DNA, studies conduction on bird bones at ambient temperatures (i.e not in a frozen vault) in New Zealand suggest that the inforamtion half-life as being around 500 years.

http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/32799/title/Half-Life-of-DNA-Revealed/

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