* Posts by SeanEllis

45 posts • joined 8 Jul 2011

Asteroid Florence buzzes Earth, brings two moons along for the ride

SeanEllis

Re: i hope the moons are dougal and zebedee

It is possible to lobby the International Astronomical Union for this - they are @IAU_org on Twitter.

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Microsoft boasted it had rebuilt Skype 'from the ground up'. Instead, it should have buried it

SeanEllis
Flame

Following the trend

The most-requested features on the Skype forum for the last 2 years or more have been an option to choose the color scheme (essential for sight-impaired people and good for the rest of us), and the option to turn off the speech bubbles that eat screen real-estate like there's no tomorrow.

Neither of these are forthcoming, and for serious users every change to Skype seems to be a backward step.

The whole desktop Skype UI is a mess, and violates the most basic UI rules. I took all my feedback and stuck it into a blog post. Some of it is now a little out of date, but if you're interested, it's here.

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Resistence is futile: HPE must face Oracle over Solaris IP

SeanEllis
Boffin

Spelling is futile too...

"Resistance", surely?

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Adblock overlord to Zuckerberg: Lay down your weapons and surrender

SeanEllis
Pirate

I dislike ads mostly because they are attention-leeches. I do, however, understand that they are a source of income for sites. I think that Adblock is now ubiquiitous enough to become a micropayment broker to both block ads and pay for page accesses instead. Imagine I pay $5 a month to Adblock. I visit 1000 pages that are registered with Adblock payments. Each page I visit gets 1/1000 of my $5. This is standard micropayment tracking. How does this compare with ad impression rates?

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Pump-priming the new ampere: NIST works to count electrons in silicon

SeanEllis
Boffin

Unit confusion

s/nanometres/nanoamps

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Linus Torvalds in sweary rant about punctuation in kernel comments

SeanEllis
Holmes

Linus hates sloane squares

The great Verity Stob, late of this parish, anticipated the problems of comment layout in her own appendix to The Meaning of Liff.

In it, she defined the sloane square (n.) A program comment contained entirely in a box of ******s. A leicester square, incidentally, is a bastard sloane square where all the verticals are out of alignment as a result, for example, of the printer having the wrong tab value.

Linus, it appears, really hates both varieties of square.

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Did Spotify hire Alan Partridge to run its Netflix-style video push?

SeanEllis
Pint

Jean-Michel's Jars

Join France's premier electronic musician for a series of cookery programmes in which he demonstrates how to create the finest jams, preserves, pickles and chutneys while accompanying himself on the Laser Harp.

Contains flashing images.

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'Impossible' EmDrive flying saucer thruster may herald new theory of inertia

SeanEllis
Flame

Premature

Any explanation of an effect should not precede reliable replication of the experiment that shows that there is an effect in the first place.

Initial estimates of the thrust of this device have been reduced and reduced in line with the error bars on the increasingly accurate methods used to measure it. This is a classic sign of something with no real effect.

Of course, as always, I am very willing to be proven wrong. But at the moment it's just red flags all the way.

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Hey -- what is that oddball box on the left?

SeanEllis
Boffin

Very quick and dirty Tampermonkey script:

[code]

// ==UserScript==

// @name The Register clutter elimination

// @namespace http://moteprime.org/

// @version 0.1

// @description Eliminate duplicate story areas

// @author Sean Ellis

// @match http://www.theregister.co.uk/

// @grant none

// ==/UserScript==

/* jshint -W097 */

function addCss(cssString) {

var head = document.getElementsByTagName('head') [0];

var newCss = document.createElement('style');

newCss.type = 'text/css';

newCss.innerHTML = cssString;

head.appendChild(newCss);

}

addCss(

'#top_tease { display: none ! important; } ' +

'#news_bytes { display: none ! important; } ' +

'#right-col { display: none ! important; } ' +

'.dont_miss { display: none ! important; } ' +

'.story_grid_img { display: none ! important; } ' +

'.headline_row.hidden { display: inline ! important; } '

);

[code]

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SeanEllis

Move it right

I always skip the "top stories" - they're duplicates - and can easily ignore the right hand column of old stories as they look like ads and I'm pretty much banner blind these days.

Please move the "news bytes" out of the useful reading area - I suggest moving it into the right hand column where it's out of the way.

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Microsoft introduces yet another Skype for Windows 10

SeanEllis
Flame

Re: Single version?

Absolutely. Some time ago I got into a discussion on the Skype community forums, bemoaning the enormous new chat UI, and the lack of options to rein in its voracious appetite for screen real estate, or even to change the color to something more functional. This was just the start,and the more I looked at the Skype UI, the more appalled I was, and it ended up as a massive blog post.

In case anyone's interested, it's here: http://www.moteprime.org/article.php?id=59

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NASA boffin wants FRIKKIN LASERS to propel lightsails

SeanEllis

Starwisps

The 30% of the speed of light in 10 minutes figure is for a spacecraft of mass 10g, assuming 100% conversion of input energy to kinetic energy (which does not happen). This is not the 100kg craft he then goes on to talk about, which would take a lot longer and have a smaller, but still usefully high, final velocity.

Robert L. Forward popularised lightsails for interstellar exploration in the 1980s, and came up with several concepts. The "Starwisp" is an ultra-low-mass probe pushed by microwaves. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starwisp for more details.

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Bigger than Higgs? Boffins see hints of bulbous new Boson

SeanEllis
Boffin

You can also infer other properties of the particle from its decay products. For example, the conservation of charge means that if you add up all the charges from the debris, and it comes out as +2, then the original particle must have had +2 charge. Measuring spin is more complex, but apparently it can be done.

There are also predictions of what the decay modes actually are. A Higgs may decay into a whole load of different particles, but various conservation rules cause it to prefer some decay modes to others. (The most common is a bottom/anti-bottom quark pair, with a pair of W bosons second.)

So if a particle has the same predicted mass, spin, charge and decay as the predicted Higgs, I'd call it a Higgs.

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SeanEllis
Boffin

Re: Aha!

Sorry, TeeCee, but it's not a graviton. A 500GeV boson would have very short range. The graviton has a predicted rest mass of zero, and a spin of 2, but it couples very weakly which is why gravity is such a weak force.

A good way to demonstrate how weak gravity is is to jump out of a building. An entire planet's worth of graviton-emitting particles will speed you up in a few seconds, but the electromagnetic forces in a tiny bit of pavement will stop you like *that* [clicks fingers].

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SeanEllis
Boffin

Very small signal

If I'm reading the PDF correctly, this looks like a bump in the graph which is 2 sigma above background. This is way below the threshold for a discovery - usually 5 sigma, I believe - but it's worth a further look. A >500GeV particle would be big news.

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No, seriously, NASA will fly a probe through Saturn's moon plumes

SeanEllis
Facepalm

Re: Anyone...

"spotted any Black Monoliths in the vicinity?"

Monolith is on Iapetus, as any fule kno. (At least, any fule who has read the novelisation of "2001".)

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'Fix these Windows 10 Horrors': Readers turn their guns on Redmond

SeanEllis
Flame

Re: Then there is the Whitespace everywhere

The trends of whitespace bloat, lack of customization and forced updates have already come together in Microsoft's chat product, Skype. A quick look at their community forum shows how popular this combination is.

If the whole OS interface is going this way, I'm sticking to Windows 7 at work (and Kubuntu at home) - and there will be a lot more stick-in-the-muds like me.

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Microsoft cuts Facebook Messenger, Google Talk from Outlook.com

SeanEllis
Flame

Outlook for Skype

Let's hope they don't adopt the new chat UI from Skype 7.x - it's a strong "hall of shame" candidate. Hundreds of people upgrading from 6.x took the trouble to register for the Skype community forum to protest the latest UI changes. Despite asking for feedback, and receiving universally negative reactions, they are now on record as saying that they will not offer users any control over background colour (vital for accessibility) or a compact chat layout (the new "bubble" format takes about 50% more screen real-estate for the same content). If you enjoy long rants, take a look at: http://moteprime.org/article.php?id=59

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Ads! People! love! ads! in! their! apps! Please! use! ours! cries! Yahoo!

SeanEllis
Holmes

There's a very simple way to test how much people love ads: Do people pay more for apps with them, or without them?

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Boffin the boffin and his boffinry pals in double dwarf super-prang alert

This post has been deleted by a moderator

Developers, developers, developers! But WILL they support Windows 10?

SeanEllis
Alert

UI confusion

I'm worried that a universal OS like Windows 10, which is used across multiple platforms and devices, will lead to a "lowest-common-denominator" UI experience.

This is already with us with the desktop version of Skype 7.0, which is being written with (so they say) a universal design language based on Windows 10. The changes have led to literally thousands of messages on the community forum, pointing out that it removes features present in earlier Skype versions, hides commonly-used operations, and has a low information density on the screen to accommodate mobile devices. There are virtually no meaningful customization options - even for things as basic as color selection for accessibility.

The interface is the One True Way, immutable - regardless of platform, input device, screen resolution, use case, or visual impairment.

If the same thinking happens with other apps, then they will be in for a very bumpy ride.

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UN: Fossil fuels should be terminaated 86 years from now

SeanEllis
Flame

UK missing a trick here

Instead of giving subsidies for fracking, and paying the Chinese to build our nuclear plants, we should be funding home-grown next-gen nuclear (e.g. molten salt), so that we have the expertise and the design skills to sell to the rest of the world. But hey, this is the government that thinks PFI is a good deal for hospitals, so what did I expect.

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IT blokes: would you say that lewd comment to a man? Then don't say it to a woman

SeanEllis
Flame

Re: 'Splaining

Dan, I don't think it disproves anything.

My view on the Petrie multiplier is not that it explains away the reported bad behaviour, but that it exacerbates a real problem and makes it worse.

This makes it even more important that this kind of thing is made socially unacceptable, not just by pressure from the victims, but from the perpetrators' friends and colleagues too.

A previous poster said that people have a go because they have nothing to lose; if everyone called them out on it, not just the victims, then perhaps they would perceive that they do indeed have something to lose.

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SeanEllis
Flame

'Splaining

I'm sad to see another annoying trope turning up in the comments here - "mansplaining".

This is the phenomenon where a third party (usually a man) will dismiss the direct experience of the receiver of the abuse (usually, and in this case, a woman) and "explain" what was "really" going on, who was "really" to blame, and so forth, in direct contradiction of the reported life experience of the abusee.

To most people, I'm glad to say, this makes the poster look like an idiot.

While this may seem rare to us men (I haven't directly seen it either) we cannot and must not dismiss it - the Petrie multiplier makes the female experience considerably more difficult than it should be. And to agree with other posters, this isn't confined to IT conferences. I have heard reports (from people I trust) of the same kind of thing happening at scientific meetings, skeptical conferences, and SF conventions.

What I would like to know is what the friends and colleagues of the idiots at the conference were doing at the time. Let's hope that the more widespread awareness of this problem is, the more friends will help to speed its elimination, via the same peer pressure that made drunk driving socially as well as legally unacceptable.

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UK gov rushes through emergency law on data retention

SeanEllis
Stop

Clause 4 and 5

Seem to immediately and widely extend existing powers, not just ensure them. This is not suitable to be included in an emergency bill with no oversight.

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Britain'll look like rural Albania without fracking – House of Lords report

SeanEllis

Short-termism

Instead of using someone else's technology to extract a limited fossil fuel which is bad for the environment, we should be developing next-gen nuclear (thorium?) technology that we can then sell to the rest of the world.

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NHS England tells MPs: 'The state isn't doing dastardly things with GP medical records'

SeanEllis
Megaphone

Private interests

Bottom line: I'm very happy for my medical data to be used for the good of all. I'm not happy for it to be used as another asset to be sold off in the forced privatization of the NHS.

Ben Goldcare has a nice article in the Grauniad: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/feb/21/nhs-plan-share-medical-data-save-lives

Let's see what changes get made in the 6 months "consultation" period - and opt out if we're still not happy.

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Top Brit docs wade into GP data grab row, demand 'urgent' NHS England talks

SeanEllis
Black Helicopters

Submitted an opt-out to my GP yesterday

Using the form downloadable on the right of this page: http://medconfidential.org/how-to-opt-out/

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SCRAP the TELLY TAX? Ancient BBC Time Lords mull Beeb's future

SeanEllis
Stop

In case anyone needs reminding why we need the BBC

Here's the inimitable Mitch Benn setting it to music... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3q2iZuU5WM

And the riposte "I'm Proud of Sky" song... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yH-D7wLo2Fs

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Sceptic-bait E-Cat COLD FUSION generator goes on sale for $US1.5m

SeanEllis

It's interesting that in the previous tests (http://phys.org/news/2013-05-rossi-e-cat-energy-density-higher.html), current monitors were placed on the 3-phase live wires going into the device, but not on the neutral or earth wires. External testers were not allowed to add their own measuring equipment. Also interesting was the observation that the heat output was pretty much exactly what you would expect were you to stick 13A through said neutral and ground wires through the resisitive heating element that they have inside. I'm not saying that's what they did - God forbid, no, that would be a vile and scurrulous accusation. I'm just saying that's the easiest way to reproduce the observed results of the experiment.

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Three Men in a Tardis

SeanEllis

Colour me impressed

That Ms. Stob knows the correct spelling of the dematerialization sound.

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Ten top stories from New Who

SeanEllis

I have a soft spot for "Love and Monsters"

Another episode with not a lot of Doctor, but a look at how the existence of the Doctor warps the lives of those around him. "You can't imagine it. The Doctor's machine. The most beautiful sound in the world."

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Techies with Asperger's? Yes, we are a little different...

SeanEllis

Re: And please note the name. It's a *spectrum* of behaviours

"I don't think managers will behave better toward people with a diagnosis"

Part of being a good manager is knowing how to communicate with those who report to you, and getting them to perform well in their job. Knowing about people's strengths and weaknesses can be used for evil (as in Mr Burns's first boss in this piece), but it can also be used for good. Knowing about AS is part of that.

Companies spend serious money trying to discover personality traits using analyses like Myers-Briggs, so that they can balance teams and ensure than the ELNTs aren't outnumbered by the DBDGs (or whatever).

While I don't necessarily think there's much evidence behind Myers-Briggs, I do think that knowing the personalities of your team is important, and in the right hands can help ensure that a team - and all the people within it - tick along nicely.

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Techno-thriller author and gaming franchise Tom Clancy dies at 66

SeanEllis
Unhappy

He was a space enthusiast, too

I remember seeing him speak at the rollout of the Rotary Rocket ATV in Mojave in 1999, sporting a jaunty Casey Jones engine-driver's hat. He invested a fair wedge of his own cash in the venture, and was bullish about their prospects to open up space in the same way that the railways opened up the American West, something that unfortunately didn't happen. Sorry to see him go.

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Congrats on MP3ing your music... but WHY bother? Time for my ripping yarn

SeanEllis
Go

Cd wallets

I had a similar problem, and this was my solution. Tesco sell 192-CD zip-up CD wallets for about £12. I got a couple of those, spend an hour or two putting in the disks, while pulling out the cover art inserts and putting them in a box (now in the loft in case the RIAA send rapacious goons to check on my proofs of purchase). I then chucked all the jewel cases in the plastic recycling bin. Now all my CDs occupy 20cm of shelf space and can get to all of them easily. Of course, I then ripped them all anyway, but that's another story.

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Boffins lay bare exotic Lara Croft meteorite element ununpentium

SeanEllis

Although it sounds small, a 200ms half-life for something this heavy is actually quite long. As J.G.Harston points out, this is one of the little reefs around the "island of stability" that is expected to exist at even higher atomic weights.

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COLD FUSION is BACK with 'anomalous heat' claim

SeanEllis
Black Helicopters

Re: Power sneaked in via earth wire

Entirely plausible and consistent with the measured temperature for one phase on full power. Nice one.

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SeanEllis
Black Helicopters

Re: Having read the paper...

There's another interesting piece towards the end of the second test. It says:

"At [full power from one phase], the heat produced from the resistor coils alone determined an average

surface temperature (flange and “top” excluded) of almost 300 °C, very close to the average one found in the same areas of the E-Cat HT2 during the live test."

This allows for an input power measurement error to be the sole cause of the apparent over-production of energy.

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SeanEllis

Having read the paper...

...I am concerned about several points:

1. Why didn't they use standard calorimetry approaches, rather than just measuring the surface temperature of the device?

2. The device uses a "custom waveform" to drive the heaters. Since power meters can be sensitive to wave shape, is there a possible measurement error here?

3. The input power was measured using clamp ammeters on the input to the regulator. What measures were taken to isolate them from external magnetic fields? Was the cable inspected afterward to confirm that it is as it seems (and isn't, for example, a pair of coaxial cables carrying more current). And what measures were taken to ensure that the regulator had no additional power inputs?

4. In the second test, the device was taken away to be emptied. The difference in weight before and after is small, which exacerbates the estimated power density enormously. What measures were taken to ensure that the device was actually emptied, and that the remaining mass was inert?

It seems that they are testing the claim in good faith, but I would like to see the involvement of someone who can help to eliminate the possibility of actual fraud.

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I am NOT a PC repair man. I will NOT get your iPad working

SeanEllis
Linux

Switch to Linux

It's a complete Get Out of Jail Free. "Oh, it's a Windows/Mac machine. Sorry, I haven't touched one of those in years. I could switch it over to Ubuntu for you. No? Linux Mint? Gentoo? Oh, OK then. Bye."

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Author of '80s classic The Hobbit didn't know game was a hit

SeanEllis
Thumb Up

An inspiration

Seeing the graphics on The Hobbit was the inspiration for adding graphics to my own first commercial program, The Graphic Adventure Creator, and also a reminder of the pain of writing in hand-assembled assembler. Kudos to Veronika, and so nice to see her finally recognise the recognition she deserves.

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Apple silences mute kids' speech app in patent blowup

SeanEllis

Sounds quite similar to this...

Researchers were using picture boards with speech synths for animal communication studies as far back as the 1980s. I haven't looked at the detailed wording of the patents, but would this count as prior art? http://www.holah.co.uk/study/savagerumbaugh/

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Trekkie wants to build USS Enterprise … in twenty years

SeanEllis
Boffin

Re: A journey to Alpha Centauri

Your numbers seemed suspicious at first glance, and they still seem suspicious at second glance as well.

Your calculation neglects the relativistic mass increase (which you then rely on to get the shiptime running slow), so let's sidestep that and look at the pure kinetic energy of your 10,000t spacecraft running at "just" 0.1c, where relativistic effects are small. 0.1c = 3x10^7 m/s. Kinetic energy = 0.5mv^2 = 0.5 x 10^7 x (3x10^7)^2 = 4.5 x 10^21 J = a lot more than the 3x10^15 J you're talking about. And that's without even thinking about how much reaction mass you need.

As far as I can see, the only way we're going to get to the stars is to leave our engines behind, using lightsails or similar technology. Look up "starwisp" for a reasonably modest proposal.

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HUD's up! Ubuntu creates menu-free GUI

SeanEllis

Thank goodness for Kubuntu

Sorry, while I applaud exploration, this is not the kind of experiment one should foist on the millions of users of one of the most popular Linux distros.

For me, who is still trying to remember where the hell my formatting options have gone in Word 2007 (I have to use it for work), the lack of discoverability is an absolute killer.

I run kubuntu at home, and was thinking about switching back to the mainstream. Not now.

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HuffPo goes UK: But shills and pols writing for free isn't new

SeanEllis
Black Helicopters

HuffPo - Home of Woo

The US version of the Huffington Post is the home of all sorts of alternative medicine stories, most reported credulously and some of them downright dangerous. One example is their pushing of the anti-vaccination agenda. It will be interesting to see if the same thing happens here, and who will be prepared to write for it.

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