* Posts by Alex Lane

18 posts • joined 4 Jul 2007

Brit loonies adventurers headed to Timbuctoo by 'flying car'

Alex Lane

Put those claws away, Page

Rrreeeeoowwww! Lewis. What did Laughton do to you to deserve this catty tirade?

This is the annual Timbuktu Challenge where all sorts of teams make their way to Mali in aid of various causes, and a proper good laugh it was when I took part last year (though in a rather less exciting Vauxhall Corsa). There are always a few outlandish participants - we drove with a limo shipped from Vegas (suspension specially hitched up for the desert) and another team had a car powered by food production waste.

New NASA nuclear Mars rover hits budget, time problems

Alex Lane

What's the hurry?

So they're using a new, untried landing system. The lesson from Phoenix is test, test and test again until you're as sure as you can be that it will work. Delaying a couple of years is nothing against losing the mission just to meet a launch window. Doesn't NASA ever learn from its mistakes?

The Hadron Collider: What's it all about, then?

Alex Lane

Re: a hyperdrive propulsion capable of making the trip to Mars in 5 hours

I think a hyperdrive is whatever you want it to be. It's fictional, a bit like Mike Sala

Driving some value into Google's Street View

Alex Lane


What a typically self-indulgent Western argument this is. While we're arguing the toss over paying for highly accurate maps, there are places where such topographical certainty is hard to come by at any price - as I discovered driving to Mali a few months ago. In the end, the best directions I could create came from GPS routes created using Google Earth.

Then I found www.maps4africa.com - which uses the OSM method to generate highly accurate maps for a place that doesn't have any. Very useful, and if you contribute then you get free access to the maps created. I'll be using it on my next jaunt.

Ofcom slices up the digital dividend

Alex Lane

@ Mage

You forgot the Government at the top of your list of winners (consumers are at the bottom). They'll get a nice few billions of windfall, just in time for a pre-election budget. And even if they win one more term, the real drawbacks of flogging off our most valuable spectrum won't emerge until the middle of next decade when Freeview has no capacity to shuffle around and upgrade itself to MPEG-4/DVB-T2.

The whole analogy with land use is completely bogus anyway. Land use is completely controlled by local and national planning authorities - meanwhile Ofcom ducks its responsibilities and retreats into a flimsy neo-Thatcherite free market system.

EU sets out mobile satellite services

Alex Lane

Ever tried it?

I used an Inmarsat BGAN geostationary on a trip across the Sahara earlier this year. You might not want to do FPS shooters or streaming full-screen video on it (bandwidth is limited unles you buy dedicated streaming services) but for regular browsing, email and the other run-of-the-mill internet stuff practised by non-Reg folks, it was pretty sweet. And VOIP quality was not only very high but surprisingly low-latency.

A little real world experience is worth a lot more than calculating theoretical delay times.

Boeing raygunship fires first blasts in ground testing

Alex Lane

Ablatative armour

I seem to remember in the old sci-fi role-playing game Traveller that you could buy either cheap ablative armour or expensive reflective armour to protect against lasers. Ablative armour would burn off after absorbing several shots, reflec lasted indefinitely.

Mine's the one with 2D6 in the pocket

European manned spaceflight plan proposed

Alex Lane

retire it?

Why not just strap on a couple of ion engines and put it on a low-thrust journey to the moon or Mars, or how about a base to study the asteroid belt? Junking it would be such a waste.

How much for a used space station, two careful owners?

Sony launches 'Freeview HD'-ready LCD TV line

Alex Lane
Thumb Down

Not HD Ready without DVB-T2

It's not the tuner that's HD Ready in this TV, it's the MPEG decoder. These TVs only have DVB-T tuners, but Freeview HD will use DVB-T2, and tuners for this standard haven't even been designed yet.

DVB-T2 has only just been agreed by the DVB Group, and many people think Ofcom is being wildly over-optimistic that silicon will be ready by the end of 2009, let alone receivers and IDTVs in the shops.

The whole idea of HD in 2009 is just a trick to distract us from the complete rip-off inherent in Ofcom's Digital Dividend strategy. They're selling off the Crown Jewels of broadcasting spectrum to make a quick buck for Gordo's election war-chest, and the TV landscape in Britain will be a lot poorer for it.

Sony details PS3 DVR pricing, launch date

Alex Lane
Paris Hilton

@Mark re: DVB-T2

If this thing is coming out in September there's no chance it will be DVB-T2 compatible. The best estimates for DVB-T2 silicon are late 2009, with products in early 2010, and it will take more than a firmware upgrade. Just because it supports MPEG-4 AVC doesn't mean it will work with Freeview HD.

Sony's just chucked out a half-arsed TV tuner for an over-priced gaming platform, when they could have produced an HD-capable product for Freesat.

Paris must be on their product development team.

IEEE powerline networking group selects HomePlug AV

Alex Lane
Thumb Up

Works for me

I've been using a Netgear Powerline HD to link my PC to my living room-based router and media extender for several months now, and it works a treat. Much higher bandwidth than wireless and (probably because of that) lower latency for remote control.

Of course it's not perfect for everyone - no solution is - but a waste of time? Spare us the hysterical capitals, DramaTom

Only Sky can save digital TV

Alex Lane
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Only a prawn in Whitby

It's a measure of how fatuous this article is, that you appear to be talking about digital switch, but the Whitby story you reference has nothing to do with digital switch. It's a transmitter being moved because the current one is falling into the sea. Whitby's not even scheduled for digital switch for a couple of years.

Next generation BBC iPlayer gets MS man on board

Alex Lane

Don't forget Dirac

Maybe you guys should go to IBC once in a while.

All your pondering about the BBC's plans ignores the BBC's long-running Dirac project, to create a royalty-free advanced compression algorithm which will replace proprietary algorithms in almost all of the BBC's production and distribution work (except for those to set-top boxes with embedded codecs).

Dirac is actually essential for the iPlayer project, because the BBC can't afford to pay MPEG licence fees for every user in the long run, even if it stuck with Windows.

So that solves the compression problem. Now we just need a DRM...

Nuke-frying raygun 747 all ready bar the raygun

Alex Lane

Laser guns are cool!

Regardless of the political/economic/practical arguments; this is a frickin' flying laser gun! How cool is that? (which is probably how Boeing has kept the project sold to all those overgrown warbrats in the Pentagon for 20-odd years). I wonder what noise it makes?

iPlayer Politics: Behind the ISPs vs BBC row

Alex Lane

Why are the ISPs so surprised?

What really boggles me about this row is that the ISPs are complaining about it publicly NOW. iPlayer's been in development for four years, so there's been plenty of time for the ISPs and BT to start upgrading their networks to cope (what they should be doing) or complain very loudly and publicly that they can't cope.

They didn't complain during Ofcom's MIA or the BBC Trust's PVT. They didn't complain when the Trust approved iPlayer. They've waited until now to do it, in a cynical, politically-motivated attempt to screw our Licence Fee cash out of the BBC. Why aren't they targeting Sky's Anytime service, 4oD or anyone else who uses Kontiki for P2P? All these services, and iPlayer, are driving broadband take-up and making the ISPs (and BT Wholesale) richer. It's time to put some of that profit back into the infrastructure.

ESA backs satellite broadcast to mobile phones

Alex Lane

re: Dish size

Bill Ray, the Americans already have portable receivers for Sirius. At the high powers and lower frequencies used for DVB-SH, a smaller antenna is required, and you can even get away with a unidirectional antenna, especially in combination with the ground-based repeaters required in urban areas. The Eutelsat satellite (actually being built in an unprecedented joint venture with Astra) has a very large antenna and very high power, suggesting it will also use spot beams to concentrate its power.

The technical challenges aren't really that great, but as the author says, is there a market?

Sun's activity not to blame for climate change

Alex Lane

Bad reporting

The problem with media reporting of science is that it's fundamentally flawed (El Reg being one of the few exceptions). Mainstream media needs a hook on which to hang the story, and what better hook than the good old 'renegade scientist fighting a global conspiracy'.

Often as not, the reason said scientists isn't being heard is because peer review and debate, the main methods of establishing scientific validity, have failed to support the hypothesis. As Lockwood says, solar heating was an interesting theory 15 years ago, and it had some effect into the start of this century, but it's been discredited and it's time to move on and accept that the actions of almost 10 billion people can have a strong effect on global climate.

We've seen this kind of lazy reporting time and time again with the GM potatoes, mobile phone masts, and most recently with wi-fi. But it makes a good story and gives the reactionaries something to crow about. It doesn't mean it's right.

Europe and Russia plan next generation spaceship

Alex Lane

Is this Kliper?

Isn't Russia already working on a next-gen reusable winged capsule called Kliper? Is this just a way to integrate it with ATV technology and get some ESA cash on board?


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