* Posts by Simon Brown

96 posts • joined 21 Jan 2007


Drones and alt energy tech star at Spanish start-up fiesta

Simon Brown

Re: Univiersites as feeders

IE Madrid are currently touting their Masters in Business degree on the BBC. I can't think of anything worse - go to a Spanish university and have all the innovation, inspiration and initiative drilled out of you by someone droning on from a book.

I was taking the theory part of the driving test - I don't need it, I already have a full B licence but I wanted the bike licence so I could get a reasonably powered bike. I wanted to learn how to drive in Spain as opposed to driving like an English person driving in Spain. The rules are actually a little different. They don't let you on the road for practicals til you've passed your full test.

But bugger me the whole class consisted of a woman reading from slides with barely any digression from the content. And since we already had the content in books they'd given us it hardly seemed a worthwhile use of 2 hours on a weekday morning. What was worse was that the books were a potted summary of the 942 page highway code - written entirely in legalese with no illustrations. They were astounded when I showed them the UK highway code - the legal document is available online in the same format as the Spanish potted summary books - but it's the actual law.

In my experience the Spanish aren't taught to think for themselves so they don't. Most of the initiative and innovation comes from guiris (perjorative term for "immigrants") in one form or another - people who understand customer service, sales techniques and who are willing to have their business open when everyone else isn't at work and is available to pop in and spend...

Microsoft has developed its own Linux. Repeat. Microsoft has developed its own Linux

Simon Brown

if you can't beat 'em join 'em?

This could just be a one-off tool to address a particular problem. But it could also be a change of direction for Microsoft. The Apple approach works - in as much as create a pretty windowing system that runs on top of a Unix-like OS = stability and scalability. What Microsoft always did well was the "other" stuff - the Office system that's still ubiquitous across billions (probably) of machines. They've now gone partly down the Apple road of having an OS upgrade that has negligible financial cost. Why not go the whole hog and run windows over an underlying Linux-based OS? They can massively reduce development costs by using open source while benefiting from all the usual open source benefits - contribute financially to bits they want developed fast...

Sure it means dropping some windows executables or porting them over to work on top of a linux subsystem... but maybe the gains are greater than the considerable cost of continuing to develop and support multiple buggy legacy OSes with flawed security.

They can still make their money from having Windows X and selling Office and whatever - while not having to pay to develop an OS that an awful lot of people just copy illegally anyway.

The forced upgrade to Win 10 has been (mostly) a success I imagine. But MS traditionally has

ALIENS are surely AMONG US: Average star has TWO potentially Earth-like worlds

Simon Brown

Two earth-like worlds? Not sure how they define that... my prediction is that evolved life in the universe will be far rarer than a lot of people are suggesting for two reasons that make life in THIS solar system a lot more likely.

All the goldilocks zone does is give you liquid water. That's a start but it's only a start. You also need a magnetosphere that's sufficiently powerful enough to prevent your host star from frying the planet. You need a large moon for several functions. It acts as a galactic vacuum cleaner, protecting the biosphere for 4.5bn years.

Firstly in this solar system we have large gas giants in long orbits. That's pretty rare. In most of the extrasolar systems we've observed so far, big gas giants tend to be pretty close in - and they're very obvious when they transit. With this solar system they're a long way out. This means that rocky planets inside the system are able to survive without being swept up by a gas giant AND it means that anything coming in from the edge or outside the solar system (comets, asteroids) along the plane of the system, is likely to hit the gravitational field of one of the gas giants first or at least at some point during its orbit of the sun. Over the space of billions of years, this gives Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune the chance to swallow up most of the big stuff that gets in and doesn't go straight into the sun.

Secondly right at the beginning of the solar system, before the current orbits had settled and before the gas giants had much chance to clean up, a Mars-sized planet collided with the proto-earth. In doing so it will have vaporised and caused most of the earth to melt (again). Most of the combined material that WASN'T ejected into space became the earth but a substantial blob of the combined combined material became the moon. The moon is ENORMOUS - for the earth. Satellites THAT big around a planet this small are impossible under normal planet-forming conditions. The ONLY way to form a satellite that big is to have the collision we had.

The moon plays a number of interesting roles, not just in the mixing of surface liquids on earth. As it swings round the earth every 28 days or so, over the space of millions and millions of years, it creates tidal movement within the fluids of the earth's mantle which are thought to have been part of the process which triggered the start of plate tectonics - the other part of the process is the role of water which at high temperatures and pressures acts as a lubricant. It is this water coming to the surface that has allowed life on earth to begin - in waters that were mixed by the movement of the moon, acting like a cosmic wooden spoon, mixing the ingredients back and forth - the simple carbon, nitrogen, sulphur, oxygen, hydrogen, iron molecules, heating them up, cooling them down, mixing them around.

Without the gravitational tidal action of the moon, none of that can happen. It's also quite possible that the gravitational action of the moon plays a role in helping to establish the stability of the earth's electromagnetic field. Remember that without the EM field, we all fry. So what we need to be looking for, to find evolved life outside the solar system, is a very stable main-sequence star with the capacity to last for 10 bn years, a rocky planet in the goldilocks zone, with an abnormally large moon due to some random process early in its lifespan, a strong and stable electromagnetic field and large (but not too large) gas giants on the outer edges of that solar system. Simples.

Alternatively viable conditions might exist on satellites around a gas giant in orbit around a main sequence star but the planet would get bathed with regular sweeps of EM blasts from the gas giant so that might effectively sterilize the planet.

Simon Brown

Re: Sadly not the case,

dunno where you got your geology degree mate but I think you're mixing up two different concepts.

The first is the MAGNETIC poles flipping which they do every half million years or so. You can see that from the identical but mirrored stripes of reversed polarity of iron deposited in oceanic crust at spread zones. It was initially discovered in the Atlantic - searching for submarines they inadvertently discovered evidence of plate tectonics.

The second is another part of the plate tectonic "picture" which is the presence of fossilized sea shells on top of mountains and evidence of fossilised tropical forests in the rock record near Antarctica. Using the current theory that the processes existing today have existed as far back as we can tell, that means that the rocks that make up Antarctica were at one point at the or near the equator, which is 10,00km away (give or take).

Continental plates move at between 2cm & 5cm per year which isn't that fast until you think - "but it's an entire continent moving" at which point you realise that 2-5 cm / year is plenty fast for something that big and solid to be moving relative to everything around it...

So in 10,000 years it will have moved between 20 and 50 metres which is substantial but not quite at the equator. In fact it would take between 200 million and 500 million years - and as I recall the radio isotope dating and other ageing techniques (matching certain global markers like periods of major vulcanicity with specific chemical signatures across multiple rock deposits and types across continents) put the time at around 335 million years ago, from memory.

Mozilla: Native code? No, it's JavaScript, only it's BLAZING FAST

Simon Brown

Re: It's still bloody javascript...

angular? or have I missed the point?

Godmother of Unix admins Evi Nemeth presumed lost at sea

Simon Brown

Re: "The boat was last heard from on June 4"

Fixed keel / ballast so unlikely to have separated. Both masts are firmly attached to the hull at their base and above to the roof of the cabin. Any significant movement could split the roof I guess: eg rolling if she lost power and her sails and was beam-on to a 25' swell, especially if she got hit by a freak wave. Sad end to a majestic yacht - the first ever significant Marconi-rigged racer.

And remember children, keep your safety gear serviced and up-to-date. You never need them til you need them, and by then if it's broken it's way too late.

Huawei unwraps Ascend P6: World's slimmest smartphone

Simon Brown

Re: Competent phone

"At over £100 cheaper than a HTC One, how is the price tag a turn off?" - because the Google Nexus 4 is cheaper?

Attention, CIOs: Stop outsourcing or YOU will never retire

Simon Brown

Re: UK Companies are getting exactly what they desrerve

"they should sit back and enjoy their extreme cleverness" - couldn't agree more. They've brought it on themselves, then they whine about it and blame everyone else. The industry needs to pay people a realistic wage and needs to have realistic hiring policies. I'm not about to march down the UKIP "blame the immigrants" route - it's not the fault of people who are transferred in that they're transferred in. It is very much the fault of the companies who do that transferring. They have crapped down the necks of UK IT people and now that the decent ones have abandoned ship the companies are crying like toddlers who have wet themselves complaining that it's wet. It's pathetic that the companies who make up the forum who produced this report are the very companies who are complaining about the "lack of skills", while still shafting their employees by outsourcing and transferring in, even to this day. For what it's worth, there is no lack of skills. If you are willing to pay, there are skills. What there is, is a lack of willingness to pay the money that skills cost. Our collective response should be "well screw you, you don't pay, you don't get"

Ten Linux apps you must install

Simon Brown
Thumb Up

geany ftw on non-KDE implementations

whoever suggested geany - only just started with it myself but most impressed :)

Simon Brown

Re: Normal people don't use Linux

I agree they've broken Ubuntu quite effectively. The underlying idea is sound but the implementation is bewildering. Xubuntu on the other hand has most of the things in most of the places you'd expect to find them, an advantage of using Gnome. I use xubuntu alongside Windows. Some of the video editing I do is a lot easier in xubuntu.

I also use xubuntu exclusively on my laptop, an old Vaio with a 1.2ghz processor and 1.5GB RAM - anything else on there runs like poo. XP ran like a dog. Vista even worse, win 7 - didn't even want to go there. But Xubuntu - rock solid and fast.

So - when you say Linux is too broken to use... which bit of it do you mean? I'd have agreed with you a few years ago (no I don't want to recompile the kernel to run on a bloody laptop, wtf???) but these days I find some hardware runs better in linux - that often won't run at all under windows. It takes a little getting used to, you do eventually need to learn to do a few bits on the command line (you don't have to but it does help) and as I say the Ubuntu Unity interface is just bizarre but there is plenty good out there :)

Felix Baumgartner sadly turns out to be blinkered FOOL

Simon Brown

Re: You will all die ON EARTH dreaming about space

I'm not against saving the world I just think that the money to do it shouldn't come from the NASA budget. Not when their budget is only half of one percent of US spending... why cut that? Why not take the money from the massive amounts spent on the US military?

There's no guarantee that stopping NASA spending would lead to a commensurate increase in spending on saving the planet. And if it did - what a paltry, tokenistic gesture? In any case what Felix is actually saying is this:

Right now you're spending half of one percent of the total US annual budget on space exploration that will, amongst other things, produce tools that will be used to fight climate change and experience another planet in order to be able to contrast it with this one and learn more about our own planet to protect it. We should stop doing that and instead spend the money on protecting our planet - that derisory half of one percent of the US budget... they should only spend that on protecting the planet. Instead of learning about the things that will protect the planet...

Hence the derision.

No-one here is anti-saving the planet. It's just that we don't know HOW to save the planet. And taking funding away from the people finding out HOW to do it isn't going to make that search any quicker...

Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid car review

Simon Brown

It's just as well that building these causes no environmental impact whatsoever...

Is it just me that wonders whether we wouldn't be better off creating kits so that we could retro-fit existing cars, rather than building new ones? Scrapping an existing car to then use up fresh resources to build new ones to reduce CO2 is potty. At the same time, we ban diesel-engined vehicles from our town centres - even if they're powered by pure vegetable oil and creating no harmful emissions...

Is the hybrid engined car a very expensive example of green-washing?

Ay caramba, Ubuntu 12.10: Get it right on Amazon!

Simon Brown

my vote for xubuntu as well

Have a tiny old Vaio laptop - netbook sized & spec before netbooks existed. Xubuntu is good as gold. Also run it dual boot on my i7 pc with an ssd in and strangely isn't THAT much faster on the pc... or maybe it just isn't that much slower on the laptop...

Man City drags Big Data into Big Football

Simon Brown

city fan in peace

Thought the Arsenal performance at the Etihad was pretty impressive - not many teams will get points there this season and Arsenal are looking far more like title challengers than they have for a few seasons.

As for the stats - Patrick Finch aludes to it. In baseball the game is defined by very narrow ranges of probability because each phase of play contains only one set of actions and variables. Cricket is similar. In football, by contrast, due to the continual interaction of the other 21 players on the pitch, plus officials, even the crowd - spotting statistical patterns is going to be that much harder. Liverpool failed because those players they bought depended on players around them with whom to interact. Some players can be removed from this team setting and placed in another and it will work, perhaps Liverpool failed spectacularly because the metrics being measured are faulty.

In my own, amateur, observations of the game, there are broadly speaking four sets of actions

1. defensive / possession regaining actions

2. the transitional act from regaining to utilising

3. offensive / possession utilisation actions.

4. the transitional act of loss of possession

Possession regaining actions include closing players down, tracking back, blocking, defending, tackling, keeping formational shape when defending, marking runners, marking for corners, stepping up to catch players offside. And more besides. There will be measurements of a player's awareness, their movement, their tackling accuracy, and much more.

Transitional regaining acts include intercepting passes, clearances, what the player did with the ball - lump it clear or play towards one of their own - and the accuracy of that.

Offensive acts are runs made off the ball to pull defences around (really important - and also were those runs made in a realistic way so the player could have been reached by an accurate pass, or were they expecting the impossible from their team-mates?), breaks, runs made with the ball, passes, throw-ins, shots, movement - accuracy and effectiveness of all of these is important but not as important as the actual act itself. For example, in any 10 minute spell with possession, a winger can consistently make great runs and not receive a pass. This running causes a defender or two to follow him, leaving a gap. Alternatively the defenders realise the player is not going to receive a pass and may drift infield to do something more useful. At this point a decisive pass can play the under-utilised winger in and set up a goal-scoring opportunity. Obviously shots made / on target / straight at the keeper etc. There is luck involved too but the more possession and passing a team does the more likely they are to get into shooting scenarios, the more likely they are to score.

Last there is the loss of possession. Except where down to consistent carelessness, consistent poor positioning or consistent poor awareness this could be down to how your opponent plays. But it is important to note risks taken when a team is stretched - risky passes made by defenders cost goals, overly cautious passing by attacking players causes attacks to break down and lose momentum.

None of these lists are the least bit exhaustive and there will be subtleties and intricacies which as a non-player I don't see.

I don't know the answer. There is quality and consistency of decision-making, speed of thought, presence of mind, adaptability, inventiveness - how do you quantify them? Or is the metric something that is missed, but implied by all of these factors? Is it too chaotic to predict and only general patterns can be derived? Will we forever be subjected to the inane, cliche-ridden banality of football pundits who seem to have as little awareness in commentary box as they had as either players or in management?

As mentioned by others, the long ball game was the result of a poor reading of stats and it has caused unparalleled damaged to the English game. Having kids play on full-sized pitches with full-sized goals has created a nation of hit-and-hopers instead of any appreciation of the finer arts of playing...

Climate denier bloggers sniff out new conspiracy

Simon Brown

Re: This could've been an interesting take on the story...

"sample size of 10"


"drawn on a questionnaire completed by more than 1,100 individuals who completed a questionnaire linked to various science Websites, include:..."


Samsung 11.6in 'retina display' tablet spied

Simon Brown

@Chris Miller - I have a great big screen for "editing photos"... and code... and proofing documents... and working generally. Unfortunately most of the time I am on the road and my great big screen doesn't fit in my hand baggage. Fail. Still it's not like I need to earn money from working or anything...

Low vertical pitch screens exist because they are cheap. Cheap to produce, cheap to buy, cheap to fit. And if people want something bigger then can buy a premium product with a 1200 pixel pitch - a spec which hasn't changed appreciably in over a decade - in a drive for profit and cheap product.

If the consideration was customer experience or technology, 1200 pitch would be the minimum. But as ever we live in a world where people are willing to put up with crap products because they know no better.

NASA shuts off Voyager 1's central heating

Simon Brown

If aliens find it

Assuming it reaches a star system. Assuming that the system supports intelligent life. Assuming therefore that the system has gas giants on long orbits acting as interplanetary vacuum cleaners for larger asteroids which could otherwise periodically wipe out all life on warmer inner planets. Assuming it doesn't get sucked up by these larger outer planets. Assuming it reaches the warmer, rocky inner planets without missing and hitting the star at the centre of the system...

It will probably burn up on entry.

Very unlikely to ever be found, in my opinion. Doesn't mean it wasn't worth trying.

Software bug fingered as cause of Aussie A330 plunge

Simon Brown

pointing the nose at the ground

"While, on average, the computer control is safer, you won't find the average human pilot aiming the plane at the ground and thinking its ok."

The autopilot thought the plane had somehow gone into a stall and therefore pointed the nose at the ground to try to gain airspeed to get out of the stall. This is the normal way to get out of a stall. The other way is to crash, CF what happened to AF447 where the one thing they didn't do was point the nose at the bloody ground and pick up some airspeed, thereby stalling into the sea. Arguably if they'd switched the autopilot back on (on AF447) the crash wouldn't have happened.

To repeat the point made elsewhere - there have been far more incidences of people flying planes into the ground than of autopilots doing it.

As for the 737 comment - they upped the landing speed to 150 kts and that seemed to do the trick. It's one of the reasons 737 landings tend to be pretty hard and fast.

Renault Scenic Bose Edition 1.6 130dCi

Simon Brown

French car... electronics

jeeeeesus - don't get me started. French car manufacturers don't do electrics or electronics very well. The failure rate on Renaults, Peugeots and Citreons (and on the Renault vans - including Nissan vans and Vauxhall vans - it's the same van) is so high it makes Dell look like a reliable brand.

EVERYTHING on these cars, on any modern car, is controlled by computers. The engine, the transmission, the handbrake, the windows, the overpriced stereo... Also why would you fit an expensive stereo to a diesel - don't get me wrong I love diesels but I don't hate music and the sound frequencies emitted by diesel engines, even modern ones, will drown out vast chunks of frequency range. Car stereo sound crap because they are in cars. Expensive car stereos sound even worse because not only are they in cars, but you spent a fortune on it. It's a bit like spending thousands on... I'm trying to think of an analogy and it's hard - thousands on a beach holiday in the Caribbean and then spending your whole time in the hotel. You don't need to spend the money to achieve similar effect.

But this waste of money on an absolutely pointlessly expensive stereo pales into insignificance compared to abortion that is a French car. They have a well-earned reputation for crapulence, terrible quality-control topped off by terrible electronics. From wiring looms that look like they were installed by the old women knitting under the guillotine at the Bastille to electronics systems that just trash the engine and transmission. It's not just that they aren't very good, they are homicidally bad, I am surprised many of them haven't been taken off the road and recalled to be fixed properly, I can only assume that either the manufacturer denies any responsibility or the regulators are wearily used to the poor products coming out of French car plants and know that whatever gets "fixed" would be just as bad as what went in :(

Don't tell me they do good diesels. 10 years ago they did good diesels. Modern common rail diesels are turbocharged and computer controlled - electronics - French - no no no no.

French car... expensive electronics... turbo-diesel computer-controlled engine... electronic brakes... overpriced stereo that you won't be able to hear over the rattle of the engine once it has been trashed by the electronics...

It's like building a truck out of yoghurt...

Dubai assassins used email trojan to track Hamas victim

Simon Brown


@Cantab - remember Sinn Fein grew out of the IRA

I do.

I don't remember the point at which Sinn Fein denied the right of England to exist.

I don't remember the point at which they refused, outright, to negotiate in any way with England because it existed.

I don't remember where in the IRA's constitution it explicitly calls for the destruction of England.

I don't remember the point at which they encouraged bombings without warnings (remember IRA bombs always had warnings because the IRA didn't want indiscriminate killing, it's bad publicity. Whereas killing Jews in the Middle East is good publicity unless you're Jewish).

I don't remember the point where they were offered a place in government and refused it because the English would still be involved in Northern Ireland

I don't remember the point where Iran and Syria shipped medium range rockets to them to fire indiscriminately at Liverpool (the equivalent of Ashdod)

I don't remember the point where England withdrew entirely from Northern Ireland and the IRA denounced it as an act of aggression.

But perhaps you do.

Try visiting a country in the middle east and telling people you are Jewish (not Israeli, Jewish) and see their response. From Morocco in the west to Malaysia in the east and right across Arabia and the middle east, the Jews are despised and people do not draw much if any distinction between Jews and Zionists. These wonderful countries pour billions of the oil money we pay them, into movements such Al Quaeda, the Taliban, Hizbullah, Hamas, Fatah, the Brotherhood and various other extremist movements that would otherwise be starved of funding by right-thinking people. They in turn spend millions on the poisonous films and "documentaries" and press releases and PR work we see in the middle east every day, denouncing Jews (and Zionists and Israel).

I am not going to defend Israel at this point. I am just going to say that I don't think the analogy between Hamas and the IRA is fair on either party.

HP whips out iPad challenger Windows 7 fondle-slab

Simon Brown

@Steven Knox

fail - unless Windows 7 can recognise a doctor's handwriting...

BT blasts hundreds of would-be customers' data into Infinity

Simon Brown

PS I know it's Porter Novelli

PS I know it's Porter Novelli... but someone somewhere in all this has definitely been promoted to their level of incompetence...

Simon Brown

@Tim Spence - if you work for me you do it my way

BT is a fairly large company working in a moderately regulated field. They will have standard operating procedures which they, their staff and any contracted companies will have signed up to and will adhere to. There has been one of two cock-ups here:


1.) Peter Novelli signed up to the SOP but didn't stick with it and tell their staff how to do email marketing properly - unlikely because this is a good way of losing contracts and for a small PR agency you don't want to do that.

or (more likely)

2.) BT's marketing dept didn't bother to enforce SOP adherence with Peter Novelli. Fail.

That said Novelli really need to bring in some basic training for staff.

PARIS furnished with engorgement

Simon Brown

erm... batteries... don't use rechargeables


Hope I'm not putting together 2 & 2 and making anything other than 4 here.

You are about to release paper plane into space and then film its descent. Space is either very cold or very hot (or somewhere in between) and your plane will be falling through bits of atmosphere that will be very hot, or very cold.

In a recent article I noted with interest that a submersible had been powered under the Arctic using several thousand D-batteries. When asked why they didn't use rechargeables the Brit boffins "flying" the sub said that at such low temperatures, the batteries didn't hold their charge well.

I'm sure you've already taken this into consideration...


Acer beTouch E400 Android smartphone

Simon Brown

shagged phone cases

I have owned mobile phones for many years. After a few months none of them looked particularly pristine. My latest phone is on its second case and that's pretty shagged now. I would welcome freeby replacement cases given my ability to make a phone look like it's been run over but maybe that's just me. Anyway, kudos to Acer for supporting those of us who drop our phones from time to time.

Airline ejects passenger for being hungry

Simon Brown

at least I wasn't arrested

At least I wasn't arrested for trying to fly with Multiple Sclerosis, just had my meds confiscated. A little back-story - I was travelling from to Glasgow when I found out my grandfather had died. Being Jewish his funeral was held very shortly after his death and I had to rush back to London to attend. Following the funeral I had to catch a plane back up to Glasgow to make a prior appointment (ok, gig)

Here's my facebook status from last week:

Simon Brown would like to thank security staff at London City Airport for making the sky a safer place by confiscating my sealed, marked, capped, prefilled copaxone injections. No I didn't have a doctor's letter because I didn't expect to need to fly (see previous status). You just cost the NHS £88. Well done.

Windows 7 SP1 'beta' leaks, hits torrents

Simon Brown

win 7 is ok

as with Vista before it and XP before that, I turn off all the screen "effects" and set it for "best performance". By and large it performs well. I find it faster than XP on the same hardware. I find it more stable than Vista (and faster) on the same hardware. It does a job. I only ever want an operating system to be stable and run the programs I launch, is that too much to ask for?

The one feature I do take advantage of is Connectify - an open source Wi-fi hotspot creator that takes advantage of some Win7 features that were never fully developed by Microsoft. Setting up ICS is a total pain in the arse and Connectify does it beautifully - so handy for sharing 3G connections :)

Exploding-battery epidemic caused by 'lithium moss'

Simon Brown

@Matthew W - Boom

Lithium is the least flammable of all the alkali metals (sodium, potassium, rubidium, caseium and francium being the others). As it is very reactive with water and oxygen it is usually stored in oil or petrol to keep it in its unreacted state. Certainly in a closed battery cell with neither oxygen nor water present, lithium ought to be fairly stable, heat or no heat. Certainly given the proliferation of Lithium ion cells and the relative infrequency of explosion (I'm guess 1 explosion per xxx million hours of use) I'm imagining that the formation of dendrites is a fairly uncommon occurance, possibly associated with some sort of impurity getting into the material in the battery, who knows.

'Snowball Earth': Glaciers, ice packs once met at Equator

Simon Brown

the worry is the negative feedback loop

@Mike Richards first of all - Canada hasn't migrated. Some of the plates that make up that part of Canada have migrated in so much as the sediment was laid down and lithified at or around the equator however many millions of years ago and those bits of plate are now up in Northwest Canada. Other bits of Canada will be from other longitudes / latitudes and will be parts of plates that previously or subsequently collided with older bits of "Canada" to make up what is now Canada.

The geology of Great Britain contains bits of rock from all over the world, munged together into what is now this island.

Secondly looking at the timescale of these glaciations is alarming. 5 million years between snowball earth and complete absence of ice points to some interesting feedback mechanisms. Although life on earth today is completely unrecognisable from pre-Cambrian life, there will be some common features such as the presence of organisms that photosynthesize and the presence of organisms that eat the photosynthesizers. By turning sunlight and CO2 into oxygen, body mass and energy it is clear that life on earth has shaped and moulded the planet as much as any other process occuring on the planet's surface. It is also clear that the processes that were around 700mya are, give or take, around at the moment. It would be interesting to note whether subsequent glaciations were immediately preceded by rising temperatures and CO2 levels - which could be measured or at least indicated from foraminifera. If this turns out to be the case then there is probably some sort of feedback loop driving it. Might be something along the lines of:

1.) CO2 increases, temperatures increase, basal ice mass temperatures increase, ice starts melting, salinity of oceans drops.

2.) Decrease in salinity of oceans slows ocean currents which leads to increased variation in temperatures as ocean heat transfer slows down. Atmospheric warming however leads to increased precipitation, higher levels of atmospheric water (to drive the feedback) and accelerates atmospheric heat transfer from equator to poles.

3.) At some point the mass of cold, melted, low-saline water from the poles becomes too great and in a move similar to El Nino, it rushes under the warm equatorial water. At this point there is a massive ingress of cold water at the equator pushing the warm water out to the poles, cooling as it goes. The warm water triggers massive evaporation and subsequent precipitation, as snow, at the poles leading to expansion of icesheets which then leads to consequential high albedo and cooling.

4.) in this way a global warming phase is halted and reverted back to a cooling phase which could see disastrous consequences for us humans.

It is irrelevant what contribution towards that heating-cooling cycle is anthropogenic although the mechanism makes it clear that if there is an anthropogenic contribution, it is only to make the eventual "temperature crash" much worse.

I may of course be entirely wrong, it's been a while since I did much paleoclimatology / paleoglaciation stuff.

Forgot your ThinkPad password? Get new hardware

Simon Brown

ShaunP highlights a flash problem


ShaunP's issue highlights a problem with flash memory, mirroring an experience we had with encrypted USB keys - but it could probably happen to any flash memory that is encrypted.

If you use the same password every day then it is nigh-on impossible to forget passwords. So when your password suddenly stops working it's incredibly frustrating. Our problem was with Sandisk Countour Cruzer 8Gb USB sticks. They support 256bit AES encryption and we duly implemented a password policy. As backup I also held an encrypted copy of all the company's passwords. Imagine my surprise when suddenly passwords stopped working on two of the memory sticks. The users hadn't changed their passwords (one of the users was me, I definitely hadn't changed my password), the password "hints" were not being displayed (a bad sign I guess) and I could not reformat the USB stick or use it in any way.

This was annoying but it's only a USB stick, the manufacturer takes full responsibility and replaced the USB stick.

What Lenovo are doing here is saying that even if their encrypted flash memory fails, they can not take responsibility for it.

Is that a breach of the "fit for purpose" section of the sale of goods act?

Google mystery server runs 13% of active websites

Simon Brown

spots a pattern

1.) massive reduction in number of people hosting with IIS or claiming to host with IIS.

2.) massive increase in number of people hosting with GWS or claiming to host with GWS

3.) all of the above is taken from the headers that can be customised.

4.) GWS seems a lot less prone to attack than IIS so to appear less vulnerable to attack, change the headers in IIS so it looks like your domain / IP / whatever is hosted on GWS

or am I missing something?

Asus Lamborghini VX5

Simon Brown

So what are you getting for your money here?

Just picked up a "clearance stock" Advent 7555GX (yes I know, Advent are awful but this was cheap) quad core from the hell-on-earth that is PC World for less than half the cost of the Lambo. True, it has a rather awful 1440x900 screen, but being based on the MS-1722 I'm guessing I can upgrade the screen and the dog-poo 5400rpm diesel powered SATA2 hard-disk. Graphics are from an ATI4850 which is fine for what I will be using the machine for (portable DAW).

The main selling point for me was quad-core for £730 and as this was ex-demo I got it for £500. Preposterously cheap. Just waiting for my Windows 7 disks.

The point being - why are ASUS selling a quad-core that costs this much when it ought to be possible to build and sell it for much less. It's all very well having a Lamborghini sticker on it, but is it worth the extra grand?

McKinnon lawyers file last gasp extradition appeal

Simon Brown

@Paul 131 - what's even sillier

> FAIL Think about the Time before you do the Crime!!!

It wasn't a crime when he did it, he is being prosecuted retrospectively under laws which were brought out long after he did his hacking. What he did was very stupid but at the time he did it, he could not be prosecuted by the US. Prosecution only became a possibility some time later, which is fine, and he has be prosecuted retrospectively, which is not fine.

You aren't supposed to change the law and then prosecute under that changed law, but this is precisely what the US is doing. That the US is allowed to do this has been challenged and defeated in the UK courts. It's all a bit nuts.

LINX failure slows UK net traffic

Simon Brown

Richard Yule

He's brought out every Christmas to read the log files?

LHC back after temporary unexistence

Simon Brown

@Dave 64

Maybe aircraft carriers are measured in football pitches. Or possibly blue whales.... not sure....

Morgan Computers shuts its doors, sells website

Simon Brown

they were certainly cheap...

They were certainly cheap. Not so sure about quality though... I think every PC and peripheral I bought from them had a problem.

1st was the HP Compaq pc that wouldn't boot past the "XP is loading" screen. Same problem when I did a recovery. Didn't want to format and reinstall because there might have been a drive fault (there was) and it might have invalidated any kind of warranty. Had to wait ages for them to send that back.

Then it was the HP pc that didn't have the cd drive plugged in (it was there, just needed me to plug it in). Then an HP pc that ran so slowly I was tempted to take it back (bad drivers, sorted eventually). Then an HP printer that was DOA, a USB 4 port card that was DOA and my neighbour's PC that runs like a dog. Now my girlfriend has one of their cheap as chips pcs as well and it runs like a dog too.

So I will miss them because their stock was cheap... but I won't miss them for exactly the same reason :)

Britons warned of plague of the 'supercats'

Simon Brown

Wouldn't want my moggy to have an argument with one of these

I really wish people would learn to understand cats.

That's it.

I really wish they would.

"Oh he purrs and he's gentle and cuddles up to me" - yes because you aren't another cat. You aren't a bird. Watch what he does around other cats. Especially when you're not looking or he doesn't think you're looking. We have a tiny Burmese downstairs. My cat almost poos his furry pants every time he hears him because although he's tiny he has a loud voice and he's vicious. To cats. To people he's the friendliest, cuddliest, most playful pussycat. To other cats he's an evil and vicious bully. That's just how Burmese are. Siamese can be the same. Bengals are definitely the same and from what I've read, Savannahs are the same but twice the size. Lovely pets. Not good with neighbourhood cats.

I have spent a fortune on securing my property so the Burmese can't get in and now have a microchip-reading catflap so that only my cat can come into my flat. Cats are all about territory so this has really helped him settle. I had a tracking collar on him but he managed to lose it and am saving up for another one as they're expensive. Part of the reason I don't want to lose him is I wasted so much time and money looking for him last time he disappeared. Yes he's aloof (unless hungry), yes he's a pain in the bum and yes he kills stuff and brings it in to show me (or fails to kill it and sets it free in my living room - great) but he's my cat and I'd be dead nervous if someone with a Savannah cat moved in nearby. Especially if they don't know how to control their cat and refuse to accept that cats act very differently towards other cats than they do towards people.

Net sleuth calls eBay on carpet over shill bidding

Simon Brown

@stefan 5 - If you think your gonna win a 60-70 quid item for 99p then your an idiot...

Apparently if I think my gonna win a 60-70 quid item for 99p then my an idiot... (well that's what you said).

As well as being illiterate you're clearly incapable of reading - either ebay rules or British law. It's not whether or not you are going to shill. It's whether shill bidding is illegal, is fraudulent, is punishable (technically) by jail and therefore something that ebay should be preventing. Or whether the law should be changed to allow shill bidding, 419 scams, ponzi schemes and the rest and make it a free-for-all

The best netbook-friendly Linux distros

Simon Brown
Thumb Up

quite happy with Ubuntu 9

Got a dreadful old IBM laptop - 1.3GHz Centrino, 1Gig RAM, 40Gig drive. Used to have XP Pro on it and would take 5 minutes to boot and longer to do anything useful. I only ever used Linux on servers and know how to use terminal a little bit (as in man and the --help tag really) and Google is good for everything else. Having given up on the laptop and promised to buy myself a new one I thought I'd try Ubuntu.

There are few things in computing that I find pleasurable computers are a tool to do a job. But I can honestly say that I find Ubuntu 9 an absolute pleasure to use not least because it boots in seconds into an OS where I can do useful stuff (browser stuff, working in a word processor or a spreadsheet, connecting to other machines, use wi-fi, use my T-Mobile Datacard for 3G access better than Windows ever did). And the support - it doesn't matter what goes wrong, google it and the answer is there, the community is simply wonderful and way more informed and less full of crap than the MS community. Even the trolls and flamers can spell and use grammar (mostly).

It has saved me from having to buy another laptop and I'm more than happy with this crappy old piece of sh!t laptop as it does the things I need it to do while looking completely unnickable. The other distros look pretty as well. I'm just blown away. I was never much of an MS fan boy and now that Ubuntu is where it is, I look forward to using it for the foreseeable future.

Councils clamp down on Strategy Boutique Newspeak

Simon Brown

looking through that list then:

Best Practice = best way

no it means the received best way - as in the way that most people reckon is the best way for this to be done, usually for very good and well established reasons.

Cohesive communities = why use at all?

because right now our society is falling apart?

Governance = Why use at all?

because that's what we pay you to do?

Paradigm = Why use at all?

Paradigm = A set of assumptions, concepts, values, and practices that constitutes a way of viewing reality for the community that shares them, especially in an intellectual discipline. Given that council governance is all about making assumptions about what people need and what councils can afford, it makes sense to use the word to describe that framework of assumptions, concepts, values and practices.

Proactive = Why use at all?

Well it would be a start. Why not try to anticipate problems before they hit, rather than reacting to them way after the event. The recent problems with snow were a good example of lack of proactivity - maybe use the words "planning ahead"?

Process driven = shouldn't everything be people driven?

Only if you don't understand what process driven means. Process driven is, or at least should be, people driven if you apply the use cases properly. I imagine that the objection here is that people are using "process driven" who have never used UML / RUP or even PDD. Given their complexity, being process driven is a very valid way for council services to be, they rarely are though.

That said, I mostly agree with what is being proposed. Councils should stop using management speak and start communicating.

YouTube blocks music videos in UK

Simon Brown

luckily I can pay my rent in "goodwill" and "promotion"

As a very minor PRS registered artist I am so lucky that my landlord takes payment in "goodwill" and "promotion" rather than hard cash or I'd be out on the street. I couldn't give a flying f@ck whether U2 get paid PRS royalties but I'm glad I do. Even if it's not much.

@ dAVE SHIT - MTV certainly do pay PRS: http://www.prsformusic.com/about_us/press/latestpressreleases/mcpsprsalliance/Pages/MusicAllianceandMTVNetworksEurope.aspx

As for paying to play music radio or other recorded music (such us my mp3 collection) at work - I'm sorry but since when did I give you permission to use my music to increase the productivity and output of your staff for free? Whilst I agree that the amounts the PRS asks for from employers are high and should be lowered, I don't believe that the music should be free. Let's imagine that over the course of a year the music played in a workplace increases productivity by 2%. Lets imagine you're a mechanic, just you and your mate working the business, taking home £20k / year each (or at least that's what you tell the taxman). So your business made £40k last year, which would have been £39,216 with the radio off. For the extra £884 you made, PRS want to charge you £44 to pay towards the musicians who made that extra money possible - what is wrong with that?

Back to youtube - how many people in real life watch the video on youtube or listen to the music then buy the cd? Given that 95% of all music downloads are illegal / unpaid (for the artists at least) the answer is precious few. Most of the PRS members in the UK are not on massive money. Youtube's masters, Google, took $5.7bn in revenues for q4 2008 and I'm supposed to give them my music for free because it's good "promotion". Promotion means nothing. Unless money changes hands at the end of it, promotion, marketing, PR, the whole thing is worthless - why should I invest what little I have into something that doesn't pay any returns?

Take it to its logical conclusion and suddenly advertising companies start using my music for free, because it's "good promotion". My music ends up on a film which is free because it's "good promotion". My albums are in the shops and I get to number one on the album charts but I don't get paid a penny because all those sales and all that exposure were "good promotion". I do a bunch of gigs but don't get paid because they were all "good promotion". Music IS good fun but for some of us it's also the way we make a living.

Gigabyte passively cooled Radeon 4850 card

Simon Brown
Thumb Up


If you record music using microphones then this is definitely not pointless. What is pointless is installing thousands of pounds worth of sound-proofing and room isolating hardware, thousands of pounds worth of microphones and properly insulated cabling, air conditioning through ducts so there is no noise in the studio then having your Digital Audio Workstation humming away like a it's accelerating up the M1.

Noise in PCs comes from the PSU fan, the chip fan, the case fan and the graphics chipset fan. Anything to reduce this noise is a boon. Now music software doesn't need a massively powerful graphics card so the card itself would be unlikely to be overly taxed running Cubase or ProTools or whatever software you use. If there was a way to underclock it then so much the better.

Other than this niche market I can't really think of anyone else in desperate need of a silent graphics card though.

Spotify: We kick the tyres

Simon Brown

@Robert E A Harvey

The "record labels" still perform a function which is to fund music. As someone "at the coalface" so to speak, I have limited resources to push my music though a plethora of opportunities. I can put it on myspace along with a million other songs, put it on youtube along with a million other songs, put it on whichever website is the "next big thing" along with a million other artists all scrambling to become the next big thing which most of us won't. I can enter a million competitions where I will be up against the next Arctic Monkeys, a woman who's old enough to know better singing middle of the road "funky pop" in front of a band of bored looking function band musicians and a band that sound kind of like a cross between Radiohead, U2 and Coldplay. We won't win because we sound kind of like a cross between The Band, Ryan Adams and Neil Young.

I can get gigs but only the small ones because, even with a fanbase, no-one's heard of me. I can pay for my own recording but it won't sound as good as something done by a professional producer. I can release it myself but unless I pay for PR it won't get reviewed, I can send it to radio stations but unless I pay for expensive PR it won't get played, I can even send it in to tv stations but unless I spend tens of thousands on PR it will be ignored.

Certainly with this level of exposure I'm unlikely to get a support slot on a tour which would expose the music to a whole new fanbase, I'm unlikely to get reviewed in a decent music magazine and I'm unlikely to make it in the music industry. Unfortunately in your suggestion, the record labels disappear - those would be the guys with the money to invest in a band that they might see has some potential.

I wouldn't even bother writing all this if I didn't think our music was good. I've been a musiciain for 25 years and in my humble opinion am lucky enough to be working with one of the best songwriters I have ever met. He's really good. He runs his own commercial music company and did the music on the malteser ad (with the girls driving round the roundabout) and the Wales tourist board ad (with the welsh mud on the bikes) and the playstation ads with the midgets playing basketball. The music we're playing isn't fashionable but is sellable but probably not in the UK (where we are allergic to folk and country influenced music) and we would probably need a label to get behind us. Don't forget that a lot of the so-called DIY artists today who made it "online" and "without a record company" did no such thing - many of them WERE funded, just not overtly.

For reference we are here: http://www.reverbnation.com/jawbone - your opinion is always welcome. Smiley. Why not?

Vatican endorses Darwin, slights intelligent design

Simon Brown
Paris Hilton


Intelligent design is the resort of a weak mind. How can something so complex happen all by itself? Oh it must be God. Yet perversely enough, intelligent design and creationism in general are antithetical to religion.

Religion can not support intelligent design or creationism because intelligent design has the "hallmark" of a deity. If you have irrefutable proof of the existence of God ergo the existence of God is not a matter of faith.

Evolution on the other hand is easily supportable by religion. One it's there, we can observe it happening. And two it allows life to exist and evolve without God. Therefore believing in evolution doesn't somehow prove God's existence and then destroy the concept of faith. Evolution also doesn't disprove the existence of God, either. Evolution just is.

So how come holy books have stories of creation in them? People have always wanted to know "where do we come from" and "why are we here" and bibles and holy books give them some answers. The may not be the right answers. There may be no right answers. There may also be no wrong answers. Though any answers that say "kill anyone who doesn't agree with this particular set of answers" could probably be construed as being "less right". Stories of creation are surely just that - stories to explain to people how such an intricate and incredible thing as "existing" can happen, let alone the world and life and everything else around us. They're explanations, they may not be correct or factually accurate but then you don't have to believe them if you don't want to. If you could prove the existence of God then you would have to believe in at least one of them. But luckily you can't, not even beyond the balance of probabilities. No doubt that's exactly how God wants it :)

PH - neither correct, nor factually accurate, so probably she's God then...

Parcelforce website cold-shoulders Linux lovers

Simon Brown
Paris Hilton

does this work

If you have an ebay account and paypal account try this:

1.) create second ebay account with address set to whatever destination you need to parcelforce your parcel.

2.) on your main ebay account create a "buy it now" for an item for 1p, with shipping set at £12.

3.) buy this item with the second ebay account.

4.) mark item as paid, pay for postage through paypal.

You can now send using paypal's bulk rates for parcelforce 24 and parcelforce 48 rather than the crap rates you pay as a consumer, plus you will be able to use the paypal / royal mail system to produce the stamp and docs yourself through paypal rather than through parcelfarce.

I'm no fan of paypal / ebay but at least it's crossbrowser. And if that won't make me your BFF I don't know what will ;)

Gimme some (more) money, demand Spinal Tap

Simon Brown
Paris Hilton

happy days

excellent news

Paris Hilton - it's a hotel and you don't have an icon for Edgewater Inn or mudsharks ;)

O2 and Be customers suffer network congestion

Simon Brown

so for those of us

So for those of us willing to pay premium prices - say £50 / month - for properly maintained ADSL2+ service that isn't going to drop like a stone come 6pm, who should we go to. I have 7 months left on my Be contract but after that if there is a better provider who spends money on maintaining their network, I want to "be there" (sorry)

Srsly tho, can anyone recommend ISPs who can offer a reliable fast service?

Asus' angular laptop-of-the-future designs spied

Simon Brown
Thumb Up

It's a laptop - not a notebook

I think it was in Morgan computers (of all places) and I idly asked why laptops are now called "notebooks".

"Well, it's mainly because people are encouraged not to use them on their laps as it blocks the airflow to the vents at the bottom and they overheat. It can even burn your lap."

Cue Asus and a design that lifts the body of the machine off your lap so you can use it as a laptop. Smart.

BT cuts 0870 charges

Simon Brown

@David Edwards


Just make sure you tell saynoto0870.com and keep them updated with your numbers.

The kinds of people who are parochial enough to care that you're out in the styx will be too stupid to look on there. The rest of us will save money :)


Bees on cocaine: The facts

Simon Brown

vaguely trying to take this research seriously

Putting aside the howls of ridiule for a short moment, is it possible to consider that some useful information could come out of this research? They're suggesting that addiction functions even in the primitive brain of a bee. Humans, with far more complex brains, still suffer from addictions, even to stimulants, the reward system must be hard-wired into brains generally. Does this research give the lie to the "it's just will-power" approach to detox? Surely studies in primitive organisms on how to treat withdrawal could inform research on the human brain? Or is it just me that thinks we spend way too little time and money researching treatment for addictions generally? Given how much of our GDP is spent insuring our belongings against thefts carried out by junkies to feed their habits, one wonders why there is such an objection to these scientific studies.


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