* Posts by Doctor Syntax

16426 posts • joined 16 Jun 2014

Boffins turns landfill WinPhones into microscopes

Doctor Syntax Silver badge


Good question. But what do would you want to use a microscope for in such locations?

Education would be one possibility and at school level this approach might be useful.

If, however, you were interested in, say, medical diagnosis you'd probably want something more like regular bench microscope optics. For this you'd need to look at something which ruggedised such optics and for that the McArthur microscope would be a better approach.

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Re: IT vs microscopy

"But I hope nobody from the biological sciences comes by"

Too late, I'm here.

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Re: @Doctor Syntax

Nope. Just an old microscopist. And anyway Leitz were my preferred microscopes.

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What a load of bollocks

"It is the equivalent of an Olympus IX-70 microscope currently selling used for above $10,000 and sold retail for $28,000 machine in 2008."

That microscope is an inverted microscope with fluorescence and phase contrast and high NA dry objectives with correction collars. It's not just a run-of-the-mill bench microscope.

The fluorescence side needs not only suitable light sources but a series of filters, preferably with very sharp cut-offs.

The phase side needs special elements inserted into both objectives and condensers with a mechanism to align the two.

The high numerical aperture lenses are highly corrected for chromatic and spherical aberration and working at such high NA makes such corrections dependant on the thickness of the individual specimen mounts; variations on these are compensated by a correction collar which is rotated to make small adjustments inside the objective. It'll approach about 1000 times useful magnification. The article mentions their toy achieving 120 times.

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Re: Utter garbage...

Indeed. Just to take the illumination point alone. Microscope illumination isn't just providing a light source. It's a complete optical sub-system in its own right and its performance and correct adjustment are essential in getting the best resolution from the viewing optics.

Kiwi company posts job ad for Windows support scammers

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Re: This works?

What? You mean Microsoft don't have prize draws?

Round Two in Sky vs Skype trademark scrap goes to Murdoch's men

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Re: I can't believe (well I can), but all the same...

"you do have to wonder in the end who comes out the winner in the end"

The lawyers.

Good luck displacing Windows 7, Microsoft, it's still growing

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Just thinking out loud

Assuming W10 proves as unpopular as 8 & variants, if you were a PC manufacturer what would you do?

You're selling a combination of hardware & OS. You make the former, which is where your money comes from, but need the latter. If your customers are resisting buying what you make because of the OS over which you've no control what are they doing instead?

To some extent they're not buying at all because what they have does what they need. But at some point stuff breaks & gets replaced so where are the customers going?

Apple? As a seller of integrated packages they control hardware & OS and you're not getting any share of that.

You're going to need to emulate Apple & have some control over what OS you put on the box. There are two - or two and a half - alternatives. One is to band together with the other PC manufacturers to twist Microsoft's arm to come up with something you can sell. Maybe a Windows 11 that looks more like the old stuff, maybe just let you sell Windows 7, possibly with a marketing makeover as Windows Classic. Or you could follow Apple with your own OS based on Linux, BSD, Reactos or the like, either on a go-it-alone basis or, again, banding together with the other PC manufacturers.

If Win10 flops how long have MS got before the manufacturers start thinking along these lines?

Dropbox sets up PO box in Ireland to handle non-US services

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Re: Better serves us? How?

"Given the US' current stance with MS."

It all comes down to the details of the relationship between the US & Irish businesses. In this case it doesn't look too good: US law, service "AS IS" (caps included!) and isn't Condi Rice still on the board?

New Windows 10 will STAGGER to its feet, says Microsoft OS veep

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Re: Will VM work

"Anybody got any better ideas?"

Yup. Save yourself some money, install Linux or a BSD on what you've already got & run the VM on that.

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Re: Missing The Point

"Jensen Harris"

From his blog: "My name is Jensen Harris and I'm the Director of Program Management for the Microsoft Windows User Experience Team."

That speaks volumes. I don't want someone trying to design my user "experience". Just provide a working user interface and I'll provide the experience. "User experience" was a term invented by marketroids so you know nothing good will ever come of it.

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Re: Arse'oles

"Just installed 10074 yesterday."

Likewise. Part of the objective was to test installing FreeBSD as a double boot with a windows partition (that works). I also wanted to see if it would run the one Windows program I occasionally use that I can't run under Wine. The installer is sitting on a file server at There's also a printer at The Win10 box is at with a netmask of and it can't see anything on 192.168.0.x. And forget the incomplete software guff: if it's being released as a preview it should do better than that.

And the interface? Rubbish! Everything is borderless which is fine if everything is full screen, less fine if you have overlapping windows. Scroll bars are very dark grey on black. Windows for Teletubbies was ugly enough, this is much worse. The overall impression is of viewing an unfurnished house. Downloading LibreOffice & Seamonkey started to give it a more lived in appearance but I doubt I'd be persuaded to move in there permanently..

Why OH WHY is economics so bleedin' awful, then?

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Re: The HOW now seems more important than the WHY

I think you need to look further for the root cause. The only reason the junk was saleable was because the interest rates were low and the interest rates were kept low because politicians like Brown deliberately ignored house price inflation by leaving housing costs out of the indices used to determine interest rates*. At one level this was probably to promote a boom and help re-election. I suspect there was a further motive. Low interest rates encouraged more private borrowing and part of that borrowed money came into the exchequer in the form of VAT & stamp duty. So in addition to Brown's stealth taxes he also had stealth borrowing; borrowed money that wasn't on the government's books.

*At the same time a lot of formerly domestic production was being offshored which further reduced inflation and hence interest rates. This, of course, didn't help employment.

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Re: A good question

Agreed. But, assuming that the question was asked of Blair or Brown, it deserved a straight answer. Politicians are in the habit of lying to their electorates because they can get away with it. But the head of state should be answered honestly if only because heads of government need something to make them face facts. Giving such an answer might have required some uncomfortable introspection.

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A good question

And one which deserved a good answer. The growth of credit before the crash seemed unsustainable to me so why did nobody in government - such as a chancellor who seemed to consider himself in economics whizz - think the same? And decide that applying the breaks might have been a good idea?

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Re: Sitting Ducks

"an emergency measure to tide us over a period of unsustainable overpopulation."

So, a continuing emergency, then.

Shields up! Shields up! ASTRONAUTS flying to MARS will arrive BRAIN DAMAGED, boffins claim

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Not really equivalent

Cramming a given dose of radiation into a shorter period of time doesn't allow for any capacity the brain may have for repairing the damage caused by the same dose given at a lower level over a longer period.

Ubuntu to shutter year-old clock unlock bug

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Re: Shortsighted reaction on the side of Canonical

"a limited, admin-granted selection of commands with elevated privileges"

It depends on the circumstances.

If you're thinking of a large installation with a large admin team sliced up so each user can only do limited tasks then that provides a use case for the Ubuntu arrangement.

But Ubuntu is a popular desk-top system. If someone discovers that fred's ordinary password is fl1nst0ne then any time they come across his desk-top unattended they can install their favourite key-logger or whatever. In such a system a 2 factor authentication scheme would be better. Having a single password for logon & sudo is just a single factor used twice. And that's not 2 factor.

"I've never seen a distro that configured it the other way around by default"

That's how I'm using Debian 7 right now.

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Re: Shortsighted reaction on the side of Canonical

"normal users can normally not set the clock and need sudo first to set it"

The actual bug report (follow the mailing list link in the article) starts off with the statement that "Under unity and cinnamon, it is possible for a user to turn off network-syncronized time and then change the time on the system." The implication is that this is possible for an unprivileged user. If so then this certainly is a bug. Not only does it enable the privilege escalation that the bug report goes on to describer, it makes one wonder if the code underlying this enables other functions that should be impossible for an unprivileged user.

I can't say I was ever happy with the Ubuntu version of sudo. It uses the user's own password to gain superuser access providing the user is in the sudoers list. An unprivileged user who learns such a password instantly gets admin access. It's always seemed preferable to me that a second password, that of root, should be needed.

iOS and Android apps on Windows 10: How is this supposed to work?

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Re: I just love it

"What?, an Android environment where you easily drag .apks onto the phone is bad for MS?...wasn't this about making the consumer's life easier?"

I think there's a clue in the article: "While it is possible that the app could just work, it is likely that some customization will be needed."

I don't think having consumers do the customisation would be making their lives easier. Even if there's a long MS tradition of having them do user testing of even numbered releases ;)

BATWINGED DINO-PIGEON causes FLAP in bone-boffinry circles

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Subjective titles

The other day a specimen was enigmatic, now it's bizarre. Nature seems to be allowing subjective descriptions in papers' titles. Is nothing immune from marketroids?

Free markets aren't rubbish – in fact, they solve our rubbish woes

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Re: rare to see a discarded drink container anywhere

"Although generally opposed to the death penalty, I believe no good case has been made for not stringing up people"

It doesn't have to be the death penalty. It just depends on the part of the anatomy by which you string them up.

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Re: We could have dedicated networks of rag-and-bone men

"He, most politically incorrectly, simply notes that there's a sizeable gypsy population and they do it all for us without anyone having to pay council tax."

Not quite the same thing but when we lived in High Wycombe there was a thriving, and clearly approved, trading operation going on at the local dump. As soon as you opened the car boot whatever you were taking there would be removed & checked for anything possibly saleable (it was wise to make sure you didn't have anything in there that you weren't intending to dump).

After we'd subsequently moved to Huddersfield (Labour controlled council, obviously against anything resembling private enterprise) and saw an item in the local paper about someone being prosecute for removing stuff from the skips. I wonder which council had the greatest land-fill per head.

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Re: When I was a kid

@ Neil Barnes

I was a bit further up country in Ben Shaws territory. But in the early 60s I was off to University & we had a bar in halls so empties didn't come into it. Clearly memory is playing me false (it does these days ;) as to date but the principle still applies: once the recycling costs exceed those of replacement nobody's interested.

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Re: When I was a kid

That system seemed to die out in the UK about 1960ish. AFAIK the cost of sorting the bottles, cleaning them & putting them back into the bottle-filling system was more than the cost of buying and using new bottles.

New EU security strategy: Sod cyber terrorism, BAN ENCRYPTION

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When will they realise..

...that strong encryption software is out there in the wild and has been for the last couple of decades? Yes, you can ban in in commercial products & put everyone's banking transactions at risk. No, you can't ban criminal organisations from rolling their own applications using technology that's already available to them.

Criminal organisations are criminal because they're already doing illegal things. They're not going to stop doing illegal things because you make encryption illegal.

Paranoid about the NSA? The case for dumping cloud's Big 3

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Keep ISP & other services separate

I've changed ISP twice due to the original companies being bought up by other companies who were either cr@p or whom I didn't trust. The first time round I had ISP-provided email so I had to find another provider which, of course, meant changing my email address. Now I have separate email providers & ISP. That means less upheaval when changing ISP if that were to be needed again.

If I were to keep data on someone else's computer I'd apply the same approach: why have the hassle of migrating data because the ISP loses its ISP competence? Come to that, why have the hassle of changing ISP because they lose their competence to manage storage?

WHY can't Silicon Valley create breakable non-breakable encryption, cry US politicians

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OK, let's assume it could be done

If such a system were devised and mandated for appliances on sale in the US, UK or wherever what good would it do? The complaints tell us that there are unbreakable cyphers already out there. So if I were a criminal wanting to communicate with my organisation what would I do?

1. Rent a server somewhere out of reach.

2. One of the unbreakable cyphers to encrypt the message with a suitable key (see below).

3. Wrap the encrypted message up as data within a decryption program to make a file which will self-decrypt once supplied with the key (cf self-unzipping files) and post to the server. For extra points make the file install a selection of nasty malware if supplied with the wrong key.

4. Organisation members download, supply they key, read the message & then delete.

5. The key would be some innocent looking message gleaned from the net by some agreed method. For instance if the intended recipient were a British Muslim of Pakistani origin the key might be taken from a forum specialising in Pakistani cricket. The sender would select some suitably long post, find a comment to it and post a reply under an agreed handle. The key wouldn't be anything the sender wrote but a perfectly innocent message some distance removed. If the recipient were in IT the key could be the first page of Dabbsie's weekly offering.

The recipients would need to exercise some communications discipline, downloading from open wifi, downloading key & message from separate access points etc.

Maybe the scheme is already in use with amanfrommars's posts as they key. It would explain a lot.

The significant point is that encryption technology is generally available. Constraining commercial products to use something broken doesn't inhibit its use by those who want to be secure. Making its use illegal would have no effect. If you're already doing illegal things are you really going to be put off by having your communication channels made illegal? The only people who will be affected are the innocent users of commercial products who will have their privacy invaded.

Why recruiters are looking beyond IT's traditional talent pool

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"In the 1960s the UK computer industry had no IT graduates to recruit. So they took all-comers - from "A" Level to PhD in all subjects."

And not necessarily the '60s either. In the mid-'80s my team at one point consisted of a botanist, a geologist, a zoologist and a CS graduate who I think would have preferred to have been an astronomer.

The Government Digital Service: The Happiest Place on Earth

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"Loosemore also drew on former BBC associates."

That explains at least some of it.

"Most of the great stuff in GDS"

Surely there's something wrong with this phrase.

Have Oetti and Google kissed and made up?

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"However, the real payoff for customers is the money-back guarantee for unused data capacity."

Unused data capacity? Will there be such a thing or will Google simply fill all available bandwidth with ads?

So how should we tax these BASTARD COMPANIES, then?

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Re: "The things that actually seem to work in making the poor richer."

"they're the ones who can afford to buy shares"

<Sigh> How many times do we have to say this? Do you have a company or private pension? Do you have life insurance? Then directly or not you're a shareholder. Unless you're without these benefits then instead of saying "the ones who can afford to buy shares" or the like, say "me". When you do that, does it sound any different?

Yes, I know there are people who are likely to come along and say they're fed up with comments like this but it needs to be repeated until it sinks in.

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Re: Tax assets instead of profits

"tax the gross assets"

How does that work out in terms of equability between a capital intensive and a labour intensive business?

Stuff your RFID card, just let me through the damn door!

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Could you send the bloke with the circular saw round here. I've got some concrete pavers I need to get cut.

Here's why the Pentagon is publishing its cyber-warfare rulebook – if China hasn't already hacked in and read it

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And which of these rules lead to this action http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/04/24/bnd_nsa_spying_collaboration ?

Rackspace in Crawley: This is a local data centre for local people

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"Anyone with a legal background willing to have a go at that one?"

IANAL but as ever the devil is in the detail. A quick look at Webcheck shows an E&W company Rackspace Ltd. Who owns this? Are all the officers of the company UK citizens? What is the legal relationship with the US company? Are the agreements which create that relationship with the US company under English law? Do the agreements forbid handing over customers' data to anyone except the customers unless ordered to do so by an English court?

These are the sort of questions that any customer's legal department should be asking of any hosting company with whom they are thinking of doing business.

UK rail signals could be hacked to cause crashes, claims prof

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Re: Meaningful

"Are they really gonna (attempt to) establish UPS's along *the whole system?"

Would that they were. I recall a miserable journey from Marylebone to High Wycombe via Aylesbury because the wrong type of diesel was in the signalling system's generator tank.

Surveillance, broadband, zero hours: Tech policy in a UK hung Parliament

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Re: What about skills?

Simple regulation: import one, train one.

Licence to chill: Ex-CIA spyboss Petraeus gets probation for leaking US secrets to his mistress

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Re: Bernard was right

I remain astounded at how well 'Yes [Prime] Minister' nailed it - and that it all remains so apt after all these years.

Microsoft: Profit DECIMATED because you people aren't buying PCs

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Re: Guess what happens

"I think it's more that the vast majority just buy what OEMs install."

And that's probably part of the problem. If the customer doesn't like what the OEM installs then they're less likely to buy. If MS only allow the OEM to install what the customer doesn't want then we see a slump in both PC & MS sales. MS blames the PC sales slump for their own low sales but to some extent that slump might be a thing of their own making.

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"Why always the push for year on year growth?"

That's the analyst's expectations bit.

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Re: and the reality is......

" results beat analyst expectations"

This is an ambiguous phrase. It can mean anything between "hugely more profitable" and "the administrators haven't moved in...yet".

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Re: Guess what happens

"But the vast majority just buy what is available at the time."

Or hold off buying hoping the next one will be better.

Fukushima nuke plant owner told to upgrade from Windows XP

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Re: For this kind of thing ...

BSD on the desktops as well?

PS. Can we have a BSD icon as well as the penguin?

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The usual situation with some of these surviving XP boxes is that they're the only platform that will run some legacy process control stuff that nobody can afford to update. But you'd expect someone running nuclear installations wouldn't be in that position. Wouldn't you?

Singapore's PM personally programmed C++ Suduko-solver

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Re: Now there's a politician I could vote for

Let's be fair here. ATM I'd settle for them knowing that HTML & Word don't count.

It's official: David Brents are the weakest link in phishing attacks

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Re: Just thinking ...

"We see a disproportionate number of new staff falling prey to phishing, usually the ones who haven't yet been to an induction day."

There's an obvious fix for that. Do I really need to spell it out?

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Re: Time for a Register checklist?

"Does the mail have a lot of typos or grammatical errors"

But can the recipient recognise these?

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Time for training

Engage an outside agency to send emails with such dubious links which, when clicked, order the recipient to report to security PDQ. When they do that they will receive a good bollocking. The second time they're told to clear their desk & report to security.

Google pulls plug on YouTube for older iPads, iPhones, smart TVs

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Re: Its pass the book time.

I think in this case the manufacturers are in the right. They sold a product that handled specific services - it didn't provide the services. You might just as well complain about the manufacturer of an analogue TV that stopped working when analogue was switched off. Having said that, would I have bought a smart TV? No. The smarts here are provided by MythTV.

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