* Posts by steelpillow

557 posts • joined 16 Jun 2016


Dual-screen laptops debut at Asus' Computex chat

steelpillow Silver badge


"When you run the ScreenPad, the touchpad won’t work"

I've got a great idea. Put up a virtual screenpad as an overlay in the main screen. This will allow the touchpad to work as accustomed. The virtual screenpad could even be made moveable so you can position it where you like.

All it needs is a snappy name - a "window" perhaps?

'Tesco probably knows more about me than GCHQ': Infosec boffins on surveillance capitalism

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: The Real Threat is State Seizure of Corporate Surveillance Data

Not really

"the only credible protection against State abuse"

is democracy and transparency.

The UK government has a modicum of both and is broadly improving over time.

Frankly I'd rather see my data in their hands than in those of the dot-coms. Just how much democracy and transparency do those dirty little moneygrubbers aspire to?

Your F-35s need spare bits? Computer says we'll have you sorted in... a couple of years

steelpillow Silver badge

Turkey shooting

Trump will have banned all high-grade military exports to Turkey by the time the maintenance facility is ready to open for business.

It will take another fifteen years for the address of the Turkish facility to be expunged from every last auto-despatch pivot table.

You should find out what's going on in that neural network. Y'know they're cheating now?

steelpillow Silver badge

recursive obscurity

Neural nets are like people, "I don't know how I came up with it, I just did" is an intrinsic characteristic of both.

If we analyse and understand how a particular neural net has learned its stuff, the next-generation net will just use that knowledge to drive the next level of impenetrable learning.

You've heard that pop will eat itself. Boffins have unveiled a rocket that does the same

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: Not new

" The problem of directing the thrust thus produced, and avoiding also combusting the payload, has however proven hard to solve."

This rocket has a relatively conventional combustion chamber with convergent (and, in practice -divergent) nozzle to direct the thrust in the usual way. Steering also needs adding, as it does for any rocket, and is a mature technology. A non-combustible stub between the payload and the fuel rod should protect the former from combustion.

But sending a plastic spear through an oxygen-rich atmosphere at high Mach number may prove less practicable.

Uber robo-ride's deadly crash: Self-driving car had emergency braking switched off by design

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: Brian Miller

"I'd like to (probably being the first) to point out how well this system appears to work. I couldn't spot that cyclist until probably half a second before impact."

YouTube is a poor substitute for being there. Having nearly hit several cyclists during my many decades of driving in all conditions, and having been actually hit by a car and narrowly avoided others during my cycling years, I can vouch that cyclists are a darn sight more visible than YouTube would suggest. I once stopped dead in a one-way street because a dozy kid stepped out right in front of me without looking. But I was alert and watching the pedestrians, I stopped literally with my front wheel over his toes but not quite touching. The first thing he saw was my front wing where his legs ought to be. Oh, the comical expression of surprise on his face! Had he been a cyclist high on drugs, I would still have been ready. OTOH I confess I once nearly killed a cyclist, but that was because I was in a hurry and broke the rules to (literally) cut a corner. Luckily the cyclist was alert and managed to avoid me. So I have been there from all sides.

A vehicle driver must always drive so that they can stop in the distance they know to be clear. If the conditions are too dark to see clearly then you must slow down until you can stop within your own narrow puddle of light. If you do not slow down in poor visibility then you are driving dangerously.

OK not everybody is that competent a driver, but that is just the kind of human failing that auto systems are intended to fix. But Uber baked the shitty drivers in by design. That is a FAIL in any language.

RAF Air Command to take on UK military space ops

steelpillow Silver badge


Now that the opportunity for the UK to participate in some hypothetical European Defence Force has been totally lost, I can see little point in trying to wrest our F-35 super-jets from the (OMG!) potentially hostile control of GPS. I mean, that must be the least of the ways the Yanks could stuff the things if they so chose. Not that they need much help, from the sound of things...

Intel’s first 10nm CPU is a twin-core i3 destined for a mid-range Lenovo

steelpillow Silver badge


"This has a whiff of 'we were going for 4 core but nearly all the dies failed QA'"

Indeed. Too often bleeding-edge fab has been launched with a bleeding-edge chip so full of manufacturing flaws that the business suffered badly. 10 nm is probably still experiencing more than its fair share of quality issues and yields will be very low. A more challenging chip is asking for trouble, while this little dullard can easily be swapped out for an older device if yields fail to meet orders. Meantime it serves to help shake down the fab line.

Microsoft returns to Valley of Death? Cheap Surface threatens the hardware show

steelpillow Silver badge

The elephant in the room

Checkout chromebook sales and trends this last quarter. There's even a "Chromebook" branded tablet now. Who gives a damn whether Apple or Microsoft is the worse value any more?

You've been Zucked: Facebook boss refuses to face-off with Brit MPs

steelpillow Silver badge

It's the politics, stupid

This particular fuss is not about Facebook as such - that is being dealt with in slow time via correspondence. It's about the rule of law and accountability to the People of the UK, through our elected representatives.

If the little Zucker doesn't like the heat, he should zuckin' well get out of the kitchen.

Sort your spending habits out, UK Ministry of Defence told over £20bn black hole

steelpillow Silver badge


The obvious answer is to outsource the MoD under a tower contract. I expect an Indian or Chinese company would win (Kind of like the old East India Company in reverse). It would save the taxpayer untold billions. What could possibly go wrong?

AWS won serverless – now all your software are kinda belong to them

steelpillow Silver badge

"As Amazon's serverless ecosystem grows, the more metadata it can mine."

But can it mine as much as Google?

Fitness band-it Garmin adds mobe bank Starling to bonk-to-pay fold

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: "How "smart" does a "smartwatch" have to be?"

Smart enough to know when it has been bonked by a passer-by with an evil payment terminal.

UK.gov expects auto auto software updates won't involve users

steelpillow Silver badge


If a car suffers mechanical breakdown it gets bricked, but if a safety modification becomes available the driver has to bring the car in at their convenience. It is not a case of rushing to the nearest service centre regardless.

If a driver suffers a health incident, say a migraine or a heart tremor, they have to take the decision whether to continue the journey. It is not a case of calling an ambulance regardless.

Insured parties do not dicker over these things.

Why should software be different?

Road-related icon ------->

Google's socially awkward geeks craft socially awkward AI bot that calls people for you

steelpillow Silver badge

Re. "The software pretends to be you, or act for you"...

But will its word be an enforceable contract? Who pays for the consequences of bugs? What happens if it makes a call and gets another one at the other end? How long before it gets hacked?

"Where's all my spondoolicks?"

"You called me yesterday and told me to transfer $10,000,000 to an offshore bank account."

"No I didn't"

"Oh, yes you did!"

"Oh, no I didn't!"


Exercise for the student: in the above conversation, is either or both of these interlocutors a Google bleepy thing?

Exercise for the advanced student: continue the following conversation:

"Hi, Darling."

"Hi, Mommy!"

"Sweetheart, can you stop by the drugstore on your way home? There's a man in a black sedan who has got something for me."


Windows Notepad fixed after 33 years: Now it finally handles Unix, Mac OS line endings

steelpillow Silver badge

Admission of defeat

So, Windows is just another system in a world full of systems, it is no longer Master of the Universe. Consumers have caught up with reality at long, long last.

Long may the slow slide into oblivion continue, it was - and still is - the crappiest environment I ever had the "privilege" to use.

UK Ministry of Justice knocks down towers, brings IT BACK in-house

steelpillow Silver badge

Tower of tickboxes

Tower contracts are bollocks, they are just a layer of tickbox bureaucracy on top of the subcontracts that the prime contractor was going to put out anyway. And like all tickbox bureaucracy, the sharpest player wins and the original purpose is the loser.

The danger is that bringing it back in-house will reawaken all the old internal demons that the tower was built to keep locked away in its dungeons.

AI crisis: Sony reports shortage of cute robot puppies!

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: Cheap compared to a real puppy

"I wonder how long before the IoT device (face it that is what it is) is hacked and becomes a Trojan horse."

"Hi Aibo, you're behaving real subdued today, why the long face?"

steelpillow Silver badge

Academic research

Academic researchers latched on to the original as a cheap standard robotic platform which multiple AI researchers could use as a baseline in comparing their results. Around the world they were committing an increasing number of new research programmes around it when Sony, unaware of this imminent revenue stream, pulled the plug.

Let's hope that doesn't happen again.

Waymo van prang, self-driving cars still suck, AI research jobs, and more

steelpillow Silver badge

Dumb drivers

In the end, it doesn't matter how dumb the mistakes made by self-drive cars are. The only thing that matters is that they cause fewer accidents and injuries per mile than human drivers do.

Pentagon in uproar: 'China's lasers' make US pilots shake in Djibouti

steelpillow Silver badge

Regulate laser pointers

Handheld laser pointers need to be regulated as an offensive weapon. Write an international safety standard for them - lose focus slowly over distance, limit beam strength. Require a license to use more powerful kit unless it is securely locked into position in an unwieldly installation, etc.

Sir Clive Sinclair dragged into ZX Spectrum reboot battle

steelpillow Silver badge

the genuine Sinclair experience

Despatch of the first batch will be claimed to have gone out on the Indiegogo deadline, although proof will be thin. When it finally arrives it will be nothing like either the Vega+ or the Vega+ V2. Connectors will be super-cheapo and unreliable bits of bent metal, while cables to plug into them will cost extra and the controls will be similarly cheap and nasty, feeling more like a dead frog on its back than anything else.

The instruction manual supplied will tell you how to repeat Senor Galvani's experiments to make the frog twitch into pseudo-life, and will promise a galvanizer kit in the near future.*



* This will be a re-badged BOFH cattle prod.

Whoa, Gartner drops a truth bomb: Blockchain is overhyped and top IT bods don't want it

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: Elon Musk Response


steelpillow Silver badge


Evidently Gartner do indeed read The BOFH.

Icon for Mr. Travaglia's insider trading knowledge.

NASA demos little nuclear power plant to help find little green men

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: So basically....

"Nuclear fuel is VERY cheap and long-lasting, so there's little point in saving it...."

Funnily enough, not.

A nuclear reactor works by bunching the atoms together so their decay products bash into the next one, drastically increasing the natural rate of decay and hence also the heat output. Nuclear reactors last a few decades at most and even then they need the odd fuel change along the way. Damping it down with the moderating rod/s will extend its life considerably.

If you want a hundred-year-plus life from your radioactive gunk, then you have to keep it diluted and the wick turned waaay down - and the best way to pull energy from that is to use it in an ion engine.

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: Hmm...

You beat me to it while I was struggling (and failing) to come up with a good CLOWN acronym.

Why does the world need the new 'Arkraino' network edge stack'?

steelpillow Silver badge

Where are the Western telcos?

Most of the supporters already signed up are Chinese. Are the other Western telcos slow to wake up or is this the drawing-up of battle lines?

Irish High Court slams Facebook's conduct, smacks down bid to drag out data probe

steelpillow Silver badge

Getting the feeling

Why do I get the feeling that programming skills and a bright idea are no training in international law or diplomacy?

And why do I get the feeling that the dot com billionaires are too arrogant to get it?

Blighty: If EU won't let us play at Galileo, we're going home and taking encryption tech with us

steelpillow Silver badge


The UK could cut a deal with India to join their NAVIC system and extend its coverage. Would be cheaper than developing our own. Would be a nice plug for Commonwealth solidarity, too. Far too sensible to ever happen :(

Take-off crash 'n' burn didn't kill the Concorde, it was just too bloody expensive to maintain

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: Olympus engines Costs

The long and protracted development cycle, which our anonymous coward describes, well illustrates the shortcomings of the original subsonic Olympus for the task. Not all of them could be fixed by incremental redesign and the end result was not as low-maintenance or as well-integrated as a clean-sheet engine could have been.

Concorde was indeed efficient in supersonic cruise, but anti-noise legislation forced it to spend a lot more time subsonically than anticipated, and here neither the airframe nor the engine was efficient. And that of course would have affected a clean-sheet engine just as much.

But really, there is a better place for this discussion - see icon.

steelpillow Silver badge


The main cost problem was the Olympus engines. Originally built for the 1950s Avro Vulcan bomber, they were uprated and adapted for supersonic use by Concorde. Not only are military engines traditionally far more maintenance-hungry than civil, but the tacked-on afterburner was not as efficient a solution as a clean-sheet design would have been. Had investment for a new engine been available, operating costs would have been substantially lower.

Then, the insistence on subsonic flight over land (based on grossly exaggerated but fashionable claims of destructive shock waves - fake news is nothing new) made most of its routes convoluted and uneconomic.

Yet another cost problem was that because of these things, not enough were in use to make the support organisation economic. The usual solution in these cases (Lockheed TriStar, de Havilland Comet, etc. etc.) is to convert them to a military role. Concorde might have made a cheap alternative to the SR-71 or B-1, but nobody wanted to know.

Nevertheless, in its heyday when finally freed from political interference, Concorde did manage to turn in an operating profit.

The real killer was that time ran out and giving it a facelift to extend its life into the modern age would have been too expensive.

We just wanna torque: Spinning transfer boffins say torque memory near

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: Safe around magnets?

As safe as any other magnetic memory, which is to say safe enough for most purposes.

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: I didn't understand most of this article

Spin is a quantum property of electrons (and, of course, almost by definition nobody understands that). The spins of electrons trapped in a material affect its magnetic properties. If they are all aligned they turn it into a magnet. Align them a different way and the magnetic field changes.

As any mechanical engineer will tell you, to change the spin of anything you have to apply a spin force called torque. By applying torque directly to the electrons in a magnetic memory cell you can change their spin and hence its magnetic field. All you then need to do is sense the magnetic field to read its state, and you have a viable memory cell.

The neat thing about this trick is that it uses less energy and less space than other more blunt-force methods of changing the magnetic field.

There's a lot more underlying tech to make it actually work, but I hope this helps

Firefox to feature sponsored content as of next week

steelpillow Silver badge

Extensions and stuff

Presumably an extension will quickly appear to disable this horror. Maybe an upgrade to AdBlock Plus, maybe a new one.

But when I look at the growing list of privacy and UX extensions I have installed, with accompanying pain every time I set up a new PC, the search for an alternative is beginning to creep closer,

Meanwhile I notice Linus is not yet accepting commercial backdoors and data leaks into his OS kernel, nor is GNU building adware into Grub or Gnome, and they don't seem to be suffering a dearth of sponsorship.

Mozilla is not and never can be a Google, Apple or Microsoft. It originally gained its sponsorship from certain quarters precisely because it was the healthy alternative. It grew dominant for a short time only because it was outperforming the overly-complacent commercial competition and that is unlikely to happen again. If it fails in its traditional role then its backers will all pick one of the many willing replacements lurking around.

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: The problem lies deeper

"If Mozilla would just have said "no" to new web standards more often, those standards wouldn't have gotten off the ground and nobody would have had to implement them."

More likely, Mozilla would have fallen behind its commercially-driven competitors and faded away. Amazon is about the only shopping site left that I can use with javascript disabled, and one wonders how long that can last.

That Brexit in action: UK signs pact to let Euro court judge its patents

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: EPO not an EU body

EPO membership is closer to that of the European Economic Area, i.e. the EU plus EFTA. It is not sovereign in the laws that it proposes, but must try to make laws which are compatible with those of its member states. I cannot imagine us deserting it. If the UK does need to renegotiate membership (IANAL), this will be a mere formality.

In its internal affairs however, it is pretty much a law unto itself, a certain "King Batistelli" being a particular thorn in its side at the moment. It is currently in even more chaos over him than we are over Brexit. ISTR he is the one who is championing the hob-nailed boot treatment of German employment rights - the German challenge certainly has its anti-Batistelli dimension.

But hey, roll on the kneejerk stereotypes born of ignorance, who needs a reality check when you have a topical prejudice to air.

High Court gives UK.gov six months to make the Snooper's Charter lawful

steelpillow Silver badge

So it goes

"You just broke EU law."

"But we stopped doing that ages ago, m'Lud."

"Your new stuff still breaks EU law."

"Yes we know, but we are working on it, m'Lud. Please can we have a bit more time?"

"No. [Pause] Erm, is this the UK Government case or the Facebook case?"

"The Google case, Your Honour."

And so it goes

BOFH: Guys? Guys? We need blockchain... can you install blockchain?

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: Familiar...

"I was expecting the BOfH to simply set every server in the datacentre to Bitcoin mining, perhaps after judiciously adding £10,000 of graphics cards to the budget, and then wait until people noticed and complained. Then of course blame the boss's blockchain project."

Oh, I think he did that a long time ago. Only he didn't blame the project, he blamed the boss in person. Meet the new boss.

We wanted a camera, they gave us the eye of Gemini – and an eSIM

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: Dr Janko Mrsic-Flogel

Same one, ISTR. However the team as a whole is a lot stronger and one gaffe is forgiveable.*









* except when playing Scrabble, of course.

steelpillow Silver badge

So the Gemini doesn't have a twin...the irony of this is not lost on me

Since any twin would be a load of Pollux, I for one am quite grateful.

Don’t fight automation software for control, just turn it off. FAST

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: I know that military aircraft...

"Why this isn't a mandatory safety feature on ALL autopilots is a mystery"

The risk of pilots aspiring to the Mile-High Club and accidentally knocking the stick with a flailing limb while not actually sat at the controls? A bad time to disengage autopilot.

UK spy agency warns Brit telcos to flee from ZTE gear

steelpillow Silver badge


Looks like the Chinese will just have to go through the Management Engine like everybody else.

GCHQ boss calls out Russia for 'industrial scale disinformation'

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: plus ça change ...

The social media's appetite for fake news is a real problem today. It actually spreads faster than the truth, and having just discovered that our boffins are busy building the funding case to find out why. Old-style propaganda and the Big Lie play straight into the modern game.

I for one much prefer a little small-time bending of the rules by GCHQ's almost-democratic sponsor than the industrial-scale thuggery of the alternatives.

UK rocket-botherers rattle SABRE, snaffle big bucks

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: That's good, but...

This time round, both of the original 1980's HOTOL backers, B.Ae and R-R, are now back on board. There are also at least two venture capitalists (aka "investment houses") in the new deal. So Boeing and DARPA have some stiff competition right from the word go.

As for jet airliners, the German company Blohm & Voss had a project lined up for the moment WWII ended - if it had gone the other way they'd have been a decade ahead of the 707.

But I do agree about computers - great names like Mullard, Ferranti, Marconi and ICL should not have been squashed into the ground.

Aw, all grown up: Mozilla moves WebAssembly into sparsely furnished Studio apartment

steelpillow Silver badge


Why don't we pour EVERYTHING into the sandbox? Stand up the whole OS, add a hardware virtualization layer, give it its own non-volatile memory allocation and stuff. You could then boot straight into the browser on a secure platform architecture.

Oh, wait...

Google wants to gobble up Nokia's airborne broadband biz – reports

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: Why?

I can understand Google liking the idea of a comms standard with their own backdoor baked in, but I cannot really understand Nokia throwing away the chance to be the go-to supplier.

steelpillow Silver badge


Sounds like Nokia must be short of money again.

Gemini: Vulture gives PDA some Linux lovin'

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: Why

Things I used to hammer my old S5 on:

1. Voice notes to myself while on the move.

2. Email

3. Typed notes, from shopping lists to maybe a couple of pages of a book, whatever, also while on the move.

4. Graphics. Yes, drawing on a touchscreen is a massive experience the world will one day wake up to. Was THE killer app for my kids.

5. Reading bigger documents, spreadsheets, etc.

6. Web browsing (even monochrome was better than nothing).

Presumably we can add integrated phone/video, movies, camera, voice transcription and all the other reasons we never put down our smartphones.

And you ask why!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

steelpillow Silver badge


The rear camera is an optional extra. I ordered one but am still waiting for both PDA and camera. From the spec it appears to have no better resolution that the front, but it should be enough for say an A4 document or a party moment.

Will be interesting to see how much second/third-run hardware does or doesn't improve over the first.

Those Linux install tools have to be ported though, I don't have a Windows box in the place.

But I do have a Chromebook and it has similar compatibility issues. I tend to write stuff on it as text files, sync via my Dropbox and then copy-paste into LibreOffice when back at the desk, it's quicker than slugging the Chromebook. But the effin' thing don't fit in my coat pocket!

Googlers revolt over AI military tech contract, brainiacs boycott killer robots, and more

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: Paranoid lunatics...

Not according to the industrial robot that tried to kill me today while I was fixing it :D

That's because you are not a bureaucrat. Just you try approving anything that risks letting a killer bot near one of them.

Oh, hey, now there's an idea! Can Alexa or Siri simulate a fellow bureaucrat convincingly yet? Just arrange a meeting in Conference Room 13 and bingo!


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