* Posts by Philo T Farnsworth

116 publicly visible posts • joined 27 Jul 2023


Tesla shareholders agree to pay Musk staggering sum of $48B

Philo T Farnsworth

Not real money

It's useful to bear in mind that while on the face of it, $46 billion is a lot of money, that it is, as I understand it, not real money.

It's stock shares.

And, as one can easily observe, stock shares can go up and most assuredly go down.

Stock shares only become money when you sell them. Until then, they're just entries in a ledger.

I have a friend who, during the 1990s dot-com bubble, was a principal in a startup which got bought out by a multinational corporation for a seemingly large pile of money. Most of that large pile was in stock in the multinational, stock that could not be sold for some period of time after the transaction closed, as I understand it.

My friend was suddenly a multimillionaire. . . on paper.

The stock market, however, had other ideas and, shortly thereafter, the stock tanked to pennies on the dollar and my friend got close to wiped out.

I own stocks but don't ever bother to look at their share prices since they're essentially irrelevant to how I live my life, financially or otherwise.

As Douglas Adams's character Roosta put it, "I prefer hard cash. If you can't scratch a window with it, I don't accept it."

Waymo issues software fix after driverless taxi hits telephone pole

Philo T Farnsworth

Recall notice

God is recalling all humans created after "The Fall" for software upgrades that will prevent them from driving while drunk, while angry at their spouses or lovers, while distracted by kids squabblilng in the back seat, or just failing to pay attention to what the heck is going on around them on the road. The upgrades will also include strict adherence to speed limits, coming to a full stop at stop signs, and not gunning it to make it through the interection on the tail end of the yellow.

Teenage males will also have testosterone levels reduced to reduce the incidents of stupid stunts while behind the wheel.

The package also includes software changes to bicyclists preventing them from running stop signs and generally requiring them to follow the rules of the road, since traffic laws apply to them, as well.

The recall process should be complete at or about the heat death of the universe.

Dr Ed Stone, former director of JPL, Voyager project scientist, dies at 88

Philo T Farnsworth

You may as well ask why Elon Musk gets all the press and glory every time one of his rockets flies or why General Eisenhower got all the accolades on D-Day and not the grunts who bled and died on the beach.

All of these projects are team efforts and there are people at the top leading them. Some are more deserving of accolades than others, I suppose.

A story about a "grunt."

My partner's father was an electrical engineer, specializing in things like thermistors (temperature sensitive resistors). The smallish company he worked at was contracted by NASA to supply said thermistors for the Apollo spacecraft (I'm not sure which part -- but I suspect the command module) and it was his job to design the component to the specs provided.

My partner tells me that her father sweated and chewed his nails during every Apollo flight, from launch to splashdown, worrying that he'd made some mistake that would jeapordize the mission.

When he passed away a number of years ago, there were no headlines or obits in all the tech journals. He was just a person doing a job to the best of his ability alongside thousands of others, each making a contribution to the whole.

But I'd like to think he smiled and hoisted a pint at the completion of every Apollo flight, even Apollo 11, knowing that his part did its job in getting the astronauts there and back.

Perhaps that's enough.

You be the judge.

PayPal is planning an ad network built off your purchase history

Philo T Farnsworth

Re: You just bought a kettle...

I don't personally use PayPal but I mentioned it at dinner last night to my partner, who sells tat on eBay and thus pretty much has to use PayPal.

Her reaction, sadly, was "Meh. They're already tracking us anyway."

Make of that what you will.

As for me, it's too early to start drinking. Or perhaps too late.

Was there no one at Microsoft who looked at Recall and said: This really, really sucks

Philo T Farnsworth

Re: Maybe everyone DID point out "This really, really sucks"

This does indeed sound like a bonanza for cops of every jurisdiction, from the Feds down to the local PD (Non-US readers substitute your own constabularies).

It also seems like a bonanza for blackmailers.

Send someone an email containing an incriminating attachment -- say some CSAM -- and then, viola, they've got something saved on their computer that can send them to the pokey for a good number of years. Try proving that you're innocent (see the Horizon scandal). Pay up or we call the cops on you.

I don't have a particularly devious mind and I'm fairly certain that more twisted minds than mine can come up with uglier variations on the theme.

BOFH: Come on down to the dunge– erm … basement

Philo T Farnsworth


I have to admit I expected a variation on "The Cask of Amontillado" myself.

Though being entombed alive in the catacombs is probably preferable to sharing space with a VAX 11/750.

"The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge. . ."

Bing and Copilot fall from the clouds around the world

Philo T Farnsworth

Re: problems at 0846 UTC

I can confirm that DuckDuckGo had a quack-up this morning, somewhere around 0600 Pacific Daylight Time (California), UTC -0700.

I recall reading somewhere, probably here in The Register, that they used Bing as their actual search engine.

So you've built the best tablet, Apple. Show us why it matters

Philo T Farnsworth

@CowHorseFrog: "People see many things, we all see shit in the toilet before we flush, doesnt mean we rush out to buy more."

You don't buy food? I'm impressed.

Philo T Farnsworth

Congratulations on your ability not to sneak a peek at a road accident.

Clearly, you're not the target audience.

And, even so, you've obviously *heard* of the ad and are interested enough in the subject to comment, which is 99.99 percent as good as seeing it.

Philo T Farnsworth

People who are outraged by an ad of which they've heard tons on negative press in the media?

Made you look, didn't it?

While I'm not privy to Apple's marketing decisions (disclosure: I own a small amount of Apple stock in my retirement portfoilio but not enough to make me even close to wealthy), I certainly wouldn't be surprised if this whole brouhaha (ha ha ha!) turned out to be a beautiful bit of marketing sleight of hand.

The op ed suggests Apple buy a days worth of ads on the telly -- which everyone would *loathe*, even the die hard fanbois and grrls, after approximately the second showing.

This way, they get the entire tech world to kvetch and moan and everyone seeks out the darned thing on their own volition. Genius.

For reasons too complicated to elaborate here, in a long running project, I've been tracking celebrity apologies for about the last twenty years and I've noticed that whenever some singer or actor has a new album about to drop or movie coming out, they do something mildly embarassing and then apologize for it, grabbing a nice little flurry of publicity, usually with an obligatory mention of whatever project they're currently hyping.

Almost like it was planned.

See also Chris Rock/Will Smith and/or Taylor Swift/Kanye West.

Uncle Sam to inject $50M into auto-patcher for hospital IT

Philo T Farnsworth

I'm amused by the subhed on this story

"Boffins, why not simply invent an algorithm that autonomously fixes flaws, thereby ending ransomware forever"

Then, of course, when flaws are found in the algorithm that "autonomously fixes flaws" we'll roll out an "algorithm that autonomously fixes flaws" in the algorithm that autonomously fixes flaws. And then when we find flaws in the "algorithm that autonomously fixes flaws in the algorithm that autonomously fixes," we'll. . .

Techie invented bits of the box he was fixing, still botched the job

Philo T Farnsworth

IBM saved use the trouble of the spelling ambiguity. We mainframers of the era called them DASD -- pronounced daz-dee. It stands for "direct access storage device" if memory serves.

But, getting back to the story, sort of, it was a mark of status to have your own personal disk pack.

Brain-sensing threads slip from gray matter in first human Neuralink trial

Philo T Farnsworth

Just remember, if you're involved in a brain transplant, you want to be the *donor*.

Palantir's CEO calls 'woke' a 'central risk to Palantir, America and the world'

Philo T Farnsworth

Re: What is “woke”

Woke is treating your fellow humans as if they're, you know, human.

As far as paganism goes, perhaps a little tree, rock, and stream worship might be in order, given the current state of the ecosystem, they could use it[1].


[1] Yes, I know that's actually more specifically animism but let's not split theological hairs, okay?

Techie's enthusiasm for decluttering fails to spark joy

Philo T Farnsworth

Sounds famiiar

I once worked on a consulting job for a tiny startup that had a cobbled together network of remote sensing devices that they'd bought off of eBay.

No two of them were the same and all of them were well past their end of support date from the manufacturer.

I managed to bang together some software to remotely read and then compile some relatively simpleminded reports for them and the owner was so happy that he offered me a partnership in the company.

A week later, due to political developments which I will not enumerate, the company basically cratered and I ended up stiffed for $10K in consulting fees.

Cloudflare CEO sues over free-roaming fidos at his ski resort paradise

Philo T Farnsworth


Take a look at the Reformation and its outfall sometime if you think America has a monopoly on inventing religions.

Double predestination or the Anabaptist dominion of Münster, anyone?

Philo T Farnsworth

Too bad he's not the Governor of South Dakota

Then he could just shoot them.


Elon Musk's latest brainfart is to turn Tesla cars into AWS on wheels

Philo T Farnsworth

"[A]nd they get a small profit out of it maybe."

So many weasel words, so few actual words.

Philo T Farnsworth

Re: Doge

That was my first thought, as well. Everyone into the crypto mining pool.

Python, Flutter teams latest on the Google chopping block

Philo T Farnsworth

Re: It's incredible

Now, now. . .

I spent a summer developing some small personal projects with Flutter and Dart, mostly as learning exercises, and found them to be very easy to work in. There were a few ideosyncracies I needed to wrap my head around but largely a pleasurable experience.

What finally put me off doing a project for one of my clients in Flutter/Dart was the propensity for Google to introduce breaking changes into the Dart language (for admittedly largely good reasons, mind you). That turned my nice little applications into a horror show of error messages after I set them aside for a few months and then returned to add some enhancements.

I just can't afford to spend hours, if not days, "fixing" already working code because the syntax changed underneath my feet. . .

Turns out teaching criminals to write web code keeps them out of prison

Philo T Farnsworth

Jail, jail, the gang's all here, what the heck do we care. . .

Just don't teach them about cryptocurrencies, NFTs, and blockchain.

On the other hand, maybe Sam Bankrupt-Fraud will learn some useful skills while in stir for the next couple of decades or so. . .

Waymo robotaxi drives down wrong side of street after being alarmed by unicyclists

Philo T Farnsworth

Re: "the accidents were unavoidable"

You confuse "better" with "infallible."

There are always going to be situations where the physical laws of the universe preclude an outcome where no one gets hurt.

I confess that I'm somewhat ambivalent about robot vehicles and think there are many places where their performance can be improved but at least their performance can be improved.

Humans? Not so much.

Humans are the ones that get distracted, get drunk, or experience violent incidents of "road rage."

I've never heard of a Waymo texting while driving, getting a DUI, or intentionally forcing another driver off the road because it was annoyed the driver took too long at a stop light.

Your mileage may vary.

Voyager 1 regains sanity after engineers patch around problematic memory

Philo T Farnsworth


High five!

Gone in 35 seconds – the Cybertruck's misbehaving acceleration pedal

Philo T Farnsworth

Re: Neutral?

First, thanks to all who replied.

@VicMortimer: Yes, I'm well aware that I'm probably among the last of a dying breed that wants to drive a stick and even knows how to. I think of it as antitheft insurance.

A few years ago I was staying at a somewhat fancy hotel in Los Angeles that only had valet parking.

Checking out in the morning, I called for my car and went out to stand at the kerb waiting for it to be delivered.

After cooling my heels for a few minutes, the attendant comes up to me and says, "Uh, sir. There's a problem with your car."

My immediate thought was that some hamburger backed into it or it was burgled in the middle of the night, but no, the problem was that the attendant couldn't drive a stick.

He led me down to the garage and I retrieved my car.

Yeah, I tipped him. Not much but, hey, I'm a soft touch.

Philo T Farnsworth


I admit complete ignorance on the subject of EVs of any sort and specifically Teslas and Cybertrucks, so maybe someone can help me out here.

My understanding, from admittedly cursory research and sketchy understanding, is that most EVs are direct drive -- the motors drive the wheels directly and there's no transmission.

This strikes me as a problem.

I'm old school. I drive a car with a stick (manual) shift. If, for some reason, the accelerator sticks in the "floored" position, I can still just push in the clutch, pop the transmission into neutral, and brake to a stop. I don't drive automatics all that often but I'm pretty certain you can shift to neutral there too and, similarly, then brake without fighting an engine that is out of control.

With direct drive that seems not to be an option.

A useful fail-safe seems to be missing.

Again, I'm asking from a position of ignorance and if someone can enlighten me, I'll be appreciative.

Silicon Valley roundabout has drivers in a spin

Philo T Farnsworth

Re: Rubbish American driving

I'm an American *and* a Californian, nay, a *Southern* California (albeit a transplant from the San Francisco Bay Area, aka Northern California) and I'm a big fan of roundabouts, especially versus traffic lights, which seem to be timed to maximize driver annoyance.

Down here in the San Diego area there does seem to be a trend toward replacing lights and stop signs with roundabouts on what we call "surface streets" (i.e., anything other than the freeway system) and in personal experience they seem to work well.

They nicely self-regulate and traffic flows steadily, as opposed to the fits and starts of 'signalized' intersections.

I'm not sure how well a roundabout would work on a freeway interchange, particularly a merge of two major freeways (I-5 and I-805 down here, for instance -- a major horror show during commute hours and Dobbs forbid it should *rain* -- don't even think about it), so I'm definitely interested in what CalTrans is up to in the Silly Valley.

I've only driven in the UK once, almost 20 years ago, and that mostly on glorified cow paths in Scotland, though I did drive on one motorway (I believe I have the terminology correct) between Glasgow and Edinburgh, nd encountered a couple of roundabouts that were a bit harrowing, mostly because I was driving on the "other" side of the road from what I'm used to. I suspect after a few weeks I would've gotten the hang of it.

Torvalds intentionally complicates his use of indentation in Linux Kconfig

Philo T Farnsworth

Re: Semicolons and curly braces, forever.

In a perfect world, perhaps.

In a world where you need to debug someone else's code, you need to debug your own code six months later (effectively the same thing), or the cat decided to curl up on top of the keyboard while you weren't looking, the flow of logic may not always be apparent.

I wish to Torvalds and van Russum that life were so simple and the fates were so benign.

Philo T Farnsworth

Semicolons and curly braces, forever.

I can't count the number of wasted hours I've spent trying to find bugs in python or jade code caused by an accidental stray indent or outdent.

But maybe that's just me.

Google is wrong to put AI search features behind paywall, says HPC leader

Philo T Farnsworth

Re: So this is different from...

Age is just a number like death is just a certificate. . .

But getting back to AI, I'm sure most have seen those signs that say:

Answers: 5 cents

Correct Answers: 25 cents

Dumb looks ae always free.

Google seems to have it the other way around.

Philo T Farnsworth

Re: So this is different from...

Or Google is giving you non-hallucinated answers for free and making you pay for the hallucinations?

Personally, if I want hallucinations, I'll just stay awake for three or four days (I'm too old to drop acid any more).

Space Force boss warns 'the US will lose' without help from Musk and Bezos

Philo T Farnsworth

While I wouldn't go that far, I did detect a whiff of the equivalent of what in the journalistic trade is called "beat sweetening" (which is puffing up a source in exchange for future "access").

Those cushy after retirement board appointments and consulting gigs don't make themselves you know.

Meanwhile, back at Reality Ranch, one is tempted to be just a wee bit skeptical of putting one's trust in, shall we say, somewhat erratic and capricious billionaires.

Not naming names or anything.

We never agreed to only buy HP ink, say printer owners

Philo T Farnsworth

Re: I very much doubt razor handles are or were ever sold at a loss

I was speaking to the razor issue, only. However that applies to the printer market is certainly up for debate.

My own impression is that in the consumer arena, the printers are sold as a "loss leader" or, at best, with very little markup from cost, in order to get the consumer hooked on expensive ink -- especially the consumer who prints in very low volume and ends up with dried up, malfunctioning cartridges after just a few pages.

But that's just an impression from back when I had an ink jet printer ages ago. I became frustrated with their unreliability and switched to laser printers and have been happily loading refilled aftermarket toner into both my ancient HP and Brother printers for better than twenty years.

I suppose ink jets have improved over those two decades but I will cede the floor to others with more experience on that topic.

BTW, I, of course, meant to write ". . . I'd rather *not* cause a scene. . ." above but, come to think of it, it sort of works either way. (Note to self: make optometrist's appointment soon)

I do look quite awful in a beard. Not that I don't look quite awful without one, mind you.

Philo T Farnsworth

Re: I very much doubt razor handles are or were ever sold at a loss

I wouldn't be too sure about razor handles not being a loss leader.

Sometimes they even give them out for free -- I've gotten a couple in the mail, unbidden.

My personal point of pique with razors is that after a couple of years, they seem "improve" the cartridge and the older ones become impossible to find, requiring one to "upgrade."

I'd shave with one of those old-fashioned double edged razors but always carved up my face with one and looked like I'd tried to referee a cat fight.

I'd grow a beard but I'd rather cause a scene in the supermarket by frightening small children.

San Francisco's light rail to upgrade from floppy disks

Philo T Farnsworth

A thought.

The Voyager spacecraft were launched in 1977 with technology that was probably vintage late 1960s.

They're still sending back data for pushing a half century, modulo a heart-stopping glitch here and there.

The space shuttles flew with an avionics variant of the System/360 introduced in 1964 and flew for a good chunk of the program with magnetic core memory, no newfangled semiconductor stuff. To the best of my knowledge, computer failure was not involved in either of the two spacecraft losses (which may or may not say something).

Sometimes being behind the times isn't all that bad.

US insurers use drone photos to deny home insurance policies

Philo T Farnsworth

Re: Another anecdote

I was told by my friend that they did consider going after the solar installers except that the company blamed it on a subcontractor and the subcontractor . . . well, you get the idea. Fingers pointed in random directions and nobody would (or could) take the blame.

My understanding was that things snowballed, as they tend to do in home repairs (believe me. . . but I'll save the $55,000 stove bolt story for another day).

Again, I'm not an expert in the field and I'm, of course, only hearing one side of the story, so everyone's mileage may vary.

Philo T Farnsworth

Another anecdote

This is nothing new.

The parents of a friend of ours were "droned" about a year ago and were threatened with loss of insurance because of a few of what were reported as "loose or broken roof tiles."

We're in Southern California, San Diego County, to be exact, and they do live in a somewhat rural part of the county, so wildfire is a serious issues, especially in the dry years that have preceded this unusually wet one, so the concerns can be legitimate.

While my friend expected to just replace a couple of tiles and be done with it, it ended up as a $20,000 (about 15,800 pounds for any Brits reading), a not insignificant amount of money.

Not being an expert in either roofing or fire protection, I personally have no opinion as to whether this was necessary or just a "fire drill," so to speak.

The irony, perhaps, was that the damage was likely caused by installation of solar panels on the roof, just yet one more piece of evidence that no good deed goes unpunished.

Blue Origin to fly another 90-year-old into outer space

Philo T Farnsworth

Re: probably a polite way of saying racist bigotry.


Philo T Farnsworth

Boy, talk about mixed feelings. . .

While I'm at best ambivalent about Jeff Bezos's rocket jockey joyrides, I'm glad that Captain Dwight will finally get the chance to go into space, albeit briefly and as a passenger, not a pilot.

Having grown up during the whole space race and watched every launch on TV, from Alan Shepard's suborbital through the last Apollo mission, and in general being a great lover of all things NASA (I even worked at one of the research centers for a short period of time as a contractor and had the honor of contributing a small bit of software to one of the programs at JPL), it pains me to no end to read how Capt. Dwight felt he was forced to leave the astronaut program due to racial "politics," which is probably a polite way of saying racist bigotry.

I hope he makes it up and down in one piece and in good health.

I just wish he had had his chance to fly the real thing and make his contribution when it would have made a real difference.

Good luck and happy landings, sir!

Microsoft unbundling Teams is to appease regulators, not give customers a better deal

Philo T Farnsworth

Re: Pick your poison

That works fine if the other desk isn't on a different continent, of course.

Philo T Farnsworth

Big Blue Screen of Death?

Many years ago, back in the Big Iron Age, IBM was forced by a consent decree to unbundle its software from its hardware offerings.

My recollection (and others with better memories than mine might differ) is that IBM quickly discovered that unbundled software could be a source of great profit, the whole becoming the greater sum of its parts, if I may mangle a metaphor.

Do not touch that computer. Not even while wearing gloves. It is a biohazard

Philo T Farnsworth

Radio Daze

I worked in commercial radio in small market stations around the US in the late 1960s through the 1970s, back when indoor smoking was still allowed.

A lot of the jocks were smokers, some of them serious chain smokers, and even with halfway decent air conditioning (which wasn't always assured in some of the stations in which I worked) the smoke residue and ash would get into everything. Since there was not a touchscreen in sight, them not having been invented at the time, we had real physical switches and potentiometers and the ash, especially, would accelerate the wearing out of contacts and make the pots (volume controls) scratchy.

One station's chief engineer solution was to sometimes remove a piece of gear, take it out to the local self-serve car wash, hose it down thoroughly with the high pressure hose, then leave it in the sun for a few hours to dry out, and pop it back into the rack. Hard to do that with a complete audio console, though.

A few years prior, when I as in college, some family friends gave me a used car.

The problem was that they were both chain smokers, unfiltered Luckies, to boot, and the tar and crud took me months to clean out of the interior and it still reeked. I have no idea how many years breathing that off-gassing took off my life but I suspect I'll find out relatively soon.

Voyager 1 starts making sense again after months of babble

Philo T Farnsworth

The saddest part of this story. . .

"Many of the engineers who worked on the project - Voyager 1 launched in 1977 - are no longer around,. . ."

May I meet all of you in "Nerd Valhalla" when I finally shuffle off this mortal coil. Thanks for bringing knowledge, inspiration, and beauty into this life.

Climate change means beer made from sewer water, says North Carolina brewery

Philo T Farnsworth

Re: Oh please!

Forget about human kidneys.

More than likely every drop of water you drink is dinosaur urine -- dinosaurs were on this planet millions of years longer than humans have been or are, honestly, likely to be and there's probably not a molecule of water (exclusive of whatever small amount of cometary water may have landed here since thier extinction) that hasn't been processed through the urethra of at least one dinosaur.

Drink up.

The Who’s Who of AI just chipped in to fund humanoid robot startup Figure

Philo T Farnsworth

For older nerds, only. . .

"See Figure 1."

Extra credit if you know what an SPR is.

FAA gives Boeing 90 days to fix serious safety shortcomings found in report

Philo T Farnsworth


One thing the FAA could do is send some competent inspectors over to Boeing instead of letting Boeing self-regulate.


"This airplane is designed by clowns who in turn are supervised by monkeys.”


I'm no aeronautical engineer but it seems apparent this isn't the way to build aircraft.

Apple's Titan(ic) iCar project is dead as self-driving dream fails to materialize

Philo T Farnsworth

The real story is that Apple was unable to restrict travel only on its proprietary iRoad.

Willy Wonka event leaves bitter taste with artificially sweetened promises

Philo T Farnsworth


Am I the only one who immediately thought of the Banksy art piece of a few years ago, "Dismaland," a "family theme park unsuitable for children?"


72 flights later and a rotor blade short, Mars chopper loses its fight with physics

Philo T Farnsworth

Thanks little copter. . .

You did a great job. . . as did all the human engineers and scientists at JPL who built you, tested you, and helped you fly.

Thanks for making this old nerd proud.

Greener, cheaper, what's not to love about a secondhand smartphone?

Philo T Farnsworth

Re: Mmmmmm

One other thing to consider is security updates.

I have a Google Pixel 4A which I bought about four years ago that is working just fine, the battery still robustly holds a charge, and meets my rather modest needs (phone calls, messaging, and reading news on a couple of wire service apps) but has been "end of lifed" with respect to security updates as of November 2023.

I resent having to add to the e-waste stream but, like any unsupported device, the older it gets, the more vulnerable to attack it becomes.

Perhaps since I don't keep banking or health related information on the phone, I'm less vulnerable to a loss but, still, I suppose there are other ways I haven't considered where I can find myself with a mess on my hands.

If wiser heads can tell me how to maintain security on the thing, I'd be delighted to hear their counsel.

Please stop pouring the wrong radioactive water into the sea, Fukushima operator told

Philo T Farnsworth

I'm not sure that "paying attention" is the operative term here.

According to an Associated Press story filed when the incident occurred, "The leak may have been caused by valves left open while workers flushed the machine with filtered water -- a process intended to reduce radiation levels before the maintenance work, Takahara said. TEPCO said that 10 of 16 air valves that should have been closed were left open during the flushing, and the leak stopped when the valves were closed."


10 of 16 valves left open seems rather a lot.