* Posts by John

51 publicly visible posts • joined 3 Oct 2007


Obama taps new NASA boss



Seriously, some of you guys expect an engineer to have the skills needed to run an organisation the size of NASA? Running NASA isn't an engineering problem, it's a management problem. Now, it's quite true that to do that job well you'll need engineering experience - but Bolden has that. It's true that you'll need a science background - but Bolden has that. It's true that you need experience of the space programme - but Bolden has that.

Exactly what is the objection to this appointment? Or did you really expect an engineer with no management background to get the post?

Beeb pushes major new iPlayer release

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But will the Wii be able to take advantage? It makes for an excellent iPlayer box for the TV, except that the quality is a little poor.

Apple preps Jobsian magic wand



There's almost nothing in there that isn't already implemented in the Wii, including that "dock" idea - just like Opera's toolbar on the Wii. About the only new thing is being able to rotate photos, and that would surely not qualify as non-obvious.

Barnes & Noble muscles Kindle with e-book buy


Fictionwise not DRMed


Fictionwise does sell DRMed ebooks, yes. But they also sell lots of open formats, too (PDF, HTML, RTF etc.). Which format an ebook is available in depends on the publisher.

I've bought and acquired a _lot_ of books from Fictionwise - they also do lots of giveaways at various times. And I find their e-subscription service great for magazines. I desperately hope that B&N don't break Fictionwise. It's one of the best ebook distributors that I've found, precisely because of their willingness to distribute open formats, and their huge catalogue.

Italians boffins prove plausibility of spam-javelin spam



Surely measuring flaccid length isn't the important issue, and you were silent on the more important issue of, ahem, rigid length. Inquiring minds (not in any way desirous of sending money to spammers) want to know.

UK opposes copyright exemptions for mash-ups


Don't assume everyone's a music executive

The first few comments (maybe more by now) repeat the old line that copyright protects big business against consumers. Now, this is true, but it's only part of the picture. Copyright also protects the small-time musician from exploitation by the big companies!

More than that, it's not all about music. Don't forget video, and plain old writing. If there were exemptions to copyright law for everything, it guts copyright law. There must be a balance between protecting the creator (which is NOT the same as the company that's licensed the content) and ensuring that public culture grows. And this is, after all, the whole point of copyright law - to protect the creator so that they will create more, benefitting everyone.

iPhone surfs to mobile web domination



It'll be interesting to see what happens when the Palm Pre launches. I want me one of those!

Is Twitter actually making money?


Why the rage?

I'm always amused by the rage against Twitter here on El Reg. Sure, some content is undoubtedly peurile and pointless - but the same could be said of many (most?) blogs, websites, IM, email etc.

However, if you follow interesting, sane people, Twitter can actually be useful (as useful as any other communciations technology, anyway). You can even get educational info this way - there are robot feeds that send info like when asteroids pass the Earth and how far away. Sure, it's not world-shattering, but it's genuinely interesting.

Debt collection can be harassment, rules court

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Good for her

It's good to see someone being able to stick up for themselves.

Shame you need to be rich to take the chance. :-(

Yes! It's the cardboard PC!

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And how would a cardboard PC meet EM emissions regs?

Asus Eee PC S101 luxury netbook


Not cheaper than Toshiba

It seems to have been a very low-key announcement, but Toshiba have launched an SCC of their own, Ubuntu Remix powered, for £249 inc. VAT (http://uk.computers.toshiba-europe.com/innovation/product/Toshiba-NB100-11R/1058543/). I had a play with one last month at a conference and it's a rather nice thing. If I was still in the market for an SCC (I was an early Eee buyer), this would be a serious contender.

But that does mean that the S101, pretty as it is, is not cheaper than equivalent Toshiba PCs. Sony, though, seem to be sticking to the expensive side of the street!

Wacky Jacqui's £12bn gIMP could be unleashed by 2012


Lying toad

<i>"We are not proposing that data that have never been collected are held,"</i>

Nice bit of spin there, deftly sidestepping the fact that these data have been collected by ISPs, phone companies (etc.). They have never been held by the Government - that's a rather sizeable change, surely?

Plus, these data used to be collected (insofar as they were collected) only so that the companies could continue to provide their services in an efficient fashion - including for billing. Starting to use the data for spook investigations is a rather significant change of use, I would think.

Miscreants hijacking machines via (freshly patched) Adobe flaw



The problem with Foxit is that it doesn't support all of the PDF format. Any file that makes use of the interactivity features of PDF will fail on Foxit - it renders the PDFs as a flat file (just as GView does).

In other words, the reason that Foxit is smaller and faster than Adobe Reader is that it does a lot less. So, use Foxit if you like for simple PDF rendering, but you'll need Adobe Reader for advanced PDF files.

US admiral wants pain-rayguns for Gulf fleet



Surely the rationale for the microwave weapons is that people run away if they get hit by it. But if you're on a speedboat, you can't get away unless you're the driver. And even then, it'd be pretty trivial to put a metal mesh in front of your windscreen and so shield yourself! Just like in a microwave oven, it's pretty easy to see through.

Altogether, that sounds to me like a recipe for cooking any folk on the deck of the speedboat, as well as any innocent sailors encroaching on the ship who simply don't understand what's happening to them.

Asus sexes up Eee line

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Lost the plot?

So Asus, who effectively created the laptot/SCC craze, seem to have lost the plot. At that price, this isn't an SCC at all - it's just a small laptop with a solid-state drive (but only 1GB for that price?!!).

Asus adds HDD to Atom-based old-style Eee



Some folks seem to be forgetting the Reg's own advice when these things first came out - they make the most sense when thought of as appliances, not full-fledged laptops. That is, they're not really meant for the user to mess around with but simply to use.

Now, OK, I've tweaked my original 7" 2G Eee quite a lot. And, despite all the assertions above, I've had very few problems. There is (again, despite the assertions above) a very active Eee community. I had no trouble at all installing OOo3 and Opera on my Eee, and they work very nicely, thank you.

The newer machines may have the grunt to make make Windows work (although all the benchmarks show that in the real-world examples it runs about 25% slower) but the Linux versions are still faster. And most users really wouldn't know which OS they're running, which is pretty much the idea.

Germans give peeking Google one in the eye


"Google says it doesn't need permits"

I think they'll find that, in a legal argument between a law-making entity and themselves, they'll lose on that question! If the law says they need a permit then they do. Google really are losing sight of things. Just because they _want_ to do things, it doesn't follow that they can or should do them.

New hydrocarb X-51 scramjet ready for flight



"DARPA, the renowned Pentagon crazyscience bureau whose nuttiness can only be properly expressed in terms of a conceptual Tardis-style hyperdimensional fruitcake"

I've been enjoying the exaggerated descriptions of DARPA but I think you may be reaching the very peak of available hyperbole here! Where does we go now? You may need to read some E.E. 'Doc' Smith - a true master of excess!

Sony PRS-505 Reader e-book


@ John Latham

"E-books should be a couple of quid a pop."

Only if you believe that most of the cost of a book is made up of printing and distribution. In reality, a lot of the cost is made up paying the author (!), editing, copyediting, typesetting and marketing it, plus some profit for the publisher.

Which isn't to say that ebooks are overpriced (they are). But that asking for ebooks of new content for almost no cost misses the point. Ebooks still require the same production values as print, and still have some (albeit much reduced) costs for production and distribution.

Freelancers might be taxed as employees after High Court ruling


Stop complaining

So, he owes £99k in tax and NI for 3 years' work? He must have been pulling in at least, what, £70k a year for those 3 years? My heart truly does bleed for this "little" man and his tiny income.

I worked as a freelancer for 6 years (in publishing, in case that matters) and it's trivial to avoid being hit like this. The rules are basically the same as they always were - work for multiple clients and always retain control over how you work. If you work for just one client and do precisely what you're told, when you're told, then you can't be surprised that you're treated like an employee by the tax office. If you feel that a contract is likely to be treated as employment by the Revenue then do the honest thing - talk to the Revenue and see what they say, then talk to the client.

Stop evading taxes and pay up like honest folks.

Mens mag debuts e-ink cover


Not at fancy as it looks

I quite like the way they've done this - they've clearly used a (relatively) cheap monochromatic e-ink display and overprinted it (or possibly underprinted it) with a colour picture. The result is that it looks like a colour display, but it's not.

Notice that the colour parts (the photos on the front and the car on the inside ad) don't move - they just flash as the display moves from dark to light. The grey text appears and disappears, but the colour parts stay.

Still, as I say, it's a nice use of the technique. But I have to agree with some of the above comments: permanent publishing has definite advantages over electronic. I can't imagine much worse a fate than books and magazines becoming as full of popups and flashing ads as the Internet. At least on the net we have NoScript and AdBlock!

Burned by Chrome - Fire put out


EULA copied from Google Docs?

Sounds like they've copied the license text from another service where it might have been vaguely sensible. It doesn't make any sense at all in a browser. Shame - Chrome has some nice features and is certainly very fast, in the brief play I've had with it. The Google folks just need to sort their heads out.

Wind farm wound down on air traffic fears


@ Alexis Vallance, AC et al.

I've always wondered about this "windmills are ugly" argument. Personally, I think they're a beautiful example of minimalist engineering. I love the look of windmills turning in the breeze. There are some perfectly valid arguments against wind farms on the grounds of efficiency and capacity, but IMO the aesthetic argument is hugely in favour.

And, yes, I would be most happy for a wind farm to be built by my house.

Toyota unveils Segway rivals


Strong thighs?

I suspect that the smaller two models have you holding the central column between your knees or thighs. So skateboarding might be a close analogy - hands free, anyway!

Scrabble knock-off reborn as Wordscraper


Scrabulous still working...

I made a move just this morning! Something's odd - has it been removed in the USA only?

Hacker murders Facebook word game


Back again...

Now here's odd - Scrabulous was gone from Facebook yesterday evening (UK time) but was back again this morning.

Elonex shows off second Small, Cheap Computer


It'd better be cheap

With that spec, the Elonex One T will need to be really, really cheap. Given that the Acer Aspire One will be £230 for an Atom-powered laptot with a 9" screen, I'd suggest that the Elonex offering will need to be well down towards £100 to sell.

And if it is £130 or so, it could be rather tempting - provided the OS is well designed and hackable. I don't know whether we've seen the interface yet, and this was one of the big plus points of the Eee. You had a good, quick, easy interface, coupled with easy access to a proper desktop.

Asus Eee PC 901 Linux Edition


@Craig Ringer - SquashFS

There's one thing you've missed - with the existing FS arrangement on the Eee, one can easily do what I have: log in without unionfs (so that you're just using the system partition in read-write mode) and do a true uninstall of the dross you don't need, and do a true install of stuff you do need. That means I have a 2G Eee with a full TeX installation, and still full free space on the user partition.


Aspire One vs Eee

The one thing that worries me about the One compared with the Eee is the community support. The Eee is based on Xandros, which means that lots of Debian packages work on it. But the One uses Linpus, of which I've never heard. The interface doesn't look as usable as the Eee's. In particular, the Eee's interface can be used entirely from the keyboard (which is good, given the size of the trackpad!) but it doesn't look like the One's will allow this as easily.

OK, so these are basically appliances, but one of the nice things about Linux is being to set it up exactly how you want. And I guess that a lot of the market for these devices is geeks. So, if the One isn't as 'hackable' as the Eee it could well be a strike against it.

For example, on my Eee 701, I've installed Opera instead of Firefox, and use LyX instead of OpenOffice. And I've installed various games and utilities, too. I don't fiddle with it a lot, but I did do a lot of fiddling initially so that it's an appliance that does what I want.

Adobe launches 'free' Flash-only media player



Odd name choice, given the long-standing music player WinAmp. Plenty of choice for confusion there, methinks.

Wal-Mart stores drop cheap-as-chips Linux PC

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@Mike Habel

What on Earth would they put 2GB of RAM into this box for? Setting aside for a second the fact that this is unashamedly a budget box, how would you ever use that much RAM? I've run Linux for years on 512MB and have almost never started swapping, not even when using the Gimp.

You're not the target market for this box. It's a low-power system that will do the web, email and word processing perfectly well, plus the occasional casual game. (OK, the Via processor's a bit weak but, still, a desktop system for £99? Not bad!)

Minister wants more mashups


I read this article's title as...

‘Minister wants more mishaps’


IPCC's 'evil twin' launches climate change sceptic's creed


@ Graham Dawson

You ask why we should we try to stop it. How about the fact that, if sea levels rise, they'll swamp quite a lot of (a) important and expensive cities and (b) important and expensive agricultural land? Climate change is a very simple proposition. If it happens, the consequences for human beings, especially those of us dependent on sophisticated and complex industrial systems, will be dire.

The basic science is incontrovertible. CO2 is a greenhouse gas - it prevents heat leaving the Earth. More CO2 therefore means a warmer climate. This isn't the question. Only the extent of the effect is debatable.

"Are you going to claim that we know the ideal temperature of the planet?"

Well, we know that changing the temperature of the planet far from what it is now would be very bad for us. Sure, Life would go on, but human beings would have a rather less pleasant time of it than we have for the past couple of hundred years.

Sure, it's a somewhat selfish viewpoint but why shouldn't we act to make our tenure on the planet sustainable? Or do we not care what our children will inherit?


Re: like what is the causing it?

Science is based on people coming up with new and radical ideas - with the facts to back them up. If there was this mysterious conspiracy building castles of climate change in hot air then, without a shadow of a doubt, there would be hordes of young scientists publishing acres of results showing that this was fraud. They'd be out there, making their reputations.

But they aren't there at all. Because the evidence we have points to anthropogenic climate change as real. The real question is about the _size_ of the effect, not whether there is one.



"This goes right up to the top 10 of the most stupid things I have ever read! If the sceptics are right and human influence is so so weak that it hardly registers then it would be absolutely pointless to waste resources trying to lessen the overall effect."

Really? Then you haven't thought about it much.

If climate change happens then our society is in serious trouble. The greater the change, the greater the trouble. And we're not talking 300 years from now - we're talking 30. In our lifetimes, potentially.

The sceptics are in the great minority in the scientific community. Not because everyone else has been bought off or something, but because the evidence points rather strongly in the direction of anthropogenic change. If it takes extraordinary measures to influence the climate then we'd better prepare to take them. And there are serious proposals for extraordinary schemes - orbital sunshades, dust clouds to shade the Earth, atmospheric seeding and more. It's just that these are even more expensive than cleaning up our emissions.

At worst, you can accuse those trying to do something about it of optimism.

That's better than fatalism or apathy.



Standard climate change denier stuff, then. They basically say that all climate scientists are stupid or corrupt - they apparently don't include negative feedbacks or solar irradiation in their calculations or models.

It's nonsense that there is no consensus. However, "consensus" doesn't mean "unanimity". The world's scientists are almost never unanimous. There are even some that disbelieve General Relativity, or Quantum Mechanics etc. That doesn't mean that these aren't good, accurate models of the world. Just like climate change.

Besides, if the sceptics are right and the world is warming because of non-anthropogenic factors, that's actually a bigger problem. If human influence is so weak, it means that we're going to have to make _greater_ efforts to stop climate change, not less. That is, if human-caused CO2 levels have a smaller effect than is generally thought then we have to reduce emissions by a lot more than is generally thought if we want to stop a particular amount of warming!

Why you should care that Jimmy Wales ignores reality



"We're talking about something more like The Hitch Hiker's Guide than Encyclopedia Galactica"

Indeed - as the great man put it: "in cases of major discrepancy, it's always reality that's got it wrong."

How Phorm plans to tap your internet connection


Won't this slow down all requests?

By hijacking all requests, won't this slow down the users' browsing? OK, not by much per click, but what happens when Phorm's servers get overloaded and slow? Will they intercept multiple attempts? What if this F5 thing goes down? Will the users be left without Internet access?

Or, in other words, is this not just another weak point waiting to cause misery to the user?

Security boffins unveil BitUnlocker


Don't forget the TPM issue

All these comments about the transient window for attacks misses the final point. If a PC has a TPM in it then the window is as long as you want it to be. Nick the PC and cold boot it. You'll have the encryption key loaded freshly into RAM, ready for stealing.

*That* is the "when we say gaping, we mean gaping" hole.

Elonex punts £99 Linux laptop


Re: Here's more details...

I don't think that is the same machine - it's similar, but the ports down the side of the screen look different.

However, if it is the same, the spec is disappointing. A 300MHz x86 processor coupled to max 256MB of RAM isn't going to light any fires, even running lightweight Linux. I have a 2G Eee, whose processor runs at 570MHz and which has 512MB RAM, and it's fast enough running a browser and OpenOffice. But I don't think you'd want to go much less powerful.

Adobe Reader Trojan predates mystery update by two weeks


Defending Adobe Reader

OK, so "reading PDFs" is easily done by lots of other software that's a lot leaner. But I work in publishing and there are lots of features of the PDF format that are only supported properly (or at all) by Adobe Reader, such as layers, scripting and animations. Now, these aren't necessary in many applications (a software manual is a software manual, and a form is a form) but they are extremely useful in many others. A lot of our new publishing for schools is taking advantage of these features of later PDF versions - and hence of Adobe Reader.

Adobe Reader isn't just a "PDF rasteriser", as many other programs are. It's a full PDF engine. Yes, it's big but that's because it's powerful.

(It may be bloated as well, I couldn't comment on that. But it's not all bloat by any means.)

Palm to bring latest Palm OS smartphone to UK


@Reg @Keke

Well, the graphic at the top of that page says 320x320, even though the text says 240x320. However, it can't be 240x320 because it's square.

Virgin Media trashes patent infringement accusations


Virgin's Guide

@Mike Hunt:

Have you ever actually looked at the Virgin/NTL guide? You've always been able to rearrange the channels so that the ones you want are arranged together in whatever order you like. It'll also move all the channels you're not subscribed to out of the way all by itself in one easy step.

It's not the best guide in the world, but it's not as bad as you make out. (Actually, I preferred the old NTL one, because they actually took away a few features in an update early last year.) Indeed, I'm now on Freeview instead of Virgin, and the Guide on my TVonics box is definitely superior to the NTL one.

ID cards delayed until 2012


Teachers, doctors etc?

<i>The third priority outlined in the document is "to issue cards to those who are employed in positions of trust where identity assurance is critical to determining their appropriateness for that employment".</i>

So, are they suggesting that teachers, doctors and so forth will be the initial subjects of ID cards? Because I can see problems with expecting such opinionated and highly organised (i.e. with strong unions and associations) folk to be your vanguard.

VBA-free Office for Mac debuts

Gates Horns

Dropping VBA totally?

If MS drop VBA support totally from Office, surely they'll lost a huge portion of potential upgrades? Many (most?) commercial users of Office have an extensive collection of macros for MS Office written in VBA (and even legacy macros in WordBasic). If the scripting engine drops VBA support, these business will need a very compelling reason to "upgrade", given the extra cost of implementing all their macros!

US switches off the incandescent lightbulb


"wasted heat"

For all those banging on about the heat from incandescents helping your heating bill - don't forget the summertime, when that heat actually raises your air con bill...

Plus, those who bemoan the long startup times of CFLs are way out of date. The current crop are instant-on (or, at least, most are).

The brightness is also fine, provided you buy the right bulbs. After all, you don't complain that incandescents are "too dim" because you tried to light your living room with a 60W bulb, do you?

Kindle, Eee PC top Amazon.com 'most wanted' list



It's just struck me (and possibly Simon above) - that image we've been seeing so much of is a Photoshop job. The Eee isn't really there. That poor lass.

Rockstar to battle BBFC over Manhunt 2 ban

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"Rockstar said it believes gamers should be allowed to decide for themselves the level of horror they see in a videogame, just as they do in the movies that BBFC classifies for UK viewing."

Which translates as "Who cares what UK law says - we want to sell this game anyway, just as it is."

And even their sentiment (as quoted) isn't consistent. They accept that people should only have to choose between films that the BBFC approves for release. The same situation applies to film as to videogames: some are too gory for release. If they are too nasty, they can't be seen in this country. That's the law, like it or not.

Please ignore the start-up stealing the OS from Microsoft


@Anonymous - Reboot?

Putting a computer in standby has two issues, both related to power drain. The first is the green issue - why leave a computer in standby, drawing power and running up an electricity bill when you can shut it down? My iMac boots and lets me log in in well under a minute, so it's not a huge issue.

But the second issue is the big one - leaving a laptop sleeping is a recipe for a dead battery. The power drain is small but real. And if you do a safe sleep (i.e. store state on disc), it still takes a while to wake up. Indeed, Windows laptops seem to take tens of seconds to wake from sleep!

A true instant-on computer would, given marketing etc., be very successful IMO.

Sun to blame for yin-yang Moon's dark side


Re: Tidelocked

Tidal locking isn't necessary. As the article explains, if part of the moon is darker, it will get warmer than the rest given _even_ heating. This produces the runaway effect described in which part of the moon gets warmer and darker, even though all of the moon gets the same amount of sunlight.