* Posts by James Howat

48 publicly visible posts • joined 11 Oct 2007

Sorry to burst your bubble, but Microsoft's 'Ms Pac-Man beating AI' is more Automatic Idiot

James Howat

How things learn

If your expectation is that the agent "learns how to play Ms. Pac-man", then yes, it's misleading.

But if the expectation of the exercise is that the agent "learns how to play Ms. Pac-man well", then I think it's more-or-less accurate.

No human player of the game would start playing without seeing the back of the box telling you the premise of the game, what you're supposed to avoid, and what gives you bonus points. We wouldn't turn to a human and say, "you're not a good chess player, you didn't work out how a bishop moves all by yourself!"

Linus Torvalds in sweary rant about punctuation in kernel comments

James Howat

Re: My thought exactly...

On the other hand, it may be irreparably broken and nobody can think of anything constructive to do...


James Howat

Any command-line language?

Sounds good - but the competition rules say:


Your entry may be submitted in any of the following languages:

Java, VB, Swift, C'Dent, Node, PHP, Python

Entries must be submitted only in one of the languages specified.


Have I missed something?

Botnet-powered ballot stuffing suspected in 2nd referendum petition

James Howat

Re: Probably don't care

Farage wasn't part of the Leave campaign and will have no part in implementing the measure - he was free to say or ignore anything he liked in order to get the result he wanted.

Opera buys mobe friendly VPN app bods SurfEasy

James Howat

Well, that's one possible interpretation. In fact, Opera are expanding that service - as well as the compression and tunnelling that they already do in the Mini, mobile and desktop browsers, that is still being maintained, they also have a separate app called Opera Max that can do the same compression on all data in your device. It seems likely that this is the reason they have bought in a specialist company - to expand the reach of that technology. I think they're aiming heavily at mobile operators, pre-loading the app configured for their networks.

Dating app Tinder faces sexual harassment suit from ex-exec co-founder

James Howat

Re: Who Said She Said

It doesn't matter one tiny bit whether they were in a relationship or not. That's never a justification for abusive behaviour. Or for that matter, unprofessional behaviour. He may have had an axe to grind, if so, he chose a really stupid way to do it.

'I got a little bit upset by that Register article...' says millionaire model. Bless!

James Howat

I'm not sure if I understand how "I spent £200,000, so that I could get another £200,000 from public funds" is supposed to make us feel better about things.

If I was a rich London oligarch, would that give me the right to steal money from everybody else in the... oh, wait. Yes. Apparently, yes it does.

Women are too expensive to draw and code – Ubisoft

James Howat

Unfortunate phrasing

What they meant to say, what they were trying to say, is that "creating two protagonist characters is twice the work." It's just unfortunate that they wrote it as, "we were going to have the option of playing a woman, and decided it wasn't worth the effort."

NeoPost: This is how you DON'T do PIN security

James Howat

Why are they called PINs at all?

I know this isn't the point of the article - but if one number is the same for all machines, and the other two might be the same for all machines, but are certainly for the machine only, and one-time at that, they're not Personal Identification Numbers at all, are they?

They don't confirm the identity of an individual at all.

Tech talk bloke compares girlfriend to irritating Java tool – did he deserve flames?

James Howat

Re: Before the knee-jerk "PC gone mad" comments start in earnest...

"Yes there is an issue with sexism and were it exists, but trust me, spend some time with a bunch of nurses when they've had a few vino's and you'll understand it works both ways, way more derogatory than this."

Believe me, I do know - I married one.

"We can try to battle "stereotypes" all you want, but a lot of it is simply the fact men and women just simply want to do different jobs, so lets live with it."

"Men" and "women" do not. People are not a homogenous mass. General tendencies, if they can even be shown to exist, should not dictate limitations on the whole. If I, as an individual, decide that I want to be a nurse, I should not be told that I can't - or be the butt of jokes about how the latest bit of technology in the operating room is like a male nurse, never works, always in the wrong place, etc.

James Howat

Whether or not something is accurate is not the measure of whether something is troubling or not.

We may be portrayed as idiots, it's okay because we still run everything. It's annoying, but I don't think I'm going to be denied a job because my gender is made to look silly in adverts. Or, given that the adverts generally portray relationships, I don't think it can be shown that men are less likely to get married because women have realised how stupid we are because of ads.

James Howat

Re: Before the knee-jerk "PC gone mad" comments start in earnest...

"Or should we just aim to ban any speech which mentions or implies a specific gender?"

No. Why on earth would we want to do that?

Let's do a thought experiment here. What if it were a room full of white men, and a joke about why a piece of software is like a black man? Or a roomful of Christians making a joke about how the government is like a Jew?

You can get away with those sorts of jokes in private, or even on stage at a comedy show. At a show, something like that can be laughed at - at a conference, it can only be laughed with.

James Howat

Re: IT has a problem with fair treatment of women

"Does it? What's your evidence?"

I can't quantify attitudes, but let's stick our fingers in the air and ask the Google gods which way the wind is blowing...


Lots of lovely positive stories about how men are rare in midwifery, but being accepted. And that's for a profession that can understandably have a sex difference to it - i.e. being a woman shouldn't matter when you're flying a plane, or cooking food, but conducting an intimate examination? You can see where sex makes a difference here.


Lots of support groups aimed at trying to get women into technology, or supporting their goals once they're in. There is a demand here.

In the end, it doesn't matter one whit if women, as a horrible generalisation, decide they don't want to go into technology. The problem is that we shouldn't be making the ones that do uncomfortable.

And the industry has a history of making women feel uncomfortable.


James Howat

Re: Before the knee-jerk "PC gone mad" comments start in earnest...

Seriously? The "I don't see a problem, perhaps it's you" defence?

James Howat

Re: objects and stuff

Comparing women to objects is the same as comparing objects to women. Also:

"Many times I've felt various objects/technologies have taken on a life on their own, especially the more annoying ones. (...) Every time I could have punched these things/objects in the face -- had they had one."

When talk about comparing objects to women. Classy.

Boycott Firefox, gay devs urge as Mozilla appoints JavaScript daddy as CEO

James Howat

Re: Aw, poor luvvies

No-one is trying to create or enforce a law curtailing the rights of those who are Brendan Eich. If you think there's a comparison, you're being absurd.

Hardbitten NYC cops: Sir, I'm gonna need you to, er, upgrade to iOS 7

James Howat

Re: Absolutely Ridiculous

Sure, in those particular cases, it won't help. But it should help in those cases where the phone is the target.

And, if the police think it significant enough to take their time to alert the public to it, then for them it obviously is a commonly-encountered problem.

Opera unveils iPad-only browser

James Howat

Mouse gestures on Opera desktop are one of the most useful features it has, and the one thing I miss when switching to other browsers. And their caching (at least in their earlier version) does a really good job of re-constituting your work if you do happen to navigate accidentally.

Need the loo AND need to build a website? There's an app for that

James Howat

Surely "virtual real estate" is just "estate"?

ESA proposes 3D printing on the moon

James Howat

Re: more techo-wanking

No, it's not a fashionable bandwagon, it's a potential solution to a lot of things. 3D printing, like, say, QR codes or cloud computing or electricity, is a remarkable and general-purpose technology looking for problems to solve. What's wrong in that? Nobody thinks it will solve all problems. This is not a Star Trek replicator. But it's a flexible enough idea that the general principle can be adapted to many different purposes. Some will work, some will not. But it's still ripe for research.

Greenland ice did not melt in baking +8°C era 120k years ago

James Howat

Re: "so the models are evidently wrong"

Nobody presents climate models as gospel, that's nonsense. What they're being presented as is the best currently possible explanation that fits the data. But don't let that get in the way of a good persecution fantasy.

"Not what you said" is not an alternative model - try coming up with something better.

Firefox 'new tab' feature exposes users' secured info: Fix promised

James Howat

That's not what HTTPS is for

HTTPS isn't designed to protect the information on your PC - it's meant to protect data as it's transmitted to another party, so that it can't be intercepted or tampered with en-route. It's just as vulnerable to being intercepted and siphoned off by malware on your PC as HTTP site traffic is.

This is extra privacy on top of what Mozilla actually needs to do.

Braben sticks knife into secondhand games market

James Howat

Re: Go get a grip, Mr Braben

It's not about publishers demanding a cut. He's saying that if they got a cut, they might be able to afford to make new games, which could then be re-sold, to everyone's benefit.

First rule of being a parasite - you don't kill the host.

Internet therapy speeds chronic fatigue recovery

James Howat

Surely, it matters not a jot what kind of condition CFS is, as long as you can measure the outcome of the trial? If a therapy consisting of jumping up and down with a banana on your head produces good results, then it should be considered in that light, with the clear understanding that the original symptoms are not caused by lack of head-bananas. Once we know what works, we can investigate why it works, and learn more about the causes of the condition.

Having said that, this study looks like it needs a hefty portion of salt. Any new, interesting, involving technique will generally produce better results - it doesn't matter whether the problem is psychological or physical.

iPad typos are Apple's fault, not yours - new claim

James Howat

Although I haven't waded through the video, if I'm reading the article and the summary right, the issue is that the hardware registers the screen press, the onscreen keyboard recognises the key activation, but the keypress isn't passed to the application.

So I don't think it can be a fault, except in the software.

Can someone with an iPad confirm - does the greying of the button that the author refers to happen when the key is lifted, or just when initially touched? Is the problem that the finger presses the key, but is sliding off before the press is lifted?

Sites knocked offline by OpenDNS freeze on Google

James Howat

By that token, you could say that any website that relies on CSS to look good is not a website.

Your attitude is about ten years out of date.

Many, many websites rely on javascript for functionality because they are web applications. It's perfectly acceptable to have an application that cannot be accessed without javascript, as long as that restriction is clearly reported. However, missing javascript should not cripple otherwise accessible content.

Besides, here we're not talking about sites which ONLY work with JS. Whether you use JS to save page loading times, or to style elements, or to provide a full app experience, you will be equally hit by this problem.

James Howat

"Because someone could go wrong with the supplier" is always a downside to using someone else's service. However "because they can provide the service faster and more reliably than you can" is still a more compelling upside, along with "without charging for it".

Dizzy: the Ultimate Cartoon Adventure

James Howat

Although I don't know the CPC version, the obvious candidate would be Airwolf:


Apple's iPad not so shiny once you get it home

James Howat

Even if you swap around the figures, they still mean the same. Fewer people are satisfied with their iPad that you might expect. Only half of your customers think your product is good value for money? Only three-quarters of owners have a use for your product? Those are not great results.

For the record, I am an iPad owner, I use it often, and I fully expect that these results would be the same or worse for Android tablets.

Steve Jobs vindicated: Google Android is not open

James Howat

Reading too much between the lines?

The moment you follow 'surely' with 'or perhaps' then maybe you should rethink the sentence, or at least stop guessing the worst.

Opera betas open source web debugger

James Howat

Beta, not alpha

You may have been using Dragonfly for ages, but you were using an alpha version. This is the first release of the beta And as for pilfering from blogs - does that include official announcements?


iPhone to whup Sony PSP 2

James Howat

A touchscreen is enough for all gamers....

... in the same way that 640Kb should be enough for everybody.

To contradict an earlier poster - Nintendo proved that there is a huge portable market for adult gamers long before the iPhone got Angry Birds.

This argument is like saying no-one needs a PS3 when they can play Solitaire on the PC.

Electric cars not as 'green' as advertised

James Howat

Zero emissions

The premise of this article is ludicrous. When they say a car is zero-emissions, that's exactly what it means. It means that the car emits no exhaust fumes.

I don't see how you can conclude that this means that someone is claiming that it gets energy for free.

David Attenborough dino doc shows limits of 3D TV

James Howat

I agree, but for different reasons

Whereas the switch from B/W to colour, or from SD to HD, made things more engaging and pretty, it didn't really change the way you interact with the TV in the way that 3D does. Whether done well or not, it asks for a lot more attention and immersion, and so is probably better suited to things you don't dip in and out of.

Christian group declares jct 9 on M25 cursed

James Howat

Regression to the mean

I love their criteria for success - "if the accident rate goes down, it's obviously the work of dark forces and we'll take credit. If it doesn't work, then it's obviously the work of dark forces and we'll keep coming back."

Looks like the old witch-ducking logic still works, eh?

Sony piques PS3 fans with PlayTV patch fee

James Howat

As an ex-TVTV user on EyeTV...

The one thing I miss is being able to go to the tvtv.co.uk site, or desktop or mobile, and being able to schedule recordings remotely. I don't want to have to buy a Sony Ericsson mobile to be able to do that. If they incorporate that feature into the update, then I'd be happy to pay for the upgrade.

On the subject of the charge, I would suspect that it's more to cover the cost of TVTV than anything else. If they could allow you to choose whether you wanted to pay for that feature or not, I suspect most would be happy.

Opera lands 'Carakan' JavaScript engine on mobiles

James Howat

Why not Android?

The Opera Core is designed to be portable, but it's in C++. To port it to Android it would need to be re-written in Java, which is a massive effort. Since the browser side of Opera Mini is already a Java codebase, it's much easier to port.

Sony launches 'WiiMote for PS3'

James Howat

Aiming with a mushroom is never a good idea

Forget the actual motion controls - if it means I can actually aim properly in a shooter, then I'm all for it. It's amazing to see how long it's taken for console manufacturers to catch on to point-and-click being a good input mechanism for games, when PCs have been doing it for decades...

Opera plays chicken with Apple iPhone police

James Howat

Almost killed any chance at success?

Seriously, Opera Mini is the most-used mobile browser in the world today. Opera is not a small player here, and they're making plenty of money of the back of it.

(Back) into The Valley

James Howat

ZX81 Poster Programs

Had this one for the ZX81 - my dad spent a long time with the hexadecimal assembler codes, and I still don't think we ever got it working perfectly. At the time I had no idea it even existed for other platforms until I uncovered some of my dad's old Computing Today magazines with adverts...

That game had such an influence on me, and I think the poster did too....


Opera Software reinvents complete irrelevance

James Howat
Thumb Down

How old are you, exactly?

'Hur hur Opera is still around?' was mildly amusing six years ago, now it's just boring.

As for (badly) arguing a Javascript application should definitely be using a PHP or Ruby-based web framework for pages, that's just hilariously bad.

Microsoft fans call for Opera boycott

James Howat
Gates Horns

And what have we learned today, kids?

All together now, children - if the biggest boy in class is always picking on the little kids, it's the one with the guts to stand up and tell an adult that gets his head kicked in.

Nokia, Nintendo and Sony struck in wireless patent spat

James Howat
Thumb Up


I think getting paid to shut up again generally counts as success in these cases, yes.

Opera Dragonfly emerges from pupa

James Howat

Remote debugging

The basic idea is that Opera has built a protocol called Scope for communicating with the browser process, getting the DOM information, etc. This protocol is now built into the Opera core, so it can be connected to from remote machines by TCP/IP. So your first guess was correct.

It also means that if other browsers develop Scope server add-ons, you will be able to debug all of them with one tool.

James Howat

Yeah, a bit like Firebug

Only more of it, officially supported, available in the latest betas, and can attach to remote instances of Opera, such as on mobiles and consoles.

WaSP gives browsers 'fail' grade

James Howat

Isn't that the point?

The whole idea behind the Acid tests is that it tests things that are currently badly implemented - so there's clear info on what needs done. If browsers worked successfully, there'd be no need for the test.

HTC to release handset video 'fix'

James Howat

You get what you pay for...

Yes, leslie, I'm sure that rushing out a half-baked set of drivers will make the problem go away...

Thing is, the device works. It has the functionality it's supposed to. Unless the customer was promised hardware-accelerated video (as opposed to just 'good' or 'working' video), I can't see how the users have a case here.

Mozilla mobilizes for mobile Firefox browser

James Howat


Sure, bringing in your own propietary plug-in technology to the web will definitely make it less fragmented...