* Posts by Richard Johnson

41 posts • joined 5 Mar 2007

The Twitter storm that saved freedom of speech

Richard Johnson


The injunction in question didn't specifically forbid the Guardian from reporting on the parliamentary question. The injunction forbade the Guardian from reporting anything about the Minton report, and it forbade the Guardian from reporting that it had been injuncted.

The Minton report is an internal report, commissioned by Trafigura, into the dumping of waste in Ivory Coast. The report was leaked to Wikileaks.org.

Paul Farrelly's question mentioned the Minton report and the injunction. And so Carter-Ruck sent a letter to the Guardian claiming that reporting on Farrelly's question would constitute a breach of the earlier injunction and thus a contempt of court.

The judge, when he/she granted the injunction, didn't know anything about the parliamentary question as it hadn't been asked yet. Nor even mooted.

Paul Farrelly was effectively trying to use parliamentary privilege to draw attention to this disgraceful and ludicrously broad injunction. The Guardian hoped that his question would allow it to effectively reveal to its readers that it had been injuncted from publishing details about the Minton report (available to us all on wikileaks.org).

Carter-ruck, in sending the letter to the Guardian, have shot themselves in the foot. But presumably, next time, they will be careful to get an injunction forbidding the Guardian from reporting on letters received from Carter-Ruck.

As this article points out, the twitterati have not solved the problem. They have merely alerted Carter-Ruck to a loophole that I am sure they will be careful to plug next time.

Would you leave your child alone with a cabinet minister?

Richard Johnson
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what a waste of money

From those figures, a minimum of 11 million people will need to register with the Independent Safeguarding authority (ISA) at a cost of £64 each. That makes a total income of £704,000,000 for the ISA.

That's a lot of money to spend, and how many cases of child abuse will it prevent? None?

12 of the best... mice

Richard Johnson

whale mouse

I use a Whale Mouse from Human Scale. It is the only mouse that doesn't give me pain in my arm and wrist.

I have large hands and found nearly all mice out there just too small to sit comfortably in my hand. So I end up holding them with my fingertips and steering from the wrist, which causes problems.

The whale mouse is extendable, so you can adjust it to fit your hand. Such a simple feature and it makes all the difference for me.

Women coppers eager to drop trousers

Richard Johnson


Aha! A new expenses controversy: police officers get trousers provided by the state. I have to buy my own trousers. How disgraceful, etc, etc.

Taxpayer coughs for AOL Connie's flat

Richard Johnson
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Phil Willis

Phil Willis is my local MP and has been an excellent constituency MP all these years. Because of that, I'd be inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt over expense claims unless the claims were manifestly unreasonable.

Fortunately, he's got a post on his website explaining the claims he made:


After reading his response, I don't think the claims were unreasonable.

EC blasts mobile masts away from schools and hospitals

Richard Johnson
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I despair

There are so many things wrong with this decision that I don't know where to begin. Truly we are ruled by luddites who have not the faintest connection with reason or logic.

Jacqui Smith pulls in another TV psych in violence probe

Richard Johnson


How about "Together We Can End Violence Against Men" as well?

According to National Statistics, men are around twice as likely as women to be victims of violent crime, but women are about twice as likely as men to be worried about violent crime.


Voice analysis trial gives wobbly results

Richard Johnson
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not evidence

"This provided evidence that the voice risk analysis technology was helpful"

No it didn't. There was no control group. How good would the operators have been at classifying risk just by themselves, without the voice analysis software? How good would the operators have been if the caller had simply been told that voice analysis was being done, even if it wasn't actually done?

This "study" sounds like one devised by someone who wanted to produce a positive result.

Barclays heralds new wave of wallet-waving

Richard Johnson
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what's the point?

Presumably I'll still have to enter my pin, so what's the point? If I still have to enter my pin, why limit it to transactions under £10?

If I don't have to enter my pin then where is the security in this system? Being the tight-fisted yorkshireman that I am, someone nicking £10 is just as concerning as someone nicking £100.

Straw slaps ban on Iraq debate docs

Richard Johnson
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I don't buy his argument

I don't buy the argument of Jack Straw at all. We all understand the idea of collective cabinet responsibility: they argue in cabinet, but all support whatever is agreed at the end of the argument. I've been involved in similar approaches many times in the course of my career.

If people know what the arguments were, this in no way diminishes the final agreement or each individual's support for that final agreement. That whole process is a prime exampe of honest democratic decision making. There is simply no logical reason to hide the detail of the arguments prior to reaching a collective decision.

One can only assume there must be another reason for hiding the argument. To whit, he wants to cover up possible evidence that the final decision of cabinet was illegal, and that cabinet members including himself, knew this.

Human rights court rules UK DNA grab illegal

Richard Johnson

criminals in government

So the government and police have been found to be breaking the law. But they announce they are going to carry on breaking the law while they review the situation. How can that be tolerated?

By the way, the European Court of Human Rights has nothing to do with the EU.

Climate Bill scores a fail in economics

Richard Johnson
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Isn't there a tiny problem you've neglected?

Suppose the tax on petrol reflects the supposed cost of CO2. But my main journey - my commute to work - cannot reasonably be done other than by car. So I'll just pay the tax and emit the CO2. The cost of the CO2 would have to be sufficiently high that the inconvenience of paying it outweighs the cost of changing. The cost of changing might actually be quite high if I have to move house or find a new job.

So the carbon dioxide tax should be set at a point higher than the cost of avoiding the emissions, if you really want to reduce emissions. Otherwise we'll just end up highly taxed but the ice caps will still melt.

UK health records should not be flogged off

Richard Johnson

when is the next election?

Great. So instead of losing all our personal data, they will deliberately sell access to it. And somehow that is supposed to be better.

What about a simple system for anyone to register their interest in participating in research. Such systems are already in place for organ donation and bone marrow donors. Anyone visiting their doctor could be given a leaflet.

It says a lot about this government that they instinctively opt for the most intrusive, most centralised approach.

Interpol proposes world face-recognition database

Richard Johnson
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But it doesn't work

"A specially-equipped airport gate - or even, in some circumstances, a security camera - would be able to sound an alert every time a person on the Interpol watch list went past."

Are you sure about that? I thought these face recognition systems didn't actually work all that well in the field.

'U-turn' West: MI5 watching 'great' terror plot right now

Richard Johnson

another great plot is building...

"Another great plot is building..."

Is that "great" as in "entertainingly inept", which seems most typical of these would be terrorists.

Also, if we are monitoring some people putting together a conspiracy to kill British citizens, presumably arrests and charges will follow shortly as such conspiracies are illegal. I won't hold my breath.

Happy face because I'm not scared of terrorism either.

'Podestrian' risk rising for drivers, warns insurer

Richard Johnson


The article says, "According to Swinton, podestrians currently account for about nine per cent of minor accidents involving sudden braking or shunts".

Surely shunts are caused, wholly and completely, by car drivers not leaving an appropriate stopping distance between themselves and the vehicle in front.

Hacker unearths young Chinese gymnast scam

Richard Johnson

Beth Tweddle

So where do we start the campaign to get Beth Tweddle the bronze she should have won in the uneven bars were it not for the Chinese winner cheating?

Three found guilty of web extremism plot

Richard Johnson

common behaviour amonst teenage boys

When I was a kid, some of my male schoolfriends had something of a morbid curiosity about war, violence, etc. They looked at magazines selling martial arts gear, they watched films intended for adults, they played at being soldiers, or ninjas and the like. Without exception they all grew out of it and became normal adults.

We were all white English schoolboys growing up in an entirely white North Yorkshire town.

I'd imagine that similar behaviour crops up amongst teenage boys the world over. However, if the teenage boy in question is unfortunate enough to be a muslim in the UK, then he will get hauled before the court and treated as a terrorist.

This is, quite frankly, a disgrace.

- Stop Sign, because this country is going to hell in a handbasket and we need to stop.

Force listeners onto DAB by killing FM

Richard Johnson
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dab is ok

Am I the only person in the country who listens to DAB and finds it perfectly ok? The reception where I live is better than most FM stations.

For me, the best thing about DAB radio is that I can listen to Test Match Special without having to cope with the crackle and noise of long wave. That single fact has lead me to outfit every room with a DAB radio.

Colliding galaxies mark Hubble anniversary

Richard Johnson

@anonymous coward - space is expanding

After the big bang, the matter created wasn't sent hurtling in different directions through space. Instead, the space began to expand and continues to expand to this day. Matter, however, travels through space in all sorts of directions, buffeted hither and thither by various forces and two particles might well collide. That's how stars and planets formed. Ultimately, it's how we all formed.

You may be interested to know that the andromeda galaxy is hurtling through space on a path that will lead it to collide with our own galaxy many billions of years hence. Something to look forward to.

Plastic bag campaign falls apart at the seams

Richard Johnson
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I've read quite a bit over the years about plastic bags. Never once have I come across anyone arguing that they kill sea life.

Isn't this a strawman argument? You are opposed to banning plastic bags, so you ascribe a flawed argument to your opponents. You then demonstrate the flaws in the argument and dismiss your opponents position in its entirety on that basis.

I always thought of the Register as bringing a greater intellectual rigour to its analysis than any other media outlet. So I'm rather disappointed by this article.

Four-way stellar smash will form monster galaxy

Richard Johnson

happening soon to us too

Something similar will happen to us soon - well, "soon" with respect to the lifespan of a galaxy. The Andromeda galaxy is currently hurtling towards us at 500,000 km/h and will collide with the Milky Way in only about 3 billion years time.

Newcastle council credit card file lifted

Richard Johnson

fundamental security problems

"we spotted this situation through the thoroughness of our own security and checking systems"

Hmm. From reading the press release on Newcastle City Council's website it sounds to me like their online payments system was configured incorrectly.

They appear to use RadiusICON. According to the literature for this product:

"On-line authorisation of the payment is key to the Local Authority, as it guarantees payment ... The call to the acquiring Bank or merchant service provider is via an ISDN line ... In the case of RadiusICON, a separate secure card server makes this connection and stores the card transactions. On successful completion of the payment, a record is also written to the RadiusICON database."


I would suspect that they erroneously put the "secure card server" in their DMZ and allowed public access to it. Or perhaps, to save cost, they ran the card server and the web server on the same box.

A question to ask is why they are storing credit card information at all. All they need to store is whether the payment was successful or not.

In any case, it implies that they failed to properly consider the security when setting the system up. A serious failing indeed, I am not at all reassured by their claims that their systems are now "properly robust".

A handy guide to growing your own spaceship

Richard Johnson

suspension bridges are not the only fruit

"It doesn't matter what materials you build out of - nothing we have ever used for making houses, pyramids, bridges, tunnels, or ships can be expected to last the sort of time-scales a starship will have to endure"

What are you talking about? The pyramids have lasted for thousands of years. There are many stone circles and standing stones scattered around the British Isles that were erected thousands of years ago. There are many churches in England that date back almost a thousand years. If we are to do anything with our nuclear waste we'll have to build a repository that'll last for some 100,000 years.

And a starship won't have to cope with wind and rain, hot summers and freezing winters.

I should think that, if you're building a starship, identifying materials that will last would be one of the simpler parts of the build.

UK gov rejects Cliff Richard's copyright extension

Richard Johnson

this is copyright in a recording of a performance

Just to clarify, this fifty years is the copyright in the sound recording of a performance. So it is not about rewarding creativity, per se. It is about rewarding the performance of a particular task (e.g. playing guitar during a recording session), and allowing a company to profit out of making such recordings.

The copyright for creative works (e.g. songwriting, writing a novel) is another matter altogether with a more generous copyright term granted.

So Roger Daltrey gets royalties for 50 years for singing on The Who's recordings (not at all bad for a day's work). But Pete Townshend further gets songwriting royalties until his death, then his estate receives royalties for a further 70 years, because he wrote the songs.

I wish I could get paid for the next fifty years for the work I've done today.

Mobile-mast danger is all in your head

Richard Johnson

legal action

I wonder if there is a law suit in the making here. Let us suppose that a group lobbying about the "dangers" of mobile phone masts makes me so worried about it that I get ill. Would they then be to blame for my illness?

Astronauts chuck fridge off space station

Richard Johnson

weights and measures

So the refrigeration system "weighed 1400lb" did it? One of the notable features of being in orbit is the microgravity, so the fridge actually weighed hardly anything. Perhaps you are confusing mass and weight?

Then, later in the article, as Robin points out, you confuse mass and volume.

Come on, this article was filed under Science. Couldn't you try a little bit harder.

New generator means fresh air on the ISS

Richard Johnson


I have a number of oxygen generators in my home. I call them plants. I wonder if we could get around the oxygen generation problem on the ISS by coating the interior with algae.

What's al-Qaeda's take on the iPhone?

Richard Johnson

yeah yeah

Yes, alright very clever. But, to be serious for a moment, what's Paris Hilton's take on the iphone?

Women prefer well-built blokes: official

Richard Johnson

conclusions go beyond the evidence

In what way does the research show that women are predisposed to prefer muscularity in men?

The women in the study described muscular men as "volatile, aggressive and dominant", hardly a ringing endorsement.

EC wants to suppress internet bomb-making guides

Richard Johnson

would hinder scrutiny of the government

This is a truly disturbing proposal. Many governments in the west have responded to the threat of islamic terrorism by introducing all sorts of laws, rules and procedures. They seek to curtail civil liberties, trample over people's privacy and greatly inconvenience individuals going about their lawful business. All in the name of security against a great threat.

Some of the best journalism I've read following this has come from people who subject the claim about this threat to detailed analysis. In part this may mean describing what is possible with explosives, as a means of demonstrating that a claimed terrorist threat is largely implausible. Or to demonstrate the ineptitude of these terrorists. Doing so exposes the paucity of justification that our Government has for much of the anti-terrorism legislation it seeks to introduce.

Stifle this sort of detailed analysis and you stifle scrutiny of the goverment.

Seeking common factors in the Web 2.0 bubble

Richard Johnson


What a strangely written article, it took me a while to figure out what on earth the author was talking about. The article seems to be full of wibbling about rabbits with long tails and something to do with monkeys, so far as I can tell.

So what's in a URL? The Reg URL?

Richard Johnson

another vote for .co.uk

"theregister.com" just looks wrong. Stick with "theregister.co.uk", it has a much better rhythm when spoken aloud - it's almost iambic pentameter.

UK boffins: extraterrestrial life will be discovered soon

Richard Johnson

eu != european union

The Encyclopedia of Extra Solar Planets is maintained by Jean Schneider at l'Observatiore de Paris, which is funded mainly by the French government not by the European Union. Perhaps you were misled by the .eu domain suffix?

Google's Street View could be unlawful in Europe

Richard Johnson

are you sure?

"if we're taking snaps for commercial use, where individuals are identifiable, there is no such exemption. We need to notify the subjects"

The link you cite refers to a case where a website clearly identified individuals by name, along with telephone numbers and even medical information. Clearly that was a breach of data protection.

But I'm not sure that carries over into photographs where you can identify a person only if you already know what they look like. If you must notify subjects before photographing them, how is it that our newpapers and television news frequently include photographs and video of street scenes? Surely photographs, even those for commercial use, that are simply photographs of the street scene are fair game.

Killer Wi-Fi panics London's chattering classes

Richard Johnson

what about the sun

Wait until someone tells these people that the sun pours out electro-magnetic radiation the whole time, flooding our planet with the stuff. Furthermore, exposure to the sun's radiation is known to cause burns and even cancer!

Cat owner protests against privacy-invading Google

Richard Johnson

photographs in public places

As a keen amateur photographer, the idea of "regulating" the taking of photographs in public places fills me with horror. Would I have to apply for a licence each time I venture out of doors with my camera? Would I have to ask permission of every person who might possible stray within reach of my camera? What a ridiculous idea.

The fact is, a public place is a public place. If you go there, other people can see you. That's how public places work. If you are worried about someone seeing you going into a lap dancing bar, then either don't go into such a place or devise a cunning disguise.

Brown dwarf cools its jets

Richard Johnson

how big?

That has to be the strangest unit of measurement I've come across. How big does a two euro coin appear at 40km distance? I've no idea. I thought I'd test it out by propping a two euro coin against the wall and then travelling 40km away. But now I can't see the coin for all the hills and trees in the way.

Police database delayed indefinitely

Richard Johnson

Huntley myth strikes again

For the record, Ian Huntley was not given a job at a primary school. He got a job as caretaker at Soham College, a Foundation Technology College, which takes pupils from the ages of 11 to 16. It was his girlfried that worked as a teaching assistant at their primary school, not him.

This seems to be something that is often forgotten. Presumably no-one wants to acknowledge that these murders would have been rather difficult to prevent. You'd have to vet not just employees at primary schools, but all their friends too.

Jedi denounce UK sabre ban plan

Richard Johnson

pointy knives

"We don't actually really need knives with points."

Try and fillet a flat fish (such as the delicious lemon sole I cooked for dinner tonight) using a knife without a sharp point. You'll find it's tricky, if not downright impossible.


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