* Posts by GrahamT

460 publicly visible posts • joined 15 Mar 2007


PHONE me if you feel DIRTY: Yanks and 'Nadians wave bye-bye to magstripe


Re: Embossed digits

Restaurants in Europe use WiFi enabled hand-held terminals for card PIN & chip reading. No big deal.

Thirteen Astonishing True Facts You Never Knew About SCREWS


Re: No. 2

If the thread goes up to the head, it's a screw; if there is blank metal between the head and thread, it's a bolt. Told to me by an engineer who helped put the Ark together, so it must be true.

Urine a goldmine for fuel-cell materials: boffins


Re: Ah, history ...

I seem to remember that it was excrement that was used to produce saltpeter (Potassium Nitrate). Dung (human and animal) mixed with ash was spread on a field, and wet blankets spread on the earth and left a few months. The blankets were then washed and the wash liquid evaporated. The crystals left were nitre/saltpeter which was then blended with sulphur and charcoal to make gunpowder.

A big advantage was that the fields were then nicely fertilised for the next crop.

In later times, nasty people would buy Potassium Nitrate directly from a gardening shop to make "fertiliser" bombs.

Boffins debunk red wine miracle antioxidant myth


Not all bad news then

"studies have shown that consumption of red wine, dark chocolate and berries does reduce inflammation in some people and still appears to protect the heart".

That's good...

you'd "need to have such large amounts from red wine that you'd probably kill off your liver and be drunk most of the time"

So what's the bad news?

Vinyl-fetish hipsters might just have a point


Vinyl-fetish hipsters don't have a point

Re: "if you're lucky enough to have valves in your hifi when listening to the vinyl, well I envy you.": If you think valve amps sound better than transistors, well I pity you.

I worked with valve and transistor amps in the late 60's as transistors were starting to make inroads into hifi territory. Part of my job as a research technician was mapping transfer functions and distortion of various devices. Valves have an "S" shaped transfer function, whereas transistors are much more linear, but with a sharp cutoff at top and bottom. At 99% max output a transitor is still fairly distortion free, whereas a valve would be up around 50-80% distortion. However at 100% output, the transistor distorts to buggery and the output is full of odd numbered harmonics, which sound awful to the human ear, whereas the even numbered harmonics of a valve are just 1, 2, 3 octave overtones, which the ear accepts as nice "warm" sounds. But, they are not what was recorded; they are still distortion.

Great for a guitar amp where you want smooth sounding distortion, but it is not "HiFi".

Then take into account that valve amps needed a transformer - a transformer! - in the output, with hysteresis, core saturation and all the other non-linearities you get putting audio through a lump of copper and iron - I mean a massively inductive device, and you are not even in the same ballpark as "Fidelity", let alone "High".

Modern transistor amps have come on in leaps and bounds since my day, whereas valves were already htiing their development ceilings back then.

Remember, when Quad advertised "The closest approach to the original sound", (never disputed) they were advertising their transistor amps, not their valve amps.

Oh, and if you are listening to vinyl with a standard arc-tracing tone arm, you are not hearing what was cut with the linear tracking lathe - and don't forget RIAA equalisation adding a bit more non-linearity.

Anyway, this is all moot for me now; as a teenager working in audio, I could hear up to 21kHz, now the only thing above 10kHz I hear is the constant tinnitus from listening to too many loud rock bands!

Titsup UK Border IT causes CHAOS at air and seaports in Blighty


Southampton, but not Portsmouth?

The article said Southhampton [sic] port was affected, but I arrived at Portsmouth, next door, last night at 21:30 and was through in about the same time as usual. My British passport and my wife's French passport were both scanned through and we were at the kiosk for less than a minute. I only heard about the problem in the news today. Difficult to understand why two very adjacent ports would have different immigration systems. Perhaps they meant Southampton Airport.

ALIEN WORLD Beta Pictoris snapped by Earth's Gemini 'scope


Life vs Civilisation

There is a big difference between life (bacteria and upward) which is all that I mentioned, and technical civilisation. I was responding to: "scientists expected to discover an exoplanet with life by the end of the decade...we might have that discovery by the end of the year".

I stand by my comment that *life* is suspected on other planets in our solar system, but *currently* could only be detected by sending probes there, not remotely.

A sufficiently advanced technical civilisation is likely to be a lot rarer than life, and that advancement would have to have been at that stage n years ago, where n = the number of light years away that we are observing. Much more than 100 light years away and you need "them" to have had our current technology at the time steam and gas light were our most advanced common technologies.

I am not deriding the fantastic acheivement, but we shouldn't get carried away.

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Re: Well done those peeps

As scientists have been unable to detect life on other planets/moons in the solar system yet, even where they suspect it might exist, the chances of them detecting it, by the end of the year, on planets light years away is pretty slim

Picture this: Data-wrangling boffins say they have made JPEGs OBSOLETE

Black Helicopters

More worrying

"It was so powerful that it could spot one cancer cell amid a million blood cells - all in real time"

or one face in thousands going about their legitimate business!

(only partially tongue in cheek.)

Kettle 'which looks like HITLER' brews up sturm in a teacup


Re: People are stupid as a whole.

To be fair to the OP, a 110V 3kW kettle requires about 28 Amps, whereas a 230V 3kW kettle needs about 13 Amps. (power = Volts x Amps) So you would expect a US cables and plug to be huge compared to our 13Amp ones to reduced losses and overheating; but no, they are smaller.

Cable losses are proportional to the square of the current, so double the current = 4 times the losses for the same cable, (which explains why distribution lines are at such high voltages and therefore proportionally lower currents.)

By comparison a complete electric cooker in the UK is usually connected to a 30Amp circuit, so your US electric kettle should have the same thickness cable as a UK cooker.

First 'adult' app for Google Glass planned 'within days'


Re: Google Glass?

Better yet, drop the first two letters of each word:

Go gl

ogle ass

France tries again, with EU20 billion broadband fund



I hope this applies to unbundled providers too, not just France Telecom/Orange. "partout" means everywhere, but that is not the same as "to everyone".

What will it cost the subscribers? The €15/month I pay now is just about acceptable for the 2.5Mbit/s I get (5km from exchange), but it wouldn't be worth me paying a huge amount more just for faster browsing.

Happy birthday, LP: Can you believe it's only 65?


Re: 'If it ain't Stiff, it ain't worth a ...'

Of course the Beatles did it first, on Sergeant Pepper, side two. (1967) I always heard it as "there never could be any other...ad infinitum" but I'm sure others have their own interpretations.


Re: Oh god

This is after Beer O'clock so the mental arithmetic might be askew, but an LP was about 40 mins, Top frequency about 18Khz. Nyquist says two samples per Hertz, 2 bytes per sample,, so 18,000 * 2 (stereo) * 2 ( samples, nyquist) * 2( bytes/sample) * 60 (seconds /minute) * 40 (minutes) = 691,2 Mbytes, so vinyl about the same as CD. (except CD was 60+ minutes) Cassette not that much different, but top frequency unlikely to exceed 15 Khz (more like 10-12) You do the maths.

Because vinyl was analogue, noise was more evident, giving the impression that Cds were much higher quality. In fact vinyl probably contained more "information", even though we couldn't hear it. (and most record decks introduced up to 10% tracking distortion, anyway)

BBC: Monster cargo ship delivers '863 million tins of baked beans'


Re: Too many eggs in one basket

Chicago is a bad example. It is a major inland hub for container trains. The US loading gauge allows double stack trains, (two containers high) so huge mile long trains take the containers to the container yards in Chicago, relatively cheaply, where they are shunted off to trains to other inland hubs (or Canada) or put on trucks for local or express delivery. Long Beach to Chicago takes about 5 days by DS train.

As a Japanese shipping line, we are as likely to use our biggest ships transpacific as to Europe.


Without being toooo pedantic...

"The standard "twenty-foot equivalent unit", measuring 6.1m long, 2.44m wide and 2.59m high" Actually, the clue is in the name; a TEU is exactly 20' x 8' x 8'6". Metric units are an approximation. Actual containers vary a bit from this: High-cubes are taller; 40 foot and 45 foot, are naturally longer; Reefers are refrigerated, so need a power point while on board, so only a limited number can be carried; then there are flat-packs, open-tops and Out-of-gauge loads. Bog standard 1 TEU containers are used as a unit of measure but you would never get a ship full of them.

I remember when 5000 TEU ships were considered the behemoth's knees, now we are using many 8000 TEU vessels, but we are not likely to follow in Maersk's wake yet, especially in the current economic climate.

When your squash partner 'endorses' your coding skills on LinkedIn...


Memento mori

I was endorsed by an ex colleague for a skill I only acquired after leaving that company. (He was a salesman so maybe fishing for a return endorsement.)

Secondly, when in Linked In one day I was aksed to endorse various people, one of whom did have the skills to be endorsed, but I felt I couldn't endorse him as he had died two years earlier.

EU joins Google, hippies, Uncle T Cobbleigh in fight against ITU


Sub Editor on holiday?

"should be left in piece": peace or pieces could be correct, and what is/are ISPa?

Jubcropgate: El Reg in snake-fondling nude nipslip outrage


I, for one...

welcome anything that obscures tits. It means fewer pictures of Boris and Dave to look at.

Swedish woman cuffed for sex with skeleton SHOCKER


All together now...

The foot bone's connected to the ankle bone,

The ankle bone's connected to the leg bone,

The leg bone's inserted in the lady parts,

Now hear the word of the law!

El Reg mulls Forums icon portfolio shake-up


Re: Rocket Science

A rocket in a road sign with a diagonal line through it for: "It's not rocket science..." ?

Ten apps to install on your Nexus 7 first


ES File Explorer

This is the best Android app I have found for browsing Samba shares, though the latest updates seem to have made it less stable. Maybe I should try Solid Explorer, though I really don't care whether the UI is outdated or not.

War On Standby: Do the figures actually stack up?


Re: @ misotonic - A bit low...

...and as the French say; logs heat you twice, once when you cut them, and once when you burn them. Splitting logs is also one of the most therapeutic pastimes I know.

Review: Raspberry Pi


Re: Why does this article's feature show a picture of something else?

The first image is an alpha board, as the caption says; the second picture is the pre-production sample, also as captioned. The second picture looks as near as dammit to the production board pictures I've seen. I get mine next week, so then I will know just how close, but who cares anyway?

Google's self-driving car snags first-ever license in Nevada


Re: See, this is what I like about Google

The Microsoft car only works if at least one window is open, but slows down if you open too many.

To stop it, you press on the start button. Every so often on a journey the car will become unstable, so you have to stop the car and restart it, if closing and re-opening the windows doesn't work.

If it goes crazy and can't be controlled, you have to press three widely spaced buttons simultaneously to be presented with a dialogue box asking if you want to stop, restart, monitor the performance or lock the doors.

Basic instinct: how we used to code


Re: Errrr....

and before that it was on "I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again." on the radio, circa 1964-68.

John Cleese, Tim Brook Taylor, Bill Oddie and Graham Garden, and others whose names I can't remember.

LOHAN gasps at stiff and slippery tube


Re: Ice buildup vs. ice joining things together

A thin layer of lube on the rod won't necessarily stop icing, but should ensure any ice droplets are dislodged easily, like a shower of pearls, by the tube thrusting its way along the erect rod.

Austrian village considers a F**king name change


Re: Meet the Fuckers?

..or twin with Condom in France.

The BBC Micro turns 30


Re: even many schools didn't buy them

A friend of mine was a teacher at a school that decided Spectrums were better value than Beebs. They lasted one or two terms at most before falling to bits. They replaced them with Beebs that worked for years before becoming obsolete as PCs took over.

Steel case, proper keyboard, or plastic case with rubber chiclets, against 11-16 year olds: no contest.

By coincidence, I took my Beeb B to recycling only two weeks ago.

Ubuntu penguins build Linux TV challenge


"duel licensing agreement"

So that's pistols at dawn; survivor gets the rights.

Or did you mean 'dual licensing agreement'?

Ken Russell dies aged 84


At least his films weren't boring.

I have enjoyed every Ken Russell Film I have watched. Lots of visual jokes, even if the continuity was sometimes a bit lacking. I'm not sure if the mediaeval nun in The Devils wearing a wristwatch was one or the other.

I hope there is a retrospective on one or more of the TV channels.

What comes over though, in all the obits, is what a nice guy he was.


San Diego woman strips to bikini to look for her chihuahua


I disagree

That would be the monokini

Why GNOME refugees love Xfce

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Thank you, people

I'm sure no one is reading this thread anymore, but just in case;

Having read all the comments, I switched my laptop from Unity/Gnome 3 to Xubuntu/Xfce. (sudo apt-get xubuntu-desktop) I am really happy I did. I can't say i *hated* Unity/Gnome 3, just that they "got in the way" and left me scratching my ancient head about ways to do simple tasks.

Xfce hasn't been completely trouble free, but at least most things look and work the way I want them to, and Google has sorted out the rest. (and I still have all the Ubuntu/Gnome apps I installed)

Last time I tried Xfce it had less flesh on it than a catwalk model, but I was pleasntly shocked at how much it has come on. This is what Canonical should be offering as the default rather than Unity.

Thank you again all the splendid people that know what they are talking about.

Naked vegans target Prince Harry over meaty 12-incher


Humans are not herbivores

We are Omnivores like pigs and chimps.

A healthy diet includes meat *and* veg, not meat *or* veg.

Happy 40th birthday, Intel 4004!



Re: "The 8080 wasn't alone, though – there was plenty of competition in the earlier days, such as the Zilog Z80, Motorola 6800, and MOS Technology 6501, which Pawlowski told us were all essentially equal competitors at the time."

The Z80 took the 8080 architecture and expanded it with more 16 bit registers like the IX and IY index registers; it came after those other processors, so wasn't really a competitor "at the time", and soon took Intels market for general purpose microprocessors. For us Brits, its most obvious manifestation was in the Sinclair ZX80 and 81, but it was also used in many embedded systems. I loved programming those things.

The first microprocessor I worked with was the 6800, which I thought had a better architecture than the 8080, but CP/M ran on 8080 (and Z80) and was too dominant by the time the 6800 came along.

I never wrote software in assembler for the 6502, as I didn't like the architecture at all - but that didn't stop me loving my BBC micro.

Fusion boffins crack shreddy eddy plasma puzzle


Why Petrol/diesel?

Because hydrocarbons have a better energy density and are easier to handle than hydrogen. More importantly, there are millions of cars/trucks/buses on the planet that can use it.

If energy was so cheap, CO2 could be extracted from the atmosphere and converted back to hydrocarbons so reducing global warming; the carbon particles from diesel could be collected at source and recycled into fuel too. (though there is no shortage of carbon above and below ground)

However, I don't expect any of this to happen in my rapidly diminishing lifetime. I remember cheap energy being promised when I was at school 50 years ago.

Eleven - if you will - rocktastic music movies

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I still have the (vinyl) double albums of both films. Shame the fourth side of the latter is all David Essex.

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A few missing

Gimme Shelter - Stones

Live at Pompei - Pink Floyd

Help! - Beatles

Don't Look Back - Bob Dylan

No Direction Home - Bob Dylan

Monterey Pop

Woodstock (How could you miss Woodstock?)

Still, I can't argue with Spinal Tap at 11, they are still one better than anyone else.


A Musical...

Doesn't that also apply to "The Wall"?

At least in Tommy you see musicians performing most of the way through. (Elton, Tina Turner, etc.)

WebOS developer? 'Grab a slab, while stocks last'


Re: Brian Cox

On his TV programme, didn't he (or maybe it was someone else) characterise Entropy and the end of the Universe as "Things can only get Worse"

Amazon rethinks Kindle Fire 2 screen size


Literary Kindles

I feel a Shakespearean theme coming on:

7" Kindle Much Ado About Nothing

8.9" (or iPad size) Kindle Measure for Measure

10.1" Kindle As You Like It.

Nokia dips toe in free Wi-Fi waters, again


Odd layout

I'm not sure what their business model is, but the City has been ignored except for a lone node at Liverpool Street. Shopping ares seem to have been targetted with clusters around Oxford Street, and Kensington and Knightsbridge, rather than business areas.

Perhaps the nodes are going to serve adds for the nearby shops to bring Nokia some return.

Beeb measures Blighty in doormats


thin end of the wedge

After sulfur we would get aluminum, which is but a short step to chromum, strontum and germanum

Machine translation cracks 18th century occult cipher


Non Sequitur

"..also prove useful in making sense of languages that are not currently spoken by humans, including ancient languages and communication between animals"

Unlikely; the statistical method only works if you know the language that is encoded/enciphered - in this case German. As no one alive speaks animal or many of the dead languages, how would they know the relevance of symbol or sequence frequency? That is why a Rosetta Stone is so important - it provides a basic glossary in the unknown and a known language.

C and Unix pioneer Dennis Ritchie reported dead


RIP dmr

main( )


printf("goodbye, world");


Dell opens new data centre in Slough


The Office

The Office was such a good ad for Slough that they have ripped down the bus station and roundabout that featured in the opening titles. They need to get rid of the Thames Valley University (AKA Slough Tech) building next.

However some enterprising resident has opened a bar/restaurant on the high street called "Wernham Hogg" so the office wasn't all bad news for Slough.

By the way, the smell is from the sewage works at the side of the M4. It was moved nearer Slough when they needed land for Heathrow expansion a few years back. Slough's bad luck, but not its fault.

Brit boffins' bendy bamboo bike breakthrough


Really the first?

Warning - this is based on old memories and hearsay, so may not be 100% accurate.

My father, a keen cyclist when he was young, told me about indoor racing bikes made of bamboo in the 1930s. He said that even the wheel rims were made of bamboo strips. Of course there were no carbon fibre or resin-glass composites in those days, and even aluminium was scarce, so it made sense to use a strong lightweight natural material to produce something lighter than an all steel bike.

I believe the fragility of the bamboo, and the lethal splinters when it broke on impact (not unusual in indoor racing) put paid to it as a realistic material, certainly for outdoor use. After the war there were new materials, so it faded into the mists of time, waiting for someone to reinvent it.

Laptops en route to Europe by rail for first time


Have you thought of the weather onboard a ship?

If temperature was an issue, the laptops could be put in a reefer container. These can be used to warm as well as cool cargo. They would have to plug into the train's power supply as the diesel for their GenSets would probably freeze at -40C.

I see this as a stopgap, rather than a regular service, as the capacity of a train is far below that of a ship, and it costs a lot more.

Where does 40 days come from? All our services take 28 days from Kaohsiung to Hamburg. O.K. still twice the train time, but less likely to be delayed by ice/leaves/buffalo, etc. on the line. Also, they still have to be shipped from Taiwan to the mainland to be put on a train, so there is still the time/cost of loading/unloading a ship involved. Add in the fact that ocean rates are rock bottom at present and you wonder how long the rail service will continue.

There are good reasons why most of the world's goods travel by ship.

The amazing shipping container: How it changed the world


Re: Burning Oil

Burning waste oil in steam ships might have been normal in the 50's when nuclear vessels were first proposed, but current container vessels are diesel, so use similar oil to that used in diesel trains and lorries, but much less per kilometre-tonne. True, the oil companies insist on selling the lines high sulphur diesel, but modern ships have all sorts of exhaust treatment built in. It would be to the bottom line's advantage to use cleaner fuel. Currently many ships are "slow steaming" (though few use steam) to save fuel. There is a big push to make container shipping even greener than it already is.

Verity's secret shame revealed


I want to play this game

A for Air

E for ere

H for heir

B for Christ

C for cue

Q for queue

D for W

F for vescent

G for Gnostic

I for ire (or "an eye")

J for Jugoslavia

K for knave (or kyu)

N for nave

M for Mnemonic

O for Oedipus

P for Ptolomey

R for right (or " for Miller")

W for write

S for 's-Gravenhage

T for Thought (faw' if you are a cockney)

U for me

V for engine

X for horizontal (or unknown quantity)

Y for vertical

Z for depth