* Posts by David Shepherd

66 publicly visible posts • joined 3 Dec 2007


Website liable for Google-generated page summary

David Shepherd

what about word found in pages linking to page

Google "!snippets" don't just contain words from the webpage that is the search result ... Google algorithms can return matches on the basis of words occuring in the page and/or in pages that contain links to that page - in this latter case it is possible for the snippet to contain text from the pages that link to the result. Quite often when searching for multiple words/phrases I'll find a result where the snippet shows text that seems to inidicate its what I'm looking for but when I go to the page its not there and then if I go via the google cache link I find it tells me that that phrase is only found in pages linking to this page.

So, does this mean every webpage author can be liable for text in any other webpage that has been indexed by google?

How the government uses dirty data to legislate morality

David Shepherd

ban underwear

unfortunately something similar almost happened when I was in the US 10 years ago ... started with a tragic accident where a child was very seriously burned and may even have died because her cotton pajamas caught fire when she accidently brushed against a lighted candle. While this might have been a cue for a campaign on dangers of candles/fire instead it lead to a move to introduce a law to ban the sale of cotton nightwear for children!

BT does Italian Job on London traffic lights

David Shepherd

@Mike Shepherd

> why no redundancy

... I suspect that they probably had redundancy but that in the post incident analysis they'll discover that all the redundant paths were in the same tunnel.

N.b. I recall something similar happening in California when I was there 10 years ago (construction work severing major fibre artery) and then it took PacBell 2 or 3 weeks to fix it completely

Wallace and Gromit get patent-happy at Science Museum

David Shepherd

@ A new episode?

No need .... W&G have already covered patent infringement ... in "A close shave" when Wallace sees the copy of his "knit-o-matic" in Preston's dog food factory he say "hey, you can't do that, I've got pats pending"

ISS crew flees flying space junk

David Shepherd

@Sheltering in a Soyuz?

Seem to think that one of the extra modules that they want to fit before space shuttle stops is an extra Soyuz docking port for precisely this reason ... they want to increase crew but until they can dock another Soyuz then they are limited to 3 crew ... except when SS is also docked

Bletchley's Colossus makes beautiful music

David Shepherd


Seem to recall that the Data General Nova we had at school (back in the days of teletypes and fast 300baud VDUs!) had a program (on paper tape, of course) that when run would play a tune that could be picked up on an AM radio placed next to it

Harry Potter hangs up wand in 2011

David Shepherd

Re: Same length

Having "deathly hallows" as 2 films has, I think, less to do with the length of the book and more to do with the fact that Warner paid for the rights to make 8 films out of the HP books ... I think the original rationale was that they were covering themselves in case JKR decided to start an 8th book despite her continual statements that the HP series was 7 books, no more and no less. As a result they've got the ability to make one more film than than there are books so a bit of post hoc rationalisation has come up with the "its too long for one film so we'll have to make two" argument.

MIT boffins fashion working plasma rocket from Coke can

David Shepherd

Wonder where they got the idea from?

Clearly must have read "Q-Pootle 5" by Nick Butterworth

see: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Q-Pootle-5-Nick-Butterworth/dp/000664712X

and to quote the review Amazon use

A burned-out rocket booster puts a kink in pudgy, green Q Pootle 5's plans to make it to his friend Z Pootle 6's birthday party on the Moon. That booster looks remarkably like a tin can in Butterworth's simply drawn cartoons-and indeed, after a forced landing on Earth, Q Pootle 5 finds that a more or less empty can of cat food makes the perfect replacement part. Once Henry the cat has finished his supper, of course, he makes certain it is empty and it does the trick. No, not exactly rocket science, but the pictures are well stocked with page-filling disaster noises-including a four-page, giant-sized "sssscccrrreeeeeeeee . . ." that is Q Pootle's landing-and helpful earthlings, mostly of the four-legged variety. An unfolding, poster-sized party scene brings up the rear of this droll close encounter of the silly kind. "(Picture book. 5-7)" (Kirkus Reviews)

Vatican endorses Darwin, slights intelligent design

David Shepherd

God, make me good - but not yet.

I think the St Augustine quote that's most relevant to this subject is his call for

"Unity in essential things, freedom in nonessential things, and charity in all things"

Pentax K-m entry-level digital SLR

David Shepherd

@Chris L

The 28 in FZ28 is not actually 28mm .. I think its actually the current model in the sequence FZ8, FZ18, FZ28 :-)

However it does have a zoom range down to 28mm in terms of 35mm SLR lenses ... however the actually focal length of virtually every digital camera is smaller than the equivalent on a 35mm SLR since apart from a few full frame models all have sensors smaller than the size of a 35mm film frame. So to get from actual focal length to equiv 35mm focal length there's always a conversion factor ... for most DSLRs its ~1.5X (though Olympus 4/3rds system has a slightly smaller sensor so its 2X for them). Thus the standard 18-55mm lens is actually 27-83mm in 35mm terms. I've got a Canon SX10 which has a similar sensor size and lens range as the FZ28 and its lens is 5-100mm actual or 28-560 35mm equiv. The fact that theres a 5.6x conversion factor is the indicator of the much smaller sensor so a DSLR will always do better in difficult conditions ... but for many people a bridge is a sensible compromise.

The latest bridges like FZ28 and SX10 have pushed the zoom ranges at both ends so there's now a much wider angle available. I'd agree with you that a decent wide angle is often more useful than extreme telephotos.

Cowon iAudio S9 PMP

David Shepherd


> we were left wondering why Apple alone seem to understand the value of gapless playback

well originally Apple didn't understand gapless but Sony *did*. The original ATRAC "network walkmans" (like my HD3) certainly did but original iPod's didn't - that's one of the reasons why I discarded iPod as an option.

Sadly, in the new "MP3" incarnations Sony appear to have dropped gapless + ATRAC is no more. So when/if I come to replace the HD3 looks like Sony may be much less attractive and iTouch is a option again (after all,. as I'm going to have to rerip all my CDs then there's no benefit of sticking with Sony)

Online crime maps go live

David Shepherd

@And the obvious effect of this is

but, if you're not intending on selling and want to reduce the "nice area tax" part of the council tax revaluation then report away!

Council to crack down on Cracknuts Lane

David Shepherd

Place name revisionism

Reminds me of the ongoing process in the US where there's an ongoing argument between african-americans and hispanics (no doubt fueled by a load of do-good white liberals!) as to whether names containing "negro" should be expunged from maps because they have racist backgrounds ... or whether the name predates slavery and comes from the spanish word for black and thus changing the name is an act of racism against hispanics.

Similarily while in California 10+ years ago I remember reading someone had persuaded the Calif DMV that "JAP" was an offensive reference to Japanese people and got them to cancel all car license plates that included "JAP" as a substring!

David Shepherd

Carters Lane ...

... also known as Wibbly Wobbly Lane

This is what a "street" sign on a small lane between Luton and Hitchin says!

Don't shout at your disk drives, warns Sun engineer

David Shepherd

@get a hammer

that used to be (semi-)official support advice from Sun engineers ... the original Sun4 SparcStation had hard-drives that fairly regularly would get stuck in the "head park" position if they were powered down. The advice to fix this was to give the unit a sharp hit on the side to dislodge the heads!

Register Hardware revamped

David Shepherd
Dead Vulture

not as bad as other places

most positive comment I can come up with is that its not as bad as another "plaice" that's "updated" its appearance in the past couple of weeks. I expect in the usual boil-a-frog process I'll get used to it in a few weeks and thus be ready for the next outrage

MSI mobo ditches Bios for EFI

David Shepherd

BIOS 2.0

yup, looks prettier, doesn't do anything new and probably is actually not any better easier to use.

At least for those of us old enough to remember keying in a bootstrap loader via front panel switches BIOS seems perfectly fit for purpose

BBC: Top Gear Tesla didn't run out of juice

David Shepherd

cars running out of petrol

TG have done this ... when reviewing the Ford GT JC came to a halt on the track (at least that's what they showed) after running out of petrol ... turned out that he'd only been getting 4mpg. Ford said driven more carefully he should have got at least 12mpg. Also, RH and JM then ridiculed JC as he had a GT on order on basis with his driving style he couldn't drive to the TG set from home without running out of fuel.

At least this is consistent with the Tesla comments of 200 mile range for normal driving vs the 55 mile TG estimate from track driving.

NASA will give away old Shuttles for free

David Shepherd

Shuttle for Bristol!

> But you'll need an 8,000 to 10,000 foot runway handy

Got one of those right next to where they plan to build a new museum at Filton for the last Concorde ... so why not add a "Space Shuttle" wing to it!

Sounds ideal ... just need to find the $42M

Seagate slashes bare drive warranties

David Shepherd

External vs Internal

External drives are likely to be accessed less frequently than internal drives thus will probably spin down a lot more and I think with modern drives excessive numbers of spin-down/up cycles are one of the major causes of failure.

American 'football' goes 3D

David Shepherd

@proper "footie"

Of course, those of use with a proper education will already know that "football" really describes the game played to the rules of the Rugby Football Union as opposed to the upstart game of "Association Football" :-)

Pirates pee on Amazon's MP3 parade

David Shepherd

amazon gets taste of own medicine?

Ignoring all the issues over legality of MP3s from pirate bay there is an interesting twist to this story in that Amazon is getting a taste of its own medicine ... recently they were talking about a scheme where you could be browsing in a bookshop and see a book you wanted but instead of buying at the shop you could send a text message to Amazon with the ISBN code for the book and receive a reply giving the price Amazon then a reply to that would place the order with Amazon. So, Amazon thought they could use ordinary bookshops to provide a marketing tool for their sales. So its very amusing to see someone turning the tables on them and providing a service where you browse on Amazon and then get told where to find the product cheaper!

Net pedants dismantle Quantum of Solace

David Shepherd

Bregenz Airport

Maybe he flew Ryan Air in which case anywhere within 100 miles of Bregenz could qualify as Bregenz Airport.

VAT fraudster must repay £26m

David Shepherd

Rich person to pay uncollected VAT

... so that's where Brown & Darling got their idea from

Sky channels return to cable

David Shepherd
Thumb Down


Quite agree, Sky1 and SkyNews going never really bothered me so didn't notice it going. Suspect we will notice it coming back when VM announce increase in charges justified by a bunch of "new" channels.

School to hand out e-textbooks

David Shepherd

"free schooling"

Read some of the govenors meetings reports at the secondary school my son was about to go to a couple of years ago and they were considering using an "innovative PDA based" system for this sort of thing. From description sounded as if pupils would be required to acquire a PDA from the school and pay £10/month for 2 years for the privilege of having to use it. Fortunately the idea didn't seem to be taken any further than this so we've avoided another of the regular taps for money from the school for "essential educational experiences".

Gmail cuts out the meatspace with canned replies

David Shepherd

Not same as vacation

This isn't the same an autoresponder that automatically responds to every email. Instead this seems to allow you to build up your own set of standard replies so when you get an email that deserves a standard response instead of pulling up a compose-reply window and typing it I assume you'll just click to pull up you set of standard responses, select the one you want and press send.

Thus IT support can now sit back and simply select between the

- "try turning it off and on"

- "RTFM"

- "install the latest version"

- "we don't support that any more"


BAE's bandwidth blimp-bot takes off (indoors)

David Shepherd

@Secret Missions

If you paint the balloon blue and cover the payload in mud then it will look like a small rain cloud in the blue sky ... the effect can be heightened by employ ground troops to walk up and down with an umbrella while saying "tut, tut, I looks like rain". However, even this disguise may not fool the wrong type of bees.

Google Maps gets gov M-way congestion overlay

David Shepherd


wonder if the BBC will produce a Google Maps overlay for their very useful

"England ------>"

indicator :-)

Geode - the Firefox add-on that knows where you are

David Shepherd
Thumb Down

Needs wifi database

For this to work you need to have a (up to date) database of what wifi access points are "visible" in any location. To do this you'd probably need to drive up and down every street in the area you want to cover (hmm, who'd do a thing like that!) to sample the access points and hope that people didn't upgrade too often.

Also, if anything serious tried to make use of this location info then how long before we get stories of people rigging up hacked APs to spoof the APs in a designated location.

Reg readers rage at comment icon outrage

David Shepherd

new icon

How about the old people with walking stick traffic sign for "things used to be better than they are now".

OMFG, what have you done?

David Shepherd

hate it

No, don't like it at all ... seems to have gone the same ways as the awful BBC news revamp from earlier this year. Anyway, at least the BBC episode caused me to find the stylist add-on for firefox so I could tweak that into a slighlty more acceptable (to me!) form and maybe I'll have to do the same for the reg ... alternatively, as they say on the BBC "there are other suppliers of tech news"

Netbooks and Mini-Laptops

David Shepherd

Psion/Sony/Toshiba NOT the original...

... how abut the Olivetti Quaderno ... remember reading a PCW review of it when it came out and wanting one - it was a notebook PC designed down to the size of an A5 notebook (think name "quaderno" was Itallian for standard school notepad or something like that). Just done some googling and found that it came out in 1992 and was about the size of the original EEEs.

United 'bankruptcy' points to new stock scam techniques

David Shepherd

BBC (old) news

Mentioned this in another comment yesterday but now found the BBC news articles.



to explain why "Hotmail about to charge for email" hit the most read listings several years later. (I wonder it this will now propel this article up the rankings :-)

Google News farce triggers Wall Street sell-off

David Shepherd

BBC (old) news

There was an editorial a few weeks ago on BBC news about how old news can suddenly appear new in the internet world ... the example they gave was the "most read" list on the BBC news website ... occasionally for some reason a very old story creeps into the list (example that triggered the article was a several year old news item that Hotmail were considering starting charge to send emails - seem to think the "man forced to marry goat" article regularly makes this list as well) -- possibly via the "see also link" on some current news story but once it makes it to the home page it gathers momentum + as its on BBC news home page it gathers credibility.

Google bulges old time news archive

David Shepherd


you sure ... I just had a look and found they've got several thousand(!) of my USENET postings all the way back to 1989. Hmmm, that's a bit scary!

(BTW, when are the Reg going to offer their "comments" archive to Google)

Hadron boffins: Our meddling will not destroy universe

David Shepherd

vacuum bubbles have not been produced anywhere in the visible Universe

... well perhaps not in (any of) our branch(es) of the multiverse

Clever, clever Adaptec

David Shepherd


Stop it immediately - don't verb nouns

MPs lambast BBFC over Batman

David Shepherd

12A !< 12

Part of the problem may be the way 12A has replaced 12 ... I must admit until I heard someone from the BBFC discussing this film on the radio yesterday I'd assumed that 12A was added as a new rating in additon to the pre-existing 12 so that I'd been assuming that the 12A classification lay somewhere between PG and 12 and not as BBFC were saying that they consider 12A films suitable for 12 year old and above but now allow parents the ability to ignore them. The fact that 12 is used for DVD classifications just adds to the confusion.

Google 'exploitation' protest takes to the streets

David Shepherd


but as they'd say in SF "I could care less" ... clearly there is a major misplaced negative problem over there. (or is that there isn't?)

Dell's dinky designer desktop

David Shepherd

GBP400 version?

The £399 version is a bit more basic than the one you mention ... 160GB disk, celeron processor, USB keyboard. Plus, took a bit of time for me to spot how to get to it as its not listed in the standard configs (usual Dell technique - advertise low price then on web page steer customers to more expensive versions while keeping the low price version "available" but not always easy yo find!)

Think I'm still waiting for the Eee Box though!

UK boffins roll out video periodic table

David Shepherd

Safety glasses not required

At least this will remove the need for any school kids to do anything exciting^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hdangerous like chucking sodium into water themselves.

Perhaps the idea is that kids will see that if the study science they'll get to be "on the telly" and thus famous.

... wonder if they'll do the "slosh the mercury over the lab table" trick that my prep-school science master did :-)

eBay UK pimps users' privacy for targeted ads

David Shepherd


Sounds more like they've changed the T&C to include target ads that you can opt-out of. Thus if you have a principled objection to them introducing this as opt-out then you'd not want to accept the new T&Cs and thus would have to go ... however, if you merely find this irritating and want to immediately opt-out of it then you can do this and implicitly accept the new T&Cs by not leaving

Minister urges end to videogame rating feud

David Shepherd

@BBFC all the way

As a parent mainly agree ... film classifications are familiar and easy to understand so having similar system to that for video games should be an obvious choice. The PEGI system sounds rather like ideas for TV/video classification from around a decade ago which, I seem to recall, were believed to be designed to (i) satisfy US legislators demanding a classification system be used and (ii) be so complicated to understand that no-one would actually use them to control access!

From my point of view "18" is a clear indication that a game is not suitable of my children (12 & 8!) .... however for "12" and possibly "15" now I have some issues ... Rome Total War is a "12" yet both my sons have enjoyed this for a couple of years ... yes it involves killing but it also has introduced them to a lot of info about the ancient world. Looks like its the usual "protect the kiddies for killing" mantra at work (and if there's dead bodies you can have blood until they are 15). My older son also greatly enjoys the "Roman Mysteries" books and has been watching the version on BBC ... however same rules apply - first series was abruptly cut in mid series in case a storyline about a child being abducted was "inappropriate" just after the McCann "disappearance" and latest series seems to have skipped a book where several people died and had no-one being eaten by crocodiles int eh Colosseum!

BTW, son also got DVD of "The Longest Day" recently as had seen parts of it on school trip to Normandy battlefields ... BBFC warn that it contains "scenes of battle violence" :-)

Holidaymaker gets £31k data roaming bill

David Shepherd

@What I don't understand

>is how the company concerned can afford to write off the bill of over £31K and only charge

>£229? Surely they have to pay a roaming company for using all that data? Either someone

>is making a HUGE amount of money or I'm missing something

I think what you are missing is that the cost of the roaming that Vodafone (UK) will have come from Vodafone (Portugal) so probably that enabled Vodafone to reduce the cost (presumably to what it would have been in UK on an non-bundled rate) as all the costs were within the same family of companies - certainly when I was in Portugal earlier in the year my Vodafone SIM connected to Vodafone Portugal whenever possible. I suspect things would have been more complicated if he'd been somewhere where roaming was via a non-Vodafone company!

Alan Sugar leaves Amstrad

David Shepherd

Viglen the early days

I remember buying a floppy disk drive for my BBC micro from Viglen ~25 years ago ... took the "value" option of the 40-track version so I could luxuriate in 100kB space per 5.25" floppy rather than the more expensice 80-track 200kB option ... but it was an immense leap forward from cassette storage!

Must have seen an ad in PCW which seemed best price for floppy drive and as this was well before the "click to buy" internet days I got in my car and drove down to somewhere in N London to Viglen which turned out to be a plastics company who'd clearly just discovered that the value of a plastic box could be greatly increased by sticking a floppy drive inside. Not sure whether they really expected people to turn up to buy stuff direct but I drove off with one.

Seems amazing that 100kB storage seemed so amazing ... I realized a few months ago that at home we'd recently passed the 1TB barrier!

Japanese customs dish out free dope

David Shepherd

training for wrong target

Maybe this shows that all the training on the dogs had done was to teach them to recognise the "standard dummy bag" and not cannabis at all!

Reminds me of a story of a neural net system for the army designed to recognise tanks ... designers used lots of photos they took of a tank exercise on salisbury plane along with photos of the identical views without tanks taken the next day. After using these to train the neural net they were very happy with its accuracy ... until the tried to demo it "in the field" where it failed miserable. After analysis they eventually determined they'd trained the net to distniguish (with high degree of accuracy) between "sunny day" and "cloudy day"

Phoenix beams back Martian postcards

David Shepherd

Re: 7.7 feet

But remember, one of the previous Mars probes was lost because of confusion between feet and metres so its entry sequences got triggered at completely the wrong altitude.

MEP tries to ban lightbulbs with mercury amendment

David Shepherd

Science lessons just aint what they used to be

> Metallic mercury isn't all that nice a thing to have lying around

When I were a lad I remember our science teacher doing a lesson on metals showing a selection of metals including mercury where he demonstrated its liquid status by pouring it out onto the lab bench then pushing all the resulting droplets back into the container using a piece of paper ... doubt they do that nowadays! (suspect they're not even allowed to lob lumps of sodium in water to see what happens ... even if wearing safety glasses)

BBC iPlayer continues platform sluttiness with Virgin Media launch

David Shepherd

Isn't it just a new name for existing Virgin catchup TV

For some time (probably 2 years or so) Virgin have had their catchup TV system where via the STB menu you can replay progs from a handful of channels (BBC, CH4 + a couple of others) from the past week. Apart from giving it the "iPlayer" brand and perhaps tinkering with the interface (I believe we're eventually going to get it as a "channel" rather than via menus) I can't see whats all that different from what they were doing.

When I first read that Virgin we going to be doing a version of iPlayer I'd assumed that since they already had catchup-TV on the STB this must be something different so I'd hoped it was some improved broadband streaming system where they'd be able to tune the streaming distibution/bandwidth over their cable network ... however it just seems to be a new name for something that we already had ... sounds par for the course for the current BBC given their current big deal over the News rebranding