* Posts by Russ Williams

55 publicly visible posts • joined 25 Jan 2008


Do you work in IT at RBS? Or at the next place to get hit ...?

Russ Williams

Another classic article from Dominic

Absolutely love his irreverent style... but the real gem is always all the butthurt comments showing such staggering levels of naïveté that you have to wonder how some of these people tie their own shoelaces.

Yes, it's all senior management's fault. So what? You think, as a tech monkey (2nd class) pointing that out you're going to get Stephen Hester's head on a platter?

Probably the best general defence with this sort of situation is a solid reputation of competence. Do the things Dominic suggests. All of the time. Make sure people have heard of you. If your company has technical mailing lists/forums, post to them and help answer questions. Give people credit (and CC their boss) when they do things that help you. Nobody will remember why they've heard of you, but they _will_ recognise your name, and that's handy when promotions and comp are being discussed. Make your boss look good by _doing your job well_ and giving him plenty of warning if something's going wrong. This isn't rocket science.

When things do go wrong, it may be fun to sit in the corner, making snarky comments and apportioning blame, but you weren't hired for your comedy skills. You were hired to make the computers work, and they don't, so you're already in deep shit.

The BBC Micro turns 30

Russ Williams

Re: Sign EXtend

The 8051 had 'ORL' and 'ANL' (logical OR/AND), but no straight 'SEX' opcode...

Four illegal ways to sort out the Euro finance crisis

Russ Williams

Insolvancy test

If they cannot pay their debts as they fall due, they are insolvent.

That's the only test that can reasonably be applied to a country, since the net present value of its assets are based on too many fudgeable assumptions (interest rates, tax rates and population growth for half a century, for example).

Top level domain explosion could wreak MAYHEM on NET

Russ Williams

Sign me up for .CORN

Like sex.corn, paypal.corn, amazon.corn...

Blighty gets gold-dispensing ATM

Russ Williams


Yeah, and like any intraday trader in a retail market, you'll get utterly destroyed on the spreads.

Just because prices are tracking the market doesn't mean they're good! £40 for 1g implies an offer price of near enough $2000/toz, and a postal gold buyer just quoted me £15.03 for 1g implying a $750/toz bid price. So yeah, good luck making a profit on that.

You can get a bid-offer spread of less than 10% in Hatton Garden, but even that is like trying to be a currency speculator using the Bureau de Change.

Custard pie activist slams IPCC 'grey literature' habit

Russ Williams

Re: Code Word

No, it's a simple recognition that the SW1 bubble - especially the front benches on both sides - are from upper/middle class backgrounds, privately-educated, with a significant proportion of Oxford PPE graduates, and little or no experience outside of politics.

This is not representative of the population at large, it's not even representative of ex-Oxbridge Old Boys, but it is a distinct self-appointed ruling class which answers only to itself. You may have noticed this in the way that policies are formulated.

Personally, I disagree with the term "elite", since they're not, but "unnacountable groupthinkers, nepotists and cronyists" is too long to use in a Tweet.

Rumbled benefits cheats offer sensational excuses

Russ Williams

Irony is like Silvery, but less valuable

"our investigators are routinely dealing with barefaced cheek and ridiculous excuses for stealing money from the taxpayer" but enough from the IPSA about MPs' expenses...


Russ Williams

@brake (re:Sir...)

In my local pubs, we have a lot of people with what the NHS would term drinking (and smoking) problems. Very few of them - in fact, none that I've ever heard tell of - have head/neck cancer.

On the other paw, both my mother and maternal grandmother have had brain tumours despite never drinking. I'd say that is likely to have a rather more significant effect on my chances than the couple of tasty pints I sank at lunchtime...

Fukushima fearmongers are stealing our Jetsons future

Russ Williams

Rule of thumb

1Sv (1000mSv) => 1% increase in cancer risk.

So, 100 workers getting 4x the dose at which they'd be immediately withdrawn from the site, will give one of them a tumor... in addition to the 30 or so that they'd get without any radiation exposure whatsoever. I'd take that risk as one of them. Hell, I take more of a risk crossing the street on my way to work: white vans are a lot more hazardous than trace quantities of plutonium.

Much as I love to disagree with Mr Page, he's spot on with this one. People generally have no concept of risk or understanding of low-probability events, so their opinions are worth nothing at all in the 'debate' against reality. More people died in car crashes avoiding flying after 9/11 than died in the WTC; more people will die in mining accidents as a result of panic over Fukushima than will die of radiation poisoning from it; and a bunch of sanctimonious morons will pat themselves on the back for their wise counsel to avoid some movie plot threat.

IBM answer machine makes chumps of trivia chimps

Russ Williams

Question Answering

Watson is quite probably related to IBM's old TREC-QA systems. For TREC-8 (in 1999), they used a combination of shallow parsing to get search keywords from the question and to extract typed entities (names, roles, lengths, ages) from the document corpus. That system filtered the search results to find answers appropriate to the question - a question starting "Who ...?" clearly wants a name in response, "How far ...?" will be a distance, etc. It was one of the more effective attempts, but 'understood' far less than competing systems. (Microsoft took that to an extreme in a later year and produced a QA system which searched Google for the answers on the basis that someone somewhere will have used the exact phrasing, then looked in the corpus to find them, understanding absolutely nothing)

Adapting such a QA system to Jeopardy is an interesting summer project. It's different since you don't get given the question - but you do get given a category and questions often start with "this <type of answer> ..." or similar. And then there's the betting strategy involved with Daily Doubles.

You can see where Watson has had a lot of problems - categories that involve puns in the answer ("'church' and 'state'"), categories with a specific connection it can't resolve ("Actors who direct", "Also on your computer keys"), groups of years ("Name the decade"). Ironically, Watson could probably have answered the much harder "The year the first modern crossword puzzle was published" better than the looser "The first modern crossword puzzle is published & Oreo cookies are introduced" (to identify a decade). Those can be fixed, of course, but then you're just building a machine to play Jeopardy slightly better, not actually solving anything.

Lawyer wants WikiLeaker kept off suicide watch

Russ Williams

Torture? Get a grip!

When he's being waterboarded, beaten with hoses, having his fingernails pulled out, and being tasered in the balls, *then* you can claim he's being tortured.

Checking that someone who was sent to the base chaplain for "odd behaviours" and was "due to be discharged for 'adjustment disorder'", and who described himself as a "wreck" and was "in an awkward place" "emotionally and psychologically" when he (allegedly) exfiltrated classified data he was sworn to protect, hasn't injured himself is not just right and proper. It's his captors' duty of care to do so.

There are a lot of people who would want to harm Manning, probably including most of the other prisoners in the stockade (just because they've broken military law doesn't mean they like traitors) and likely plenty of the guards, too, so solitary and lock-down are necessary. And he didn't exactly sound mentally stable before incarceration, let alone now with people baying for his blood. If he's innocent, it's even more vital that he's not injured.

I'm sure it's not pleasant for him, but being locked up in prison on remand - particularly for a crime that can carry the death penalty - is rarely noted for its relaxing properties. The best thing for everyone involved is to get this to court martial ASAP...

Gates, Woz, and the last 2,000 years of computing

Russ Williams

Sir Wilkes?

That's not how knighthoods work...

'Blitzer' railgun already 'tactically relevant', boasts maker

Russ Williams


As others have noted, Mach 5 with 60,000g means a ~2.4m barrel and ~3ms firing time. That's feasable for low/moderate sea states as any shock to the hull is unlikely to coincide with the instant of firing.

Making the projectiles "smart" is a non-starter. The forces involved in the launch would crush all but the simplest and hardest electronics, would likely bend/break movable fins, and might even detonate the warhead. On top of that, it's going to be enough of a magnetic field (presumably on the order of 1 Tesla, like MRI scanners) to induce enough current to fry electronics and seriously limit the materials that can be used. In addition, it's non-trivial even to steer something at mach 5 - the air has the consistency of a brick wall.

Under-sea blasts work fine for torpedos with a ton of high explosives. This sort of hittile would be maybe 1kg, with a muzzle energy of ~1.5MJ. Water has a specific heat capacity of 4,187J/kgK and a specific latent heat of evaporation of 2,270,000 J/kg. Assuming a sea temperature of 15 deg C it will take over 2.6MJ to boil 1kg of water - in other words, at 100% efficiency of conversion, the KE would be enough to boil only about a pint of sea water, which really isn't going to snap the keel of any ship that wouldn't fit in a bottle.

As an anti-ship weapon, it's going to be limited to perforating the hull and hoping to hit something that'll go "boom". With a decent ROF and a lot of cheap shots, that could still be useful, but it's got to compete with 4.5" guns that can deliver a couple of dozen shells a minute out to 12nmi.

Against Vampires the speed is a significant advantage as it means you can engage further out, which means that any deflection is likely to make the incoming ASM miss the target. While it's possible for a missile to jink to the side to avoid countermeasures, that takes a lot of energy, and it takes a lot of energy to correct the trajectory again afterwards - and so there's a finite limit to what can be done. Of course, you're firing a small, dumb dart a very long way - easy to miss a moving target the size of a phone box at several miles.

Sadly there is one target which this weapon is ideal for use against: the SR-71 'Blackbird' :(

Blighty's stealth robojet rolls out a year late

Russ Williams

@Willy Messerschmitt

Good analysis, aside from some French leanings.

The Rafale is really a second-rate fighter - without the engine, cockpit and electronically-scanned radar upgrades nobody is interested in buying it. Brazil has been on the cards for a while, but still hasn't signed. The existence of a navalised version (unlike Typhoon) might make it the only choice for carrier-launched fighters, but they're probably not as good as helicopters/UAVs/cruise missiles. There's pretty much only one use case for a carrier-based fighters: parking off the coast of a country with a competent air force and engaging them in dogfights. Far better to take them down with (semi-stealthy) deep-strike weapons when they're on the ground and medium-/long-range AA missiles if they get airborne.

As you note with BP, the US' interests are not the UK's, and sacrificing our ability to design and build aircraft - even if we haven't had a production line in half a century - for a few tens of millions of pounds is ridiculous. The Tanaris development cost less than buying a single F-35. It would cost tens of billions, and decades of research (or active espionage), to get military aircraft design capability back once lost. Yes, we don't need to build fighters now; we didn't need to perform a beach assault in the 1970s; we didn't need desert khakis in the 1980s; we didn't need to do anti-piracy patrols or land-mine/IED sweeping in the 1990s. Things change.

The need for a defence capability is, to a great extent, influenced by its absence: a competent enemy commander will change their strategy to exploit whatever weaknesses can be found.

Amazing 'pulse of darkness' ray tech birthed in US gov labs

Russ Williams

@The old man from scene 24

That's not a laser!

(These forums would suck without audience partici...)

Resurrecting old jargon

Russ Williams

A good point buried under a cacophany of buzzwords

Yes, the BI emperor is naked, like so many of his predecessors.

"Decision Support" is a handy term to bear in mind, since it focusses attention on the fact that business is about making decisions. It drives the focus from the abstract to the concrete, from the general to the specific, from the grandiose to the deliverable. Unfortunately, it also suggests finding evidence for a decision *after* it's been made - Douglas Adams would doubtless approve.

The problem, though, is that BI/DS/SOA/BPM/etc are all just self-referential claptrap on a level which makes literary deconstruction seem straightforward and a model of clarity. Buzzwords migrate and mutate as they're (mis)used by people who've only seen one or two examples of them in the past. Solutions are bought and sold on the basis of having the same incantations as the two-page articles in glossy magazines, not because they're of any provable benefit to the company.

There's one fundamental truth at the end of all of this: business analysis is hard work, and anyone who claims differently is trying to sell you snake oil.

Labour candidate tweets postal votes

Russ Williams

Re: Opinion Polls

It's not an Opinion Poll, which aren't banned, it's an Exit Poll - which are. The contents of postal votes are, undeniably, the accurate voting intentions of the people involved. Which makes this a (prima facie) breach of section 66A of the Representation of the People Act (1983).

Exit Polls have been proven to affect the result so, even though they may be conducted, the results can't be revealed until after the polls close. That's traditionally how the BBC attempt to make the first few hours of Election Night less boring - discussing how people have said they voted, until the results start coming in after midnight.

Also, some people above have claimed Kerry McCarthy is just a PPC - she isn't, she was (until the dissolution of parliament) the MP for Bristol East, and Labour's "Twitter Tsar" in charge of digital engagement. With the new boundaries for 2010, Adeela Shafi (the Conservative PPC) should have a good chance, so let's hope the Tory bloggers get what they want: #kerryout

Apple voids warranties over cigarette smoke, users say

Russ Williams
Jobs Horns

Statutory Rights

The guarantee doesn't affect them, regardless of the screwdriver monkeys' feelings about "gunky" machines.

El Reg's LHC visit - Deleted Scenes

Russ Williams

Re: Live Eyes

@Annihilator: Nah, they probably watched Demolition Man, so all is well.

(Beer is bad for you, hence illegal)

Scots slam Germans for 'tight-arsed' slur

Russ Williams

I hear he'd tried to complain by phone...

... but they wouldn't accept the charges.

UK council forced to swallow dick

Russ Williams
Paris Hilton

@Mycho and @Anonymous John

"Plus, don't these people know their Cockney?"

Indeed. I'd much sooner eat a Dick than a Richard...

Doctor Who fans name best episode ever

Russ Williams

Jenkins! Chap with wings there. Five rounds rapid.

How could The Daemons be missing from that list?

BOFH: Trussssst in me

Russ Williams

He's back!

Yay! More BOFH!

(Is that icon a brick with the word "Welcome" on it?)

CRB checks can take years to complete

Russ Williams
Paris Hilton

@Jason Bloomberg

I like "one in eight / has to wait" ;-)

FSF launches Windows 7 anti-upgrade letter campaign

Russ Williams

@Schroeder Washere

Can't hold off with the strawman arguments, eh? You ask where they are, but seemingly don't understand the term - it's a spurious and irrelevant argument, misrepresenting an opponent's position, thrown out to confuse and distract. You tried to justify allegations of astroturfing - another term you seem not to understand - on the basis of the DOCX standardisation process and I4I's patent claims, amid a fog of extraneous verbiage. Microsoft's behaviour in other areas, while a subject for debate, is not the subject of this one.

"I guess that's why there's only one global car manufacturer making one model [...]"

No, but it's why all cars have the left-to-right (clutch)-brake-throttle pedal arrangement and a wheel to control the steering, and very similar controls in general, so you don't need an aircraft-style "type rating" for each manufacturer.

It's why each country only drives on one side of the road, rather than leaving the choice up to the individual driver.

It's also why Boeing and Airbus would go bust without (illegal) government intervention: nobody wants the choice and its existence hurts all players.

"[...] And it's interface has never changed since version 1.0. Wait, you mean there's choice, even in the Microsoft world?"

You can choose to run Windows 1.0? On what? Where would you get a copy? It's not been sold for two decades and doesn't support any hardware you've been able to buy in about as long. Choice, you say?

So, to get back to the point, you're accusing people of being Microsoft shills on the basis of nothing more than your own prejudice and arrogance. You made the claim, but are completely incapable of backing it up. Ironically, you lobby for choice and, apparently, are incapable of seeing why anyone wouldn't want that... but say accusations of zealotry are unfounded?

Final thought on the matter: the FSF letters are unsolicited and have commercial implications; that makes them unsolicited commercial mail. How do you feel about spam?

Russ Williams

@Schroeder Washere: Obvious troll is obvious!

I'm impressed with how many straw-man arguments you can pack into one post... but like the character in The Wizard of Oz, they're in need of a brain.

"the more forward thinking of those companies go for platforms that support open standards preferably supported by multiple vendors" - indeed they do, which is why Windows remains the platform of choice for both users and vendors.

You blather on about "choice", but choice is fundamentally an abdication of design responsibility. So Linux gives you the choice of KDE or Gnome - shame that both suck - and a dozen different window managers, none of which do the job properly. And all the text editors. And so many clocks! Wow. I suppose you'd expect a condemned prisoner to be grateful for being offered the choice of being shot or being hanged, as the customisation will enhance his experience.

People don't actually want choice, they want the system to work consistently and cause them the minimum amount of hassle while they do their jobs. I'm always stunned by how open source zealots seem incapable of addressing this point, or even acknowledging its existence. I guess taking "choice is good" as axiomatic is easier, huh?

Russ Williams

@Schroeder Washere

"I'm guessing those FSF letters hit the mark, given the way Microsoft has to mobilised it's army of astroturfers to scream blue murder about how bad they they've been told linux is."

Do you have any idea how retarded you (and other open-source dingbats) sound when inventing these pathetic conspiracy theories? Do you even know what astroturfing is? Or does being an unhelpful zealot take up too much time for you to think and learn?

Hint: this is the real world, and intelligent people have different ideas to yours. As a Myers-Briggs trainer once said to me, "if you think there's only one way to make a decision, you've a very strong T preference" - ~50% of the world (no, not the female half) don't make decisions through logic. Of those who do, your (soi disant) logical arguments fail on numerous levels as this comment thread shows - no understanding of externalities, risk, training costs, support costs, rollout, legacy apps, testing, etc. etc. On that basis, you can perhaps convince enough people to get maybe single-digit-percent market penetration. Woo.

I first tried to use linux in about '95 (Slackware, onto a 386sx16 with a 40mb HD) which not only failed miserably but was so horrendous it put me off for years. I used RedHat 6 and 7 on a regular basis around '01, hating the unreliability of the filesystem and buggy apps. Since '04 I've had more or less daily contact with various different linux versions - Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora, RHEL - and they're still ridiculously user-unfriendly, and they still manage to shit themselves on a regular basis (particularly when rebooting). Last year we had to abort RHEL installation on rather pricey rackmount systems on account of a critical bug in the OS installer - it required information at step 3 which wasn't set up until step 10, with no way to skip back/forwards to do that. Way to go, guys, that nearly cost us the contract.

Linux on the desktop? Maybe when pigs are airlifting people out of the blizzards in hell, but only maybe.

"What was it that Gandhi said?"

I'm sure he said lots of things... "Oi, did you spill my pint?!"? "[Western civilisation] would be a good idea"?

Sorry, if you're going to pretentiously quote a clichéd famous figure, it'd be a good idea to actually do so...

Russ Williams

Time to buy...

Having looked at that awful website, its ridiculous arguments and the fanboi response on here, I'm seriously considering dropping the cash to upgrade my XP boxes to Win7.

Vista was a no-hoper, but if that's really the best F/LOSS can do then it's clear that there's only going to be one winner in the near future, and it's the Boys from Redmond.

Internet Archive stares down Google book mine

Russ Williams

Re: Copyright is just utterly broken.

"if you want to have copyright protection, you provide a complete unencumbered copy of your work to the licensing authority in your jurisdiction"

You've just described Copyright Libraries, which we already have in this country - there are six of them, which must receive copies of any published books: the British Library, the Bodelian in Oxford, the University Library in Cambridge, the National Library of Scotland, the National Library of Wales and the Library of Trinity College, Dublin.

Boffins in 'let's create black holes in the lab' jape

Russ Williams

Re: Naming Convention


Surely "famously-still-alive NHS-user robovoice uberboffin"? Then we'd also get the Portal references as well as yank-healthcare-debate-mockery, and that would be a triumph, and we'd be able to make a note - "huge success!".

Mine's the one with a Weighted Companion Cube in the pocket.

Lamborghini to go (partly) electric

Russ Williams

The good side of environmentalism...

I for one support this green car and the zero tax/congestion charge on such environmentally-friendly hybrids.

Not least because it's a great way of adding huge amounts of low-speed torque to complement the V12 - which, unlike an electric motor, doesn't need exponential amounts of energy to increase the top speed. Mwahahahahaha! :-D

(Fire. Gallardo. Here's a picture I found on the internet.)

Ridley Scott signs up to direct Alien prequel

Russ Williams

Not seeing a problem here

Assuming that there was no reported human contact before the first film - a big assumption given how easy it would be to lie - then all it proves is that nobody made it back to civilisation...

What's more interesting is how they'll tie it in to the later canon. For Ripley to have "to all intents and purposes" wiped out the species by the end of Alien 3, there can't have been that many of them. Could mean that it's a Top Secret (human?) biowarfare lab that gets a bit carried away with itself... or that there was a natural evolution but the planet(s) involved got glassed by an alien fleet... lots of options to play with.

SpinVox: The Inside Story

Russ Williams

It's an AI Complete problem

The "predictive text" mentioned in the article is quite key to speech recognition. The usual approach is a Noisy Channel model, and uses the relation:

P(what was heard | what was said).P(what was said) = P(what was said | what was heard).P(what was heard)

For a given candidate sentence, the value of P(what was said) comes from a language model - "the the the the the the" is a v.low probability sentence, "the cat sat on the mat" somewhat higher. With an acoustic model - P(what was heard | what was said) - you can then use Bayes' rule to invert it, and normalise over the possible options, getting a distribution for P(what was said | what was heard). The highest-scoring candidate sentence in that distribution is the most probable option for what was gabbled down the phone, or you can offer the top N choices to an operator and let them pick.

The problem with all of this is that humans are *extremely* good at the language model part of this. We have to be, as there's too much uncertainty in the actual sound. We can "hear" sentences in audio that is (practically) indistinguishable from noise - just try playing a Beatles album backwards! We also, to some extent, hear what we expect to hear - being told that a backwards track contains the words "I buried Paul" makes you more likely to hear that than if you'd not been told.

Computers can't hope to match human accuracy until they have, basically, the ability to understand an article on El Reg. Which is why AI has been a complete failure for decades and will remain so for quite a while yet.

Techie Guy 'cuz this stuff is Master's Degree level...

Duke Nukem Forever developer defunct, says staffer

Russ Williams

Open Source? Get real!

F/LOSS is completely unsuited for some types of application - games being near the top of that list.

You can't get coherent art direction from part-time amateurs and, unlike code monkeys, digital artists have very little reason to give away their work. High production values also require staff working closely together - and, often, for long hours, motivated by fear for their jobs - because you can't make a silk shirt the way you'd make a patchwork quilt.

Games are very much a "Cathedral" application, so "Bazaar" techniques are inadequate and inappropriate. Just look at what pass for open source games - nethack derivatives, a bunch of clones of casual/parlour/puzzle games, some sim/war games, the occasional bit of piss-poor 3d, and a handful of closed-source commercial games dumped out long after their value has expired.

(Coat, because that's apparently all 3DR's people will be leaving with)

Sun packs 150 billion web pages into meat locker

Russ Williams
Paris Hilton

Shouldn't that be Danny Hill*i*s?

I remember him - on Horizon - years back...

China bars WoW expansion for showing bone

Russ Williams
Paris Hilton

Re: Cultural

Yes, as I understand it, it's a Buddhist thing, at least as practiced in the Far East - a prohibition on showing bone. Allegedly it's the same reason why Japanese women cover their mouths when they giggle.

Paris, as she knows all about covering bone...

El Reg pays tribute to father of Playmobil

Russ Williams

RE: see that wasnt too hard was it.

"next time do this without being asked."

OK, I'm sure next time he dies El Reg will do better.

Satellites crash over Siberia: Iridium bird destroyed

Russ Williams


Recent experimental evidence suggests "just below the limit"...

Russ Williams

A communications disruption can mean only one thing...


Russian rides Phantom to OS immortality

Russ Williams

If there are no files, how do I get data in/out?

As others have noted, this is an interesting idea, but has been done many times before. EROS were particularly fun with it, going to trade shows and kicking out the power lead to their machine and showing how quickly it recovered - and challenging IBM et al to try the same test!

Protecting against that failure mode - which can also be done with a UPS - means you're vulnerable to application bugs destroying all of your data. If all of your data is "live" and persistant, then an application crash wipes it all out. You might be able to restore to the previous state, but that might just crash again. No files = no backups.

In any case, the programming model is sufficiently different from normal OSes that this will require application support. Which it doesn't have. And no files means no migration path for existing data, even if the apps were there. Which means it's dead in the water except, perhaps, for embedded applications. So, anyone think that the US/UK military is going to buy from the Russians? No, nor do I...

What's next for Microsoft's Flight Sim partners?

Russ Williams
Paris Hilton

Not the end...

Judging from this article, FS11 would have had little to do with FSX other than a) the name (which MS own) and b) the flight model code (which MS own).

So they've canned a team that wanted to turn the simulator into a game, and are now able - with little effort - to produce another iteration of the simulator. There's no reason to throw money and risk at new development when it already does what people want... FFS... voice-recognition-based ATC? That worked so well in that "cod am pizza ship" Vista, didn't it?

If ACES had crashed and burned cocking up FS11, would that make all the fanboys happier? Of course not. It'd - at best - have cost many man-years of wasted development time. If it actually shipped as a pile of crap, it could have slaughtered the brand.

(Possibly a) Sound business decision.

I'm a sceptic now, says ex-NASA climate boss

Russ Williams


So, uh, an increase of about 0.1% over the incoming solar radiation?

Holy shit, we're all going to burn!

Could the Airbus A380 be the new Air Force One?

Russ Williams

Most of the money will go to the US either way

In the KC-X deal, the Airbus tankers were due to be assembled in Alabama, providing a significant number of jobs for American workers. Boeing's (frankly impressive) rearguard action convinced Congress that this was somehow unAmerican, and that the jobs should go to its factory in Washington state instead - all the while fighting a machinists strike!

So, yeah, an A380 built and fitted out in the US, with US (General Electric) engines, is not unthinkable. Most people couldn't tell the difference anyway and, arguably, the important part is the blue and white colour scheme and the words "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" on the side.

I disagree that the 747-8 is the likely choice... it's huge, but it's still the legacy 747 platform. More likely would be a 787 and a reduction in the number of auxiliary and ancillary staff - if they're needed, a second plane can carry them. Until Reagan, Air Force One was a 707 derivative - about half the length and wingspan of the current one.

(Of course, the best option would be to buy/appropriate the design authority and IPR for Concorde and start up a US production line. Doesn't matter that it's foreign: how many other presidential jets can supercruise?)

Spinning the war on the UK's sex trade

Russ Williams
Paris Hilton

Re: The downfall of society?

"why don't we take the router ACL approach, deny all permit by exception"

This is the approach taken on the continent by - e.g. the Napoleonic Code - so things are illegal unless permitted by law. English Common Law is based on the opposite principle: everything is legal unless specifically banned.

@pk_de_cville: you fail as a troll. Kidnapping and rape are already illegal, how about enforcing those laws rather than making new ones to address the same issues?

2009 - Thomas the Tank's journey to IT Hell

Russ Williams

Bullshit and vested interests - but enough about the comments

I don't agree with the article's conclusion that IT is doomed, but it's going to be a very rough few years while companies lose billions on short-sighted cost-cutting measures.

Nobody will have the money to spend-to-save, so legacy systems will just be run (without support - saving £millions a year) until they fail, and then replaced with something cheap and off-the-shelf. Turns out you don't need 4- or 5- nines... 2- or 3- are enough, particularly if you're lucky. The companies that aren't lucky will struggle and some will fail. Customer service will get worse as a result - not so much "computer says no" as "computer doesn't say anything as it's broken today". Remember: £1m/year buys 10,000 man-days of downtime.

Outsourcing email, applications and data processing to the cloud is silly. But it'll happen because it looks cheap. It'll fail, and drive a few more companies to the wall, but it'll be Good Enough in many cases. Ditto outsourcing to Asia. One reason it failed before is because people didn't outsource *enough* - a front-office/back-office split has huge communication costs, particularly across time-zones and language barriers, but putting all of your eggs into the one basket removes that problem... If your call-centres are in India, and your outsourced IT is as well, why are you paying people in the UK to glue it all together?

As for talk of "adding value", I think it's entirely reasonable. If you can't point to a part of your organisation's products or services or balance sheet and say "I did that", just what the hell are you drawing a salary for?

Jacqui promotes police handhelds

Russ Williams

New and ever more efficient ways to lose data

So, will these handheld terminals have full access to the PNC? Local storage for when they're jammed? Password protection ("Pl0d")? Encrypted comms? Will they be counted out, and counted back every shift? Will there be audit logs of searches? Will access be rate-limited?

And, when one - or more - is inevitably compromised: a) how long will it take to know? b) how will access be revoked? and c) what safeguards are in place to undo the damage caused by granting database access to organised criminals?

(Icon of a light-fingered chav making off with a police handheld)

Schneier sticks it to surveillance

Russ Williams

It's just you...

Bruce Schneier is a legend in the security community, from long before BT Counterpane even existed. He's been an outspoken critic of security theatre - "movie plot threats" as he describes them - since the fallout from 9/11, and usually offers realistic alternatives and clear explanations.

Basically, if he says something about security, you're well advised to listen...

XML anti discrimination plan hits hurdle

Russ Williams

How can there be five versions of XML 1.0?

Doesn't that mean that someone is being grossly incompetent with version numbering?

Cold War comfort on software engineering’s birthday

Russ Williams

@Ken Hagan

So, why are the IET letting me - and many others - work towards CEng chartership, then? And how have they chartered software engineers in the past?

*Proper* software engineers are capable of managing risk, taking responsibility, and signing off safety-critical systems. This has nothing to do with cobbling bits of code together until it works, and it's most certainly not Agile, but it's every bit a real engineering discipline.

Sadly SE is rare because it's difficult, it's expensive, there are no statutory barriers to entry, and the market simply doesn't care - if it can even tell the difference!

Emails show journalist rigged Wikipedia's naked shorts

Russ Williams

Short selling is good

Yes, really.

With appropriate safeguards - like actually enforcing the ban on naked shorting (short selling without the intention (fraud) or ability (negligence) to return the borrowed stock) - it helps a rational market price stocks more efficiently, preventing the sort of speculation bubble we've seen in the housing market. Without the ability to make money from short positions, there is no reason beyond schadenfreude for anyone to point out that the emperor might be paying over the odds for his new suit.

The problems at the moment include blatant market manipulation, naked short selling, and the fact that the markets aren't actually rational at all. The fractional reserve banking system - which inherently means there is many times more debt than assets - contributes to the difficulties by providing positive feedback.

But short selling itself is a useful tool, providing negative feedback which - as any control engineers know - makes the system *more* stable. Bring on short selling of houses!