* Posts by David M

35 posts • joined 25 Mar 2008

Airbus and Rolls-Royce hit eject on hybrid-electric airliner testbed after E-Fan X project fails to get off the ground

David M

Re: Electric planes?

Electric batteries are about fifty times the mass of airline fuel for a given amount of energy. Plus the batteries aren't consumed during flight, so the landing mass is the same as at take-off. And solar doesn't help - a panel the size of the aircraft would only produce a tiny fraction of the required energy.

The only realistic way to reduce airline fossil fuel consumption at the moment is to fly a lot less. And we're currently proving that this is perfectly viable.

Stop us if you've heard this before: Boeing's working on 737 Max software fixes for autopilot, stabilization bugs

David M

Re: Flying less

Quite right - me included. But there are plenty of ways to take a holiday that don't involve flying. And I did say 'reduce', not 'eliminate'. For a start, recent experience has shown that the vast majority of business meetings can be held quite successfully without flying half-way around the world to be there in person.

David M

Flying less

Part of the response to climate change is going to have to be a dramatic reduction in flying. The recent effects on aviation of Boeing's bugs and of Covid-19 are just a preview of what will soon need to happen anyway. Boeing would do well to accept this, give up on developing new aircraft, and start redeploying its engineering resources onto more environmentally-friendly projects.

If you're wondering how Brit cops' live suspect-hunting facial-recog is going, it's cruising at 88% false positives

David M

Motives and false negatives

I wonder why they didn't try to to test the false-negative rate. It would have been easy to add a few known 'test' faces to the watchlist, and then ask those people to wander through Oxford Circus on random days of their own choosing, to see whether they got detected.

I suspect the reality is that the Met are hoping the idea that facial recognition is being deployed will discourage crime, regardless of whether the technology actually works or not.

Broadband providers can now flog Openreach's new IP voice network in bid to ditch UK's copper phone lines by 2025

David M

Unlikely - the bandwidth reserved for analogue telephony is less than 1% of the total used by VDSL2.

What was Boeing through their heads? Emails show staff wouldn't put their families on a 737 Max over safety fears

David M

Re: No words

Even if everything does boil down to profit, profit depends on selling aircraft, which in turn depends on customers trusting your aircraft not to fall out of the sky. So even a pure profit motive should engender a strict safety culture.

As browser rivals block third-party tracking, Google pitches 'Privacy Sandbox' peace plan

David M

Paying for free stuff

If companies need the income from advertising, why not just have the option to directly charge users instead? If, for instance, Facebook charged (say) £3 per month in return for the promise of no advertising or tracking, they'd get broadly the same per-user income either way. News websites might want to charge per page view, as people probably wouldn't want a regular subscription to lots of them, so some kind of micro-payment provider would be useful, but none of this is particularly difficult to implement. It might turn out that most people are happy with the "free stuff+advertising+tracking" model, but those who didn't like it would have an alternative.

Broadcom billionaire Henry Nicholas and pal on drugs rap cough up $1m to avoid the clink

David M

Re: i'd throw him in jail and let joe random go free

If you're interested in the history and effectiveness of drug policy, this talk by Professor David Nutt is interesting and well-argued. Professor Nutt was the government advisor who was famously sacked for trying to inject (sorry) some sanity into the drug debate.

UK's planned Espionage Act will crack down on Snowden-style Brit whistleblowers, suspected backdoored gear (cough, Huawei)

David M

Not just the Tories. David Blunkett and Jacqui Smith were nearly as bad, from what I remember.

Spending watchdog: UK.gov must say who will prop up Verify from March 2020. C'mon, you've had six months!

David M

"The uncertainties include how the market for verifying people's identities will develop and the clear price that will be charged..."


Brit boffins build 'quantum compass'... say goodbye to those old GPS gizmos, possibly

David M

Re: It's not a compass.

onefang: your question, "No idea how it works when rotating it in place, does it even notice?", is answered in the video, where it says that they plan to build a version that can measure three orthogonal accelerations, and three rotations.

It's a shame they don't give any clues about the accuracy, or predictions about the timescale to make something commercially viable,

California cracks down on Internet of Crap passwords with new law to stop the botnets

David M

Not in anyone's interest

Part of the problem is that if, say, all your lightbulbs get recruited into a botnet, the manufacturer doesn't care as they've still sold some lightbulbs, and the owner doesn't care as the bulbs continue to work. So there's very little incentive to do anything about this. Plus many people have had the experience of a device getting worse or completely broken by a software update, so may be reluctant to do it unless there's an obvious benefit. Any solution will have to make the cost of being hacked significantly higher than the cost of security, for both manufacturer and owner.

Dear America: Want secure elections? Stick to pen and paper for ballots, experts urge

David M

In case no-one's already mentioned it...


EU wants one phone plug to rule them all. But we've got a better idea.

David M

Micro USB deterioration

The micro USB on my OnePlus One degraded over time, until the plug wouldn't stay in at all. Eventually discovered that the socket was packed full of fluff. Cleaned it out, and it's fine again.

Smart meter benefits even crappier than originally thought

David M

Two reasons

I thought there were only two reasons for having smart meters: 1. so all the meter readers can be sacked, and 2. remote 'off' switch for when the subscriber gets behind on payments, and to temporarily disconnect people during periods of peak demand when it turns out that we didn't build enough power stations.

'Geek gene' denied: If you find computer science hard, it's your fault (or your teacher's)

David M


There is a difference between ability and interest. There are lots of things I could do perfectly well, but I choose not to because I'm just not that interested, and I think that's what's happening here. Lots of people have the necessary skills for a career in computing, but just don't feel drawn in that direction. I suspect that this, rather than ability, is the primary reason for there being so few women in computing and engineering, and it's this that we should be trying to understand.

Dear Tesla, stop calling it autopilot – and drivers are not your guinea pigs

David M

Degree of control

I will only let go of my steering wheel when there isn't one, i.e. when the Autopilot functions like a chauffeur and is so reliable that the car design simply doesn't include the option of manual control. In the meantime, if I have to be alert enough to take over at a moment's notice, I might as well retain manual control all the time. Adaptive cruise control is fine, but if I could let go of the steering wheel I would inevitably stop paying proper attention to the road.

The Great Brain Scan Scandal: It isn’t just boffins who should be ashamed

David M

Not very scientific

I was never impressed by this type of brain science. It seemed rather like noticing that when you watch YouTube videos on your iPad, it gets warm in the top-left corner, therefore you understand how your iPad works.

Stop resetting your passwords, says UK govt's spy network

David M
Thumb Up

Bruce Schneier

The security guru Bruce Schneier agrees that password changing is generally a bad idea.

As does Microsoft.

Cinema boss gives up making kids turn off phones: 'That's not how they live their life'

David M

Independent cinemas

I gave up on multiplexes years ago. I now go to my local independent cinema. Nice big screen, decent sound, they know how to focus a projector, the food isn't over-priced, and the audience is always well-behaved. And many showings sell out, so they must be doing something right.

Science contest to get girls interested in STEM awards first prize to ... a boy

David M

Re: To Be Fair

But how would you feel if you won a competition because you were a girl, and not because you had the best idea?

Doctor Who's good/bad duality, war futility tale in The Zygon Inversion fails to fizz

David M

Re: Re Parachutes

The prototype Concorde at Duxford Air Museum has an escape hatch in the floor. If that stood any chance of being usable, then something similar in a modern airliner should be fine. You'd still have to cut airspeed as much as possible, but you'd at least fall clear of the tail.

Self-STOPPING cars are A Good Thing, say motor safety bods

David M

Risk of false positives

My relatively-new VW doesn't brake, but does display an alert if it thinks I'm about to crash into the vehicle in front. This has gone off a few times, and all were false positives. In one case, the road curved to the left and there was a right-turn sliproad on the bend with a car waiting - the system thought I was heading straight for this car so the alert went off, but actually the road curved off to the left of it. Had the brakes slammed on at this point, I would have been in danger of being hit from behind. I hope that the sensors get a lot more intelligent before automatic braking becomes commonplace.

El Reg Redesign - leave your comment here.

David M


I agree with all of the negative comments here. In particular the new layout is very wasteful of screen space, and I really hate to pop-out (or whatever they're called) menus that keep appearing when I don't want them, and covering up what I'm trying to read.


1. Go back to the old site for the time being.

2. If you must do a redesign, make the focus on usability.

3. Make a beta of the new site available so that your readers can comment _before_ going live.

4. Your readers have huge cumulative experience in using and designing web-sites. Trust their opinions.

US government fines Intel's Wind River over crypto exports

David M

The US isn't actually forbidding the export of crypto...

According to the article, the company was fined for failing to apply for a licence. For all we know, a licence may well have been granted if the company had bothered to apply for it. It sounds to me as though this isn't the US wanting to stop exporting crypto, it's the US wanting to make sure that it knows what crypto companies are exporting, and has the opportunity to stop it if necessary.

Stalwart hatchback gets a plug-in: Volkswagen e-Golf

David M

The plug-in hybrid Golf GTE is a bit more expensive, but looks much more practical. It has a (nominal) 30-mile electric range, plus an FSi petrol engine to keep you going when the battery runs out.

Silent, spacious and... well, insipid: Citroën's electric C-Zero car

David M

Does '42km' really mean kilometres, or was it short for 42000 miles?

GPs slam NHS England for poor publicity of data grab plan

David M

Did get a leaflet

My surgery had evidently made up their own opt-out form - they'd forgotten to provide anywhere to sign it, so I had to sign in a random blank space. They did seem supportive of the opt-out, though, so there's a fair chance that it may work.

Drunk driving: No more dangerous than talking on handsfree mobe

David M

Re: As daft as the test on Myth Busters

Absolutely. Driving is difficult. It's made almost entirely from distractions, but the vast majority of drivers cope with this perfectly well, every minute that they're behind the wheel. To ensure this, we require every driver to take some lessons and a test. Perhaps it's time to just accept that people are going to use the phone whilst driving and add this to the test, so drivers can learn how to do it safely.

Canadian astronaut warns William Shatner of life on Earth

David M


"On his trip out of the gravity well..."

They are very much _in_ the gravity well. The ISS's altitude is around 370km which means it experiences around 90% of the gravity at the Earth's surface. However it's in free-fall, which means that the ISS, its contents and its crew are all falling at exactly the same rate, so they experience the illusion of zero gravity.

The amazing magical LED: Has it really been fifty years already?

David M

Re: LED lighting instead of fluorescent 'haz mat'

We've spent thousands of years growing accustomed to the idea that the night is lit by firelight, and tungsten filament lamps approximate the spectrum of firelight rather better than fluorescent or LED lighting.

Michael Dell: Netbooks go sour after 36 hours

David M

Exactly my reaction

This was exactly my reaction to my new netbook. Initially great, but rapidly realising that the screen was too restrictive. Not too small, but needed more pixels.

I heard a rumour that 1024x600 resolution was a restriction imposed by Intel on machines with Atom processors. Anyone know if this is true?

I still find plenty of applications for my netbook, and I can work-around the resolution to some extent by disabling unnecessary toolbars and using full-screen modes more, but it's a shame that the potential of this form-factor isn't fully realised.

National Safety Council seeks total* cell-phone driving ban

David M

Correlation does not imply causation

Isn't it just as likely that there are simply a significant number of bad drivers on the road? Such drivers are likely to

(a) have most of the accidents, and

(b) be on the phone a lot.

So the statistics would show a large correlation between accidents and mobile-phone use, but stopping the phone use won't help because they will still be bad drivers.

One could use similar logic to show that most accidents involve use of a steering wheel, so we should ban steering wheels.

Miracle airship tech sustained by DARPA pork trickle

David M

Based on an earlier design?

Is it me, or does that first 'Aeroscraft' picture look suspiciously like Thunderbird 2?

US government cools on Real ID threats

David M
Paris Hilton

Painting themselves

I like the idea that federal officials had "painted themselves in a corner."

Were they all in the same corner painting themselves, I wonder, in some great departmental body-art extravaganza?

Or did they each find a separate, private corner in which to paint themselves?

We should be told.

Paris, because she can paint herself in any of my corners.


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