* Posts by Basil Fernie

43 publicly visible posts • joined 20 May 2008

You want how much?! Israel opts not to renew its Office 365 vows

Basil Fernie

Re: I think you just put yours in the shredder

I have a sneaking feeling, Hamish, that affirming your elite status as an agnostic will not give much protection against the next suicide-bomber/pedestrian-levelling-device-operator who visits your local shopping centre/pub/busstation/social occasion. Not even win you a moment to find out whether they tick the "Prefer Islam" or "Prefer Judaism" box on your questionnaire. Not of course that it would be relevant, you could predict the answer with, as I read the journals, just about 100% accuracy most days of the week, with an even lower error rate on Shabbat, alias Saturday.

On the other hand, if destructive behaviour is preceded by unignorable, timeous warnings urging civilians to evacuate a targeted site, you could even as an agnostic predict pretty accurately who would soon be dealing out the unpleasantness, and probably why.

As an agnostic (your choice, no problem) you might be comfortable with the dry recountings of en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antisemitism. Kind of interesting that although antisemitic attitudes and behaviour have been documented from as early as 300BCE, in Egypt, the term only came into focus towards the end of the 19th century (when else?) in Germany (where else?) being coined as a very misleading euphemism for Judeophobia (what else?) by a journalist (who else?) who was clearly guilty of terminological inexactitude, to quote another journalist, At this stage, even an agnostic may without embarrassment study antisemitism from any number of angles without bothering himself with questions of religion, and perhaps mull over the weirdness of two Semitic people being in intense conflict with each other, but only one is suspected of "antisemitism".

"The Semites are a group of people that live in the Middle East, North Africa, and the Horn of Africa. They include Jews, Arabs, and other ethnic groups" - quoted from simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/semites

Perhaps the most immediate conclusion that such a study might yield is that one should be very, very choosy in selecting journalists to inform one on the current stages of this tussle. A little light may be thrown on this by visiting HonestReporting,com and noting the retractions etc that they have forced from usually well-regarded news channels on grounds of failing to apply accepted professional standards of journalism. Of course, you might then want a little relief and visit HonestReporting.org.

Honestly, if I didn't know better, I'd also be agnostic..

Basil Fernie

Re: Libreoffice is free and just fine.

LO does have a bleeding-edge track and a more conservative "stable" track for corporates etc where a less rapid pace of change might be appreciated. Even the fast-track stuff is coming out these days with very little RC-feeling to it and I expect that it will become more and more a development platform for basing the various apps mentioned earlier on. "Stable" has leapfrogged several version levels to be sniffing at the heels of "bleeding-edge" and I think we're going to see LO making major inroads into hitherto closed markets.

Basil Fernie

Re: Libreoffice is free and just fine.

Do I detect a faint aroma of FUD? M$ can mess with introducing inconsistencies between "different flavours of office / office" and profit handsomely from their dupes incessantly upgrading to try to get onto a stable playing-field, which all of a sudden tilts yet again?

Get off the M$ rack and live at peace with LibreOffice, which reads M$ document formats that M$ doesn't even remember dropping into the dumpster while shuffling across to the bank.

I've lived comfortably enough in an M$ universe ever since the early days of Star Office (hmm, even had to cope with WordStar formats in those days as I recall) and coped outside of the cage. M$ hasn't learned much about ethics since the days of forcing XT manufacturers to pay up for licences for unwanted MS-DOS on the basis of a proposition that veered between blackmail and monopoly. Nearly put my budding business out of the running until I discovered DR-DOS. Thank you, Digital Research.

Basil Fernie

Re: Well in Germany...

Ummmm, "bought"

Use Debian? Want Intel's latest CPU patch? Small print sparks big problem

Basil Fernie

Re: Take it

So alter your "real wprld" by giving it an Attitude Altering Slap In The Face:

Wipe Windows 10 and replace it with a righteous OS, like Debian

Or keep worrying about how the "real world" is kicking YOU around.

One small step for mankind, one great leap for you.

Basil Fernie

Re: I'm fine with that

... but maybe the MegaProcessor could do with a bit of a speed upgrade?

Notes/Domino is alive! Second beta of version 10 is imminent

Basil Fernie

Oh yes, please!

- but only if at least 10% of PC/notebook users are able to spell

"O" "S" "/" "2"

(special dispensation granted for omission of "/")

otherwise I'll be too lonely.

Getting a bit tired of Linux after using it for more than 10 years.

(Sings "I wanna go home")

Randall Munroe: The root nerd talks to The Register

Basil Fernie

Re: ...or maybe it won't

Ah, that must be why they say "math" then

Basil Fernie
IT Angle

Re: Amazing body of work, remarkable bloke...

Earth rotates from West towards East, which is why the Sun rises in the East. Thus on average water in the oceans (ignoring waves, currents) is moving from West to East at the same sort of speed as solid ground at the same radius from the earth's axis of rotation..

Not having seen the book out here in the colonies, and not being much enlightened by previous commenters, I have to take a guess here that the topic under discussion was "What would happen if the solid bits of the earth (continents, islands etc) stopped rotating about the earth's axis suddenly?" or similar. Clearly the liquid bits would try to continue in the West>East direction that they had inherited by friction and containment from the solid bits (an idea I picked up from a guy named Newton) resulting in a rush away from the East-facing coastlines towards the West-facing ditto, eg from North America to UK and Europe. Storm-surges anyone? Or tsunamis beyond imagining, dumping a large percentage of the oceans' contents onto the previously dryish conintental lands. It would take quite a while for gravity to refill the oceanic basins by draining the floodwaters back to where they belonged, and there would surely be quite a lot of back-and-forth sloshing, but nothing comparable (if any observers were left to compare such things, were the observers regarded in the question as immoveable or moveable matter?) to the primary devastation.

Good Read Suggestion: Flood by Stephen Baxter, 2008, from Gollancz

Scary RAM-gobbling bug in SQL Server 2014 exposed by Visual Studio online outage

Basil Fernie

Same song, different lyrics

SQL wants 4GB of RAM? Tut, tut. No ambition.

I've just farewelled Opera which, in its long-term version 12.xxx for Linux, would after a period open on the desktop and having stealthily taken over just about all the RAM available, make a mighty asset-grab and lay claim to 16777216 TERABYTES of virtual memory, freezing everything else for an undefined period of time (at least days, but I couldn't spare my laptop from active service for a few centuries while waiting to see if it would eventually blink).

Footnote: Opera continued a development path on Windows and eventually picked up Linux again at about version 34. Unfortunately this is missing the integrated e-mailer which is what kept me faithful for many years, so I'm now free to mix-and-match browsers and e-mailers like all the poor unwashed who never knew the benefits of great design. Only thing that keeps me away from Chrome is Google.

'It’s irrelevant whether Elon Musk is a dick or not. At least he’s trying to make things'

Basil Fernie

Re: People used to say Bill Gates was lucky with the DOS contract

Nill Gates and his father and uncle's monopoly licensing scheme slowed the advance of Personal Computing by 5-7 years, as well as devastating office-worker productivity levels for several years. I was watching closely at the time...

Assemblers were once people: My aunt did it for NASA

Basil Fernie

Re: The 60's and computers...

Yes indeed. When I walked out of university in December 1965 with my degree in mathematical statistics and into my new boss' office the next day, he greeted me with "Can you program a computer?" My response was "How do you spell that - with an e or an o?" - because there was a caste of highly numerate people with quick right wrists who used to do complex calculations at dizzying speeds on Facit manual calculators. They were called "computors"... Receiving the inhumane answer, I said "No". His response was to hand me a Fortran 2 Reference Manual for my new employer's IBM704 with the comment "Well, you'd better teach yourself, it won't be long before all statisticians will have to program computers." Wasn't too far off.

Ten Linux freeware apps to feed your penguin

Basil Fernie

Editing with this that and the other..

Don't forget spellchecking, now.

Basil Fernie

Re: @Chris W Haven't we been here before

I am an adult Linux user and I LOVE Windows. To be precise, I love to boot it up every six or nine months or however much longer it takes to remember I have it on my laptop, look at the recommended updates/bugfixes, ask myself "Shall I let it roll this time?" and answer smugly "No, I'm too busy being happily productive to sideline my system for who knows how many hours/days..."

And then multiply that by the number of systems I administer for my family and friends. Sysadmin is not my calling.

Fiat 500S: So pleasingly sporty we didn't want to give it back

Basil Fernie

Re: Uh?

Perhaps we'll meet someday then. Here in the good old R of SA, it is all too easy to turn down an interesting-looking road only to be faced 100km later with the awareness that you are likely not to see another petrol station for at least another 100km. Unless your bike has a Dakar-size tank, you might just start caring about MPG round about then. Happened to me any number of times, more so when riding high-performance two-stroke twins... Friend of mine regularly tours long distances in the USA, similar problem, swears by the 4-valve BMW boxers for economy that certainly challenges that of the FIAT.

Bad MPG on a bike may be somewhat due to the state of tune of the engine, but is more dependent on the verve with which all those horses are unleashed onto the road, only to have to be reined in again very wastefully at the next traffic light. Also, car shapes are noticeably aerodynamic these days, while bikes still tend to remind the aerial environment of a brick on its side with some irresistible scoops sticking out for added parachute-braking effect. Permanently.

What’s the KEYBOARD SHORTCUT for Delete?! Look in a contextual menu, fool!

Basil Fernie

Re: Touch typing

As a retired church organist I can write and type at the speed of my thoughts but then I'm also a slow thinker. Although right-handed I use the mouse with my left hand, saving my right for odd interactions with the keyboard when not in full two-handed text-entry flow. If there were some useful mode of data-entry employing the feet I would probably use that concurrently too.

I use LibreOffice a great deal of the time, and do find a small subset of keyboard shortcuts very handy. In fact I like to use keyboard, mouse and touchpad variously as required for efficient navigation, but have a serious problem with the touchpad on my Lenovo laptop which frequently asserts a long-forgotten cursor position for the keyboard cursor, leading to multithreaded text. The fairly effective cure for this in *buntu Linux varieties is to use a utility called synaptiks which momentarily cancels the touchpad while the fingers are flying, but some recent distro versions don't seem to implement it. Totally disabling the touchpad is an unacceptable workaround. Do not brush the touchpad or its surround with an incautious heel of the hand while typing...

Long before 3270 terminals, our research organization implemented TSO (IIRC) using modified IBM golfball typewriters as remote terminals. Even though a terminal was switched on and humming, there was no way to know if it was actually communicating except by trying to type in some text or pressing ENTER, oops, the carriage return key, which did in fact cause the golfball, if not the carriage, to return. Readiness by the System 360 to receive another message would be notified in due course by the golfball printing a full stop, rather pessimistically I always thought. When the system was heavily loaded (let's say 3 or 4 terminals active across the entire organization) this response could be much delayed, from 30 seconds to 30 minutes or more, a space of time occupied by activities variously subsumed under the impressive title "Waiting for (the) Godot". Reams of clean fanfold paper were used up by impatient tapping of the return key hoping to attract the attention of the aloof mainframe. I don't recall the communications baud rate.

FBI: We found US MILITARY AIRCRAFT INTEL during raid on alleged Chinese hacker

Basil Fernie


Could we have a sub-editor remove this grossly tautologous Americanism please?

Peugeot 208 GTi: The original hot hatch makes a comeback

Basil Fernie

Re: The engine

Ha! One of my automotive quadricycles has a 3-litre turbo engine and is routinely flogged. However due to proper warmup/cooldown discipline, also routine changing of oil and filters, it now has 460 000 km on clock without any tumultuous episodes in its history (I have to replace the clutch master cylinder every 100 000 or so). I will be happy to carry on to 1 million km with same, and expect the engine to last that long at least.

I like forced-aspiration two-strokes, but don't see much chance of them escaping en masse from ships' engine rooms onto the roads.

Mine's the one with the screwdriver and the universal metric in the pockets.

OS/2 a quarter century on: Why IBM lost out and how Microsoft won

Basil Fernie

Re: OS/2 was wrong product for the time!

I have standardised on Edubuntu 12.04 for my household PCs, spanning a variety of (ancient) desktops for the juniors up to a dual-core 64-bit AMD-powered Lenovo laptop. By replacing the much-disputed Unity desktop with the well-proven, feature-rich LXDE, I have an extremely slick system idling at below 140MB (that's with several optional resident application processes), no use of swap memory, 3% of CPU time on one core and 0% on the other. For comparison, I give you the Win7 installed on the Lenovo at purchase - at idle using 736MB RAM, 14-17% total CPU usage, slow as the La Brea tarpits.

Puppy Linux I carry with me to boot onto almost anything that's in trouble. The Lupu version is based on Ubuntu, comes with LXDE, gives access to the full range of Ubuntu application repositories. TinyCore Linux runs in 18MB RAM, but needs some judicious adding of apps to be useful.

Basil Fernie
Thumb Down

Re: Ballmer's biggest lie ... convert source code written for Windows to run on OS/2

Well, this relates only to 16-bit Windows libraries. For my remarks on Win32, see above.

Basil Fernie

Sort of no API

Do not overlook the refusal of M$ to allow IBM to access the Win32 API from OS/2. The most they ever allowed was Win32s. This meant that "old" Windows applications would run happily on OS/2, but the new exciting stuff that developers were churning out for Win95 et seq wouldn't. Thus OS/2 users were denied use of newer Windows apps. Third-party efforts to work around this obstacle concentrated in a project called "Odin" which had some boff programmers but was desperately undersupported. The parallel effort in the Linux camp, "Wine", has notched up many successes and continues to thrive, allowing one to run many Windows programs almost natively on e.g. Ubuntu. This lack of extensive applications support turned many OS/2 users off the platform, yours truly included, with many regrets since OS/2 was so far ahead of anything coming out of Redmond. Even now, as I alternate between Linux and Windows 7, I hanker after what OS/2 was, and long for what the OS/2 ecosystem could have become.

DEKATRON reborn: Full details on World's Oldest Digital Computer

Basil Fernie

Not only Calculators...

Before Computers there were Computors, people who did quite complex calculations on hand-driven desk-top calculating machines for the purposes of statistical or numerical analysis. I had to clarify the distinction during the entrance interview for my first graduate employment opportunity before answering my new boss' question "Do you know what a computuh is?"

Basil Fernie

Re: Back in the day - quite so

Two typos, actually.

EU approves push to get the unknown security in ARM chips into use

Basil Fernie

Change of subject

Nobody thinking of the potential of this move to very-embarrass M$ with its UEFI-based strategy for suffocating Linux-on-ARM?

Microsoft unfurls patent lasso, snares Linux servers

Basil Fernie

The elephant in the room...

... is all the other patents that M$ are getting very cheap access to in these cross-licensing deals. Effectively monopolising or neutralising a lot of potential competition - and being paid for it! Doubt if there's any effective legislation against this tactic, so it could be very effective over the years.

Samsung plunges $500k into Linux Foundation

Basil Fernie

If it looks like EEE, and it smells like EEE...

Just collect a couple of straws and see which way the wind is blowing.

Do not wonder, nor rejoice, that M$ is "embracing" Linux.

Do not wonder, nor rejoice, if M$ is "extending" Linux. How long would it take an M$ skunkworx project to produce a "Winux" kernel, given the amount of exposure their brightest and best are now getting to Linux?

Do not wonder, nor bemoan, that M$ is limiting OS access to future ARM devices coming from h/w manufacturers who desire to be able to provide Win8 et seq on their products. This is merely a subtle tweak on how they established MS-DOS dominance, followed by Windows dominance, in a passive market-place. It is a transition stage from Windows to Winux, while fellow-traveller Intel migrates towards the enormous ARM market.

The 3rd "E"? Not "Extinguish" nor "Eliminate" this time, but "Engulf". Closest M$ will get to admitting superiority of Linux.

We are staring at a future with no OSS distros able to run on the vast majority of ARM-based devices (an order more numerous than desktops) without M$'s say-so - unless a very major ARM user steps up, secures its own chipfab capacity, buys a major voice in the councils of Linux - and squares off for a knock-down, drag-out confrontation with the Evil Empire.

Recognise Samsung?

Of many interesting questions arising out of this scenario, just one: which way will AMD swing?

And a comment: Red Hat certainly seems to have picked up the windshift; this may have bought them another 5-10 years of independent existence before integration into M$.

Ten... freeware gems for new PCs

Basil Fernie
Thumb Up

Re: IrfanView?

Since M$ dropped proper thumbnails in Win7, IrfanView with its Thumbnails has pretty well supplanted The Gimp on my systems.

Wyse words mate

Basil Fernie

Who's saving the energy? Who's paying for it?

Doesn't this kind of operation just shift energy costs from the enduser to the network/server/cloud, by enormously increasing the amount of data to be held/organised/transmitted (2 minutes to d/l Word for example)? Typical example of outsourcing costs, byte-shuffling (would have been paper-shuffling a few decades ago).

Anyone who can produce references to studies comparing energy usage under different paradigms (thick client, thin client, etc)? With, of course, comparable-tech hardware in the clients - I read somewhere recently of a CPU that's using just one (1) watt...

Not denying the management advantages. But the great strategic advantage of the thin/partly dumb client is the strangle-hold the cloud gives to software providers in particular to make sure they get paid for their software by providing it via SaaS, at the expense of the user, competing alternatives being much decreased.

Again, I enquire, have any suitably cynical TCO studies been published?

Why we love to hate Microsoft

Basil Fernie

jake @ Number6

"IBM shut down OS/2, not M$"?

IBM was cowering on its knees before a sawn-off double-barreled Windows-tax shotgun. Either IBM stopped bundling OS/2 (even uninstalled) with its systems, and then eventually even selling, finally supporting OS/2, or else M$ would price OEM Windows to IBM at a level that would make it virtually impossible to sell an IBM PC or laptop with Windows (which quite a lot of people did want to buy) at a vaguely competitive price. Either IBM strangled OS/2, or M$ would strangle IBM in the PC market.

Like a man caught in a bear trap, IBM eventually amputated its PC leg totally for the sake of survival.

Adobe Reader vuln hit with unusually advanced attack

Basil Fernie

... but doesn't it also execute the bad stuff?

I use it, I like it - but as an Adobe Reader workalike, doesn't it have much the same security holes?

Ellison: Sunacle is an IBM killer

Basil Fernie


I don't think it has an Orasun.

VMware plots world data centre domination

Basil Fernie

"Microsoft provided a good basic and cheap operating system for IBM PCs"

Good: Technically NO - compare IBM's PC-DOS which was supposed to be a rebadged MS-DOS but usually worked a lot better due to IBM applying its own standards

Ethically NO - It was imposed on hardware suppliers by M$'s infamous obligatory licensing deals which gave end-users the choice between using a bad, already-paid-for-and-installed OS used by umpteen gazillion other dupes who couldn't possibly be mistaken, or shelling out a few bucks for someone else's OS that Worked Much Better. If you wanted to sell MS-DOS with your branded PC, you had to sell it with ALL your branded PCs, whether the customer wanted MS-DOS or not (and many didn't but fell into the trap nevertheless).

Basic: More like primitive, compared to even the 8-bit standard, CP/M. Remember M$ bought and rehashed QDOS (Quick & Dirty Operating System) to make, voila, MS-DOS.

Cheap: NO. Digital Research's DR-DOS was more then 50% cheaper and worked 5 times better.

Similar comments apply to Windows. Anyone want to join in a class-action suit against M$ for retarding the PC revolution by 5-10 years? And that is unlike VMware, read Candler.

Dear Obama: Please consider open-source a waste of your time

Basil Fernie

Before getting heated about Ted...

do some bio checking. Latest I read, is that he is an intern at Google. An Oompah-Loompah - with a very limited metaphor domain?

One wonders if he is aware what platform Google relies so extensively on to run its enormous operations. Surely he is! Therefore this piece is either an expression of massive, possibly treasonable, dissatisfaction with his management's choices - projected away from his own environment onto a governmental backdrop - or more likely it is a cunning piece of GoogleFUD designed to avert possible competitors to the Googlopoly away from stable low-cost OSS platforms and to keep the great unwashed mob of M$-developer/support slaves happily employed for the nonce, therefore not pressing yearning eyeballs against the ports of the chocolate factory and endangering TD's sweet employment terms.

If the latter, watch this space for the soon announcement of a Google-cloud-based national medical records system. What an ideal diversification/extension of their current technology! For the cheque-signer, tried and tested database/search facilities, low costs, comparatively little or no retraining, numerous 24x7 support personnel. For the Oompah-Loompahs, guaranteed job security for at least a decade.

Axon 100mpg car gallery

Basil Fernie
Black Helicopters

@Whoa, suh-WEE

Not so different that William Randolph Hearst and the duPont boys didn't manage to get the industrial crop outlawed in 1937 on grounds of being the source of the cannabis scourge when there weren't no such thing yet... Do try growing your next month's supply of gas-tank filler raw material in your back lot, and check whether the ensuing DEA guys aren't reporting to somebody from the petrochemical industry.

Hadron boffins: Our meddling will not destroy universe

Basil Fernie

@Neil Charles

"If this all ends in a big smoking crater on the border of France, I'll be looking to blame the Romulans"

At least you can't blame my ancestors. They left there (the village of Ferney, latterly called Ferney-Voltaire after some author) about 900 years ago.


Windows XP crashes out of Olympics?

Basil Fernie

@ac: Where oh where has my OS/2 gone?

To eCS ("eComStation"), alive and well and stable and available from www.mensys.com. Try it.

COBOL thwarts California's Governator

Basil Fernie

@wayne tavitt

Isn't that the point?..

File system killer leads police to wife's bones

Basil Fernie
Gates Horns

@Yuck. Sickening.

Much worse, I (and many others) run an OSfrom a man who duped most of the using world, in the process making himself open to charges ofhigh treason (remember the US Navy frigate/destroyer that wallowed dead in the water because M$ wanted it to rely on NT?)

South African survives exploding fridge attack

Basil Fernie
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spoiling a good story is tha fact that there is no Pretoria Times newspaper. We have a Pretoria News and a Sunday Times (actually from Johannesburg, but still). So which was it, assuming there was indeed such a story? My vote goes to the more sensationalist Sunday Times. Nothing ever happens in Pretoria.

Regarding Yanks: according to the latest TV ad, they think South Africa is somewhere in Mexico, so they probably would not be able to distinguish between Pretoria and Johannesburg. Suspicion thus falls on a Yank journalist trying to generate a few more column-inches. Ashlee Vance?

9/11 an inside job, says Irish pop folkster

Basil Fernie

2 Morrow

Concrete not good for high tower blocks? Let the MIT experts quoted in the Scientific American article speak:

"One audience member asked the assembled experts whether a reinforced concrete skyscraper such as the current height record-holder, the 452-meter Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, would have better resisted a collision with a fuel-filled airliner. Their response indicated that a concrete structure would have probably lasted for a couple of more hours than did the steel World Trade Center towers."

Possibly discredits Morrow? A very interesting article it is, although to my mind strong on theorising and short on fact. Nevertheless recommended reading. Let's look at the main facts that do emerge:

'The huge inner and outer rectangular tubes "needed to be protected to maintain their structural integrity, so the floors acted as reinforcing diaphragms or bulkheads [the term used in shipbuilding]," said panel member Jerome Connor, professor of civil and environmental engineering at M.I.T. The office floors, which each comprised a 35- to 60-foot clear span from the core to the exterior grid, were panelized structural members supported by open web joists with steel decks above them, he said. The horizontal truss struts, bolted and welded to the exterior grid and the core column structures, included viscoelastic stringers that provided increased damping to help make the structure less lively in the wind, according to Connor. Each steel floor deck was covered with four inches of concrete. "With almost an acre of area for each floor and figuring about 100 pounds per square foot of area," he estimated that "each floor system weighed about 3,200,000 pounds."'

If 1sq ft of deck N+1 weighing 100lbs lands flat on 1sq ft of deck N from a height of 10 ft, does it punch its way through deck N? Not likely.

If 1600 tons of deck N+1 lands flat, more or less equally distributed, on deck N from a height of 10 feet, does it punch its way through deck N? No, hardly. Will it break the joints of the open web truss struts of deck N to the exterior grid and the core column structures, so that decks N+1, N, N-1,... slide acceleratingly down the core and inside the exterior grid? Maybe, but then one expects to see the main vertical core members and perhaps the exterior grid too left stark and forlorn against the skyline, but substantially intact, with a large pile of rubble largely contained at the bottom of the box. Not what I remember seeing!

Of course, the sudden arrival of 150 000 tons of soon-to-be-rubble at the bottom of the rectangular pipe could force the outer grid apart near its base precipitating the collapse of the frame, but that would have been awesomely Titanic-like (in reverse, of course). Again not what I remember seeing!

One wonders whether those bracing wires needed for the demolition experts weren't adequately proxied by the panelized structural members and the visco-elastic stringers.

Disingenuously, one expert, Eduardo Kausel, 'addressed the oft-asked question of why the towers did not tip over like a falling tree. "A tree is solid, whereas building is mostly air or empty space; only about 10 percent is solid material. Since there is no solid stump underneath to force it to the side, the building cannot tip over. It could only collapse upon itself." ' (Anyone hear anything about the position of the centre of gravity here? Turning moments? Would you be persuaded by this argument that an open-mesh waste bin cannot tip over? Perhaps it's only true if the air is hot air.) Think about how much air and 'empty space' there is within the envelope of a tree!

But it makes for an interesting thought-experiment. Imagine a gent with chainsaw climbing up the tree and on his way sawing each branch nearly through at the joint with the trunk, so it can still carry the branch's own weight but not much more. Now imagine a lot of branches tearing free from near the top, maybe the gent cut a little too deep when he got up there, and cascading down, taking the lower branches, twigs and leaves with them. Given initial bilateral symmetry, why should the tree (=stem) tip over anyway? It would remain, standing forth proud and free from the pile of firewood at its roots. Oops, apart from the braches above the decisive level at which the branches were cut too far through. Now it's looking like a coconut palm or a prehistoric gingko. Darn, how do we get rid of that topknot?!? Aah, how about a few strategically-placed explosive charges down the length of the stem to make sure the whole lot collapses and gets turned into matchwood?

Clearly the MIT "have-a guess" session wasn't the final report, but it supplied enough material to fuel more doubt rather than douse what already was glowing.

And the 757 that hit the Pentagon must have been one of the rare swing-wing models; you know, the ones where the kamikaze pilot presses a button and then they don't damage the building left and right of the fuselage's entrance hole, nor leave their wings behind on the lawn. Much neater that way. Considerate.

Oh yes, the Pentagon. How many days did it take between impact and letting of the contract to repair? How many weeks, more likely months, does it take to prepare contract documents for a job like that? How do the two timescales compare? Having answered that, you would find it easy to state how long BEFORE impact the contract documents had to start being prepared...

Look, wherever there is politics, from the village level to the global village, there is a nasty smell. We're all used to that. This smells just the same, only more so. Much, much more.

Ballmer eggs on Hungarian student

Basil Fernie

@M$employee, idiots

"Businesses make money, in fact they have a legal responsibility to share holders to do so" - not quite right. Businesses do sometimes lose money, to their shareholders' distress, but that in itself is not a crime. Of course, it may point to something blackguardly going on in the background, but it might be due to environmental pressures, it could well be above board (pun alert).

However, apparently in the US it is a legal requirement for publicly-owned businesses to make as much money for their shareholders as possible - a totally different challenge, and one that apparently gives carte blanche to all sorts of evil attitudes and behaviour (connection to M$ thereby established). That is legitimized greed.

Truly the NYSE (along with many others, no doubt) needs a large person with stentorian voice to bellow across the trading-floor at start and close of business each day, "The LOVE of money is the root of all evil". Inbetween which he could perhaps take a quick trip to Washington DC and repeat his message to the House of Representatives and the Senate. And whomever happens to be in the White House at the time.

Basil Fernie
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@MS employee

"Businesses make money, in fact they have a legal responsibility to share holders to do so"

Not quite. Businesses that lose money do not break the law by doing that, although there may of course be some illegal behaviour behind the loss but it may all be above board (pun alert).

The problem is that (in the US, and possibly many other places now), businesses have a legal obligation to make AS MUCH money as possible for their shareholders. While this may seem like a Good Thing, it in fact encourages and appears to sanction all sorts of evil attitudes and behaviour (connection to M$ now established).

The NYSE (at the very least) needs someone with a large and solemn voice to intone across the floor, at start and close of business every day, "The LOVE of money is the root of all evil".

Microsoft Office chief to manage Bill Gates

Basil Fernie
Black Helicopters

@Peter Gray

The cost to humanity of his "generosity" has been enormous and uncounted. By monopolizing the PC OS market by criminal (such was the verdict of the US court) tactics he set the development and utilization of the PC back, in my opinion, by between 5 and 10 years.

Hubris is never a good fountain of charity. The ethical approach is not to be found in the B-school manuals, let alone Buffett's stamping-ground of the NYSE or the USA-legal thinking of BG's father who master-minded the original Windows-licensing policies that proliferated the presence of Windows simply because few people saw the advantage of paying extra for the OS they wanted since they couldn't get a refund for the one they didn't want.

If his foundation is not benefiting M$ to a great degree, albeit indirectly, I will be amazed.