* Posts by Neil Barnes

5119 posts • joined 18 Apr 2007

Nuclear power is the climate superhero too nervous to wear its cape

Neil Barnes Silver badge

That's right, you spin up the gas turbines.

Which, courtesy of the solar and wind energy the rest of the time, aren't used for a fraction of the time they otherwise would be.

This is not an either-or game; it's a question of maximising resources.

Our software is perfect. If something has gone wrong, it must be YOUR fault

Neil Barnes Silver badge

Re: UX Designer?

My mother's house in Scotland had the address '1/2 [name of village]', and an Inverness post code. Inverness is a three hour drive away.

Meanwhile in this village near Berlin (the original), some but not all the houses on the main street carry two numbers, apparently as a result of some historical renumbering exercise. The offset between the old and new numbers is not constant, and some carry only one number. I guess the postman knows where Frau Schmidt lives.

Neil Barnes Silver badge

Re: It's not always the developers fault

Sadly, I fear that the manglement requirement for newer shinier betterer, ideally by last Thursday, means its unlikely that any software is ever going to be complete, let alone working properly.

Neil Barnes Silver badge

Re: UX Designer?

Sometimes it's the simplest things that they get wrong: for an example, a timesheet data entry page which requires the start and end times to be in hh:mm format, but which not only does not automatically calculate and populate an hours worked field, requires it - without comment or cue - to be filled in in decimal hours.

Which reminds me, I haven't submitted myself to it this week yet.

Tech industry stuck over patent problems with AI algorithms

Neil Barnes Silver badge
Pint

Re: Patents Require People

The selection of desiderata was immediate and off the cuff, so I'm up to changing it if required, but it seems a good starting place. But while it's not necessarily an end point, I'm not sure about the ethics of creating a self-aware intelligence in a 19" rack-mount. I think to partake of the rights of a society it has to be able to function in that society. If that requires external assistance, so be it, but if it's enough of a society member to get a patent it should be able to vote...

I suggest there's a difference between picking up a rock and building a wall that doesn't fall down; between a stick and a lever, and certainly between a found object and, say, taking and modifying multiple objects to combine them into a new functional object.

I think you're right about corvids; there's plenty of evidence that they're pretty bright birds. To the extent of - in some isolated cases - of trading gifts with people.

This is the sort of discussion that we should be having over one of these --->

Neil Barnes Silver badge

Re: Patents Require People

Indeed. The patent system applies to human inventions. Would you grant a patent to a starfish? And if so, why?

It could be argued that other tool-using species are doing nothing more than using found objects on the basis of instinct - I'm not sure if they're inventing yet. And yes, I appreciate that the same argument could be made for me...

Neil Barnes Silver badge

Re: Patents Require People

This article isn't about patent holding (i.e. ownership), it is about patent invention.

And until I am convinced that a machine intelligence exists, is sentient, compos mentis, and able to take on the rights and responsibilities of a human, I will consider it a machine and no more capable of inventing something than my pen is. It is a tool - albeit a clever one - and is used by a person to invent, in the same way as they might use an IDE to write software, or a CAD system to design a product.

Asteroids may shoot pebbles into shallow temporary orbits, boffins believe

Neil Barnes Silver badge

The orbits degrade

Why? Gravitational perturbations? Tiny atmospheric drag? Do asteroids have atmospheres, if they're small enough to lose pebbles with some regularity?

Perhaps it's motion in curved space (El Reg passim)

Scientists unveil a physics-defying curved space robot

Neil Barnes Silver badge
Boffin

Re: It's just using friction.

I find myself agreeing; it looks exactly like there is some not-immediately-obvious friction that has not been accounted for.

Perhaps they're moving by pulling on a block chain?

General Motors charging mandatory $1,500 fee for three years of optional car features

Neil Barnes Silver badge

Re: Microtransactions?

They seem to get on their phones pretty quickly on the autobahn... there doesn't seem to be a concept of slowing early for traffic in front, just charging up at 250kph and slamming the anchors on because the car in the outside lane has the temerity to be passing someone at a mere 150kph.

I do wonder how many brakes, discs, and tyres these drivers get through. Perhaps they're on a subscription service too?

Neil Barnes Silver badge
Holmes

Re: Microtransactions?

Given that I glanced at a motoring magazine the other day and saw a BMW being touted as excellent value at ninety thousand Euros (or was it a hundred and ninety?) it's obvious that the whole car industry is less about moving people from A to B and just as much a luxury 'look, I can afford this' industry as handbags and shoes.

Microwaved fish could help scientists create sustainable LEDs

Neil Barnes Silver badge
Boffin

Light. Under water?

Surely we already have shark-mounted lasers? What more do we need?

Microsoft asks staff to think twice before submitting expenses

Neil Barnes Silver badge

I've bounced off similar, but I think it's petty control rules sometimes: buying a round of pizza and beer for an office at the end of a complex move where they all chipped in above and beyond... no great amount, but nooo, there isn't a category for that. Or another occasion where I needed a flight at short notice, and I noticed a special offer where going business class would save a hundred quid or so. So I did. And ended up on the carpet because business class travel requires exec level authorisation (even though the cost came out of already agreed budget on a project I was managing...)

My experience over the years was that the projects that cost millions were barely discussed, and the few hundred quid projects were waved through, but if the budget was about the cost of a house... oh boy, then there was discussion. Obviously that was a number people understood viscerally.

US car industry leads the world in production cuts over chip shortages

Neil Barnes Silver badge

Re: Here's an idea -

Older than that, I fear: Fiat used ECUs from the mid-eighties and I'm the other big names did too, just to meet pollution requirements.

Electric windows are an interesting one: there has to be some mechanism that stops the window when Junior sticks his head in it and presses the button. Though one could think of it as evolution in action...

Neil Barnes Silver badge

Re: Here's an idea -

Which is why my last car was decidedly poverty spec... it doesn't come with all the crap. Tactile memory for the radio and heater/aircon buttons. Messing around with a touch screen is and was a joke from day one.

Russian anti-satellite test added to a 'pressing threat to security' in space

Neil Barnes Silver badge

Re: "internationally-established consensus best practices for space operations"

Shame indeed.

I wonder how much the presence of orbiting debris degrades the possibility of using similar ASAT weapons in the future: at what point is there so much debris that there's only a low proportion of launches that are not going to intersect it at some time.

And there of course we remain for some time until the mess sorts itself out... possibly never.

GitHub courts controversy by suspending Tornado Cash developers and reneging on cookie commitments

Neil Barnes Silver badge

DNT

Is there any point to the DNT flag? Given that it appears to be largely ignored...

Report slams UK plan to become 'science superpower' by 2030

Neil Barnes Silver badge

No sleep till bedtime!

Neil Barnes Silver badge

Re: Pariahs

As an aside, in the UK, selection of honorifics in online forms is usually restricted to plain Mr, Ms, Mrs, and possibly Dr. Here in Germany I am frequently amazed by Dr, Dr Dr, Professor, Professor Dr Dr and so on.The Germans are very defensive of their qualifications.

Burger King just sent spam receipts to customers

Neil Barnes Silver badge
Holmes

I'm old fashioned

I don't order food online, and I don't distribute my email to random retailers.

Remember the humanoid Tesla robot? It's ready for September reveal, says Musk

Neil Barnes Silver badge
Headmaster

Gigafactory?

So it takes Tesla a billion factories to produce eight hundred thousand vehicles a year? Doesn't sound terribly efficient.

Dear Tesla: the word you are seeking is 'factory'. If it requires a modifier, perhaps 'large'?

South Korea's lunar orbiter launches and phones home happily

Neil Barnes Silver badge
Holmes

If elements like oxygen and hydrogen can be found in lunar ice

If hydrogen and oxygen *can't* be found in ice, no matter where it is, I'd be a little suspicious of either (a) the initial identification of the 'ice' as ice, or (b) the ability of the analyst.

(yes, I know it doesn't actually specify 'water ice' but that is the normative form of the word...)

GitLab U-turns on deleting dormant projects after backlash

Neil Barnes Silver badge

before we automatically delete it and data therein.

> dev/null... I suppose it's theoretically still available, but the response time is infinite?

Bloke robbed of $800,000 in cryptocurrency by fake wallet app wants payback from Google

Neil Barnes Silver badge

Re: Oh dear

If only there were a word for schadenfreude!

AI-friendly patent law needed 'as a matter of national security', ex-USPTO boss says

Neil Barnes Silver badge

Re: Greedy bastards blatantly milking a broken system

Sounds rather like Charlie Stross' "Accelerando"

Neil Barnes Silver badge
FAIL

good reason to give machines at least authorship rights

My left elbow!

My pen's just claimed authorship rights over the deathless prose I wrote using it.

One way Bitcoin miners can make money: Selling electricity back to Texas

Neil Barnes Silver badge

Re: This is because of how broken Texas' deregulated power grid is

They estimate in advance and suggest a monthly rate that should cover that. Any shortfall is paid up at the end of the year; any excess theoretically reduces next year's monthly estimate. I do my best to underpay as I see no reason to give the leccy company a free loan.

We're still suffering a bit from a model that doesn't apparently have an input to cope with the buyer changing from 'young couple with small child, washing machine running all day every day, video games full time and all the lights left on' to 'retired couple who fitted LED lighting throughout (in Germany, when the occupant moves out so do all the light fittings!) and run the washing machine once a week for a couple of cycles'.

The computer has insisted a couple of times that our readings are implausibly low and I have to support them with photos of the meter; the water meter and the heat meter (domestic heating; it's lovely!) have both been replaced during our tenancy over the last year.

Neil Barnes Silver badge
Facepalm

Re: This is because of how broken Texas' deregulated power grid is

Constant rate just rose to just under 40 Eurocents/kWh here. Which triggered the suppliers' computer to recalculate our monthly payment from 67 Euros to 1,489 Euros. About twice what we've used in the last year, even at the new inflated prices...

Words have been said.

Neil Barnes Silver badge
Mushroom

From orbit.

It's the only way to be sure.

One to watch: Open-source code that measures your exposure to CCTV

Neil Barnes Silver badge
Holmes

Re: Can't happen soon enough

But your safety is by no means guaranteed even if you are being watched. Even if an incident is observed, the only difference is that it might be a little more difficult for a culprit to escape in the longer term. It's already too late for the victim if the incident is any more than grab and run.

SpaceX demonstrates that it too can shower the Earth with debris

Neil Barnes Silver badge

Re: Video of this alien artifact

Ooops, my bad, didn't see that. Too late now... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gZDCRidVsxc

Neil Barnes Silver badge
Alien

Video of this alien artifact

may be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gZDCRidVsxc&t=202s

Like Ubuntu, just a bit less hassle: Linux Mint 21 'Vanessa'

Neil Barnes Silver badge

Re: Been using the Beta for a couple of weeks

Don't forget the time. Telling it I'm in Berlin gets me a German time server, which is what I want, but I want everything else in English, damnit!

Neil Barnes Silver badge
Pint

Been using the Beta for a couple of weeks

and no significant niggles. The only one I've noticed is that sometimes making a window full screen on a second monitor hops it to full screen on the laptop instead - youtube is a particular offender.

One slight annoyance is that having set location as Berlin, even with UK-GB as keyboard and default language, it insists on using German-locale decimal separators. No amount of twiddling locales seems to sort this out. Though this was present in 20 also... and Firefox doesn't seem to understand using a UK spelling checker; another hang-over from 20.

Nonetheless, a pint for Clem and the crew!

Boffins put supercomputer on the scent of a perfect landfill deodorizer

Neil Barnes Silver badge

So basically...

they're trying to hide their noxious effusions with even more effusions of unknown noxiousness and unknown mix?

All smells a bit fishy to me.

New Outlook feature: It freezes up when dealing with tables in emails

Neil Barnes Silver badge
Flame

Re: Tables?

"why else would they always include that 'Read in Web Browser' button"

Cheer up. My (German) bank has recently changed its interface to one which is, on the whole, a lot more usable (though they haven't discovered a reason to include a running total on each payment line yet).

What they have had for some time is the ability to export a PDF of a monthly statement - albeit in a font only its mother could love - but when attempting to copy and paste to, say, a spreadsheet, the details are disordered and generally not of any great use.

So they've implemented an 'export as .csv' which would be great. If,only,they,hadn't,given,each,word,on,the,page,its,own,cell... so *nothing* lines up. Helpful.

Neil Barnes Silver badge
Facepalm

Re: Plain Text

It's really not my day...

Neil Barnes Silver badge

Re: Plain Text

A very fair point which I completely forgot when I posted. Let's make it UTF-8, then?

Neil Barnes Silver badge
Headmaster

Re: Plain Text

An email message which contains un-sizeable text, usually in an image, which can't be reformatted to fit in a narrower window *and still remain readable* is broken.

Raw seven-bit ascii, please, with _italic_ and *bold*. No more is ever necessary.

Google asks workers for ideas on being 'more focused and efficient' in internal survey

Neil Barnes Silver badge

Pichai

Am I the only one who always reads that name as 'Pikachu'?

China's 7nm chip surprise reveals more than Beijing might like

Neil Barnes Silver badge

It's also an ASIC crypto-miner, highly parallel, low complexity. A starter chip.

And isn't this in a country which has banned crypto-mining?

Akamai: We stopped record DDoS attack in Europe

Neil Barnes Silver badge

Same here - but only *some* videos. Others were fine.

Tim Hortons offers free coffee and donut to settle data privacy invasion claims

Neil Barnes Silver badge

We illegally scarfed your data

So here's a coffee and a bun to compensate? Seems a light punishment...

Experts warn transition to private space stations won't happen anytime soon

Neil Barnes Silver badge
Angel

Re: A quick glance at YouTube

Present company excepted, of course!

I paid for it, that makes it mine. Doesn’t it? No – and it never did

Neil Barnes Silver badge
Coat

Here in Germany they'd have to sell it as the EiPod...

Neil Barnes Silver badge

Re: Waste of money

When I worked for the Beeb it was already clear that there was enough talent in the UK to support no more than four TV channels...

Neil Barnes Silver badge
Paris Hilton

If you put an egg in the water, does it come out cooked?

Inquiring minds want to know!

Psst … Want to buy a used IBM Selectric? No questions asked

Neil Barnes Silver badge
Windows

Re: Sarah? Is the Moderatrix back again?

We were old then. Now we're older.

Apple's secret car team tosses keys to Lamborghini lead

Neil Barnes Silver badge

Re: Apple Tractors

Oops, thanks for the correction.

Neil Barnes Silver badge

Re: Apple Tractors

But an Applemobile would be in the same class as the remainder of their products, and incidentally the same class as a Lamborghini - it's a Velben good. You don't buy it because you need it, nor because it's the most economical way to get something you need; you buy it so you can demonstrate that you've got it.

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