* Posts by Peter Fox

63 publicly visible posts • joined 13 Apr 2006


Comet ISON seen eructating 300,000km-long methane and CO2 BELCH

Peter Fox

Can some boffin explain how it works

What sort of 'headwind' is it experiencing? Or is it an illusion? Is the tail actually following on behind like a smeared-out mini-atmosphere or does it quickly slow down(why?) leaving a trail of comet dust like a cosmic vapour-trail?

Latest Firefox boosts video chat, 3D graphics, JavaScript performance

Peter Fox


Update trashed my feed reader

Update decided to make everything small so every site needs Ctrl+plusing


El Reg casts a weather eye over Bureau of Met's new baby

Peter Fox

Posted from Blighty but the effect's the same

The UK's Met office 'beta' likes the same approach. Yeukk.

(1) I want tomorrow's clothes-drying forecast. A combination of wind, humidity, sunshine and freedom from precipitation. This affects millions whereas a ten-percent chance of high winds in the Exeboks mountains affects tens.

(2) I want layers of actual observations which I can compare half-hourly with what's outside. Part of the purpose of electronic information is to allow us to compare with what's ACTUALLY happening so we can learn to read the conditions for ourselves.

(3) I want isotherms (and iso-things) not spot values.

(4) I want a text forecast generated by a human. There's a world of a difference between Min temp and 'It will feel bloody chilly in the onshore breeze' etc. etc.

(5) The pictorial 7-day forecasts should start as 100% alpha then fade away as uncertainty increases.

People who are serious about the weather always make their own observations using whatever cues they have available, whether it is clouds, frogs croaking, factory chimney smoke patterns or seaweed. Meteorologists need to recognise their input is valuable but subtle data is required not headline pictures.

El Reg drills into Google's search biz offer to Europe

Peter Fox

Label links as adverts

In the printed media you see normal editorial mixed with clearly distinguishable adverts then grey areas of pages that are designed to look like editorial but have 'ADVERTISEMENT' at the top, advertorial (think of the I-Sky items in Private Eye), self/cross promotions without making it clear that say Richard Desmond owns the TV channel being praised, and of course churned press releases.

On Google there is no way to tell whether 'advice for...' is showing because search metrics bring it up or yet another cut-n-paste general advice site has paid for it. For example consider the horror of exposing how many places in the ranking a link has been bumped-up by paying for it. Oh no! It would scare the horses. Too true it would... But then it would be a great service to the public to be able to judge value/relevance separate from the scale of the *hidden* size of the advertising budget.

PS I block ads as a matter of course so I'm only referring to the main-listing of Google.

Nuisance calls DOUBLE, Ofcom vows to hunt down offenders

Peter Fox

My simple suggestion

Have a '1414' number that you ring just after receiving any sort of nuisance call. (A bit like 1471) This goes through to an automated press 1 for silent, 2 for ignoring TPS, 3 for scam, 4 for personal harassment etc. The system knows your last caller ID so it soon collects "we have dozens of number 2s from number 1234567890" and at some threshold puts that number on a blacklist and demands an explanation and/or fine from telco and/or originator. Job done simply. The more it costs telcos the larger the fines.

What Compsci textbooks don't tell you: Real world code sucks

Peter Fox

I, I, I, me, me, me

Of course programmers have individual styles. Of course yours displeases me for any number of reasons. Now we've dealt with your terrible style we can move on to your structural, conceptual and logical ignorance, mis-application and inadequacies.

Hey! Why not work together so I can rein-in your weirdnesses and you can admire and learn from my vision and perfection of implementation. Every day! If you're capable I'll let you do some of the easier bits for me and in return you can test my code and fix trivial bugs for me. Aren't I good to you.

The serious point is that we have to work alone in some respects but should be working together more. I'm not advocating two people with one needle each trying to knit, but if you're writing code for somebody else then it's not your precious secret.

Anonymous hacks Westboro Baptists over Sandy Hook protests

Peter Fox
Thumb Up

Re: "Protest the funerals"? Hurrah!

At last somebody civilised. You can no more 'protest the funerals' than you can 'sing the funerals'. While we're at it perhaps the dur-brains who think they speak God's English would like to rephrase 'write you' when they mean 'write to you'.

LAST EVER British typewriter manufactured in Wales

Peter Fox

A welsh typewriter has fewer keys

No vowels needed.

BBC in secret trial to see if you care about thing you plainly don't

Peter Fox

The Internet isn't the answer to everything

(1) Broadband required.

(2) Tech savvy required to maintain a computer. -- I expect many readers dread family tech support phone calls.

(3) How do you listen to a talk by that nice Mr. Reith in your drawing room while the servants in the kitchen have the Dales and Jimmy in his den freaks out that awful rock and roll? Most homes have more than one radio in different places.

Faulty network switched closed Melbourne tunnels

Peter Fox

Lots of single points of failure

There's a step-change between the old way of 'something breaks which passively prevents something' and 'something breaks which actively blocks everything'.

In the olden days if you ran out of petrol it was grief to you. Now lanes on the motorway are shut... congestion (and possibly accidents) occurs... then there are other knock-on effects.

Minnesota backpedals from online education ban

Peter Fox

Oh stop bitching!

Somebody got hold of the wrong end of the stick. Within a few days it got sorted. NOW WHAT? (Apart from sarky comments here.) Now various big-wigs are involved pitch all the good things to them so they might champion the 'taxpayer-lite' education system. (Downsides too but that's one way to exploit the interaction for a positive end.) I have my own educational agenda [search for "12rs maturities"] so I'm aware that there's a huge inertia in education. (And at the other end of the spectrum fake degrees.) So let's have a few more comments about how Minnesota could react positively to a genuine attempt to bring learning to everyone.

Australian boffins have a ball with lightning maths

Peter Fox
Thumb Down

Oh how perfectly dreadful

Some McMcMcnoodle wishes to tell us that all language is equal. No it isn't. Pray discern for yourself the origin of 'Shibboleth' as it may concentrate your mind on the extreme cultural barbarity that can be associated with words. It may be in the use or pronunciation. So now you should try and do better. If general encouragement fails then seek a university that offers degree-level courses in 'math'.

Judge goes postal on Kim Dotcom extradition appeal

Peter Fox

Sauce for the goose...

So Dot com should blog or make it well know in 'internet writing' that Judge O'Grady appears to be a pervert/ freemason/ child molester/ retard and leave it at that. If this train-wreck should get to court then any judge tarred with such a scathing brush would have to stand aside or claim contempt of court. Ha ha! New lawyers please!

STILL TRUE: Facebook and co to handle taxpayers' ID

Peter Fox
Thumb Down

I've just stolen Peter's identity

Let's see how he untangles that. Who will he ask first? Where can he go to find where his 'on-line' identity is used? If I get his benefits redirected to my account and new address and make a fraudulent claim how on earth will that be sorted out? Probably as Peter himself defrauding the system.

One identity for everything is really bad news. (I'm a bit miffed that Peter has a Facebook account in another name as I can't get that - Yet.)

New I-hate-my-neighbour stickers to protect Brits' packages

Peter Fox

And the other sticker

No unaddressed mail - This means you too Royal Mail.

Actually you can harass the RM management and EVENTUALLY (after they've whinged on about the mailing preference opt-out scheme - which bit do they not understand! That's addressed mail Duh!) they put a note on the sorting rack and the postie gets to know.

Dice swallows Slashdot, SourceForge, Freecode in $20m deal

Peter Fox
Thumb Down

All techies have ad-blocking

Don't they?

And if the marketing twerps try something intrusive I expect the backlash will be serious.

NASA funds sexy, stealthy, sideways supersonic flying wing

Peter Fox
Thumb Down

Should be a saucer

Which could gradually transition...

...Oh but Apple have patented that shape.

Cloud backup drama: Mozy kicks Carbonite after ASA's had a go

Peter Fox
Thumb Up

Good nutshell

Well done. 'Unlimited' means 'we don't impose limits. It covers the whole service. Imagine a physical storage facility: "Unlimited storage but anything over 1,000Kg you get delivered by a one-eyed-crippled-hunchback instead of a truck."

Anonymous declares war after French firm trademarks its logo

Peter Fox

In times past...

Battles have always been spectator sports. Fights and wagers were the big attractions. My contribution here is to show how we are drawn to watch combat. Some Herberts descending for public fisticuffs onto another bunch of Dubious Desmonds -- Don't we all enjoy it?

To be honest violence repulses me, but this arms-length battering is FUN!

There's this 'new' arena and perhaps we should look at ourselves.

Computer error triggers mass rocket launch

Peter Fox
Thumb Down

What could possibly go wrong?

As clocks go 'tick' and cows go 'moo' so programmers go 'WCPGW". Did no programmer not think 'maximum rate of firing instructions is X'?

US dope farmer in Walmart rattlesnake chomp shock

Peter Fox

Re: copy editor fail

And somebody typed 'monolith' when they meant 'behemoth'.

Billion-dollar high-tech ghost town to run itself without humans

Peter Fox
Thumb Down

Lets build a city for...

Let's build an aquarium without fishes.

The ONLY reason you'd trial a system (punted with lots of positive benefits naturally) in such a place would be if you were worried about harmful side-effects.

(Or if 'research' was offset against tax so was effectively free. But it's still creepy.)

LOHAN ideas..

Peter Fox

Bent coathanger does it all.

If the rod fitted in a hole 'drilled all the way through' the body of the plane you wouldn't have to worry about icing etc. as it would be protected.

Why bother with the rod at all? It doesn't do anything for directional stability in the fraction of a second it takes for the plane to be popped off by the rocket.

I'd take a coat hanger, cut the horizontal bit and form two elbow hooks to go under/behind the wings. Tilt the hooks so the plane points up, dangle from a string and off you go. No beam even simply tandem balloons.

How a tiny leap-day miscalculation trashed Microsoft Azure

Peter Fox

Sorry to go on about this but...

'Well written date object' Eh? If it is based on a timeline then it isn't.

What date objects can represent 12 Mar 2012, Mar 2012, 12 Mar, 2012, Not-known, and End-of-time/unknown-in-the-future?

See http://vulpeculox.net/day/index.htm for the answer.

Leaked EU data protection draft SHALL. NOT. PASS.

Peter Fox

e-payment privacy?

Does this or any other toothless law give me the right when making an e-payment, say paying for something with my credit card, to not have that data used for anything else but the facilitation of that single purchase.

Free the people from office chains and commuting pain!

Peter Fox

Remote working is hard

Odd individuals working some of the time remotely requires a bit of infrastructure. That's not difficult so long as it is by choice.

But you need a completely different organisational structure and management approach if the whole outfit is to work remotely. That is *completely*. Luckily it isn't difficult to understand as you will see by visiting http://vulpeculox.net/treems . By the way, the social and economic benefits are enormous.

World's first biz computer was British – and sold teacakes

Peter Fox

And high speed 'laser' printing

One of the output devices worked on, but not perfected to the point of being totally free from bursting into flames, was a high speed reel-fed xerography printer. A couple of decades ahead of its time. I think they sold the rights to Rank with very significant consequences eventually.

'Hey, Tories, who knows what a nontrepreneur is?’

Peter Fox
Thumb Down

Rights - What exactly?

Define what you mean by "Rights". Copy, quote, use in perpetuity, modify, translate, use ideas from, transfer onto different media, sell all or part, create something that interfaces by reverse engineering? How about right to get parts removed from your product for some reason as a 3rd party or bugs fixed? Jailbreak my phone? Sell my firmware on your hardware? Insist you recognise my authorship? The list goes on.

The apps market shows there is a functioning market on the Internet.

Prang finder site reveals accident blackspots

Peter Fox

It's rubbish = At least the quality of stats is now public

STATS19 the 'crash' database has been known for a long while to be a pretty poor (=completely) record of cycling incidents. Hello other road users. Now you know for yourselves. Perhaps harassing a bunch of government wonks/politicians is in order ... ...Oh you can only be bothered to rant on el-reg not get at the public servants - sorry I wasted your time.

How are we going to search our hard disks now?

Peter Fox

When my brains go fizzt...

...which is quite a lot now (age) a TRUSTED content indexer is valuable. (Just this last week I spent ages certain that I'd already written a particular routine ...) Copernic worked for me but I had to block its ability to talk to the internet. before it was acceptable. Now it looks as if it needs a re-install for some unknown reason.

By the way. Lots of people use non MS legacy apps. Older search programs are often useful in this respect. The moral of the story is do not uninstall older search engines until you're sure the newer version is aware of all your 15 years of archive.

Google's anonymity ban defied by Thomas Jefferson

Peter Fox
Thumb Down

So sorry to hear about poor Washington

Dear dear how awful it must have been to be lambasted "sadistically" with vicious words. Why that's almost as bad as losing your job, house and being assaulted. Whistle-blowers, fraud-busters and other flys in corporate ointment are routinely pursued vindictively - often having their lives destroyed.

I manage my different personalities on-line and in real-life and see no legitimate reason why Google or anyone else should insist on those being merged into one.

Docs and devs: Health secretary wants healthcare apps

Peter Fox
Thumb Down


So let's just assume Lansely's wonderful offer attracts submissions. Will that mean my 'cure cancer by twitter' app will get a "NHS seal of approval". If not then why not? Otherwise what's the point. If it does get 'approved' then how rigorous will the approvals process be. - Answers on a postcard.

Here lies /^v.+b$/i

Peter Fox


Buried at C

Sky wins TV riot battle

Peter Fox

Missing the whole point

The more exciting the video the more coverage. This means that it pays to have your peaceful (boring), private negotiations (no constant outrage) turned into a colourful carnival of chaos for the TV. (Oodles of vicarious viewers) If it can't be shown on the telly then it's not news. PS I don't have a telly and have so far managed to survive without pictures - perhaps I'm super-human - or perhaps those that do watch it haven't got any better entertainment.

Blighty's top cop quits over phone-hacking scandal

Peter Fox

He must have known about Yates

Yates who was busily lunching with NoW execs while investigating them! [See Private Eye]

So 'integrity intact' Stephenson was clearly party to a 'nothing to see here - move along' policy.

El Reg to unleash rocket-powered spaceplane

Peter Fox
Thumb Up


Register's Optimistic Mesosphere Expedition

Servers: My place or yours?

Peter Fox


When something goes wrong 'in the cloud' there are so many confusions, difficulties getting to the bottom of things, difficulties of applying pressure to get things fixed that the people who should be taking responsibility have no way of doing so. The cloud is nice and elastic for variable demand but otherwise a cop-out as there isn't a definite boundary between technical hardware support, technical apps support and user or use-related issues.

Mozilla cranks out Firefox 5 with cross-platform 'Do Not Track' feature

Peter Fox
Thumb Down

If it's not broken... ...break it.

Go up a major version number and a load of add-ons will break just for the number jump. As of course the extra whizzo features are not going to be a big deal to 95% this means everybody, add-on developers, users and web page testers need to keep running just to stand still.

Got a website? Pay attention, Cookie Law will come

Peter Fox

Wrong way round. It's the READING that matters.

Site A gives me a cookie to do something useful to me and perhaps something statistical for the site owner. No great problem there. But if site B has a look at what cookies I've got and what's in them (even with A's permission) then I'm not so sure.

Compare it to going shopping and being given a receipt in each shop. What would you say if shop B looked at all your accumulated receipts?

Rapture postponed as world inexplicably fails to end

Peter Fox

They're all at this upgrade wheeze

To get extra features and address some security issues please upgrade to Bible 2.0.

[ ] Tick to agree to privacy policy : God knows everything yet is strangely ineffable himself.

Read-only nation: can Open Source change the British way?

Peter Fox

If we had tech groups like we have arts groups...

... Then we'd have collections of mixed skilled people capable of working together to take on projects. Everything from street buskers, through the local panto soc. to repertory companies and commercial theatres have an organisation, funding model and a recognised place in society. Compare that with the OS scene: Just for example you can't have a panto where everyone is the dame and nobody sells advertising for the programme. Any 'programming' project of any size needs a host of backstage people some beginners a small number of 'stars actors' and a producer. See a full article at http://vulpeculox.net/ob/repofknow.htm

Official: PhD in 'Essential Oils' or 'Natural Toiletries' = 'a Scientist'

Peter Fox


Your definition of Boffin is practically as inaccurate as the ASA's definition of scientist. True boffins have to have round glasses, tweed jackets and demonstrate results with elastic bands and vacuum cleaners? I know the other category, mad professors, have the easily distinguishing plumage of white coats and for them glasses tend to be transitory objects of erratic existence.

Diary of a Not-spot: The readers speak

Peter Fox

Reflector on the roof?

My knowledge of microwaves is limited to boxes than go "ping", but what about a chicken-wire 'rf-mirror' on the roof with the proper antenna in the garden. For example a row of foot or 18 inch square wire frames mounted on a single 2x2 running along the ridge.

Is there a technical college near by? This sounds like a good practical project for them.

Unarmed Royal Navy T45 destroyer breaks down mid-Atlantic

Peter Fox

Ten of those not so brilliant French missiles...

...would be "dix Asters"

Most coders have sleep problems, need 'hygiene and care'

Peter Fox

Useless study but no surprise

It shouldn't be a surprise that mental athletes don't suddenly switch-on, run for eight hours and then stop. We sprint, rest, have terrible off-days caused by 'a virus' and do our best work when not being interrupted by others. It doesn't take long to discover that unusual (OMG abnormal!) periods of attempting to cut-off from the world and fanatical attention to detail are more productive and satisfying than for the average person.

There are two key implications:

1 Recognise the need for mental relaxation - Different people chill-out differently. An athlete uses a varied training regime and has rest and recovery periods.

2 Expect unusual traits of inter-personal interaction and scheduling. What's important to them isn't easily understood by others.

For a mental athlete 'stress' is not caused by hard work but by people expecting them to fit in with their sofa-led, chattering 'normal' and plodding lifestyle.

Stuxnet 'a game changer for malware defence'

Peter Fox


Look what happens when you use long words... incorrectly.

Trojan-ridden warning system implicated in Spanair crash

Peter Fox

It might be the translation but...

A 'Trojan' steals stuff with as little interference as possible. Much more likely scenarios are screw-you-up malware or botched security or 'blame something else for our lack of sysadmin competence'. However as we don't know the link between the nature of the faults and the causes of the accident (and at first sight it seems peculiar) it is difficult to 'put the blame on malware'.

Nothing succeeds like XSS

Peter Fox
Thumb Up

The downside isn't that much for sysadmins surely

Who are these sysadmins who find it too much trouble? What are random users doing visiting random web sites in a business environment? If a random user finds a random web site is broken by NoScript then at least they have been warned, and if they find it a bind to make a couple of clicks then perhaps they shouldn't be allowed to play with toys.

DfT 'unwittingly' bigged-up speed camera benefits

Peter Fox

Highways safety fraud goes wider

Firstly I think that making criminals pay for their crimes and being a net earner is an excellent system. Secondly the regression-to-the-mean problem affects many of the improvements on the highway. Of course cameras work - people wouldn't complain if they were ignored or ignorable, but making inflated claims is endemic in the highways 'engineering' culture. This is very convenient for companies that earn lots of money by being busy adding more signs, fiddling with road layouts and so on. They can point to 100's of 'black-spots' that vanished (regression-towards-the-mean) when they did something.

Imitate Real Ale quaffers, save the economy, says biz prof

Peter Fox

Micro culture

The micro/mini brewery culture works because the participants /cooperate/. The local brewers know each other and share all sorts of knowledge, equipment and people. This leads to successful experiments being replicated and a drive to be different. This is the epitome of a _craft_ industry. So here's the 64,000 dollar question: How could that 'craft' culture be implemented in, say, IT? There is another success-factor worth mentioning: The distribution area is small and the chain /involved/ so that reports of good/bad and liked/disliked in particular pubs are quickly fed-back to the brewers - who take the matter seriously. There is a lesson here for software suppliers.