* Posts by Graeme Sutherland

53 publicly visible posts • joined 23 Apr 2007


Woman charged with blowing AU$4.6m overdraft on 'a lot of handbags'

Graeme Sutherland

Actually it'd take 2,000 days, about five and a half year, for you to withdraw a million quid from an ATM.

Periodic table enjoys elemental engorgement

Graeme Sutherland

Element 115

I'm really disappointed that Element 115 doesn't exhibit any of the characteristics that Bob Lazar claimed back in the 1980s. Chief of which was that it was used as a power source for flying saucers.

Had it done so, we could have called it Lazarium, Alium, or something similar. Ah, well.

After Death Star II blew: Dissecting the tech of Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens

Graeme Sutherland

Re: A New Hope.

There might not be keyboards, but there were iPads on show during the pod race in A Phantom Menace.

Graeme Sutherland

The Star Destroyer has had a facelift

If you look at the appropriate Star Wars databank entry then you can see that the Star Destroyer has had a facelift, and that they're running v. 2.0 of the TIE fighter. So it's not as though they're using all the same old kit.

Given the films are set in a society that is highly technologically advanced, and has been around for at least a thousand years, it's probable that the rate of change would have slowed somewhat. There's a theory that we're seeing that at present.

As for weapons having a long lifespan, a sword was auctioned last year which saw service for 250 years. (Warning: link to the Daily Mail.)

You want the poor to have more money? Well, doh! Splash the cash

Graeme Sutherland

Re: Anyone fancy a one-child policy?

Nearly half the world's population lives in countries with sub-replacement levels of fertility, so it doesn't look like a one-child policy is necessary.

As for China, the government has been watering down the birth control laws in recent years. But people still aren't that keen on producing far more children.

NASA reveals secret 1970s SPACE PANTS

Graeme Sutherland

Laboratory Coat

I can't believe that a picture of the lab coat wasn't posted. It's surely the most important boffin-related item in the whole document.

What the BLEEP? BitTorrent's secure messaging app arrives

Graeme Sutherland
Thumb Up

Works well

I can't comment about the security aspects, as that's not my speciality, but the app itself does what it says on the tin.

I just set up a trans-Pacific call to my brother, who gave me the heads up an hour ago, and the quality was better than phone or Skype.

I know this is the Reg, and we're a bunch of grumpy, cynical buggers. But it seems to work well, and it's free. So I can't complain too much.

Star Wars revival secret: This isn't the celluloid you're looking for

Graeme Sutherland

Analogue vs Digital

I listened to an interview in a podcast with John Seale (DP on the new Mad Max film), and that was his first time shooting digitally.

He made the comment that it's possible to process the images in such a way that a typical viewer couldn't tell the whether it originated on celluloid or not. Therefore he doesn't see any advantage to shooting on film, and doesn't plan on doing so again.

Given Seale's background, I'd be inclined to go with his opinion. :)

The Zacuto tests last year (I think) included film as well as digital. Whilst it's got aesthetically pleasing characteristics, the latitude is lower. I can't remember the findings on resolution, but I've got a feeling that a 4K camera is pretty close.

Can't agree on a coding style? Maybe the NEW YORK TIMES can help

Graeme Sutherland
Paris Hilton

Re: Dont dis El Reg!

Paris codes in VALGOL.


DARPA uncloaks unTerminator for $2 million robotics challenge

Graeme Sutherland

First they try to trip up Atlas. Then they swing weights at it.

If they're not careful they'll be getting a killer android with an Austrian accent from the future turning up on their doorstep as payback...

Judge nixes Microsoft SkyDrive name in BSkyB court ruling

Graeme Sutherland

New name for SkyDrive


Australia shuts up shop for tech temps

Graeme Sutherland

Permanent Residence

It's not that hard for an IT professional to get permanent residence. It'll take about a year from start to finish, but has a lot fewer restrictions than a 457.

A few years back programmers were on a critical skills list, and you'd have gone to the head of the queue. Not sure what the situation is now.

'Leccy car biz baron Elon Musk: Thanks for the $500m, taxpayers...

Graeme Sutherland

Re: So what was the interest again?

Between 0.9% and 3.4%. Less than most people pay on their mortgages. I suspect that inflation would mean the US government made a loss on the deal too.

I'm surprised Tesla repaid it, as it strikes me as being extremely cheap money. I can only assume it's a way of improving the company's apparent finances now that it's floated. But Musk is incredibly wealthy, whereas I'm not, so I suspect he's got a better idea than me. :)

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

Graeme Sutherland

We're all genius programmers here

It appears that every commentard on El Reg is in upper quartile of programming ability. Congratulations chaps, have a pat on your back and a gold star.

The reason that other programmers' code looks worse than our own is that it's always hard to understand others works, and so we automatically mark it down. Years ago I heard a group of coders denigrating one of their former colleagues once from writing really weird C++. From what I saw of his work, he was a lot more able than they were. Unfamiliarity with his techniques meant that his skills were denigrated.

As for self-documenting code, I'll believe it when I see it.

The fact is that there are very, very few developers who write in a clear, concise and well-structured fashion, or bother to produce comments or documentation without being prompted. I've come across a handful in recent years as a contractor, but I'm not working in the rarefied heights of investment banking.

We all think we're great, but in truth, most of us aren't.

Ten badass brainy computers from science fiction

Graeme Sutherland

Mistake Not...

Surely you need at least one reference to the Culture. My favourite has to be the Mistake Not... Or, by it's full name: Mistake Not My Current State Of Joshing Gentle Peevishness For The Awesome And Terrible Majesty Of The Towering Seas Of Ire That Are Themselves The Milquetoast Shallows Fringing My Vast Oceans Of Wrath.

You really can't get any more badass than a name like that for an AI.


Graeme Sutherland
Black Helicopters

El Reg Air Arm

And there I was thinking that the El Reg Air Arm was parked here. (Zoom in a bit.)


Astroboffins to search for mega-massive alien power plants

Graeme Sutherland

Re: Reg Standard Units

Apparently Hella has been proposed for 10^27, so a Dyson Sphere would be 5 HellaJubs in weight.

Graeme Sutherland

Reg Standard Units

El Reg is obviously slipping since the dimensions of a Dyson Sphere was not given in standard units.

Fortunately, I can reveal that it would be approximately 5000 YottaJubs, and (assuming a radius of 1 AU) would have a surface area of nearly 14 TeraWales and a volume of 5,600,000 Yotta Olympic Swimming Pools.

Unfortunately the SI scale breaks down at Yotta (10^24). Someone really needs to come up with a bigger prefix.

UK brings in small-claims court for intellectual property

Graeme Sutherland

Legal Tactics

Bear in mind that it's a valid tactic for a small business to secure a judgement against another company in the small claims arena before seeking further damages in the higher courts. If the case is won then it gives credence to subsequent suits.

HTML5 isn't Facebook's 'biggest mistake'

Graeme Sutherland

I'm not convinced by all the talk that Facebook lacks deep mobile experience. Learning how to code for Android is straightforward if you've got a Java background. The iPhone is a bit more tricky, simply because you need to learn Objective C.

If you hire decent, experienced developers and are willing to invest a bit of time in nurturing and training them, then there's no reason why Facebook couldn't have been as good as any other shop within six months. They wouldn't even need a particularly big team either, as their app isn't that complex.

My guess is that it probably comes down to project management, and perhaps poor design and implementation of the app. The article makes it sound as though there was in-fighting between teams. Facebook's "Hack" culture could also be at odds with the sort of boring old software engineering practices that get things done too.

Java won the smartphone wars (and nobody noticed)

Graeme Sutherland

The reason Java failed

The main reason that J2ME failed to gain traction in the early noughties was due to platform fragmentation. An app that would run fine on one device would lock up on another, and every handset manufacturer would have a different API for audio functions. The bulk of work would be porting code between phones.

On top of that the operators would only allow sales through their individual stores, and would take the bulk of the revenue for the privilege. Then there was a (now-defunct) games publisher notorious for not paying its third party developers. The economics didn't add up.

What's changed things is Apple's app store, which has allowed an ecosystem to build up around the iPhone. This has been largely copied by other platforms, some of whom use Java based platforms.

Build a bonkers hi-fi

Graeme Sutherland

Remember the hard drives

I've seen article in hi-fi magazines where they were comparing how hard drives and digital interconnects could affect the sound quality. Apparently replacing these has a noticeable effect on the sound quality.

When I lived in Bristol, my landlord had a pair of Quad ESL 57s, and I was impressed when I heard them. I really should get a pair. But if you're really dedicated then you can stack them...


Apple unveils tightened Mountain Lion requirements

Graeme Sutherland

Software Compatibility

I've got a three year old MacBook Pro, which runs Leopard.

Over the last six months I've found that new software is incompatible. I can't download a new version of Java from Oracle, and Chrome is now telling me that it will no longer update itself. This seriously restricts my Mac's usability.

As others have mentioned, if I want to upgrade to Mountain Lion then I need to get Snow Leopard first. It'd be nice if Apple offered a direct upgrade. Spending £60 or £70 to restore functionality to a machine that's getting on isn't really attractive, and this forced obsolescence has really put my off the brand in future.

Being a skinny is much more unhealthy than being fat – new study

Graeme Sutherland

The BMI is pointless argument is common amongst serious gym goers, but I'm not entirely convinced.

There have been a few studies that show that a trainer who doesn't use steroids can expect to gain lean mass to the point where their Fat Free Mass Index (FFMI), which is their BMI ignoring body fat, is around 25. (The boffins who did the work added a small adjustment, but it's not far off.)

If someone is above this limit then either they're underestimating their body fat (which seems very common), or pumping themselves full of drugs (which can have unfortunate and damaging side effects). The hypothetical bodybuilder with a BMI of 40 is probably rather unhealthy.

So someone of my height (6'3" / 1.9 meters) could expect to build a maximum lean weight of 215 lbs / 88 kg. Working back through the numbers, at a BMI of 30 (108 kg), such an individual would be around 19% body fat, which is getting towards the overweight category. At 117 kg, which gives a BMI of 32.5, body fat would be around 25%, which is considered obese in men.

I reckon that BMI has some merit, and a lot of those who say it doesn't count because they pump iron have a habit of being on the slightly chunky side, despite their impressive biceps.

How to get a job in Australia

Graeme Sutherland

Permanent Residence

It's pretty straightforward to get permanent residence (a 175 / 176 visa) if you're in IT. The process will take a year, cost two or three thousand quid, but is generally pretty straightforward.

If you can follow instructions then you don't necessarily need to hire an immigration agent either, which is another big saving. :)

From what I've heard, I'd agree with the characterisation that the east coast is suffering, whilst the resources sector is booming. In fact, a friend reckons the state of Victoria is already in a recession. The trouble is that most of the IT work is in Sydney and Melbourne.

At the current exchange rates, contract rates seem to be on a par with London (most are $600 to $900 per day, about £400 to £600), permanent salaries are a touch higher. Living costs are higher, and some things, such as cars, are eye-watering.

Housing is also really expensive. Melbourne is on a par with London, whereas Sydney is completely bonkers. Prices have started to slide, by around 5% in the last year. If this is the start of a bubble bursting, then the Australian economy could be in for a rough ride as a large proportion of the population has significant mortgage debt, or even loss-making investment properties.

I'm tempted to head over there later this year, though probably as a temporary (6 to 12 months) stint.

Why don't the best techies work in the channel?

Graeme Sutherland

Business versus Technical

The common theme in Dominic's articles is that if you want to earn decent money then you've got to stop thinking purely along the lines of a technical career, and consider the wider business case.

I work as a contractor, and short of getting a banking gig (which is difficult without prior experience in the sector), I can't see any way of significantly improving my lot without radically rethinking my approach. The options that appear to be open to me are either moving into project management, and climbing the greasy pole, or trying to start my own venture with its attendant risk.

Sure, Dominic's being mildly inflammatory, but he's trying to get us to think.

Pints under attack as Lord Howe demands metric-only UK

Graeme Sutherland

We are officially metric

As far as I understand it, Britain is officially metric, other than using miles and yards on road signs.

Given that the metrification process started in the mid sixties, wouldn't it make a lot of sense to complete it? It's been nearly fifty years after all.

Official: Britain staggers into double-dip recession doom

Graeme Sutherland

Re: Right now boomers and the public sector are torching the youth

You got that last bit wrong: There won't be any grandchildren because your generation can't afford them due to your mother's. :)

Getting rich off iPhone apps is b*llocks, say UK devs

Graeme Sutherland

Re: Need more emoticons,

Chad's selling a book on how to make your fortune as an appreneur, which is a portmanteau word that's like entrepreneur, only better.

As far as I can tell, it involves coming up with an idea for an app, getting a third world coder to build it on the cheap, and then living a life of leisure whilst the money rolls in. I'm not convinced it's that easy, nor do I believe that he's as successful as he claims. Both he (and Ferris, whose blog it's posted to) strike me as snake oil salesmen.

Adobe Cloud offers leg up over Creative Suite's price wall

Graeme Sutherland
Thumb Down

Re: Not so good for upgraders?

They do a cheaper subscription for existing users at £328.08 for the year.

I think that buying the upgrade would make sense, as it isn't limited to the subscription period. If you shifted to the cloud version then you'd have to continue to shell out to retain access to the software, and the price would rise to the £562.56 level the following year.

Graeme Sutherland

Adobe roll out annual upgrades for their CS suite, and the current is around £360.

Assuming that the price stays at around £50 / month, and this isn't cranked upwards in six months or a year's time, then it would take around eight or nine years (assuming you bought the annual upgrades) for the boxed software to work out cheaper.

If you're buying into the product for the first time then the cloud version makes sense, particularly as I suspect that Adobe are going to insist you buy it this way within a few years in any case.

One big advantage of the Creative Cloud version is that you'll be able to install both Mac and PC versions off one license. (You're limited to two machines.) That makes switching between platforms much easier.

You're crap and paid too much for the little work you actually do

Graeme Sutherland
Thumb Up

I've found that managers are easily impressed by shiny baubles, like a slick transition in a GUI, but don't understand why you might spend days working out how to handle the badly formatted and undocumented JSON spewed out by a third party web service.

The root cause is that programmers operate in a very abstract field, whereas managers deal with the concrete. That's a big culture clash, and since they're in charge, we're going to come off worst.

Dominic's article is about managing the managers, and knowing how the game is played. Sure, not everyone is motivated by earning more, but being able to hang onto what you've got in an era of shrinking incomes and rising costs is a good thing. And being seen as someone who gets things done means you're likely to be given the more interesting projects. That strikes me as win-win...

I don't get the hostility. We live in an imperfect world, deal with it.

Sad but true: Napster '99 still smokes Spotify 2012

Graeme Sutherland

Re: " it was that it didn't return any money to the creators"

The record company is probably acting more like a VC than a bank, in that they've got a very good chance of not recouping their investment.

I've heard that of every ten records released, six or seven will lose money, two or three will just about break even, and one will make sufficient profits to cover the losses on the other nine. That's not great odds, and whoever's fronting the money wants to make a return.

If you don't like it then there's always the DIY approach. My brother released a couple records independently in the nineties, and, as others have pointed out, the Internet makes things easier.

Sony Xperia S NXT series Android smartphone

Graeme Sutherland

Re: 470 quid is a

Phones 4U are currently flogging it SIM free for £399, which is cheaper than what they're charging for obvious competitors like the Samsung Galaxy S2, Galaxy Nexus, and Motorola Razr.

Sure, there are quad cores coming, but we're a month or so away from the HTC One X arriving, and probably longer for the Galaxy S3. If that's important, then I suspect you'll wait. If not, the Xperia is a nicer piece of industrial design than most of its competitors.

Silicon Valley's assault on Mobile's Gated Kingdom

Graeme Sutherland

Regulations and Customisations

Some of the limitations will be imposed by government regulation of telecoms. Unfortunately networks have to work, and so there's a certain amount of testing and documentation required by law that the proverbial two guys in a garage won't be bound by, or even know about.

I spent a couple of years working for the customisations department of a network hardware vendor, and sometimes the telcos would be forced into adding a feature because a large customer would need a feature, and if Vodafone wouldn't do it then Orange might. Unfortunately individuals don't have that level of clout.

Spring launch for Apple OLED TV with Siri, says retail mole

Graeme Sutherland
Thumb Down

TV UI Design

I agree.

I've got a top-end Samsung TV and I'm shocked at how bad the UI design is. I'm very surprised that no-one has figured out that doing it smarter could be a winning strategy.

Sonos Play:3 network music player

Graeme Sutherland

Play:3 versus Play:5

I had a brief back-to-back listen to both the Sonos Play:3 and Play:5 in a Tottenham Court electronics emporium a few weeks back.

I wasn't too impressed with the Play:3, but the Play:5 sounded significantly better. If you've got the space and budget (and it's not that much more expensive) then I'd recommended going for the bigger brother.

Ridley Scott confirmed for Blade Runner pre/sequel

Graeme Sutherland

Could be interesting

From what little I've heard about Prometheus, it's moved from being a straight Alien prequel to something that sounds influenced by The Forever War and possibly some of Olaf Stapledon's books. It could actually prove to be something more intelligent than just people getting eaten by Aliens.

I wouldn't be surprised if it ends up being much more influenced by the book, as Lottie suggests.

I’m not a Trojan horse: Nokia’s Elop hits back at neigh sayers

Graeme Sutherland

The Operators' Cut

No-one has picked up on this sentence in the original article:

"The ability to sell Microsoft and Nokia applications and content through the operator portal – driven from a central Nokia/Microsoft-run database – is exactly what they want."

Historically the operators demanded their pound of flesh, and then some, as a cut from developers selling applications through their portals. Apple's App Store changed all this, and I suspect that's rather upset people running the networks, particularly as they're missing out on revenue that they see as being rightfully theirs.

But that begs a question: Are developers going to write for a platform that gives them 70% of the gross, or one that gives them much less? (I've heard rumours of 10% rates for developers in the past.)

If app sales are an important part of the "ecosystem", then Microsoft and Nokia are going to have difficulty attracting developers if it becomes even harder for them to make a living. That could slow adoption.

Grief and disbelief greet Elop's Nokia revolution

Graeme Sutherland

It's worse than that

The first Android phones shipped in late 2008, so that's five years of development.

So if Nokia had run under this schedule they'd still have another twelve months to go, and Android took another 12 to 18 months to really get up to speed from there.

Assange fights extradition in court

Graeme Sutherland


Given that the leaked documents contain derogatory comments about Julian's personal hygiene, a shower, cold or otherwise, might not be a bad idea. :)

Facebook sells equity: Reportedly valued same as Tesco

Graeme Sutherland

Revenues not Profit

That $2 billion figure is for total revenues, not profit.

That said, the company apparently made $800 million in 2009, so earnings have more than doubled.

If Facebook is making serious money then why are they looking to raise half a billion through a shares sale?

Assange: Text messages show rape allegations were 'set up'

Graeme Sutherland
Black Helicopters

Why would the US extradite Assange?

I'm not convinced that the US would want to extradite Assange to prosecute him for spying. If they do that then he immediately becomes a martyr to the Wikileaks cause.

But a conviction of rape or sexual assault would destroy his reputation. Even if the bare allegations aren't criminal, pressuring a woman into having sex without contraception strikes me as being both massively selfish and irresponsible. And he doesn't seem to have treated either Miss A or Miss W particularly well.

I support what Wikileaks is doing, but I've got real issues with Assange's behaviour. His claims that intelligence services are setting him up strike me as being similar to a preacher blaming the devil for making him do it.

If there is a conspiracy against him, then I suspect that the agencies are merely feeding and spinning information. And this will be a far, far more effective way of destroying him than locking him up in the US for the next 20 years.

Women reveal all for X-rayted pin-up calendar

Graeme Sutherland

It's CGI

Given that the credits include this line:

Illustrator/CGI: Carsten Mainz

I'd say that it's all rendered. :)

iPhone 4.0 SDK bars un-Jobsian code translation

Graeme Sutherland

Fun and Profits

How many developers actually make decent profits on the iPhone?

I've been told (by someone with excellent industry contacts) that it's not really worthwhile writing apps. There are too many competing programs, making it hard to get yours noticed.

Profs: Human race must become Hobbits to save planet

Graeme Sutherland

Come the Apocalypse...

With the collapse of the banking sector, impending environmental breakdown, and no doubt some whack-brained scheme from a DARPA boffin who thinks that Skynet is a good idea, I'd say that the future's looking a bit Mad Max.

Let's face it, in a post-apocalyptic landscape stalked my mutants and trigger-happy cyborgs, you want to be (or have around) a big, burly bloke with biceps like the Brecons.

By declaring war on tall men who are blessed with a high BMI, the government is threatening human survival. Obviously they're being typically shortsighted.

China goes gung-ho for EVs

Graeme Sutherland

Electric Bikes

There are already a huge number of electric bikes (essentially an EV scooter) in urban China. So I wouldn't be surprised if they've got more experience in this field than the US corporations.

The smog in Beijing is terrible. It's like fog. Anything that can clear it up is a good thing.

More dodgy phone-ins cost BBC £400,000

Graeme Sutherland

It's Fraud

I'm not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV, but I'm pretty certain this would be covered by the laws on fraud. After all, these competitions are asking viewers to part with their money in return for fictitious prizes.

So why not bring criminal cases against the production companies who run them? I'm fairly certain that if a few managing directors ended up in prison, the problem would be resolved very quickly.

Home Office to order fingerprinting of air passengers

Graeme Sutherland

RE: beat the rush

Since I'm already outside of Blighty, I've really beaten the rush. :)

What hell hath science wrought lately?

Graeme Sutherland

Dagahra and Hangzhou

That's just typical. I'm in the process of organising a trip to Hangzhou, only to find out that the city's going to get flattened by a monster the size of a skyscraper.

Thanks boffins!

On the other hand if I take a video camera along, I can make a Cloverfield style film about my experienes. I'll just have to avoid getting eaten. :)