* Posts by Meph

128 publicly visible posts • joined 2 Oct 2008


NASA extinguishes experiment about setting things on fire in space


Re: In microgravity can you drop onto?

as counter-intuitive as this may sound, rather than flooding the compartment with Nitrogen (which is already notoriously non-reactive in large concentrations here on earth), I'd go for something like Carbon Monoxide. Sure it's really bad if it gets out when you don't want it to, but it does bind the remaining oxygen in the area, and as far as I'm aware, they already have carbon dioxide scrubbers to assist in keeping O2 levels in the healthy range up there.

There's probably a thousand reasons why it's a bad idea to keep compressed cannisters of carbon monoxide handy on an orbital structure, but at least the science around it is exceptionally well known.

Please stop pouring the wrong radioactive water into the sea, Fukushima operator told


If I recall correctly, the coal power station residue is also Carbon-14 (as mentioned in the article as residual contamination in the treated water). C-14 has a fairly extreme half-life, but also has a low radioactivity compared to some of the more aggressive byproducts of fission.

My only concern about nuclear power has always been people identifying it as an end-state solution rather than a stepping stone. Sure, radioactive isotopes can stick around a long time, and are challenging to contain, but are significantly less problematic in the quantities generated in the short term. They'd have to stick with the technology for a long time to catch up with all the current nasty industrialization byproducts already in the wild.

Long-lost 1977 Star Wars X-Wing prop discovered – lock s-foils in bid position


Re: I mostly want

Click _furiously_ to enlarge!!

Yeah, I'll see myself out.

The 'nothing-happened' Y2K bug – how the IT industry worked overtime to save world's computers


Re: Yeah but…

Y2K was the pinnacle example of the old saying: "When you do it right, nobody remembers, when you get it wrong, nobody forgets".

NASA to store pair of probes it's built but can’t send to target asteroids


Re: Send the probes after Snoopy!

>And I bet he hasn't been signalling that turn around the Sun.

Of course not, he'd have seriously impacted the battery reserves

Mars helicopter went silent for six sols, imperilled Perseverance rover


Re: In Praise of AI, but not as you were expecting it to be* We are where we are**

On reaching sentience, chatGPT promptly invented time travel so as to head back in time and create a uniquely named account on El Reg back in the early days of the internet.

Working from home could kill career advancement, says IBM CEO


Re: wondering if fellow travellers are working together

This is pure speculation, but my observations suggest that "engagement" is a buzzword that describes a middle managers KPI scores for irritating the workers.

ESA's Aeolus wind-measuring satellite takes terminal trip into Earth's atmosphere


One last time

One last sample of wind speed on its way to a watery and fragmented grave.

Diplomats are supposed to be subtle and clever. Australia’s just leaked 1,000 citizens’ email addresses


Re: classic problem with emailing groups on MS products

Being able to configure a maximum threshold at the exchange side would be a useful addition. Send an email to and/or Cc'd to 10 people, no problem. Send an email to a hundred people? Computer says no.

Cornish drinkers catch a different kind of buzz as pub installs electric fence at bar


Re: Puntastic

I'm honestly shocked at how many puns there are

Geoboffins reckon extreme rainfall might help some volcanoes pop off


Re: The magma's several km deep

Keep in mind that time is an important factor in rainfall. 124mm of rain over 24 hours is very different to 124mm of rain in 2 hours.

Similarly, 100mm of rain each day for three days straight may have a very different effect to 300mm of rain in a single 24 hour period.

I suspect that there is still quite a lot for them to study to work out how this all fits together.

IBM bans all removable storage, for all staff, everywhere


First, they came for the CD-R's

I can't help but think this is going to end poorly for them, but I guess this was always on the cards after being involved in so many data misplacement headlines.

Facebook settles landmark revenge porn case with UK teen for undisclosed sum


Re: Difficult

"But isn't facial recognition face books raison d'etre?

Perhaps, but what happens if said young victim later attempts to post a perfectly innocent self portrait picture, which then gets flagged, deleted and their account automatically banned due to a facial recognition match?

I've also seen other suggestions that Facebook should be held to the same standard as magazine publishers etc. Consider though that the effort to collate data, edit, print, distribute and sell a magazine or newspaper requires considerable financial outlay, significant amounts of specialist equipment, and a number of bottlenecks that aren't completely automated. This puts publishing images in physical print beyond the reach of most people.

Anyone can post anything on the internet from a mobile phone that (at least here in Australia) can be obtained for very little immediate financial outlay.

This isn't even comparing apples to oranges.

I suspect that if Facebook was required to vet every image posted (or even only a percentage based off some kind of heuristic scan) with human eyes, they would need to hire a truly insane number of people, and things would still potentially slip through the cracks.

Wait, what? The Linux Kernel Mailing List archives lived on ONE PC? One BROKEN PC?

Thumb Up

Re: Like have a prod server under a desk in a cubicle...

"Luckily enough"

I'm reasonably sure that luck had nothing to do with it.

Brazil says it has bagged Royal Navy flagship HMS Ocean for £84m



"Specialises in electronic warfare, stealthy "hit'n'run" and making enemies disappear mysteriously while making a profit."

The issue is that it would never actually make it to the war, due to the liberal application of its patented excuse generator. Props for making a warship that runs on pints and onion bhajis though.

You would probably also need to start lining up quite a lot of replacement admirals, due to the unavoidable attrition rate.

At Christmas, do you give peas a chance? Go cold turkey? What is the perfect festive feast?


Reporting in from the penitentiary colonies

I'm not sure I could stomach (please forgive the pun) a hot Christmas feed on the day when it's something better than 32 degrees C outside..

We go for a decent selection of cold cuts, including smoked turkey and ham, a bunch of pickled vegetable varieties and an obscene amount of cheese. This is all accompanied by various carbohydrate forms, fluffy and pillowy chunks, flat crunchy discs etc.

This usually gets set up in the middle of the house mid-morning, and then grazed on all day. You can be liberal with alcoholic condiments to taste.

The brandy soaked Christmas pud is non-negotiable though, with lots of custard on the side.

Icon because that's what the weather is like here in Oz on Christmas day.

FYI: Web ad fraud looks really bad. Like, really, really bad. Bigly bad


Re: Experience required: 10 years in clicking

"They made an intern review 12000 websites?"

I'd be willing to bet that the intern used a customised web crawling bot to gather the data for later review.

I don't think it would be quite the same if they didn't aim for peak irony.

Sweden leaked every car owners' details last year, then tried to hush it up


Re: Read the title, knew it was IBM

I know IBM is the industry whipping boy for stupid mistakes at the moment, but in all honesty, this was setting them up to fail.

Why the hell does a government keep sensitive military and police data in the same bit bucket with normal registration information!? In *ANY* IT system, someone somewhere has the ability to wander in and out of the system at will. By putting all this in one place, you have to accept that at least one person in the chain has the ability to grant access to any or all of the data to an unlimited number of people. The worst part is, you can have a data spill like this not from malicious intent, but (as the article says) from common, garden variety ineptitude.

Pretty much all big business contractors will only work to the contract. If you want something extra that you failed to negotiate for in the original contract, it'll cost you extra. If the Swedish government kept everything in one place like this, and then outsourced the lot without putting some obscene contract terms in to specifically limit where the data gets manipulated, and who has the ability to grant access to it, then this fail is all on them. IBM's involvement was little more than the equivalent of trying to use a bucket of kerosene to put out a bonfire.

HMS Frigatey Mcfrigateface given her official name


Re: Type numbers?

"Don't forget HMS Plus Size"

What about the ever image conscious Type 36H HMS Geordie, easily identifiable by the addition of excessively oversized emergency flotation devices on the foredeck.

Alphabay shutdown: Bad boys, bad boys, what you gonna do? Not use your Hotmail...


"we all know that's bullshit"

I concur, I'd say that he was the web geek and well paid fall guy. I'm guessing someone else was pulling the strings, and made sure that nobody would look any deeper.

.. ..-. / -.-- --- ..- / -.-. .- -. / .-. . .- -.. / - .... .. ... then a US Navy fondleslab just put you out of a job


Re: Morse Code

@Dave 32

Doesn't that qualify you for the XO position? Someone has to make the old man look good.

Is this a hotdog? What it takes for an AI to answer that might surprise you


Re: The problem with AI is we don't understand enough to make it.

"The important question is how did they understand there was a similarity in the first place?"

Keep in mind that computers (and by extension, AI) are designed to work in a way that is modelled on human thought. This however, is not a direct analogue of human thought processes. The human brain is a highly evolved pattern recognition engine, with significant wetware components that will instinctively respond to certain stimulus, and can make huge leaps in both logic and intuition to link an image to an experience. A small child will often understand the concept and purpose of food long before they are able to articulate what any given type of food actually is. Realistically speaking, an AI will never understand food in this way, because it doesn't have the same requirements for it. About the best you can hope for is that the AI will work out how to flag items correctly as "food" (simply a category to the AI), regardless of whether or not the item is actually a hot dog.

AI bots will kill us all! Or at least may seriously inconvenience humans

Black Helicopters

Doing things because we can, without considering if we should.


"AI guru Andrew Ng once said worrying about killer artificial intelligence now is like worrying right now about overpopulation on Mars: sure, the latter may be a valid concern at some point, but we haven't set foot on the Red Planet yet."

With all due respect to AI gurus everywhere, I don't believe this is a valid argument.

Okay, to be fair, "worrying" is probably not productive, but considering it as a potential problem isn't such a bad idea.

It's a little bit late to start considering the problem once you've already implemented something and it goes horribly wrong. The very concept of change management is built on this idea. and it applies just as readily to overpopulating Mars as it does to AI going rogue.

In the Mars example, why not consider now what resources are required per-person to survive there (including requirements like land area requirements, redundant systems for safety etc. etc.) and then calculate a sustainable colony size that allows for appropriate scaling due to the inevitable population growth (I lived in a town where the only things to do on a Friday night involved two TV channels or stupid amounts of alcohol. Unless your colony is gender segregated, you're going to have space babies at some point, even if only out of boredom).

The same is true for AI's. It didn't take long for those negotiating smart frames to develop their own language, so a small amount of consideration now may well avoid considerable effort to correct an issue later.

To use a (moderately) famous quote: "The avalanche has already started, it's too late for the stones to vote."

We haven't triggered an avalanche yet.

It might be a good time to vote.

Physicists send supersonic shock waves rippling through a lab


Re: High Mach?

"not to be confused with Big Macs, the unit of measurement for American waistlines"

Would that be similar to the "Big Mach Beth" being a unit of measurement for the volume and quality of a cooked Scottish breakfast?

Okay, okay, I'm going.

UK spookhaus GCHQ can crack end-to-end encryption, claims Australian A-G


You would almost be forgiven for thinking this was a Monty Python sketch if it weren't for the horrible sense that somehow it's real, and that our government truly does believe that Australian law overrules the laws of mathematics, physics, etc. etc.

€100 'typewriter' turns out to be €45,000 Enigma machine


Re: The excuse note I typed on it came out all weird

"a Microsoft license key..."

It got me wondering where I'd left my elder sign medallion.

Hmm... now that I think about it, perhaps there was something more behind the "dance monkey boy" video from that old Microsoft developer conference...

Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn

Mine is the mysterious looking set of robes, and please don't forget the wizard's hat!

NASA flies plane through Earthly shadow of Kuiper Belt object

Thumb Up

"Aerobatics in a 747 sounds fun..."

Your definition of fun seems interesting*

* "Interesting" is clearly defined as "Oh god, oh god, we're all going to die".

Hey, remember that monkey selfie copyright drama a few years ago? Get this – It's just hit the US appeals courts


Re: Devil's Advocate

"It's PETA's attempt to begin to establish a legal basis for the extension of human rights & freedoms to animals"

I'm honestly not so sure. AFAIK (Oblig: IANAL) copyright appears to be about controlling a work so that the creator can profit from it. Part of the reason that content distributors and associations typically litigate on behalf of content creators is because they receive a chunk of the profits on said works for themselves.

One wonders if the Painfully Exasperating & Troublemaking Asses are running out of income in a world where armchair activism merely requires "likes" rather than actual cash. That would make this a common, garden variety cash grab. Occam's razor and all that.

Mine's the leather one, waste not want not.

G20 calls for 'lawful and non-arbitrary access to available information' to fight terror


The only way this is going to go away is if someone(s) in the tech industry authors a very public, and very descriptive impact statement of the implications behind what they're asking for.

Write it in terms that Joe Q. Public can understand. Highlight the risk to loss of personally identifiable and/or financial information. Highlight the risk to small and innovative businesses that only exist due to the safe, robust and easy way to currently trade online without the need for expensive brick-and-mortar shop frontage.

Most importantly, write it in a way that shows everyone that regardless of intentions, there is nothing to stop the (nominal) targets of this legislation from authoring and using their own encryption tools that don't suffer from the limitation of being breakable. Highlight the fact that they are essentially insisting on putting an axe through the fabric of the internet for precisely nothing.

May the excessive force be with you: Chap cuffed after Star Trek v Star Wars row turns bloody


Re: 5th Element

I'm not going to get into the "which one is best" pissing contest, for a huge number of reasons, but in terms of Sci-Fi that I've enjoyed, I'd add in two up and coming newbies:

Killjoys (Canadian made series I believe) for snappy one liners and some interesting long term plot arcs


The Expanse. It started fairly badly, I'll grant you, but the plot started to develop nicely by the end of the first season. Hopefully season two will be out some time this century.......

BOFH: That's right. Turn it off. Turn it on


This is right up there with the time we sent out a "do not reply to emails like this one" notification with an example phishing email in it.

We received five replies in an hour from users who were sending us their login credentials, including the frequent flyer who triggered us to send the notification by having to have his password reset *AFTER RECEIVING THE VERY SAME PHISHING EMAIL USED AS THE EXAMPLE*

Oz government wants its own definition of what 'backdoor' means


A rose by any other name can still give you hayfever

I'm particularly fond of the part where they equate using a warrant to demand access to a safe or filing cabinet to accessing data via "not-a-backdoor"^TM for encrypted comms.

This is about as nonsensical as the MPAA/RIAA/etc. equating digital piracy to physical theft.

One would suspect that having a warrant would force the owner of said safe to either open it, or be pinged for obstruction of justice. Unless the safe owner was foolish enough not to reset the combination, the manufacturer might have some trouble opening the safe without resorting to some sort of brute force method.

They seem to think that a warrant would magically cure this problem in the digital world, which suggests that they believe in magic, or more likely, that they still have no idea how computers actually work.

Well, that escalated quickly: Qualcomm demands iPhone, iPad sales ban in America


Re: "Apple will no longer use any Qualcomm chips in future products"

It smells to me a little like a new standard in licensing renegotiation tactics. My money is on an out-of-court settlement some time in the next 6 months or so.

MH370 researchers refine their prediction of the place nobody looked


Re: I have to wonder.

"a) Was this event the result of the action of one single individual with emotional/mental issues."

With all due respect for the victims' families and the ongoing investigation, but I personally have strong doubts about this specific point.

Lets assume for a moment that this is what happened. Surely if someone suffering serious enough psychological issues chose to end their life, and also chose to use a commercial aircraft full of passengers, there must be some reason for their thinking.

This is the point where the hypothesis breaks down for me.

If someone did this, and had a personal reason for doing it in this way, then consciously choosing to make the aircraft nigh-impossible to find would surely invalidate whatever reason was behind their motivations.

I'm exceedingly aware that suicidal levels of depression can impact on the ability for people to think rationally, but even so, if this was a deliberate act by someone, then the message was clearly lost with the aircraft itself.

Boffins with frickin' laser beams chase universe's mysterious trihydrogen


Re: Re why the interest in making H3 from hydrocarbons ?

"there would be at least one of them who would"

This may well be some inescapable proof that at some level, all humans are fundamentally the same. The geek equivalent of "hold my beer" if you will.

I doubt you'll ever find a career information sheet on science that would talk about "scientists standing on the backs of smoking corpses who did something ill advised and it went wrong". It might not send quite the right message to impressionable young minds.

Back to ASICs: Mellanox pumps up Ethernet speed to 400Gbps


Re: SFPs + Fiber = cost more than switch?

I'd personally be chasing the balance point between speed and reliability. Being able to push the signal further between repeaters will mean a reduction in at least one possible point of failure on long haul infrastructure. Lowering your mean time between failure (assuming no catastrophic natural disasters or idiots with a JCB and a loose and free attitude to trench digging) is a hell of a cost saving, and may offset the price of more expensive kit, at least to some extent.

Still... 1Tb+ long haul links and multi-gigabit speeds to the home does sound awfully good..

Nothing could protect Durex peddler from NotPetya ransomware

Thumb Up

Re: So this is what happens

I'm rather enjoying the irony of a condom manufacturer picking up something nasty from not using adequate protection.

I wonder how many of their old advertising slogans could be turned into something amusing.

RED ALERT! High-speed alien fugitives are invading our Milky Way



Based on what frame of reference? Are they really moving that quickly, or is it only an apparent velocity based on their momentum relative to the speed and direction of travel of the Milky Way itself?

Mainframe TITSUP totals Oz tax tech, again


Total Inability To Support Usual Performance

It's certainly defining a trend, and reminds me of a charming phrase in use amongst old LAN party buddies back in the day.

To wit "It keeps going down faster than a two dollar hooker!"

I may need to use that new acronym though, I can see a whole lot of places that it can be used as a valid error code.

Minister says Oz Medicare breach was crims, not hackers


Not a cyber-security breach...

Just a breach...

of the security systems...

on some IT equipment...

While I understand that there's a distinction between the two, its an incredibly fine one. Especially considering that trusted insiders are recognised as a valid threat to ICT security. Not to mention the fact that we are talking about personal information belonging to taxpayers.

One thought equivalent to less than a single proton in mass

Thumb Up

Re: Breaking out the abacus

"which is, not very much."

To quote the old poem: "three fifths of five eighths"?


Re: Original thought

"I suspect thoughts are entangled"

Would this make the human brain the original quantum computer?

To put it another way: Schrödinger's thought process -> a human is both smart and incredibly stupid simultaneously, and listening to their thoughts changes the outcome?

I know, I know, mine's the one with poison in one pocket and a kitten in the other.

America's net neutrality rage hits academia


Re: Ooooh...

"Even as such, you have NO IDEA what my core motives are."

Oh I dunno, I make the count at least two for three, since it seems I did hit a nerve.

Whenever I've been wrongfully accused of something, I've not bothered with getting aggressive or reactive, since I personally believe that doing so isn't even slightly productive. I simply gather up all the evidence that shows why the accusation is wrong, and present it in a calm and deliberate fashion.

Having said that, I think you missed a couple of key aspects of my original post, specifically the qualifying word "Often", as well as the part where I stated my own personal preference for the subtle approach.

Still, your response was certainly informative, even though (or possibly also because) it was posted Anon.


It's fairly safe to say..

.. when you call someone out, and their first reaction is aggressive, it's obvious that you've hit a nerve.

In this way, it's often easy to identify someone's core motives. The catch 22 though is that by taking an aggressive stance, you similarly give away your own motives. I usually prefer a more subtle approach, but then I'm not the one playing in a game with stakes as large as this one.

Oz attorney-general a step closer to SCNA*


There's a solution to this problem....

Were I in the position to be required to report changes like this, and chose to give in to my inner BOFH, I'd set up an automated script to forward any network changes (no matter how tiny) to George's email account. If I wanted to go true scorched earth, I'd make sure to attach as many files as possible to "properly" document the change, and perhaps use file types that were either ridiculously obscure, or had very bad file compression algorithms.

Five-eyes nations want comms providers to bust crypto for them

Black Helicopters

Re: Breaking News: Water is wet

"As for the idea the Panopticon will be Too Much Information, ever considered they could winnow the stuff through machines first?"

The trouble here is that while machines are excellent at pattern recognition, they'll only ever find the precise thing you tell them to look for. Heuristic scanning is notoriously hit and miss, and even then, you still need to give the system a series of baseline behaviours to check against.

I think Vic has the heart of it though, there are two ways to hide a message. Either squirrel it away and hope nobody trips over it, or generate so much noise that nobody is sure if what they're hearing is random crap or something of value. Too much signal tends to make your average Joe tune out.


Breaking News: Water is wet

"About encryption, the HTTPS-hosted communique says it can “severely undermine public safety efforts by impeding lawful access to the content of communications during investigations into serious crimes, including terrorism.”"

I say chaps, it's blasted inconvenient of you to be speaking in a way that we can't understand!

I'm having genuine trouble believing that the leaders of multiple countries are thick enough to think that stamping their collective feet like petulant children is going to miraculously solve this problem for them.

Does anyone want to place bets on how long it is until someone writes an app that not only encrypts a message, but then uses old-school style cyphers to hide the messages inside innocuous looking plain-text internet posts?

Everything you need to know about the Petya, er, NotPetya nasty trashing PCs worldwide


Re: Are you freaking serious?


Pertinent question: Do the radiation monitors run Windows, or are they some sort of hardware device that natively talks via RS232 (due to the age of the hardware), which would require computers that can still run the legacy drivers required to manage the interface?

I've seen many a legacy system in my time, and I can't imagine you'd get many volunteers to deploy a new monitoring system in an environment as "hot" as that.


Re: Bring Back

@Doctor Syntax

"Each OS, CPU and networking technology you introduce into the mix raises the difficulty for an attacker more or less exponentially."

Your statement is logically sound, but the concern I'd have is that the effort required to support and maintain such a system would also increase at the same rate. Furthermore, unless each of your Sys Ads fully understood the architecture end to end, there might be a chance that they would unknowingly provide an exploit or attack vector by misconfiguring a segment of the system.

That is assuming they don't just get lazy and build their own back doors and loopholes to make their lives more convenient.

As a way of illustrating the point, consider the arbitrary password requirement rules that many large enterprises still force on their staff, regardless of the advice from SME's. If you make your password policy so onerous that your end users resort to writing their passwords on post-it notes, you may as well have not bothered. The same could be said for other aspects of IT security.

Virus (cough, cough, Petya) goes postal at FedEx, shares halted


Re: I think we're a long way off still.

"What I mean by that is the ransomware outages have been resolved after a few days, and the loss of a day or two's worth of work is not enough scare the bean counters into investing in security."

This depends largely on two factors, the size of your workforce, and their ability to maintain limited functionality during the outage. If you have ~100 staff at a site that is completely off the grid for 48 hours, and those staff are paid an average of $50k a year, that's close to $30k that you've poured down the drain. If you can implement more effective security controls for less than that, you've just shot yourself in the foot.

The trick now is for clever IT people to use the hype around this outbreak to claw back some of their operating budgets from the bean counters.