* Posts by Michael H.F. Wilkinson

4045 posts • joined 24 Apr 2007

Cool IT support drones never look at explosions: Time to resolution for misbehaving mouse? Three seconds

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

Reminds me of the user claiming that since my last software update the mouse was consistently moving in reverse: pointer moving left as the mouse went to the right, or up as the mouse was moving down. I asked her to demo this, and noticed she was somehow holding the mouse with the wire (no wrireless in the early 90s) towards her. A quick 180 degree turn of the offending rodent solved it.

I honestly did toy with the idea of introducing a software option that would invert directionality of the mouse, preferably switching on or off at random intervals for seriously annoying users (complte with undocumented key combination that would kill that behaviour), but I thought the better of it.

Remember that black hole just 1,000 light years from Earth? Scientists queue up to say it may not exist after all

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
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It's called rigour

This is why scientists always check each other's work, and don't take results posted by others at face value. More data are needed, as so often. Whatever the outcome, something interesting is going on. Either there is a black hole so close to earth (for a typically astronomical value of "close"), or a binary star system has been caught in the midst of a short (for a typically astronomical value of "short") evolutionary phase

Boffins baffled as supergiant star just vanishes – either it partially blew itself apart or quietly turned into a black hole

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
Coat

Two alternative options

1) a total existence failure due to misunderstanding of improbability physics

2) someone managed to set up a really big SEP field

I'd better be going. Doffs hat (grey Tilley once more) to the late, great Douglas Adams

With intelligent life in scant supply on Earth, boffins search for technosignatures of civilizations in the galaxy

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
Happy

Reminds me of a song

Especially the last line of the lyrics of this one

Check out the night sky in all its X-ray glory: Everything from hot gases to supernovas and massive black holes

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
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That is awesome

The universe is not the peaceful place we might think it is when looking up at the night sky (if it isn't cloudy (again), that is)

NASA scientists mull sending a spacecraft on a 13-year mission to visit Neptune's 'bizarre' moon, Triton

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

Re: Faster!

I cannot recall Sputnik, but the moon landings are etched into my memories as the coolest thing I have ever seen on TV (first space shuttle came close). I hope to be around when Trident reaches Triton, nonetheless. Where is a warp drive when you need one (that or boosterspice)

HTC breaks with tradition to push out 2 phones someone might actually want to buy

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

Re: Audio specs?

I really liked the sound on my M8. It was my last HTC phone, but none of the phones I had after matched the sound of the HTC M8.

There's no accounting for TITSUP*: Beancounters bemoan Sage cloudy sync software outage

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
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"Tottering Infrastructure Turns Some Users Purple"

TITSUP is turning out to be such a versatile acronym

Don't like Mondays? Neither does Microsoft 364's Outlook Exchange Online service

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
Coat

My missus keeps asking me to help with issues with her work e-mail (Outlook-based). I keep telling her I would rather have my tongue hammered wafer thin with a steak tenderizer and stapled to the floor with a croquet hoop.

(Doffs hat to captain Blackadder)

Overload: A one-way ticket to a madman's situation

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
Happy

Brings back memories

of my first PC. Quite a beast it was in its day, sporting an 80386DX with Cyrix 387 floating point coprocessor, a whole 4 MB of RAM (later upgraded to 8), a graphics card with a whole further MB of RAM) and an Adaptek SCSI Controller with 88 MB disk! Cost quite a fortune at the time. Sped up my development work no end, and Windows 3.1 and MS-Office worked quite happily in 4 MB. I don't think that would do for the latest incarnations, would it now.

Oh crap: UK's digital overlords moot new rules to help telcos lay fibre in sewer pipes

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
Coat

Gives an entirely new meaning

to the notion of quick and dirty code (or at least the dirty bit)

I'll get me coat

As Uncle Sam flies spy drones over protest-packed cities, Homeland Security asks the public if that's a good idea

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

Re: I submitted my comment

Actually, it is considerably LATER in Europe than in the USA. Look up the concept of "time zone"

Yeah, great start after sacking human hacks: Microsoft's AI-powered news portal mixes up photos of women-of-color in article about racism

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

Re: It's a trifle early for the silly season, but ...

I know many a developer (including myself) that has yelled at his or her computer at some point in time. Indeed, yelling by itself doesn't solve the problem but:

a) it is good to blow off steam, and,

b) it did warn off users not to bother me with questions about a word processing package I never use, at that point in time, if they wanted to reach beer o'clock unscathed

Now where is that BOFH-grade cattleprod

The only way is bork for the UK's embattled rail travellers

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
Coat

I am confused ...

Is this the train to Preinst Aborted Central or does it go on Preinst Aborted Terminal as well?

Sorry, couldn't resist. I'll get my coat (not to go anywhere, of course, just as a matter of principle)

Ooo, a mystery bit of script! Seems legit. Let's see what happens when we run it

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
Happy

Descriptive names can still be enticing

Way back when in the days I was coding MS-DOS machines for image processing, I wrote two (harmless) programs that simply trapped interupt 9 (keyboard), discarded keyboard input, and did nothing except blink the screen and say the computer has crashed. Only a hard reset worked. I called these two variant HANG.EXE and CRASH.EXE. Everyone had to try them at least omce

Zealous Zoom's zesty zymotic zone zinger: Zestful zealots zip zillions

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

Re: Why zoom?

I have used Blackboard Collaborate (integrates with our digital learning environment), Skype, Google Meets, Jitsi, Webex, and Zoom. Sound and video quality are best in Zoom, in my experience. The others work with varying degrees of success

We spent billions building atom smashers – and now boffins think nature's doing the same thing for free?

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
Happy

Fascinating stuff

First dark matter, now quark matter. I look forward to further work trying to confirm this theory. Even if the quark matter turns out not to exist, a form of matter in which the speed of sound is close to the speed of light is mind-blowing in its own right

Linus Torvalds drops Intel and adopts 32-core AMD Ryzen Threadripper on personal PC

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
Happy

Re: AMD vs. Intel: War Games v3.0

I have a 64-core Opteron compute server at work (512 GB RAM is also nice), and tried make -j 64 on a big code base and was very impressed to see that fly. In practice make -j 32 generally maxes out the speed, simply due to IO limitations, but it is fun to watch things compile and install really fast. The machine is getting old, so I hope to weedle out funds for a replacement, and maybe while I am at it try to slip a 32 core desktop machine into the budget. Maybe I should connect to my inner BOFH to make this happen

Chicago: Why I just grin like a dork... It's my kind of Bork

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
Mushroom

Re: Jumped up quiche?

I once observed an Italian (from Naples, too) who was confronted with the Chicago style deep pan pizza. An explosion resulted, not quite Trinity Test level, but getting there (hence icon).

Granted, several Neapolitans I have met tended to explode at any pizza NOT from what they consider the only authentic pizzeria in Naples (and they tend not to agree on what the ONLY authentic place is), but this person really got incandescent.

I tend not to be too bothered with what is authentic, food wise, just what tastes good. My preference is definitely with the Italian thinner base, but I refuse to get all religious about it.

A real loch mess: Navy larks sunk by a truculent torpedo

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
Pint

Re: New all time favourite

Agreed, absolutely brilliant! I really needed that after a long day full of zoom/hangout/skype and other on-line meetings of dubious use and productivity.

Micros~1? ClippyZilla? BSOD Bob? There can be only one winner. Or maybe two

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
Happy

Missed "Crash Gordon" in the original comments. Definitely has a ring to it, but I can see it didn't make the shortlist (in this highly competitive field)

Russia admits, yup, the Americans are right: One of our rocket's tanks just disintegrated in Earth's orbit

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

Re: Elon Musk isn't helping, is he

As someone working on remote sensing imaging I am well aware of the different orbits. Despite this, crowding lower orbits with tens of thousands of satellites (not just the starlink swarm) will add to risks

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

Elon Musk isn't helping, is he

Recently saw several of his swarms fly by. Quite apart from being annoying to astronomers, crowding LEO with loads of little satellites make the issues of space debris much worse, as the likelihood of collisions increases rapidly. Fewer, bigger satellites are much easier to manage (also not trivial) than swarms of little ones. Space may be big (you might think it's a long way to the chemist, but that's peanuts to space), but we only have a little speck of it, surrounding our pale blue dot, at our disposal.

Incredible how you can steal data via Thunderbolt once you've taken the PC apart, attached a flash programmer, rewritten the firmware...

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
Coat

A reason for all the glue?

I almost expect hardware manufacturers use this exploit as an excuse to for the use of glue in their laptops. Cheap cutting of corners during manufacture? Mais non!! We were thinking about security!!! Honest!!!!

Oh dear. I feel an extra exclamation mark coming up!!!!!

I'd better be going. The one with "Maskerade" in the pocket, please.

We dunno what's more wild: This vid of Japan's probe bouncing off an asteroid to collect a sample – or that the rock was sun-burnt

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
Pint

Brilliant stuff!

Might raise a glass of Nikka whisky to that, if I still have some

Behold: The ghastly, preening, lesser-spotted Incredible Bullsh*tting Customer

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

Re: Yes the users are bad

Especially when equipped with the BOFH excuse calendar

FYI: Your browser can pick up ultrasonic signals you can't hear, and that sounds like a privacy nightmare to some

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
Megaphone

I am tempted ..

to build a little ultrasound broadcasting device, that emits all sorts of random signals just to screw this kind of eavesdropping up. A smart system could even listen for covert ultrasound broadcasts, and either try noise cancelling techniques on it, or (much simpler) do the ultrasound equivalent of Brian Blessed bawling "Blood! Death! War! Rumpy pumpy!!"

Electronic countermeasures, if you like. Icon, well, because of Brian Blessed, of course

Now where is that Arduino kit?

Serial killer spotted on the night train from Newcastle

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

Re: Hayes commands

I was half expecting

+++ OUT OF CHEESE ERROR +++

+++ REDO FROM START +++

Quick Q: Er, why is the Moon emitting carbon? And does this mean it wasn't formed from Theia hitting Earth?

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
Coat

Re: Maybe the carbon crash landed there

Maybe the B-ark had a sister ship that crashed on the moon.

I'll get me coat.

There's a black hole lurking within 1,000 light years of Earth – and you can see stars circling it with the naked eye

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
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Interesting stuff

Might be looking for this with my telescope some time. Really intriguing target

The ultimate 4-wheel-drive: How ESA's keeping XMM-Newton alive after 20 years and beyond

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
Pint

Brilliant Boffinry!

Absolutely brilliant stuff, beers well deserved.

Facebook sort-of blocks anti-quarantine events – how many folks are actually behind these 'massive' protests online?

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

Re: Big rant, lots of capital letters...

But the arguments are not censored, so what is your point? The arguments appear over and over again in the writings of commentards on all kinds of social media, and our mainstream news outlets.

I agree the economic impact of lockdown may cost lives too. However, the economic effects of not locking down might be easily as disastrous. If the USA wants to reach herd immunity without vaccination, roughly two thirds of the population needs to become infected. At a mortality rate of 1.5% (which seems to be close to the values I have seen in the literature), that would mean 3 million deaths. Quite apart from the suffering implied in these numbers (remember there are people behind those percentages), a large number of people suffering permanent effects from the lung damage caused by COVID-19 (this could also run into a few million).

There is no easy solution, and shouting abuse, accusing people putting forth arguments you don't like of "communism" or "fascism" is never going to help.

GCC 10 gets security bug trap. And look what just fell into it: OpenSSL and a prod-of-death flaw in servers and apps

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
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Sounds very useful

Any tool that can spot bugs early at limited cost is great. I wonder how it deals with the particularly complex situations that can occur multi-threaded code. We develop quite a bit of parallel and distributed code for image analysis, and whilst that can certainly add much needed speed, programs also crash much quicker, and debugging is much harder. Any additional tool to hunt bugs is very welcome.

If you want to take social distancing to the next level, and go to the Moon, take this: A complete lunar geology map

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
Happy

Holi festival hits the moon

Lovely colourful map. Actually, if you stretch saturation on lunar images, you will see some colour differences indicating differences in composition. An example can be found here. This was taken with a planetary camera and my Celestron C8. After stacking hundreds of frames, you get good enough signal-to-noise to boost saturation without noise exploding.

Rewriting the checklists: 50 years since Apollo 13 reported it 'had a problem' – and boffins saved the day

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
Pint

Re: I remember

I also remember it well. I was only 8, but had followed the Apollo missions avidly, and of course I wanted to be come an astronaut. The Apollo 13 mission was an incredibly tense time, I remember all too well. I followed all the news closely. We all cheered loudly when news came in the astronauts were safe. It was an amazing feat of ingenuity to get them back safely.

What people also often forget is haw candid NASA was about the near disaster. They didn't try to hide the problem, but kept people posted about every turn of events. I remember well being horrified at the news that the capsule might not be able to return to earth and might ultimately end up orbiting the sun perpetually, carrying the bodies of three astronauts. Fortunately, that was averted. A single beer is indeed not enough thanks

Guess what's heading to trial? IBM and its tactic of yoinking promised commissions after sales reps seal the deal

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
Happy

Re: I've Been Mangled

Schrödinger's cat is dead? Maybe, maybe not, but Schrödinger's contract might be headed for the chopping block

BepiColombo probe swings by Earth on way to Mercury – the Solar System's must-visit coronavirus-free resort

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
Pint

Brilliant stuff

Clearly a non-trivial exercise in planetary and orbital dynamics. Your high-school physics won't cut it here, as you definitely require the use of General Relativity rather than Newtonian gravity so close to the sun (and deeper into any gravitational well too, of course).

Looking forward to the results in half a decade's time.

I'll raise a glass or two to the ongoing success of this mission

OK brainiacs, we've got an IT cold case for you: Fatal disk errors on an Amiga 4000 with 600MB external SCSI unless the clock app is... just so

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

+++ Out of cheese error +++

+++ Reinstall Universe +++

+++ Redo from Start +++

French pensioner ejected from fighter jet after accidentally grabbing bang seat* handle

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

Re: I'm very sorry to admit this

And what the involuntary parachutist needed was a stiff drink, I would wager (that and some dried frog pills, most likely)

From Amanda Holden to petrol-filled water guns: It has been a weird week for 5G

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

Re: Unqalified 'Z' list Celeb talks rubbish

Could perhaps put a tax on stupid remarks? We would need a properly calibrated scale in a properly approved El Reg Bureau of Standards unit of course (the Holden, perhaps, as in: the remark was stupid in the mega-Holden range)

16 years and counting: How ESA squeezed oodles of bonus science out of plucky Mars Express probe

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
Pint

Amazing stuff!

Absolutely amazing tale of amazing engineers pulling off some amazing stuff.

Yes I have written quite some code, and some of it is even used in space research, but these people are absolutely amazing.

I'll raise a glass this evening, and doff my hat right now (grey Tilley, it's sunny).

NASA's classic worm logo returns for first all-American trip to ISS in years: Are you a meatball or a squiggly fan?

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
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Honestly, just use both

The meatball reminds me of the heady days of Apollo, which got me hooked on astronomy and space exploration, the worm carries equally fond memories of the shuttle and many other missions. So just use both.

No, I won't come down, I am quite comfortable on this fence

BOFH: Will the last one out switch off the printer?

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

Superb stuff

A much-needed relief from the drudgery of working from home

If you thought black holes only came in S or XXXL, guess again, maybe: Elusive mid-mass void spotted eating star

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
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Only in Astronomy

does 50,000 times the mass of the sun not qualify as super massive. The mind boggles at such numbers.

Well done spotting this intermediate-mass black hole!

Stob's vital message to Britain's IT nation: And no, it's not about that

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
Happy

Classic Stob!

Verily!

Sun storm probe OK'd: 'Our motivation is a fascinating signal that we have detected for decades but never been able to make an image of'

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
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Interesting project

Basically a low frequency phased-array radio telescope (like LOFAR down here on the ground). In order to process the data, the precise position of the cube-sats relative to each other must be known down to a small fraction of the wavelength used, but at low frequencies this should not be a huge challenge

NASA mulls restoring Saturn V to service as SLS delays and costs mount

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
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Nice one

You had me for a brief moment, then I realized what day it was

Are you extracting the urine, ESA? Why, yes it is, from Moon dwellers to build homes out of lunar regolith. Possibly

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
Pint

Pour me some beer

if you want that wall built faster

Hey, there are worse excuses for raising a glass

Don't believe the hype: Today's AI unlikely to best actual doctors at diagnosing patients from medical scans

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

Depends what you want to call AI

Recently, AI has been associated with deep networks, and little else, whereas the name used to cover far more. I have been doing research into medical image processing, and in that area many new useful tools have been developed that have certainly undergone clinical trials. Very many segmentation tools, image enhancement filters, and visualization methods contain methods from statistical pattern recognition, neural networks, support vector machines, learning vector quantization, etc. Many of these are very good at finding needles in haystacks, or allowing the doctor to zoom in on suspect regions in huge 3D scans or pathology specimens (often Gpixel order of magnitude). These methods have proven their worth in allowing a doctor to make decisions more effectively. They should not, and never were intended to replace a doctor.

Personally, I much prefer developing tools that can explain WHY they think a certain classification has been made (e,g, benign/malignant) and how sure they are of their decision. Otherwise, doctors (and I myself) will view these methods with deep suspicion.

Corona coronavirus hiatus: Euro space agency to put Sun, Mars probes in safe mode while boffins swerve pandemic

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

Pity that these instruments needed to be powered down, as valuable data will be lost (lives are of course infinitely more valuable). In many cases data gathering can go on without the need of people on site (I can access several machines at our uni to do experiments and download data from home), but apparently that is not the case here.

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