* Posts by Michael H.F. Wilkinson

4030 posts • joined 24 Apr 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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
Thumb Up

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

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
Thumb Up

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

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

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

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

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

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
Thumb Up

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
Thumb Up

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

Classic Stob!


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
Thumb Up

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
Thumb Up

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

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.

Damn you, coronavirus. Damn you. Now you've gone too far: James Webb Space Telescope, Moon mission work paused

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

Sad, but necessary

The Moon will remain up there for a while, going there can wait, and isn't worth risking lives for (beyond the inherent risks of travelling through an environment that is trying to kill you, on top of a machine that could undergo a rapid, unplanned disassembly, resulting in something resembling the icon)

First impressions count when the world is taken by surprise by an exciting new (macro) virus

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

Re: I Love You

Indeed, I do. I was working on AIX on an RS6000 machine, HP-UX on my workstation and another *NIX variant on the Cray J932 of our university at the time. I remember getting an e-mail, with heading "I love you" from a sysadmin stating that unfortunately, the automation facilities offered by MS-Windows weren't available on the system I was working on, so could I please randomly delete a few files manually, and send this message on to a random selection of my contacts (manually, of course).

(Yes, *nix users felt very smug those days)

Apollo astronaut Al Worden – once named most isolated human being of all time – dies aged 88

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

Sad news

But he has had a great innings.

I followed all the Apollo missions avidly as a kid. Truly heroic stuff. When my kids next complain about being isolated due to school closures etc, I will remind them what real isolation looks like, without internet, netflix, whatsapp, PS4s, etc, etc, not to mention a sizeable garden to relax in. I should of course start the reminder with "When I were a lad we had proper isolation! ..."

I could get me coat, but I am not going anywhere,

Tinfoil hat brigade switches brand allegiance to bog paper

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

Re: Shungite

and there I was thinking the 'u', 'n', and 'g' had been inserted to trick people into buying it

Good luck pitching a tent on exoplanet WASP-76b, the bloody raindrops here are made out of molten iron

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

Re: ... from a lacerated sky

and those skies are our best bet to find an Iron Butterfly

Latest bendy phone effort from coke empire spinoff Escobar Inc is a tinfoil-plated Samsung Galaxy Fold 'scam'

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

When the brother of a notorious drug lord makes you an offer that sounds too good to be true, it might be in your best interest to refuse (politely, of course)

Welcome to Superbork: Where high-street fashion meets high-strung Windows

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

Times are strange

when you can truthfully report that a urinal in a motorway has crashed (and not due to vandalism). I encountered that in Germany, when a display full of the usual adverts built into the urinal suddenly displayed a message along the lines of "Android error count exceeded", and then proceeded to reboot. As the error message was perfectly timed with me starting to urinate I felt slightly disconcerted. One almost wonders if someone was trying to play tricks on the users.

Grab a towel and pour yourself a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster because The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is 42

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

Re: fun facts

And Slartibartfast was Magdiragdag, as I recall

Astroboffin Kurtz ends 40-year quest to find a predicted one-sided vibrating star that was never seen – until now

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

Maybe the star is whispering

"The horror! The horror!"

More seriously, very interesting result. Just goes to show the universe contains all sorts of (space) oddities.

Sorry, couldn't resist. The one with "Heart of Darkness" in the pocket, please

Want to own a bit of Concorde? Got £750k burning a hole in your pocket? We have just the thing

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

I have this mental image

(mental in more ways than one) of the BOFH getting his hands on this and using the afterburner as a creative way to get rid of evidence/beancounters/annoying users/the next boss, once he gets bored with windows.

Icon, because it is getting seriously close to beer o'clock here

Disk stuck in the drive? Don't dilly-Dali – get IT on the case!

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

The strangest things I have encountered involving floppy disks were people:

A) inserting a 5.25" disk in tiny gap between the two floppy disk drives of a PC

B) inserting multiple 5.25" disks into a single drive, because the installation program told them to insert the next disk and didn't tell them to remove the other (I still do not know how they managed that)

C) folding a 5.25" disk and forcing it into a 3.5" drive, and then being surprised I told them they had wrecked both

BOFH: Here he comes, all wide-eyed with the boundless optimism of youth. He is me, 30 years ago... what to do?

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
Thumb Up

A glimpse into the dark depths of Simon's soul

Like Sam Vimes, Simon clearly knows he has hidden depths, and knows the things lurking in those depths should perhaps stay there.

Open-source, cross-platform and people seem to like it: PowerShell 7 has landed

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

Re: Who are you and what have you done with Microsoft?

Actually, MS producing a decent, even free program isn't without precedent. I really like MS-ICE (Image Compositing Editor). Great, easy, free tool to create mosaic images fully automatically.

Haven't tried PowerShell yet, nor do I feel an urgent need at this point

BOFH: Gosh, IPv5? Why didn't I think of that? Say, how do you like the new windows in here? Take a look. Closer...

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

"the world's first pneumatic suppository"

Priceless! Absolutely top notch episode!

Loved the moment of (near) silence as well

What's the German word for stalling technology rollouts over health fears? Cos that plus 5G equals Switzerland

Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

I always try to confuse these "ALL RADIATION IS DANGEROUS, WE'RE DOOMED" types by suggesting they should also avoid IR radiation (which has MUCH higher energy per photon, after all, it is much "harder" radiation). Common sources of IR radiation are, essentially all things around you, but fellow human beings in particular. Therefore, they should really avoid close contact with fellow humans, especially when nude. Some part of me hopes (vainly, no doubt) that some might follow this advice, and thus reduce the rate at which these numbskulls procreate.


Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020