* Posts by Hugh Pumphrey

82 publicly visible posts • joined 20 Apr 2009


University of Edinburgh staff paid late due to Oracle ERP troubles

Hugh Pumphrey

Like Julian Bradfield, I am an employee of Univ of Edinburgh. And, yes, this whole thing is a poo hitting the fan episode, on the scale of Scotland's entire daily sewage production colliding with a large offshore wind farm. It is affecting everything in the University, from large-scale research activities via Ph.D students' stipends down to the fact that there are no pencils and pads of lined paper in our stationary cupboard, and no immediate prospect any new stock. We have even been told to avoid printing stuff as we are going to run out of printer paper at some point.

IT outage at Scotland's Heriot-Watt University enters second week

Hugh Pumphrey

Re: "hinting at some severe trouble within the university's on-premises infrastructure"

The IT staff may very well be on strike. They count as "academic-related" so if they are in a union at all it is UCU, along with the academic staff. And they are in the same pension scheme (USS) which those overpaid vice-chancellors are complicit in the gutting of. If they are not on strike it is probably because they are not paid enough to to be able to afford to lose a few week's pay.

Disclaimer: I work at one of H-W's neighbours and I am currently on strike. They do not call me "Red Shuggy" but I am angry enough that they will probably start doing that Real Soon Now.

The ideal sat-nav is one that stops the car, winds down the window, and asks directions

Hugh Pumphrey

Bridges that are not there

Even more entertaining was driving across the new Forth Road bridge in a car whose SatNav was unware that they had built the thing. Realising that she was installed in a FLYING CAR, the bossy lady was stunned into awed silence until I rejoined the M90 on the north side of the bridge.

So I’ve scripted a life-saving routine. Pah. What really matters is the icon I give it

Hugh Pumphrey

Address oddities

France is truly bizzare if it can not cope with a second line in the address. Almost every time I enter my UK address (16 Dull Street, Boguston, BG17 5QQ) there is an extra box for a second line that I have to leave blank.

The problem I have is that the street numbers go 10, 10a-h, 20, 18, 12, 12A, 14, 16. Royal Mail know what to do, of course, but I sometimes have to lean out of the front windows and wave at a courier who is standing somewhere between 10h and 18, wondering why there is no 16 in that area.

Think you can solve the UK's electric vehicle charging point puzzle? The Ordnance Survey wants to hear about it

Hugh Pumphrey

Re: H2

Hydrogen from steam reforming of methane is only "blue" if you then store the resulting CO2 in the ground. If you just release the CO2, the hydrogen is "grey". All the talk about hydrogen assumes that we will soon be producing huge amounts of "green" hydrogen by electrolysis with renewable electricity. Currently, most hydrogen is grey and very little is green. Hydrogen comes in more colours: see https://energy-cities.eu/50-shades-of-grey-and-blue-and-green-hydrogen/

Electrocution? All part of the service, sir!

Hugh Pumphrey

Re: "The power lead approached the PC..."

I too have blown a power supply with the 110-240V switch. The computer was misbehaving for some reason and I decided to try a proper cold start by shutting it down and turning the power off and on again. The previous machine had a physical on-off switch next to the power cord. I located the switch on this one by feel, but there was no power switch, only the 110-240V switch. My subconscious was too stupid to ask "Why is the switch so small?" Bang!

Boffins find an 'actionable clock' hiding in your blood, ticking away to your death

Hugh Pumphrey

In reply to

"Ooooh ... those I know to be taking statins tell me the side effects are nasty."


"This may be observer bias, since those not having nasty side effects are unlikely to be informing me of the un-nasty effects of said statins."

Most people can take statins with no noticeable side effects. I am one of "most people": possibly a good thing as I had a dodgy coronary artery stented a few years back. If statins give you side-effects that means you have to stop taking them and do without their statistical benefits. But it does not mean that everyone put on statins will experience the same things.

Revealed: Perfect timings for creation of exemplary full English breakfast

Hugh Pumphrey

"NI --> I'd include soda and potato farls."

As a consequence of living in the People's Republic of Sturgeonia for over two decades, I have come to believe that a proper cooked breakfast includes haggis, preferably with black pudding as well. And probably tattie scones, but these are surely so similar to soda and potato farls that you would not want both.

On potatoes, away with this yank hashbrown nonsense. The best fried potatoes are actually the boiled new potatoes you cooked too many of the previous day, fried on both sides until brown and crispy. I can wake up and feel unreasonably excited about the day ahead if I realise that there are leftover potatoes to fry.

Billionaire's Pagani Pa-gone-i after teen son takes hypercar out for a drive, trashes it

Hugh Pumphrey

Re: Ask any actuary

Odd. five years back, when my boring family C-Max died I got a dodgy old Audi TT as my mid-life crisis car. It looked hot, and it went like a scalded cat: it was the 225HP version with the bigger turbo and the twin exhausts. The insurance costs hardly changed at all: the industry's attitude seemed to be "You have driven for a long time, with very few accidents. You are boring. We don't care what you drive"

It had to go this year because too much of it was worn out for it to be worth fixing it up to MOT-passing standard. <fx: sob> I enjoyed every minute I was driving it.

I AM ERROR: Tired of chewing up your RAM? Razer tells gamers where to stick its special gum for the RGB crowd

Hugh Pumphrey

It's time to ...

Surely the right thing to chew while blasting e-baddies is bubble gum of some sort. As the mighty Duke put it "It's time to kick ass and chew bubble gum. And I'm fresh out of gum."

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

Hugh Pumphrey

Hopefully time limited

None of this is good. The main "could be worse" factor is that the perigee is quite low, so the orbit should decay reasonably fast. With a perigee of 800km instead of 400km, the junk would have stayed in orbit for decades rather than years.

Help! I'm trapped on Schrodinger's runaway train! Or am I..?

Hugh Pumphrey

Re: Enquiries

I, too, was about to question whether there was anything worse than Blackboard. When I saw who had posted the question, I realised that we both suffer from the same instance of Blackboard --- this may not be a coincidence.

In Hemel Hempstead, cycling is as bad as taking a leak in the middle of the street

Hugh Pumphrey

Re: I swear...

Jemma, I exhort you never to go to Majorca on holiday, or, if you do, do not rent a car and attempt to drive it around. The entire island is infested with middle-aged blokes in rubber shorts, forming massive pelotons and restricting your average driving speed to about 25km/h. Everyone else: sure, go to Majorca if you are insistent on eating pamboli and seeing the La Seu cathedral. If you just want to visit a sunny island and drive around a bit to look at the scenery, try Crete or the Canaries --- they are cheaper, less up themselves, and you can drive about without staring at an array of rubber-clad arses.

So, that's cheerio the nou to Dundee Satellite Receiving Station: Over 40 years of service axed for the sake of £338,000

Hugh Pumphrey

Re: STEM Education is Expensive

"Edinburgh Uni flushed its Chemistry department down the drain around 2000 (give or take 5 years)."

We did? What, then, is that big building across the street from here which has suspicious smells coming out of it?

Twilight of the sundials: Archaic timepiece dying out and millennials are to blame, reckons boffin

Hugh Pumphrey

Re: Dr King

I remember being taught by Frank King to how to log on to the mainframe and compile my first Fortran program. I'm not sure if I ever met him in person, or whether I just remember a series of short video clips of him showing how it was done.

Dr. King is also a well-known figure in the world of bellringing --- the only sport for people who like permutations and group theory.

Click this link and you can get The Register banned in China

Hugh Pumphrey

Re: Travesty...

What Adair said deserves its 48 upvotes and zero downvotes. The disnification of Winnie the Pooh has made me want to do something violent since I first saw it. A hell of hard radiation would do just fine.

Fake NIPS slip site scandalizes AI world

Hugh Pumphrey

Happening everywhere

I went to a big conference for the first time in many years a few weeks ago (EGU in Vienna, should you care). This scam was being perpetrated on the attendees at that conference too, so I guess it is now a common business model.

Russians poised to fire intercontinental ballistic missile... into space with Sentinel-3 sat on board

Hugh Pumphrey

Re: Launch partner?

This was noted as a problem by John Clark in his famous book "Ignition" --- see one of my blog posts from a couple of years ago for this and a few more quotes: https://hughpumphrey.wordpress.com/2015/01/11/rocket-science-it-should-impress-you/

I heard recently that "Ignition" is going to be re-published legitimately; I suspect that more than one Reg reader will want a copy.

Zucker for history: What I learnt about Facebook 600 years ago

Hugh Pumphrey

Re: Marshall McLuhan?

... There's Howard Hughes in blue suede shoes

smiling at the majorettes smoking Winston cigarettes ...

(The Lamb lies down on Broadway, of course, about halfway through side 1)

Samsung to let proper Linux distros run on Galaxy smartmobes

Hugh Pumphrey

Some if this is already possible ...

... by using GnuRoot Debian ( from https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.gnuroot.debian&hl=en_GB ). I have installed python/numpy and R on my phone, just because I can. Doing anything useful on a phone's touchscreen keyboard is like pulling teeth, of course, even if you install the excellent Hacker's keyboard ( https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.pocketworkstation.pckeyboard&hl=en_GB ).

Just in time for summer boozing: Boffins smash world record for the most perfect ice cubes

Hugh Pumphrey

Halos from cubic ice? Rly?

You write:

"Scientists think cubic ice may be responsible for creating light halos that are sometimes visible around the Sun, as the sunlight is reflected from the clouds."

Most haloes are caused by refraction rather than reflection. Although it is true that a very rare halo display seen in Chile has been explained by the presence of cubic crystals (see https://doi.org/10.1364/AO.39.006080 ) , most of them (including all the ones in your picture) can be explained by ordinary hexagonal ice. Readers who want to waste a LOT of time looking at pretty pictures of haloes can head over to http://www.atoptics.co.uk/halosim.htm

Three non-obvious reasons to Vote Leave on the 23rd

Hugh Pumphrey

I'm In

It is a change to see an "out" piece that is impenetrable lefty political theory TLDR stuff; usually they are over-simplified xenophobia for Sun-readers. I don't accept either type of argument and am voting "remain". The overall reasoning is that I do not like any sort of politics which likes to draw a line on the ground, point to the people the other side, and say "Those people over there are your problem. We can fix it by walling them out.". All the politicians that I have seen peddling this sort of politics have been lying scoundrels

Really, my main reason for saying so in here is

(*) This thread is the first place I have been in real life or online where there seem to be some "leave" voters.

(*) Many leave voters say that their main reason for voting "leave" is that they don't know any "remain" voters. You do, now.

Randomness is a lottery, so why not use a lottery for randomness?

Hugh Pumphrey

Re: BlumBlum-Shub?

Surprisingly, yes, really. Google it and you get lots of hits about random number generators and none (on the first page) about porn.

T'was the night before Christmas, and an industrial control system needed an upgrade

Hugh Pumphrey

But the loop had no test in it.

It looks as if WG managed to discover what happened to Mel: http://www.catb.org/jargon/html/story-of-mel.html

Post-pub nosh neckfiller: Itty-bitty pyttipanna

Hugh Pumphrey

"[...] finds they're called something else there [...]"<br>

As any old Cambridge man knows, Chelsea buns come from Cambridge (and preferably from Fitzbillies, if they are still in business). You used to be able to get sweets called "American hard gums" in the UK. I never saw them in America, a place where you can get "English muffins" which are nothing to do with the thing that is actually called a muffin in England.

BOFH: Press 1. Press 2. Press whatever you damn well LIKE

Hugh Pumphrey

Best BOFH for ages

I spent far too much time playing Advent when I first had an account on a Unix system in the early 1990s. It was old then, of course. Anyone who likes it should have a go at "curses" and "jigsaw", both of which have also consumed a lot of my time.

Google robo-car suffers brain freeze after seeing hipster cyclist

Hugh Pumphrey

Track Stand? Bah.

As a regular cycle commuter for the last 40 years or so, there are few things that provoke a greater level of irrational annoyance in me than people who do a wobbly track stand at traffic lights. I struggle to resist the urge to push them over. Put your Bl**dy foot on the floor! And if it is too hard to get your foot off the pedal, then those shoes and pedals belong on a race track, not on a public road.

Pale backside of lovely Luna flits past in imagery from 1 million miles out

Hugh Pumphrey

Re: Bright

I suspect that the NASA boffin didn't mean that he personally didn't know the Moon's albedo, more that most people find it surprising that it is so low because the only time they see the moon is against the background of space (albedo = 0.0000...). Compared to pure black, the moon looks white, so the natural assumption is that it has a fairly high albedo. I introduce the concept of albedo in a basic meteorology lecture, explain that the Earth's albedo is about 0.3 and ask the students to guess the albedo of the moon. Most of them go for values that are far too high. (The actual value is not all that well defined because it is strongly angle-dependent, as well as varying from place to place on the moon. But it is a lot lower than 0.3)

This is TRUE science: Harvard boffins fire up sizzling BACON LASER

Hugh Pumphrey

For all you PFYs out there ...

.... who can not remember the 1970s, the lyric is from "War Pigs" by Black Sabbath. Many thanks to Rich 11 for cheering me up on an otherwise annoying day.

SPY FRY: Smart meters EXPLODE in Californian power surge

Hugh Pumphrey

Re: Distribution architecture vulnerability

Although we don't tend to have medium or high voltage on the same poles as the domestic supply in the UK we do sometimes have all three live phases of 240V plus the neutral. If something causes one of the three live phases to touch the neutral, and your house is supplied via one of the other two phases, you can end up with about 400V instead of 240V. This happened at my parents' house about 30 years ago and it was quite enough to blow a lot of light bulbs and to fry the control board in the washing machine. I can not recall whether the electricity meter survived the experience.

Are you clever enough, and brave enough, to give a Register lecture

Hugh Pumphrey

Re: Not sure about the IT angle but...

Give us a shout when your book comes out, Pen-y-gors. There may be no IT angle, but I remember visiting some of those mines as a child, and was left with more questions than answers.

BLOOD STAR of the NEANDERTHALS passed close to our Sun

Hugh Pumphrey

Re: Pern anyone?

I ploughed into these comments with the assumption that I would be able to count tens of posts mentioning Pern, thread, dragons and so forth. I suppose it was just too obvious ...

El Reg's plucky Playmonaut eyes suborbital rocket shot

Hugh Pumphrey

Re: Great, but....

can't help thinking that it's not going to help the space junk situation. Maybe not this project, but one like it and soon

Probably not this one, and probably not for a good while. To be a proper space junk problem you need to be leaving stuff at the orbital height of the ISS (400km) or higher. Below that, the junk drops out of orbit fairly fast and there are not many satellites for it to break, because they too would drop out of orbit rather fast.

Once people start building amateur rockets that leave junk around at 700km, that will be a very serious problem as it takes ages for the junk to fall out and there is lots of expensive hardware for it to mess up (including the satellite I have been working on for the last decade). I am not actually a rocket scientist, but I get the impression that reaching 400km and leaving stuff there is a whole different game from reaching 100km.

NASA to launch microwave SPACE LASSO to probe Earth's wet spots

Hugh Pumphrey

Three days?

"SMAP will orbit the planet every three days." No, it won't: SMAP is at an altitude of 685km, so it will orbit the planet about once every 90 minutes. A given point on the Earth's surface gets observed once every two or three days (depending on latitude).

NASA finds ancient films that extend Arctic ice record by 15 years

Hugh Pumphrey

Cracking story: more like this please!

But, "UC Bounder"? Is that a university peopled entirely by cads and rotters?

Carbon tetrachloride releases still too high, says NASA

Hugh Pumphrey

Re: Sensors

"So put some sensors aboard normal commercial aircraft, map the concentrations, and publish the maps. "

The problem with many of these Cl-bearing compounds is that down here in the troposphere they are essentially indestructible and hence become very evenly mixed. These molecules are not like farts: if you can smell farts, someone near you is farting and you can probably find out who by following the smellyness gradient upwards. And the entire planet doesn't smell of fart because the molecules get destroyed and rained out of the atmosphere quickly. Ozone-depleting molecules, OTOH, are emitted in tiny amounts but do not get destroyed until the air reaches the stratosphere. So if you measure them down here you tend to get the same answer nearly anywhere, unless you are right next to a leaking factory (in which case you probably knew where the CCl4 was coming from already).

LOHAN seeks stirring motto for spaceplane mission patch

Hugh Pumphrey

In spaaace ...

In vacuo nemo clamorem audit

iPhone 6 FEELS your heat, wetness... and it'll TELL Apple – report

Hugh Pumphrey

Re: weather

>>GPS location is okay but it's very poor at telling you your altitude

> Really?

Depends on what you mean by "really bad". The height precision on a normal GPS tends to be about half as good as the horizontal precision. The latter is what they tell you about, so if your GPS says it is working to a precision of 5m, the altitude reading is probably only good to 10m. You may have a large offset (several 10s of metres) from the heights on your OS map IF your GPS is not correcting for the difference between the geoid and the ellipsoid.

So, if your geoid correction is working, the altitudes from your GPS are good enough for hiking etc. They are probably as good as you get from the cheap-ass barometers --- these are only good to about 1 hPa or 10m, and you have the additional problem that changes in the weather can re-calibrate the altitudes from your barometer by several 100s of metres.

The GPS altitude is therefore definitely as good or better than you will get from a cheap barometer, and better in some ways than even an excellent barometer. It still isn't brilliant: if you want centimetre accuracy you need to use differential GPS (MUCH more expensive) or old-fashioned surveying gear (heavy and slow).

Plusnet goes titsup for spectacular hour-long wobble

Hugh Pumphrey

DNS problems likely

I'm not at home right now. But I have had internet supplied by PlusNet and their predecessors since the days of dialup. I have had sporadic problems for a while now and I strongly suspect that they are DNS-related. When the problem occurrs I can view simple web sites and ssh into work as long as I use the numerical IP address. Usually, the problem only lasts a few minutes. I keep meaning to nag PlusNet about it but I have been too busy. Today's fracas seems like a more widespread version of the ongoing problem I have been observing.

LOHAN chap brews up 18% ABV 'V2' rocket fuel

Hugh Pumphrey

Read it. Now!

"This is from Clark's excellent and entertaining book 'Ignition' available out there on the interwebs."

I just went off to look for this, and I suggest you do the same. I'm up to page 10 and it is utterly gripping and pants-wettingly hilarious. Chuck out whatever dull novel you are reading --- this is guaranteed to be better.

I'm sure that the BOFH has a copy that he has not lent to the PFY.

El Reg BuzzFelch: 10 Electrical Connectors You CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT!

Hugh Pumphrey

F---ing connectors

In these days of DAB radio and satellite TV, can I really be the first to mention the F connector? And what is the name of those odd co-ax plugs used for analog TV aeriels? And for proper wake-in-the-night-sweating nightmares: SCSI. All 573 varieties.

Ten classic electronic calculators from the 1970s and 1980s

Hugh Pumphrey

Re: No early casio?!?

"check em under a magnifying glass to see the slightly glowing red anode lines..."

cornz 1, your post inspired me to put some batteries in my 1975(ish) casio fx31, just to see the turquoise glowing display light up again. You can indeed see the anode lines glowing; I can't remember if I ever noticed this before.

BOFH: One flew over the PFY's nest

Hugh Pumphrey


I would be happy with an installment once every two months if they were all as brilliant as this one!

Secret ROYAL BABY birth VIDEO leaked! (And other malware scams)

Hugh Pumphrey

Re: Obsession?

When monarchy has been broken (historically) it was fixed good and proper (one execution, one forced abdication).

You forgot "one replacement by a Dutch bloke because he was the only Stuart who wasn't useless".

LOHAN chap to launch Raspberry Pi eye in the sky

Hugh Pumphrey


I'd say "North Sea" was more likely than "English channel" A quick look at the forecast charts suggests the balloons will fly somewhere between Stavanger and Schleswig-Holstein, depending on your rise rate.

Spies in the sky: The leaps and bounds from balloons to spook sats

Hugh Pumphrey

Re: SR-71 some planes are so cool

If you like that stuff, but live so far north that Duxford is not a day trip, you might like the museum of flight at East Fortune some 15 miles east of Edinburgh. There is a concorde and a vulcan, among other stuff. Lighter-than-air fans will enjoy the fact that it is the starting point of the R34's double Atlantic crossing.

Solar undercuts coal in New Mexico

Hugh Pumphrey

Re: re: clueless rubes

Does the heat stored in the soil / sand that is being released in the evening too help a solar plant somehow? I would have thought that it's only the sun rays that are converted into energy. But I am often wrong, so...

You are correct, it doesn't help the power plant at all. Solar power requires the short-wavelength (500nm) photons that come from a very hot thing, i.e. the Sun. The long-wavelength photons (10 um) that are emitted by the ground are essentially energy that is already more-or-less in thermal equilibrium with its surroundings. The second law of thermodynamics means that you can not get it to do any useful work.

BEST reiterates ‘no solar forcing’ claim

Hugh Pumphrey

Re: Open Journals

"Open Journals Will never have the endorsement of the scientific community as a whole"

This is a rubbish generalisation. Per se, the open-access-ness of a journal does not make it a bad journal. In atmospheric science the open-access jounal "Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics" costs a similar price (for the author) as the non-open AGU journals, has a similar impact factor, and has just as rigourous a peer-review process. (I know because I have published papers in both). Over the last decade, ACP has gone from a new journal that had people asking what it was for to being one of the two or three most important journals in the field.

Quite independent of the above is the recent phenomenon of junk journals with (I suspect) feeble peer review, many of them put out by Chinese and Indian publishers that you have never heard of. These publishers are a major source of spam email for working scientists. Their journals are often open-access, but it is not the fact that they are open-access that makes them an annoying waste of space.

For BEST to have chosen what appears to be one of these junk journals for their paper seems odd. It looks at first sight to be competent enough to get into a more established journal. It remains to be seen whether "Geoinformatics and Geostatistics" becomes the next ACP, or whether it vanishes without trace.

Moon riven by colossal cracks

Hugh Pumphrey

Re: Request for technical information

The thing about the Moon is that it has no atmosphere, so you can orbit it at a much lower altitude. Grace's initial altitude was actually 500km (typical for low earth orbit satellites: much lower and you drop out of orbit quite fast). GRAIL orbits at a mere 50km above the moon surface, so it can achieve much better horizontal resolution.

Power to the people - if you can find a spare socket

Hugh Pumphrey

Ewww! Really?

The "real world" out there is clearly a very different place from the gummint research labs and universities that I am familiar with, all of which have plenty of power sockets. Rutherford Appleton lab even hands you a temporary WiFi account as soon as you go through security if you are there for a 1-day meeting.