* Posts by John Latham

397 publicly visible posts • joined 4 Sep 2006


Boffins blow hot and cold over li-ion battery that can cut leccy car recharging to '10 mins'

John Latham


> Burning coal to make electricity to power electric car (and losing >50% of energy content in transitions) doesn't make any sense whatsoever and that's the reality currently.

Not where I live (Ireland). 32% of electricity demand in 2018 was met by renewables, with coal at 9%. That coal percentage will be lower still for 2019, we've had significant periods with no production from coal whatsoever. Coal is just not cost-competitive any more.

> Power costs even more money in electric car than in other cars: Mine has about 160kW and if I want anything near in electric car it's Tesla or something like that, at £50k range. Instead of £20k.

This is not true. A Kona or e-Niro produces 150kW and is about £35k, and that 150kW is much more available than in an ICE car,

Also, what's with the rage? It's Friday.

John Latham

The amount of blind ignorance in these comments is incredible.

We don't have to guess what a world would look like with high take up of EVs, because there are countries (e.g. Norway) that have already achieved it, approx half of all new car sales and 10% of overall fleet.

People who can't charge at home can charge other places they naturally spend time, like supermarkets, workplaces and public multi-storey car parks. Fast chargers are often only used for long journeys.

Bjorn Nyland recently did 1000km in a Model 3 in exactly 10 hours. In winter, on normal public roads, at normal speeds.

This is all a solved problem, just not yet in the UK (in terms of public charging infrastructure). But right now there are few enough EVs to go round that the main market is people who can charge at home. There will a long tail of people for whom that's not possible, who will continue to run fossil cars for maybe the next 10-20 years whilst the charging infrastructure is sorted out.

As for "the electricity supply problem is impossible to resolve" type comments, I remember exactly the same conversations 20 years ago criticising the idea of non-broadcast video streaming. And now we have Netflix and Youtube, and somehow the internetz haven't broken.

I currently own two diesels, and they will likely be the last two fossil utility vehicles I own. Yay for clean air.

Virtual inanity: Solution to Irish border requires data and tech not yet available, MPs told

John Latham

Re: An alternative solution

This is a bit like a recently and enthusiastically divorced man, complaining that his best friend never comes to the pub with him due to family commitments, suggesting that his friend gets divorced too.

GCHQ pushes for 'virtual crocodile clips' on chat apps – the ability to silently slip into private encrypted comms

John Latham

The End

If I'm using a WhatsApp mobile app written by WhatsApp and distributed as a binary, I really only have WhatsApp's word that there are only two ends to the conversation, not three. There's nothing to stop them relaying messages to a third party using any one of a number of mechanisms, which may or may not be able to be exposed by traffic monitoring or decompilation of the binary.

The lesson in all this is that if you want to assure yourself of secure end-to-end communications, you have to control at least your own "end", preferably separating the two concerns of encryption/decryption and transmission of the message such that those concerns can be handled by different pieces of software.

I assume that sensible terrorists whose lives depend on communications security don't rely on blind trust of tech companies and apply defence in depth, or hide in clear sight communicating using LOLcats, Youtube comments, or whatever.

Which in turn suggests that GCHQ can only ever hope to capture idiots and/or people who don't think they are doing anything wrong.

Sorry, Elon, your Tesla roadster won't orbit for billions of years

John Latham

Tesla commercial strategy

Phase 1. Prove that an autonomous car can achieve a collision rate per billion vehicle kilometres lower than a human driver.


Phase 3. Profit

Govt 'comprehensively ignored' advice over NHS data-sharing deal

John Latham

Re: Free

This data sharing won't reduce illegal immigration, it'll just worsen the health of illegal immigrants.

Which from a Daily Mail perspective is a win-win. If there was no illegal immigration they'd have one fewer trope to stoke the passions of the morons who consume their dismal output.

Google slides text message 2FA a little closer to the door

John Latham

The app is "Google Play services".

Compsci degrees aren't returning on investment for coders – research

John Latham

Selection bias

The survey presumably doesn't include all the people who work in Greggs* because their CVs went in the bin of employers who demanded graduates. That would leave a cohort of non-graduates whose skills/aptitudes are good enough to get them through the door.

Hang on, it's more confusing than that:

"It found that 48 per cent of developers with less than four years of professional experience currently hold a Computer Science-related undergraduate degree, while 49 per cent had completed an online course instead."

What about the people who had a degree not-in-Compsci and not-online? Is that really only 3%?

Smells fishy to me.

* I've nothing against people working in Greggs, I'm just being flippant.

Mad scientist zaps himself to determine the power of electric eel shocks

John Latham

Shock in watts?

"the power of the shock was calculated to be approximately 3.9 Watts – enough to make Catania flinch and pull away"

Electric fence energisers are rated in joules. I assume this is because energy is correlated with unpleasantness.

Mine runs at 0.8J. I'd rate it about 6 on the psychological damage scale, or "not doing that again, even for beer".

UK industry mouthpiece wants 'near-universal' broadband speeds of 30Mbps by 2020

John Latham


...recommend 5Mbps per HD stream, or 25Mbps per UHD stream.

Empirically, I have very stable low-contention 55Mbps DSL connection and we start to notice quality degrade when more than four people in the household are streaming video independently.

So I would share the view that 30Mbps is inadequate.

Your top five dreadful people the Google manifesto has pulled out of the woodwork

John Latham

Occam's Razor

The simplest explanation for the firing is that he ruined the CEO's vacation.

Wi-Fi Dream Home Of The Future™ gets instructions for builders

John Latham

Random thoughts

It feels like wifi as currently constituted is the wrong solution for an urban environment, as it's too difficult to get the signal propagating just far enough without interfering with neighbours.

Seems like lower-power line of sight access points fitted discreetly to the ceilings of each room, powered and networked by cat6, along with smoke/fire sensors, would produce a more consistent, higher bandwidth, less interfere-y solution.

Does this tech exist already?

FWIW since moving to the middle of nowhere (1 house per acre) my wifi is awesome. I can get good signal 30m down the garden through two walls. So it's just not fit for purpose in high density situations.

All ready for that Easter holiday? Here's a mild MySQL security bug

John Latham

Upgrade to 5.7?

Probably want to read about default_password_lifetime when you do it.

Oracle doing due diligence on Accenture. Yep, you read that right

John Latham


As in "they've really got their accentracles into us now".

My billlion dollar invoice for branding services is in the post.

Identity disorder: Does UK govt need Verify more than we do?

John Latham

Beware of simple thinking

Most issues in the area are caused by one or both of:

a) People thinking that government is one homogeneous entity.

b) Government thinking that people are fungible meatsacks.

ITU-T wants video sizes to halve again by 2020

John Latham

End game

As I understand it (dimly) this is basically a CPU/bandwidth tradeoff.

At what point (resolution? local processing power?) is the compressed representation of the source components of scene smaller than its compressed high-def rendering?

Will a future video stream read like "fat white male in scruffy clothes walks into an empty 1950s American-style bar and orders a drink from a platinum blonde waitress in a short black dress', with the local device left to render the scene as it sees fit?

i.e. is the limit case of video compression just telling a story?

Apple's CEO Tim Cook declines invitation to discuss EU tax ruling with Irish parliament

John Latham

No, it's mostly just SF and assorted lefties

Sinn Fein are in opposition. Their current political strategy is coming from the left. It doesn't matter that Ireland will never get the 13bn (it'll be kept in escrow until the EU has divided it up by sales volume, probably), SF get political capital from asserting that we could fix poverty and social injustice if we only took the money.

The government parties recognise that the Irish government has no control over the outcome, but they get to strengthen the tax haven brand by appealing anyway. It's a win-win, until Trump rewrites the US tax code and all the tax-dodging US multinationals pull out.

Apple sued by parents of girl killed by driver 'distracted by FaceTime'

John Latham

It probably *is* possible to detect a driver...

...looking at the screen.

Drivers typically have quite a particular arms-out posture. And their face will be looking at the forward-facing camera when it's looking at the screen.

My old Samsung had gaze detection to prevent the screen going off, e.g. when reading slowly. I turned it off for privacy reasons and cos it was weird. Drivers also look at the screen for short periods of time, a usage pattern that's probably detectable.

You could presumably also detect whether the driver was on the left of right of the vehicle by the angle of the phone w.r.t travel direction or by recognising.

So some combination of detecting arms, gaze, car environment and phone orientation ought to be enough to reliably detect whether the user is driving, and then issue a torrent of abuse, disable messaging apps, keyboard etc or whatever. Maybe switch the language to Swahili to stop it being used for reading text (maps would still be usable).

Microsoft's chaps slap Slack chat brats with yackety-yak app

John Latham

Slack isn't original...

....but it is very well executed. Every little thing is that wee bit better and more polished, and the sum of those is worth buying.

Since Microsoft's product execution excluding the old Office reliables is invariably shite (see Skype or Office 365 through a browser) I don't think Slack will be losing any sleep.

Ireland's govt IT: Recession and job cuts forced us to adapt

John Latham

Re: So, what exactly is a country?

OK, so Ireland has an order of magnitude fewer people and (say) councils, but a meeting of 30 people will fail just the same as a meeting of 380. In fact sometimes it helps to have more scale because that prevents any attempts to agree consensus.

Complexity kills IT projects. Large budgets enable complexity. Therefore, the solution is smaller budgets which force simpler solutions.

See UC and NHS IT, for instance. Towers of Babel.

Two-speed Android update risk: Mobes face months-long wait

John Latham

Re: Nexus 5

"Move fast and break things" in "things broken" shocker.

Idiot millennials are saving credit card PINs on their mobile phones

John Latham

PIN numbers?


Woman scales Ben Nevis wielding selfie stick instead of ice axe

John Latham

It's a double-edged selfie-stick

If there were no morons there wouldn't be much rescuing to do.

OnePlus X: Dinky little Android smartie with one or two minuses

John Latham

Re: "Dinky little"

Got a Sony Z5 Compact a couple of weeks ago. It's nice, coming from a Galaxy S5.

No mention of waterproofing on the OnePlus review. I assume it isn't.

MariaDB hires new CEO with code daddy Monty in as CTO

John Latham

"Distinguishing between code and his physical being is inseparable"

ERROR 1064 (42000): You have an error in your syntax.

HMRC bets the farm on digital. What could possibly go wrong?

John Latham


>> The Government Digital Service's Verify system only works for textbook self assessment users with an established digital footprint. It will not authenticate businesses, or third parties, such as accountants. <<

The issue of providing access to third parties is an authorisation problem, not an authentication problem. I think Verify is an authentication system, and I'd assume HMRC could implement a "delegate certain rights to my accountant" function within their own systems.

"Authenticating businesses" is an odd concept. People work in businesses, and each person has a distinct identity. Having generic organisational logins sounds like a bad idea.

It may be that there is a requirement for someone to have a "professional" identity distinct from their "personal identity", but I don't imagine there's anything in Verify preventing that.

Happy to be corrected by better-informed commentards.

Millionaire staffers pop corks at Atlassian as Oz biz raises $462m

John Latham

Cash OnDemand

Maybe they can use some of this money to sort out the truly excremental performance of OnDemand/Cloud JIRA.

Enjoy vaping while you still can, warns Public Health England

John Latham

"Almost certainly"

I spoke to a GP about this, her position was that there is not enough time/evidence to say that vaping is safe. That's the sort of careful opinion I expect to someone belonging to a profession with a memory of prescribing thalidomide. That's not to say vaping should be controlled, just don't expect any health professional to be jumping up and down with enthusiasm about it.

Apple MacBook 2015: Twelve inches of slim and shiny fanboi joy

John Latham

It's all wrong

A low power CPU with a high power screen just doesn't make any sense.

WORLD+DOG line up to SLAM Google after anti-trust case unveiled

John Latham

Re: I must be missing something

You missed "accused of abusing its dominant position in the European search market by systematically favouring its own comparison shopping product in its general search results pages".

It's not about the search monopoly itself, it's about how it uses that to favour its own products.

UK.gov: We want Britannia's mobe-enabled cars to rule the roads

John Latham

A report by KPMG claims....

This is great. I take all my technology advice from accountants.

After all, they're KPMG - as strong as can be, a team of power and energy!


Amazon cloud threatens to SMASH the fundamental laws of PHYSICS

John Latham

split -b10M –additional-suffix=.jpg

Or something.

Dutch companies try warming homes with cloud servers

John Latham

Re: Security implications here, surely?

Get Apple to build it. Taking the thing apart will be impossible.

Notebook news: Dell does density, but Lenovo's a lot lighter

John Latham

Ubuntu in Feb


Man asks internet for $1k for pebbles. INTERNET SAYS YES

John Latham

Thermodynamics fail

Ice works because it changes phase. Rocks don't.

A cleverer idea would be 92% filling the inside of a hollow metal (e.g. silver) sphere with water and leaving the rest as vacuum to deal with the expansion. Then you'd have high conductivity, phase change and no dilution. Maybe use an internal matrix structure to help conductivity and add strength, allowing the walls to be thinner.

It's so obvious that I assume someone's done it already and probably patented it.

Piketty-Poketty-Poo: Some people are just itching to up tax to capital ...

John Latham

If r>g then...?

I'm confused, perhaps the coffee hasn't kicked in yet.

In your Forbes contribution from April...


...you advocate land taxes but not "wealth" taxes. Land is a form of capital, capital is a form of wealth. Income and capital are fungible (since one can extract income from capital appreciation and invest income in new capital).

From my reading (I haven't finished CI21C, obviously) Piketty's most stimulating point is that capital/wealth concentrates until war destroys it. If we want to create a society without war we must find other ways to constantly redistribute capital/wealth or else bad things.

In most of the commentary about CI21C, commentators/ards mix labour income with wealth/return on wealth. Piketty seems mostly relaxed about unequal returns on labour (e.g. nurses vs seven figure bankers). It's not about our salaries, it's about our stuff.

Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol

John Latham

@Lee D

"The reason that paracetamol is prescribed is because it tends not to conflict with other things you're taking."

That's one reason. Another is that's it's fairly benign on the GI system compared to the alternatives.

Freeze, Glasshole! Stop spying on me at the ATM

John Latham

Re: I prefer the infra-red camera trick

Or wear gloves.

100% driverless Wonka-wagon toy cars? Oh Google, you're having a laugh

John Latham

Re: Use case

"It sounds like heaven and should be a piece of piss. It is basically a driver-less taxi that I lease (so much cheaper) and I don't have to engage in small-talk with"

ftalphaville have covered this extensively. The idea is that (for urban use cases at least) you don't need to own one at all, and it can run on leccy for various reasons, e.g. long charging time inconveniences no-one, it just lowers utilisation; batteries do better when being regularly and precisely cycled; replacing and re-processing batteries is easier to manage if you own a fleet.

Using trains for longer distances also becomes more convenient if you can rely on cheap Johnnycabs at the destination.

If anyone should be concerned it's taxi drivers.

Faster Macbook Air pops out: What, a NEW Apple thing and ZERO fanfare?

John Latham

Re: Just for completeness

I'm fairly sure the mid-2013 13" MBA had a PCIe SSD.

iFixit boss: Apple has 'done everything it can to put repair guys out of business'

John Latham


I live in Dublin (IE) where there are no Apple stores.

I recently busted my Retina MBP screen and had it repaired FOC by one "authorised service centre" in less than 48 hours (they needed to order a part) - dropped it in late on Sunday and got the call on Tues afternoon. Another branch of the same company (city centre) wanted it for "up to five days" to assess due to backlog and didn't seem to care what I did in the meantime. So speed and attitude vary.

TBH with the amount I've spent on Apple gear (lots) I should expect 24 hour on-site repair or replace, but I don't think it's an option so we just keep old kit around a bit longer as spares.

Regarding the iFixit stuff, whatever. Once you've sold your soul to the devil there's no asking for a refund.

Google and Apple in DRAG RACE: It's fanboi Mercs VS fandroid Audis

John Latham

"There's nothing wrong with the dashboard now"

I have a 2008 Citroen C5. It has the most confusing, distracting and down right obstructive button-based UI imaginable.

Any attempt to locate and use the horn or hazard light buttons whilst driving are most likely to cause an accident. I suspect infiltration by Nokia engineers.

Fortunately the car mostly lives in the garage having expensive work done on leaky struts, pollution control systems, the dual mass flywheel, air con, remote tyre pressure sensors...

BILLION DOLLAR BALLMER: Microsoft chief makes $1bn simply by quitting

John Latham

Ballmer at Microsoft: an annotated shareprice


NSA chief leaks info on data sharing tech: It's SharePoint

John Latham

Re: The real letdown here...

No, I'm not suggesting that. Let me try a different tack.

In the 1940s we had Alan Turing and Colossus.

Seventy years later we have Steve Ballmer and Sharepoint.

Maybe this is a PSYOPs campaign designed to breed overconfidence in their enemies.

John Latham

The real letdown here...

...is that our Matrix/Minority Report-style tech fantasies are brought down by the crushing realisation that twelve years after 2001 the spooks are using the same annoying point-and-click shite inflicted on the rest of us.

I haven't felt this demoralised since that woeful "THIS IS A UNIX SYSTEM" 3D file explorer in Jurassic Park.

Green screens, 3D gesture recognition or GTFO.

Apple MacBook Air 13-inch 2013: All’s well that Haswell

John Latham

Re: Battery life

My 2010 Air has 87% capacity 5839mAh vs 6700mAh, as reported by the Battery Health app.

This is a machine that has been used for three years with a casual disregard for correct charging protocol (whatever that is) by several people.

I agree that 1400x900 is just a *little* low res for 13". I also don't understand why my 13" screen sits inside a lid with a 15" diagonal. I want less bezel and more pixels.

Google brings Blink-powered Chrome to Windows and Mac OS X

John Latham

Smells like Microsoft

I realise there are all kinds of ways this is different, but the idea of one juggernaut of a company developing operating systems, browser engines, scripting languages and applications makes me nervous.

Sure, it's mostly free-as-in-beer, do no evil etc, and somewhat constrained by standards and licences for now, but it still smells bad.

Tell me I'm wrong.

Curtain drops on Apple Store ahead of WWDC: What lies behind?

John Latham

Re: Beefed up Macbooks et al

I think you have to ship Steve Ballmer in for a proper song and dance.

Apple just do a long, dull, slideshow that some people make a fuss out of.