* Posts by Dom 3

425 publicly visible posts • joined 10 Jun 2009


Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be coders, Jensen Huang warns

Dom 3

Re: The coders are dead! Long live the coders!

"Coding is the process of telling the machine what to do."

Good code tells the next human to look at it (or yourself

a few months down the line) what it is you are telling

the machine to do.

Tool bag lost in space now tracked by garbage watchers

Dom 3

Re: Why

https://msis.jsc.nasa.gov/sections/section14.htm says equipment is to be tethered at all times.

If you've disconnected both at the same time it's a breach of procedure.

Wanted: Driver for rocket-powered Bloodhound Land Speed Record car

Dom 3

It doesn't take much to enter "thrust ssc cockpit view" into a well-known video site and you will see that certainly in 1997 there was a *hell* of a lot of vehicle control involved to ensure that it didn't just turn into a massive fireball. Perhaps these days such a beast might have a bit of computer aided steering but the rules don't allow it: http://bloodhound1.efar.co.uk/project/car/controls/steering

Micron joins the CXL 2.0 party with a 256GB memory expander

Dom 3

Reach out


AWS: IPv4 addresses cost too much, so you’re going to pay

Dom 3

Setting up IPv6 on AWS

I just had to do this - we were connecting to an API using curl and every now and then it would randomly try to use IPv6.

But this didn't work due to lack of external IPv6 address. Setting that up was a *fifteen* stage procedure that made

my brain hurt.

Artificial General Intelligence remains a distant dream despite LLM boom

Dom 3

Plausible nonsense

"The English Electric Lightning was a supersonic fighter aircraft developed in the 1950s and 1960s by the British aircraft manufacturer English Electric. It served as an interceptor for the Royal Air Force (RAF) and was known for its impressive speed and climb rate.

The Lightning was capable of reaching speeds of over Mach 2 (twice the speed of sound) and had a unique vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) capability."

Dom 3

Instead of trying to show that LLMs are intelligent, it's far easier to show that they are *not*.

Some brave people have been making chatGPT generated recipes - "tastes like you've scooped out the garbage disposal" was one comment (OSLT).

My first go with chatGPT was to ask it about shortcomings in the database schema of a certain popular blogging engine. Plausible guff ensued, but certainly not the sort of insight that would come from anybody that knows anything about it. Why? For one reason - it's trained on a squillion blog posts written by people who don't know about - possibly couldn't even understand - the flaws in said schema.

They don't know anything, they don't *think* anything, they don't do anything except in response to a prompt, they certainly don't go "I'm bored, I wonder if I can find a neater proof of Fermat's Last". Or "hey, I think I'll hack the Pentagon and drop nukes in random places for fun".

I am aware that I am repeating myself but I think it's a point worth hammering home even if I am mostly preaching to the converted.

The number’s up for 999. And 911. And 000. And 111

Dom 3

Re: perhaps

GPS status works for me: lat, long, altitude, speed, direction, in fact oodles of information. Free with unobtrusive ads. No data connection needed.

Dom 3

If you know what you want - there's no need to wait to be asked. Just say "fire" or whatever the moment the call is answered and you will be put through. (Done it).

Mars helicopter phones home after 63 days of silence

Dom 3

Re: Ingenuity's initial mission called for just five flights,...

It's in the maths. I've said it before but here goes again... if you want to make sure that the thing as a whole will last the initial mission duration with 95% probability, then each subsystem (let's say six of them) needs a 99% chance of getting there. In which case there's an 80% chance (whatever) of lasting ten (whatever) times longer. Particularly with the rovers - jammed wheel? Drive backwards.

Obvs helicopter more of a go / no-go situation.

Still, it's marvellous that a technology demonstrator has been turned into a useful instrument.

If AI drives humans to extinction, it'll be our fault

Dom 3

I've yet to hear of an LLM that does anything except in response to a prompt. They don't "think" anything, they don't "know" anything.

The problem is the human operators believing the plausible nonsense that is produced, and deciding to try and actually make that recipe that combines six random ingredients: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HAcnAlOYNrQ

"tastes like a garbage disposal".

That old box of tech junk you should probably throw out saves a warehouse

Dom 3

Vulcan spares

During the Falklands conflict they needed^ wanted to get the Vulcans sorted out for air-to-air refuelling.

One crucial spare part was found being used as a crew room ashtray.

Techie wasn't being paid, until he taught HR a lesson

Dom 3

Re: Unique keys

In Spain, no such thing as a maiden name - women do not change their surnames (and why should they?). So in general use you use the first (your father's first) and if being more formal add the second (your mother's first). So many systems there assumed that my middle name was my surname. But my favourite was signing up with Renfe (railways) for a Points card - I got a PDF to download and print which was in the name of... John Smith NULL

Lawyers who cited fake cases hallucinated by ChatGPT must pay

Dom 3

I call it "plausible nonsense".

What do we make of the $3,500 Apple Vision Pro? It doesn't take a magic leap to guess

Dom 3

Apple has had some flops, but on the other hand it has a history of getting things right as well. Most notably with the "pad" computer format which

was being developed back in the 80s by all sorts - Active Book Company, Apple itself (with the Newton), even Atari (STpad). Finally Apple launched

the iPhone by which time battery and CPU tech had caught up. Consumer VR has a *long* history as well - I had a T shirt in 89 / 90 which had a "virtual" spider

on it and the words "reality sucks - get virtual" (OSLT). Maybe this time?

(NB: *consumer* VR: about the same time as the T shirt people started to say things like "wouldn't this be a great way of training fighter pilots?" to

which the military response was "off the record, yes it is".)

IIRC and usual disclaimers.

We just don't get enough time, contractor tasked with fact-checking Google Bard tells us

Dom 3

Plausible nonsense

Or as someone I know put it: it's not "give me an answer to this question" it's "give me something that looks like an answer to this question".

Fun can be had asking for recipes involving random ingredients.

Mars helicopter went silent for six sols, imperilled Perseverance rover

Dom 3

Re: Just?

I've said it before with respect to the rovers: if you want a 98% chance (or whatever) of the system as a whole achieving the initial goal, then each subsystem needs to be engineered to have a 99.5% chance (or whatever) of lasting that long. Given that, it's quite likely that it will continue way beyond the initial mission. Particularly if it can carry on with a failure - e.g. dragging a broken wheel behind it. A helicopter pretty much needs everything to be working, though. It's still *very* impressive that a technology demonstrator has turned into an important scientific tool.

Nearly 1 in 5 academics admit close encounters of the anomalous kind

Dom 3

Re: UAPs, previously known as UFOs

It's "unidentified anomalous phenomenon", and therefore covers a $thing observed underwater as well as $things in the air.

I'm surprised this article hasn't trotted out the infamous Pentagon videos - gofast, gimbal, etc.

I watched one Youtube video about one of these showing how the HUD info (speed, bank, etc) combined with a bit of maths was more than sufficient to show that the UAP was *entirely* consistent with a weather balloon at lower altitude. I didn't bother with the rest.

The *real* mystery is how come the Pentagon's boffins couldn't do this and end up getting shown up by some random Youtuber.

Obvs., lack of mobile phone vids and pics is cos the visitors from Tannhäuser Gate disable electronics in the vicinity. Unsurprising, cars conking out and so on are a common theme in reports of close encounters of the second kind and are in fact part of what classifies it as "second kind".

I suspect most commentards are like me - would *love* to see something dead weird, but utterly unconvinced that anything's ever happened that couldn't be explained - in normal terrestrial terms - with sufficient data.

If you want a giggle, find a copy of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Spaceships_of_Ezekiel, the cover of which is a good example of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betteridge%27s_law_of_headlines

Of course Russia's ex-space boss doubts US set foot on the Moon

Dom 3

Re: Saying the US can't do it now?

"For spy flights we can do that much more cheapily, and with zero risk using satellites" - the entire SR71 fleet (32 of them) cost a total of one billion dollars. If we assume that's 1966 dollars, multiply by ten. One KH-11 satellite costs about 3 billion. Satellites are nowhere near as flexible as aircraft - they are pretty predictable and if you are Terry Taliban you know what time of day to stay in your cave.

"Concorde [...] never made a profit" - BA certainly ran it at an *operating* profit, once they'd found out that the passengers had no idea what their tickets cost.

Chinese company claims it's built batteries so dense they can power electric airplanes

Dom 3


Everyone seems to be treating it as an either / or.

One use case for electric motors in airliners is getting the aircraft from the ramp to the runway - by driving the wheels directly. Which would save on fuel and dispense with the need for a tug to back the aircraft away from the gate.

Another use case is to provide additional thrust during take-off / go-around, allowing smaller, lighter turbines to take care of everything once over 200 knots or so.

If we plan to live on the Moon, it's going to need a time zone

Dom 3

"The schedules looked funny in California if they all used Chicago time, but you couldn't have a local time for each station."

Historically, "s/California/Bristol/" and "s/Chicago/London/".


Dom 3

Re: Hang on a second…

Obvs, the lunar timezone will be UTC, as it is on ISS. It's the only one that will get universal agreement. The Chinese will do their own thing but until the Middle Kingdom finally re-establishes itself as the pre-eminent power (I'll be dead, not sure about the offspring) they'll play along when talking to other nations.

The headline is misleading - the issue is not about timezones, it's about establishing what the time is when clocks run at different rates.

"You can read up on Relativity (can't be *that* hard, it is over a century old now!) " - we may have a century of literature to read but that doesn't make it any easier to comprehend.

Maxwell's equations are older and arguably harder to derive (or remember). And actually more relevant to earth-bound life.

We've had two *thousand* years of argument over what is now mostly known as "Trigger's broom", but was previously known as the "Ship of Theseus".

And Plutarch was probably re-hashing a pub argument that had been going on for a fair while. My point being that something being old doesn't make it settled.

Bringing the IBM Thinkpad 'Butterfly' back to life

Dom 3


There's a 701 in the Museum of Modern Art in New York:


Not many laptops make it into a museum of *art*.

Field trip! European Space Agency sends astronauts abroad to learn about rocks

Dom 3

Apollo astronauts *did* receive geological training. I believe with some initial reluctance but if you go here


and scroll down to 145:41 there's no denying that these two fighter jocks are genuinely excited about

the rock they've just found.

Dom 3

Re: Geologist on the Moon

Neil Armstrong and Elliot See were both former military. But unlike the rest they were former military at the time of their missions, allowing NASA to bill them as civilian astronauts.

Of astronauts, groups 1 and 2 all had test pilot experience. Group 3 had some non test pilots - as experience on military fast jets was now sufficient. Group 4 ("The Scientists") had two (out of six) with no military background, of which Schmitt was the first in space. Of cosmonauts, Tereshkova was the first civilian - at the time of selection. By flight she'd been commissioned.

ESA names first Parastronaut: paralympian and aspiring surgeon John McFall

Dom 3

Re: The grand spectacle of Diversity

"A gymnast might be a good fit". In pre-Mercury days NASA considered recruiting from all sorts - circus performers even. Going with test pilots might seem obvious in hindsight, and I believe that the fact that they all already had security clearance was one of the factors.

"smaller people with lower calorific requirements" was a nod to the double X chromosome.

Dom 3

Re: The grand spectacle of Diversity

Quite. If I were on that mission because of my "internal plumbing" or pigmentation I'd be rightly pissed off that I had not obtained it on merit.

Plenty of qualified candidates of all sorts.

Requirements have changed. The quick thinking, physical strength [1] (etc.) of the 1960s is not needed for current LEO missions.

Rather a calm procedural approach.

If they / we do a Mars mission this may be required again. OTOH a long-term mission like that is not a great fit for testosterone-ridden hulking fighter jocks. Maybe smaller people with lower calorific requirements with good social skills?

[1] Ed White who made the first US space walk was *very* fit. So they didn't realise just how difficult it was to do it. And obvs., being a jock, he would have made it sound easy.

Aviation regulators push for more automation so flights can be run by a single pilot

Dom 3

And in 2122?

Will we require flight crew in 2122? Probably not. In 1922, lifts ('elevators' if you prefer) came with operators. Now safely automated.

So it becomes a question of "when?", not "if?".

For now I want two trained meatbags up front.

New SI prefixes clear the way for quettabytes of storage

Dom 3

Re: This is getting silly now

Perhaps you are thinking of the terms used on the Indian sub-continent?

"lakh" = 10^5

"crore" = 10^ 7

InSight Mars lander has only 'few weeks' of power left

Dom 3

Skycrane anybody?

The sort of brains that can come up with the Mars Skycrane *and* convince management that this really is the best way to do it, have considered (and dismissed) all of the above and then some more.

NASA selects 'full force' for probe into UFOs

Dom 3

Re: Is it neccesary?

These US Navy videos are not "hotly disputed" - they are thoroughly debunked. For instance the "go fast" video has been shown to be entirely consistent with it being a weather balloon - using only the information on the screen itself (speed, altitude and so on) and a bit of maths. Why the US Navy couldn't do this themselves is the *real* mystery.

Thousands of websites run buggy WordPress plugin that allows complete takeover

Dom 3

Re: Built In

Wordpress is *great*. All those bugs and problems I've fixed, the hacked sites I've repaired - serious earner.

Yes, unmaintained plugins are a great source of trouble but the core code is still seriously, uh, sub-optimal.

I was doing a site migration recently and found duplicate usernames. Because there is no unique constraint on the field, and it checks for duplicates programmatically, if you're getting hosed by some sort of bot you *will* hit a race condition and ping! duplicate usernames. I could scarce believe that such a widely-used and developed piece of software could still contain such a beginner's mistake.

I thought maybe this was a legacy issue - no, the default schema *still* does not have a unique constraint on usernames. Unique keys are used in *other* tables so there's no stupid excuse that they are trying to support a MySQL version released in 1963.

This is the military – you can't just delete your history like you're 15

Dom 3

Zip drives...

I was looking for a driver for one, and typed zip.com into the browser. Oops.

IIRC it was a gay dating site. Nothing there now.

Anyway, I once went into a small company as a freelancer to help a mate who had a part-time IT contract there to do some sort of systems audit. We discovered that there was one individual who'd clock in very early, and then spend the 30 minutes before anyone else turned up looking at VNSFW material. I think we decided it wasn't our problem.

And then there was the director of another small company who asked me to look at his teenage son's laptop...

At least none of them were MPs.

Open source body quits GitHub, urges you to do the same

Dom 3

why Copilot was trained on FOSS code

Hmmm.... would anybody want to infect their code with stuff based on Wordpress and its plugins?

Voyager 1 space probe producing ‘anomalous telemetry data’

Dom 3

"a rover can almost certainly do just as good a job" - really? I read one estimate that two years worth of robotic geology on Mars could have been done in a single morning by a human with a hammer.

NASA's InSight doomed as Mars dust coats solar panels

Dom 3

Re: Insight?

"The people who worked out you could land a thing the size of a car on Mars using a crane turn out to have thought of other things too"

Not just *could*, but that it was actually the *best* way. There's a good video out there with interviews with the engineers involved, where they explain that they were *constantly* asking themselves whether or not the sky crane was both feasible and the best engineering solution.

Would any of our commentards^W regular posters claim to be able to have come up with, and justified, the sky crane idea?

Extending solar panel life on Mars is, we think, much simpler than getting there in the first place. But maybe it is not.

The idle speculation is entertaining; there's still the infinitesimal possibility that someone here has an insight [1] into the problem that has escaped everyone else.

[1] Pun intended.

The sad state of Linux desktop diversity: 21 environments, just 2 designs

Dom 3

Re: Keyboard / Mouse

"Some tasks are best handled with a keyboard. Others are best handled with a mouse."

Or both as in this instance. Select text with mouse, copy and paste with keyboard.

Dom 3


Yes, we (as part of the Acorn ecosystem) had a bunch of Windows machines for work and a bunch of RiscOS machines for testing etc. When Windows 95 arrived it all looked very familiar!

The RiscOS thing I found most irksome was in fact the scaled scrollbars - brilliant to a point but when editing a very large file, targeting the scrollbar demanded pixel accuracy.

One thing not mentioned is the file format consistency. E.g. there was one bitmap format across all programs.

Clustered Pi Picos made to run original Transputer code

Dom 3

"transputers were used to add extra grunt to both Atari and Amiga hardware". Sorree, I don't think that describes the ATW properly. Yes, it had an ST inside it but that was just an I/O unit. FWIW the ATW was designed in Cambridge by Perihelion Hardware.

UK intel chief says MI6 must outsource innovation – and James Bond's in-house 'Q' is nonsense

Dom 3

Why is the Secret Intelligence Service referred to as "Military Intelligence Section 6"?

As for Q:


Northrop Grumman throws hat in the ring to design NASA's next-gen Lunar Terrain Vehicle

Dom 3

"just a few careful drivers to their name" ? One per vehicle, the CDR. Of which, Dave Scott not available? He drove the thing - Schmitt and Duke were passengers / navigators.

Technology doesn’t widen the education divide. People do that

Dom 3

"Who wants to use an e-commerce system made by someone who doesn't want to code?" I don't even want to use the ones coded by people who *do* want to code...

Chinese developers protested insanely long work hours. Now the nation's courts agree

Dom 3

Re: Long hours <> productivity

Productivity doesn't just go down downhill, it goes negative (for coding at any rate). You end up writing such crap that you then spend ages fixing it. Or if you have the sense, you throw it away and start again.

You can now live life like Paul Allen on Microsoft cofounder's luxury yacht for '£1m a week'

Dom 3

Really available?

AIUI the first thing you do with a superyacht is list it as available for charter, as there's a huge tax advantage. And then any enquiries are deflected with "sorry, not available that week".

Subcontractors working on CityFibre's £45m Derby rollout threaten to 'rip up tarmac' in dispute over payments

Dom 3

Ah, the myth of "maximising shareholder value" by withholding payment for as long as possible.

Buyer of $28m Blue Origin space ticket has a scheduling conflict – so this teen will go instead

Dom 3

Re: Time to change the rules

Sorry, I have to disagree. They did the *testing* not the *training*.

Dom 3

Re: Time to change the rules

Like I wrote - "physiological screening".

It was Eisenhower that decreed that the Mercury astronauts should be military test pilots.

These days of course it has been mandated that the next American moon landing will include the first woman on the moon. Why can't she be chosen on merit? Why the tokenism?

FWIW - for a Mars shot I reckon an all-female crew makes a lot of sense. Although that of course will never happen.

Dom 3

Re: Time to change the rules

"As I said, Wally's an astronaut. Did the training" - nope. She "underwent the same physiological screening tests as had the astronauts selected by NASA on April 9, 1959, for Project Mercury". In a completely unofficial and privately funded programme.

Hungover Brits declare full English breakfast the solution to all their ills

Dom 3


As this German wikipedia page points out:


"a traditional part of the hangover breakfast". Preferably the "Zigeunerroller" variety.

Apple announces lossless HD audio at no extra cost, then Amazon Music does too. The ball is now in Spotify's court

Dom 3

Re: Yay!

30 years ago as part of a Mus. Tech course I had to produce a 1/4 inch 15 ips stereo master using Dolby A. As the content of the tape was irrelevant, we were told it was okay to record on to DAT and then transfer it. Quite a few of us did. And we all found that the analogue copy *sounded* nicer than the digital original, despite by definition being "degraded".