* Posts by RayG

86 publicly visible posts • joined 15 Jul 2009


Russian Arm SoC now shipping in Russian PCs running Russian Linux


How marvellously different from PCs in so many other countries!

NHS tests COVID-19 contact-tracing app that may actually work properly – EU neighbors lent a helping hand


Re: How will they know it's a false alarm?

While you're right it's not the same as the antibody test, the PCR test that's being used as an infection test just tests for particular fragments of the virus. It can't tell you if they come from an active infection, or are non-transmissible bits of broken virus lingering in the body after you've already fought it off. This means that, unfortunately, you can apparently still test positive for infection even having got over it some time ago.


Re: How will they know it's a false alarm?

6% testing positive for antibodies doesn't necessarily mean 6% exposed - it's a serious over-claim to say 6% antibody positive means 6% have had it.

- The kind of antibodies we test for aren't the only immune mechanism, so there are certainly cases of people having defeated an infection but who would never test positive for those particular antibodies.

- Even for those people who did produce the tested antibodies, the antibody level also falls off over time - so someone who had the disease and their body responded that way five months ago, in March when it was probably much more prevalent than now, might test negative today. This isn't really a "false" negative, but a sensitivity threshold that prevents the test from having an unacceptably high rate of false positives. The body can ramp up production of previous antibodies from incredibly low levels so it doesn't tend to hang on to huge stocks forever.

If the study really meant only 6% ever having had the disease, that would tell us that it probably wasn't very infectious (even if you unsafely assume "lockdown" was highly effective, it was in the country for some time before that). Frankly, that conclusion seems very odd. If instead it were 6% falling into the narrow category of people who had it, and responded with the kind of antibody we can test for, recently enough to show up - that would suggest that rather more than 6% of people have got over it already but maybe it was quite infectious after all. Less qualified conclusions are much harder to draw.

Unfortunately nobody seems to have any solid data on whether people in either of those "had it, but won't show on the antibody survey" categories retain some resistance to catching it again, though it is quite likely. I don't know how prevalent sars-cov-2 is, but I do know (through my work) that there is a serious epidemic of poor-quality scientific papers going on. Symptoms include unverified assumptions in conclusion sections. Read with caution.


Re: How will they know it's a false alarm?

The proportion of tests that are positive hasn't gone up, the number of tests has gone up. (This also appears to be true of France, but maybe not Spain, it's hard to tell).

In fact the proportion of tests is hovering around the level where the (small) proportion of false positives is adding an awful lot of noise to the signal.

The Oxford CEBM group make a quite persuasive case for this:


Police face-recog tech use in Welsh capital of Cardiff was unlawful – Court of Appeal


Re: Hold on

Certain malodorous substances are famous for travelling downwards. I have to have a little sympathy for anyone who gets shoved into the limelight because their superiors won't take the responsibilities they ought to.

Criminals auction off stolen domain admin credentials for up to £95k. Your bank account details? Barely get £50


Re: £95K!!

Very informative, thank you. I had underestimated the usefulness of retail banks for that. See what you mean that even 1% of £1m gives you a very long chain. No doubt highly automatable as well.


Re: £95K!!

Maybe I'm being naive, but I find it hard to think of anything one could do (for criminal gain) with £95k admin credentials that wasn't really quite high risk, so one would need expected gain of much more than 95k to take it on. Unless I'm wrong about the risk, there must be some ways of wringing genuinely huge amounts of cash out of these.

The bank accounts tell a different story, I think. Lots of them will have little in, and most anti-fraud measures are no doubt only effective if one were to try to drain a really large amount in a rash way. So a figure of £100 rather suggests low risk to the criminal and weak protections by the banks. I guessed that, but it's not very cheering to see it demonstrated this way.

Mortal wombat: 4 generations of women fight for their lives against murderous marsupial


Re: Dubbo is afraid

Clearly planning. You would only apply for a license to harm a wombat if you plan to harm a wombat... surely?

Doors closed by COVID-19, Brit retro tech museums need your help


Oh for goodness' sake.

This strain of coronavirus is a nasty disease, but not so dangerous that it is worth destroying society panicking about it. It's not as dangerous as disproportionate fear of it that destroys society, culture, heritage, and all the things we bother surviving FOR.

It didn't get anywhere near bringing the NHS to "the brink of collapse" (huge emergency temporary hospital near me only got to about 1% of capacity) and it hasn't "collapsed" health systems (whatever that means) in any country, with or without lockdowns. Yes, it'll probably recur (not necessarily as badly) but no reason to panic when it does. Lives worth having come with risks. I for one have bunged some cash at both of these museums and will be first in queue for them as soon as I'm allowed in. Long may they continue.

Review of IR35 is in: Quelle surprise, UK.gov will forge ahead with controversial tax reforms in the private sector


Re: We need more tax...

Funnily enough, when I was a contractor I paid quite a bit more tax than I do now I've become a permie. I now earn much less and achieve a little less, but because tax is so steeply "progressive" in the UK for actual earnings ('investment' returns are another matter) - and my costs are lower - I only take home a bit less cash and I also, frankly, do less work. I used to be skeptical of the argument that trying to squeeze more tax out of higher earners actually reduced tax take, until I realised that I am that phenomenon in action. If lots of contractors get pushed into the same choice, or just retire earlier on less, the country's probably going to have to get by on quite a bit less tax revenue. Be careful what you wish for...

That code that could never run? Well, guess what. Now Windows thinks it's Batman


Re: "and caned the computer"

Very wise, but it's too late for me :-)


Re: "and caned the computer"

I do agree, but I think there's a trap there. If you know the corrective action you can put a branch in your program that tries to take it (and avoid the need for a message), unless it's in some open-ended input the user provides such as a document, in which case it's often SO open-ended that it's hard to provide usefully specific advice. Even if you can provide advice you can bet lots of it will go unheeded and then you'll have to decipher garbled reports of what people's corrective actions were, as well as the actual problem.

Owning this stuff will never be popular as it takes time and effort and there's no glory or obvious cash in it, but if you need users' confidence for your software to succeed, you can't dodge it. Microsoft don't need your confidence, hence the tone and content of their messages.


Re: "and caned the computer"

Very kind of ye! I was pleased, but also realised I'd given myself nowhere to hide...


Re: "and caned the computer"

I definitely try to make sure messages offered are professional, because the immutable law of Murphy means they WILL be seen by someone who isn't happy to see them. However, I've found that a lot of people's "professional" error messages are bland techspeak that is totally incomprehensible to users and leads to problems being reported poorly ("It didn't work! I don't know what it said! It just didn't work!"). Hence I've found it more effective (in the case where errors are prompted by stuff that happens outside my code so I can't just fix the actual problem, of course) to make sure each error message says something slightly quirky and distinctive that fixes in users' minds. Then whatever garbled account of a problem filters through, there is something to connect it to the original message.

I've occasionally wished to accompany each error with a distinctive picture, as I suspect users would remember these rather better and it would make questions a lot easier (not "Did it say there was an error with ID ten T in retroacting the turboencabulator?" but "was there a picture of a sad kitten?"). However I don't often do GUI-intensive work where that would apply, and I usually manage to make things that very rarely err anyway. This is just as well, as memorable errors are less anonymous. I have had a user approach me directly and say "We knew the problem was one of yours, because the message was so polite".

Gavin Patterson's gravy train keeps on rolling as former BT boss tossed two more sinecures


I'll admit to finding your claim surprising, since the term has its origin as a description of a certain kind of church office. And defamatory? It's a traditional term for a non-job and carries a hint of disapproval, but that's not really defamation.

IBM stands for I Block Money, says sales rep: Big Blue sued yet again by its own staff over 'missing' commissions


Re: IBM ....

Novell, I think, and wasn't it Intragalactic Bowel Movements? :-)

Socket to the energy bill: 5-bed home with stupid number of power outlets leaves us asking... why?


Cannot tell if serious or satire.

The safest place to save your files is somewhere nobody will ever look


Re: Been there. Done that.

I can easily imagine choosing to use MS DOS Edit in preference to Microsoft Word - from a position of fairly considerable expertise with the latter. Perhaps this undersecretary was wise after all?

Call-center scammer loses $9m appeal in stunning moment of poetic justice


Re: Not poetic enough

OS/2 manuals? That's nasty.

Meet ELIoT – the EU project that wants to commercialize Internet-over-lightbulb


Re: Research farming in the EU

I agree research is speculative and has to accept funding some things that turn out to be dead ends... so there's a good case for writing off the cost of the previous round of work on this subject. Throwing more after it isn't really taking a risk for a chance of innovation, it's safely progressing something we already know isn't a bright idea. Seems like it could be an example of the sunk cost fallacy - a favoured choice of dim bulbs.


I don't know about anyone else, but I'm hearing "Nobody adopted this tech because it didn't really fill a need well enough for people to get over the practical hurdles, so let's throw more money at it".

Hayabusa2 stirs up rubble on surface of Ryugu, pokes asteroid with sampling horn


Re: Uneasy

Genuine answer: nowadays, this has been thought about quite a lot. It's not too much of a worry, as the high radiation high vacuum environment of an asteroid is quite hostile to complex organic chemistry. However they also really care about not contaminating the retrieved specimens and destroying their value, so they're likely to put them in a pretty tightly screwed down jar.

I'm more afraid of hostile life forms from the back of my fridge than hostile life forms from Asteroid Ryugu.

Dear Britain's mast-fearing Nimbys: Do you want your phone to work or not?


If that was as sarcastic as it looks to me, I think you get what I'm getting at :-)


Sorry, but that's not what I meant or what I thought I said, and I'm struggling to see how you could read that into it.

The article is written from a point of view of presuming that demand for better signal is overwhelmingly common. So, for that matter, is public policy (about not-spots and coverage and so forth). My experience has been that quite a lot of people think current levels of patchiness are acceptable - that if there's somewhere they can't get signal, that's OK, and that building a huge amount of barely-used infrastructure just so they can make a call in this particular ditch might not be worth the bother, cost, or profusion of mast sites. I don't like it when articles and commenters assume that these people don't exist, or don't count, or must be doing so out of superstitious belief that low-energy radio signals are harmful in some mysterious way. (I don't hold that belief).

My personal view is that less communication access is entirely acceptable - I assume this opinion isn't very common, but I haven't heard very many other people express it. I commented, slightly grumpily, to indicate that this view exists. I certainly didn't mean to imply that because it exists, that therefore nobody with the contrary view exists. Have a good Friday night.


I don't EXPECT to be able to call for help in the event of accidents absolutely everywhere I might go. I think it's an absurd expectation. If I fall off a cliff somewhere and can't call for help... that might well be it for me. And that's absolutely fine. I can think of much worse ways to go.

Anyway I could as easily have an accident which left me unable to get a phone out of my pocket, or fall down a mineshaft, or break the phone, or not have taken it. Expecting to always be able to summon help is itself dangerous and foolish.

I hope you learn to take responsibility for yourself and accept that risk is a vital part of life and that disproportionate efforts to reduce it come with horrifying opportunity costs. I certainly don't hope you have an accident, because that's bizarrely childish, but I hope you gain some sense of perspective in a way that isn't really dangerous.


I note that we pretend that everybody wants phone coverage everywhere. Personally I'd be quite content to see a lot less of it, and think we're paying far too much attention to whingers when it comes to lack of signal.

UK rail lines blocked by unexpected Windows dialog box


Re: "Train Station"

:-D Ha! No, it's just slow. Apparently there are leaves on the five-volt line.


Re: "Train Station"

"station" = "place where something is stopped". It's a "train station" when just YOUR train is stationary for an indefinite period of time. It's a "railway station" when the ENTIRE railway is stationary for an indefinite period of time. Problem solved, leaving only the mystery of why the term "railway station" is becoming less common when the condition of the entire railway being stopped doesn't seem to.

(says I, from behind my... work station)

Microsoft liberates ancient MS-DOS source from the museum and sticks it in GitHub


Re: To some MSDOS was an major leap forward.

Sounds like good parenting to me - and sound economics. Requiring the kid to commit pocket money means their decision has an opportunity cost so it represents a real commitment, while the extra parental contribution incentivises the decision over others. Perhaps kit-buying mothers have a better grasp of economics than self-confessed lucre louts?

'Clive, help us,' say empty-handed ZX Spectrum reboot buyers


Re: The world was a different place back then

"Us plebs are only allowed to *CONSUME!!!* not make."

I beg your pardon?

Cooking up your own devices is easier than ever with lower-than-ever cost barriers to entry. Custom circuit boards are down to a few £, FPGAs even let self-taught hobbyists develop new processor architectures - equivalent to custom chips - or process signals at amazingly high data rates and bandwidths. At the "because we can" end there's even a surprisingly thriving scene of people building entirely new computer designs from the ground up with logic chips. Frankly the Spectrum clone IS trivial compared to the stuff that crops up every week on the electronics makers' blogs. Just because YOU didn't make anything this week didn't mean nobody else did. Now stop whining and go join them.

Want to know what an organisation is really like? Visit the restroom


Re: I nver undeerstood why people who look normal turn into nasty troglodytes...

"We're an aerospace company, but the toilet could be one of the meanest and miser company you could find." ...you're Boeing or Airbus? Perhaps this is a form of in-house testing of the customer experience?

SPOOKY new Pluto snaps will make the HAIR RISE on the back of your neck

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What would the problem with that be?

Absolutely nothing.

(I don't think it would be hundreds more, maybe a dozen or two)

The definition-wriggling they did to demote pluto is much more ambiguous than the old "it's round under its own weight, it orbits the sun, it's a planet". So welcome Planet Charon!

Good news for Relational DBAs


I wish "squeal" had caught on, but I think I'm fighting a lost battle there.

LOHAN fizzles forlornly in REHAB


Re: A bigger hammer?

Fancy crushing some rocket fuel? I'm not sure I do.

However, the idea of casting the igniters into a block of something fuelly, pressing into place, and then popping a smidge of silicone outside that seems rather appealing. Then the silicone seal is against something solid, and there's no pressure differential across it until you press "go!".

Scottish council muzzles 9-year-old school dinner photo blogger


Kids today...

You've not seen a vga cable right?

Rovio flies away from Angry Birds for all-new puzzler


Re: They haven't copied

Not in the slightest.


also, thank you for triggering a major nostalgia attack. I even have the disks. Now, where can I get a floppy drive?

British 4G mobile data rollout 'will mean NO TELLY for 2m homes'


Destroying TV availability for better mobile internet? Bring it on!

GPS jamming rife, could PARALYSE Blighty, say usual suspects


Hurrah for the paranoia industry

I read the article as saying blocks had been found and proven, but not spoofs, which are indeed far more difficult. So let's all fear spoof attacks!

It's not someone's funding review time by any chance?


Didn't we have a long discussion after a post about Iran's alleged drone theft in which it was suggested that GPS spoofing is actually quite difficult? Is it, or isn't it?

US spy drone hijacked with GPS spoof hack, report says


There we are then, thanks.

If it's omitted on a modern drone it's probably on cost grounds, but this sounds like it was an expensive sort of drone...


It's harder than that, sad to say. Many of the proposed attacks involve a slow drift. You would need to compare position information with airspeed information and then work out whether it is inconsistent with realistic wind speeds. Possible, but not bulletproof.


You can definitely keep track of your position through inertial measurement.

It's just a LOT more expensive and difficult to do than GPS, and errors accumulate unless you have something to regularly check against... like GPS. (Until recently it was also bulky and heavy, although I wouldn't bet on that still being true).

As a result it tends to only get used where absolutely indispensable (like on a submarine - GPS reception down there isn't so good). I wouldn't bet against the existence of drones that have this technology - but whether it's involved in the real story behind this particular episode or not, I have no idea.

2011's Best... Games


2011's most heavily marketed... games

This reads like a list of "the 10 games with the biggest marketing budgets". Any correlation with "best" is entirely coincidental (and not, I would contend, all that close)

Nokia's Windows comeback: Great but what's next?


There's only one possible response to "someone needs to"

...Well volunteered!

Alien city lights could be detected across interstellar space


See, and similar spectrum - this is not a dubious assumption.

Sight has evolved several independent times on Earth because it's too useful not to. Plenty of species on earth have different sensory ranges than humans but they're all in the same basic region - not just for evolutionary reasons but for physics ones. If there is life on other planets the biology and evolution will be different but physics should be the same.

Frequencies of the electromagnetic spectrum that are significantly higher (mid UV and above) are energetic enough to affect a much larger proportion of molecules a lot more rapidly than visible light (ie cause damage). Too much of them and it's not likely there will be anything around to have eyes at all. Too little and it's not worth evolving the ability to sense that portion of the spectrum.

Frequencies that are significantly lower (mid infrared and below) are sufficiently un-energetic that they are hard to sense, let alone image accurately.

We also know that there are a lot of stars out there putting out light in the visible spectrum. Plenty in the non-visible spectra too, but the above reasons make that less desirable.

However, I agree that wasted light is likely to be a brief phase for technology reasons.

BioWare Baldur's Gate


You're all buffleheaded.

Provider: Anti-piracy ruling has 'killed Usenet'


Technically easy

On a purely technical level this is simple. Carry usenet, don't carry usenet binaries. This is easy to automatically identify.

On a practical level it won't change anything (too many other distribution channels and there always will be), and on a moral level it would take a very good argument to persuade me this is the right approach, but technically no problem.

Samsung shows second second-gen 7in Galaxy Tab

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No Apple rip-offery detected

Oh come off it. Apple don't even MAKE a 7" tablet, despite it being an absolutely perfect size for a tablet. It's far from a ripoff, it's a downright superior form factor with much better ergonomics.

I have a 7" Galaxy Tab classic and I get a lot of comments along the lines of "wow, it's like an ipad but it's small enough that you're actually carrying it - my ipad never leaves the sofa, I should have got one of those instead!". I'm glad to see Samsung think that the 7" size is worth keeping going; when mine dies or becomes hopelessly obsolete, it will get replaced with something the same size (assuming Apple haven't succeeded in banning every tablet under the sun by then).

Don't bother with that degree, say IT pros


IT != computer science

Most "IT" degrees don't seem to be very useful. They add a lot of noise to the signal here - Yet Another Java Course often just indicates that someone was told that an IT qualification would automagically lead to a good career (poor naive sod).

A Computer Science degree should (SHOULD) be different. It's not about how to code, it's about how to think, devise algorithms, understand the business of abstraction. There are plenty of non-degreed coders who are very good at wrangling giant masses of braces and semicolons but shy away from (or just fail at) anything that looks like maths or devising new abstract algorithms to tackle new problems. There are plenty of CS degreed types who know the theory but can't code, but plenty more who can do both (if only a majority of code was written by these people!)

So the survey isn't really measuring anything useful (surprise surprise)

People with no degree who have taught themselves BOTH sides are like gold dust, but there are just not many around and they're not always easy to identify. (Plus there's no guarantee that these remarkable talents correlate with other abilities that make someone successful in the workplace, useful on a project, or a bearable colleague.)

Spotify tethers future to Facebook


Good grief.

Something has gone seriously wrong when Sony starts looking like the less evil choice.