* Posts by Tim Wesson

25 publicly visible posts • joined 10 May 2007

El Reg insults 'millions of Irish Catholics'

Tim Wesson

The Future's Bright...

Didn't a certain mobile phone company get into trouble for advertising in Northern Ireland?

Users howl as Fedora 12 gives root to unwashed masses

Tim Wesson

Why didn't this show up in Beta?

The final release is an odd place to make such a design decision, surely?

Virgin Media switches to Gmail

Tim Wesson

Excellent News!

Email was one of the things that was holding me to Virgin. Now there's nothing to stop me changing: I just need to get a round tuit!

Flames, 'cos that's what will be happening to my Virgin account!

Brit nuke subs exposed on Google Earth

Tim Wesson
Black Helicopters


Good job that you didn't carry photographs of any police stations!

'Kidnapped' child tracked by mobile phone and Street View

Tim Wesson

Kid's Perspective

All this talk of "kidnapping" presupposes that the courts have it right. The term isn't being used in the normal sense of the child being taken from their parents, but of the child being taken /by/ a parent.

To know how the child felt would help me to decide how to judge this case, which otherwise is just an article about (possibly random) law enforcement.

Firefox 3 downloads hit 7m despite server FAIL

Tim Wesson

BBC Site

Re: Sorry off-topic, but when does the BBC news website *ever* go down?

On the 11th September, 2001, the BBC served their "low graphics" site to all comers.

Seabed cables will be fixed by next week

Tim Wesson


Anyone done the calculations for the frequency of such specificity for cable breaks?

The first one selects one of two countries, the second is most probably bad luck, and selects one. After that, we need to break out our Bayesian calculators. The fact that they were in different geographical locations makes the cable breaks somewhat independent.

How many other cables broke in the meantime?

My own hunch is that five cable breaks cutting off one country is pretty damn unlikely unless there is deliberate cause.

UK military faces spectrum sell off

Tim Wesson

Another Tax, People!

That's your money burning. The government spectrum auction is them taking a monopsony slice of phone call charges. Their extracted rent means that mobile calls will remain high indefinately, and we won't know the difference.

Cuning sods.

French record industry, ISPs in entente to boot off file-sharers

Tim Wesson

Mor/on Strong Encryption

Will Godfrey points out that strong encryption is already illegal in France (I talked to French relations about this and they came out with stuff about pedos).

This isn't quite true: you aren't allowed to encrypt as a private individual. Businesses can. Goodness knows how the French manage secure banking!

Guardian blogborg takes aim at global warming

Tim Wesson


What I'd like to know is why you can't get hold of more LED lighting?

LEDs are sufficiently small that they'll fit in any existing bulb size, surely?

Man who urinated on dying woman for YouTube glory jailed

Tim Wesson

Why the Victim Does Count


The victim does matter, for a proportion of those who piss on random drunks will be doing worse than they imagine to be. By facing the same risk profile in punishment, it encourages such folks to think "Hey maybe it's not just a drunk", since the risk of the higher punishment will be (more likely to be) at the back of their mind.

Security vuln auction site pulls in research

Tim Wesson

Illegal Methodology

Reverse engineering illegal? First that I've heard of it!

If the aim is to direct vulnerability research to the good, it also seems to be an odd decision to make. The good guys can't use the same tools? Daft!

Legal threat to 'Green nuke' consultation

Tim Wesson

Fusion, yes


Poverty is the greatest priority, but given that rich countries don't really care about poorer ones in general, we should be comparing like with like. For example, "climate change" should be compared with rich-country insurance, rather than their (ridiculously low) generousity to others. I'm not saying how this calculus works out, BTW, only that the suffering of the poorest is a bit of a distraction, resembling the mother's "Think of the starving in Ethiopia" when encouraging their kid to eat.

With regard to Nuclear Power, you might be right, especially if I am wrong about the slope of the curve on the log-log graph.

As I said, I don't have the data to hand, so I can't say a load more.

Success with fusion would certainly remove a worry.

Tim Wesson

Very good points, yet...

The one thing that remains outstanding (and this is a matter for evidence, rather than argument) is what the slopes are on the graphs of damage verses frequency for different sources of risk.

My (posibly false) intuition is that vehicluar collisions have a far faster fall-off, certainly beyond a certain point, in that if you double the size of the disaster, the frequency of disasters of that order of size is a smaller fraction of the original than would be the case for failures of nuclear power. Since this a matter for evidence and I don't have it to hand (and in any case, there isn't a whole lot of data for the nuclear camp), I will have to leave things there.

For now, it is sufficient to note that the ratio of two power distributions is another one.

If fission could be made to work, then that is something that I would support. A self-limiting process just seems to me to be a lot more sane.

Tim Wesson

Probability and Party

Dominic, in comparing Nuclear Power with trains or roads, you are missing the point: several small disasters with a statistically predictable downside is not a fair comparison with something that could conceivably touch almost every family.

There are a number of catastophies that do not follow a normal distribution, and from what we've seen so far, nuclear meltdowns are not of a typical size; a power distribution is likely to be closer, as is the case in most situations exhibiting self-organised criticality.

For the record, I do favour fission, as a self-limiting reaction seems to be precisely what is called for. I don't see that we should make do with an unstable system because the stable system hasn't been made to work yet. I am not opposed to new "weird science"; I am rather weary of a system of generating power that is based upon holding an inherently unstable reaction within bounds.

Also, I have to say that I am not a member of any specifically green groups, so "gulit by association" is not only bad logic, but in my case misplaced.

Finally (responding to "Damn hippies!" above), I have a bit more integrity than to cling to famous figures that I happen to agree with. History is tosh (except as a source of data). I believe that my stance is rational, and not a response to fear, and finding characters that are part of the "same movement" is tiresome and doesn't addess the point.

Tim Wesson

"The Pimp" Misrepresents the Point

Dominic (The Pimp) Connor does a great hatchet job, but clearly isn't reading for meaning, but rather just rebuts points singly without attemption to see what I am really saying.

The reason why the distribution, and not only averages matters is easy to see with a simple example: what if a nation (with a very small probability) were wiped out? The fact that on average you might be better off doesn't mean that you're better off over all.

If you want the maths for it, it's straightforward: it is rational to act to maximise the log of your wealth if you're a gambler. Halving your wealth should be compared fairly with doubling it. If you lose 50%, gaining 50% next time won't put you right. Only for small numbers is averaging a reasonably thing to do.

Risking being wiped out should be done for a higher value, such as liberty, rather than for a form of energy that could easily be substituted.

With regard to risk, I'm not simply arguing that all engineering calculation is useless; clearly if a power station is built, it should be built to high standards. However, human nature is such that such risks are pushed. The safer the system, the more leeway is felt by those who are running the system. Allowing for human psychology, there isn't even proportionality between paper and real risk.

As for Keeping up With the Joneses, Domonic makes out that nuclear power is the only possible source of energy (since he is comparing growth with non-growth). Maybe he himself is the arts graduate in making such ridiculus assumptions.

As for the history, who cares if Benn has supported nuclear power? He's not the reason why it's current government policy to push it regardless. Tony Benn's opinion is frankly an irrelevancy.

Tim Wesson

Various Disasters

I am amazed at how short peoples' memories are: we've experienced enough nuclear disasters to be rationally a bit weary of them. These disasters have almost always been due to some kind of human error, or even human arrogance (Chernobyl), so neat engineering calculations proving the saftey of the system are moot. Not only that, but the disribution of risk (a small chance of something going catastrophically wrong) should not be dealt with in an averaged manner.

Blair wanted "forward-thinking" nuclear power essentially to prove that Labour had moved on. This is an argument that has nothing to do with safety or efficiency (BTW the big inefficiency is waste disposal, in response to James Anderson's observation).

People aren't wearing their common sense hat when discussing nuclear power; instead the argument is about being modern or old. Keeping up with the Joneses is not a good basis for policy, although you do see so much of it in politics. Perhaps instead we should be "ahead" where it makes sense to be ahead, and be "behind" where it doesn't.

Microsoft: New Live Search 'as good as Google'

Tim Wesson

At Last, "Quantum Jump" Being Used Correctly!

"Overall, we feel we've made a quantum jump on our core relevance," Nadella said.

A quantum jump or leap is of course the smallest possible change in energy - to the next quantum level!

Kung fu monks battle Colombian karate assassins

Tim Wesson

Who forgot Bruce Schneier?


Pentagon bins home-front threat database

Tim Wesson


Fluffy Bunnies is no good. Jobs that involve power are no good if it's all responsibility. Power is appealing because it puts the powerful individual higher up in the pecking order. To this purpose, obscurity is no good.

Fluffy Bunnies would only be sensible as a name if the power were really being used in the citizen's interest, or else the Pentagon was really a conspiracy against the citizen. In truth, it is simply a matter of those with power strutting their stuff. Genes make us dumb, as well as cunning.

Robber held up bookies with vibrator

Tim Wesson

Five Years?

This ruling troubles me. Five years stikes me as excessive for inducing fear without assualt. We are increasingly responding to phantoms in our legislation and court-cases, and this is not good for society.

A ruling based upon perception rather than real risk fits right in to our modern "we're very scared" attitude, but is clearly a signpost on the road to serfdom.

The judge appears to be ruling that it wouldn't be much worse if the guy had used a real gun. This is such obvious nonsense, it is hard (for me) to comprehend. Do we want to encourage armed robbery?

Now you see us, now you don't: ICANN goes transparent

Tim Wesson


Surely a better name would be UCANT ?

Beavis and Butthead in London jihad

Tim Wesson


It seems to me that those who are supporting liberty (ie. the restraint of law) in the face of terrorism are resorting to facts, whereas those who are supporting the state are exaggerating one-off incidents, or looking to arguments like "What are you going to tell the families of the victims?".

It all comes down to whether we should have a rational policy or one dictated by emotion as felt by authoritarians (the viceral dislike of government encroachment as felt by libertarians doesn't count).

Historically, government has always reassured people, emphasised the odds, and told people to continue going about their business in the face of terrorism. By steering from the responsible course, it is the government that is exposing authority to ridicule. But what other course is available to those who want a responsible policy reinstated? Argument doesn't appear to work.

Disasters (explosions, floods, chemical fires, road accidents) occur every day. Families are always distraught. They reasonably ask whether a factory could have had better saftey procedures, or whether cars could be made to go slower along a stretch of road. A billion pounds allocating to saving lives from such accidents would almost certainly lead to none being spend upon terrorism, except as a useful side-effect of other spending.

What makes terror different isn't the sufferring of relations, or the degree of commitment by professionals; it is one thing only: media coverage. The sufferring of those close to the victims is a smokescreen for our own feelings of empathy. But our empathy is uninformed, since so much sufferring isn't news.

The result is governernment by not reason but emotion. If you want oppression, this is where you start.

New, New Labour gets new logo and website

Tim Wesson


Purple for Labour, then (and for the Cameron). But a complete absence of yellow.

The message is obvious, if their policies aren't enough to persuade you:

Labour and Conservative alike are moving to a new /illiberal/ stance on everything. New slogan: tough on everything. Tough in the head!

Patent damages not refunded if EPO cancels patent

Tim Wesson

Justice and Intent

Richard Simpson's comment misses something important: patent law is primarily of interest to business, or (more generally) to economic agents. It would be unjust to make a matter of simple arbitration long-winded, for that makes it impossible for such agents to plan.

Surely such law should be resolved in the interests of business, unless there's a clear public interest otherwise. It is worth remembering that the lone inventor is also protected in that the decision, if made in his favour, cannot be overturned by the EPO.

Europe is pro big business; more so than Britain. If you doubt this, look to who gains the most from the Common Agricultural Policy. Further, the EPO have been lobbying strongly for software patents to be valid, whereas a British court has ruled that they are not.

This decision helps the small guy. The judge's reasoning was about business interest in speedy resolution, not about big business interest. Speedy resolution favours the small guy, as larger business cannot simply cause court costs to hemorrhage.