* Posts by James Cullingham

46 publicly visible posts • joined 20 Oct 2009

Bon Jovi, Billy Eilish, other musicians implore AI devs to think of humanity

James Cullingham

Re: Hmm

I initially thought that it was amanfrommars commenting

Lawsuit claims Google Maps led dad of two over collapsed bridge to his death

James Cullingham

Hard for Google to claim ignorance

On the stretch of road where the bridge was, the StreetView images are dated October 2012.

Approaching from one end of the road the images are dated May 2019. From the last of these you can see the collapsed bridge, and you can also see that there is a fairly flimsy barricade. Presumably the camera car could see that the road was impassable, as it went no further. That would have been a good time to update the map.

Approaching from the other end the images are dated May 2023, and now concrete blocks are visible, mostly blocking access to the former bridge from both sides. Again, the camera car would clearly have been very aware that the road was impassable.

So I think Google could and should have updated their records. But their failure should never have resulted in anything more than inconvenience.

As of 2019, at least, though, the signage and blocking of the road was pitiful.

But, as far back as 2019, and still in 2023, so clearly also at the time of the accident, there were (small) trees growing up in the space where the bridge had been. A competent driver, proceeding sensibly down an unfamiliar single-track road, should have been going slowly enough that seeing a tree in front of them should have been enough to cause them to stop safely.

I would pin a substantial amount of the blame on the blame on the driver and the rest on whoever is responsible for maintaining the road.

Braking news: Tesla preps firmware fling to 'fix' Model 3's inability to stop in time

James Cullingham

Braking FUD

Following the link to the page on that Driving Test website, we can see that it correctly gives the thinking & stopping distances from the Highway Code. At 30mph, this gives 30' (9m) thinking distance and 45' (14m) braking distance. Total is therefore 75' (23m).

It also states: "Broadly speaking, stopping distances double when you’ve got wet conditions. On ice it’s worse: they’re ten times greater. So if, driving on a normal sunny day at 30mph, it takes you 23 metres to stop (that includes the time it takes you to see the hazard, process it, and react), then in icy conditions it could take you as much as 230 metres to stop."

Seriously? My thinking time is also going to be multiplied by 10?

No, my thinking distance will remain at 1 double-decker bus, not 10

SpaceX blasted massive plasma hole in Earth's ionosphere

James Cullingham

Disturbances in the wash (Eddies in the space-time continuum)


10 PRINT "ZX81 at 37" 20 GOTO 10

James Cullingham

Every byte counted

My 'favourite' feature related to the storage of numeric constants that formed part of a line of BASIC. As background, you have to bear in mind that the machine was very storage constrained, but also very performance-constrained, especially when it came to FP arithmetic.

Say, for example, you had a line

10 LET A=1

10, as the line number, was stored in 2 bytes

LET was a keyword, so was stored as a single byte token

A and = obviously took 1 byte each

But then came the numeric constant 1. Due to the performance hit of parsing that into an 5 byte FP representation (1 byte exponent, 4 byte mantissa), this was done as the line was entered, so what actually ended up in memory was the code for the character 1, followed by the marker byte 0x7E, followed by 5 more bytes of data.

Horror! One character took 7 bytes!

It was actually more efficient to write instead


because PI was, again, a single byte tokenised keyword, so now you had 3 bytes instead of 7 - a substantial saving and one that would add up over the length of a full program.

Similarly 3 was INT(PI), and arbitrary constants were, IIRC e.g. INT("12345") (still saving 3 bytes).

You got the performance back by writing every-increasing amounts in machine code (process: write it out, then hand-assemble, then create a hex entry utility, then type in the entire codebase in hex)

And you saved bytes in your machine code by referring to your disassembly of the entire ROM (published as a book - https://k1.spdns.de/Vintage/Sinclair/80/Sinclair%20ZX81/ROMs/zx81%20version%202%20%27improved%27%20rom%20disassembly%20%28Logan,%20O%27Hara%29.html) to see if you could abything from a full routine down to a few bytes here and there.

Happy days!

Tell the public how much our tram tickets cost? Are you mad?

James Cullingham


... please

Terry Pratchett's unfinished works flattened by steamroller

James Cullingham

At least we have been spared...

the wringing out of every last drop of blood, or rather money, from whatever jottings he may have left, at whatever cost to his memory.

Christopher Tolkien, I'm looking at you...

BBC’s Micro:bit turns out to be an excellent drone hijacking tool

James Cullingham

Re: RE: only 16MHz?


Dead serious: How to haunt people after you've gone... using your smartphone

James Cullingham


That'll be "Extreme Pedantry", not "Extreme Pedants"

DIY self-driving cars are closer than they appear (and we're not talking about in the mirror)

James Cullingham

Re: As usual SF has got there first.

for which he ignored the three laws!

Lap(top) of luxury: Porsche Design revs up 2-in-1 Windows 10 slab

James Cullingham

Re: Built in Taiwan

Also, of course, piss-taken by


Pack your bags! NASA spots SEVEN nearby Earth-sized alien worlds

James Cullingham

Re: 44 million years for a jet to get there

As long as there are lemon-soaked paper napkins

BT installs phone 'spam filter', says it'll strain out mass cold-callers

James Cullingham

And on the screen?

me: it says "Would you like to play a game?"

Got to dash out for some rubber johnnies? Amazon has a button for that

James Cullingham

The birth of the Eloi

I think we've found the singularity for the Eloi/Morlock split

GMB tests Uber 'self-employed drivers' claim at London tribunal

James Cullingham

Re: I cannot understand the merits of this case

Uber is acting as a marketplace - it brings service providers and potential customers together, and takes a fee for the privilege. As part of this, it may or may not choose to put measures in place to ensure that a satisfactory standard of service is being offered, as that protects its own reputation and therefore business.

It seems therefore that it is entirely valid to compare it to, say, eBay, which does exactly the same thing. If I start a business selling goods on eBay, and earn enough to make a living, that emphatically does not make me an employee.

The only difference is that in the case of eBay, payment is earned for selling items, whereas in the case of Uber, an argument could be offered that this is more of a personal services scenario. But it isn't - a driver is not being paid for their time per se, but for the fact that they have completed the service that was required, i.e. to move people from place to place. If they drive more slowly, they will earn less. This is not how employment works.

Please note that I makes no difference to me one way or the other - it just seems so clear cut that I genuinely don't understand how the GMB feel that they have any legal basis to their case.

James Cullingham

I cannot understand the merits of this case

Please correct me if any of the following are wrong.

(1) Uber drivers are solely responsible for ensuring they have a car. So they have the fixed costs of buying or leasing a vehicle, as well as paying for insurance, VED, maintenance/repairs, etc, plus the variable costs of petrol, congestion charge/tools etc.

(2) Uber drivers can choose when to work, and for how long.

(3) Drivers are rated 1 - 5 stars by customers, but drivers can also rate customers - implying that they are free not to accept a fare if, for example, a prospective customer has received poor ratings.

If the above are in fact correct, then it seems absolutely clear that the drivers must be self-employed, and must accept both the benefits and the risks that come with that.

In particular, how can (1) and (2), taken together, be consistent with the idea of a minimum wage. If a driver, in a particular month, has fixed costs in relation to their vehicle of, say, £300, and they only choose to work for 2 hours, should Uber pay them £314 just to ensure that their 'wages', aka profit, for the month corresponds to £7/hour for the hours worked. Why would this be fair when compared to the case of the driver who works 234 hours?

Planet 9 a captured alien, astroboffins suggest

James Cullingham

So, it's apparently

Planet 9 from Outer Space

Apple stuns world with Donald Trump iPhone

James Cullingham

Re: Miniature big iPad

I think you'll find it's called a Birmingham screwdriver (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Birmingham_screwdriver)

TalkTalk incident management: A timeline

James Cullingham

Have I understood correctly?

So, if you can prove that you have actually been robbed as a result of their possible negligence, then by way of compensation they won't charge you for switching to a potentially more responsible provider.

Wow, that's really generous.

Prognosticator, for one, welcomes our new robot work colleagues

James Cullingham

"Canon fodder"?

Interesting image, but perhaps not as threatening as what you actually meant to say...

Power your temperature sensor with this BONKERS router hack

James Cullingham


Made me think of this:


It's the FALKLANDS SYNDROME! Fukushima MELTDOWN to cause '10,000 Chernobyls' in South Atlantic

James Cullingham

Very amusing

And I liked the completely gratuitous Blackadder reference too

$500 TEDDY BEAR teaches tots to spit up personal data

James Cullingham

Made me think of this


Ford recalls SUVs … to fix the UI

James Cullingham

Re: Push-button gear change? Really?

Use case for manual disengagement is a slow downhill start.

I found this shortly after getting a Renault Laguna with automatic handbrake. I parked in a short drive that sloped steeply uphill away from the road, such that to start I had to reverse into the road, first easing back to check visibility. At the time I had not spotted that the brake could be disengaged by applying the footbrake then operating the manual switch, so achieved this by selecting reverse, applying sufficient torque to get the parking brake to disengage automatically, then getting very quickly onto the footbrake before shooting out into the road. Much nicer, obviously, to disengage manually then roll back gently.


James Cullingham

Re: Time

Of course time is an illusion, lunchtime doubly so. We all know this - it's in our DNA

How HAPPY am I on a scale of 1 to 10? Where do I click PISSED OFF?

James Cullingham

Yes Prime Minister on surveys/opinion polls


Technology quiz reveals that nobody including quiz drafters knows anything about IT

James Cullingham

Re: The Moore's Law question result ...

Even if they had looked up the answer to this one it is easy to be led astray. If, for instance, you visit mooreslaw.org — a site which certainly sounds authoritative — and the home page is headed "Moore's Law, or How overall processing power for computers will double every two years".

The text then states:

"Moore’s Law is a computing term which originated around 1970; the simplified version of this law states that processor speeds, or overall processing power for computers will double every two years. A quick check among technicians in different computer companies shows that the term is not very popular but the rule is still accepted.

"To break down the law even further, it specifically stated that the number of transistors on an affordable CPU would double every two years (which is essentially the same thing that was stated before) but ‘more transistors’ is more accurate."

So if you don't read very far you will be considerably misled. No wonder people are confused.

At least Wikipedia is more helpful.

Range Rover to fit trendy new SUV with FRIKKIN' LASER HUDs

James Cullingham

Display of selected gear

Potentially useful if you have a semi-automatic/sequential gearbox, as although the rev counter/your ears might well let you know if your gear is appropriate you wouldn't necessarily know which actual gear it is unless you count diligently


James Cullingham

So it's true...

It's all about the bottom line

Reg readers tumesce as they get their tongues round 'podule'

James Cullingham

Rowan Atkinson/Zak the Alien

He uses the word podule to refer to his translating device in this skit from the his live show in the late 80s. Of course, the word lends itself to his delivery.


If you haven't seen it, it is highly recommended

Hands up who wants 3D finger-controlled fridges? That's the spirit

James Cullingham


How can anybody believe that this is useful. It can't possibly be in the interest of consumers having to remember different gestures to achieve the same result on different manufacturers' kit.

Say I have a certain brand of TV, and I've carefully learnt all the gestures required to control it. Maybe manufacturers will now see that I am locked in as I am less likely to want to relearn these skills if I switch to a different brand of TV. But the truth is that I (and vast numbers of people with less interest in learning arcane hand movements) will just not bother using these features, and will probably be more inclined to choose a brand that doesn't waste our time with them. All in all an own goal.

Imagine cars, if in the early days someone had patented 'using little sticks on the control column to operate the indicators' or 'moving the gear lever in an H pattern to move through a sequence of gears'. Nobody would have a clue what they were doing. Standardisation helps everybody, and rushing to patent obvious things just blocks the development of usable standards.

Rocket boffinry in pictures: Gulp the Devil's venom and light a match

James Cullingham

Re: Obligatory

*looks up the title on amazon.co.uk*

There the cheapest second hand copy is £80, and there is an additional copy at an astonishing £1,336.29 (plus £2.80 P&P). That must be a hell of a book

Finally - a solution to let people make money online WITHOUT ads?

James Cullingham

Re: Academics don't get anything from the existing system

I believe that are more careful reading will reveal that the comment was actually aimed at academics whose field of expertise is copyright law, rather than those who publish other material.

Read first, understand, then comment...

Slideshow: A History of Horror in 20 Scary Games

James Cullingham

Foolishly, I was expecting that there would actually be a slideshow here

Silly old me

Ten... eight-bit classic games

James Cullingham

Three for the BBC: Citadel (featuring speech synthesis, for the intro anyway), Repton and Revs

ISPs should get 'up to' full fee for 'up to' broadband

James Cullingham

Split charge

Why not split the charging, like with phone calls? Your monthly charge would then have two components.

First, the 'line rental' equivalent, i.e. your payment for the ISP making a connection available. It would be not unreasonable for this to be based on speed. When I signed up with BT I was told what speed to expect (6Mb vs advertised 8Mb) and this has proved a good estimate. Other posted above have clearly had similar experiences. So, this part could be based on a reasonable (and periodically reviewable in case of significant changes in infrastructure, contention levels etc) assessment of expected speed.

Second would be a usage-based fee, presumably charged in arrears, representing a fair share of the backhaul capcaity etc.

The balance between the two would be an additional area of differentation between ISPs. No doubt in practice most would offer a bundle including a certain amount of data, as now, but for fair pricing there would ideally be much less bundling.

After all, who should pay more: the rural-dweller with a 1Mb connection that keeps it busy 24/7 (monthly throughput 300GB+ unless my maths are out) or the urbanite with a 200Mb connection whose only use is checking email and a bit of shopping. I don't know the answer to that, as they're paying for different things: one is primarily paying for the exchange to premises connection and the other primarily for backhaul.

BOFH: We don't need no stinkin' upgrade

James Cullingham

To the pain!

So, version 4 is the ears?

Post-pub nosh deathmatch: Kapsalon v quesadillas

James Cullingham

"The anything in this case was *advocado* and ..."

Maybe just me, but especially with the Dutch connection I thought this was going to involve eating a lawyer...

AES crypto broken by 'groundbreaking' attack

James Cullingham

Mostly dead...

'"Alive" is not a function of time, but a point-in-time attribute'?

You tell that to Miracle Max and the Man In Black

Hackers pierce network with jerry-rigged mouse

James Cullingham



Cross-dresser kills goat while high on bath salts

James Cullingham


Surely a 'caprine killer' would be a killer who was in some way goat-like (and possibly was, in fact, a goat)? It seems that you have missed the opportunity to use the word 'capricide'.

Tory councillor arrested over 'stoning to death' tweet

James Cullingham

And all she originally said was

that this halibut was good enough for Jehovah

DfT 'unwittingly' bigged-up speed camera benefits

James Cullingham

Set the limits right for more respect

As has been pointed out, speed limits would be respected more if they showed more evidence of having been set carefully and with the aim of increasing road safety rather than, for example, satisfying some political objective or of saving effort for the person setting them.

Here is a fine example of illogic: http://maps.google.co.uk/?ll=52.997323,-1.524943

The main road - the B5023 - has a 50mph limit, as do all the main roads within a radius of several miles. I'm not necessarily disagreeing with this, incidentally: it is a lovely road but does have a number of field entrances and agricultural traffic, so perhaps it makes sense (at least for some stretches). The limit was reduced a few years ago (5ish).

But look at the short stretch of road that resembles a layby. It's about 150m long and serves three houses and a pub. No traffic will use that road unless to access one of those four destinations. Yet the limit there is 60mph (you can confirm that with Streetview)! Admittedly I'm not sure how fast a car would need to be to reach that speed in the space, but you may still ask why. Presumably it made the paperwork easier (only one road for which the limit was being changed), although it did mean that more signs had to be installed.

While we're at it, look at side the road opposite. Again, this carefully tells drivers that they may now drive at 60mph. But Streetview will also confirm that (a) this is a much smaller road than the main road, with a poorer surface; and (b) a few feet after the national speed limit sign are two warning signs indicating that the road narrows and is bumpy, because there are bridges over the river and railway.

Some limits should be higher. Some should be lower. But either way they should be properly thought out and relevant, so that 'my judgement was that I could safely drive above the limit' ceases to become a valid statement. Then, and only then, we can talk about proper enforcement (e.g. using GPS).

Final point: much though I hate them, I respect average speed cameras much more than spot ones. You still get numpties braking for them, but at least they mean that if, for instance, it becomes necessary to exceed the speed limit temporarily (e.g. because it is the quickest, and therefore safest, way of overtaking a slow-moving vehicle) then it can be done without necessarily falling foul of the machine.

Nasa returns to the moon... in 3D game

James Cullingham

Yes, retro

I thought the name sounded familiar...


UK arms industry 'same as striking coal miners' - Army head

James Cullingham

Artillery or cavalry?

So, which of these is it that raises matters above the vulgar brawl level? I thought it was artillery (blame Civilisation 4!) and Google supports this (214k hits for 'artillery "what would otherwise be a vulgar brawl"' vs 22k for 'cavalry "what would otherwise be a vulgar brawl"'. Does anyone happen to know the real story?

Blogging vicar casts Tina Turner into hell

James Cullingham

@AC "Religion and the Empty Shell..."

> Once the sole is departed, its an empty husk. Toss it in the rubish, No ceremony required.

I take it you don't believe in Cod, then?