* Posts by Jimbo

8 publicly visible posts • joined 23 May 2007

Brighton professor bans Google


My Two Cents.

A couple of thoughts on reading these messages:

@ Robert Long

>There's almost no information on the Web so it's not a big deal.

>Seriously. People who think the web is a research tool are the ones

>who are out of touch.

I must be out of touch then. I'm studying Computer Science at the mo, so by the

reckoning of some here it's a "proper" degree. I have found information on the 'Net, and used it for projects which have scored quite well.

@ Risky

>This is another reason why employers will increasingly value (and pay for)

> hard science degrees where wikipedia can't really help much.

I was studying Computer Systems Architecture recently, and wished to find out more about chip architecture, so I started with Wikipedia using the phrase CPU.

This rather quickly lead me to information about pipelines, a method used for speeding up throughput. Having not read much about this yet I pasted the header for the page into Google on a new tab.


This is the page it sent me to.

The fifth entry on this page is for "stanford.edu" Yep, Stanford University.

O.K. so the first two hits went back to Wikipedia, the third to a management

strategies company, but hits four and five were universities.

My point is that Wikipedia is not the destination when researching, but it can

be quite handy as a first step to find other connected areas for further study.

@ Keith T

>Or was she put off when she was looking for info on Paris -- I got to page

>four on Google before finding anything about Greek mythology.

Understandable. But if you were looking for Greek mythology in a library

would you check the book list for anything that mentioned Paris and go to

every book in order until you found the information you sought?

I would pass on anything in the travel section, or foreign languages etc.

and add the term "Greek mythology" to my initial search. The same thing

works in Google.

Albeit the first link is one for Wikipedia, but all five of the top links are


Both Google and Wikipedia are useful, but not the end point of my research.


Datapocalypse Now


Can't see what all the fuss is about.

There seems to be a lot of commotion surrounding the loss of two DVDs full of information. I could see the problem if it was lost by a private company, they have to comply with rules laid down by the Information Commissioner. They have to say what info they are keeping, what they need it for, how long they will keep it, how they will keep the info updated and current.

But no, it was lost by a government department, and they laugh at such restrictions.

They have told us they need the information, and that they will keep it safe. What more convincing do us plebs really need?

If it was a private company, their key issues now would be trying to avoid a catastrophic breakdown in customer and shareholder trust. The people at the top would be doing their best to avoid being hung, drawn and quartered.

But no, it's the government. So the main issues are getting the PFY with no IT knowledge to complete the task given by the boss with no IT knowledge.

Result? Keep burning and sending discs until one gets through, problem solved.

One truly shocking quote that told me the person at the top should now be on income support/ in prison was:

"Edward Leigh, the Conservative chairman of the Commons public accounts committee, said the NAO had only asked for basic details about child benefit recipients, without information on personal bank accounts, but was told by "high level" officials that it would be "too burdensome" for HMRC officials to separate out this data." ***

Anyone who has done even the most basic SQL course will know how to structure a query to do just that within a couple of seconds. So the people at the top have no idea what they are doing. The people at the bottom carrying out these orders have no idea what they are doing.

At what point does this become safe?

Ah yes, it's the point where they have all the tax funding they need to buy a REALLY big supplies cupboard with LOTS of blank DVDs in it. Eventually, one copy of the information is going to get through, and that's all we plebs should worry our pretty little heads about.

Point to ponder:

How many dismembered heads do you think would line the streets if the information lost was how much MPs earn, how much tax they pay, where they live, childrens names and any other information needed to have them picking up the pieces for years afterwards?

But that's never going to happen. Anyone who can turn a computer on best two out of three is looking after their information. The stone age neanderthals are performing that service for the rest of us.

*** - Quote taken from:



I chose the pirate icon as it's something I can relate to. They had no respect for the government either ;)

Pirated Simpsons movie traced to phone


The concept of theft.

I am most intrigued by the idea that a download of a film is theft.

Don't get me wrong, I understand that going into HMV and taking a DVD from the shelf, then leaving without paying is theft. The DVD has taken money to produce, and once it has been removed it cannot be sold to another person. But a copy of something? Immoral maybe, but criminal?

It does take the assumption that once I have seen the film I will no longer wish to purchase it. There is also an assumption that I would have purchased it in the first place. Before it became easy to get copies of films through the internet There were many films I did not see, as I did not think the experience was worth the asking price. I have also purchased many legitimate copies of films. In the loft I have over 500 videos, and I have book cases with a current total of around 300 DVDs. The price I paid for these numbers in the thousands of pounds, the value now for the whole lot would probably be less than £200. The legitimate copies of films de-value faster than cars, and to be honest I don't think the drunken/stoned ramblings of the director/actor really qualify for the huge mark up over the cost of the raw materials. All I really want to see is the film, I doubt I have seen the extras on a fifth of the films I own.

So what incentive do I have to buy a legitimate copy? The key idea behind ANY free market is that goods are only worth what people are prepared to pay for them. Many people are no longer prepared to pay the price that is being asked, and if that many people are willing to watch a film that was recorded on a phone surely this must raise a few questions in Hollywood. The upside of this golden age of communication is that a far larger audience can be reached, so far more viewings of a film can be sold. But greater numbers will de-value the product, and tha studios do not seem to have taken this into account. The works of Da Vinci sell for millions, but there aren't many of them. If you could reproduce each painting millions of times, and each was indistinguishable from the original, you would not be able to charge millions for every one of them, though this seems to be what the film industry is trying to do.

As Bob Dylan sang, "The times they are a changin". The studios have made a phenominal amount of money for the entertainment they have provided, most of it when they had a strangle hold on the distribution. Times have changed, and in a very short space of time they have lost the grip they once had. Hard to adapt it may be, but adapt they must, as they cannot turn the clock back.

And a quick note for those who say that there will be no profit in making films anymore, so the industry will be terminally damaged.. If that is the case, why has the music industry not collapsed? They had to make some difficult choices, and the transition was painful and is still ongoing. But the quality of music is improving as more artists can get their music to a larger audience. If it is good, people will pay, but you can no longer easily tell people what to like, you must let them make their own choices. $250m spent on a film will not guarantee the biggest profit of the year, a good story does not need the best special effects. Hopefully these changes will allow studios with less financial clout to show what they can do.


Cinema - A dying concept?

Has the cinema heard the death knell?

I personally believe so. The "Cinema experience" of which affictionados are so keen just doesn't seem to bear the same value it used to.

Let's start by looking at what this experience offers, and I'll be generous and start with the positive points.

First up, the silver screen. (I know that silver is no longer used, but I'm looking back to when a cinema trip was somewhat magical, through the vaseline soft focus of memory.) Yes, the picture is huge, the size of one side of a house. The ideal place to sit in order to get the maximum enjoyment is right in the middle of the room. The problem is, this is only optimum for about twenty people in a room with 200 odd people in it. I've been sat in the front ten rows before now, and within ten minutes I was at the front desk demanding my money back. If I'm watching a dramatic close up I like to be able to see both of the actors eyes at the same time, preferably without having to move my head. The equivalent with a TV or computer monitor is being about one inch from the screen. How often do you watch something on your computer with your chin resting on the keyboard? Probably not all that often.

Next up, the sound system. I like the speech in a movie to be clear, and if there's an explosion I like to feel a thump that puts all of my internal organs into new and interesting positions. Surround sound also brings a new level of immersion into the action. The cinema provides all of this, and does the job well. Most televisions fall foul on this one (unless you have a seperate speaker set up). Reproducing the wealth of audio information through the two small speakers you get on the average telly gives you an idea of what the sound could be, you can tell the difference between the high and low notes certainly. But all the sound comes out in the same rough frequency range as the human voice. That's why someone talking when you watch TV completely obliterates the sound (worse for blokes, who are designed to mono-task. Especially those who turn off the stereo\TV when talking on the phone, you know who you are!)

This point loses its impact though, when you think that most people who use a computer to view films have speakers that can re-create this effect, and if other people talking during the film really gets to you, lock them out of the room while you watch!

Those are the only plus points I can think of, film buffs may be able to come up with more, but my experience is limited.

Negative points....... Now here I will try to keep it brief in the effort to maintain a balanced argument.

The cost. This one's a biggie. Seeing ten films at the cinema with a small bag of sweeties each time, washed down with the obligatory bucket of badly mixed syrupy Coke costs the same as:

an external hard drive large enough to store all the films you download, and those your friends download.

A set of speakers that will rival the cinema experience in any room smaller than a warehouse.

A reasonably fast 'net connection for a few months (which not only deals with viewing media, but brings social networking and news feeds from such lovely organisations as ElReg....)

I like to walk to my seat after getting the film going without the spaceage adhesive qualities of the floor removing both my boots and socks. I once saw a film three times in a row, as the floor had stuck to my bare feet and I had to be removed from the cinema surgically. (Ok, I exagerate, but you can see the nugget of truth there if you look hard enough..)

I like to pause the film when I want to go to the bathroom. Two hundred people sat in a dark room full of exciting loud noises, all drinking their bucket of badly mixed soft drink, 'cos they can't charge you the best part of a fiver for a can. You can probably see where I'm going with this, and why you should be grateful that you never get to see the super sticky floor. But then again, if you are paying the GDP of a small country to watch a film you can't pause, I can see why you would be reluctant to walk the 2.5 miles past all the other screens to get to the toilets. Just avoid any Coke buckets left on the floor as you walk out. (There are always a few, as they never fit in the drink holders).

Seating. When watching a film I like to assume the sort of boneless posture that would make a drowsy cat feel uncomfortable to look at. The person next to you does get all unnecessary when you rest your foot on top of their head....

The type of seating with a drink holder too small to fit my drink in, but with ample room to loose my small bag of sweeties (which are worth more by weight than printer ink, and that's saying something!), coupled with a seat arm that's just slightly thinner than half the width of my forearm, but supposed to be shared by two people...Go figure.

Having said all of that, I do know some people do enjoy the experience. That's ok by me, it's just that my opinion differs.

I would like to point out at this juncture that I do not put terrorist children through college by downloading copies of films. Not me. No sir.

I have trancended to the next level of evil, and only copy films where the direct result funds the invasion of Earth by aliens. The aliens are twice as evil as the terrorists, they just don't have the same level of PR budget.

As a disclaimer against the omnipotent RIAA, I have never knowingly funded any terrorists or aliens by viciously stealing hideously overpriced media. Honest. I just like clicking on flashing links, and therefore am too stupid to be held accountable for my own actions. And I was out of the country/having tea with granny when any films may or may not have been downloaded.


US car thieves floored by manual gearbox



I'm suprised that more cars aren't offered with a "crunch box". There are some wonderful designs out there for just changing gear. With the crunch box you have no clutch, just like an auto, you just drop it into the gear you want. Despite the name you don't actually get the crunch noise, and after a while you forget all about the clutch. The next motor I got into, I kept stalling it every time I came to a stop, just like after driving an auto.

And if you think car gearboxes are fun, you should try driving a truck. I passed my test in a truck with 21 gears for forwards and 3 for backwards. That gives you enough ratios to climb a wall, but you don't tend to use them all, you just jump gears.

Then there was the optional tiptronic gearbox on one truck that had 29 gears for forward. It was a semi auto (no clutch) and you could choose if you wanted it to go up/down 1 or 3 gears at a time.

The all time worst box I came across had 8 forward gears, with the standard layout for a four speed box. When you got to fourth, you flipped a switch and started again in first (fifth gear) and worked up the box again. The problem was that when the truck was empty, you pulled away in 4th. This meant that the first change was into first after flipping the switch. Damn that was slow. And if you forgot the switch it made a really great noise which let everyone around know how much fun you were having.......

Creationists open biblical history museum


It's easy to pick a religion apart.

I find this topic quite interesting from a spectators point of view.

Me, I am not religious. But I have studied most of the major religions through general interest, and most of them seem to have something in common. They all seem to start with someone saying "Be nice to each other, treat others the way you wish to be treated yourself."

At the time these religions gained popularity, they became the central legal system for the towns and villages in which people lived. This is fine for small disputes, but it can cause trouble when scaled up. If changing the way a particular phrase is worded in the "holy text" can incite hatred, or be used to gain power over others, then human nature would dictate that this has happened at some point. (Unless EVERY person in every religious hierarchy was never motivated by peer pressure or personal gain.)

This is why the Catholic church objected to the printing press (not that I have anything against them, it's just history). If everyone has a copy of the "holy text" then it's a lot harder to change things.

Even changing a text from one language to another will cause inconsistencies, as there may be no equivalent phrase in the other language, without factoring in regional dialects or changing slang.

Anyway, I digress. I'm all for religion if it can make you a better person. I know a few people who's lives are led in a very religious way (not all the same religion), and they are nice people. (If a little strange)

I know some assholes who are very religious, who seem to think that being nice to others isn't necessary as they are not specifically told to be nice to anyone who wears a hat/ is tall/ looks different to me.

I don't think any of the religious texts are written now exactly as they were when conceived, and by now are just as fictional as whatever the Creationists / Scientologists/ teletubbies have managed to come up with. Think of it like newspapers, each has it's own slant on the story, and if the story is around long enough you could read two different papers and think they were two different events. And sensationalism sells, whether you are selling books, DVD's or religion.

Pay-as-you-drive roads coming to the UK


Infinite money pot.

The government in this country seems to view the car owners in this way. The reason that so many cars are on the road is that public transport is, in many cases, not a viable alternative.

A lot of the congestion comes from the poor quality of the roads, the fact that they are being dug up by one company after another and poorly repaired afterwards. It's a wonder you don't see workmen waiting for the hole to be filled so they can dig it up again.

This is used as a way of ensuring a budget by some companies. If you had £3m to spend on maintaining your phone network this year, but only used half of it, then you may only get £1.5m next year. So why not pay for a huge hole to be dug in the middle of a busy road, leave it for a few weeks, then fill it in again. As most companies can state how long they will disrupt the traffic, and there is no governing body with the power to say "This is how long it will take, finish by this time or don't start", they can take as long as they like.

Stop digging up the roads and leaving the works unattended, and this may improve the congestion. Get the traffic moving and maybe public transport will become more viable (I know this is not the only problem, and a lot more investment is needed, but hey, it's a start!).

If the money raised by taxing car users was only allowed to be spent on the roads, there would be no point in introducing all the new taxes (once we have nice shiny gold plated roads, with a seperate lane for each car!).

So far we have:

Fuel tax

Car tax (to use the roads)

Impending Pay as you go tax

VAT on the purchace of the car

And now the added joy of not being able to find a parking space that you don't have to pay even more for (one tax for when the car is moving, another for when it is stationary!). This, in turn, brings in more revenue for local councils in parking fines. In my area, to park within a three mile radius of my home costs £1.50 per hour, plus £60 a time if you are late getting back to your car.

Why do I own a car you may ask?

Have you tried getting around by bus? is my reply.

Mars: more evidence of a watery past


Centripetal force.

Someone wrote:

>And what, exactly, is 'centripetal force'? Would it be some mutation of, or distant relative of, 'centrifugal force'? That's just >hilarious.

If you have two pods attached by a cable spinning on a central axis (to generate artificial gravity), then centrifugal force would stick the astronauts to the floor (outside edge) of the pod.

The centripetal force would be the floor pushing up towards the axis, stopping the astronauts from flying off in opposite directions.

(at least this is what I'm lead to believe by a certain wiki site!)

Hope this clears it up.