* Posts by Tom Hawkins

65 publicly visible posts • joined 5 Oct 2006


Learn you Func Prog on five minute quick!

Tom Hawkins

Re: Rule 3: Functions should be curried.

[n + 4 for n in input]


Safari, Opera browsers patch-shy, says study

Tom Hawkins

So it's not just me...

...who's had to give up on Firefox after every single update to v3 tries to auto-install itself, fails (apparently because the user isn't an administrator) and leaves a mangled mess that has to be removed and reinstalled from scratch. Reluctantly, I now find myself an Opera fanboy.

Why the iPhone's megapixelage alone won't matter

Tom Hawkins

Re: iCamera?

Shurely you mean 'Have Apple decided to go BACK into the camera market?'


Brussels: Old-school lightbulbs to be gone by 2012

Tom Hawkins

Yawn yawn yawn

The stuff about reactive loads above is rubbish. LED's will be good enough to replace CFLs in a few years and the article says you can keep your halogen incandescents anyway (someone's bound to make BC/ES to halogen adapters if there's enough demand). But never mind, carry on with the lazy anti-EU guff...

Mystery chip found inside talking iPod Shuffle's earphones

Tom Hawkins

What is there...

...about this piece of blatant, baseless speculation that qualifies it as news?

Apple 24in iMac (March 2009)

Tom Hawkins

UK keyboard

I wish UK Macs DID come with US keyboards - I utterly utterly detest the chopped-off left shift key that some boneheaded bozo, I assume at IBM, decided to foist on the non-US world way back when and which has ossified into another crap-by-default standard because nobody can be arsed to challenge it (except for Dell was it with their cunning 'slide the whole ZXCVBNM row along one' gambit).

Maybe it wasn't boneheadedness, maybe someone was actually still nursing a grudge going back to colonial days or something. It's tough to decide which is the more plausible explanation for the thing's f***wittedness.

For a desktop machine it's easy to fix - just buy a new keyboard (I have) - but my Macbook is stuck with it unless I want to replace the whole case top along with it, and for what? To fit in a key with two symbols on one of which I hardly ever use but when I do I can easily get from the keyboard viewer thing and the other of which whose NAME I DON'T EVEN KNOW let alone ever having cause to use it. I'm talking about plusminus and the backwards S thing with the circle in the middle. # doesn't get its own key but these two weirdos need one? W T F ? ?

Apple White MacBook Early 2009

Tom Hawkins

Yes, faster Firewire 400

In the real world Firewire 400 outperforms USB2.0.


Apple iPhoto gets in your face

Tom Hawkins

The iPhoto library file...

...is a 'package'. To open it, secondary-click it (ctrl-click, right-click, two-finger-tap, whatever) and choose Show Package Contents. You can also see an individual photo's file by secondary-clicking it and choosing Show File within iPhoto.

This is for iPhoto '08 anyway, I haven't played with '09 yet.

LG GP08NU10 slimline portable DVD writer

Tom Hawkins

What goes around comes around

and I well remember the 'portable' CD-ROM drive I bought at great expense (and returned for a replacement as the first one was DOA) in the mid-'90s. It connected to my Powerbook 165 via SCSI and could allegedly be powered on about 12 AA batteries. The CD mechanism sort of detached so you could use it as a portable audio CD player. Either way it was shit.

What's lurking in your data centre?

Tom Hawkins

"What's in the pipe today...

...that will become legacy after it gets deployed?"

Er, surely the answer to that is 'everything' (eventually)?

I see your 1995 Works files and raise you my own collection of Mac Word 5.1 (copyright 1992) docs, which NeoOffice won't acknowledge (though I don't think I've tried Pages... hmm...) - fortunately I still have an OS9.1 machine I can open them on, must get round to converting them all...

Axon takes 100mpg wonder car for a spin

Tom Hawkins

Polo part 2

"The Polo gets around this, and lowers it's emmisions figgures, by installing a filter on the exhaust. This is not much different to the carbon capture schemes (or storing nuclear waste for that matter) as it just stores the crap to be dealt with later."

This is rubbish. The 'crap' that is removed by a particulate filter is soot particles which are a health hazard in the air because of their small size. Trapped in a filter they're no hazard whatever - if the filter doesn't actually burn them off to a tiny bit of extra CO2 during operation, which many types do. The filter does not lower CO2 emissions, it actually increases them slightly. You make it sound as if the Polo is somehow cheating to achieve its MPG figure.

Revealed: How the Beano de-menaced Dennis

Tom Hawkins

Political correctness (n.)

= "that set of opinions with which I disagree"

Legal digital music is commercial suicide

Tom Hawkins

"is anyone else offering legal MP3 downloads to the UK?"

...and "I've now been waiting nine years for someone, anyone, to knock up a Napster-clone which would allow me to pay, say, 50p a song or £5 an album, providing me with mp3s to use as I like" - eMusic gives you 30 DRM-free mp3's for £11 a month, which is under 40p each. They don't have everything, but they do have a lot. I guess this doesn't help if you spend less than £11 a month on music (do such people exist?)

Point taken about iTunes not necessarily turning a profit, but it seems sus not to mention it at all. Maybe he needs a fourth group, those who successfully cross-subsidise their music sales by making decent hardware?

Tom Hawkins

An analysis of the digital music market

that doesn't mention Apple? (Or emusic, for that matter). Hello??

Oh look, he's CEO of a digital music company that's being sued. So no attempt to rewrite history in his favour or anything. :rolleyes:

Logitech V550 Nano wireless laptop mouse

Tom Hawkins

Goat Jam and Tom Simnett,

...please return your irony detectors for recalibration at your earliest convenience, thank you.

Samsung unwraps MacBook Air beater

Tom Hawkins

No cells please, we're...

...engineers, or at least some of us are supposed to vaguely comprehend engineering type things. The number of cells in a laptop's battery has zero relation to its capacity in Wh or more importantly to how long the machine will actually last you between recharges. Why do you bother to quote these bits of pointless jargon off the press release, which just makes it look (incorrectly, I'm sure) like you don't really understand what you're copying and pasting?

Oh, the Samsung thingy: erm, (a) it's fatter, (b) it runs Windows. Next contestant please.

Hackintosh maker gets legal greeting from Apple

Tom Hawkins

iPhoto library cannot be found

I moved mine... still works

Tom Hawkins

Deja vu all over again

"Apple has been here before, there used to be licensed third party powerpc products with an oem version of apple's os. It did not sell too well then and it would not do it now."

No, they *did* sell pretty well, but at the expense of Apple's own hardware sales rather than by expanding the market share for Mac OS. That's undoubtedly what would happen again if a Psystar win opened up the market, and it might lead to a magical Nirvana where Apple is transformed into a software-only company and half the world runs Mac OS X, or then again it might be the end of Apple - or at least the end of the Mac. My money would be on the latter. Of course, this is exactly what several people on this comment thread would love to see happen. I'm perpetually at a loss to understand why these individuals invest so much time and energy in heaping scorn on a computer they don't even use - any psychologists in the audience are welcome to contribute.

The iPhone's love/hate relationship with hackers

Tom Hawkins

Never mind cut, copy and paste...

...if they can add Undo - and extend the functionality to the phonecall you just made, obviously - they've got my money!

UK electricity crisis over - for now

Tom Hawkins

re: amps/volts

Devices like computers, which have switch-mode power supplies that can adapt to different voltages, will indeed draw more current as the supply voltage drops, in order to maintain the same power output. However I would guess that this is pretty insignificant compared with the power draw of heating, lighting, cooking, big industrial motors etc which will reduce with lower supply voltage.

For a special case like a huge server farm which takes a significant fraction of the output from a particular substation I guess things might be different...

Amy Winehouse pitches for Bond theme

Tom Hawkins

Sarah, I'm loving your work but...

...you do need to try a bit harder on the 'leaving the empty-headed and incoherent to stew in their own bilge a.k.a. the comments section' side - dropping in for at most one snidey takedown of the most pompously ham-fisted swipe from the gutter is far more the Reg hack's style. Maybe one of the old hands can give you a masterclass.

I hope I'll hear no more of this shameful, preposterous and tawdry linking of Winehouse to the Bond franchise - Amy's above that kind of thing.

The missing five-minute Linux manual for morons

Tom Hawkins

Windows....................................................................... pause

Yeah, what the hell is up with that? On my PC (obviously by this I mean the PC my employer has seen fit to plonk on my desk) it takes on average about ten seconds to paste a small piece of text into Excel.

That's approximately twenty-eight billion processor cycles.

What's it doing in there - calculating the font hinting to eighteen million decimal places?

You omitted my favourite bit of silliness from any single user unix system though:

tom$ sudo whatever


tom is not in the sudoers file. This incident will be reported.

(looks around nervously - who to???)

So what's the easiest box to hack - Vista, Ubuntu or OS X?

Tom Hawkins

Oh for God's sake...

...it's not a scientific study or some kind of cracker world championship, it's a publicity stunt aimed at raising the profile of security on all platforms (as well as the profile of the people who are running it). Which is a good thing, right?

Anyway, how are you supposed to pronounce 'pwn' - I always assumed you said 'own' but that would make the name of this competition sound like the name of a former cheapskate mobile operator as rendered by a non-English speaker, which can't be exactly what they had in mind.

Pure Highway in-car DAB radio

Tom Hawkins

I want one

The difference between DAB sound quality and FM sound quality is going to be inaudible over traffic noise. FM is only better when you have a good signal, which I often don't. And DAB vs AM is no contest, even if it's 64kbps mono DAB.

I love the fact that it's got ReVu - I often listen to podcasts in the car off a CDRW and I've lost count of the number of times I've gone to rewind because I didn't quite catch something, only to realise I'm actually listening to the radio and it doesn't do that. Now if they only added a memory card slot so that I could record a good track or an interesting programme that came on, or listed to those podcasts with slightly less hassle than doing the CDRW thing, it'd be perfect.

Shame about the please-smash-my-window-in-the-hope-of-finding-my-satnav-in-the-glovebox windscreen sucker though - any alternative mounting options (other than leaving it to rattle around on the dashboard)?

Luddite and paranoid - why the big record labels failed at digital

Tom Hawkins


...So all these Reg readers who think recordings should be given away free, and foam and fulminate when the RIAA throws its lawyers around, will presumably be fully in support in future when they set the attack dogs on unlicenced t-shirt sales?

SAS extends fingerprint ID system for domestic flights

Tom Hawkins

If the Home Secretary is listening...

...and still has the faintest hope of getting ID cards to fly, this is how you go about 'non-compulsorily' sneaking them in. I'm as biometric-sceptic as the next Vulture, but when flying back home from northern Sweden the other month, I found myself dutifully pressing my digit on the pad when requested. Followed shortly by a 'what the hell did I just do?' moment, but when you're holding a toddler in one arm and a variety of coats and bags in the other (having just been made to check his lightweight folding pushchair into the hold because SAS don't want to pay someone to collect it from the gate any more) while your wife sets about the critical task of rounding up everything you own that is or might possibly be a liquid in order to cram into the regulation plastic bag the ones that are security-acceptable and neck the ones that aren't (it was water, honest), then holding the whole process up in order to discuss a point of principle about the creeping erosion of privacy with an unimpressed checkin operative doesn't always seem that wise.

It didn't in any way help them to match us up with our luggage, which was still on the ground at Luleå 24 hours later because the (compulsory) automatic checkin machine had apparently got out of sync with its label printer.

IBM's anti-MacBook Air goes up for sale on eBay

Tom Hawkins

So where's the...

...Macbook Air feature comparison chart, as per the Commodore SX-64 feature a few days back? I think this should be compulsory for all items on elderly portable computers...

Mobile phone signals prevent sleep, claim boffins

Tom Hawkins

We still seem to be...

...talking at cross purposes. I'm not saying you should trust a blogger over a scientist, I'm saying The Register could have identified some of the same doubts over this paper as have been spotted by the bloggers.

Tom Hawkins

Rationality and confusion

Tony, I'm having trouble understanding your response because the sites I linked to identified specific shortcomings in the study and data analysis, as presented in the full paper, which undermine the reliability of the study's conclusions. Maybe the study authors have answers to all those questions, but they haven't published the data that would provide them - and as you rightly say, until they have, it isn't science. Granted, you have steered clear of newspaper hype in your story, use the word 'claim' in the headline, and you did link to the actual paper - full marks there. But your first sentence implies a degree of support to the claims, and even if you aren't in a position to verify that they've done their statistics properly you should at least have picked up from the paper that (a) the size of the effect is indeed small compared to the uncertainty (standard deviation) in the data, and (b) no data is presented to back up the finding of increased headaches, just the statement that it's significant. And where did you get 'confusion' from? It's not mentioned anywhere in the paper!

Of course you can publish stories about interesting science without having to unpick every detail of every claim, but you'd never dream of writing up Microsoft or Home Office press releases without some, ahem, 'analysis', so why let this one off the hook?

Anonymous alien, I, and the other commentators, have taken this information on its own merits - and we've found that on face value, it doesn't have very many merits.

Tom Hawkins

Critically examined...



...and here:



They gave the subjects a massive exposure and found tiny differences in sleep, and haven't published sufficient data to show that their analysis is statistically valid. Not surprising that the BBC and the newspapers are blowing it up into a major story complete with obligatory comment from the Powerwatch buffoon, but can't we hope for better from the Register please?

Minister calls for boffins to engage with public

Tom Hawkins

I don't think Denham was arguing...

...against peer review - he's saying that because the university funding system only recognises and rewards certain types of activity (such as peer-reviewed publications), providing scientific advice to government is not seen as a valuable use of time by university management or by scientists from their own career perspective.

Who's in charge of that university funding system? Why, I imagine it's the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (yes, I missed that name change too), prop. J. Denham.

Clash of the compacts: Eee vs Air

Tom Hawkins

Aren't we...

...comparing apples to oranges here? (/coat)

Seriously, the Eee has done well in its target market and I'm sure the Air will do well in its.

Toshiba quietly shows fuel-cell fitted UMPC

Tom Hawkins

Rather you than me...

Potassium hydroxide nastier than methanol? Maybe if you injected it, but methanol is toxic by inhalation and skin absorption (and ingestion, obviously) as well as being highly flammable. Lethal oral dose for mammals seems to be a few grams per kilo, but you'd see nasty effects with much less - so no, don't try consuming any amount, reasonable or not. I would be very surprised to find significant amounts of methanol in any screenwash on sale in the UK, got a reference?


Apple gets fans juices flowing with iMac-like laptop dock

Tom Hawkins


Claim 5. "A docking station as recited in claim 1, wherein the docking area is configured such that a plane parallel to at least one largest face of an imaginary rectangular polyhedron of the least possible volume that can contain the portable computer docked in the housing is more parallel than normal to the direction of gravity."

Once you've finished guffawing at the patentese, it looks like what they're claiming novelty for is the fact that it holds the laptop vertically behind the screen, rather than horizontally. Not that I'm saying this should necessarily be patentable, of course.

Office update disables MS files

Tom Hawkins

Sorry Rogan...

...I was on holiday.

It's all been downhill since Word 5.1 for the Mac, you know!

US switches off the incandescent lightbulb

Tom Hawkins

So much misinformation, so little time...

CFL's contain very small amounts of mercury. So does coal, the burning of which is still how the majority of electricity is produced. The difference is that when you burn coal the mercury goes up the chimney and gets dispersed into the atmosphere for us all to breathe in, whereas in a CFL it's safely contained within the bulb unless you happen to break one (which I don't make a habit of doing) and the exposure you're likely to get this way is not remotely hazardous. CFL's are covered by the WEEE regs so the seller is obliged to take them back for safe disposal - in practice they'll pay local authorities to take care of this so once they're obligatory I'd expect to see them being collected with the other recycling.

Incandescent bulbs contribute a bit of heat to your house, but producing this from electricity generated in a power station and transmitted to your house through the grid is much less efficient than burning gas in your boiler and using the heat directly (see thermodynamics, second law of). Anyway this is only relevant when it's cold enough to have the heating on and turns into a benefit of CFL's if it's hot enough to have your air conditioning running (as most of the US seems to do most of the time).

When considering the materials content and manufacturing impact of a CFL, you need to be comparing it with the eight to ten incandescent bulbs it replaces over its lifetime, not with one.

LED's aren't yet as efficient (or cheap) as CFLs but will no doubt improve with time, especially with the massive increase in the market for lower-energy lighting once incandescents are phased out.

I can't see any reason why CFL's couldn't be used in car headlights, at least for the dipped beam which doesn't need to be flashed on and off quickly. I expect they'll wait for LEDs to make the grade though.

The art of software murder

Tom Hawkins

Applying a style to a paragraph...

in each version of Word from 6 onwards costs me (an experienced Word user) a few minutes of muttering and clicking. Since 2003, add 'and swearing, and possibly throwing my squashy stress ball at the screen'. So no change there, then?

5.1a for the Mac still rules :-)

BBC redesigns and 'widgetizes' homepage

Tom Hawkins

Is this...

...the fabled 'Lens Of Find, Play And Share'?

Programming with Marigold gloves on

Tom Hawkins

faster - but not worse

Mock outrage at the obviousness of this recommendation is all very well, but do you think there's any chance the IT industry might start acting on it at some point? ;-)

Femtocells get a bit bigger

Tom Hawkins


But a cell occupies volume in three-dimensional space, so maybe a better calculation takes the volume of a femtocell as 1x10^-15 the volume of a full-size cell.

That would put the linear dimensions of the femtocell at 1x10^-5 that of a cell, so if a cell is 5x10^4 m then a femtocell is 5x10^-1 m - or half a metre. I think this is a bit smaller than what they have in mind, but it's not so wildly inaccurate...

Microsoft to search browsers for JavaScript compatibility

Tom Hawkins



your problem is?

Guardian blogborg takes aim at global warming

Tom Hawkins

Of LEDs and heat substitution

LEDs are actually not much more efficient than incandescent bulbs for domestic lighting at the moment. They are great for torches, bike lamps etc because small incandescent bulbs are a lot less efficient than bigger ones and because the colour balance of the light they emit works better for night vision. Better LEDs may be on the way, but they aren't for sale yet. For efficiency, straight fluorescent tubes rule.

The heat given off by an incandescent bulb may help warm your house, yes, but it's a lot less efficient to burn fossil fuel in a power station, make electricity (subject to a thermodynamic efficiency limit) and run that across the grid to your house than it is to just burn the fossil fuel in your (condensing) boiler. In any case I think it's been shown that bulbs only really warm the ceiling, not the room as a whole, so you're getting less heat from them than you think.

Brown promises simultaneous liberty and security

Tom Hawkins

The things your brain does when skim-reading

'protect ... legitimate journalism ... by having Paul Dacre, editor of the Daily Mail, ... locked away'

If only...

Microsoft-Facebook: Welcome to the Hotel California

Tom Hawkins

"pumping adverts based on your age ..."

Concern about privacy of my actual personal data fair enough, and when it comes to the ID card fiasco and so on I'm as paranoid as the next Register-ite (Registrar?) - but why should I actually care about the difference between being served a random advert and being served a targeted (based on anonymised demographic/usage data) advert if I never take any notice of the things anyway?

And it's not as if the targeting appears to be particularly good, my profile clearly says I'm married and all I get is adverts for dating sites... err...

Orange's Apple deal to bear unlocked iPhones

Tom Hawkins

Flocking millions

In a slightly less hysterical version, John, the millions looked at the deal on offer (make and receive phone calls, plus some other stuff, pretty much wherever you are) and decided that the convenience of that was actually worth the money. Other millions - well, more like thousands these days - looked at the deal and decided the cost-benefit wasn't good enough for them, and they haven't got mobile phones as (unless I'm missing something) no-one has been holding a gun to their heads to get one. This is called "consumer choice". Next!

Kiddie coders embrace Facebook as new-age dev platform

Tom Hawkins

Kiddie coders

This would explain a lot about most Facebook apps.

The RIAA will come to regret its court win

Tom Hawkins

Let's step back for a minute...

...and focus on something that someone said earlier:

>The one metric that DOES make sense is how much are you willing to pay to be entertained per minute?

The number of people in the world (as a % of population) who are capable of making decent music is staying pretty constant. New technology may make it more accessible, but we're not on some exponential curve whereby in twenty years time everyone on the planet will be Prince (or whomever).

The amount of money that people are prepared to spend on listening to decent music is staying pretty constant. Actually the total entertainment spending is going up as standards of living generally rise, but you could argue that there are increasing numbers of things people want to spend their spare cash on, so lets say for the sake of argument that this figure is just about keeping pace with... ooh, I don't know... the number from the first paragraph above?

So we have no shortage of money available to pay for music, and no runaway increase in the amount of music that people actually want to listen to. What we do have is a breakdown in the way that money has traditionally changed hands (in relatively large chunks, for relatively small amounts of music that were then felt to be 'owned' in a traditional, if-I-have-it-then-you-don't kind of way). So what we need is simply a new way of collecting the money that people are prepared to pay and dividing it up between the people who make worthwhile music.

Tip jars won't work, because people only put 10% of the cost of the meal into the tip jar. (Yes, I know there are pay-what-you-like restaurants, I've been to them; they're novelties and they only work because people know what the 'fair' price is everywhere else.)

The answer, as frequently explained on The Register, is compulsory licencing: collected from everyone, and allocated according to measured downloads/plays (which the consumers have no interest in cheating, because it doesn't save them any money). Can anyone make this work? I dunno, but it is the answer...

TrafficMaster sells clients' location info to UK.gov

Tom Hawkins

what does trafficmaster have to do with...

Clearly Trafficmaster users need to be made aware how this information is being collected and used, but I'm not sure where the article was trying to go with its detailed exposition of anti-tracking ruses - essentially you're saying that if you're prepared to do some illegal things, you can find a way to break the law? Erm, yes.

I guess the point is that if the government is going to try and bring in a technological solution to detect vehicle-related crime including speeding (and I don't have a problem with that, frankly) then it had better be one that won't be trivially avoided by criminals. Fair enough, but not quite connected to what Trafficmaster do...

Amazon opens DRM-free music store

Tom Hawkins

Those 3 million songs on iTunes...

...is that the total number available, or the number available DRM-free on iTunes Plus (which was a smallish fraction of the total, last time I checked)?

If it's the former, then Amazon have played a blinder in persuading the major labels to allow an unprecedented number of tracks to be released without DRM, and perhaps the headline needs to splash that fact more prominently - this might even count as a serious nail in DRM's coffin.

If it's the latter, well, ho hum - iTunes competitor in 'not quite as good as iTunes' shock ;-)

Flash memory makers propose common card

Tom Hawkins

"Who needs anything else"?

Err, anyone who doesn't fancy paying Sony prices for flash memory? They're about twice the price of an ordinary Sandisk USB stick or SD card, as far as I can see...