* Posts by Steve May 1

31 publicly visible posts • joined 8 Jul 2010


Steve May 1

Rise Of The Drones

Sooo.. drones able to 3-D print their own guns???

Is some-one checking them for those lil' "Skynet Inside" stickers?

Poll: Yes, yes, texting while driving is bad but *ping* OH! Hey, GRAB THE WHEEL, will ya?

Steve May 1

A Modest Proposal

I suspect that temporary confiscation of the offending phone might prove the most effective punishment. At the very least the miscreant would be unable to repeat the offence immediately. This approach seems to work for uninsured cars. And just think of the looks on the faces of the evil-doers as the reality of BEING WITHOUT THEIR PHONE sinks in. Should make for some great "reality" police TV shows.

NHS quango fatcats spend £2m tax dosh on iPads and iPhones

Steve May 1

Ah progress

So that will be a grand per user for the shiny toys and a fiver per user for training. Net result: thousands of "deer in the headlight" faces and surrepticious reversion to paper and pencil.

(Also sudden upturn in support staff suicides.)

Weekend reads: Neil Young and Brian Cox ponder cars and universe (in that order)

Steve May 1

More travelogue than science

First, I have to declare a purely personal bias. Brian Cox's accent and delivery style I find almost unbearable. It reminds me of a newbie English supply teacher trying to interest a bored class.

That said, any new science based TV is to be welcomed. However, his new series is, to my mind, a massive waste of BBC money which would be better spent on more Horizons. The visuals are very pretty but more suited to a travel show than a serious science one. (Specially true of the slo-mo clips which contribute nothing apart from extending the running time for cheap.) I see no great benefit to shipping Cox to dozens of exotic locations to deliver a few sentences which could be done in voiceover from a nice warm UK studio. Does he work for airmiles?

I just watched episode 2, "Why are we here?". It lacks even a basic explanation of what the question means. Is it an inquiry as to purpose or means? Turns out to be a little of both, neither in any depth. For example, introducing the concept of inflation without further explanation is just plain weird. Viewers who are unfamiliar with the concept will be left wondering what the big bang has to do with the Retail Price Index, and those who ARE familiar will be none the wiser.

All the topics have been covered much better in other preograms. This, IMHO, is just eyecandy and a vehicle for the science golden boy on TV. David Attenborough would be spnning in his grave, if he were dead.

FRIKKIN' LASERS could REPLACE fibre-optic comms cables

Steve May 1

Designate me, big boy

Not sure how military assets will feel about being on the receiving end of a FRIENDLY laser designator. Also line-of-sight will presumably neccessitate sharks suspended over the battlefield from balloons.

Orbital sharks!!

Sharks in Spaaaaaace!


UK govt threw £347m in the bin on failed asylum processing IT project

Steve May 1

A Modest Proposal

For the next gummint IT project, I suggest that HMRC have a few words with Amazon or Google, along the lines of:-

"We'll carry on pretending to believe your tax position if you take care of this little software project we have."

Seem only fair.

Also they might employ some of the surplus devs currently with the usual suspect companies so favored by the gummint. But manage them properly. Go with what demonstarbly works, I say.

It's the software, stupid: Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch bags big apps

Steve May 1


This is not a watch. Full stop. A watch is a device whose primary purpose is to display the current time in a readioly understood format. The Samsung WristThing is essentially a wearable secondary screen for an existing smartphone. The fact that it can potentially diplay the time does not make it a watch any more than the same capability makes any one of my existing computing devces a watch. There may be some valid use cases to be made out for the device but for most owners this is simply another piece of shinyshiny designed primarily to separate the user from his money.

Even when the technology improves to include month-long battery life, always on daylight readiable screen and a price lower than the proverbial fried potatoes, it will still be a niche product in real terms.

Mobile device makers are now scrabbling to find additional revenue streams given that high end smartphones are now pretty much interchangeable. Another example of such is Sony's bizzarre clip-on camera/lenses for smartphones. which are inconvenient, need separate charging and cost more than similarly specified actual cameras.

Finally, how does one drive this beasty in a noisy environment such as the pub on a Saturday night? The Samsung Galaxy QuietMuff into which one inserts one's wrist and head?

BOFH: Backup server's failed? We have a backup backup server

Steve May 1


"It's servers all the way down"

Soylent Corporation prepares to DEFEAT FOOD

Steve May 1


Tis the nutri-gloop from the Matrix movies. It looked soooo appetising. But I'm sure there will be some deluded souls who will consume this stuff as the latest nutritional fad. But fad it surely is. The main giveaway is the classic use of promises of "perfection" in nutrition. As with most other aspects of human life, one size most assuredly does not fit all. It would seem that the only way to guarantee adequate levels of hutrients for all comers is to over-supply them for many people. "Some is good, more is better" is a very dangerous concept. I can't help thinking that the liquid nature of the diet and the lack of fibre will surely result in a permanent state of Montezuma's revenge.

Another red flag is the insistence on the purity of the product, all traces of "toxins" etc. having been removed. Then they add a random selection of oragnic compounds derived from plant materials. The time-worn "it's natural so it must be safe" argument.

Living on this stuff will be it's own reward. Long live the bacon sarnie!

Pyongyang to unleash NUKULAR horsemen of the Norkocalypse?

Steve May 1
Thumb Up

Re: Simples

Bombs in container SHIPS instead? Limited to coastal cites, I grant you. Quite a few of those.

Suicide sharks with frikkin' piggyback bombs.

The principle is sound.

Steve May 1

Re: I think that

"our lying politicians are more of a threat to this nation than the hyperbole of a paranoid leader half the globe away."

Quite right, Mr Chamberlain.

Steve May 1

Re: Simples

"You'd still need to fit it in a cargo container, with self-contained power, and able to weather rough sea-states. That's probably more weaponisation than NK have done to date"

Cellphone batteries and bubble-wrap. :).

"Cargo manifests et al would make it fairly transparent. It wouldn't be hard to track backwards."

I hear tell that gummints have been known to tell fibs.

Steve May 1


For a North Korean first strike, (and there is no chance of them having any capability of a second strike after the retaliation), they need no high-tech delivery systems. They need only conceal the weapons in shipping containers, (with Samsung logos for irony), and have them conveyed to the target sites in the USA or elsewhere. The devices don't need to be constrained by size or weight, (within reason), or the need to survive launch and re-entry.

There would also be the extra benefit of plausible deniability, with no flaming rocket trail to follow. Although I suspect the legal niceties might get overlooked in assigning blame.

This would, of course, not be the act of a rational state, but history is overflowing with national leaders so divorced from reality that their actions do include the normally unthinkable. I think it is entirely possible that the Great Leader sincerely believes that his armed forces can present the world with a fait accompli by overwhelming the South in exactly the same fashion as in Korean War 1., before an efective US response could be mounted. He might even be right.

But in the modern age mere numbers of boots and tanks and guns do not an effective army make. All otgher things being equal, they don't hurt either. One of the saving graces of your average turbo-nutter dictator is they will generally prefer 100 tanks with shiny paint jobs but zero maintenance to 10 fully operational vehicles. An air force is just so many targets if the pilots have forgotten which switch does what in the cockpit.

Add in the appalling terrain of most of Korea, (with about 57 kilomountains/Wales in Reg units), and the end result could well be the biggest traffic jam in military history. (Cue video clip of USAF pilots licking their lips in anticipation.)

Sadly, if things do turn into a shooting war, the real losers will be the "collateral samage" in innocent lives on both sides. Never forget that in all the techo-wanking that goes on.

Oi, Microsoft, where's my effin' toolbar gone?

Steve May 1

Change be bad

IMNSHO, the form and function of any UI is largely irrelevant. The human mind can be made to accept almost any quirky interface. (see any UNIX editor or even the humble QWERTY keyboard.) The material world is full of non-optimal but perennial interfaces. They persist because of the huge associated cost of change. The basic controls for a motor car have been essentially unchanged for almost a century. The modern gas pedal may not be connected to a flap in the carburetter by a mechanical linkage, but all the clever electronics and fuel injection is invisible to the user. If a major car makr were to ONLY offer for sale a new "improved" model which was steered with the feet and accelerated/braked using the knees, to leave the hands free for tweeiing, they'd be laughed out of the market.

The average user hates change above almost every else. MS Office ceased to be "improved" for most people some time ago. If only they'd kept the store front the same and incrementally improved the parts we can't see. But then they wouldn't be able to exercise their effective monopoly and keep gouging the users.

UK injects £88m into Euro bid to build Hubble-thrashing 'scope

Steve May 1

No imagination

Astronomers seem to run out of ideas when naming new instruments. What next? The F****** Enormous Telescope?

Curiosity photographs mysterious metal object on Martian rock

Steve May 1


It is of course a Terminator finger. This explains what happened to all the natives.Further investigation will reveal a shiny skull with one glowing red eye.

British armed forces get first new pistol since World War II

Steve May 1

Re: 9mm?

9mm because it is the NATO standard pistol round. No matter how good any alternative might be, it will be useless if there aren't any around when you need them. Armies run on logistics and minimising the number of supply chains can matter more than individual weapon effectiveness. WW2 German armour was individually superior to feeble M4s and crude T34s but in the end numbers counted for more than quality.

Military sidearms are the final defensive option under most circumstances. I suspect that their real effectiveness is debatable beyond the confidence boost they provide. From the pont of view of the average squaddie, the most imporatnt considerations are reliability, size and weight, not necessarily in that order. On a long deployment, size and weight will dominate since the weapon will seldom if ever actually be used but WILL have to be carried around at all imes.

Given that friendlies are far more likely to be wearing body armour than unfriendlies, (in low-intensity conflicts at least), the pentrating powers of the Five-seveN round would seem to be a positive disadvantage. This will also be an issue in urban situationsm where penetration of walls etc generally leads to collateral damage. (Dead civillians.) The other significant advantage if the Five-seveN is lighter weight, but this is of no great consequence for sidearms.

Desert Eagles are great for those over-compensating for something. Assuming they are expert shots, as they will nort get a second round off, being deafened and flash-blinded and with the barrel pointed at the ceiling. Using this analogy every squaddie should be issued a Barrett 50cal rifle. Terminal ballistics lie someway down the list of real world military specifications.

I am astonished that the selection process took as little as two years, as normally it takes the pen pushers that long to work out what kind of biscuits to have at the procurement meetings.

New lightest-ever material: Ideal power for electric car

Steve May 1


"75 times lighter" And what. pray tellis the Reg unit of lightness? The nanoPachyderm?

Can Windows 8 bag Microsoft 20 more years at the top?

Steve May 1


Microsoft will carry on into the indefinite future because, for the millions of corporate cubicle bunnies, There Is No Reasonable Alternative.. Windows applications, both off-the-shelf and bespoke, is now so tightly interwoven into all businesses that paying the Microsoft upgrade tax every few years is cheap in comparison to the huge costs and risks consequent on a major change of OS.

Even given a "free" OS and applications, the cost of staff retarining alone will make the whole thing uneconomic. (Assuming suitable applications exist. And don't consume vast resources in data conversion and capatability verification.)

I've been involved in a project to "just" subsitute OpenOffice for MS Office in a large (<10,000) organisation. While notionally compatible, the differences entailed huge efforts to convert documents, spreadsheets, presentations etc. Realistic staff retraining costs were so enormous that it was basically ignored, leading to huge ineficiencies until the users had learned the bare minimum .

We all still have QWERTY keyboards. Demonsrtably not the most efficient layout for typing. But the cost of changing things so far outweighs the benefits that we'll still be using this for the forseeable future. Microsoft is just the same.

I'd bet my own money, (if I had any), that Win8 will be another of Microsoft's "alternate" products. Business will stick to Win7 until some time after Win9 restores sanity to the OS world.

Oh.. btw.. touchscreens have no place in an office environment. Most people's fingers don't bend that way.

Theresa May: No emails sniffed in web super-snoop law

Steve May 1


When does real-time end??

"We won't read your emails until at least ten minutes after you send them."

This legislation will only affect the innocent and incredibly stupid criminals and terrorists.

If THEY can read my emails, I want to be able to read theirs.

"Nothing to hide, nothing to fear" works both ways.

Risky child-support plans rely too much on new IT system – NAO

Steve May 1


How many times will we have to pay to watch another slowmo car-crash government IT project?

Once again the lure of the single integrated solution has seduced the suits in charge, despite the abysmal track record of this approach to government procurement. No doubt the subtle influence of "objective", "impartial", "professional" consultants played a part.

The monolithic nature of the project, coupled with Whitehall's renowned speed of thought and response, will mean that it is incapable of tracking changes in legislation and operating practice, nevrmind changes in technology.

Add in "two distinct routes for specifying requirements and resulted in duplicated, conflicting and ambiguous specifications" and I will bet my own hard earned money that this will tunr into yet another money pit which will eventually be abandoned in favour of a newer grlitzier "solution".

The really sad thing is that this is not rocket science. It's basically a database application no different to many existing commercial systems. The detail differs but the concepts are the same. Maybe it should be given to Google or Amazon to develop.

The real losers, however, will be the "customers" and the poor harrassed staff who will have to deal with the almost inevitable delays and mistakes and "computer errors".

Army raygun to boost power with starlight de-twinkling tech

Steve May 1
Thumb Down


So the Taliban need only to build a trebuchet and throw stones at the machine until the mirror breaks? They ARE used to stoning things after all.

But seriously, an inert projectile isn't going to care much how hot ite gets. In fact a molten projectile might be more effective than a cold one. Flechette artillery rounds would, I suspect, prove very hard to disrupt. Indirect heavy machine gun fire would keep the firer out of LOS of the laser while doing significant damage.

The usual issues over target detection, identification and damage assesment remain. Gonna be a lot of toasted avians in the vicinity of these devices. And if a bird filter is included, hows about some balsa wood explosive.gliders? Ground clutter and terrain masking will add to the problems of detecting and tracking a low level target.

Regardless of the laser wavelength, it is probable that a suiable obscurant can be found to significantly degrade the effectiveness of the beam. (Apart from natural problems of rain, fog, cloud or dust.)

Unless this has almost infinitely fast beam pointing, multiple units will be needed in any given location. One suspects that they aren't cheap. As the Strategic Defense Initiative has shown, the cost of defensive measures may exceed the cost of saturation attacks.

Taliban in tinfoil suits will. of course be able to attack with impunity. (And be immune to mind-control satellite feeds.)

Mars, Moon, solar system could be littered with alien artifacts

Steve May 1

Aliens don't vote

Or it might be that all advanced civilisations evolve to the point of being run by tiny-minded bureauocrats who wouldn't dream of wasting public funds on sending probes to planets whose inhabitants don't even vote for them. Maybe they all don't boldly go anymore. Just like us.

As for SETI.. What kind of profilgate civilisation wastes it's energy resources by radiating them away in all directions. Perhaps we should be listening for supiciously quiet planetary systems?

Cloud startup's business model defies laws of physics

Steve May 1

Cashing in

I can now make a fortune re-selling this service to CERN so they can store all those petabytes of Higgs boson related data.

IMNSHO the word "infinite" will now go the same way as "unlimited", meaning whatever the seller pleases. Use of either in advertising should be automatic grounds for withdrawal of the ad, much as any reference to perpetual motion invalidates a patent application.

A useful rule of thumb.. "If it souunds too good to be true, it probably IS too good to be true".

This reminds me dimly of a wonder storage product some years ago, which perported to use some kind of holographic storage method to provide vasty levels of data storage in a shoebox sized device.

If this turns out to perform as advertised I will eat any kind of headcovering your care to mention.

El Reg to unleash rocket-powered spaceplane

Steve May 1
Thumb Up

Orion time

Time, I think, for a really bold approach. A mini-Orion rocket craft.

It is just possible that hundreds of tiny thermonuclear devices may be beyond even your fine group of shedgineers but an array of conventional shaped charges pointing aft, attached to a massive pusher plate should do just as well. Symmetrically fired pairs, triples or quads would provide linear motion, with carefully calculated offsets from the center of the pusher to provide steering.

In a LOHAN context the resultant intermittent savage thrusts should not be a significant issue.

Fridge-sized war raygun for US bombers gets $40m

Steve May 1


Is that a US refridgerator or a UK one?? Those walk-in american ones won't fit in a fighter, methinks.

Gotta use defined units in these stories.

Pope says gravity proves technology can't supplant God

Steve May 1
Thumb Down


Faith would seem to mean belief without evidence.

Not even the church (christian) would seem to have any evidence.

The state of the world would seem to be ample evidence of the absence of a new testament caring god.

So why believe?

Why not choose the Flying Spaghetti Monster??

Cameron: Carriers tomorrow, bombers today

Steve May 1

10 year rule again

So suddenly catapults CAN be fitted to the carriers? Or rather one carrier at a time. This will obviously require a new Catapult Rapid Exchange System to be developed at vast cost to transfer the catapults between ships in a reasonable time. (Which will escalate to cost more than two sets of catapults, nachurally) And a specialised submarine to recover the catapults from the carrier sunk by the opposition submarine that we can no longer find using the Nimrods we won't have.

Catapults also mean sensible AEW aircraft. (Which will be developed by BAE at huge cost from some entirely unsuitable airframe.)

Carriers with no planes.. destroyers with no missiles.. maybe Trident subs with cardboard ICBMs is part of the plan. (Very expensive Milspec cardboard of course)

Or we could lease an air wing from the US Navy. Too sensible I suppose.

We seem to be returning to the old Imperial defence plan. No Armyy,.no navy. and an air force just for intimidating the FuzzyWuzzy.

Electric mass-driver catapults to beat Royal Navy cuts?

Steve May 1

Oh foolish mortal

Even if the MOD were to buy "off-the-shelf" F-18s, they would "of course" have to be re-engined with something Rolls-Roycey, requiring a complete airframe rebuild. And a new Euro-radar to guide the required Euro-weapons. And a new nav/attack system because we've got the thing in bits anyway. And some new wings because BAE have some very clever ideas. End result:- F-18Q. Twice the cost of F35s, 10 times the cost of standard F-18s. Anybody remember the RN Phantoms?

As for carriers.. If they are intended to fight technologically competent opponents, the lack of decent AEW means we may as well scuttle them ourselves to avoid loss of life. If we intend to simply drop large quantities of explosives onto guys with AK47s, surely supersonic stealth is a LITTLE OTT? Perhaps we should have two sets of aircraft groups. One of F18s for the wars against people with planes and one of Skyraiders for "police actions" and "insurgencies". (Propellor Skyraiders of course. None of our nasty jets.)

Possibly things might improve if defence ministers were required to go to sea with the real navy in time of peril. Shackled to a bulkhead perhaps.

Last thought. Surely 'tis possible to build some kind of flash steam generator powered by electricty if steam is such a vital element of catapults? Hundreds of electric kettles?

US Army trials Iron Man super-trooper exoskeleton

Steve May 1

I've fallen over and I can't get up

(Marine doing turtle impression on back) Even with servo assist, balancing 300lbs of load sounds like fun. Also... 300lbs load plus weight of HULC plus weight of grunt plus paddyfield = That sinking feeling. Obviously no mud in Area 51.

FLYING CAR, full hover, fairly quiet, offered to US Marines

Steve May 1
Black Helicopters

Pretty picture

Since there does not seem to be any mechanical connection between the wingtip fans, as in the Osprey, a single engne failure will result is some "interesting" flight characteristics. This, I suppose, is where the parachute comes in.

It may also work better when they add some fan support, as in the rendering shown the fans appear to magically suspended in space.

And as for "off-road"... With that front overhang it won't be able GET off most roads, the kerbs being too high.

By the time this thing is properly engineered for safety and reliability, it will weigh so much it will be able to move on roads, letalone fly. The laws of physics and engineering are not subject to wishful thinking. If it was this simple, the major aerospace playets would be churning them out by the shedload.

If I had a pound for every flying car "just around the corner", I'd have several pounds.