* Posts by veskebjorn

39 posts • joined 8 Sep 2010

You may not be a software company, but that isn't an excuse to lame-out at computering


Re: English as she are spoken....

Per the American Heritage dictionary, “sniggle” means: “to fish for eels by thrusting a baited hook into their hiding places.”

Boffins' gravitational wave detection hat trick blows open astronomy


My wife made the most striking observation I've heard so far

She said: "Let’s HEAR it for the astrophysicists who came up with this and had the patience to wait for that single “blip!” A little like Horton Hears a Who…."

Security? We haven't heard of it, says hacker magnet VTech

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Re: Terms of Surrender

My Lord: I rarely even chuckle at much of what passes for humor on the Web. Your post, however, made me laugh when I first read it, and I still laugh when I re-read it for the umpteenth time. Well done, sir!

Verizon now owns AOL, so AOL now owns your web browsing habits, other personal info


Can't talk to Verizon without the password you never made

I called Verizon twice, less than an hour ago. First I called the "special" 866 number to block tracking. The robot ansaphone would not speak to me without a Verizon website password that I have never created and, hence, cannot know. I then called the 800 customer service number, where a human [for some given value of "human"] also refused to speak to me without the nonexistent password. Her "supervisor" said the same thing and refused to provide a means of identifying her to Verizon management. My contract with Verizon ends next January. Because of their genuinely superior U.S. network, I have been a Verizon customer for more than a decade. But this will change; Verizon's arrogance has become intolerable to me.

ATM hacker Barnaby Jack's death blamed on accidental drug overdose


"Father of Modern Surgery," William Stewart Halstead, was addicted to cocaine and morphine

The doctor who pioneered the use of sterile gloves, sterile conditions in surgeries, hernia repairs, radical mastectomies, invented "residencies" to train fledgling surgeons, local anesthesia, and much more, was addicted to both cocaine and heroin. Experimenting on himself and others with cocaine (the local anesthetic) led to addiction--the cure for which in the the late 1800s was morphine. Almost all of Halstead's pioneering work was done either under the influence of the two drugs or while suffering withdrawal. Sigmund Freud, at about the same time, also became a cocaine addict for several years and promoted its use as a wonder drug for almost all ills. The point is very bright and productive people can have drug problems. Addiction does not equal stupidity; addiction is a disease.

Shiny, shiny! The window's behind me...


Glossy photos have more contrast than matte--screens may not follow suit

Many years of reading glossy and matte photographs with a reflection densitometer showed me that the most contrasty black-and-white photos were printed on gloss paper. The maximum density difference I've seen is about 2.2 density units. (This is logarithmic; 2.2 units = a difference in relectivity of 300 times between darkest and lightest areas.) Unsurpisingly, the reflectivity in the white areas of matte prints approached .05 density units greater than the same area in gloss prints. The darkest areas of matte prints had no less reflectivity than gloss--and usually a bit less. If the matte print's density range is .06 units less, contrast is reduced by a factor of 4--a range of 75 for the hypothetical maximal matte print as opposed to 300 for gloss.

Monitors are different, because they transmit light instead of reflecting it. Density ranges as measured by transmission densitometers could exceed 5 density units in high-contrast film, for a difference of 100,000 between the lightest and darkest areas. Monitors don't achieve this contrast, but matte vs. gloss is not an issue unless matte absorbs more light than shiny. What the author is likely noticing is the fact that inferior matte coatings blur crisp boundaries between image elements, thus reducing resolution.

Right now I am using a 15.4-inch, 1920x1080 pixel, matte screen. Both the apparent resolution and the contrast range of this screen vastly exceeds the 72 dpi, 21-inch, multi-thousand dollar monitors I used to use for high-end color correction. Would shiny be better? Maybe a little, but I'm happy with what I've got.

New nuclear fuel source would power human race until 5000AD


To Mr. Lewis, "not harmed"

Mr. Lewis says that "Since the Fukushima meltdown - as a result of which, not a single person is set to be measurably harmed by radiation."

Among those "not harmed" are the 160,000-plus residents of Fukushima now warehoused elsewhere. Many of them, like Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors, are unable to find work because of the stigma of Fukushima.

Among those "not harmed" are the Japanese people, who pay for the cleanup of Fukushima Daiichi, at a guesstimated at some scores of billions of dollars. They must pay for the cleanup of between 1,000 and 4,000 square miles of land and forest, radioactively contaminated to a depth of 1 foot. This cost has not even been guessed at, because no one knows what to do with the contaminated soil, vegetation, and buildings. In May, the Japanese had to write a $13 billion check to Tepco, to keep the company from bankruptcy.

Among those "not harmed" are the many hundreds of thousands who have inhaled alpha particles--some percentage of whom will develop cancer in the years to come. Also note the mutant Fukushima butterflies, who were "not harmed" by radioactivity.

You, Mr. Lewis, sppear to be thoughtless, arrogant, and completely lacking in regard for the plight of others. I pity you, but I also don't think you have any credibility left with regard to the events in Fukushima. I think The Register would be best served by confining your remarks to fanciful speculations on military matters.

Stonehenge WASN'T built by ALIENS - Boffins' shock claim

Paris Hilton

When I "lay" a "battlehoe"....

I am relaxed and filled to overflowing with the milk of human kindness and warm feeling for all of my fellow men and women. Great word choices, Reg! (Paris, for obvious reasons, though in her case I doubt anyone has preceded "ho" with "battle.")

World+dog discovers hi-res aerial maps, thanks to Google and Apple


Off topic but urgent, maybe

I greatly admire Mr. Chirgwin's understanding of and devotion to the scientific method. I appreciate his calm (by Reg standards), fact-centered pieces about all manner of things. I hope that his recent piece about anthropogenic ocean warming is not an RGE (Resume Generating Event).

The mystical pipes of the interweb reveal that Mr. Chirgwin lives somewhere near Sydney in Australia. This area experiences frequent, devastating bushfires. Far more readily visible than the 4-inch water pipe is the space between the vegetation and the buildings, which is almost nil.

As a denizen of one of California's coastal mountain ranges, which area is both a temperate rain forest in winter and a tinderbox in summer, I know that Mr. Chirgwin's little compound will be reduced to its presumably concrete foundations should the bush start burning in his area--unless he provides a a firebreak of at least 30 feet between the buildings and the vegetation. For the benefit of those poor souls forced to use the metric system (which I regard as the most evil product of the French Enlightenment, surpassing even the guillotine), 30 feet best translates to 10 meters, which provides a bit more open space and, hence, a bit more safety. I urgently commend this idea to Mr. Chirgwin.

Scroogle unplugged for good this time


DuckDuckGo gives great search

DuckDuckGo (DDG) seems to be the most secure and private search engine/metasearch consolidator. It is by far the most customizable. Read the man pages, check (or uncheck) the boxes, and use the "Add to Search Bar" plugin to search in the manner to which you'll soon become accustomed. Don't forget SSL (put https://duckduckgo.com/ in the address bar)! DDG is also a "Tor exit enclave," which can make your searches even more secure. DDG does *not* scrape Google, at least directly. DDG also has a simple HTML version--no Javascript required.

Privatelee used to be called Qrobe and, confusingly, still can be, (I don't think there is a difference.) They scrape Google, Bing, and Ask and play well with SSL. Configuration options are minimal, but you can "Add to Search Bar" to get the SSL version and turn off the annoying "Web Of Trust."

Ixquick is another partly-European-based metasearch engine which claims to provide ultimate privacy. Considerable customizing is possible. So is SSL. Ixquick also can serve as an SSL proxy for sooper-sekrit roque state overthrows and/or the downloading of juicy porn without defiling the eyeballs of FBI agents.

Try them all, settle on one, and use the other two when you're not getting what you wanted with the one you chose.

Big biz BlackBerry refuseniks adopt Apple over Android


Corporate love for iOS grows in "walled garden"

If a corporate IT department sticks with currently-available Apple products they need support only three phone and two tablet models, all of which can run the latest version of iOS. The number of comparable Android devices seems to be in excess of one hundred. Many currently available Android devices "offer" one of two or three obsolete versions of the OS, and every manufacturer customizes the OS for each hardware configuration and/or each mobile phone company. Support for Apple products is relatively simple; support for Android products could be a nightmare.

Apple products can be easily locked down by IT departments; Android products not so easily.

When Apple revises iOS, all devices can be updated at the same time. Android updates, which are supplied by device manufacturers and/or mobile phone companies, can never be simultaneous. Further, it appears that a goodly number of Android suppliers have little or no interest in updating any of their devices.

Apple's "walled garden" of apps serves two important corporate purposes. 1.) The "curation" of apps and the fact that they are available only directly from Apple reduces the likelihood of malicious software. 2.) iOS apps offer little scope for network tampering or data theft or porn (other than "content") or other activities that might damage corporate interests.

As someone whose family's computers run two flavors of Windows and two of Linux, I am clearly not a fanboi of Apple products. Nonetheless, I have long thought that Apple's tight-fisted control of iOS was a deliberate and wise effort to win corporate sales. The figures cited in this article seem to support my speculation.

Whacked moon rocks yield up their secrets


Don't disagree with you, but....

I don't think we disagree, Mike. Bits of rock picked up on the Moon are quite similar to bits of rock picked up on Earth which are known to have fallen from the sky. Cameras and seismographs have recorded impacts of high-speed objects with the Moon's surface. The idea that meteorites have significantly impacted (unintentional pun alert!) the Moon seems almost beyond question.

Good scientists and others who strive for wisdom seem to have a small portion of their brains set aside for the purpose of entertaining doubt. As Abraham Lincoln said: "I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors, and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views." In others, particularly those in politics and religion, this area of the brain is often atrophied or absent altogether. Scientific belief in the existence of meteorites is little more than 200 years old. Details of the nature and origin of meteorites are still debated, as is the origin and history of the Moon. The current hypotheses and theories may be supplanted by others in future. The work described in this article re-searches one aspect of these ideas.

Too many scientists and science writers don't entertain doubt. This failure leads to the problem that Mark Twain described: ""You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus."


Truly excellent.

I think this piece is the best bit of science reporting I've seen in the Register in the past few years. It discusses an interesting (to me, at least) subject in a concise, informative, and entertaining way.

What pleases me most is the following: "It’s a no-brainer (or to put things more scientifically, a long-accepted assumption) that the moon takes meteorite hits...." This pleasure is occasioned by the author's parenthetical note that lunar meteorite hits are "a long-accepted assumption," not a proven certainty. Finally, someone at the Register is able to write about science and convey the doubt that is (or should be) entertained by all scientists. Well done!

SOPA is dead. Are you happy now?


What's wrong with shouting?

Only one small group of people in the United States can get its way without shouting--the group that can spend multiple millions to "lobby" decision-makers in quiet rooms and propogandize the public through the corporate media. (In the present case, of course, the corporate media and the advocates of Internet censorship are one and the same.) All others must either press their case publicly, persistently, and at the top of their lungs or resign themselves to irrelevancy. As is often been said in the U.S., "money talks and bullsh*t walks."

The application of Occam's Razor to the entirety of Mr. Asay's remarks here and in previous pieces leads to the likely conclusion that he seems to be in favor of "open" software for some unusually-defined value of "open," but he is implacably opposed to an open Internet. He wants, it is clear, to impose his beliefs regarding "intellectual property" on everyone else in the world. And, if some part of the rest of the world refuses to subscribe to his values, then he would help erect a "great firewall" in the U.S. to keep these foreign values from interfering with the happiness of U.S. corporations.

Engineering student cracks major riddle of the universe


If you believe this, you probably thought the world would end last Saturday

As seems inevitable in articles penned by Mr. Page about subjects of which he is ill-informed, it is not true that "[b]offins know from observing the universe that it must have a certain amount of mass...." Some boffins conjecture (quite different from "know") that a hitherto unknown kind of mass exists and is distributed such that seeming anomalies in galactic rotatations can be explained. Because this conjectured mass is undetectable, it is described as "dark." Some of these same boffins conjecture that "dark matter" is made up of WIMPs (weakly interacting massive particles), particles which have never been detected, let alone described, in any experiment to date. (To physicists, "massive" means a particle has some mass, unlike photons, which are thought to have no mass.)

Mr. Page fails to note that other, well-respected boffins have conjectured that the seemingly anomalous observations can be explained theoretically, without having to concoct new forms of undetectable matter. The two most popular theoretical conjectures at the moment are MOND (modified newtonian dynamics) and (TeVeS) tensor-vector-scalar gravity.A number of other theoretical conjectures have also been advanced, most of which don't require an assumption that the universe must contain more mass than is observable.

Mr. Page further fails to note that the vast majority of the allegedly missing mass is called "dark energy," currently conjectured to represent approximately 75% of the total mass of the Universe. (Physicists regard mass and energy as interchangeable, so much so that the mass of particles in accelerators is measured in "electron-volts.") The most popular current speculation is that 5% of the Universe's mass is observable matter, 20% is "dark matter," and 75% is "dark energy."

Finally, Mr. Page seems unaware of the WiggleZ project, which just last week announced results whose implications are strikingly different than those reported in this article. The project is a group of researchers at NASA and the Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia, which spent five years using a U.S. satellite and a large Australian telescope to track the movements of 200,000 galaxies. The group's study asserts (conclusively, in their minds) that "dark energy" controls the movement of celestial bodies.

Aussie cops grab journo for reporting Facebook vuln demo


More Napoleon than Mad Max

Almost everything one needs to know about Australia's psyche can be found in two movies: "Napoleon" and the first "Mad Max". Much of Australia's history--since the Brits took the continent from the "aborigines"--is an attempt to justify the theft. The descendants of transported "criminals" and rapacious colonizers have found common ground in promoting a myth, that white Australians are tough, fiercely independent, and completely self-sufficient. In tn Wyoming, the U.S. state that was the center of "the Old West," Australian chest-pounders are regarded as poofters, It comes as no surprise to us Wyoming residents that most Australians have so little regard for individual freedom.

Pope says gravity proves technology can't supplant God


Donald Knuth agrees with you, as did Newton, as do and did hosts of others

Donald Knuth, who is Stanford's "Professor Emeritus of The Art of Computer Programming" and arguably the most profound and important programmer ever, is a Lutheran who attends church regularly. He was the long-time substitute church organist at Faith Lutheran when he was a professor at Cal Tech and has been a member of First Lutheran in Palo Alto since he moved to Stanford. He sees no conflict between God and science and has said so a great many times.

Isaac Newton, the greatest physicist and one of the greatest mathematicians in history, spent more time as a professor of natural philosophy studying and writing about the Bible than he did working on physics. He once said, "I have a fundamental belief in the Bible as the Word of God, written by those who were inspired. I study the Bible daily."

Georg Cantor, the inventor of set theory and the (to me, still almost completely inexplicable) transfinite numbers, was another faithful Lutheran.

Francis Collins is both a chemist and medical doctor . He led the first group that was able to identify the specific gene responsible for a genetic disease (cystic fibrosis). He went on to lead the Human Genome Project, a non-profit organization that competed so successfully with Craig Venter's attempt to privately patent the human genome that Venter's group eventually gave their material freely to the HGP. Collins was responsible for directing and coordinating the efforts of thousands of scientists around the world. He is now director of the U.S. National Instiutes of Health and an evangelical Christian of, I seem to recall, a Methodist bent. Hs has published two significant books about the intersection of God and science. Richard Dawkins, the man who has turned atheism into a profit center, has been rendered all but speechless by Collins on occasion.

Robert Bakker, the paleontologist who was largely responsible for the current understanding that at least some dinosaurs were warm-blooded and that birds are directly descended from dinosaurs, is an ordained Pentecostal minister.

Simon Conway Morris is an evolutionary paleobiologist who is the world's leading investigator of the Cambrian period and arguably the most profound evolutionary biologist in the world today. He was an associate of Stephen Gould, and went on to show that Gould's assessment of "the Cambrian explosion [of new life forms]" was largely erroneous. His work in the Burgess Shales and similar deposits in China and elsewhere is a model for the scientists in his field. Morris is a faithful adherent of the Church of England, which is part of the Anglican Communion that, in the U.S., is known as the Episcopal Church. His recent work, "Life's Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe," explains, among other things, why he is not a Deist.

A full list of prominent religious scientists would include about half of all the prominent scientists in history. Also, remember or learn that most of what the world now knows about Greek and other early science and math is known because faithful Muslims translated scientific manuscripts into Arabic and used these texts as the starting point for their own studies. Somewhat later (and overlapping with the Muslim efforts), Christian monks painstakingly copied ancient manuscripts of all sorts, so as to preserve knowledge and make it available to others.

No, God does not hate science, but some scientists appear to hate God. I pity those who are spiritually deaf and dumb. As Psalm 115 puts it: " They have eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear."

MYSTERY of huge Canadian chicken-shed EXPLOSION


Shock finding! Chicken shack explosion as deadly as Fukushima radiation!

I can't believe Lewis missed this. Number of deaths in explosion--0. Number of deaths caused by radiation at Daiichi--0. Syllogism--a chicken shack can be as deadly as three fried nuclear reactors. As Mark Twain once observed: "That's the wonderful thing about science; one gets a wholesale return in conjecture on a meager investment in facts."

For those few Register readers who might care, this story is 5 days old. The explosion occurred on Friday, in the late morning. Neither the story nor the link reveal the date. Good to see Lewis is maintaining his usual standards of journalistic excellence.

The shack itself was less than 5,000 square feet, which is house-size in the area where I live. The market value was less than $20,000. All that's left is part of the foundation. The interior was clean. Canadian sources say propane and electricity were still supplied to the disused structure. Our unflappable Canadian brethren, both Mounties and firemen, assert that "the explosion is not suspicious." Which sentiment I find astonishing, but one that is very closely translated by our Arabic Muslim brethren's expression: "inshallah."

Mummy, mummy, there's a nuclear monster!


Ignorance is not the same as stupidity; ignorance is curable

For those of you who have tired of the largely fact-free editorials and posts about Fukushima Daiichi which have blemished The Register for the past month, I suggest the following:

1.) An article in the IEEE Spectrum, the leading publication of electrical engineers in the U.S., which both explains the INES rating system and the reasons, in the publication's opinion, that the new rating is correct. http://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/energy/nuclear/fukushima-accident-upgraded-to-severity-level-7

2.) The extensive coverage in the Spectrum of every aspect of the Daiichi failure. This coverage is fully the equal of the work the journal did with respect to Three Mile Island, which was stellar. Among the articles is an explanation of why Japan's electrical grid design makes sending power from underutilized generators to the Tokyo area problematic. The home page for this coverage is http://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/energy/nuclear/fukushima-accident-upgraded-to-severity-level-7

3) The 26 Mar NRC "threat assessment" of Daiichi, which may be found on many sites. http://www.fairewinds.com/content/nrc-report-official-use-only-fukushima-assessment-march-26th-2011

4.) The early April (dated 7 Apr on page 2) Areva "The Fukushima Daiichi Incident" Powerpoint which gives Areva's assessment. Areva has been heavily involved with servicing Daiichi long before the "incident." http://www.fairewinds.com/content/3-2011-areva-fukushima-report

While you're at the Fairewind site, you might profit from a look at the narrations of the missing water in fuel pond 4 and the demonstration of the effects of overheating on fuel rods.

5.) Nature, the most prestigious science journal in the world, has a special section on Daiichi which includes information not found in Spectrum. Well worth reading. http://www.nature.com/news/specials/japanquake/index.html

A few hours spent with this rigorously scientific material will make you far better informed than all of The Register's Daiichi articles and posts. The same material should also lead, if you are rational, to a far more nuanced set of opinions than have been displayed, for the most part, in The Register.

Finally, two current and significant quotes from well-informed and highly-placed nuclear energy authorities which should prove enlightening or at least thought-provoking.

1.) 11 MAR 11 from the Associated Press (WASHINGTON) The top U.S. nuclear regulator said Monday he will not change a recommendation that U.S. citizens stay at least 50 miles away from Japan's crippled nuclear power plant, even as he declared that the crisis in that country remains "static."

Gregory Jaczko, the chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, acknowledged in an interview with The Associated Press that the month-old crisis in Japan has not yet stabilized. But he said conditions at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant have not changed significantly for several days.

"We describe the situation as static but not yet stable," Jaczko said.

"It hasn't really changed too much in the last few days," he added, but it will be weeks or even months before the plant is stabilized.Jaczko said the most important job at the plant still is keeping water in the spent fuel pools to cool the highly radioactive fuel rods, reducing the threat of a meltdown and a catastrophic release of radiation.

Jaczko, who traveled to Japan last month, said the NRC has begun a two-pronged approach to review the safety of the 104 commercial U.S. nuclear reactors in the wake of the Japanese crisis.

2.) 12 Apr 11 from The Mainichi Daily News (TOKYO) The operator of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant said Tuesday that it is concerned that radiation leakage at the plant could eventually exceed that of the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe.

"The radiation leak has not stopped completely and our concern is that the amount of leakage could eventually reach that of Chernobyl or exceed it," an official from the Tokyo Electric Power Co. said.

Fukushima scaremongers becoming increasingly desperate

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"Not easy to miss"

1.) Iodine 131 is being detected now in ground water as far away as Tokyo (approx. 130 miles or 205 km). Levels of this isotope have increased in the ground water near the damaged Fukashima plant. This isotope is produced by nuclear fission; it is not the decay product of some other isotope (in the context of Fukashima). The half-life of this isotope is almost exactly 8 days, which implies (among other things) either that an extraordinary amount of iodine 131 was produced early on and not detected or that some continuing process is at work. The only credible process for producing iodine 131 in the context of Fukashima is nuclear fission.

The assertion that the iodine 131 was "produced earlier" has implications that do not seem to be supported by the facts. Since 131 is produced only by active fission, it then follows that all of the 131 had been produced by fission BEFORE the Fukashima Daaichi reactors were shut down. If one can give credence to the claims of the operator, this shut down occurred on March 11. The assertion that 131 was "produced earlier" implies that the increasing levels of 131 in the groundwater--when simple physics says a short-lived isotope concentration should be decreasing rapidly--result from some hitherto unknown mechanism whereby a radioactive isotope can elude the most careful testing, be stored in some unknown location, and make its way into the groundwater by some unknown route.

The amount of 131 in the atmospheric emissions of Daaichi has been and is being measured and is less than the amount of 131 in the groundwater. It could be that "the various spraying activities" [to try to cool reactor cores and irradiated fuel rod pools] are picking up 131 and dumping it into groundwater--but the isotope being picked up is highly likely to be the result of some continuing nuclear fission somewhere. Absent continuing fission, the groundwater should be showing a decrease in 131 levels, such that every day the amount of iodine 131 decreased by 12 percent. Painstaking and continuing tests do not show this decrease.

2.) With respect to Mr. Daws' "intense neutron fluxes," he appears to be ill-informed. The English-language edition of the Kyodo News (along with hundreds of other sources) said on March 25: "Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Wednesday it has observed a neutron beam, a kind of radioactive ray, 13 times on the premises of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant after it was crippled by the massive March 11 quake-tsunami disaster." Extraordinary thermal excursions have occurred on dozens (scores?) of occasions

As Mr. Daws says, "not easy to miss," unless you don't want to see it;.


A little science might be a useful corrective here

1.) The burns suffered by the three workers have been ascribed to beta radiation. Radioactivity comes in three forms: alpha, which is essentially helium nuclei and has a hard time penetrating paper; beta, which is high-energy electrons and is much more dangerous; and gamma, which is the most energetic electromagnetic radiation, and requires lots of shielding to be dangerous.

Point is, the burns were in fact caused by nuclear radiation.

2.) No scientist claims to know exactly what the consequences are of almost any sort of exposure to almost any sort of radiation. The reason for this ignorance is that ethics prohibit using humans as test subjects. The only four large-scale experiments--Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Chernobyl, and Three Mile Island--are inclusive, except that it is scientifically clear that all man-made radiation adds risk. All the rest of this talk about milli-sieverts is little more than ignorant arm waving.

3.) The earthquake in Japan occurred at about 7 a.m., London time, on March 11. It is now 14 days later, and increasing quantities of the iodine 131 isotope are being detected in groundwater. The significance of this development lies in the facts that the half-life of this iodine is only 8 days, and the iodine is only produced by fission. The most reasonable conjecture is that fission is still occurring in one or more "shut down" reactors and finding its way out of the containment vessel(s) and into the groundwater. As iodine 131 is a weak beta emitter, the beta radiation that burned the workers suggests there's a heck of a lot of it inside the reactor buildings.

Fukushima one week on: Situation 'stable', says IAEA



Right now, plant workers who have volunteered to absorb lethal doses of radioactivity are busy dying. Yet, in Mr. Page's alternative universe, the sun is shining and things are getting better every day.

The entirety of the cooling at the facility is supplied by fire trucks and occasional air-lifted buckets of water. Supplying power from the grid is, as yet, simply wishful thinking. To what will the power be connected? How much of the control systems remain operable? How much of the cooling systems remain operable?

In one respect, circumstances in Japan are far worse than Chernobyl or Three Mile Island. Both of these disasters involved only one reactor. The operator (TEPCO) of Daiichi has reported life-threatening emergencies at four reactors and six "spent" fuel rod storage racilities, collectively involving a total of thousands of tons of radioactive elements.

In a second respect, Daiichi is similarly unique: reactor number 3 is fueled with a mixture of plutonium and uranium. This makes the Daiichi disaster the first to afford the general public the chance to get up close and personal with the most poisonous element known.

I find Mr. Page's remarks ill-informed, thoughtless, heartless, and otherwise often simply disgusting. As I have said once before in this forum, the Register should employ copy editors and fact checkers.

Thunderbolt: A new way to hack Macs


Cheeto dust?

Does anyone who knows the Register staff only from their postings and pictures actually imagine them washing their hands, let alone bathing?

Anonymous hackers' Wikileaks 'infowar' LATEST ROUNDUP


The spirit of the people is greater than the man's technology

The title of this message is a quote from Huey P. Newton, Defense Minister and principal founder of the U.S. group, the Black Panther Party. He said this early in the career of his group, at a rally in a San Francisco Bay Area city which the police were trying to disrupt by flying noisy helicopters immediately overhead.

This author hopes that Huey's assessment will prove true in the WikiLeaks affair.

Sorry to hear about Lewis's problems with alcohol. All of us who have appreciated his work over the years owe Lewis our support. I should like to suggest a fund to cover his expenses at the various pubs favored by The Register staff. If you folks would be so kind as to publish an address for Lewis (at work, of course) I will send him a tenner and hope that many others will do the same.

New NASA model: Doubled CO2 means just 1.64°C warming


1.64 degrees Celsius DOES make a difference.

Lewis Page is wrong in so many ways that a lengthy book would be required to enumerate all of them.

Just one of Mr. Page's errors is the notion that a further, global average temperature increase of 1.64 degrees Celsius will have no significant effect.

It happens that mosquito species are exquisitely sensitive to temperature. It further happens that mosquito species which serve as disease vectors for the West Nile virus have now established themselves as far north as Canada, because they can now survive over the winter in these previously lethal climates.

Worse, by far, is the fact that dengue fever, hitherto unknown in the United States, is now endemic in the Brownsville, Texas, area as a consequence of a slight increase in average annual temperatures, which allows the offending mosquito species vector to thrive in that area. An additional 1.64 degrees Celsius will result in the spread of this tropical disease to a far greater portion of the United States.

The foregoing are facts; Lewis Page's opinions are not.

Walmart falls in with Washington's war on terror


Guns are good

As a Yank, I am glad that my forebears were armed to the teeth and, therefore, able to throw off the oppression of King George III and his enablers. If the German people had not been disarmed long before the rise of the Nazis, history may have taken a different, less tragic, course.

Even (or perhaps particularly) now, wherever tyranny reigns, a brutal suppression of private ownership of arms has preceded. Those folks who regard their governments as more sane or more trustworthy than (as just one example) Mugabe and Zimbabwe are folks who have not paid attention to history.

Terry Pratchett, non-violent author of scores of good books, had much to say about this matter in "Night Watch." In his (and my) view, taking weapons out of the hands of "ordinary" citizens enables criminals to prosper.

Pro-Wikileaks hacktivistas in DDoS dustup with patriot contras


Certainly not angels, but not demons, either

Mr. Young's remarks, as reported by The Register, were unhelpful to this reader. The piece showed that Mr. Young abhors WikiLeaks, but it does not posit any mechanisms by which WikiLeaks has "sold out" Mr. (Private? Specialist?) Manning or anyone else. So far as this reader can determine, Mr. Manning's difficulties arose from a U.S. government investigation into his activities, and this investigation was not aided by WikiLeaks, not even inadvertently. Also, this reader seems to recall that Mr. Manning long ago acknowledged his involvement in providing at least some of the WikiLeaks material.

If there is plausible evidence to the contrary, some small part of the world wants to hear it. But also, as Bruce Springsteen once explained: "Let the broken hearts stand as the price you've gotta pay. We'll keep pushin' till it's understood, and these badlands start treating us good."

Mr. Assange is not an angel. Neither is he a devil. No human can be either. His career strikes this reader as one of a sensible and passionate man. (Warning!: This is an actual IT angle. He apparently also has been a competent programmer.) Mr. Assange seems to have tried to do the right thing, but he may have finally succumbed to the adulatory fictions created by various media and political groups.

The Reverend Martin Luther King, the most effective leader of the Christian movement which at least temporarily destroyed the legal underpinnings of U.S. apartheid--even Martin Luther King had a problem with the ladies. He liked them; they liked him. The number of his consensual sexual encounters with women who were not his wife may exceed 100.

By King's standard, Assange is practically a eunuch.;

How I saved the Macintosh


A few corrections and notes

RR Donnelley was then (and still is) the world's largest commercial printer. But it was never "the Yellow Pages company." That would be Reuben H.Donnelly, which then published most of the Yellow Page directories. The companies were completely separate but quite friendly; Richard R. having been the father of Reuben H. RR Donnelley printed many, but far from all of the various Yellow Pages directories.

So the question is: did Mr. Eicher meet with RR or Reuben H.? I would guess it was RR, since Reuben H. didn't do much typesetting for any of their many publications. I know this, because my father was a Reuben H. Donnelley trade publishing executive at the time.

Given Mr. Eicher's self-professed expertise in print production, he should have known that the idea that RR Donnelley might "[outfit] its entire corporate print production on Macs" was an absurdity. Printers the size of RR were using a variety of mini and mainframe computers [the Atex and Quadex systems are two excellent examples of off-the-shelf solutions] to drive CRT and film phototypesetters, whose output was vastly superior to the laser-imaging Linotronics of the day, whose film output did not register from one sheet to the next. The Scitex system was also popular with the big boys, because it could merge type and color seps and output entire 40" press forms on punch-registered color scanner film.

In short, RR Donnelley may have expressed interest, but they were only "kicking the tires."

As a manufacturing and distribution director for national weekly and monthly publications. I was a regular visitor to the facilities of RR Donnelley, Brown Printing, and the Devon Group (parent of Black Dot as well as at least two large commercial printers).

I think Mr. Eicher's view of the printing world has been colored by a good deal of wishful thinking. A quick check of the editions of the Pocket Pal which were published at the time will authoritatively demonstrate the difference between the real world then and the "if only" world Mr. Eicher was promoting.

P.S.: At least in the San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley printing and publishing communities, ComputerLand was regarded as being almost as inept as Fry's Electronics is now. Prices were high, and problem-solving was poor. I find it startling that RR Donnelley would be talking to a ComputerLand salesman about new technologies, when they had legions of technical wizards on their payroll.

Reg hack tickled by Kent schoolgirl

Thumb Up

Next--the Nobel Prize

Dear Mr. Haines,

It is, dare I say, astonishing to learn that your influence on the reading habits of the youth of England is more profound than Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, or even Terry Pratchett. As these youth mature and as the rest of the world comes to share their judgment, it seems certain that the Nobel Prize Committee will be compelled to award you the prize for literature.

You have both an awesome responsibility and a strong incentive to re-double the effort you spend on your art.

How I invented Desktop Publishing


You're right about the LaserWriter

Apple's first LaserWriter was a Canon laser printer with a PostScript interpreter that used, if memory serves, a faster Motorola CPU than Apple was using in its most-powerful Mac. The beast also had, gasp, 4 megabytes of RAM. Even with all this, you will recall the printer sometimes taking several minutes to "RIP" (raster image process) a single page.

Sometimes this memory was insufficient, for which the old cure was to check the "Unlimited Downloadable Fonts" box in the driver. This made the job take even longer, because the printer would flush part of the font cache when it ran out of RAM, and flushed fonts would have to be downloaded again and re-ripped if they appeared in the doc again. Mind you, all of this downloading of megabytes took place over AppleTalk (on LocalTalk) at about 230 kilobits per second.

In the years preceding the development of the LaserWriter, Macs mostly printed to Apple-brand dot-matrix graphics printers. A few folks hacked interfaces to other printers, including lasers.

You are spot on about the original, limited range of PostScript fonts. I, too, made do--because I had spent almost 20 years previously spending tens of thousands of dollars on new fonts for every new typesetting system I bought. (You may recall that otherwise scrupulous folks often stole new Adobe fonts from their friends and customers.)

The cost of fonts--and the promise that PostScript fonts would be device-independent--is the biggest single reason that printers embraced DTP so quickly, I believe. Even now, most graphics folks still scorn TrueType, just as we scorned Apple's GX fonts, which were another attempt to cut Adobe out of the font and interpreter business. And, my 25-year-old PostScript fonts still do work on the latest equipment.


Same event, same tears, I think

Per the oft-fallible Wikipedia: "When TrueType was announced, John Warnock of Adobe gave an impassioned speech in which he claimed Apple and Microsoft were selling snake oil, and then instantly released the Type 1 format as a published standard for anyone to use." My recollection is that he shed tears at this event, which was or included a press conference. Given what I did to my brain in the 60's, just knowing Warnock existed is an impressive feat of memory.


A rather different recollection of the origin of DTP

As someone who learned to set lead type by hand, using a composing stick, and has remained active in printing and graphic arts in Silicon Valley ever since, I find this article distressingly inaccurate. If, by "desktop publishing" (DTP), the author is referring to technologies which replaced phototype and "mechanicals" (pasteups) in commercial printing, then it was the combination of the Macintosh, the Adobe PostScript language, a handful of Adobe Type 1 PostScript fonts, the PostScript interpreter added on to an existing Linotype imagesetter which was then named the "L-100," the PostScript-compatible Apple Laserwriter (and its PostScript driver, which was also used for the L-100), and Aldus PageMaker which began the DTP revolution. MacPaint, MacDraw, and MacWrite also played important roles.

Within a year of the introduction of these items, the market for phototypesetters collapsed.

QuarkXPress soon replaced PageMaker as the page layout program of choice. Adobe Illustrator and Aldus Freehand (formerly Altsys Virtuoso) added vector graphics creation to the mix. Much later, version 3.5 of Photoshop made professional bit-mapped graphics editing possible. Altsys's Fontographer spurred the creation of new fonts. Intense customer pressure and the prospect of legal action led Adobe to allow other companies to produce Type 1 fonts. (Adobe's president, John Warnock, cried at the press conference announcing this decision.)

DOS and Windows users got Ventura Publisher (which actually ran in Digital Research's GEM environment). Ventura was loathed by everyone except some marketing types who were forced to use PCs.

SGML played almost no role in DTP, except in one niche--software manuals and similar docs. Interleaf and FrameMaker spoke SGML, but commercial printers--even in Silicon Valley--rarely had to deal with this. SGML played no role in typesetting prior to this, because every phototypesetter manufacter had one or more proprietary markup languages. The typesetting "frontends" which produced either punched paper tape or were wired directly to phototypesetters, were either hardwired for one such language or were programmable to allow their use with several languages.

Punched paper tapes, depending on manufacturer, had anywhere from 5 to 8 holes per line, with a corresponding difference in language complexity. Some phototypesetters used other media. Linotype modified its machine to use film negatives instead of brass molds. Alphatype's Alphasetter, the highest-quality phototypesetter ever, used reel-to-reel audio tapes.

WYSIWYG ("what you see is what you get") was available long before DTP. Even the low-end typesetter manufacturer, Compugraphic, offered a WYSIWYG terminal for its Editwriter machines. Similarly, typesetting houses were outputting phototype in multiple columns--even on film--long before DTP.

As soon as microcomputers became available, they were used to drive phototypesetters. I was involved with a San Jose graphics house which used an Altair 8800 to drive a Photon (high-end) phototypesetter in the mid 70's. In the 60's, the folks playing in the big leagues, such as RR Donnelley and Black Dot, were using minicomputers to set type, soft proof it (often WYSIWYG), and drive optical and CRT typesetters.

The bit about the graphics tablet was interesting and new to me, although the idea of using bitmapped type output on a dot matrix or laser printer for printing died almost as soon as PostScript became available.

Robot goes berserk in Balkan lab: 6 boffins given dead arms


Slovenian boffins follow in the footsteps of noted experimentalist Al Capone

I am shocked, Mr. Page, that you have failed to note the contributions of one of the United States' most prominent experimentalists in this field. In 1929, I believe, Mr. Al Capone arranged an experiment to determine the amount of damage that could be inflicted by a baseball bat on a human being. Please note, those of you who think "cricket" when you hear "bat," that baseball bats are round in the minor dimensions, not flat like cricket bats..

To further his scientific pursuits, Mr. Capone held an hours-long, booze-filled feast for scores of his associates to "honor" three of his employees whom he regarded as traitors. At the end of Mr. Capone's toasts to the three, his bodyguards tied the guests of honor to their chairs and gagged them. Mr. Capone picked up a baseball bat, walked around the very long table, and clubbed, in turn, each of the "traitors" multiple times.

Long story short--all three men died, and the baseball bat in the hands of a psychopath was proven to be capable of lethality. Why the Slovenian experiments did not continue until the robot's lethality had been assessed, I do not know. I regard this error as evidence of a Slovenian failure to fully embrace the scientific method. These Slovenian failures will continue to haunt their scientific endeavors until they adopt "Western" practices.

Hefty physicist: Global warming is 'pseudoscientific fraud'


Elderly right-wing boffin spews--Tea Baggers rejoice

Mr. Allen was a founder (in 1960) and chairman of JASON, a group of scientists which offered advice to the U.S. military in return for access to policy makers and research subsidies. In this capacity, Mr. Allen helped devise a system of sensors in Vietnam, intended to interdict the transfer of people and materiel between the northern and southern parts of the country. Mr. Allen regards this system as a forerunner of the electronic "wall" between the U.S. and Mexico. He believes it was a technical success although, he says, it was not an operational success.

Mr. Allen and JASON participated in a number of similar initiatives. All of these efforts were aimed at improving the ability of the U.S. military to weaken or destroy America's ideological adversaries. A number of JASON's original bull geeks left the organization in protest of its right-wing ideology.

Mr. Allen's scientific career was not particularly distinguished. He was mostly interested in nuclear physics, although he did spend some time investigating an aspect of superconductivity at the Bell Labs. He has never had any published interest in climatology, and his bibliography seems to reflect the fact that his opinions in this area are not based on his personal research.

JASON still exists. Those of you who are curious may want to visit http://www.fas.org/irp/agency/dod/jason/, where you will find a selection of papers sponsored by the group. In an amusing irony, a few of these papers address climate change and regard the issue as a scientific fact.

Mr. Allen is 87. He is a former, right-wing, cold warrior. He knows little about climate change. He was part of an unsuccessful political effort last year to attack climatology. No one, including the American Physical Society, is losing any sleep over his most recent outburst. In fact, I can't find any mention of his views on PhysOrg or Physicsworld or any other Web site devoted to science. The only mentions I can find (hundreds!) are on right-wing opinion sites.

When it comes to environmental and ecological matters at The Register, one could reasonably wonder if the site is being edited by Tea Baggers.

Danube sludge peril: Brown trouser time or not?


Amen, brother Bartlett

I commend you. In the words of John Maynard Keynes: "It is better to be roughly right than precisely wrong."

You have stated the ecological problem better and much more descriptively than I did. Being married to a wildlife biologist, I take much of what you wrote for granted, which is an error on my part.

Two notes so the ideologues can't seize on textual lacunae to tear you down: 1.) The red sludge can kill organisms without coating them; the alkaline water alone will do in most of the life (and pH is only one of the sludge's several lethal modes, which include coating, light blocking, poisons of other sorts, and more). 2.) Efforts to reduce the alkalinity with various chemical compounds will likely kill some surviving organisms in the areas in which these compounds are introduced.

As a scientist, my wife will not offer an opinion as to when the Danube might return to "normal." She will say that the river will likely never be the same, at least within her lifetime (she is not a senior citizen). With respect to all such fact-free speculation, Keynes made another remark exactly on point: "In the long run we're all dead."


In the context of Worstall's views, "disaster" has little meaning

Given what I have seen of Mr. Worstall's writing since I found his Danube piece offensive, I think it likely that he has scant concern or sympathy for the dead along the Danube, the dead in China, the dead in the UK, or the dead anywhere else.

Mr. Worstall has a disturbing take on the world; he seems to believe that people's fates are almost entirely determined by individual merit and effort. Rather like the Calvinists, Mr. Worstall appears to regard individuals' good and ill fortunes to be the result of some intrinsic self-worth (or, for the Calvinists, worth in the eyes of God).

My wife is a wildlife biologist. She regards the almost-certain destruction of the fauna and flora of the Danube as a long-term environmental catastrophe. It will take years for the river system to recover, and the resulting ecology will likely be rather different than the one that existed before the spill. Invasive and disturbance species (these are two separate groups) will have the upper hand for a long time to come. Exactly how long is speculative, and good scientists don't speculate.

The environmental problems of the Danube basin have not been ludicrously overhyped. The deaths resulting from the incompetence of the corporation which produced the red sludge will lead to changes in laws and behaviors--and this will be another long-term environmental consequence of the affair, Mr. Worstall and Mr. (or Ms.) Miller notwithstanding.

As to the attempts at sarcasm and denigration: they are inappropriate in such matters. The effect of such attempts, at best, is to amuse those who agree with you and dismay those who do not. Put another way, such behavior does not advance either your argument or cause.


Mr. Worstall sneers as Hungarians die

Mr. Worstall said: "Yes, of course, a flood of such stuff [toxic red sludge] ripping through villages is a disaster, not least for those who didn't survive it. But a long-term threat to the ecosystem? Nah, it's just something for the more excitable greenies to shout about."

The death toll resulting from this flood is now seven. More may die. The relatives, friends, and neighbors of "those who didn't survive"and those who are still clinging to life appear to regard the problem in a rather different and substantially more permanent way than Mr. Worstall. Those affected, none of whom can reasonably be called "excitable greenies," appear to regard these deaths in a rather different light than Mr. Worstall.

Mr. Worstall must examine his conscience and then humbly and sincerely apologize. Should Mr. Worstall prove incapable of this response, The Register must either discontinue his services or face the loss of much of the site's credibility in environmental and scientific matters.


Threat or Menace?

Some may find Mr. Worstall's comments entertaining, but all Register readers should know that Mr. Worstall has little understanding of the matter. Insofar as Mr. Worstall has any insight into this most-recent, dire ecological catastrophe, it is informed by his adherence to an Ayn Randian economic and political ideology.

Should you doubt the foregoing, please visit timworstall.com. You will find today's (8 Oct 10) lead posting to be "Ignorant greenie whining.." You will also find the first two sentences of his self-description are: "Tim Worstall is an Englishman who has failed at many things. Thus his turn to writing, the last refuge of many who could make a living no other way." You will further find that his site's seven advertising links include two for payday loans, two for bad-credit loans, and one for "Gulf [of Arabia] Jobs."

All of this may be intended to superficially humorous, in the same manner as ex-US-President George Bush, Jr., gave demeaning nicknames to his aides--his most important aide, Karl Rove, being called "Turdblossom." Or, more likely, Mr. Worstall's Web site is an accurate reflection of the man. Mr. Worstall may indeed be serious, and he may well have had, or now still does have, reason to borrow money at as much as 433% annual interest. Or, perhaps, his site's visitors are likely to need cash and jobs.

No matter what motivates Mr. Worstall to denigrate science and promote scam artists, he should be pitied.

Given Mr. Worstall's credentials, or lack thereof, the most charitable view of his remarks about the Danube is that he is ill-informed. When Mr. Worstall says "we," he does not mean "those with knowledge, experience and wisdom." The "we" amongst whom he includes himself is a group that is largely comprised of far-right ideologues.

HP sues Hurd to keep secrets from Ellison


California state law makes HP case against Hurd weak

California statutes and case law are rather more protective of job changers, even those who have signed non-compete agreements, than almost anywhere else in the United States. Other than the instances in which a person sells an enterprise and agrees to stay on as a well-paid consultant or manager for a fixed amount of time, California employees are unusually free to take up employment as they wish, prior agreements notwithstanding. Mr. Hurd will almost certainly be sittting behind an Oracle desk shortly, perhaps after the payment of a nominal (by Hurd's standards) sum to HP.


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