* Posts by Spoobistle

72 posts • joined 1 Jun 2011


Think your phone is snooping on you? Hold my beer, says basic physics


Noise Floor

I don't think we need to worry unduly about this. The electromagnetic smog from cheap USB chargers, wireless devices, low energy bulbs, your neighbour's power-line ethernet etc is already bad enough to obliterate most of the radio spectrum and when everybody is converted to solar power installations, electric car charging and everything formerly gas powered is on green electricity it can only get worse! It's a bit like the spy movies where the agent turns on a tap or goes in the shower to defeat the bugging devices...

Mine's the one with the tin-foil lining, of course.

Oh my, Grandma, what a big meteorite you have right there on your pillow under that hole in the roof


"nearby highway construction"

So it could have been the Vogons then!

Pretend starship captain to take trip in real space capsule


Re: Dicing With Death

Fans of 70s BBC cardboard sci-fi will doubtless be watching the reruns of Blakes 7 on Forces Channel!

Japanese boffins say they've created plastic optical fibres to reach places that might break glass


Re: "Critically, the materials are said to have less requirement for forward error correction"

My rather non-technical understanding about transmission down fibres (and I think this applies to copper as well as optics) is that there are two distance related problems: (i) you lose intensity of the signal so eventually you can't pick it out of the noise; (ii) the signals "smear out" so that a set of nice rectangular pulses going in turns into rolling humps at the other end. These are related to absorption loss and dispersion respectively. My guess is that the Japanese have come up with a plastic fibre that's ok for one of these but not so good for the other, hence the short distance limitation. (It might well say which in the Keio U. announcement but I can't read Japanese!)

Sir Clive Sinclair: Personal computing pioneer missed out on being Britain's Steve Jobs


Re: kits

I can vouch for that, having built both; the ZX80 didn't work till I found the solder bridge I'd accidentally made (was more used to Veroboard then PCBs). The "cost saving" feature I recall was it being together by horrid plastic "pop rivet" things that looked like they wouldn't stand many disassembly cycles. I don't recall ever throwing them out, so they must be part of the electronic compost cluttering up the garage!

Boffins say Martian colonists could pee in buckets, give blood if they want shelter


Re: Where do you get the water for the blood?

It's worse than that: the HSA protein is made from whatever your Mars-o-nauts are eating, so you are basically using food resource to make bricks, and taxing your humans' metabolism in the process. It only makes sense if you've got a lot of spare blood to get rid of, which does seem to have rather sinister implications for the life expectancy of your personnel.

You could probably do this with almost any protein source, but it's a real waste of available nitrogen which would better be recycled into food. I'd put the money into developing carbon-based polymers made by genetically engineered photosynthetic algae fed by concentrators from the Martian atmosphere.

Virginia school board learns a hard lesson... and other stories


Re: Mike Oxlong sheds a silent tear

Not to mention Emma Royde, who's itching to make her presence felt.

But Wayne Kerr is a perfectly respectable company making electronic test equipment for the past 75 years.

8 years ago another billionaire ploughed millions into space to harvest solar power and beam it back down to Earth


Space Mines

Why bother bringing the power down to earth at all - just use it to mine cryptocurrency up

there and claim it as a carbon offset for all those rigs you didn't feed with coal-based


Sing a song of Office, a pocketful of why: ARM64 version running in a Pi


running off SD card

Was the comparable "low end PC" running off an SD card too? Can you run W11 and Office off a USB3 connected drive on a Pi, and would that help?

Doggy DNA database adopted by Gloucestershire cops to bring crims to heel


He's not your father!

I look forward to the inevitable celeb pet paternity cases!

What job title would YOU want carved on your gravestone? 'Beloved father, Slayer of Dragons, Register of Domains'


Re: Romanes eunt domus

Caesar adsum iam forti, Brutus aderat

Caesar sic in omnibus, Brutus sic in at

'Ring of fire' headed to northern UK – a partial solar eclipse, not the sensation you get after a potent vindaloo


Re: I videoed the last one

I'd guess your playground memory might have been May 1975, as I have a recollection of peering through crisp packets which must have been about that time.


Re: ^^^ This!

I don't think anybody saw this one coming!

Actually the clouds here were just thin/thick enough that you could see the bite out of the cherry without the fancy glasses. (I got mine out of the back of a drawer and found the warning "DO NOT use after Aug 12 1999".)

USB-C levels up and powers up to deliver 240W in upgraded power delivery spec


Re: 240W? Music power!

This new spec allows up to 48V, so that would be about 5A. Just hope the "negotiation" doesn't go wrong or you could have a whole new lot of light emitting diodes, transistors, resistors etc in your teensy device.

Anybody remember Music Power? This was a rating that enabled fag packet size speakers to do 50W. I can just see the cheapskate tat-floggers putting out tinsel cables rated for "240W (Do Not Use for More Than 3 Seconds)". Then we'll doubtless get stories like "My Nan always crochets matinee jackets for our tech, how should we know it was going to catch fire while the cat was lying on it..."

Nasdaq's 32-bit code can't handle Berkshire Hathaway's monster share price


Well, floating point representations were designed to allow scientists and engineers to use widely ranging quantities without having to think about scaling in each expression. Remember, at that time the alternatives to the (digital) computer doing it were the human computer with a slide rule or log tables! Or of course electronic or mechanical analog computers.

Gone in 60 electrons: Digital art swaggers down the cul-de-sac of obsolescence


Re: Maplin Electronics

Check out


They're not all there - I'm sure the site would be grateful for scans of missing copies!

Loads of other pre-millenium radio/electronics literature too.

Hacking is not a crime – and the media should stop using 'hacker' as a pejorative


Bad picture

Sorry but I don't like the picture on the stories page - if you're going to get your face that close to something you're using clippers on, for goodness sake wear eye protection. Wire ends can flirt a surprising distance in unexpected directions.

Obvious Icon!

US Air Force deploys robot security dogs to guard base


Re: Electronic sausages ?

No, they're controlled by Secure Sausage Layer.

Full of beans? Sadly not as fellow cracks open tin at dinner to find just one


"a little on the light side?"

Actually that would depend on the buoyant weight of beans in bean sauce. It's not the difference between an empty tin and a full one, but the difference between sauce and beans. My estimate, based on a model of beans as close packed spheres with a density of 1.1 g/cm3 and sauce of density 1.02 g/cm3 (about 5% sucrose) would be a difference of about 20g on a 400g tin. I expect other readers will wish to confirm this experimentally.

Despite billions in spending, your 'military grade' network will still be leaking data


'Twas ever thus?

It would be interesting to know how these figures compare with the days of the paper-filled office - emailing a file to the wrong person is no different in principle to putting a document in the wrong envelope, after all.

Science and engineering hit worst as Euroboffins do a little Brexit of their own from British universities


Re: Brexit bollocks

> Why make it worse than it already is by making all these people angry,

I believe that's called "appeasement". It works in the short term, but in the long run has a tendency to end in disaster. See "Danegeld" and other historical phenomena passim.

Regarding the EU and science, a bad Brexit won't do either UK or EU any good, there are reasons why UK science does so well out of the EU budgets. Breaking that system will disadvantage both; the beneficiaries will be the US (where the Old World talent will go) and the (up and coming) Pacific Rim.

Fantastic Mr Fox? Not when he sh*ts on your lawn, kids' trampoline and your soul


Re: Get a cat

"do it next door instead"

Unfortunately, all too many cats have the same habit. I imagine fox-poo is probably worse to scape out of the lawnmower though.

It's Prime Minister Boris Johnson: Tech industry speaks its brains on Brexit-monger's victory


Re: *

I thought that was the IT Angle: Kingston Telecom.

Who is this "Ivanka Trump" anyway?

Veteran vulture Andrew Orlowski is offski after 19 years at The Register



Talking Pictures Tv (81 on Freeview) much better for B&W films! Don't waste your time on BBC2, rapidly turning into a mushy lifestyle pap channel.

In a galaxy far, far away, aliens may have eight-letter DNA – like the kind NASA-backed boffins just crafted



There's obviously a whole lot of other things to consider in the "real" world, notably the metabolism that provides the nucleotides. They made their new letters synthetically but I am sceptical that their "Z", which contains a nitro group, would fit well into purine/pyrimidine biosynthesis.

Basically we know that the existing systems of protein and nucleic acid metabolism must have been optimal at the point of life's origin, and we can argue about whether they could have been replaced later or not, but we are still not really any further forward as to whether under different pre-biotic conditions an alternative metabolism would originate and persist.

However, this work along with others on non-natural amino acids etc are delineating the possible chemical spaces available for that alternative, so maybe one day we will be able to propose a full scheme for "exo-life".

DeepMind quits playing games with AI, ups the protein stakes with machine-learning code


Grail seekers

As anyone who has tried to make proteins will tell you, even when you have the right sequence of amino acids there is plenty of scope for the folding to go wrong. The energy differences between folded, misfolded and disordered proteins are small. Many proteins don't simply fold spontaneously - they need prior modification or "chaperone proteins" to get it right. There are cellular processes that modify the gene sequence before it is translated into amino acids. Etc etc.

To me this looks like the "big physics" approach: if you can't answer a question, throw a bigger machine at it. It works for some questions but I suspect that the result will be rather like previous attempts to computerise biology. It will get some good hits in the short term, then people will realise that most are actually rather similar to known cases - the "low hanging fruit" syndrome.

Meanwhile, rather like the back and forth between theoretical astrophysicists and astronomers, the biologists in the wet labs will need to collect more information on the hard cases mentioned: fibrous, disordered and membrane proteins.

There's no Holy Grail, just a lot more work.

RIP Ursula K Le Guin: The wizard of Earthsea


Wife's Story

I've been trying for months to recall where I read (many years ago) the story about a werewolf written from the wolf's point of view - I never realised it was by Ursula Le Guin. A sad loss.

Heart of darkness: Inside the Osówka underground city


VLF transmitter?

Didn't this complex appear in that series of Jamie Theakston programmes, now rolling round on Yesterday or Quest?

It struck me that the site could well have been intended as a VLF transmitter for communication with submarines, a well known Nazi obsession. All the Allied powers were doing this after WW2 (Alpha, Omega etc) but there doesn't seem to be much information about whether the Germans were developing anything similar.

Give a boffin a Xeon and a big GPU, get a new big prime number


> then you just collect a sufficiently large set of primes, multiply them all together and subtract 1 - bingo.

I thought that theorem only works if you multiply *all* primes together then subtract one. Otherwise, making new primes would just be a leapfrogging process.

Governments could introduce 'made by humans' tags - legal report


Re: post scarcity

There's no such thing as a post scarcity society. The work of the robots will be used to ease the lives of the already well-off while devaluing the resources the poor can give to society (i.e. their labour). The exact groups that are "well-off" and "poor" may change somewhat, but ultimately Economics is not an immutable consequence of Nature like physics or chemistry, but a man-made construct crafted to serve the powerful. Economics won't change until human nature does. Not any time soon.

Plans to force ISPs to filter content branded 'disproportionate'


> nobody was interested in any help buying, installing, advising, etc. them on how to apply a filter to their Internet connection. Literally NO-ONE even turned up.

Basically nothing the ISPs provide will be much use until parents have a proper incentive to use it. We need laws and social pressure to make it just as unacceptable not to filter your childs internet access as it is to give the kid whisky, cigarettes or your car keys.

High tides: Boffins spy on dolphins baked on poisonous piscines


Re: Not surprising really

My favourite comment on the dolphin-hugging claptrap was supposedly from Margaret Klinowska, who when asked why the angelic creatures saved so many drowning people by pushing them in to shore, replied that we just didn't hear from the people they pushed out to sea and drowned....

Never hold nature up as a moral example, you're bound to end up looking stupid.

Firefox bares teeth, attacks sites that collect personal data



I'd have thought an icon showing an open padlock would be more intuitive?

Symantec sets legal wolves upon Zscaler


Picture pun?!

"Legal wolves" - something that looks like a wolf but you can keep in a suburban garden?

Hence the picture, actually of two Malamutes, usually regarded as affectionate if boisterous sled-dogs. Unless it's a sly comment on the quality of Symantec's lawyers?

SANS issues call to arms to battle IoT botnets


Push the costs back to the suppliers

Consumer protection law could be upgraded/enforced better - if the IoT device you bought was used in a botnet, you get to pay damages to the victim - but you also get to recover those damages from the supplier. Once people get the idea that cheap tat isn't a saving but a liability, the suppliers will beef up security pretty quickly if they want to sell anything.

The law is an ass: Mooning banned at arse end of the world


Waltzing Matilda

Remind me again, what was it the dog did with the tuckerbox?

You should install smart meters even if they're dumb, says flack


Re: The other alternative

Not a chance - that's the whole idea of smart meters: to get National Grid out of having to supply more electricity:


This is what happens when you put bean-counters in charge of infrastructure. The noughties zeitgeist isn't about more capacity, it's about sweating the assets harder till you've moved on and the replacement bill is someone else's nasty surprise. See motorways, rail, NHS, telecommunications, schools, housing... practically anything that requires men with shovels because they cost real money.

Next step is rationing. It'll be called "choice" though, as in you can "choose" to have a hot bath today, or you can "choose" go to work smelly and claim it's for the environment rather than because you're skint.

Printers now the least-secure things on the internet


Internet of punter-milking

I'm starting to wonder if anyone thinks about quality any more. It seems we are lumbered with either cheap as chips tat which can be exploited by any hacker, or locked down "milking machines" which only function while they can phone home to check the subscription is being paid. (Case in point: I have three old BT Vision boxes at home, which I picked up in the detritus at car boot sales. These would be perfectly capable of functioning as Freeview receivers or PVRs, but the software makes this impossible to do legally. So all they can do is bulk up the electrical appliance waste stream.)

I'd like to see appliances marketed in such a way that "Internet extras" are clearly differentiated from on-going expectations of function, and are assessed for safety and security. I don't know who is going to push this though. "Which" perhaps?

Astronauts sequence DNA in space for the first time


Nanu Nanu Pores

I don't suppose anyone expected DNA sequencing not to work in space - I guess this was more about showing astronauts could do it themselves without an elaborate lab setup. By extension you can do sequencing "anywhere" (I think these things have already been used on plagues in various earthly locations).

Maybe even the NHS will get them one day...

Would we want to regenerate brains of patients who are clinically dead?



Think they might have chosen a better brand name... unless of course it's a subsidiary of Cthulhu Enterprises.

Mozilla slings Firefox patches at flaw found by GCHQ's infosec arm


Re: Comma placement (@Dan55)

Well if GCHQ have prompted Mozilla to cure the infuriating Javascript "lockups" that have become a feature of Firefox lately, they'll get a vote of thanks from me, and hopefully I won't have to switch browser.

Facebook tells Viz to f**k right off


Modern Parents

I thought Facebook *was* something out of Viz...

Raspberry Pi grows the pie with new deal allowing custom recipes


More versions

One that aspiring musicians could play along to:

The Raspberry Jam

One that emitted a piercing noise on detecting nearby Apple devices:

The Raspberry iScream

One that monitored restaurant waiting staff overloads:

The Raspberry TrayFull

One that alerted you to toothed cutting devices on auction sites:

The Raspberry SawBay

...I think it's lunch time now.

WIPO punts Cambridge University over attempt to grab Cambridge.com


Re: Compromise

You're forgetting Cambridge, New Zealand. I don't think there's any university there either.

NASA: 'Closest thing yet to ANOTHER EARTH' - FOUND


life has already died out on Kepler 452b...

On a sweaty greenhouse of a planet, about a billion years ago, Noel Smuk is arguing with his executives.

"Well if we can't get a person off this boiling hellhole, what can we do?"

"How about sending a robot ship with frozen microbes? The AI can scan for life and seed any sterile environments, then come back and tell us where it has fertilised. By the time it gets back we'll have developed better cryopreservation."

"Great, where to go?"

"There's this little exoplanet about 1400 LY away, bit small, bit young but it should definitely be on the list"...

Weird ARCHAEAN LIFE FORM found at 'Loki's Castle' DEEP beneath Arctic Circle


Re: Oh Hell

> "...which we refer to as microbial dark matter,..."

> Now even the biologists are doing it...

There is a vague similarity - they haven't actually discovered a wee crawly beastie, what they did was to scrape up lots of little bits of DNA and stitch them together (virtually) to read the genome of the beastie. Like the physicists, they know it must be there, but can't actually see it. Unlike the physicists, there is a sporting chance some intrepid diver will eventually find it on the bottom of his boot.

Tesla's battery put in the shade by current and cheaper kit


Re: Kettles

"My kettle is rated as 2.5kW, it boils a cup of water reasonably quickly but watch what happens when you turn it on, hot bubbles form around the element, detach and rise to the surface releasing some of their heat on the way up but most of the heat is given up to the atmosphere."

Most of that is dissolved air coming out of solution, and nothing to do with the heating.

"Any water left in the kettle cools quickly due to lack of insulation.

It can't be beyond science to have a 1.25kW kettle boil the same amount of water in a similar timeframe"

As James Joule convinced us many years ago, it takes a fixed amount of *energy* to raise the temperature of water to boiling, so twice the *power* takes half as long - assuming a perfectly insulated kettle, and that's the real point. A crappy uninsulated 1.25kW kettle will be no better than a crappy uninsulated 2.5kW kettle and probably worse because more heat is lost in the longer time to boiling. If you want rules about kettles, make them apply to the insulation, not the heating power.



Re: @rpb - Currant in Yorkshire

> In Yorkshire we feed Eccles cakes to pigs although we have to blend them in with other things

As a child in Manchester it was a tricky choice between the Egg Custard and the Eccles Cake; not till I came to Yorkshire did I discover that some local genius had combined the two in the Curd Tart. Its only disadvantage is having to avoid the Hulture Secretary temptation in the bakery.

A drone of one's own: Reg buyers' guide for UAV fanciers


Re: Ignore the licence requirements

Not to mention:

Ignore the big guy with the baseball bat who thinks you're a peeping tom spying on his wife/kids.



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