* Posts by Grumpy Old Fart

26 posts • joined 1 Mar 2011

Room-temperature brown dwarf spied just 9 light-years off

Grumpy Old Fart

as we know it?

I find it incredibly hard to believe that life will be anything like it is now by the point we're approaching the heat death of the universe. In just 3.5 billion years we've gone from a single anaerobic bacteria to the duck-billed platypus*, discarding countless other forms, and possibly many different basic biochemistries, along the way, and we're not even halfway through the life of this single planet.

* platypus = obviously the most complex form of life on the planet. Unnecessarily complex.

Hey, Music Industry. You're suing the wrong people

Grumpy Old Fart

Second Hand Market

What I never see in any of these discussions is the effect of the loss of the second-hand market.

With traditional physical media there was always the option to trawl the markets and junk shops for a second-hand version at half-price or less. None of this second-hand revenue went to the artists, producers, distributers...it all went to the original owner (and second-hand reseller).

Obviously with digital sales the whole concept of second-hand sales vanishes, so the artists/producers get every cent of every sale of the content.

So the producers get more, and the customers lose access to a cheaper legal alternative source for the content. How do these numbers compare against the piracy numbers for the industries involved?

Free Ride: Disney, Fela Kuti and Google's war on copyright

Grumpy Old Fart

marginal cost

I did say marginal cost...the cost of producing one more ebook. Which is very very close to zero.

There are lots of costs currently involved in making a book as you so rightly say. But currently the industry enforces this on all authors because the costs of printing are so large that it's worthwhile hiring an editor, typesetter, proofreader, etc to ensure that the book sells more.

However, if the book is going to be purely released in ebook format, the cost of publishing is zero, so all of those editing, typesetting, marketing costs are entirely optional. If your book contains errors but you can drop the price to $5 because you don't have to pay a proofreader, will that make you more money? Will more people buy your book because it's only $5 than are put off buying it by the bad reviews because of the errors?

You could even produce two versions of the book, one at $5 with errors, one at $10 with no errors, the electronic equivalent of paperback and hardback maybe? There's lots of other, different models that might work for ebooks but don't work for paper books. If the publishing houses don't get this then they will have it got for them.

This world is already here, as anyone who has perused Amazon's ebook market will know. Cost of publishing = zero, so endless cut-and-paste copies of Gutenberg originals being sold for 99 cents. And as the music industry is proving, once you have a reliable online marketplace physical sales dry up. See Borders for details. Brick-and-mortar bookshops are struggling, Amazon is booming.

It'll be interesting to see how the quality part of the market survives, but there'll always be a demand for a well-written book so it should settle out in the end.

Grumpy Old Fart


I don't think I stated my point very well, because you said it better.

Marginal cost of production being zero just means that you can publish crap profitably. And there's no shelf-space issue so online retail stores will sell your crap happily. You can price it how you like, as you say, but remember that your customers will always have the choice of pirating it for free if they don't like your price. This piracy option is only available because the marginal cost of publishing is zero (otherwise the pirates would be losing money).

Grumpy Old Fart

Physical object full of data = broken business model

I obviously haven't read the book, because that would be far too much effort for a simple commentard and would not give me the pleasure of sounding off on a subject about which I know very little.

But from the article he doesn't seem to address the core problem: that the internet is primarily a distribution mechanism for information, and that it breaks any business model that involves filling a physical object with data to distribute it. All the content industries have to deal with this eventually.

If Levine defines IP as a thing full of information (as he seems to do with the bible story) then it's all doomed to fail, as the idea of filling a thing with data to distribute it will soon seem to be very old-fashioned and pointless.

Book publishing is the current industry getting trashed by this problem. Why buy a book when you can download the text for free? So far the publishing industry seems to be making the same mistakes as the music industry, as I don't see any 99c book portals springing up but there's hundreds of thousands of ebooks on Pirate Bay for free. The marginal cost of production for an ebook is zero, so a price of even $10 is hard to justify. For a business built on retail prices much higher than that, and accustomed to tiering sales through hardback then paperback then anthology sales, this is going to be an incredibly bitter pill to swallow. The temptation for them to fight to preserve their current model is going to be hard to resist.

And we're going to have to do this all over again in (say) 50 year's time when 3D printing becomes distributed manufacturing and breaks the business model of anyone making a physical object and distributing it....

Oxford adds woot! to dictionary

Grumpy Old Fart

Loose vs Lose

So when are they going to allow 'Loose' as an alternative spelling for 'Lose'? Surely more people use this than use 'jeggings'?

I'm fed up of getting growled at* as a "Grammer Nazi" (sic) for correcting people on this, and I'm fed up of seeing commercial publications that should know better making this mistake.

For the love of all things shiny, just put me out of my misery and include 'Loose' as an alternative spelling for 'Lose'. Then I can stop twitching.

(*in my Growlery...top word, I shall strive to reintroduce it)

How expensive are Australian NBN services?

Grumpy Old Fart

Aussies are bargain-hunters though

The price question goes to the heart of the debate. Aussies are price-sensitive. If it's expensive it's not considered 'good quality', it's a rip-off, a rort. Unless you can prove that it's some of the best value for money in the world, we'll grump and moan about what a rip-off it is.

I don't care. I want my NBN. Having compared the broadband service here and in the UK, this sucks. Capped quotas, dodgy connections, poor speeds, it's just dreadful. I'm happy to pay more if that's what it takes, but I want a decent service.

And while I'm more than happy for Abbot to get in and end Gillard's Green Madness, if he starts waffling on about wireless again I'm going to drive to Canberra and personally clobber him with the cluestick.

The PPP I've always used is beer. A pint of beer at the moment in Perth is $10, about 6 quid or, well, $10 US too. That's an average pint too, you can go more expensive. Not sure how that compares to UK beer these days though.

London rioters should 'loose all benefits'

Grumpy Old Fart


When did 'they' become 'them' and not 'us'?

Maybe they became 'them' first, then 'they' got pissed off about it.

I'd like to see the commentards line up a random dozen British 18-20 year-old males and spot 'them' from the line-up.

Then shoot them with your live ammunition, knowing as you do that you can infallibly spot a bad'un when you see one, and their lives are so irretrievably blighted that it would benefit everyone if they died now before their lives even got going.

I was a total dickhead at 18, as were we all. I took part in the riots in the 80's cos it seemed like a laugh and a way to get back at the authority figures pissing me off. Mostly my involvement consisted of shouting 'wanker' at policemen and trying to stay out of the way of the serious nutters, but given most of the comments here, I should have been shot. I calmed down, got on with my life, and now run my own business.

Please think before engaging your arse at the keyboard. And stop being scared of your own children.

UK police warns off hacktivists

Grumpy Old Fart

but hang on a second...

OK, try this experiment at home: Take something valuable to others, let's say for example your entire DVD collection, and put in on your front lawn for a week. When it disappears, try going to your local friendly Police station and demanding that they hunt down the culprits. While you're there, get a crime number and then try and claim the cost of your lovely DVDs from your insurer.

Assuming you agree with me on the futility of persuading the forces of law and order to pursue your case, then let's move on to the next case. If we change your DVD collection to a thing that could potentially do harm to others, let's say a (legally owned by you) handgun and box of bullets. Now go to the police and you'll get quite a different reaction, one that will possibly involve you doing hard time for anyone killed by your irresponsible actions.

Now change the actors. Instead of you leaving a dangerous handgun on your front lawn, we have the police leaving a dangerous set of data ineffectively secured. Surely, just as you were liable in the previous case, they're liable now?

This is, after all, why we have data protection legislation. If you're going to collect other people's personal information, you take responsibility for making sure that it doesn't fall into the wrong hands (just like when you apply for a gun license you take responsibility for ensuring it doesn't get into the wrong hands). Being the police or other state agency doing the collecting and protecting doesn't suddenly remove the responsibility to protect the information.

Yes, the thieves are still bad guys, but the people nicking the DVD's from your front lawn are just as much bad guys and they'll never get prosecuted for it.

Anonymous are the local 'bad kids' of the internet...they'll nick anything you leave on your lawn. Don't leave anything out there that you don't want nicked.

Grumpy Old Fart


Except for the fact that there are an awful lot of things that are 'a little bit illegal'...speeding, being drunk in public, answering a mobile while driving at 50kph on a deserted country road.

It's not the law that counts, it's the enforcement. We all break laws all the time, most of the time without even knowing it, it's whether the police choose to enforce the law that counts.

And then there's the courts. Everyone has stories of minor infractions being dealt with harshly while what seems like 'proper' crimes get let off with nothing. Obviously, these were only a 'little bit illegal'.

Remember it's all about law and order, not about justice.

For Australian small biz, NBN retail prices look fabulous

Grumpy Old Fart


How will this take us backwards?

I just don't get the logic of this. If NBN is more expensive than your current copper-based service, and you don't need the speed, don't sign up for it (but let them install the fibre to your home so you don't get penalised when selling your place because the next owners will need to install the fibre).

The govt isn't holding a gun to your head and forcing you to upgrade to a faster internet, it's just trying to install a modern fibre network. If you want to remain in the last century and not have a speedy fibre service, that's your call...what's the problem?

The copper network we're using at the moment was built to enable non-packet-switched continuous connections between two telephones. It now does so much more, but we're stretching it. Please for the love of all things shiny just let them upgrade the network. You don't have to use it, but those of who really really really want a proper broadband service need this to go through successfully. I know it's Labour's idea so therefore automatically a terrible idea that needs to be opposed, but just for once can we not let partisan politics get in the way of a good thing? Just once?

'There's too much climate change denial on the BBC'

Grumpy Old Fart

All growed up

Grown up...check

Not stupid...check

Not convinced yet of the reality of Anthropogenic Global Warming...check

Sorry, but Climategate & the undoubted fudging of Mann's Hockey Stick started me down a road of sceptical inquiry that has since discovered many many more such blunders, fudges and half-truths.

Too many to list here or reference, but the main one that is still unanswered in any reasonable fashion is the missing hotspot. It's the single most observable prediction from the climate models that predict warming, and it's still missing in the real world.

And no, I'm not an oil shill or gas-guzzler. I really believe in reducing my impact on the earth's resources, I don't own a car, buy used goods as much as possible, only buy locally-produced food, etc. But I don't agree with spending vast amounts of money trying to reduce our carbon emissions when we could spend it to so much better effect elsewhere (tackling global poverty for example, which would help reduce overpopulation and have a vastly more beneficial effect on the environment than any amount of carbon emission reduction).

Aussie carbon tax in actually-makes-sense shocker

Grumpy Old Fart

same situation, different result

Well, this adds a few thousand more pointless Canberran envirocrats to the bureaucracy your taxes support for one. Another vast unaccountable faceless government agency who will require forms in triplicate whenever anyone tries to do anything productive, and who will close a business without hesitation from a single unjustified complaint. We're drowning in red tape already and now there's more.

For two, if you base your opinion on every single government policy on purely how much it affects your wallet at this point in your life, then you deserve the godawful pollies you get. Get a bigger picture.

For three, we're committing vast amounts of money to produce exactly zero effect on any CO2 emissions, let alone the climate itself. There are lots and lots of much better uses for this money than attempting to ameliorate less than a hundredth of a degree of warming (even if the worst, most dire predictions of the climate models are right).

Entering a storage jail

Grumpy Old Fart

asset pricing

Your precious assets are only worth what someone will pay for them, and as everyone stops reading dead trees and starts reading bits, your assets will decline in value to the point they're no longer worth anything and you're massively over-insured.

I have a few hundred books and got a Kindle in January. I pirated around 2000 books for nothing from a bittorrent site, and am now sat here with shelves and shelves of dead trees wondering wtf I'm going to do with them. There are some books in there that are rare and unavailable in electronic form, and I'm seriously considering digitising them, and there are some workshop manuals that I don't think I'll ever use electronically because I don't want the Kindle anywhere near the power tools. Apart from that, the rest of my carefully-accrued collection is just dead weight now.

The DRM issue is a non-starter. Books that I buy from Amazon I remove the DRM from and store on a hard drive. Books that I pirate don't have DRM in the first place. (no, I don't feel guilty pirating them, same as I don't feel guilty buying a second-hand book. Nothing goes to the author past first sale, and I stopped buying new books years ago).

Insisting that your real books have real value and your digital books don't is confusing the map with the territory. A book is a container for information, nothing more. It's the information that matters, not the container. If you don't believe me (and I was of the same opinion a year ago) buy an e-reader and try it. The reading experience is the same (if not better), and suddenly your shelves of valuable assets don't look so valuable any more, they suddenly look like a huge liability.

Chinese coal blamed for global warming er... cooling

Grumpy Old Fart

read the feckin paper you just posted

and if you read the paper you just posted (like I just did) then you'd find that the 97%-98% only holds true for the top 50-100 (respectively) cited researchers in the field. Include more researchers and you get more UE researchers (sceptics) in the figures.

Which entirely agrees with the sceptic position that the science is being hijacked by a small minority of the senior climatologists (a position supported by the climategate material).

So...did you read the paper and come to a different conclusion? How?

Earth orbit for £1,000? You must be joking

Grumpy Old Fart

Cost or budget?

1. Borrow cash to build v. expensive rocketry to take v. small package to orbit

2. Insure for more than it's worth for accidental fire damage

3. Accidentally light touch paper stand back

4. Claim insurance and pay back loan

5. Buy (((insurance claim - premium) - loan) + 998.99) quid's worth of beer

6. Drink

7. Tip barpersonages

8. Win!

and then spend the proceeds on aspirin before repeating the same procedure to claim the other prize.

Eco investors demand (even) more sweeteners for low carbon energy

Grumpy Old Fart

...going back to the 70's

Yeah we tried nationalised energy monopolies back then, and that sucked too.

It wasn't cheaper, was massively inefficient, and because it was run by politicians not businessmen it caved in to union pressures and led to the country having a 2-day work week because of strikes at the power plants.

Government monopolies really don't work for this sort of thing.

Hack attack kills thousands of Aussie websites

Grumpy Old Fart

secure, I mean really secure. No, really.

We have a team of Malaysian students who meticulously copy all our data down on reams of paper in binary format, and then photocopy those pages, and store them in climate-controlled rooms on two separate sites, so if we are ever hacked and lose our data we can reconstruct it.

Of course, the team are currently 200-strong and about 3 years behind with the transcription process, but it's still a lot better than this newfangled fancy-dancy "cloud" rubbish.

Oxfam's 'Grow' world hunger plan: More peasants

Grumpy Old Fart

Shoot the Pope then

Following the trend of most reports on any of these subjects, I'm going to pull some numbers out of my arse and prove to you that the entire overpopulation problem in the world is caused by catholics: over 80% of the developing world is religious, and over 75% of all aid is provided through religious-based NGO's that also provide 'education' (read: brainwashing) that intentionally discourages contraceptive use.

Either the plan is to infect an entire continent with HIV and harvest the ensuing HIV-proof genetic material to save rich AIDS victims in a stunning plan of medical genocide, or we need to line the good fathers up against the wall and divert a substantial percentage of the world's rubber production to Africa.

Of course, not something Oxfam could get behind for fear of upsetting all those trendy muppets who have suddenly rediscovered their Christianity as a way of livening dinner party debate with followers of The Great Dawkins.

Damn, I appear to have soiled myself with incoherent rage. Coat please!

Down Under gamers get closer to 18+ rating

Grumpy Old Fart

but...we already have access

Let's be really clear about this: anyone who wants to play such games already can, via piracy or international shipping.

So we're not talking about finally, graciously, 'allowing' Aus gamers to play 18+ games. We're talking about allowing the government to tax them and Aus retailers to make a profit selling them.

Still need that wowser icon...

Supreme Court: DNA database retention regs are unlawful

Grumpy Old Fart
Big Brother

more maybe than no, yeah?

If I remember right, and I'm buggered if I can find it, there was a case recently where the top DNA boffin recanted on the 'million to one' accuracy because of the difficulties of getting good samples from forensic evidence (or something like that).

It's down to 'hundred thousand to one' now, because of that, which does mean that trawling DNA databases of every crook in the country for a potential match is pointless, and DNA should be treated as purely circumstantial evidence now.

However, while the police are measured on rates of conviction, rather than amount of actual justice done, nothing will change.

Google lobbying to make driverless cars legal in Nevada

Grumpy Old Fart

Works for me

I live in Perth...and the sooner they can replace the morons attempting to drive here the better.

They're seriously considering putting traffic lights on the Freeway (motorway equivalent) because attempting to merge two lanes of traffic causes huge numbers of accidents. God bless 'em but the concept of allowing another driver to go in front of you is complete anathema to red-blooded Perth thinking.

And the taxis are worse. Despite having sat-nav, the drivers will still ask you for directions. Having a driver that doesn't talk and is capable of operating GPS will be a huge upgrade.

I use a bike for personal transport and occasionally have to rent a car for a weekend to do all the chores that require transport (the monthly Bunnings (B&Q) trip usually). The thought of being able to do this on a per-trip basis instead of a whole weekend is a winner for me.

Steve Jobs vindicated: Google Android is not open

Grumpy Old Fart

Open not Free

But Google never claimed it was Free (or Libre), just Open, which is just numbers 0 and 1 on your list.

Which it is, or will be once they've cleaned it up a bit.

If they don't disclose the source in, say, a couple of months maybe? Then you can start wondering about the intentions. Until then, since they have opened all the rest of the Android code, I think they deserve the benefit of any doubt.

Troll, obviously, because of the massive iTroll in this nonsense of an article.

Oz governments find new use for censorship

Grumpy Old Fart
IT Angle

Anecdotal, but...

I have a friend (yes just the one) who is intelligent, highly educated, tough, strong-willed, non-religious and remarkable free of abusive ex's. She firmly believes that the internet should be censored, that Northbridge* is a very dangerous place after dark, that illegal drugs are inherently dangerous (otherwise they wouldn't be illegal), that violent video games are bad for kids and therefore shouldn't be sold, and that pr0n is abusive to women and should be banned. Alongside that, she also believes that everyone should obey all the rules regardless of their chances of being caught, and that therefore banning something is a useful thing to do if that something is 'bad'.

Needless to say I, like most Reg readers, don't share these views. I actually find it vaguely horrifying that someone so otherwise clued-up should be so...naive? is that the word?

It has, however, opened my eyes to the fact that Australians largely get the politicians we deserve. You can see it in the Aussie press, their continual peddling of fear-based stories of hoons and bikies running amok and ruining the lives of good old Aussie battlers.

As long as this viewpoint in the public persists, pollies will be able to get votes for pandering to it <shrug>

and yes, this has no IT angle at all.

*Northbridge is the closest equivalent to a 'tolerance zone' in Perth. It's massively policed, and very safe compared to any UK city centre after dark, but every month or so the West Australian will run a story about the horrific violence and call on the govt to ban something new.

AFP terrifies MPs with ‘net pr0n tales

Grumpy Old Fart

Where's a wowser icon when you need one?

Usual form then, any change at all is an excuse for the bureaucracy to generate some more fear and grab some more power.

Interesting point about where the misinformation is coming from...surely all three 'layers' will be eager to demonise the tubes? Police for the power grab of data retention, Libs for the anti-NBN fuel, press for the fear factor (anonymous internet users ate my baby!).

The Register and Australia-New Zealand

Grumpy Old Fart

...and a bit further

Whereas Western Australia isn't a separate country with a proper name, but isn't.

Perth is 2045 miles from Sydney, and if we could move further west, we would.

See your pedant and raise you a troll....

Oh, and talking of icons, can we have a wowser icon too, please?


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