* Posts by Tony Haines

169 publicly visible posts • joined 12 Jun 2007


Maplin shutdown sale prices still HIGHER than rivals

Tony Haines

//The maplin near me is next door to a PC world, Last year I needed a new external drive *same day* I saved £20 by walking next door (And PC world still ripped me off compared to the price online!)//

Funnily enough I did that this year, but with the stores reversed. Maplin was cheaper than PC world - not by £20, but by a bit.

No, I didn't take the extra insurance they offered.

'Quantum supremacy will soon be ours!', says Google as it reveals 72-qubit quantum chip

Tony Haines

Re: @Dave 126What's the application?

The blog to read about this stuff is Scott Aaronson's. At least, some of it.


If you can't face that, just read the yellow text in the header:

"If you take just one piece of information from this blog: Quantum computers would not solve hard search problems instantaneously by simply trying all the possible solutions at once"

Or you could try to get a slightly more detailed gist from this comic:


What did we say about Tesla's self-driving tech? SpaceX Roadster skips Mars, steers to asteroids

Tony Haines

Re: It was never going anywhere NEAR Mars

Have you heard?

It's in the stars.

Next July, it collides with Mars.

Jet packs are real – and inventor just broke world speed record in it

Tony Haines

he says it could also be used for "serious work"

Thank God you're here, Captain Hairdrier!

UK Parliament hack: Really, a brute-force attack? Really?

Tony Haines

horse & door

//The incident raises bigger questions - for the private sector as well as government - around how it's often the case that adequate defences are only put in after an attack.//

Often? It's practically always, for everything.

People can complain about something for years, but it isn't important until an entire towerblock burns.

Numbers war: How Bayesian vs frequentist statistics influence AI

Tony Haines

//In the real world t is better to rely on actual facts (numbers) rather than some guesswork based on assumptions that mat not be provable.//

Well obviously. If you have the data you want, you don't need statistics. Unfortunately, the real world is not always so obliging.

If you don't have the information already, what are you going to do - give up?

Tony Haines

//How is that figured out when using stats to save the world ?//

good question. I think stats would help.

Let us assume we have a certain amount of money to spend on the issue, which essentially can be converted into putting people into isolation, quarantine and/or providing good separation between arbitrarily sized groups in the community (i.e. building walls and guarding access-gates). Plus further testing beyond the initial screen.

Depending on the relative costs of those, and the estimate of the infection rate (which we can quickly obtain given the known test error rates, once the population screen is complete), and the cross-infection rate (how many latent cases an infective zombie causes) an equation could be derived to optimise the number of people saved.

My unpopular career in writing computer reviews? It's a gift

Tony Haines

Those gloves look the business

Top review Dabbsey, very thorough. I'll be looking for all protective clothing I get in future to be cat tested.

Also, I think the orange tango man should get a whole-body suit made, and fight crime.

Paxo trashes privacy, social media and fake news at Infosec 2017

Tony Haines


//On the role of the surveillance state, he said: "Personally I am prejudiced on this question on security and privacy, what is it you are all doing that you are so concerned about? Do you think anyone is really interested in your sex lives? They are not! I can't understand this.//

I am disappointed, but not surprised that he can only see privacy for normal people as being about their bedroom antics.

But I'm stunned he thinks noone is interested in that. He must have a Ron Burgundy-like memory of the news. Revenge porn, various stories about emails, videos or images escaping into the wild, gossip columns and the Paparazzi for the rich & famous - nope, no interest in any of that.

PAH! Four decades of Star Wars: No lightsabers, no palm-sized video calls

Tony Haines

future displays are rubbish

Currently, we have displays which are nice and big and clear, with a decent gamut, and in many cases almost free of visual artefacts.

Why is it that practically every display in the future is defective in some way, being blurry or with poor colour rendition, or translucent? Do future-people really care so much more about 3d representation than image quality?

Robot lands a 737 by hand, on a dare from DARPA

Tony Haines

Re: Surely someone is thinking....

Looks like a skutter to me.

Need the toilet? Wanna watch a video ad about erectile dysfunction?

Tony Haines

What gets me is the sign which says "Now wash your hands" which seems to frequently be positioned at eye level above the urinal.

Personally I prefer to wait until I get to a sink.

...now to work out how we can get the guy who wees on the seat to put their knob in a cheesegrater.

Astro-boffinry breakthrough: Loads of ingredients for life found on Saturn's Enceladus

Tony Haines


Earth, Europa, Enceladus all have liquid water, a primary requirement for life.

We should prioritise research on all celestial bodies beginning with the letter 'E'.

TCP/IP headers leak info about what you're watching on Netflix

Tony Haines


>"Kranch offers a couple of ideas to fix the issue. For example, he says, “the browser could average the size of several consecutive segments and send HTTP GETs for this average size. As an alternative approach, the browser could randomly combine consecutive segments and send HTTP GETs for the combined video data.”

Or even better, make GET requests that match up with the profile of a completely different video.

WWW daddy Sir Tim Berners-Lee stands up for end-to-end crypto

Tony Haines

Re: No, it's not settled

>> "For avoidance of doubt, you don't dissuade people who are or are intending to break laws by providing them with more laws to break."

> "Yes you do. It's why, for example, the UK has historically had very low gun crime; we used to punish it harshly. Don't forget it's also how Peter Sutcliffe (false numberplate) got caught and severely restricted Al Capone's activities."

You make a great point backed up with convincing data - the specific examples you give were both outstanding pillars of the community, who might have gone astray were it not for the numerous laws keeping them on the straight and narrow.

Do the numbers, Einstein: AI is more than maths as some know it

Tony Haines

Königsberg's bridges

I reckon I can solve the Königsberg bridge problem. But the solution does involve leaving the city and hiking around the river's source.

Sony: Never mind the phones – look out at what our crazy lab scientists have done

Tony Haines

Re: Ohh FFS

>"There probably aren't many people, even from your local area, who could understand you under the circumstances you describe."

I think he's just looking to replace his wife.

...And it looks like a cross between a dalek and a kitchen bin.

'First ever' SHA-1 hash collision calculated. All it took were five clever brains... and 6,610 years of processor time

Tony Haines

Re: 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 sha1 calculations

>"But if you can insert "not" AND just stash away the "KJ"BIUE_D H£(*ERNY£" in a garbage area, you're sorted."

> "Hey, you know that, when it comes to PDF, you could place 'KJ"BIUE_D H£(*ERNY£' behind the image or something ..."

It seems to me this is an argument for deprecating the pdf format (and anything else which has undefined buffers or hidden data) for contracts and anything else which needs to be digitally signed, to be honest.

If the document was in a form where you couldn't tweak it by tinkering with effectively 'wild' bits, it would be enormously harder to produce a document of the same size.

Larger documents would still be almost as easy, of course, so you'd need to add an exact filesize to the hash.

Japan tries to launch satellite on rocket the size of a telegraph pole

Tony Haines

Re: Reg units?

"Nowhere in the article does it say that it could put the object into orbit just to 800/2000km up."

But it did say satellite - which orbits by definition.

Fatal genetic conditions could return in some 'three-parent' babies

Tony Haines

Re: Prediction...

Guys, I wouldn't worry too much about what the scientists know.

By the time you've lossily compressed and reprocessed the information inherent in a piece of complex science into a news article, most of the clauses and qualifications have been stripped away.

Or more succinctly:

"All sound bites are wrong."

New British flying robot killer death machines renamed 'Protector'

Tony Haines

Re: ha!

"The RAF’s [Protectors] will carry Brimstone 2 missiles"

I agree, too severe. Perhaps we could call them "goodwill ambassadors"

Local TV presenter shouted 'f*cking hell' to open news bulletin

Tony Haines

Re: Who cares?

"You tedious trump."

I think you're onto something there Gas - we can simply repurpose suitable politicians into swearwords suitable for both pre- and post-watershed viewing.

This will soon lead to phrases like "What the farage?", "Go farage yourself" and "Stop making such a teresamay of yourself" entering the language.

No spin zone: Samsung recalls 3M EXPLODING washing machines

Tony Haines

Re: First thing I would do

First thing I would do : check if Clement has been hired by R&D.


Whoosh! China shows off J-20 'stealth' fighters and jet drones

Tony Haines

Re: Stealth..

I thought it was pretty good:

"The media could not be played".

FT journo roasts channel leaders for spouting bullshit

Tony Haines

Re: Etymological fallacy

Actually Dan I did - and I just checked; what you include is not present on the page I'm looking at (http://www.dictionary.com/browse/passionate)

Possibly you're using a different dictionary?

Nevertheless, even if we accept the archaic Christian meaning for the sake of argument[1], it seems disingenuous to claim that and sexual attraction as the only meanings.

[1] Which we're not obliged to do, since she invited us to refer to any dictionary.

Tony Haines

Re: Etymological fallacy

That's kind of what I thought.

//any dictionary will tell you that passion means “either a strong sexual attraction or the suffering of Jesus Christ on the cross.”//

Except that it turns out that according to any dictionary - i.e. dictionary.com - the first meaning of passionate is:

having, compelled by, or ruled by intense emotion or strong feeling

She was close with sexual desire because meaning 2:

easily aroused to or influenced by sexual desire; ardently sensual.

And there were three other options all similar to (1). Jesus wasn't mentioned.

'Please label things so I can tell the difference between a mouse and a microphone'

Tony Haines

"I used to see the single missing folder issue where the user had inadvertently dragged a folder of e-mails into another folder"

That's an interface issue really. Stupid Microsoft.

Mark Zuckerberg and the $3bn cash fling: He's not your father's tech kingpin

Tony Haines

"Unless new tools appear that drastically cut the cost of developing new drugs."

That's only part of it. The testing of the candidates and associated legalities is the expensive part.

Turing, Hauser, Sinclair – haunt computing's Cambridge A-team stamping ground

Tony Haines

Re: Nope

There are many ...inaccuracies... in the article.

"... Cambridge’s first computer laboratory on the New Museums Site – a place that has seen scientific discoveries including the discovery of DNA ..."

Perhaps the discovery of the structure of DNA was meant (with the Watson and Crick model in 1953). Since otherwise the options for discovery are really either Friedrich Miescher - who first isolated nuclein (at the University of Tübingen), or Albrecht Kossel who purified the non-protein component of "nuclein", i.e. DNA (at the University of Berlin). I doubt either of these warrant blue plaques in Cambridge.

Zombie Moore's Law shows hardware is eating software

Tony Haines

"You're both wrong"

Actually I'd say it looks like we're both right. The original paper you link to mentions falling cost and rising component count - right in the subheading. But the paper overall I'd say emphasizes miniaturisation and increasing component density as the primary factor.

Tony Haines

//The original observation is about price per computation power over time, which still seems to be holding well. The misquotation is usually price per gate, based on silicon area, or some other manufacturing derived metric.//

Actually I think you have that wrong. The original observation was about the rate of increase of components per integrated circuit; this was developed and modified over time to become the observation about computation cost.

At least, if you trust the Wikipedia article, and my memory of other sources.


NASA starts countdown for Cassini probe's Saturn death dive

Tony Haines

Re: Legacy

Maybe in that case we should take the opportunity for a little misdirection.

Perhaps the next probe could display a little plaque, declaring "Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'

Upstart AI dreams of 'disrupting' digital marketing – with sex

Tony Haines

terminology issue

"Sentient Ascend uses the same concepts to “breed” together the individual changes in a design layout in a “million potential combinations across multiple pages” to determine which is best. Poor combinations don’t make it through the selection process."

That's not sexual selection, that's natural selection.

Sexual selection is specifically where members of one gender compete to be choosen as a mate by the other. It can lead to a positive feedback loop generating outlandish (and usually sexually diamorphic) traits. So it creates things like the peacock's tail - which arn't useful per se, but which are attractive to pea-hens. And Peahens like them because ... well, there are various contributory factors. One is the 'honest signalling' idea that if a peacock can survive in spite of carrying around such a burden then they must be good material. Another is that by mating with a big-tailed male, she can potentially produce sons with similar attractiveness to other peahens.

In any case, it's probably not what you want, unless you want an attractive but unusable interface... oh hang, on, we're talking web services, right? Carry on.

Excel abuse hits new heights as dev uses VBA to code spreadsheet messaging app

Tony Haines

I've seen someone write a sudoku solver in Befunge.

Because I challenged them.

FBI Director wants 'adult conversation' about backdooring encryption

Tony Haines

Re: @Adam 52

"Do you really think that one key per branch of government is not going to leak from at least one of them, by stupidity, oversight, forgetfulness or any combination thereof, in less time than a hacker needs to code a Hello World hack ?"

As I understood it, the suggestion was that they'd *all* have to leak.

However, I think that still asymptotically approaches certainty, but with a longer half-life.

There clearly are other approaches to the 'ultimate skeleton key' we all hate. Giving everyone their own personal (backdoor) key would be a good start. That would reduce the risk of a single catastrophic leak because you could keep the list in a nice air-gapped system, and only export data by printout, or something like that.

Still not a good idea, of course, but if we're being adults we ought to consider all the options, not just the stupidest one.

Another idea is the 'partial key' method. If the gov. only has part of the key, they could break encryption with less (but still significant) computational effort, but not read everything all the time.

Drama in orbit: Brazen UFO attacks Earth's Sentinel-1A satellite

Tony Haines

Re: Is Sandra Bullock OK?

It's a good job she wasn't on board, or it would have been a total write-off.

Penetration tech: BAE Systems' new ammo for Our Boys and Girls

Tony Haines

Re: End User?

... then again, he might rust instead.

Air gap breached by disk drive noise

Tony Haines

Re: Floppy disk orchestra...

In that spirit, attackers could try a psychological attack:


UK local govt body blasts misleading broadband speed ads

Tony Haines

Re: Up to speed

Um, yeah.

It would be hard though to determine the proportion to bill, though. Speed probably varies and we can't take the supplier's word for it.

I think the "up to" is the problem.

Ban "up to"; allow "at least".

Then a complainant can get a random spot check which can be pass/fail.

F-35 targeting system laser will be 'almost impossible' to use in UK

Tony Haines

Re: Does this mean they have to shout "Behind you!"

It's a Heisensor; it only works if noone is looking.

Dolly the sheep clones have aged well, say scientists

Tony Haines

Re: Gah.

While I take your point, to be really pedantic, a clone is a cell line or organism that is genetically identical to the cell or organism from which it was derived, so I believe that (officially at least) it's all or nothing. It's tautologous - like calling something "completely unique".

In your examples, you could say that the chimera was composed of several different clones, or that a particular part of the plant was clonal.

Now, I must admit that I wouldn't balk at someone talking about an organism being a partial clone of another - I'd know what they meant (assuming, at least, they knew what they were talking about). However, the point I was originally intending to make about the word 'completely' is - it's unnecessary in the sentence given. The word 'partial', if necessary, would not be superfluous - just as it's not in the phrase 'almost unique'.

I've probably triggered a few more pedantic alarm bells in this post, and for that I apologise. Any grammatical corrections I will concede, but if you spot a biological wrinkle I've apparently neglected, please be reassured that there are several interesting cans of worms I've elected to leave unopened.

Tony Haines


"The birth of Dolly in 1996 made headlines and captured people’s attention as it provided evidence that a living creature could be completely cloned."


Dolly was the first mammal cloned from an adult somatic cell. An important word in that sentence is "mammal" - people have been cloning "living creatures" (like frogs) since the late '50s. Where this assumes an intent to suggest cloning a pre-existing, multicellular organism as opposed to - for example splitting a 2-cell embryo to create identical twins.

To preempt any other pedants, I should say that - given strict definitions of "clone" and "living creature" - a colony of bacteria on a plate which are all descended from a single cell is a clone, as is a tree grown from a cutting (and the word "completely" is superfluous in the quoted sentence).

A journey down the UK's '3D Tongue' into its mini industrial revolution

Tony Haines

Re: Say what?

I still think it's not genetically engineered. Having checked two different Quorn product packages last night, there's no mention of it being so. Furthermore, the Quorn website explicitly says not in its FAQs page:

> "Are Quorn products non GMO?

> "At Quorn, we’re passionate about providing meat free products with non-GMO ingredients. Mycoprotein, the key ingredient in Quorn products is not genetically modified. All other ingredients used are purchased to a specification which requires that they are not genetically modified."

Furthermore - from my reading of various descriptions on the internet - while ICI was involved, this didn't involve passing on the organism. Rather it was a new isolate; ICI supplied fermenters and expertise in the process.

However, what I think we have here is essentially a semantic difference. The process you referred to for improving carbon flux is what I described as strain improvement. In Europe, the distinction is that you can *select* for variants and even randomly mutagenise a creature and it is *not* classed as genetic engineering. Genetic engineering is where you have some idea about what you want to do - knock out a particular gene or put a new gene in, whatever - and go about that with directed techniques to make that change specifically.

According to wikipedia, in America this may all be considered genetic modification and is lumped together. Presumably that means all dog breeders, say, and any gardener who produces a new variety of flower, etc., are genetic engineers - so the term is basically worthless. Which is fine for them since they don't seem to do scare stories about genetic engineering anyway.

Tony Haines

Re: Say what?

"One thing that does make me actually LOL is the fact that food dorks constantly state their opposition to genetic engineering and... the advise people to eat Quorn which is made from re-cycled bacteria from the same family as tuberculosis and leprosy that have been genetically engineered for maximum growth."

I don't disagree with the rest of your post (I actually said essentially the same, a bit higher up), but I'm pretty sure you're wrong on the Quorn thing.

Quorn is reportedly made using Fusarium venenatum - which is a fungus rather than bacteria.

Furthermore, while I don't know for a fact that it's not genetically engineered, I don't believe it to be - I've not seen such a statement on the packaging, which would be legally mandated. It's entirely possible (I would say likely) that it underwent a program of strain improvement, which would involve selecting for improved growth under the given conditions, possibly with some mutagenesis. This is so common as to be unremarkable, is not 'genetic engineering' as defined, and would not require package labelling.

I do eat Quorn, but then I was also happy to eat genetically engineered cheese. (The milk clotting enzyme was extracted from a genetically engineered bacterium.)

Tony Haines

// modern electronics ... fibre optic comms, CDs, DVDs, GPS, MRI Scanners ... LEDs (etc)

Um, that's sort of my point. These are great examples which people just plain don't count.

When something just works (for the most part) then people get used to it so readily that they don't question how it works. The consumer doesn't see the LED as anything other than a little light, for example.

3D printing on the other hand... well, it's not yet so ubiquitous as to be unremarkable.

People talk about the 3d-printed part of a technical project in a way they don't about established stuff. 3D printed stuff also gets high visibility because it works particularly well for custom and fashion consumer goods. These things are particularly noticable to the layman (and woman).

I'm not against 3D printing. I've had my own designs printed through an online service. It's great.

What I'm objecting to is Marcus's suggestion that it is 'making an impact' when the other technologies mentioned had failed to do so.

Tony Haines

"While other "big hope" concepts such as genetic engineering, nanotech and quantum physics have yet to make much of an impact, ..."


Genetic engineering made *such* an impact that boycotts and legislation greatly restrict its use in many areas (particularly agriculture). Nevertheless, it is widely used in research, as well as various processes - particularly in more legally and socially permissive jurisdictions.

Nanotechnology and quantum physics are both rather vague areas, and I suspect that projects involving them are just not as consumer-visible, or applications are generally discounted in a way that doesn't happen for 3D-printing.

"As of August 21, 2008, the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies estimates that over 800 manufacturer-identified nanotech products are publicly available, with new ones hitting the market at a pace of 3–4 per week." - wikipedia; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nanotechnology#Applications

New DNA 'hard drive' could keep files intact for millions of years

Tony Haines

Re: Still early in the morning?

Prions are misfolded proteins, so in that respect at least your heart can rest easy.

Bacon is not my vodka friend

Tony Haines

//The law is probably on the books to prevent someone from watering down the booze//

Except it would be legal if they left the lid off.


Tony Haines

I assume the reason they don't allow Perl is it makes it too easy.

Why don't you try befunge?

Why you should Vote Remain: Bananas, bathwater and babies

Tony Haines

Re: @AC: Mean while, back in the real world...

// And in the meantime, all the advances that the EU *has* made in things like social justice, personal rights and equality will get flushed down the toilet. I simply do not trust the UK government to replace these.//

I think you trust them too far.

This is from a Leave campaign pamphlet I was sent:

::Does the EU keep us safe?

::"Brexit would bring two potentially important security gains: the ability to dump the European Convention on Human Rights ... and, more importantly, greater control over immigration from the European Union." (Sir Richard Dearlove, former chief of MI6)

Bear in mind that Sir Dearlove was head of MI6 when it was busy abducting people and their families and renditioning them to places where they could be secretly tortured.

(see for example : https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/jun/01/mi5-chief-right-to-be-disgusted-over-mi6-role-rendition-blair )

I find it very interesting that this seems to be practically the one point that both sides agree on.