* Posts by bonkers

225 publicly visible posts • joined 13 Dec 2011


Lenovo PC boss: 4 in 5 of our devices will be repairable by 2025


Battery safety

I totally applaud what they're doing, but with one serious concern:

OEM-manufactured Laptop batteries and chargers are amongst the safest and most reliable consumer electronic devices on the planet. They are like fridges, we trust the fridge to never catch fire, we just do.

The risk of midnight fires in living quarters is very serious indeed, but is almost entirely eliminated by stringent controls on the design, manufacture - and tamperproof nature - of sealed battery packs and chargers.

Allowing the possibility that some of the population might be inexpertly repaired - even a tiny fraction - completely ruins this risk.

It will mean that we all need to switch off at the wall before going to bed, and the laptop won't be fully charged in the morning.

I don't think that batteries/chargers can be repaired or remanufactured to the same level of safety as new parts, not in any way that could be underwritten.

So, regrettably - due to their energy density and risks - they need to be ground-up and recycled after their 5-10 year design life. I'm only talking about batteries, and possibly mains supplies.

This is the only way I can see to maintain their "fridge" status as infallible devices.

I'm very happy to be proven wrong - but I'd like to inspect the proof rather carefully, if I may.



Re: Criticizing Chinese era lenovo on ElReg...

I love Thinkpads, and own five of them.

All except the P50 - where the 90W supply is a gigantic slab, and the 60W supply will not allow the computer to charge and run at the same time !

This is an appalling design decision, the PC needs to be fully shut down or else the 60W supply does nothing at all.

I can see why they did it, the PC might take 80W peak, and this would overload the 60W charger - but it's not beyond wit to design the power system so that the battery can "help out" on peak loads whilst mostly charging - it should be a design requirement.

I don't know what other models are broken by design like this, but please Lenovo, don't ever do it again.

Lithium goldrush hits sleepy Oregon-Nevada border


Re: Where's Worstall?

If you're interested in this sort of thing and haven't read Tim Worstall, do go into the Reg archive and have a browse.

He made the point clearly, that rising prices turn dirt into ore - like a receding sea level exposes more land.

Because of this, attempts to corner the market (looking at you China), usually fail.

However, this is better still - a newly discovered find, not one that has been promoted into viability. It's added maybe 50% to known reserves, in a concentrated form - and suggests there may be similar instances elsewhere on the planet.

The Lithium problem seems like it might now have gone away, with this and "Direct Lithium Extraction" - which looks like it will dramatically accelerate the process, with reduced energy costs, environmental impact etc.

see here, for instance...


ChatGPT's odds of getting code questions correct are worse than a coin flip


Stats pedant

Arguably, the worst one can be is "no better than a coin-flip".

If ChatGPT answers 99% wrong, it's doing really well - you just need to invert the result.

Obviously we're not talking binary options here, there are many more ways to answer wrong than to answer right - but it is then not a fair question to ask of a coin.

Soon the most popular 'real' desktop will be the Linux desktop


Aversion vs Preference

So far, Linux on a desktop has been adopted by those that have a strong preference for it, for all sorts of reasons.

Most people, currently, prefer windows or Mac, as the stats show.

That preference is being constantly diluted as excellent free programs (I'll not call them apps, that's for mobile devices imo) such as Libre Office, KiCad, LTSpice, just keep on getting better.

Now, with M$ being so expensive and shite, a new factor emerges, aversion.

I don't want an operating system that constantly trawls the internet for clickbait sites to present to you, that you can't switch off.

Nor do I want my every keystroke recorded, my every edit published, in a suite of Office programs that just get forever worse.

I've a strong aversion to any OS that locks me into cloud storage, sulks when offline, and regularly spends up to 30 seconds pleasuring itself - whilst ignoring any input.

I certainly don't want to have to pay for the misery, on top of everything, and at maybe twice the cost of the computer.

Now, it appears I don't have to - I can get all the things I like, from nice people, and for free.

School for semiconductors? Arm tries to address chip talent shortages


How does one train the necessary chip designers?

There's no doubt we need more chip designers. The problem is that it is so complicated now that it can't be taught effectively, with real examples. at undergraduate level.

The toolchain handles too much - students need to understand how and why the tools do what they do, first. We need to know "basic woodwork" before programming CNC machines to do it all automatically.

I just propose that simpler, earlier toolchains should be freely available - and ARM could help in this, by open-sourcing a 1990's toolchain so that it is as easy to use as LTSpice for example. The support community then grows itself.

For real actual chips, I suggest the tools are configured to produce working designs on some sort of "baby process" - like 4um design rule in polysilicon, or maybe the Sedgefield IGZO lot? [Blair's constituency, heh...] - they claim to tape-out in 24 hours not 24 weeks and with zero mask cost. (I'm not associated, never met them, link is below)

IGZO only runs at 30kHz or so - but great, you don't need $$ 20GHz scopes to debug your IC, and you can have several goes at it, make those rookie mistakes, and get it all done in one term [semester].

Apparently IGZO can make 32-bit ARM cortex cores [ https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-03625-w] - these designs are big enough to introduce all sorts of necessary further constraints and hierarchical approaches. I don't think yield is so good at this level, I'd start with small well-documented 8-bit RISC cores, peripherals, to learn from their simplicity.

There's nothing like learning from the ground up, like most [all?] previous chip designers. You can then debug a design right down to bare metal - an engineer's understanding, right down to the physics.

The new skill is to take all that, to allow it to be totally automated, abstracted, and yet still keep it under control. I can't do that, and greatly respect those that somehow can.

A low cost "primer" process with primitive tools would be an excellent hands-on teaching approach, showing directly what tasks are tedious and can be automated, once fully understood.

We all started with stacking cups as toddlers and I don't think we can miss-out any of the subsequent, practical steps - we need our towers to fall down, to make real things that either really work or really don't.

Only then do we learn the value of simulation tools, test vectors, redundancy strategies, emergency reconfigurability options - that can avoid embarrassment.

A room-temperature, ambient-pressure superconductor? Take a closer look


Technically you are right to be confused, but it's not uncommon to see a graph axis with values of say 1,2,3 x 10^-6, and also labelled "micro"-units. It's duplication of exponent. In this case, they mean the mantissa numbers are in millitorr, that's my most likely interpretation.

The paper looks a bit rushed, not surprising given the Nobel prizes possibly at stake, and to me this adds authenticity to the claims. They might be wrong, but they're honest.


Re: One comment I saw about it gives me pause

Interesting points, there's plenty of opportunities even for low current superconductivity. It's early days on this one and current density will improve as sample quality becomes more homogenous.

Computer chips are worse than power grid - the limits in place today are due to electromigration, at current densities so high that the metal ions start to flow.

For signal electronics, zero-R inductors have infinite "Q" and are already in use in basestation filters - despite the cost and complexity of cooling. It would be great if they could be sold as ordinary components - allowing RF band filters with incredible performance in ordinary handheld devices.


Re: Fake News!

Let me correct that for you:

The laws of Physics do not prohibit superconductivity under any particular circumstances.

Oh, and "there is no apatite for this story" - you missed an easy one there.

Unsupported humourless opinions fail on so many levels.

I've looked a the paper, it has all the hallmarks of genuine honest research, and all the expected behaviours of genuine superconductivity.

I, for one, have plenty of apatite for further progress...

Europe's Euclid telescope launches to figure out dark energy, the universe, and everything


nice quote

I don't know which physicist said it, but:

" there's dark matter, which we know nothing about, and there's dark energy, which we really know nothing about. "

Firmware is on shaky ground – let's see what it's made of


Re: How far do you go?

I don't disagree, I've worked on ABS and airbag systems that have separate hardware safety, "Safing" as they call it.

This only really works for systems that have a simple "safe" state they can default to - like "airbags off". OK it's not very safe at the point you need them, but this is so rare that it's OK to just raise a fault, which will get fixed, and you're back on cover.

More complex systems with no simple "safe condition" - like oil refineries - need a better approach.

I didn't know it existed, but it is possible to write software that is guaranteed (by formal methods in mathematics) to produce the correct output only, or an error. If you couple-up two or three of such systems, you have safety and reliability that insurers will cover.

I'm not an expert in this, and clearly the combination of the outputs needs special attention, but I do know that it is do-able, proven, and accepted.

I'm hoping it gives some sort of answer to the "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" - a question so old that it's known in its latin form.

Who watches the watchers?


Re: How far do you go?

In response to your company disclaimers, it's perfectly fair to disclaim responsibility for others' deliberate events outside your control.

Consider the similar case of engine remapping... ECU's with modified software will invalidate not only warranties, but insurances also. Accident investigations will go as far as extracting code images if necessary.

However, it is possible to publish your code for expert scrutiny without revealing how a particular unit might be reprogrammed.

We assume your unit does not blindly accept any update, it has some sort of signing, crypto, secure boot, and you've disabled JTAG...

This means that units cannot be intentionally "hacked" by the user - unless the secret key is requested - and given..

Moreover, if the relevant secret key is disclosed to the legitimate customer, all warranties and responsibilities can be voided, being conditions of the release. This unburdens the manufacturer from the need to prove that new hacked software was installed.

So, we can separate the code-inspection aspect - a wanted outcome, from the arbitrary reprogramming by users - an unwanted outcome, unless authorised.



Re: How far do you go?

... Should the firmware for a safety-critical sensor be made available so the device can be hacked?...

Bit of a loaded question, I’d say that the firmware should be made available so the device ## can’t ## be hacked…

Code that has been or can be reviewed is always going to be stronger, eventually. The open-source community has immense knowledge regarding which methods and approaches have been easy targets in the past – like for instance all the buffer-overrun mechanisms. These are easily eliminated with the right toolchain, with bounds-checking, address randomisation – but the adoption of better techniques is slow. It’s very much a case of “stuff that doesn’t get checked, doesn’t get done”.

The downside to publishing your code is that malevolent hackers have easier access – but the real threat actors don’t need it, they’ll work it out anyway. Take a look at the iPhone jailbreakers (I’m not saying they’re evilly intentioned) – but they are able to break all manner of unpublished state-of-the-art security measures, in just a few days.

Relying on “obscurity” has never been a successful approach, you must assume the attacker knows everything about the system and the code, apart from the secret keys. This is how cryptographic validation-attacks are set-up.

However, it takes time for code to be reviewed and flaws found. The maker of the “safety-critical sensor” in this case will need to delay release and/or update devices in the field.

In fairness, “safety-critical” and “secure” are independent requirements, pulling in opposite directions.

Many safety-critical interfaces, protocols are not cryptographically secure - there’s a lot more to go wrong, which affects reliability. They often simply rely on network security to ensure that there are no bad actors sending out spoof messages.

That hasn’t worked out well for factory-automation busses – SCADA, Modbus and the like, if Stuxnet is anything to go by.

So, coming back to the question, it’s tricky…

The safety-critical aspect of the device is better if reviewed, and releasing the code won’t reveal anything of use to an attacker – he already has details of the protocols and can mess-up the system using just those.

The firmware-update protocol needs to be secure, in the cryptographic sense. This is also improved by review, and releasing the code only puts all attackers in the “known starting position” against which security is measured.

The only real cost of release is that hackers might more easily find a backdoor, an exploit, that can bypass the secure-update method. I’d say that your real threats can already get all the information they need, with just a bit more effort.

So the cost of release is outweighed by the opportunity for free review and “bounty” type code-fixes. Bounties are much cheaper than employing an equivalent level of talent on the payroll. Your existing team will gain expertise through this process.

Maybe there is a way to release code under some sort of NDA, so it isn't available to all and sundry - and the NDA explicitly permits "white hat" penetration testing.

Finally, the customer is in a better position, he doesn't need to "blindly" trust your code - he can see the review discussions, set his own experts on it, whatever.

Time to study the classics: Vintage tech is the future of enterprise IT


Re: "Any enterprise worth its salt "

Totally in agreement with the post above. It's not just the code efficiency aspect, or cost, security, provability, simplicity - it's the fact that you have both feet on the ground. The actual machine code instructions are fundamental, there is no level below*, no abstraction, no mystery.

I'm sure I'm not alone amongst engineers, in having a "learning style" that requires a continuous chain of understanding right down to bare metal. Educationally, this is how science (and mathematics) is taught, there is a clear path to the fundamental maxims, definitions and root equations.

Odd that a similar approach is not taken with computer science - it's all abstracted to death:

"A method in object-oriented programming is a procedure associated with a class. A method defines the behavior of the objects that are created from the class. Another way to say this is that a method is an action that an object is able to perform. The association between method and class is called binding."


That might be a clever shorthand for what is intended, but offers no visibility as to what actually happens with real inputs, when imperfect or deliberately malformed. You are utterly reliant on reams of unknown code.

Either it's just my old-fashioned "bottom up" approach, or maybe Computer Science is unique in being a subject best taught from the top down?

Some engineers are being paid between $250k and $1m, says salary survey



You're making it look like you work 24 x 7 x 365 - i.e. 7 years, per year?

Or is the bad arithmetic so common, it's become like "nucular" - and raises just a wry smile even when used deliberately.

Why did Microsoft just buy fiber optic cable company Lumenisity?


TOTAL internal reflection

Yes the hollow fibre is quicker, but eight times more lossy. You then need more amplifiers, like EDFA (Europium doped fibre amplifier) which is near zero latency and near noiseless, but there is a limit, and at some point you need to decode and error-correct, which is much slower.

The nice thing about solid fibre is that the "wall" is from a high refractive index (the core) to a low index (the cladding) - which means you get TIR - total internal reflection. The attenuation is just then down to the transparency of the glass, which is amazingly good.

Other common types of fibre, graded-index and single-mode, also rely on a high-index core, and cannot be replicated with an air-core.

Massive energy storage system goes online in UK


Re: Powering the grid and providing backup?

I respect Mr. Sod's input, and yes, it will happen.

My point is that it will happen infrequently. Moreover, it will happen anyway, even if you never deplete your reserve. You need 2nd-level strategies, like load-shedding, controlled shutdown, which is a thing datacentres can do pretty well.

Just to run the numbers, the batteries will hold-up for 2-4 hours if fully charged. This only drops 20% if you allow depletion. I'm saying that the probability of a 2.4 hour outage (assuming this is the figure with no depletion) is very close indeed to the probability of a 2.0 hour outage (with depletion).

So, all you need to do, in the worst case, is to run your load-reduction (which you have to do at some point regardless) a little bit earlier.

Taking this observation to its limit, a datacentre only really needs enough battery power to divest itself of [most of] its workload - which might be just a few minutes. It would then run at maybe 5% till power returns - just so that it doesn't drop off the network altogether.

I'm assuming of course that there are other datacentres that do have power, and spare capacity - isn't this the original raison d'etre for DARPANET and the internet in the first place?


Re: Decommissioning?

I was rather hoping that the entire EV battery pack could be re-used – with all its busbars and monitoring electronics intact. This could give the “scrap” battery a real value of maybe 25% of the £10,000 original price.

The alternative, disassembly, is extremely hazardous due to stored energy and all the connections being welded – I can’t see it being done by machine, other than with a month underwater and a big crusher. The Lithium, which we do need to reclaim, is then only worth £500, and that is when fully refined – I don’t see that it covers the costs and risk involved.

Ideally, there would be a standard subset of CAN commands to allow re-use of the whole pack, automotive makers have been quite good about this in the past, particularly when forced. However, it is not absolutely critical – I’m sure that software drivers could be made for each BMS (battery management system) supplier.

Of course, I doubt that datacenter-sized battery farms would want a hotch-potch of different equipment all under one roof, they would be better making their brand-new packs compliant as above, and selling the exhausted packs on.

For £2500, say, versus £10,000, I’m sure that domestic PV enthusiasts would use them, they’re even a reasonable proposition for garage-based electricity resellers, like Tesla’s wallpack thing. Finally, there will be a growing market at recharge sites, like motorway services, garages, where they need more peak power than the grid can provide them - and would greatly benefit from buying cheap-rate versus peak.


Re: Excuse my ignorance.

I hope you don't mind me re-posting my comments above? I think they fit better here:

It's a linear programming problem.

If you build your energy reserve just big enough to cover the specified power-outage duration, it is a lot of cost that sits there doing nothing for nearly all of its life.

If you increase the reserve by just 20%, you can trade power every day, generating an income. You can get the best spot-price of the day, and the wear-out costs for just 20% cycle-depth are minimal. It also keeps the equipment "exercised" at full power, so you can trust it.

You might just choose to decline the peak electricity price and run your datacentre from batteries for an hour a day, using electricity that you've bought at minimum price, minus your electrical losses.

Now run the numbers for [x%] of additional reserve, additional installed cost, and you can see it works better. In fact, for a 20% increase in capacity you'd only be looking at more batteries, the converters would remain the same - so a cost delta of 10% say.

You can even play with the statistics - the power outage duration is a Gaussian, unlikely to coincide (in its worst case) with you being at your minimum of stored power. So, for a small increase in the risk that you won't cover the outage (already a non-zero risk) you can pay back some costs, even with zero increase of your energy reserve.


Re: Powering the grid and providing backup?

It's a linear programming problem.

If you build your energy reserve just big enough to cover the specified power-outage duration, it is a lot of cost that sits there doing nothing for nearly all of its life.

If you increase the reserve by just 20%, you can trade power every day, generating an income. You can get the best spot-price of the day, and the wear-out costs for just 20% cycle-depth are minimal. It also keeps the equipment "exercised" at full power, so you can trust it.

You might just choose to decline the peak electricity price and run your datacentre from batteries for an hour a day, using electricity that you've bought at minimum price, minus your electrical losses.

Now run the numbers for [x%] of additional reserve, additional installed cost, and you can see it works better.

You can even play with the statistics - the power outage duration is a Gaussian, unlikely to coincide (in its worst case) with you being at your minimum of stored power. So, for a small increase in the risk that you won't cover the outage (already a non-zero risk) you can pay back some costs, even with zero increase of your energy reserve.


Re: Decommissioning?

I agree that decommissioning needs to be included in any fair assessment, but it's more complicated than that.

Firstly, I don't believe that Li-Ion batteries are particularly toxic, certainly nothing at all like nuclear, and their reprocessing is already implemented on a large scale.

Secondly, there is a good case for taking "exhausted" car batteries (Li-Ion) that have fallen to 70% capacity, and rather than recycle them, just continue to use them in fixed installations till they drop to 50%. This would easily double their working life.

Thirdly, flow batteries are possibly a better contender for long-term storage, like keeping a weeks worth of power stored.


Re: Dumb question time...

It's not a dumb question, if the complexity of the answer is anything to go by.

With the battery fully charged, the maintaining power for the electronics and any cooling might be a few kW, then there is the self-discharge of the batteries, maybe 10kW? These are just my estimates, the real figures could be higher.

The point is that the system expects to be cycled, and that's where the inefficiencies creep in. There are losses in the power converters, from AC to DC and back again. Power converters at this scale are normally quite "agricultural" - they might use 12-phase thyristor invertors, which involve a fair bit of smashing voltages together. This is what is used for the UK-France DC link, with efficiency of maybe 95%. Then there is the battery coulombic efficiency, which is very high for Li-Ion batteries, at low current - but drops significantly if you run them at C/2 or C/4 rates (i.e. so they charge or discharge in 2 hours or 4 hours respectively).

It is this 2-hour rate and 4-hour rate that gives you their published figures, the overall round-trip efficiency. This includes all the losses described above.

Quoted figures for the Tesla megapack are

2-hour duration:

Power & Energy: 1,927 kW / 3,854 kWh per Megapack

Round Trip Efficiency: 92.0%

4-hour duration:

Power & Energy: 970 kW / 3,878 kWh per Megapack

Round Trip Efficiency: 93.5%

source: https://electrek.co/2022/09/14/tesla-megapack-update-specs-price/

Z-Library operators arrested, charged with criminal copyright infringement


maybe combat the knowledge trolls with a library?

I deeply object to fact that most scientific papers are paywalled.

Invariably they are publicly or charitably funded, to some extent, and therefore should return that investment by being publicly available.

The idea that the public purse should then finance maybe 150 years of free policing and prosecution, to support a few immensely rich knowledge trolls, is absurd.

For that is the deal with regard to copyright. For comparison, patent rights extend for only 17-20 years and do not provide either policing or prosecution.

Copyright is way too generous, especially since being extended to 70 years after the death of the author - a massive windfall, or land-grab if you prefer...

The only benefit to the public of this immense free deal, is that there are lending-library provisions and that the material will ...eventually... become public domain.

### So, could the aims of Zlibrary be met, entirely legally, by using these lending-library provisions? ###

I wouldn't mind, if in order to meet these provisions, it had to be through a pesky online PDF viewer. It would be nice if it allowed screenshots, and/or hyperlinks. It is the difference between listening to a track on youtube, and downloading an MP3.

This should be applicable to scientific papers and books alike.

Do Reg readers have a better-informed opinion on whether this might be possible?

Further comments/opinions would be welcomed.

PS: I'm aware of Unpaywall, which is great, but only works for open documents. Similarly, there is annas-archive.org, the few links i tried didn't work - but given it is serving PDF files, it will always be subject to shutdowns.

UK comms regulator rings death knell for fax machines


Re: Pagers

Pagers are still in regular use at all big hospitals.

They emit no RF, so are safe next to ECG's, EEG's, and they guarantee to cover right into the depths of the building.

By a similar token, faxes are a simple, well-understood backup between pharmacies, hospitals, GP's and the like.

They have an extremely low "attack surface" and do not require schooling in the many risks associated with email and internet.

It pays to have multiple backups, the internet can break, phone systems normally don't.

It wouldn't be beyond wit for the exchange to detect fax tones and act accordingly, whether it's a DSP decode, a higher bandwidth Voip line or whatever.

I see it just as BT looking for cost savings they'll then keep, ta very much - like being allowed to charge line rental in advance, the c***s.

How I made a Chrome extension for converting Reg articles to UK spelling


Glad you liked the post.

I think the point stands, we just need to separate patriotism and royalism.

The English aren't particularly patriotic, compared to the Scots for example, or the Americans. (Both fine, I like them, they're just different in this regard, on the average).

The English don't really adopt any national identity, nor claim any distinguishing features - it is almost as though we see ourselves as a reference, the norm, like BBC "received" pronunciation.

Despite the efforts of our newspapers and institutions, we mostly reject excessive patriotism and royalism, because it is jingoism, most unseemly. Also, we mistrust any appeal to base emotions, we don't like to be "gamed" into mob politics. I accept that we are starting to lose that battle, through laziness, ignorance, and the resources available to social media.

The outrage against the Sex Pistols was whipped-up by the tabloids and BBC, but most saw it as an attack on the Queen, who cannot respond, and therefore a bit unfair. Our sympathies, as ever, for the underdog.

Note that it doesn't preclude other attacks, like Spitting Image, The Royals, perhaps equally savage, but very funny - so that's OK then.


I'll second that - and please read down for the main point, let's keep the cachet of British irony and incorrectness, brother RegTards.

- when I worked in Germany, "proper" native English, with its accent, idioms, vocab and corruptible grammer, was highly valued.

However, what they really loved was our dark humour and irony.

Nationalities, like people, tend to undervalue their best, most effortless skills because they are intrinsic, and because it might be immodest. - Here best explained by Kate Fox, in her book "Watching the English".

The English are not usually given to patriotic boasting – indeed, both patriotism and boasting are regarded as unseemly, so the combination of these two sins is doubly distasteful. But there is one significant exception to this rule, and that is the patriotic pride we take in our sense of humour, particularly in our expert use of irony.

The popular belief is that we have a better, more subtle, more highly developed sense of humour than any other nation, and specifically that other nations are all tediously literal in their thinking and incapable of understanding or appreciating irony. Almost all of the English people I interviewed subscribed to this belief, and many foreigners, rather surprisingly, humbly concurred.

What took more time was introducing humour in meetings and discussions with more than two participants.

By convention in Germany this is strictly verboten. The definite upside being that annoying comic wankers, company clowns, are routinely and deservedly shot.

Downside is that the devices we love to slip in to see who's awake - like veiled insult, wrecking endorsements, blind innuendo, faint praise, helpful but catastrophic suggestions - will just cause confusion, cognitive dissonance. - Are we being clumsy, rude, inept, vicious, stupid or what?

It is of course soon remedied, they get it - it is a question of scope, not of understanding. We've broadened the rulebook and smuggled in a subtle, subversive, perpetual game, and it's a new, toe-curling type of funny.

Again, better explained by Kate Fox:

For those attempting to acclimatize to this atmosphere, the most important ‘rule’ to remember is that irony is endemic: like humour in general, irony is a constant, a given, a normal element of ordinary, everyday conversation. The English may not always be joking, but they are always in a state of readiness for humour. We do not always say the opposite of what we mean, but we are always alert to the possibility of irony. When we ask someone a straightforward question (e.g. ‘How are the children?’), we are equally prepared for either a straightforward response (‘Fine, thanks.’) or an ironic one (‘Oh, they’re delightful – charming, helpful, tidy, studious . . .’ To which the reply is ‘Oh dear. Been one of those days, has it?’).

Seriously though, Reg readers and creators, look at New Scientist - once excellent, British, highly read and enjoyed worldwide. It was taken over and infantilized, then peppered with American token-words: quadrillions, cellphones, holiday season, freedomheit.. to mention just a few.

It is now heavily paywalled and completely worthless.

The Reg, many thanks to Lester Haines originally, has been for years a beacon of quintessential British humour, irreverence, irony and wit.

The straplines alone are an absolute artform, seen here first.

Please don't spoil it by removing the linguistic tokens that identify it as English (UK).

Micro molten salt reactor can fit on a truck, power 1k homes. When it's built


Not sure about that one, they are at least in one way similar - in that the products weigh less than the reactants, as previous post noted.

And in another way, much like chemical reactions, it is the binding energies, not the components themselves, that change.

The binding energies of the daughter nuclei are fractionally higher than the fuel nucleus.

All the particles are conserved*.

So, even nuclear reactors don't exactly "convert matter (or mass) to energy" - as in the annihilation of whole particles, let alone "back to future" direct annihilation of garbage into stupendous energy.

* some of the neutron flux that sustains the chain reaction will NOT be captured in the surrounding materials and will then decay (in ~1/4 hour) into a proton, electron, neutrino - but the "hadron number" - (protons+neutrons) is the same. Think of a neutron as a bound proton+electron that is unstable in "air" - i.e. outside a nucleus.

Further caveats below, more for interest than for proof.

OK, there might be side-reactions where daughter nuclei decay through beta+ process, and the positron will annihilate with a nearby electron - that ## would## be direct conversion of mass to energy.

However, B+ decay is only favourable for neutron-light isotopes, and daughters of fission are naturally neutron-rich. I think that's the right way round, could be wrong.

If you're really picky, or just interested, yes, in beta decay, there is an antineutrino, 0.3eV or less.

It might then annihilate with a "proper" neutrino, making a direct conversion of matter to energy - but this would be in a distant galaxy, due to the vanishingly low "cross sections" - reaction probabilities - of neutrinos generally. Actually, maybe not at all, there are arguments that the neutrino is its own antiparticle, a "Majorana" particle - though this is unproven. It would mean that there is no annihilation.


Re: Mb99 -> Tc99m

Molybdenum is Mo not Mb

China discovers unknown mineral on the moon, names it Changesite-(Y)


Re: Helium-3 vs. Helium-4

Helium-3, being a Fermion, should not exhibit superfluidity, a property of bosonic liquids. Helium-4 refrigeration below 2.17K is difficult because it goes superfluid and gushes through the tiniest of gaps, ask CERN....

<high voice> " we think the Helium is leaking"....

Of course, Fermions can pair-up, Cooper pairs, to make Bosons, and this is why electrons can become superconductors - and why, eventually, He-3 can become superfluid, but at a much lower temperature.

Behind Big Tech's big privacy heist: Deliberate obfuscation


Re: "We value your privacy"

We value your privacy...

It's what we sell.

Banned: The 1,170 words you can't use with GitHub Copilot


Re: Wot, no GOTO?

Brilliant, thank you :)


Re: Wot, no GOTO?

That looks really interesting...

Is it possible to branch it off as a separate thread, or maybe a link to where it is discussed further?

I'd love to know more of the principle by which it works.

many thanks

Richard Branson uses two planes to make 170km round trip


Re: Miserable and small minded

"Towing the line"

That would be the Karman line presumably?

FBI paid renegade developer $180k for backdoored AN0M chat app that brought down drug underworld


Drugs versus Gambling

If law was truly based on reducing social harm then online gambling ought to be just as illegal as drugs, but it's not, and gambling firms make huge amounts of money from promoting addiction.

The war on drugs is a moral crusade - I am not a homosexual therefore all homosexuals are depraved deviants - similarly, drinkers, non-churchgoers, golfers, queen fans, and anyone else indulging in my list of petty hates.

I don't see how taking drugs, consenting adults acting in private, should be a criminal matter - surely criminality has to include intentional or reckless harm to others?

Sure, there would be public health penalties if drugs were legalised, as there are with horse riding, motorbikes, mountain climbing, alcohol, food, and worse of all, gambling.

I don't have an easy answer, legalised consumption but illegal supply chain, as in Portugal, is fundamentally conflicted - and does not take the money out of the criminal empires that kill thousands every year.

I don't see that the current approach will ever succeed, like prohibition you cannot stop people "getting off" on stuff, it is a universal human trait - across all cultures - right down to little children spinning round till they get dizzy and fall over.

MPs slam UK's £22bn Test and Trace programme for failing to provide evidence that it slows COVID pandemic


Re: To put it in context...

To put it in context, our current population is ~66 million.

£22billion is £330 each - a laptop for every man, woman, child and weirdo in the UK

Web prank horror: Man shot dead while pretending to rob someone at knife-point for a YouTube video


Re: Sickening

Which particular views did you find sickening?

Sure, a lot of commentards are agreeing that a harsh justice was served - which is never a good thing generally. Beware of those who seek harsh punishment was a Greek Philosopher's maxim, or Roman, wasn't it?

However, this could have been the beginning of a "London Bridge" type killing spree, indistinguishable. Such cases of legitimate fatal self-defence are rare, and are, like it or not, a fair argument in support of gun carrying - a well-trained, vetted, un-angry citizen protecting his family against immediate lethal threat. It ought to be possible to make gun law in the US so that it is more of this type, with training, licensing, vetting...

So, give the pro-gun lobby their day in the sun, you have to understand their reasonable argument in this case.

I agree with your conclusion that overall, guns are a bad thing, a very bad thing, with vastly more costs than benefits, but I refuse to be sickened by "evidence for" - evidence that runs counter to my conclusion.

This chip lark is child's play: Intel gives us the lowdown on Lakefield in language of Lego


Re: The best chip Intel ever made...

Fascinating link, thanks for that

My favourite of all time is this one:


Its an entire 6202 chip, running code, even your code if you want - with the nets highlighted when logic high, well worth a look. It's all written in Javascript.

On the main article - " a printing process Intel would dearly love to copy" - made me laugh out loud, a bit like going up to Faf de Clerk, the long-haired South African rugby player, built like a brick shithouse - and telling him he looks a bit like a girl.

Watchdog urges Tesla to recall 158,000 Model S, X cars to fix knackered NAND flash that borks safety features


Engineering solutions

There are a number of potential fixes that don't involve a garage visit, it is just an engineering problem.

Firstly, reduce the amount of information you "need" to store to an absolute minumum, this always helps.

If the unit has permanent power, you could keep this in RAM, and only commit to flash if the battery is disconnected, relying on your bulk capacitors. However there are a number of tricky issues involved, many of which could be overcome, but it's all a lot of work. Things like the latency between detecting loss of power - perhaps the unit might be asleep? - and getting on with the write. You may only be able to write a few blocks, depending on the write time and your capacitance.

Best then to have an acceptable "no data saved" backup configuration.

My preferred solution, assuming there is no other easy fix, is to make the nVidia chip so it never writes its flash again - and offload the NVM storage either to another unit on the CAN bus, existing or new, or even, ghastly but cheap, make a device that plugs into the OBD port, and store stuff on there.

CEST la vie: HMRC admits controversial IR35 status checker returns undecided verdict in nearly 20% of cases


Re: C'est la vie.

You must be new here...

It's a pun on CEST, the name of the tool in question.

I'll just stop there, coz i'm nice.

Channel Isles cop sacked after abusing police database to track down women drivers for Instagram 'comic' page


seems to be all down to one bad apple..

> separate figures revealed that one police staffer is disciplined every three days for misusing official IT systems for private purposes.

- so, why don't they sack him?

Microsoft pokes Cortana's corpse to give her telepathic abilities on Windows 10


Re: She’s dead on my systems

Well that's your problem right there... salting down the graves just seems to bring 'em back to life.

Sodding Cortana has arrived from nowhere - you, probably - and now offers "helpful" advice on a daily basis as an email into Outlook.

Useful things like suggesting I might be able to get some work done, sorry, - I might have a "focus opportunity", between the meetings scheduled at 1-2pm and 4pm.

Turns out you can't block sender cortana@microsoft.com, as that would clearly be a typing error, and Outlook fixes it for you.

Why can't they leave stuff the fuck alone? - or at least provide an opt-in-to-whatever-random-bollocks-your-shit-eating-marketroids-pull-out-of-their-arses-next.

Salesforce's Dreamforce shindig hits new levels of nauseating online as... Oh god. Is that James Corden?


Classic, El Reg, just Classic.

I try hard not to dislike overblown unfunny "comedians", glad to see you're struggling with similar - we don't want to be seen as a people held together by what we hate, even if it is the truth.

I had been wondering what to do about the chinese suppliers I bought some LED's and modules off - and who now send me special offers, invariably including "10-speed voice-activated masturbation cup", and similar variants, deviants possibly.

Would make a perfect secret Santa present for "oh God, is that..." - and maybe his only opportunity ever, to actually make me laugh.

'We've heard the feedback...' Microsoft 365 axes per-user productivity monitoring after privacy backlash


Can someone explain?

Basically, Office 365 appears to report every change, every click, every button press on every document.

This was "explained" as a wizzy new featured that allowed it to continue working even whilst being updated - a use case of about 0.0001%.

I can't see how checking for an updated button code "object", halfway through an update, is ever going to work, or even be testable.

In return, you get an exact timeline on every document, that you can't access, but MS can - and can release some/all to management tracking tools.

I think it's a huge security risk - in that it massively increases the value of stolen data.

Imagine a commercial espionage situation; the disk-image data for most companies would run to terabytes, a lot to look through - but the statistics on which documents are in use, being edited or viewed, by whom, is an enormous clue as to what is the important data.

So, as usual, poor privacy has a sting in its tail, with unforeseen security risks waiting to be exploited.

Scotch eggs ascend to the 'substantial meal' pantheon as means to pop to pub for a pint during pernicious pandemic


Re: 11pm and cornflakes

I wonder if a “Vegan Breakfast” would count?

- a cup of coffee and a cigarette…

I did once complain to a Australian colleague – late into a long day meeting abroad – that that was all I’d had so far that day.

…That’s nothing – all I’ve had is a Dingo’s breakfast…

A Dingo’s breakfast?

…Yeah, a scratch, a sniff and a look around…

Massive news, literally: Three super-boffins awarded Nobel Prize in physics for their black-hole breakthroughs


Re: Professor Sir Roger Penrose

@Eclectic Man

I seem to be in agreement with you again.

Penrose is a true genius and richly deserving of a Nobel Prize - the only problem would be which of his many contributions to reward.

The scary aspect you mention is perfectly demonstrated if you look at either of the interviews linked-to.

It's like being a wondrous child again, hearing grown-ups discuss stuff way beyond your reach - yet you make some sense of it.

I know what you mean - he sees your method and conclusion from the moment you set the problem - but in a kind way.

I love it, they're casually describing Riemann space, surfaces, Weyl curvature, negative dimensionality, Penrose's Spinors and Twistor theory, meetings with Dirac - and a few sideways jibes at the popular stuff. - It's neither dark, nor energy, guys ... They simply don't give a shit if you're not keeping up - no soothing music, sunsets, permagrinned oxytocin junkies - they just keep on talking - and it's brilliant.

The interviews are simply lovely, he is such a modest character. Oscar Wilde might quip that he has much to be modest about? - and quite right, he does, about a Nobel Prizes worth.

What a Hancock-up: Excel spreadsheet blunder blamed after England under-reports 16,000 COVID-19 cases


Re: Hmm. 65 000 000 people. 1 000 000 col limit*

"mates boss" - who for purposes of anonymity, we shall refer to as "Matt Hancock"


Re: Hmm. 65 000 000 people. 1 000 000 col limit*

No word of a lie, just a year ago, mates boss sent out a late email saying that he'd had to stop working on the spreadsheet, because the batteries in his calculator had given out.

Seriously! - he was adding-up the figures and typing them in over the formula.

Bill Gates lays out a three-point plan to rid the world of COVID-19 – and anti-vaxxer cranks aren't gonna like it


The origin of conspiracy

Erm , please correct me if i'm wrong, but the back-story to the conspiracy goes like this:

Records of vaccine are hard to access and maintain, particularly in poor countries.

the "BCG" is an easy one, because it leaves a scar, and doctors, A&E can tell immediately.

There was a thought to tattoo the vaccinated, but that is too much like branding cattle.

There was a thought to use a glass transponder - much like with pets and farm animals, they can be read/write and be updated with all vaccinations, allergies, blood group - the stuff you might need in an emergency. It didn't get far, there are nefarious uses, it's a big privacy (whatever that is these days?) problem,

The only real proposal that Bill Gates looked at was a sub-dermal laser barcode, of some sort, invisible, not like branding, and carries only a byte or two of info.

I don't see a problem with that - but sure, if it were a unique barcode per person, that has abuse potential.

This is the "Bill Gates wants to barcode all of humanity for his own evil purposes" conspiracy.

The implantable glass transponder is inevitably viewed as a mind-control device, thanks X-files, darkening the conspiracy further.

Crazy thing is that all the anti-vaxxers are on Facebook, which is an actual mind-control device and is bent on all manner of evil purposes - it does whatever money wants it to do.

Alphabet promises to no longer bung tens of millions of dollars to alleged sex pest execs who quit mid-probe



I've rowed back somewhat (see above) - I take your points also.

I guess it can't be easily codified - which was my point about Bill and Melinda - any hard rules that would catch "monumental shit" above, would catch B+M also.

It's beyond my simple commentard analysis, there are loosely-defined quantities like decorum and professionalism (as mentioned in the piece) at the heart of it..

The truth is, authority and seniority do require you to act appropriately, you are in a position of trust, and the remuneration reflects this.

Here in the UK you can be debarred as a solicitor, or struck-off as a doctor, for a single "driving over the alcohol limit" offence, in your private time.

Probity, they call it, and it covers pretty much anything that might bring the profession into disrepute, even a series of "honest" adulterous affairs - god forbid if they were employees also.

So, two cheers for Google, well done - even if a bit late.

It's all in stark contrast to the recent Facebook whistleblower case, where the rare charge of "bringing the company into repute" was brought...


Re: "How is that similar to the previous example?"

Right... many thanks for the update. It's a tricky one isn't it!

The guy is obviously a monumental shit - and it is a similar case since it relies on elements of "hierarchical coercion" and certainly an unpleasant predatory aspect.

I accept that consent is not an absolute defence, nor complaint a requirement - in fact I utterly disagree with my previous post, which is a bit embarrassing - but hey, that's what incisive journalism can do to you.