* Posts by Brett Leach

36 publicly visible posts • joined 2 Dec 2006

NASA plans robot rocket aeroplane to fly above Mars

Brett Leach
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Stuff the hinges. An inflatable.

An inflatable wing with spray on flexible solar panels seems like something that could be doable in a very favourable weight envelope. It might well be possible to get close to neutral bouyancy if hydrogen is used as the inflating gas. It would then only take a very small amount of thrust to keep the plane airborne.

For that matter, a semi rigid hydrogen balloon with a heating element would make a decent small payload carrier if they could be made light enough to dump a dozen or more with a single Discovery mission. Bonus points for spray on solar power.

Aussie atheists knocked offline

Brett Leach

We've got "The Family"...

... and a fair swag of other charismatic leader types who own their followers lives lock stock and barrel. Not to mention a rapidly growing mainstream evangelical presence.

Our nutters might not be blowing up abortion clinics (yet) but we got our share.

SSL spoof bug still haunts IE, Safari, Chrome

Brett Leach

Not sticking to API specs = self fornication.

Yes I'm aware that M$ is notorious for undocumented features they use for their own benefit. However, anyone who relies upon such is asking for a severe rogering.

Provided the specs for this particular module are well defined (Yeah, yeah, I know a big ask from M$) AND given the potential for disaster inherrent in delays, then M$ should issue a spec compliant fix ASAP and let the chips fall where they may.

I would much, much rather my internet banking package failed to work altogether, than have a hole in it big enough for a Mack truck.

The whole idea of encapsulation is to ensure that the behaviour of modules is well defined. Burrowing past the encapsulation to save a few bytes of code or cycles of CPU time is a recipe for disaster.

Panicky Plod apologises to Innocent Terror Techie

Brett Leach

Re: Defence? Not in the antipodes mate.

Transit cops were giving a commuter a hard time here recently. A Seriously over the top hard time. A young woman attempted to intervene and got herself bent backwards over a stair rail with an arm across her throat for her troubles.

Top transit cop's media response essentially translated to an admission of excess with respect to the first commuter. But no sympathy for commuter #2, who should not have attempted to interfere with an on duty officer. (unspoken but strongly implied: 'whatever that officer was doing.')

As for resisting an unlawful arrest in your own person, I susspect you'd be well and truely fooked, because the moment you try, you've automatically committed the offense of resisting arrest. And enormously multiplied your chances of (repeatedly) "falling down the stairs".

There's water on the Moon, scientists confirm

Brett Leach

Um, density anyones?

The density of the lunar surface material is roughly 3 g/cm3. Which if my math is correct amounts to about three litres per cubic metre, given the figure of 32 oz/tonne.

Spanks all round (boffins, reporter & you lot) for automagically equating 1 m3 & 1 t.

World's nastiest trojan fools AV software

Brett Leach

Variants and stealth features. Not 23% of AV products...

...but a 23% (average) detection rate, regardless of AV product. Some did better, some almost certainly failed utterly, but none was able to detect/block with 100% surety, because the proliferation of variants (and ability to obfuscate any signatures) leaves the AV vendors trailing a long way behind.

Seems like this might be a better interpretation of some rather loose language.

A new varriant every 5 minutes makes it very easy to get bitten when your AV software auto-updates only once a day.

Boffins: Give up on CO2 cuts, only geoengineering can work

Brett Leach

@AC MMCC is bullshit.

"Pollution on the other hand, is an issue long ignored and one that will cause some nasty messes in the not too distant future." No shit Sherlock. And yet in the interest of keeping the lobyist funded spigot flowing, minimalist pollution control has been and still is standard practice in politics.

"If there was genuine, universal scientific support for the idea that we are near to the "tipping point" cars would already be outlawed, as would most flights, most heavy industry and so on." Whoopsie. No even remotely non-totalitarian government would even begin to contemplate political suicide on such a scale. For the same reason that world fisheries are collapsing, and rainforests are being destroyed.

The tried and true method for political survival is to maintain the status quo through just one more election cycle. And much the same for survival in the corporate world. Each and every one of them is fully aware that the fecal matter is going to hit the rotarty oscillator sooner or later, their one and only concern is to keep things limping along just long enough for the shit to do its flying on someone else's watch. Be it a climate induced global catastrophe such as a multi-metre rise in sea levels, or a corporate collapse brought about by gutting a company in pursuit of ever increasing profits.

Brett Leach

@AC @JWS U235 is not the only available fuel.

Simple table top scale devices exist right now, this minute, that can both "breed" and burn their own fuel from depleted uranium extending your projected fuel supply (assuming consumption at current rates) to somewhere between 3000 and 15000 years. And that is entirely ignoring the availability of thorium, an element that is several times more common than uranium.

These same devices have several other major selling points: They can be used to "incinerate" nuclear waste, rendering the multi-millenium storage argument moot; They can be used to manufacture useful radionucleides without needing a whacking great nuclear reactor; because they actively burn their fuel there is no need to pile it up until it spontaneously "ignites", thus completely eliminating all possibility of a runaway nuclear event (meltdown); and because they are fully scalable, they allow for nuclear power generation on all scales from kilowatts to multiple megawatts.

Very few technical hurdles exist for a large scale switch to nuclear power, virtually every roadblock that exists today is political in nature.

Nuke-nobbler raygun 747 scores 'surrogate' test success

Brett Leach

@reflectors/gold plate 2.

My understanding is that the steerable "appature", among other things, is a multi-mirror device that combines mutliple beams, because no single mirror or focusing apparatus is capable of handling the full power of of such a device.

Further retro reflectors are not ideal devices. The individual reflectors will not have mathermatically perfect internal right angles, nor will where the reflectors meet be mathematically perfect lines. How close these ideals can be aproached would be highly dependent on the effort expended in fabrication (and hence how much money is thrown at the problem) . But no matter how much money and time was thrown at the problem, some flaws (even if only in the form of a dust grain) would always be present and once those flaws started adsorbing energy, they would grow rapidly.

Fake ATM scam rumbled by Defcon hackers

Brett Leach
Big Brother

Re: Why so soon.

Good chance that the thing was wi-fi enabled or otherwise networked. I certainly would have done that to maximise my 'take' of card details, regardless of whether or not my little toy was rumbled.

Notorious phone phreaker gets 11 years for swatting

Brett Leach

@Jimbo 7. And if one of those SWAT busts had gone wrong?

What this little bastard was doing, stood a very good chance of getting someone killed eventually.

And almost certainly did get innocent people hurt.

Armed cops expecting scenes of murder and mayhem ARE NOT at their most reasonable.

Data-sniffing attack costs Heartland $12.6m

Brett Leach

Re: Stupid

This is not a failing of just this one company. This is a failure of the entire industry.

A few small vendors in the industry provide end to end encryption. NOT ONE OF THE TEN LARGEST VENDORS IN THE INDUSTRY does.

I suspect the amount of "Big Iron" still in use throughout the industry has a lot to do with it. Equipment that just plain does not have the grunt to handle real time encryption/decryption.

Isolated Aussies left really isolated

Brett Leach

Telstra has suffered a lot of outages recently.

I've had my broadband disappear 3 times in the past week or so, and calls to tech support gave me a recorded message telling me the outage was wide spread each time. One of these outages was for several hours and a tech told me some customers had been offline for as much as 5 days.

The frequency and scope of these outages, tempts me to think that it was more of a security issue than a technical one.

Terabit Ethernet possibilities

Brett Leach

You people seem to be missing the point.

The problem isn't feeding 100 independent data streams down the same pipe and separating them out at the other end. With todays hardware that is a relatively trivial problem.


The problem which has been solved here is taking one single terabit class datastream, breaking it up into managable parallel streams, pouring them into the same pipe and then recombining those streams into ONE at the other end so that the bits emerge IN EXACTLY THE SAME ORDER as they were originally fed in.


Top aero boffin: Green planes will be noisy planes

Brett Leach

Some NIMBYs create themselves.

I can't say I have much sympathy for a lot of NIMBYs. Since a good many of them deliberately chose to locate themselves in close proximity to the source of their ire. Price, convenience, a great view, the reasons why the do so are numerous. One thing though is almost universal, the "problem" they want fixed was there before they were.

Of course the developers should not have been permitted to develop that land in the first place, but since it was, and the people living there, chose to purchase/rent knowing exactly what was going on over their heads, their outcry should not be permitted to influence policy.

The return of Killer Chlorine

Brett Leach


Who remembers seeing the promotional clip of a swimming pool full of kids being sprayed with DDT to demonstrate how safe it was? That it could be sprayed safely across every square inch of the countryside.

THIS method of application is why it proved to be the environmental disaster it turned out to be.

Applied to surfaces inside a building, it is an amazingly effective mosquito repellent which will NOT contaminate the wider environment to any significant degree.

Tumble dryer bites woman in Weston-super-Mare

Brett Leach

@Mike Smith

Here in Aust they're common at the consumer's fusebox too. Eliminates that ground potential. However a ground potential can still exist between 2 separate installations.

Had a friend who used the potential (90v) between his home and shop (on opposite sides of road) to keep a bank of batteries trickle charged.

Brett Leach

@ The Dark Lord.

Not sure about the UK, but here in Australia Neutral (blue) and Earth (Green-Yellow) are common (connected together) at the Fuse Box.

So yes, a miswired wall socket can cause problems, not to mention be absolutely deadly in the wrong circumstances. Worst case scenario can render the metal parts of an entire houseful of appliances live.

IBM fills chips with water

Brett Leach
Paris Hilton

@Brit Johnston

Next time something like that happens rinse it well under the tap and then leave it somewhere warm for a day or two to dry out completely.

Might even work with the stick you already washed.

I've rescued a couple of pocket calculators that got dosed with coke this way. Plus several watches that have gone through the wash. Remove the batteries first.

Paris coz she knows all about fluids gumming up the works.

Uncontacted rainforest tribe caught from the air

Brett Leach

@AC 12:59 And I think it's offensive that you'd want to drag them...

...into the 21st C that we have so thoughtfully built for our children and theirs to inherit.

Black ensign for our brave^h^h^h^h^hpoisonous new world.

BOFH: Fun with automatic doors

Brett Leach

@Dr Mouse

Another fine product from Bastards Incorporated.

Most spam comes from just six botnets

Brett Leach
Thumb Down

@Graham Bartlett

Actually the level of potential damage is essentially irrelevant. You are legally responsible for ensuring, by taking all reasonable precautions, that your property does not cause damage to another's. Spewing spam might not constitute harm/damage, but virtually any other use to which a compromised machine might be put certainly is. I don't believe anyone has been prosecuted for owning a zombie machine, but there is no legal reason AFAIK why someone couldn't be.

re: users shooting themselves.

Theoretically, PC vendors too, could find themselves in legal hot water under fitness for purpose and merchantability laws, inasmuch that a PC out of the box is very rarely in any fit state to be safely connected to the net.

If they are selling an out of the box experience, as they essentially do, often claiming that as a selling point, then the product they are selling should come pre-configured with all appropriate services enabled/disabled, a randomly generated admin password, at least one user account, also password protected. OS patches, Basic anti-malware (I believe most motherboards come with such software and a 6/12 month "first taste is free" license on the driver disk anyway) installed, activated and within a week or so of being up to date. And as suggested in comments on an article about vulnerable routers, they too should have more robust passwords (serial number was suggested) by default.

All of this would cost very little to implement, once a week the vendor would have to spend a few minutes bringing their install image up to date, and a few minutes on final configuration before each box went out the door. A few dollars per machine at most.

And having taken all reasonable precautions, the vendor is off the hook legally.

All future responsibility then devolves as it properly does to the buyer.

Repairable ignorance alone should never be a defense or an excuse.

Brett Leach


Folk are not permitted to drive on the roads with dangerous/unroadworthy vehicles. Why not do the same for computers connected to the net.

If a computer is identified as compromised by the ISP hosting its connection to the net, then plain and simple it is not permitted to venture out into the wider network.

It is only permitted access to a "repair" network with tightly restricted functionality, or zero access entirely, just a page telling the computer's owner to take it to a repairer when they attempt to run their browser, an email with the same information and functionally similar messages from messaging apps. Unrecognised net apps would simply fail to work.

Having to pony up fifty bucks once twice or a dozen times, depending on cranial density, will eventually get the message across.

@maty. 99% plus of people don't buy spamvertised products. But even if only one in a thousand do, that's a thousand sales from a million messages sent out for an investment of well under a hundred bucks. A decent ROI in anyone's books.

And that's if the product is even remotely legit. If the product they are selling is actually your credit card details...

Critics split over DDoS attacks on Scientology

Brett Leach

@Rob Stupidity knows no boundaries.

IIRC LRH originally created Scientology for the explicitly expressed purpose of transferring money from the pockets of credulous idiots to his own.

Credulous idiots clambered over the top of each other to throw their money his way.

@some others.

The cult is highly adept at misusing the law to stifle free speech which is critical of them. As far as they are concerned there is not such animal of "Fair Use" when it comes to quoting their material, or even hotlinking to material they themselves publish. And so far they have generally managed to get the courts to agree. Thus they make it very difficult to put forward a rebuttal to their words/teachings that can be followed by Joe Pubic.

I had one once try to play silly buggers (perception games) with me, with a kiwi fruit. Pity he only got damp trousers for his troubles. I was hoping for screams of agony.

Spotted in the wild: Home router attack serves up counterfeit pages

Brett Leach
Paris Hilton

@TC Piffle. I recall the warm and damp feeling when the VMS 5.0 manuals arrived on a pallet.

MSDOS bit me on the arse big time with it's RECOVER command and inadequate documentation way back when I knew my Apple inside out and back to front and not much of anything else except for the "everything" every 16 YO knows.

Mum brought her work comp home having accidentally deleted a critical file. I read through the documentation found RECOVER which was described as being for recovering "lost" or damaged files. "Lost" = "deleted" seemed about right so I blythely typed in RECOVER *.* and my 16 YO self felt pretty bloody chuffed until I typed DIR once the hard drive finished chugging away.

Whoopsie. FILE0000.???, FILE0001.??? .... (??? coz it's been a lot of years and my first action on any new DOS machine from then on was DEL RECOVER.COM)

I was damned fortunate that there were less than 512 files on that machine.

I borrowed a boot disk and disk editor from a philistine (non apple) friend and with absolutely no knowledge of the disk structure whatsoever, rebuilt that sucker from scratch. The hard way. I sorted out which of those files were once directories and figured out the partition table and the links to it, but the rest was beyond me, so I recreated the directories with MKDIR, populated them with empty files of the proper names, cross linked everything to those empties and then zeroed out the recovered files in the root directory. About halfway through I cottoned onto little sigma and deleted files and did what I set out to do in the first place.

Oh and I bought a book that explained MS disk structures among other things as soon as I could scrape up the cash. I figured out rather quickly that what I spent several hours doing, could have been done in minutes with the right knowledge.

(Paris, 'coz the experience left me feeling rather blond.)

Brett Leach

Give me my bloody manuals back.

Something that really peeves me, is to open a box and find nothing inside but the device I purchased (modem, router, hard disk, CPU, sound card, or whatever) and a piece of paper giving me instructions on how to physically install the device and absolutely nothing else. Oh and a varying amount of advertising material.

Then when, after the usual swearing, I find (usually with more swearing as I search through a website link by link (nothing being intuitive)) and download a copy of the manual, I discover instructions only marginally more useful than the help in the average BIOS: "Select enable to enable option x. Select disable to disable option x." with no bloody clue whatsoever as to what option x actually does.

I want manuals like those of the days of yore. Manuals that would tell you what you were doing, before you did it and didn't work on the assumption that if you really want to do this, you've shelled out hundreds/thousands of quid for the appropriate Cisco, or M$ accredited course.

BOFH: Memory short circuit

Brett Leach

51m0^ u535 l33t 5p34k?

My faith in bastardry is shattered. 5h4tt3rd 1 t3ll u.

(cogito cogito ergo potentia)

Malware hitches a ride on digital devices

Brett Leach


RTFArticle. There are any number of ways this sort of thing can occur, at virtually any point in the journey from manufacturing to sales (including resale of returned items in merchantable condition).

Indulge your hatred. This is a legitimate pointing of the finger at M$. Autorun is a "convenience feature" that has all the convenience of hiding the key under a "welcome" mat.

Pentagon in orbital solar power plan for world peace

Brett Leach

Expected rectenna array sizes are expected to be in the square km range.

But compare that to the size of solar arrays necessary to provide the same level of power, and generate excess capacity to be stored for nighttime, foul weather, and changing seasonal influx levels.

About 3 to 4 times the physical size plus massive storage facilities. And the whole lot is as toxic as Hell itself. Either during fabrication or inherently as with most battery technology.

The simplest rectenna element is a piece of bent wire and a fast diode rectifier. More complex ones with multiple elements and a backplane can achieve efficiencies as great as 90% with a receiver cost of just a handful of dollars per square meter.

Solar cells are expensive as hell. It makes sense to place them where the maximum wattage can be squeezed out of them. If it's affordable to do so.

And the effect microwaves have on the materials, items, critters and people in their way are very very dependent on the chosen wavelength. For fairly obvious reasons the first limiting factor is that for the purpose of power transmission the beam be as minimally affected as possible by the Earth's atmosphere. Thus it's affect on the atmosphere is equally minimal. One major element in the atmosphere, is water thus one frequency that certainly won't be chosen is the one used in microwave ovens. So strangely enough it's not going to speed cook any people or birds that manage to get in the way of a beam. At worst it would amount to a slight warming effect as some lesser element or compound in the body does adsorb a small proportion of any beam.

As for total waste heat input into the Earth's biosphere, it would be no different to today. That energy is generated and turned into useless heat regardless of it's source. Fossil energy sequestered in fossil fuels is the least of our problems. It's the greenhouse gases which modify the Earth's atmosphere to trap solar energy all over the many millions of square kilometers that face the sun every single second. The few terawatts we dirrectly add to the environment with our activities are nothing against the hundreds of terawatts (petawatts?) we're now adding indirectly through globlal warming.

And perhaps, one day as we get the hang of this strange idea of cooperation we can think about retuning a few transmitters to react with water, not to harm, but to tinker with the weather to redirect or sap the strength of dangerous storms and to create and/or steer beneficial rains over crops and catchment zones.

With abundant and sufficiently cheap energy virtually anything becomes possible. Even if we limit ourselves to the physical resources of Earth, magnetic separation of ionised sea salt could provide almost any rare element we could ever need. It's woefully inefficient but if the energy is cheap enough the rest is very basic engineering. Bucket particle physics.

My fear is not that launch system limitations will prove too expensive, but that they will become cheap too quickly for us to learn the lesson of cooperation properly if at all.

I once saw an article quite a few years ago that spoke of a microwave beam climbing launch vehicle. The basic idea was to focus part of the beam with a parabolic reflector to create a shockwave in the air ahead of the vehicle and creating a partial vacuum in front of the craft. The remainder of the beam was rectified and used to power a ring current around the perimeter of the craft which accelerated heat ionised air past the craft to create forward thrust. Rather ironically the shape of craft was two shallow bowls face to face, with a parabolic bowl inset into the upper surface. Claims were made in the article that the concept worked in wind tunnel tests. If it scales up and ever works in the real world launch costs would plummet to the point where virtually anyone could establish an orbital presence.

A recent development of solar cells which can be printed onto a substrate strike me as making the idea of SBSP even more attractive as solar cells can be rolled onto spools in thousand metre lengths and unwound onto gossamer frames in orbit. My guess is between and acre and a hectare of 12-14% efficient solar cells per ton mass.

It really is starting to look like it is doable, and may well be done soon. Leave it to the military alone and problems will ensue. If it happens, it must be with full international cooperation.

ISPs turn blind eye to million-machine malware monster

Brett Leach

re ISP or OS.

In my experience it's the idiot on the end of the line as often as not. I can point to several computers I've "fixed", for friends and family. And despite words of warning delivered with mono-syllabic simplicity. Almost invariably I'm back in a week to clean up exactly the same infection.

About the third time I formatted his C drive without attempting any sort of data recovery, my brother finally woke up to the fact that I was heartily sick of cleaning up after his perusal of various dodgy websites. He stopped asking for my help. He did not change his browsing habits.

There is no protecting some people from their own suicidal stupidity. Why the F*** should we attempt to?

Far too many people today think the rest of the world should clean up after them. This part of the world is sick of it. Come to me in ignorance, fair enough, but be prepared to learn. Come back because you refused to learn, and I will quite cheerfully send the only extant copy of your doctoral thesis into oblivion.

Man loses leg in bathtub romp

Brett Leach

A demand for $0.00

Personally I would have waited to be dragged in front of the beak.

The transcript of the beak's description of their stupidity would have been a classic.

My brother forewarned of dirty tricks (say an undisclosed fee for the closing out of an account) used by "high risk" credit lenders, (the type attached to banks not pool halls) overpaid his last installment by $1.

And for the next several years received a monthly notification that he was $0.03 in credit. Once he figured out they'd spent more mailing out these account statements than they'd made in interest on the original loan he finally made a phone call and asked them how long they intended sending the statements. The final one arrived with a cheque for the three cents attached.

Boeing touts feeble Hummer-mounted raygun

Brett Leach

Whatever happened to the fridge sized jobbie?

I think it was reported here a couple of years or so back. Was going to be the end for the ABL.

Sun preps 2048-thread monster

Brett Leach

I can think of at least one application for these monsters.

Server for online roleplaying environments. Or indeed for any multiuser online environment.

Google embarasses MapQuest

Brett Leach

Whereis once sent us on one hell of a Cook's tour.

Unpaved roads, and a gated ford made by pouring head sized boulders into the creek and "stabilising" them with concrete. And direction changes you wouldn't believe.

Four or five turns in about a kilometer, and looking at the map reveals that it could have been achieved with only 2 turns and a tiny amount of extra distance.

I can't recall who said it, but i recall something along the lines of: "Computers are not smart. They just excel at being dumb very, very quickly."

Beavis and Butthead in London jihad

Brett Leach

There is stupidity and serial stupidity.

The number of "thwarted" unworkable, unsuccessful or botched attacks IS rather remarkable.

Too cute for their own good, or some trivial but critical oversight seem to be a hallmark of "poster child" attacks on Western soil. One explanation is that away from the "front", "agents" become reluctant to carry through and subconsciously "screw up". Another is that they wish to make a "See what we COULD have done" statement. And a third is that at least some of the attacks have been manufactured domestically, either by infiltration and "encouraging" a bunch of mouthing off yahoos, or entirely out of whole cloth.

Making a working bomb is a non-trivial, but not too difficult task. The basics are easily within the grasp of anyone who halfway paid attention in high school physics and chemistry. So why so many failures?

How far can the naked eye see?

Brett Leach


I've seen a couple of claims that under ideal (dark sky, dry air and high altitude) conditions, M81 (IIRC) at a distance of 12,000,000 lightyears can be glimpsed using averted vision. (If not M81, then another of the Messier objects

But claiming distance records for viewing galaxies is kind of cheating, since what we are seeing there is the aggregate light of hundreds of billions of stars.

A more accurate measure of the acuity of the human eye, would be the furthest individual object visible to the unaided eye. Which for most folk now living would have been SN1987A.